COMMENT:

What is Shane Jones up to?

Did he just have a bad week in which his good nature has been subsumed by irascibility and poor judgment?

Or is he embarking on a deliberate mission for New Zealand First to become more assertive in the Coalition Government?

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According to Jones' narrative of the week, he has been the victim of unnecessary scrutiny by journalists and the Opposition around the $3 billion provincial growth fund.

It is the fund that bought Labour the Treasury benches. National agreed only to explore such a fund during its negotiations with New Zealand First.

There was more money for the North yesterday; Tourism and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis announced another $2 million, adding to the $99 million previously dispensed in Northland to 32 projects at an average cost of $3 million a project.

It is such a massive amount of money, much of it to be dished out at the discretion of politicians themselves that, if anything, scrutiny over its decisions should be stepped up.

Jones initially gave a good impression of having been chided, if gently, by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for having left himself open to attack over the Manea Footprints of Kupe funding decision by participating in the meeting despite having declared a conflict of interest.

Peters gave every impression of not having expended an ounce of energy disciplining Jones over the original meeting or over Jones' disproportionate response to news stories.

If it had ended there, and Jones had just buckled down to work, the whole thing could have been put down to Shane's bad week. But what followed raises more questions than answers.

Peters gave Jones a sought-after platform - the party's speaking slot in the Wednesday general debate. Peters made a point of remaining in the House for his speech as did all the entire caucus in a show of solidarity.

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After the questions Jones has had faced on Tuesday and Defence Minister Ron Mark had faced on Wednesday about putting the heat on veterans to vote for New Zealand First, they looked like a party under siege.

Jones' attacked Spark chief executive Simon Moutter over the Huawei 5G disclosure to the stock exchange.

He also ripped into National over the Serious Fraud Office investigation into a donation, which prompted a second public admonition to Jones from Ardern this week.

But the speech on Wednesday at least made it clear what is driving Jones and it's personal. It is not some political strategy to try save New Zealand First through macho politics.

He called on National leader Simon Bridges to step aside during the SFO inquiry, almost with a sense of utu.

Jones' recalcitrance this week was not just a reaction to the latest PGF fund furore, but about the SFO investigation into Winston Peters in 2008 and the Auditor General's inquiry in 2012 into Jones' decision to grant citizenship to Bill Liu.

They have a shared sense of victimhood.

Jones and Peters are still nursing grievances not just over the inquiries, which they blame on National, but the fact they were both made to stand aside from their posts at the time (both were subsequently cleared).

Jones had been on Labour's front bench until his leader at the time, David Shearer, stood him aside and referred the issue to the Auditor-General.

Peters had been Foreign Minister in Helen Clark's Government and the SFO investigation into political donations to the secret Spencer Trust.

The focus of news reports about Shane Jones' speech on Wednesday were about his threats about the SFO and the attack on Spark.

The suggestion New Zealand First was going to somehow going to keep the SFO investigation on the straight and narrow to stop it from delivering a "whitewashed" report on National is disturbing – not because of any potential interference by New Zealand First.

The SFO as an institution is robust enough for such bluster to be utterly laughable.
What is disturbing is that Peters has passed on his conspiracy theories about the SFO to Jones.

Back in 2008, Peters thought the SFO was in cahoots with the National Opposition. And in the 1990s he spent many years demonising the head of the SFO, Chas Sturt, over the Winebox transactions.

The message Labour must take seriously from the events of this week, however, is that should the Opposition or the media force some sort of probe into the ministerial conduct of a New Zealand First minister, they will not be going anywhere.

Peters left discipline of his own MPs to Jacinda Ardern and then Jones went on to create even more trouble.

The message that sends the public is that coalition management is shambolic. That cannot possibly advance New Zealand First's interests.

Peters has insisted the two parties in the Coalition are joined at the hip to the extent the phrase "Labour-led Government" is banned.

Peters went ever further this week and challenged in Parliament the use of the term "support parties".

The sort of partnership that Peters demands of Labour puts the onus back on him to ensure his own side is part of a team, and not going rogue.