Today’s Dom Post editorial:
Whatever the outcome of the citizenship-fraud trial taking place in Auckland, former associate immigration minister Shane Jones has some explaining to do. …
According to evidence presented to the High Court in Auckland last week, Mr Jones was told in 2008 that Yan was the subject of Interpol Red Notices based on arrest warrants issued in China and that the Internal Affairs Department did not know who he was because he had two passports, two names and two birth dates. Yet Mr Jones approved his application one day after receiving his file.
Mr Jones, now an Opposition front-bencher, has refused to comment on the matter while “it’s in front of the court”, other than to say he had “most certainly not” gone to China.
It is worth noting the outcome of the court case has little bearing on whether Jones acted properly. The court case is about whether Liu lied on his immigration forms. But the focus is on Jones is about why he approved the citizenship when the officials told him this guy has multiple identities, multiple passports, multiple dates of birth and an Interpol arrest warrant.
However, his leader, David Shearer, said yesterday he would not stand the list MP down after receiving assurances from Mr Jones, speaking to other MPs with knowledge of the case and reviewing information retained by Mr Jones. The Labour leader is attaching his reputation to that of Mr Jones in the same way that his predecessor fatefully attached his reputation to that of former Labour whip Darren Hughes when he chose not to stand him down while police investigated a complaint against him.
To be fair to Shearer, the allegations were known about before the 2008 election. It was Helen Clark who should have done a stand down. I’m not sure a stand down is needed. What has been needed for the last three and a half years is a clear plausible explanation for why Jones granted citizenship, apart from he did it to keep his good mate Dover Samuels happy. And if Jones can not give a convincing reason (and by convincing I mean being able to point to some proof that Liu was not dodgy – rather than merely taking Liu’s word for it) for giving citizenship to such a dodgy character, than Shearer should rule Jones out of any future Ministerial role.
It is a risky strategy that leaves Mr Shearer open to charges of hypocrisy given that he has called for ACT MP John Banks to be stood down from his ministerial duties while allegations about his 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign are investigated.
Mr Shearer says Mr Jones followed due process. That sounds impressive, but simply means Mr Jones considered the material associated with the case before exercising his authority as minister.
It does not explain why the then minister ignored the concerns of officials who met twice with him about the application.
I’m glad the Dom Post has seen through the spin about process. And yes it is hypocrisy.
The case must now be allowed to run its course. But, once it is completed, there is clearly a need for a full inquiry reviewing Mr Jones’ actions, the material put before him by officials and the involvement of other members of Parliament. Yan’s application for citizenship was supported by letters from National’s Pansy Wong and Labour’s Dover Samuels and Chris Carter.
New Zealanders rightly take pride in this country’s reputation for propriety. Anything that threatens that reputation should be treated with the utmost seriousness.
We definitely need a full inquiry into this. The problem is that if the National Government establishes an inquiry into the actions of a Labour Minister, it looks hopelessly partisan no matter how credible a person is appointed.
But if David Shearer was to come out and agree to an independent inquiry, and agree on the terms of reference with the Prime Minister – then that would be a great sign of bipartisanship – and would allow the true facts to be established.
The whole case is very murky. The person who helped Liu apply for citizenship was a fundraiser for the Labour Party. His brother worked for Shane Jones. Liu had donated to at least three MPs (two Labour, one National) and may held fundraisers at his restaurant which may have raised tens of thousands of dollars. And not only was the citizenship granted despite the official advice, a Labour MP arranged a special citizenship ceremony in the Maori Affairs Select Committee Room at Parliament just a few days later.
The perception is that Shane Jones sold citizenship. Now maybe he did not. Maybe the fact that he was a donor to Labour MPs was not a factor. Maybe the fact that his very good friend Dover Samuels lobbied him intensely did not impact his decision to grant citizenship to Dover’s friend and donor. But Jones argument that he made his decision on humanitarian grounds is pitifully weak. That might be a reason to grant permanent residency, but not citizenship. One can live in NZ all your life as a permanent resident, without being a citizen.
Also note that there has not been a shred of proof that Liu was associated with the Falun Gong. What there is proof of is an arrest warrant for fraud charges.
UPDATE: John Armstrong’s column is “A nasty smell that needs cleaning“. He concludes:
That Shearer is understood to still be keeping his options open in terms of calling in some independent body like the Auditor-General to conduct an inquiry into the approval of Yan’s citizenship suggests the Labour leader realises he is not on terribly strong ground in not standing Jones down, if only temporarily.
There should be an independent inquiry. The inquiry needs to interview all the people involved – the officials, the MPs who advocated, Shane Te Pou and his brother Daniel who worked for Jones. David Cunliffe also as Minister of Immigration who also didn’t act on official advice. The inquiry should also ask the Chinese authorities to document the nature of the fraud allegations that Liu was charged with.
Armstrong’s column is a good read, but I would note that he has missed what I think is a critical point in comparing the Banks case to the Jones case. Banks when advocating for Dotcom was a private citizen and not in power. Samuels was a Government MP and Jones was the actual decision maker. And Banks advocacy was turned down, despite the officials making no recommendation. While Samuels advocacy on behalf of his donor was successful, despite the officials strongly advising against.