In the wake of New Zealand First’s AGM last weekend, Shane Jones joined Dale Husband on Radio Waatea for a brief discussion about the clear signal from Winston Peters at that gathering that he wasn’t finished with politics, despite his party’s heavy defeat at the last general election. While some folk have suggested that Winston is dreaming, others are cautious in case Winston, as he’s done in the past, can rise again. Here’s Dale sounding out Shane’s views.
Tēnā koe, Shane. You must think that Winston has a chance or you wouldn’t be interested in or bothered about New Zealand First’s prospects.
Well, I want to say one thing for our listeners. The AGM was full of energy. We’ve got a new board — predominantly women, relatively young. But I hang solid with Winston Peters.
I am deeply loyal to Winston. Politics is never a perfect world and Lord knows my own career demonstrates that.
But should anyone ever doubt that I would be afraid or uneasy about publicly stepping up to the plate again with Winston — I want everyone to leave those vague thoughts behind.
I genuinely believe the political market has a place for the New Zealand First movement — and, in particular, for our rangatira, Winston Peters.
He didn’t actually confirm his leadership at the AGM. Are you able to do so?
Yeah, yeah. We members are absolutely committed to Winston as our leader. He’s always a guy who leaves a wee bit of mystery because politics in this soaking, ubiquitous social media world tries to plaster everyone with information, while at the same time the internet concentration span diminishes the more information they believe that they’ve seen.
However, Winston said yesterday on other media outlets that — and I think his term was “God willing” — he is leading us back to victory in 2023. And no party member there is interested in anyone else beyond Winston leading the movement and fighting the good fight in 2023.
Sandra Lee has said he’s out of touch and out of date. He could’ve supported Māori initiatives or highlighted money challenges. Instead, she says, he was bashing Māori and using our plight, our situation, as some sort of tool to get some energy. She’s been very dismissive and says he’s got no chance at all. But other political commentators suggest otherwise. Where do you sit?
Well, look at the records. Out of the three-billion-dollar fund, I invite all of our listeners to identify who’s the politician who has ever put the level of pūtea into Māoridom through the Provincial Growth Fund that Winston and I did. When’s the last time there was a hundred million dollars handed out to marae through a very simple process?
So yes, there may be challenges as to how white middle-class New Zealanders are using the language and the daily drip-feeding of information through Radio New Zealand that makes people feel uneasy about him, but I would say to Sandra where I strongly believe Winston has nailed it.
I’m sick to death of these organisations like the Climate Change Commission riddling their reports with our reo which is inversely related to the quality of the content of those reports. He Pou a Rangi, I understand, is the Māori name for the Climate Change Commission. Well, just giving it that name, in my view, is a statement of arrogance. A celestial pillar — that’s what that means. They need to come back into the real world.
And look, where are our whānau? They’re not in the papakāinga — they’re in motels! Where are they in terms of training? Where are they in terms of key social indicators? That’s really what motivates me to come into politics.
I’m a great supporter of te reo. It was Winston who initially funded kapa haka. Now, you might say it makes us somewhat Janus-like, looking two ways at one time. However, that’s what politics can be.
There has to be a question about Winston’s age. In the States, President Joe Biden is no spring chicken either. But clearly you’re not writing off Winston. I guess you see in him a spark that some others don’t.
Well, let’s face it. For decades, Winston Peters — even the name of the man — has elicited very strong reactions. But I see within him a durability, I see within him a fount of wisdom, and experience.
But I also see a profound level of self-belief — and, boy, if there’s anything our community needs as a people it’s self-belief.
And you can draw parallels with President Biden. Mr Trump himself was in his 70s. So I think there’s a little bit of nastiness from people who are writing them off because of their vintage.
The reality is that Winston leads a movement. That movement has always attracted a widespread variety of thinking and members and people. And now we just need to look at our new board to see that it’s a blend of young and old.
What’s your role here? The AGM is over, the party is revived, and the next election is two years away. What have you been asked to do personally, Shane?
Well, naturally, I’m a fully paid-up member. I said that, in the event of the opportunity arising — and when the members get to the point of confirming who the candidates are once again — God willing, I’m going to put my hand up.
Now, that comes at a cost because, once you are in the political fray, then the politicians who run the country or who are in the regime, they tend to sort of move you to the side. So there’s always a downside.
But I’ve always lived off my wits as well, and if people see value in using my skills either in private or public, I’ll just take that as a given.
But my sense of duty to Winston and a sense of obligation to New Zealand First is large. This is a party that created a coalition government that led to the Provincial Growth Fund.
I had the privilege of also working with Grant Robertson running the “shovel-ready” fund — I think that was about three and a half billion.
There’s no one else in Kaitaia, bro — perhaps other than Peter Cooper, one of New Zealand’s richest men ever, also of Māori ancestry — who has handled that sort of dough.
Of course, I am not a guy who only talks about rights. I realise there are obligations as well, and I’m manning up to them.
(This interview was edited for length and clarity.)
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