Beware the spin

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Labour MP has received a draft copy of the auditor-general’s report into his 2008 decision to grant Chinese billionaire William Yan citizenship, the report on which his political career hangs.

Neither Mr Jones nor MP David Cunliffe, who is also understood to have received a copy of the draft, will comment on the report.

However, sources suggested Mr Jones was optimistic that its contents were not damaging enough to harm his chances of a comeback to Labour’s front bench.

Stuff is reporting:

The Auditor General is reported to have cleared former immigration minister Shane Jones of any unlawful behaviour in his handling of an immigration case.

I would be very cautious of reports based on what Labour is leaking.

First of all, of course Jones will not be found to have acted unlawfully. No one has ever suggested he broke the law. That is not the issue.

The granting of citizenship has ministerial discretion. It is not unlawful to make a bad decision. It is not unlawful to ignore the fact that some one is a wanted criminal and has multiple aliases and is under investigation by four different agencies. But it is incredibly poor judgement.

I’ve never suggested that Jones personally benefited from his decision.  I think he was pressured to grant Liu citizenship to keep his mate and fellow MP Dover Samuels happy, and also the Labour Party fundraiser who had connections to his office and was being paid to “facilitate” the application.

Anyway I await the AG report with interest. What I am going to be interested in is the details. Did they find the mystery DIA official whom Jones claims told him Liu would be killed? Did they locate even one line of paperwork from Jones as to why he over-rode official advice? Did they locate any notes from Samuels disclosing that Liu was a donor?

UPDATE: Stuff is now reporting:

A report by the Auditor-General into Labour MP Shane Jones’ handling of an immigration case does not reach a ‘black and white’ conclusion, sources say.

Media today reported that Labour MP Shane Jones had been cleared by the probe. That would pave the way for his return to the front bench, from which he was demoted last year.

But a source, who had seen the report, warned the watchdogs conclusions were not straightforward in exonerating Jones.

“Those matters are a question of degree, and I would refrain from rushing to judgement…the arguments are quite complex.”

Another source agreed, saying the report is not “unequivocal.”

As I said, don’t fall for spin. Judge when the report is published.