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NRT: The Jones appointment

Written By: - Date published: 11:53 am, June 24th, 2014 - 45 comments
Categories: corruption, public services, Shane Jones - Tags:

no-right-turn-256Reposted from No Right Turn

Back in April, Shane Jones announced that he would be quitting Parliament to take up a position as a “Pacific Economic Ambassador”, which the Herald noted had been “created by the National Government especially for him”. Like many people I was curious about this, so I filed an OIA request seeking information on the role and the appointments process. That OIA was filed on 28 April. Last night – after a mere 41 working days – I received the response. The full documents are up on DocumentCloud here (if that doesn’t work, someone also requested it through FYI. We all got the same response).

Some key observations:

  • The position was dreamed up by McCully. On January 28, Billie Moore – apparently his press secretary – sent an email to senior MFAT staff relaying the Minister’s views on the need for an ambassador to “move the region forward” on fisheries issues. The Minister was “keen for feedback from the Ministry on how you see this issue”, but clearly didn’t like what he heard: all immediate response was redacted as “free and frank advice”, while the Ministry’s promised “considered view” was not included in the release.
  • The job was created especially for Jones. On March 3 Moore tells MFAT CEO John Allen that “the Government has decided to appoint an Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development”. Allen’s response is “I am seeing Shane tomorrow evening. I will let you know how I get on”.
  • There was no job description until May. You would expect a formal role whose creation had been discussed with the Ministry to have produced one during the advice process. Instead MFAT staff were scrambling to produce one in the days after Jones left Parliament.
  • There is no information whatsoever on the appointment process: no mention of other candidates, interviews, or shortlists. It appears that McCully simply decided, King Dick style, that Jones should be employed, and so it happened. As previously noted, this is a total violation of public service values, and an unlawful exercise of Ministerial power.
  • There is a stunning lack of formal advice. No briefings. No policy development docs about the need for the position. No Cabinet papers (and there should be one for an appointment at this level). No salary information. No formal advice to the G-G to make the appointment. Not even an appointment letter. Clearly some of this material must exist – the government is incapable of functioning without it – but for some reason it has been withheld. Given how ordinary such documents usually are, either it shows how blatantly political and corrupt this appointment was, or it is another example of McCully’s obsessive secrecy.

When I first heard of this appointment, I commented that if McCully had offered Jones a briefcase full of cash rather than a specially-created high-paying job to resign, we’d call it what it is: Corruption and bribery of member of Parliament. From what I’ve seen in this release, I stand by that.


Updated: The Jones appointment II

In my earlier post on the Jones appointment, I noted the lack of any formal advice. There were no briefings, no policy development documents, no cabinet papers, no advice to the Governor-General to make the appointment, not even a formal appointment letter. This was surprising, so I queried it, asking for a list of those documents that had been withheld. The response:

no documents, of the type you specified (formal briefings, cabinet papers or appointment letters), were withheld.

A further query confirmed this, and also elicited this:

Head of Mission/Post roles are not considered by Cabinet or APH.

This is utterly unbelievable. The Cabinet Manual requires that “all but the most minor public appointments” must be submitted to Cabinet. The detailed guidance on this makes it clear that all appointments made “by the Governor-General on the advice of a Minister, or by the Governor-General in Executive Council” (such as the appointment of a head of mission / post ambassadorial role) must go to Cabinet and the Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee (APH) (it also has a helpful outline of the appointments process which McCully has completely ignored). So what am I to conclude? There seem to be three options:

  • McCully’s SPS is lying to me about the documents that exist and the process followed (unlikely);
  • McCully violated the Cabinet Manual by not consulting his Cabinet colleagues on a senior appointment. But even then the Minister should have signed an appointment letter; or
  • Jones’ position isn’t a head of mission / post and did not need Cabinet approval, and McCully ordered MFAT to employ him in violation of the State Sector Act.

At this stage, I think its time for some real journalists to start asking some questions to get to the bottom of this.Update: added note about the existence of an appointment letter for option 2.

45 comments on “NRT: The Jones appointment ”

  1. blue leopard 1

    Very informative, thank you NRT (and for reposting it here)

  2. karol 2

    Yep. This is a very important DOCUMENTED criticism of the government and it’s apparent corruption.

  3. fisiani 3

    Are you claiming that Shane Jones was not an ideal candidate for the post? He was after all the most likely candidate to topple John Key.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1


      Another fire-and-forget comment from a recidivist tr*ll.

      • NickS 3.1.1

        It’s like he’s got the tr*ll version of whiskey dick.

        And still waiting, fisiani, admitting you stuffed up can’t be that hard right?

    • karol 3.2

      Who else was a candidate? Who else would have been as good or better as a candidate?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2.1

        Why was the department even looking for a candidate in the first place – oh, that’s right: they weren’t, and now Fisiani has diverted the discussion onto something that never happened.

    • Molly 3.3

      I’m beginning to suspect that you may be using a programme such as Dragon to make comments.

      The continual disconnect between reading posts and comments and your replies seems to indicate basic literacy skills are missing…

    • Lanthanide 3.4

      IMO this is enough for fisi to be banned until after the election. All he ever does is troll and divert from the topic at hand.

