THE REDEMPTION OF JONES
SUB: Is this Labour’s next Prime Minister?
He may have lost the leadership battle, but Labour’s Shane Jones may be the closest thing the party has to a future plan. Six years ago this magazine ruled Jones out as a future leader on the basis of his bad judgement in the Bill Liu citizenship scandal, when he signed off against official advice. Normally, such lapses would be politically terminal, but Jones has shown an ability to eat humble pie and learn from his mistakes. As IAN WISHART discovered, Jones has one thing that all Labour leaders since Mike Moore have lacked: the common touch
JONES: Please allow me to talk primarily about the north because I’m currently in the north. I think a lot of your readers would know that there’s too many spots around the north where there are not enough jobs, there’s not enough industry, and into idle hands fall all sorts of troubles and temptations.
A government that I am part of has to be willing to put dough into the regions, because I am sick and tired of seeing rugby teams that can’t field enough players, volunteer organisations struggling because we are losing too much talent – both to Australia but also out of the area. Call me old-fashioned, mate, but I think that’s worth fighting for in a political sense.
Obviously, education and health are always big issues for a Labour politician, but I think education is taking on a whole new character – as our country becomes more multicultural you can rest assured that the families coming from China, Malaysia and India place an inordinately high accent on education. Perhaps slightly more different than the average kiwi does. So I think those of us who want to have a long term impact through policy, on politics and society, are going to have to think very innovatively about education mate.
INVESTIGATE: In terms of this issue of multiculturalism, how do Maori in the far north for example find the influx of new immigrants to New Zealand?
JONES: Well my family’s a mixture of the early Croatian – otherwise known as Dalmatian – gum diggers, Welsh and Maori, and they’ve all blended in fairly well. There’s always a few dark sheep in any whanau – I suppose I should include myself in that category from time to time – but I do think that as multiculturalism in New Zealand, the multi-ethnic composition of our country grows, Maori are going to need to be more and more assertive in keeping their primary identity as tangata whenua to the fore, for fear of being swallowed up.
Now, you can call that reactive, but I predict that if anything the drive to maintain a Maori identity – which I think is the mortar of a great kiwi identity – I don’t think that’s going to diminish, I think that’s going to get stronger.
On a day to day basis I don’t have a great deal to do with the ethnic groups. I’m invited from time to time, and obviously I know about the Japanese through the fishing industry, and I’ve dealt with Chinese, hosting various delegations, but I can’t pretend to be parliament’s expert on multi-ethnic composition of New Zealand.
INVESTIGATE: UK Prime Minister David Cameron a couple of years ago gave a very famous speech about the problems that Britain was having with multiculturalism and immigration – that it wasn’t doing enough to get immigrants to recognise the British way of life. Is there a reflection of that in New Zealand, do you think?
JONES: Do you know that a lot of immigrant people that I have met, I’m straight up in relation to the importance of the Treaty. It may sound a wee bit corny but I do see the Treaty as a key feature of the country’s identity.
We were originally gifted a kind of bicultural or binary narrative, and whilst multiculturalism might bring change, and it takes people a while to grasp what it means to be a kiwi, I think the kind of Judeo-Christian, missionary ethic that formed much of the foundations of northern history – there’s no reason why that should be wiped out even though we’re a more secular society. Don’t ever overlook the Treaty, and I think there’s an expectation that Maori have that as waves of immigrants come they bear in mind that they’ve come to a country that has deep and rich foundations, irrespective of how young we might be in comparison to other nation states.
INVESTIGATE: How does that fit in with the United Nations narrative of reducing borders everywhere and essentially turning the whole planet into one great migration pool?
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