Jones calls farmer protesters 'rednecks', sings as they boo

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones (left) with National's agricultural spokesman...
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones (left) with National's agricultural spokesman Todd Muller. Photo: NZ Herald
Outspoken New Zealand First Minister Shane Jones labelled farmer protesters gathered on Parliament's lawn "rednecks" and responded to their booing with a waiata.

His comments have drawn criticism, with National's agriculture spokesman Todd Muller calling Jones a "schoolyard bully".

And his fellow Ministers don't endorse his comments either, with Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw distancing themselves from the remarks.

Roughly 300 to 500 people, many of them farmers, gathered this afternoon to protest against what they said was the Government's "destroying" of rural New Zealand.

There was a sizeable showing from the National Party; Muller sided with the protesters and criticised the Government's approach to the regions.

But the fireworks came as Jones got up to address the uneasy crowd. As they booed, Jones launched into a rendition of the Māori waiata, Tūtira mai ngā iwi.

After a short speech, where he took aim at the National Party, he told media: "I'm mātua Shane Jones, if you're going to shout over me you're never ever going to win".

"I am not going to keep quiet in front of some sort of rally that is pitched at the National Party - I'm from New Zealand First, that's just never going to happen."

Asked why he sang to them, he said their speeches were going on too long.

"I wasn't deliberately moving on from having annoyed the immigrants to antagonising the rednecks, it just came out."

Pressed again later in the day on the comments, Jones doubled down, saying the protesters' attitude was "Ngāti redneckery".

"When you punch me in the nose," he said of the protesters booing him, "you're going to get a reciprocal gesture".

Jones said the protest group was "incredibly vitriolic" and insulting to O'Connor, as well as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

O'Connor was also booed by the crowd with one person yelling out "traitor" - at one point, O'Connor turned to walk away before his speech was done.

"Do you want to listen, or not?" he said at one point as the booing got loud.

"Alright, I'm just going to bloody talk whether you're here or not," he added.

Speaking to the media before going into the House, Muller said Jones' comments were "extraordinary".

"That guy needs to get over his own bombastic behaviour and actually listen to people and instead of calling people names like a schoolyard bully."

O'Connor said he did not agree with Jones' "redneck" comment.

"Shane uses a few terms; it's his right to do that and it's certainly not something I agree with."

 

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