Jones fight­ing the bat­tle alone

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

In old for­eign legion movies, there would of­ten be a scene where one brave le­gion­naire would run around the bat­tle­ments fir­ing from one ri­fle slot af­ter an­other to cre­ate the il­lu­sion that an en­tire army was de­fend­ing the fort.

Last week, Labour’s Shane Jones was that le­gion­naire – fir­ing away on the su­per­mar­kets is­sue, while the rest of the Labour front bench re­mained vir­tu­ally in­vis­i­ble, and party leader David Cun­liffe was other­wise en­gaged, mainly in shoot­ing him­self in the foot.

Once again, Labour seemed to be hav­ing a lead­er­ship and iden­tity cri­sis.

Choos­ing Cun­liffe was sup­posed to bring an end to the self­de­feat­ing ten­den­cies in the Labour ranks.

Prime among these, you would have thought, were the at­tempts to de­pict Prime Min­is­ter John Key as be­ing a wealthy git out of touch with or­di­nary New Zealan­ders.

Of late, how­ever, Cun­liffe has been at it once again: at­tack­ing Key for liv­ing in a man­sion, while try­ing to pass off his own mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar Herne Bay abode as a ‘‘do-up’’.

In­cred­i­bly, it seems to have eluded Labour’s strate­gists that the ma­jor­ity of vot­ers (a) quite like John Key and (b) think that wealth is a good thing to have, and en­joy.

Cun­liffe’s rocky start to the year need not be ter­mi­nal.

How­ever, the only mo­men­tum Labour has achieved so far in 2014 has been en­tirely be­cause of Jones, who has sin­gle-hand­edly brought about a Com­merce Com­mis­sion in­quiry into the re­la­tion­ships be­tween the Count­down su­per­mar­ket chain and its sup­pli­ers.

It re­mains to be seen whether this in­quiry will get much trac­tion. Tellingly, the com­mis­sion will not be in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the du­op­oly that runs our su­per­mar­ket in­dus­try has an­ti­com­pet­i­tive fea­tures, but only the al­le­ga­tions against Count­down. It will of­fer anonymity to wit­nesses only so far as the law al­lows.

If you were a har­ried sup­plier, would you trust the Com­merce Com­mis­sion to pro­tect you, your staff and liveli­hood if you dared to come for­ward? Pos­si­bly not.

In one of the com­mis­sion’s own web­site pa­pers about how it goes about in­ter­pret­ing the leg­is­la­tion to do with mar­ket power, it has spelt out that an ‘‘anti-com­pet­i­tive pur­pose’’ must be proven to ex­ist be­fore ac­tions be­come il­le­gal.

More­over, ‘‘ a re­fusal to deal with or sup­ply some­one’’ is deemed to be OK, un­less proven other­wise.

Armed with a good lawyer, any mis­cre­ant could prob­a­bly get away with any­thing short of mur­der via those es­cape routes.

In essence, the Com­merce Com­mis­sion will need to prove that in gain­ing and ex­er­cis­ing its mar­ket clout, Count­down had the pur­pose of be­ing anti-com­pet­i­tive.

Hedged by those con­di­tions, the chances of anony­mous al­le­ga­tions against Count­down be­ing suc­cess­ful would seem next to zero.

If the ex­ist­ing cur­rent owner/ sup­plier prac­tices are changed thanks to com­mis­sion pres­sure, shop­pers could face higher prices at the check­out counter.

They may not thank Jones, and Labour, for bring­ing that about.

At the same time, Labour has scrapped its plans to take GST off fruit and veg­eta­bles, and to ex­empt the first $5000 of in­come from tax.

In place of these $1.5 bil­lion pledges aimed at alle­vi­at­ing poverty, Labour will be of­fer­ing a $525 mil­lion pack­age of ‘‘tar­geted’’ mea­sures.

Clearly, the pack­ag­ing of the Labour Party as the cham­pion of those in need is still a work in progress.

GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

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