How Jones violated Countdown Suppliers

Since Mid February when Jones first spoke out against Countdown he has rabidly been attacking the chain on behalf of suppliers (whom have been relentlessly and mercilessly bullied, he claims) fishing enthusiasts (that fish dumping scandal) and potential problem gamblers (the odiously offensive introduction of lotto sales at some checkouts in 100 stores nationwide).

But now, in a shock announcement on Tuesday (which he may have leaked himself if you read between the lines of a paragraph of this article) he has announced he’s leaving and it has since been confirmed a position was offered to him by Foreign Minister Murray McCully, which he has accepted.
McCully categorically denies the position, which involves a Pacific Ambassadorial role, was created specifically for Jones. Instead be claims that Jones was simply the ‘top man on their list’ when they created the job.
However a great deal of New Zealanders are asking why this position wasn’t advertised in the mainstream job market or at least offered to several potentially suitable candidates and the due application process not followed.

Whatever way they spin it, the whole situation smells… well, fishy.

So how DID Jones violate suppliers, you ask?

Back when he first donned that shiny cloak and for the few weeks following he kept banging on about he was supporting the suppliers, he believed them, he’d seen evidence and was outraged, et cetera.
He demanded the Commerce Commission investigate (which they’d already begun doing before he first stepped up under parliamentary privilege) and even inferred that they were at best incompetent and at worst potentially corrupt.
He made himself out to be the crusader for marginalised and downtrodden suppliers – promising to stick it out, to keep breathing down the neck of the CC and to see the investigation out til its bitter end.

But here he is a couple of months down the track, hightailing it for greener pastures, which could potentially be to the tune of up to $250k a year – more than what he has been earning as an MP.

He’s left those suppliers in the lurch – showing that he didn’t really care an iota for them and their plight at all.
He’s handed the Mighty Torch Of Xenophobic Hate Against Australian Owned Supermarkets over to Clayton Cosgrove and without so much of a lingering backward glance or crocodile tear has abandoned the suppliers he had promised his undying loyalty and support to.

Effectively, Jones has used the suppliers’ concerns for his own political gain – to further his already established name as a maverick and a Rebel With Many Causes.
Not only has he used them, but he’s used fishermen, conservation and environmental enthusiasts, and people with known or potential struggles with gambling and their loved ones.

He’s done exactly what I predicted he’d do all along – bent us all over and given us a damn hard rogering.

Everyone he’s used must be feeling violated right now, especially those suppliers.

He’s made a fool of everyone but makes excuses about how he couldn’t give ‘100 percent’, he couldn’t work with the Greens, he wasn’t happy with how things were going in the Labour ranks, yadda yadda yadda…
But I believe that the real reason is that the people he’s blatantly and shamelessly used and manupulated have served their purpose, and now that he’s got a better offer they can all just sink or swim themselves in the pool of mess and controversy he’s created.

Don’t piss on our leg and tell us it’s raining, Jones.

Read more about Jones’ departure and the surrounding controversy via the following links:

Jones denies National involvement in resignation

John Key denies job offer ‘a shot at Labour’

“Crafty McCully” – Opinion piece by Patrick Gower

And Now For A Shocking Twist…! Jones Has Left The Building

Progressive Enterprises will be heaving a collective sigh of relief knowing that the most prolific bully in the anti-Countdown campaign will no longer be around to harangue them and their practices, nor will he be making any more outrageous allegations.

In a shock announcement today it has been revealed that Labour MP Shane Jones has abruptly decided to quit both his party affiliations and politics, opting to focus on ‘other things’. He is expected to leave by the end of this month.

It is a dramatic change from his previous angle, with his all-out assault against Countdown (“Those Australian Supermarkets!”) which has continued since mid-February.
The last example which I wrote about in my previous post was publicised in the media just last week, when he claimed he had received a letter highlighting the relationship between the  Lotteries Commission and Progressives, simultaneously accusing Countdown of bullying the lotto giant and inferring that Countdown and Lotto had been working together in some dastardly plot, trying to suck New Zealanders into gambling without abandon and making claims that both companies were receiving substantial payments and funding for working together.

Jones and Cunliffe are tight-lipped around the reasons for his departure and the surprise resignation seems to have come as a shock to the party as a whole. However Jones claims there have been discussions going on ‘behind the scenes’ and he had not sprung the announcement on the party.

