14 Jun 2018

Jones' attack on Fonterra about ego and publicity - National

1:08 pm on 14 June 2018

The National Party says the Prime Minister needs to rein in Regional Development Minister Shane Jones again after he has lashed out at another major New Zealand company.

Shane Jones speaking at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in Wellington.

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

Mr Jones yesterday took a swipe at the dairy giant Fonterra, saying it had become disconnected from the farming community, and its chair should get the next cab out of town.

Mr Jones said he told Fonterra at the Fieldays agricultural event that it should focus less on interfering in politics and more on justifying the money it lost overseas.

In March, the dairy cooperative announced its first ever loss, of $348 million for the six months to September.

Chief executive Theo Spierings has announced he would resign, though the chair of the board John Wilson insisted the loss had nothing to do with the departure.

Mr Jones said he suggested to Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor that he consider restructuring Fonterra as the leadership had become full of its own self importance.

"I've been bloody disappointed that Fonterra in my view, their leadership, have not accepted that there is a new government and there is a new narrative.

"I've had a gutsful of them believing that they're bigger than their writ really is."

22082016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Caucas run. Paul Goldsmith

Paul Goldsmith Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The attack on Fonterra comes just a few months after Shane Jones was told off by the Prime Minister for launching a stinging attack on Air New Zealand.

In March Mr Jones labelled the airline a corporate taniwha saying it needed to stop short-changing services to the regions, and called for the chairperson to be sacked.

National Party economic development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern needed to step in again and deal with Mr Jones who was putting his own ego and need for publicity ahead of the interests of New Zealand.

"I think the prime minister needs to rein him in and discipline the Economic Development Minister who seems to go around attacking business leaders every time a few days go by without him getting some of the publicity which he craves."

Mr Goldsmith said this was just another example of a dysfunctional coalition government.

"That is part of the reason why you have business confidence plummeting in the country at the moment because people who are trying to make investment decisions are looking out and they can't understand or get their heads around where the government is heading, and that uncertainty is leading them to hold back on investment."

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said Mr Jones was expressing his personal view.

Fonterra said it had no comment on the matter at this stage.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor has expressed confidence in Fonterra but admits it has performance issues to deal with.

Mr O'Connor said Mr Jones was entitled to his own opinions, but he was confident Fonterra would improve.

"There is a review under way. It's another really big and great company that we have in New Zealand. I'm not saying it's the best performing - I'm saying it should be and it needs to be - and we will tweak through the DIRA [Dairy Industry Restructuring Act] and review some of the requirements around Fonterra."

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