Shane Jones' supermarket war got personal yesterday as he
accused Woolworths and Fletcher Building chairman Ralph Waters
of leaning on New Zealand suppliers to discourage them from
participating in the Commerce Commission's Countdown
The commission is set to launch an official investigation
into the Labour MP's claims that Woolworths-owned Countdown
has demanded retrospective payments from suppliers to ensure
ongoing access to its supermarket shelves.
In the latest in a series of attacks on Countdown launched
from under the cover of parliamentary privilege, Mr Jones
suggested Mr Waters was "calling New Zealand suppliers and
discouraging them from participating in this legal process
lest they face dire consequences in his supermarkets in
Mr Waters, an Australian who made his name as chief executive
of New Zealand's Fletcher Building, fired back quickly.
"I completely reject Mr Jones' allegations and find his
insinuations highly offensive. My contribution to business in
New Zealand speaks for itself.
"I am extremely disappointed in Mr Jones' behaviour.
Attacking an individual and business through the Parliament
is no way for any politician to deal with an issue of concern
or engage with the business sector."
Mr Jones is facing increasing calls to provide proof of his
claims and to make them outside Parliament where he would not
have protection from defamation action by Countdown.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said his attack on
Mr Waters was "quite a slur on somebody's name".
"Shane has probably gone a fair way further than he needed to
go to get these questions put in front of the Commerce
Commission and I think he's basking in the political glory."
However, Mr Jones went on to make even more allegations,
again in Parliament, claiming Prime Minister John Key had
"secret meetings" with Mr Waters and "came home empty handed
from a meeting with one of the most powerful commercial men
in Australia and New Zealand".
Yesterday, Mr Key dismissed that, saying the only meeting he
had with Mr Waters during his trip to Australia last month
was at a function at Prime Minister Tony Abbott's official
residence with hundreds of other people.
Meanwhile, Campbell Live last night reported claims from a
supplier that Progressive Enterprises' employees were paid
cash incentives for preferential treatment. The programme
said it had been given an affidavit by "a long-time supplier
to New Zealand supermarkets".
In the affidavit the supplier said: "I have personal
experience of paying Progressive Enterprises Ltd's employees
The payments were made to individuals employed by the
company. "I would pay our buyer - the PEL employee with which
our company had a business relationship - $500 cash per week.
"Talk of kickbacks were common within the supplier industry."
In a statement to Campbell Live, the company said: "While
we've not seen the document referred to, we would encourage
this person to take their allegations to the appropriate
authorities, including the police.
"We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and have a
code of conduct which each of our employees must meet as part
of their employment terms."
Countdown continues to "categorically" deny Mr Jones'
allegations and says it will co-operate fully with the
- Adam Bennett of the NZ Herald