    • NickS 3.5


      Because there’s so not anything dodgy about how this was set up as documented above, but I guess ethics is optional when it comes to anything National does right?

      And still waiting: http://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-21062014/#comment-835915

    • appleboy 3.6

      That Shane Jones was a contender to topple Key is pure national spin. Jonesz was never in a million years going to be leader. Dream on pisseearnie

      • ghostwhowalksnz 3.6.1

        Leader on NZ First maybe ?

        That is rumour that has more traction, only once Winston retires off course

      • Skinny 3.6.2

        Jones is far too lazy for that, he is happy living the life gifted to him by National. A buy out sell out case scenario!

    • Skinny 3.7

      As you well know the point is a job plucked out of the air with no process whatsoever. If you could give me another example of a leading opposition MP being gifted a job created by the then Government?

    • Draco T Bastard 3.8

      No you moron, it’s quite clearly stated that the creation of the position itself and Jones’ appointment to it was corrupt.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    Time to make the Ombudsman and Auditor General employees of the Serious Fraud Office, or issue them with police powers.

    The Tory response to all official oversight is to defund the inspectors a la Pike River. Retrospective legislation with no statute of limitation is required.

  5. Tom Gould 5

    But wasn’t it Key who ordered the drop of Jones’ credit card details which just happened to contain the adult movies charges that destroyed his political future? Maybe it’s just Murray’s way of saying sorry?

  6. Kiwiri 6

    And in this morning’s paper, a reader could be left wondering if an ex-Labour contender for leadership is now promoting National government’s Pacific fisheries policy, with about 13 weeks to go until Polling Day:


  7. fender 7

    This all makes Jones look a bit like a gelding really…

  8. thecard 8

    I thought you guys hated Jones and was glad he was gone ?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1

      I thought all you guys would be keen to avoid the impression that Hodson & Busseri are on to something, and yet here you are, clearly unable to understand the subject of this post.

      • thecard 8.1.1

        Strange then how conservatives come out on top so often isn’t it ?

        • Colonial Viper

          clear focus, simple goals, strong networks, professionally provided strategy, money, media, patience.

          It’s a very powerful mix for the right wing.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Not really. Kanai and H & B provide ample evidence that you have a large body of ready-made voters. Piff et al outline the lack of ethical hurdles you face to justify your strategy.

  9. And a followup:


    This document-trail (or rather the lack of one) stinks.

  10. Lez Howard 10

    If this was a purely political stunt, then Jones can be made redundant at the whim of Key. This guy has no concience Jones may end up as a big sucker

    • One Anonymous Bloke 10.1

      Something for the new government to attend to in the first one hundred minutes.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 10.1.1

        “Dear Mr. Jones,

        We have uncovered what seems to be evidence of Murray McCully’s personal responsibility corruption in your appointment process. As your employer, we feel obliged to inform you that this evidence will be forwarded to the Police. To give you time to consult with your lawyers, we are relieving you of your duties as of yesterday.

        Please accept our sincere contempt etc etc.”

  11. ghostwhowalksnz 11

    Wasnt Jones appointed to an actual diplomatic post- one of those nominal ones where he doesnt have to live in country.

    Radio Live 29 may.

    Its an actual diplomatic appointment, which the government can do with politicians, but as you say there must be some paper trail.

    Id guess they are playing games with you, so go back and ask about HC appointments to Palau, Marshall Islands, Micronesia etc

    • yeshe 11.1

      and Rawdon Christie on Breakfast a couple of mornings ago called him ‘Your Excellency’ — lost my coffee up my nose I did !

  12. Crunchtime 12

    The Jones DISappointment.

    TBH tho I’m fed up with talk about how the Nats, Shane Jones etc are breaking the rules. This will not win votes, and leaves Labour open to criticism (accurate or otherwise) for being “hypocritical”.

    Labour need to stop harping on about how bad the govt is and start telling their own story.

  13. Akldnut 13

    “I think its time for some real journalists to start asking some questions to get to the bottom of this.”

    What…….here in NZ?
    pfft everything was sounding really good until you put that in and made it into a comedy post.

  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    Are there any laws that have been broken? The missing documentation would tend to indicate that there are.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 14.1

      High time the Auditor General became an employee of the Serious Fraud Office.

  15. Adrian 15

    Yeah well I’m one of those naïve people who assumed, when the Jones appointment story broke, that the coverage would be all about what a bunch of shits the Nats were. But of course not, it was all about how bad it was for Labour

  16. tc 16

    Seems to have taken the oxygen away from the supermarket chain practices shane raised and into one the nats can control better i.e. their use of process and power.

    They will take the hit whilst those funds for the GE progress some more knowing that if required Jones can be relied on to do as told such as have a pop at his former colleagues.

    All on the taxpayers dime, nice.

  17. Tracey 17

    Fran O’S made a comment about this in her weekend piece, referring to john key’s boast in the usa about having got rid of jones. Joke or not?

  18. Populuxe1 18

    So why wasn’t Bolger’s appointment to head Kiwibank some terrible conspiracy then? The rational was identical INHO, so why not kick up a stink about that one?

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