Last year, Jones made a leadership bid but lost out to Cunliffe.
Could there be an underlying resentment and case of sour grapes lingering?
It might explain why he went rouge against Progressive Enterprises – but it doesn’t explain why no one stopped him.

It has also been revealed today that Sir Wira Gardiner, husband of National party MP Hekia Parata, donated $1000 last year to Jones’ leadership bid.
Legislation requires MPs to declare donations which total more than $500.

Recently Labour leader David Cunliffe came under fire when it was revealed he had set up a private trust account to collect donations for his campaign last year. He was forced to admit that it had been wrong and he should have been more transparent. In total he received 5 donations over the threshold. Three of those donors agreed to be named, but two declined and so their donations (totaled at $8300) were to be returned to them.

Could these donations from the husband of a National MP be part of the motivation for Jones’ shock exit?

Or could it be because he has been head-hunted for an ambassador level role as confirmed by foreign Minister Murray McCully?
Jones claims he has not yet been formally offered the role and that he is also considering ‘other offers’.

It does make you wonder if he’s been planning to cut and run for some time.
If so, he’ll certainly exit having made a name for himself.

Watch this space – What will be revealed next?

Jones’ surprise exit as reported by Stuff.co.nz

Similar reporting from NZ Herald

Countdown And Lotto In Bed Together… No Wait, Lotto Is The Victim… No, Wait…” Jones Dithers Over Lotto’s Culpability

It’s been rather quiet since Cosgrove extended an ‘invitation’ to Countdown to come before a select parliamentary committee to discuss that infamous letter.

Cue Jones’ turn to once again enter the spotlight – waving his shiny cloak of privilege so that it glitters and twinkles to maximum effect (or so he hopes).

Now his target is Lotto. The problem is, he can’t seem to decide whether the Lotteries Commission is Lex Luthor or Clark Kent in this tale of superheroes and villains.

First he talks about the “cosy relationship” between Countdown and Lotto, saying he wants the Lotteries Commission to front up and explain themselves, before changing tack and saying that Countdown has been bullying lotto as well, allegedly threatening to take the lotto outlets out of their stores completely.

Surely those against gambling and who feel that lotto at the checkouts is going to wildly exacerbate problem gambling issues (including Jones) would think that less lotto outlets would be a good thing?

But no.
Jones’ latest fantasy has been inspired by an email which he has apparently received outlining alleged arrangements between Lotto and Countdown, including claims that “hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid to both these entities in project payments..”
According to Jones Lotto execs are keeping mum on all this and more, including supposed bullying.

However there is one notable difference between Cosgrove and Jones in this instance. Cosgrove was careful to use the word ‘invite’ when trying to get Countdown to attend a meeting – so he didn’t look like a bully, perhaps?
Jones doesn’t beat around the bush. He demands that the Lotteries Commission be forced to front up and do some serious explaining.

He also claims that only Countdown has been ‘allowed’ to introduce the option of lotto purchases at the checkouts.
So does that mean other retailers have wanted to do this?
If so, why haven’t they?
And if they did, would they be subject to the same level of vitriol? Or are only foreign-owned businesses subject to these attacks?

Once again, that Cologne Eau de désespoir permeates the atmosphere.

…For Their next Trick, Labour ‘Invites’ Progessive To A Select Committee Meeting

Now that it has been revealed that the so called ‘menacing’ letter appears to be nothing of the sort, it would seem that Labour is trying to save face by ‘inviting’ Progessive Enterprises to attend a Parliamentary select committee meeting to discuss their request for a transcript of a previous meeting between the Commerce Commission and MPs – perhaps the very one where Cosgrove infamously demanded answers to which he wasn’t entitled.

Cosgrove said that he wrote to Dave Chambers, Managing Director of Countdown supermarkets, “asking him if he wanted to appear before the committee.”
National MPs disagreed with this suggestion but Cosgrove has elected to go a bit maverick, it would seem – he went head and sent the ‘invite’ anyway.

In his letter he said,

“I believe it is important that the view of your company is heard by the committee and as such I am more than prepared to move another motion inviting you to appear… If PEL [Progressive Enterprises Ltd] does not wish to appear, I would be grateful if you could outline the reason(s) why.”

