Air New Zealand stoush highlights pitfalls for coalition government

by Jane Patterson / 23 March, 2018

Although told to reign in his comments, Mr Jones admitted he had no power to sack a board member - and then went on to criticise the airline further. Photo / RNZ

Between Shane Jones' outburst at Air NZ and the Greens handing their parliamentary questions to National, Labour must be casting a wary eye at its governing partners.

The face-off between the Cabinet minister Shane Jones and Air New Zealand has given voters a sneak peek into the pitfalls that may lie ahead for the coalition government.

Pushback from Air New Zealand over potential government interference infuriated Mr Jones, who took to the airwaves to call for a cull of the Board, starting at the top with the chairman Tony Carter.

An interview on Morning Report with the Chief Executive Chris Luxon further incensed the minister, who warned the Air New Zealand head that if he was going to "poke his nose into the political boxing ring" he should "resign and join the ranks of the National Party".

It was an extraordinary outburst, laced with Mr Jones customary rhetoric, but one carrying serious implications.

Picture if you can, the black and white tiled foyer where politicians are interviewed by reporters on their way into Parliament, with sometimes up to seven or eight 'stand-ups' going on at one time.

On Tuesday afternoon Shane Jones was in one corner issuing his somewhat sinister sounding musings on the Air New Zealand Board, admitting he had no authority to "bring into being the disappearance of anyone in the Board".

Just metres away was the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who had already told her minister to rein it in, telling reporters several times he had gone a "step too far" with his threats to remove board members.

Ms Ardern however, held out no hope Mr Jones would desist from vocally expressing his opinions in the future.

While you would not describe him as contrite, Mr Jones fleetingly acknowledged his lack of authority to sack the Board, before taking the opportunity to criticise it further.

Anyone in the Board who thought they could "muzzle" him, warned Mr Jones, would be sadly mistaken.

Shane Jones is a New Zealand First MP, under leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

Mr Peters heartily agreed Air New Zealand needed a good whack, and that as a company with a majority government shareholding, it should have no problem being held to account by government ministers.

The one shareholding minister, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, was trying to be the voice of calm, backing Air New Zealand as a good company, doing a good job.

But this all goes further than a spat between a boisterous minister and Air New Zealand.

Labour will be looking with a leery eye both left and right at its governing partners the Greens and New Zealand First after the past few weeks.

The Greens baffled everyone but themselves by handing over most of their parliamentary questions to the surprised but delighted leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges.

While leader James Shaw declared himself to be "crazy about democracy", other parties might have other words for him handing National a bigger stick to beat the government.

Shane Jones can always be relied upon to deliver a great sound bite, but this week his fury over Air New Zealand took him to a position that prompted a Prime Ministerial rebuke.

Not a sacking offence as Ms Ardern herself pointed out, but as Prime Minister she must be seen to be fully in control of her Cabinet.

This week Mr Jones appeared to be much more interested in channelling regional discontent than toeing the government line.

This article was originally published by RNZ.


The drama and the trauma behind NZ musician Shayne Carter's rise to the top
107207 2019-06-15 00:00:00Z Music

The drama and the trauma behind NZ musician Shayne…

by Mike White

Shayne Carter’s career has been wild and acclaimed. But his just-released memoir reveals the drama and trauma going on behind the scenes.

Read more
Rare photos of the Straitjacket Fits by Brian Murphy
The Handmaid's Tale is so chilling, you risk hypothermia
107150 2019-06-15 00:00:00Z Television

The Handmaid's Tale is so chilling, you risk hypot…

by Diana Wichtel

Season three of The Handmaid’s Tale packs a punch, despite some implausible scenes, writes Diana Wichtel.

Read more
Christchurch mosque attacks: Accused pleads not guilty to all charges
107204 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Crime

Christchurch mosque attacks: Accused pleads not gu…

by Anneke Smith

The man accused of the Christchurch terror attacks has pleaded not guilty to all the charges laid against him.

Read more
One thing is certain: Political biffo is unavoidable in NZ Parliament
107183 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Politics

One thing is certain: Political biffo is unavoidab…

by Bevan Rapson

Despite overdue efforts to improve Parliament's culture, political biffo will always be with us.

Read more
The sweeping proposal to lower speed limits is on the skids – it's a good thing
107144 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Social issues

The sweeping proposal to lower speed limits is on…

by The Listener

Transport officials’ enthusiasm for a sweeping lowering of speed limits looks set to go the way of the once-proposed ban on cats in dairies.

Read more
Are New Zealand's intelligence agencies watching the right people?
107185 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Social issues

Are New Zealand's intelligence agencies watching t…

by Phil Pennington

New Zealanders who feel they've done nothing wrong have found themselves under surveillance by the state and say they've been left nervous.

Read more
Never Look Away: A flawed masterpiece about life in WWII-era Germany
107122 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Movies

Never Look Away: A flawed masterpiece about life i…

by James Robins

Epic drama captures an artist navigating the upheavals of Nazi and post-war Germany.

Read more