When the Mary-Anne Thompson scandal first was exposed (and kudos to One News who did the hard work making this all public), I tended to think it would not reflect much on Ministers, and was a case of inappropriate judgement which had been reprimanded. But the growing evidence is of another shabby little cover-up. Why do I say this? Well let us start with what was said in Parliament yesterday:
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Given those terms of reference, why does the Minister allege that that inquiry was merely a matter relating to the employment of a staff member, when the actual final report of the inquiry was Review of Apparently Unlawful Immigration Decision?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: The matter, as the member states, was in relation to an unlawful immigration decision actioned by an individual or individuals.
Note the stress on being actioned by individuals. This leads us to:
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Well, those members preordain the answer to the question, which speaks volumes about them. The advice that that Minister received was the same advice that I received—that matters related to individual employees are employee matters. He was advised of that. He noted that it was a matter for the chief executive, because there is no employment relationship between Ministers and departments, and that is where it stands. He acted by the book. And I say this: if my predecessor or I had intervened unlawfully against section 33, I bet members $100 that that member would be asking a different series of questions about why Ministers had overreached their authority and breached the law. They cannot have it both ways, and the member knows it.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is this Minister telling the House that the then Minister of Immigration, David Cunliffe, knew about the inquiry by David Oughton into unlawful decision-making in his department in April last year, yet never asked for or received a copy of the completed inquiry report, nor asked for a full briefing on that final report? Is that what he is telling the House—that David Cunliffe never asked for a full briefing on that final report?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: No. I admire the member’s ability to twist words. What I am saying is that in April the Minister was briefed, and, latterly, in respect of the report, the Minister, like me, had no right to demand, and was precluded from demanding, a copy of that report or the contents—
Hon Bill English: That’s rubbish.
One has to stand back for a second to think about this level of sophistry. The issues is here that the NZ Immigration Service broke the law, broke its own policies, and made decisions it had no power to make – only the Minister could make. Now of course any such breaking of the law and policies has to have been done by individuals – there is no other way a Department can act except through individuals. But to then claim that the report is off limit to the Minister is ridicolous.
The Dominion Post reports on concerns (which I blogged on Wednesday) that the SIS did not pick up any issues in their vetting.
NZPA reports on the problems within the entire Pacific division:
Last night One News said it had obtained, under the Official Information Act, information showing about 60 people work in the division, and that in three years from 2004, 19 cases of serious offences were proven including theft, bribery and fraud. From the 19 cases, nine people were fired or resigned. Three were referred to police.
I suppose these are all employment issues also, which means nothing to do with the Minister.
But get this little gem, also from NZPA quoting Mary-Anne’s lawyer:
Ms Aikman said it appeared the SSC had known about allegations against Ms Thompson for four years but nothing was ever said.
Four years? Please tell me you are kidding.
I am not sure the problems in the Immigration Service can be fixed from within. When you consider the lies in unison scandal (which the parent Department also tried to whitewash), I think a Commission of Inquiry may now be needed.