 

Hmmm… to me this sounds less like an invite – which is presented as a volunatry choice without pressure to take any particular action – and more like an demand.

Progressive however is not falling for it.

A statement from Progressive yesterday suggested that it had no desire to be questioned by MPs.“We aren’t seeking an opportunity to appear before the committee,” a spokeswoman said in the statement.“We are simply seeking to understand what was said at a meeting to consider whether there were any views expressed or things said that we felt we needed to comment on.”

So, Cosgrove… who is being menacing now?

Jones is teaching you well.

 

 

 

It’s Official… The “Menancing” letter, That Is….

Following the public interest in the so called ‘menacing’ letter from Progressive Enterprises to the Commerce Commission, Parliament today released a copy of the *ahem* offending correspondence.

Lo and behold, it is nothing more than a request for information in a standard format written by their legal team, Russel McVeagh.
Cosgrove’s
lacklustre excuse for his Jones-esque use of terminology in his description of the letter was that “Progressive could have easily obtained the information without making the request through its lawyers.”

Who does Cosgrove think it would be suitable to receive the letter from? A customer, perhaps?

It seems perfectly acceptable to me that a formal request such as the one Progressive made would be sent by their legal team, considering the formality which would be required in such a situation.

As suspected, Cosgrove has made a great deal of unnecessary fuss over what appears to be an entirely unsubstantiated allegation over a simple and perfectly reasonable request which took care to go through formal protocols.

Clayton Cosgrove Takes Another Leaf Out of The book Of Jones: Oh! Those Letters!

Those of you who watched The Nation’s segment over the weekend may recall that during Jones’ IV he made references to a letter which had supposedly been sent to the commerce Commission by Progressives’ lawyers, and that it had undertones of  ‘bullying’.
When Jones was challenged on this allegation you’ll recall that he was forced to admit he hadn’t actually seen this letter himself; but that it was ‘around’. He then told the host (Patrick Gower) that the news team should “find it themselves”. He challenged them to find it.

Today Clayton Cosgrove, who appears to be contending for the spot of Jone’s Loyal Sidekick (a political Boy Wonder, perhaps?)
announced in parliament that Progressives sent a ‘menacing’ letter (yes, that’s right – the mystery letter has been upgraded from a rating of ‘bullying’ to the new status of ‘menacing’!) asking questions about the progress of the Commerce Commission’s investigations into allegations against the supermarket giant of bullying, blackmail and demands for retrospective cash payments.

What I find the most remarkable about this allegation is that Dave chambers has already stated that Progressives has sent the Commerce Commission a letter asking for more information and is awaiting a reply, as is their right as a business who is under investigation.

Why on earth would Dave Chambers mention they had sent correspondence if it could in any way be interpreted as bullying, menacing, aggressive, or any other adjective with a negative connotation for that matter?
Note that the time of publishing on the article regarding Mr Chambers is Saturday at 5am – before The Nation’s segment aired and Jones bought up the mysterious letter for the first time during his IV.

David Farrar asked if it had become mindless bashing of Countdown. I agreed with him then, and am even more inclined to do so now that Cosgrove has begun worrying this particular bone.

So come on, Cosgrove and Jones – prove us skeptics wrong.

Mr Chambers has already confirmed Progressive has requested information – So stop cowering behind your shiny cloaks of privilege (the ancient rite to which you are entitled as parliamentarians, yadda yadda yadda…).  Release this letter like you eventually did with Jones’ letter regarding the initial allegations of bullying.
Mr Chambers has already confirmed Progressive has requested information.
Let the public decide.

I challenge you.

Lotto, Lawyers and LAPs: The Latest Issues In The Supermarket Saga

Tv3’s The Nation released a segment this weekend discussing fresh allegations of bullying from the Mad Butcher Chief Executive Michael Morton, who accused Progressives of having in the past sent the company ‘threatening letters’ from lawyers when Mad Butcher advertised using comparative pricing. In addition, he complained that when the jackpots on lotto draws go up he can lose up to 15 percent of normal weekend business.
There has also been mention in articles of the ongoing LAPs issue between local Councils and Foodstuffs/Progressives who have both been lodging appeals around the country.

