AG rules only when it suits


A few short weeks ago Labour was demanding that the government stop the Sky City convention centre deal because of an Auditor General’s report.

The party is taking a far more cavalier approach to the report from the AG on Shane Jones’s behaviour as Assistant Immigration Minister.

The Auditor-General’s report into the Yang Liu affair is extremely damning of the way Shane Jones handled the issue, and calls into question David Shearer’s judgment in reinstating him to Labour’s front bench, Acting Prime Minister Bill English says.

“Within minutes of the report being tabled in Parliament this afternoon, we have David Shearer rushing out and reinstating Shane Jones,” he says.

“I can almost understand his haste, given the calibre of his caucus and his desire to keep David Cunliffe on the backbench. But it flies in the face of the Auditor-General’s conclusions about Mr Jones’ handling of Mr Liu’s citizenship application.”

For example, on page 66 of the report, the Auditor-General says of Mr Jones: “In our view, given that he knew there were ongoing investigations by Immigration and the New Zealand Police, he should also have consulted them before making his decision, as the investigators note of the first meeting suggested he was intending to do.

And on page 67, the report continues: “The decision to approve an urgent private ceremony, following so closely the decision to authorise the grant of citizenship against the recommendation of officials, caused a degree of consternation among the department’s staff. It added to the impression that Mr Liu was receiving special treatment.”

“Despite the criticism by the Auditor-General, David Shearer is now standing behind Shane Jones,” Mr English says.

“This is just a few weeks after he demanded the Government stop the Sky City Convention Centre project because of an Auditor-General’s report. He should look in his own party’s backyard first.”

Labour are happy to invoke the Auditor General only when it suits.

There was nothing illegal in what Jones did but it does look very sloppy.

This is his second strike, the first being charging the cost of pornographic movies to his parliamentary credit card. He’s been given another chance but will be on notice.

The AG’s report is here.


AG to investigate Jones’ immigration decision


Auditor General Lyn Provost is to carry out an inquiry into the decision by the former Associate Minister of Immigration, Shane Jones, to grant citizenship to Yong Ming Yan (also known as Yang (Bill) Liu).

It will be led by Francis Cooke QC.

The link above will take you to an explanation of the background of the case and the scope of the inquiry which will examine:

  • the policies and practices of the Department of Internal Affairs when advising the Minister on applications for citizenship, in particular where the applicant’s ‘good character’ is in question;
  • how and why the Minister decided to grant citizenship to Mr Yan; and
  • any other matters the Auditor-General considers it desirable to report on.

Looking at not just how the decision was made but why is important.

When Labour leader David Shearer requested the AG look at the case he referred to the process but that is far too narrow for an issue of this seriousness.

New Zealand has a very good reputation for lack of corruption in high places. The AG has a very  important role in safeguarding that reputation and any inquiry she undertakes must range as widely as it needs to be in order to get to the bottom of what happened, how and why.

That is not in any way pre-judging the outcome. A full and comprehensive inquiry is just as important if it clears the then-Associate Minister’s name as if it doesn’t.

Hat tip: Keeping Stock

Labour in headlines for all wrong reasons


In Budget week when eyes and ears tend to be on the government, Labour is in the headlines but for all the wrong reasons.

Shane Jones has been referred to the Auditor General over his decision to grant Chinese immigrant Bill Liu citizenship, at last.

He’s also been stood down from his portfolios – for the second time. As Lady Bracknell may be regarded as a misfortune, twice looks like carelessness.

David Shearer said:

“Based on my discussions with Shane Jones, I believe that he followed a proper process. But given the differing statements made in and outside of court and the questions that have been raised publicly, I believe that an independent agency should review the case.

“I’ve asked for the Auditor-General to look into all the departmental as well as ministerial processes involved in this case.

But the problem is about much more than the process. It is possible to make a mistake with the process and arrive and the right decision and to follow the correct process and still reach the wrong decision.

Keeping Stock has a round-up of news stories giving some background.

Kiwiblog asks several valid questions which need to be answered not least of which are the links between Jones’ decision and Liu’s donations to the labour Party.

All of that points to a lot more than a problem with the process.

It also points to Labour’s ongoing challenge to look like a government in waiting. Unless and until it sorts itself out, it will struggle to convince enough voters to give it the support it needs to lead a stable coalition.

If it can’t manage itself, it can’t be trusted to manage a multi-headed coalition.

UPDATE: Keeping Stock has spotted an immigration case where Jones disregarded submissions on humanitarian grounds on the advice of officials. That contrasts with the Liu case where he ignored official advice.

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