Shane Jones doubles down on Indian students comments in fiery clash with John Campbell

Source: 1News

Shane Jones has both doubled down on his controversial comments about Indian students and changed tack entirely, claiming he wasn't referring to the students but dodgy schools.

During an interview with MediaWorks earlier this month, Mr Jones said: "We should debate it [immigration] and there should be a mandate, rather than opening up the options, unfettered, and everyone comes here from New Delhi."

When questioned on the "New Delhi" comment, Mr Jones said, "I think that the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions, I think it’s a backdoor to citizenship".

His comments were called out as "racist" by Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon and chastised by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern .

On TVNZ1's Breakfast today, host John Campbell pressed him on which "institutions" were "ruined" by Indian students. 

After first dodging the question, Mr Jones changed tack. Now he claims the comment about "Indian students" was not about the students.

"No, the organisations I was referring to are the language schools that have been closed down because they've ended up as dodgy visa factories," he said.

On Tuesday, Indian Newslink editor Venkat Raman told Breakfast he was happy to talk to Mr Jones if there was a valid issue for the Indian community - but also said the comments were "gutter language" and "unbecoming of a minister".

"I think Shane Jones has to understand that as a minister and as a politician he is expected of a certain level of dignity, a certain level of honour and he can't speak whatever he feels like."

When asked, Mr Jones says he's going to meet with Mr Raman today.

"I'm talking to that man later today on the media, and a population policy and the role of immigration, and the ongoing perfidy of criminality around a lot of these language schools and the visa scams is going to be front and centre," he says, adding: "And I don't care if you don't like it, John."

Campbell says by criticising the students themselves in his initial comment, Mr Jones went for "way broader brush strokes that were appropriate".

"And in doing so, you knew precisely what you were doing."

Mr Jones doubled down again .

"That particular community are regularly breaking the law, and no one seems to want to talk about it. And they don't want to talk about it themselves, well they will be later this morning when I talk to that man in terms of his media."

When prompted, National deputy leader Paula Bennett - also appearing on the show's political panel - said raising issues is good, but actually singling out a whole New Zealand ethnicity was inappropriate for a senior Cabinet minister.

"We [need to] be very careful that we're talking about a few and not then extend that out so it feels like it's all of them," she says.

"I think that's what's sort of coming through. And as you say, Shane, you know your words matter and you know that you could've said them differently."

Mr Jones' initial comments specifically said that the students coming from Indian had "ruined many of those institutions". 

But today, he said that the students were victims of dodgy schools.

"Short-term migration, in my view, has been worsened by dodgy language schools and it has led to criminality where the students themselves have been victims," he says.

"But often they're victims as a consequence of the actions of their own people. You can't walk away from that, John."

When it comes to word choice, Campbell says: "You knew what you were up to."

"Shane, you're a man that just used 'perfidy'. I've been sitting in this show, five days a week, for 10 or 11 months now, and no one has ever said that word before. 

"You are Harvard educated, you know what you're saying. You're not some stumbling, bumbling, innocent - finding himself suddenly thrust into the media spotlight.

"You use your words with a surgical precision."

Mr Jones says when election day rolls around it'll be clear how the general public really feels.

"I'll tell you, when the alarm clock rings on election day, more Kiwis - and remember, they come out at night - they're going to agree with me than you believe is possible."