Jones and Peters: A political hat game in full swing

6:22 am on 15 June 2018

Power Play - The self-proclaimed champion of the regions, Shane Jones, is not resiling from his attack on the dairy giant Fonterra.

Shane Jones

Regional Development Minister yesterday attacked Fonterra saying it needed to be restructured and its chair should "catch the next cab out of town". Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

And Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is not planning to reprimand him either - saying he was not speaking on behalf of the government.

So a game of political hats is in full swing.

Was Mr Jones slamming Fonterra with a ministerial hat on or not?

Ms Ardern insists Mr Jones was speaking in his personal capacity and that, in her view, is the end of the story.

But just a few hours later the New Zealand First leader - and soon to be acting Prime Minister - Winston Peters was also having a whack at Fonterra.

"A massive multi-hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars loss needs an explanation, it needs a response in the market, it needs some accountability, heads should roll and they should have rolled a long time ago."

Mr Peters said any comments Mr Jones made at Fieldays were in his "professional capacity".

So were they?

Mr Jones said he was invited to Fieldays in his capacity as a minister.

"I spoke as the Minister of Regional Development, but I was asked a question ... and I prefaced that this is what I have learnt and this is what I will tell you as a New Zealand First MP provincial champion."

Okay, so he was speaking with his New Zealand First MP hat on then?

Ms Ardern was adamant she would not rein in Mr Jones, because he was not speaking for the government.

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Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

But here's Mr Jones a bit later:

"This is not a government that's going to pander to the corporate culture that Fonterra at its highest level shows."

National's Paul Goldsmith did not buy the argument that Mr Jones was speaking in a personal capacity.

"It's weasel words, that's what it is.

"He is a Minister of Economic Development talking about New Zealand businesses and he's responsible for regional development and he's talking about the largest business in regional New Zealand.

"He's not entitled to a personal opinion, he's the minister."

Mr Goldsmith said Mr Jones was now in open defiance of the Prime Minister, especially given she reprimanded him in March for calling for the chair of Air New Zealand's board to step down.

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