First, let’s look at the issue of the lotto tickets.
The introduction of the ability to purchase your tickets at the checkout of some Countdown stores (100, according to the segment) received some criticism from the outset amid concerns it would encourage increased gambling and present more temptation to problem or potential problem gamblers. There was also the concern about young people being able to purchase tickets – Instant Kiwi scratch and win tickets currently being the only item restricted to buyers 18 and over.

Mr Morton claimed that on weekends where lotto’s jackpots had climbed significantly his stores regularly reported “up to 15%” loss of sales in some of their stores compared to regular weekends – he gave a real dollar value estimate of about “A couple of hundred thousand dollars”.
But Morton’s most interesting comment was yet to come – host Lisa Owen asked him if money was going “away from food and into gambling”. Mr Morton emphatically replied “yes.”

It is this response with which I really take issue. Who is Morton (Or Jones, or any individual or group) to assume that that extra money is ‘all’ going into gambling instead of food?
It has been quoted that there is ‘evidence’ people buy tickets over food on weekends where the jackpot is high.
But ‘evidence’ is not solid fact – and it certainly does not represent a majority.

The fact remains that The Mad Butcher currently does not supply lotto outlets in their stores – so it is expected, surely, that folks will do their shopping at a place where they can conveniently buy their lotto ticket as well?
And who said all these people are buying tickets over food? The audacity of Morton to infer that this is the case actually astounds me and I think it is very disrespectful to New Zealanders – his customers – to effectively throw his toys out of the cot and make this baseless accusation that because they aren’t spending money in his store they all must be spending that money on gambling instead.
The question is – where is his proof that this consistently happening?
Of course, he doesn’t have any. This man wants the patronage of New Zealanders – and yet he infers that we’re all gambling addicts.

Jones of course is no better – grasping at the lotto issue like a drowning man and saying that it is “taking kai out of the mouths of children.” Again – prove that all that spending on lotto tickets comes at the expense of grocery items. And speaking of Jones and lotto – did you know his partner works at Sky City – who we could consider a competitor to the lotteries commission? He spends most of his time these days at the Sky City Hotel.

It has long been a reality that a small percentage of people will purchase alcohol, cigarettes and drugs or gamble with their money at the expense of essentials such as food and bills.
But to place all this blame on the lotteries commission alone (and Countdown, let’s not forget That Big Australian Business) is both ridiculous and an obvious attempt at mud-slinging.

What about the other lotto outlets – both the ones which are part of an existing store and the ones which are stand alone kiosks?
You can find lotto outlets in gift shops, bookstores, convenience stores, and even dairies. Many malls have more than one outlet. Their signs are big, colourful and eye catching, designed to tempt folks to buy tickets. Most outlets now have video screens with bright, attractive advertisements and flashing symbols – not unlike the displays on pokie machines.

We were saturated by lotto outlets and their advertising long before you could by your ticket at some checkouts – so why the big song and dance now, and the suggestion that gambling and the temptation to gamble wasn’t that big a problem now, but suddenly is destined to spiral out of control just because you can get your ticket at the same time as you pay for your groceries?

Once you start regulating where and when lotto tickets can be sold you’re starting down a very slippery slope.
First you say they can’t be sold in “Aussie owned supermarkets” to quote Jones. If Progressive owned supermarkets can’t sell tickets, why should Foodstuffs supermarkets be able to? If you can no longer buy lotto tickets in or around a supermarket, why should convenience stores, dairies, gift shops, book stores etc be given continued license to operate?
What about the flashy posters and display screens? Do they go – a nod to plain packaging? Will stand alone kiosks still be able to remain in the middle of a mall or will they need to be concealed in a spot out of the way of foot traffic?
They are opening a big old can of worms and that is just one part of the issue

Jones and Morton should both go easy on that Eau De Desperation cologne – it’s rather stinky.

 

On to the lawyers – Morton alleged that on several occasions Progressive’s legal team has sent his company letters when they have undertaken comparative pricing advertising. He used big dramatic phrases like “We get smashed with lawyers’ letters, they come down like a sledgehammer with lawyers’ letters”.
When he talks about these allegations of bullying though, like Jones he doesn’t actually have any solid evidence. He says that it’s his ‘belief’.
He has gotten involved with the Commerce Commission’s investigation and claims he’s talked to suppliers who have told him that “pressure is put on them” although he doesn’t choose to elaborate on this.

What was the most interesting about his issue with these alleged letters is that the Mad Butcher is itself guilty of false advertising. Ms Owen bought this incident up in the IV, saying, “..you have both been hauled up by advertising standards…for misleading advertising, you’ve both got in hot water over it.. you’re equally as bad, aren’t you?”
Morton dodged this question, going off on a bit of a tangent about how they’ve always used comparative pricing to show they offer better deals and accusing the ASA of not giving them clear information and changing the rules constantly.

The incident to which Ms Owen was referring occurred late last year, where Mad Butcher claimed that “Jo from Onehunga” did a comparative shop between Countdown and The Mad Butcher, saving almost $30 by shopping at the latter store. Countdown lodged a complaint following this advertising on the grounds that it was not representative of the actual availability of all products.
The investigation revealed that “Jo” had not actually purchased any items from Countdown; several of the items she bought from the MB were not available in Countdown or were not of the same quality; and Countdown did not offer 1 kilo packs of the type sold by the Mad Butcher. This complaint was upheld as likely to deceive and be be misleading to consumers.

Jones jumped on the lawyers bandwagon too – claiming that the Commerce Commission’s select committee has received ‘threatening letters’ from Progressive’s legal team. When asked for further information and evidence in regards to the existence of the purported threatening correspondence, Jones gave the ambiguous reply that it was ‘around’ followed by what I thought was a rather petulant suggestion that Patrick Gower and his team “look for it themselves”. When pressed he continued to bumble and fumble his way through the topic.

There is one all-important similarity between Jones and Morton – when asked if they can prove their various allegations and assumptions, both answer “No.”

 

So what about the LAPs issue?

The Nation also interviewed Lawrence Yule, who is Mayor of Hastings and also the president of Local Government New Zealand.
The discussion and debate around the right of liquor outlets and supermarkets to appeal local council alcohol policies has been ongoing. Regular readers will know I’ve addressed this topic in previous blog topics – in particular how the focus seems to be solely on Countdown’s appeals while ignoring or minimising appeals by Foodstuffs and local liquor outlets. Let’s not forget that Foodstuffs owns bottle store giants Liquor Land and Henrys so they have a definite personal interest in appealing the LAPs to benefit them.

Mr Yule revealed that of the 18 LAPs currently available for review, there are a total of about 60 appeals coming from both supermarket chains as well as local bottle stores.
The issue with Progressive’s appeals appears to be that they want to extend their licensing hours – up to 11pm in some areas, despite the facts many supermarkets still close at 9pm. Some stores which currently open at 9am are wanting to open as early as 7am.
In Napier/Hastings the local councils agreed to allow supermarkets to open as early as 7am while retaining the original closing time of 9pm. In other areas discussions are still taking place and possible outcomes have not yet been indicated.

Should there be rules around the way appeals can be lodged? Well, possibly. But like regulating and controlling lotto outlets, regulating appeals processes starts a slippery slope.

Most council policies are submitted for public review and residents and businesses have the right to submit their views for or against the policy including suggestions, criticisms and appeals for change. If we start making rules for who can make submissions, or what kind of submissions they can make we risk taking away people’s basic right to have their say.
If businesses can’t appeal a draft policy, what happens to operations in that area? Businesses could become hostages to the local council’s opinions which could be biased or be influenced by a conflict of interest or ulterior motive.
The same could be said for issues or plans that involve residents – building  new structure or demolishing one, for example. Ratepayers wouldn’t have a say in where their rates are spent. Families or residents living nearby to the proposed site wouldn’t be able to appeal against any disruptions  – such as construction or demolition – they felt may negatively affect them.

Should supermarkets and bottle stores have the right to appeal LAPs? I think so. Is aggression and persistence the way to get what they want? Perhaps not the ideal method, but it would be a typical business move – appeals against LAPs by supermarkets and bottle stores is nothing new. Should both parties negotiate firmly but fairly? Absolutely.

 

References:

ASA upholds complaint against Mad Butcher

Michael Morton and Lawrence Yule IV with transcript

Shane Jones IV with transcript

Whale Oil: Jones’ conflict of interest