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Immigration Scandal-Update 16, A new inquiry is announced

20/05/2008

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So now the Auditor General enters upon the scene.

It is hard to know if what we are witnessing is a Shakespearian tragedy in which destruction will be visited upon all concerned, or a French bedroom farce in which the various investigators will keep inexplicably missing each other and the target. Adam has some fear it may be the latter, with the addition of a scapegoat in the form of Mary Anne Thompson, whilst others escape censure or are merely counselled.

Yesterday John Armstrong wrote in the NZ Herald as follows:-

Just how bad do things have to get before the Government sets up a full commission of inquiry to independently investigate the mounting allegations of corruption in the Immigration Service?

Despite growing calls for such an inquiry with judicial powers to summon witnesses, the answer is a lot worse yet.

It is understood the Prime Minister, who returned from overseas yesterday, is satisfied that the three separate investigations now being conducted by the Department of Labour, the police and the State Services Commission are sufficient to reassure the public the allegations are being taken extremely seriously.

That article was presumably written sometime on Sunday as it was published in the Monday morning edition of the NZ herald and was timed at 5.00 am on the Herald web-site.

So what happened subsequently, as Adam assumes that John Armstrong was reasonably sure that what he was saying in his column was correct.

Because yesterday late in the day, Helen Clark announced the Auditor General would conduct an inquiry, and as Audrey Young blogged in the Herald last night:-

Hallelujah. Some much-needed political management. Helen Clark’s announcement tonight that Auditor-General Kevin Brady will look at the shambles surrounding former Immigration head Mary Anne Thompson, her Pacific division, the decision-making at the Department of Labour, its interactions with the State Services, and anything else he wants was the right one.

It may be stretching his traditional brief. But it is warranted.

And some much needed acknowledgement that the cabinet confidence has been “somewhat shattered” by recent events.

Clark didn’t actually specify who or what (she didn’t specify the Immigration Service as TV3 claimed tonight) but it is a safe bet she was meaning the whole shooting match.

So what happened to change Ms Clark’s view?

What calculations were made or information considered that caused the change of mind?

Something must have.

Because according to Audrey Young:-

Clark’s less than subtle implication is that the public and the Government could not be certain they would have confidence in an inquiry run by the Immigration Service or the State Services Commission.

The value of internal inquiries has been undermined not least by the blancmange offered up by the Labour Department and State Services Commission themselves on other matters (the “Lying in Unison” white wash, the Madeleine Setchell-Clare Curran employment affairs).

The integrity of independent inquiries have undermined after the stone-walling that Noel Ingram QC faced when he tried to get to the truth of the Phillip Field-Thai tiling fiasco – and on very narrow terms of reference set by the Government.

Let us be clear here, this government has been responsible for the undermining of confidence in inquiries, particularly with the Ingram one into Philip Field.

So Adam thinks that Ms Young is somewhat disingenuous in suggesting that Ms Clark was concerned that the Government could not have confidence in the Labour Department and SSC inquiries. That is simply not believable. This government, like many before, and no doubt like others in the future has been perfectly happy to use ‘insider’ inquiries with carefully chosen terms of reference.

No, what we have here is a ‘spin’ exercise.

Adam thinks that the Government knows that this whole affair is going to get worse.

Indeed, he thinks that Cosgrove must have briefed Clark and that what he told her caused the change of mind. So Clark has moved pre-emptively to give the impression of probity and concern for the truth.

Calling in the Auditor General is a master stroke in spinning this issue for as Audrey Young observes:-

Ironically, the fact that the present AG has been the subject of so much Labour resentment since his finding in 2006 that it unlawfully spend $800,000 in the 2005 campaign, increases his credibility and value of independence to Labour in this instance.

Now we still have not got an all encompassing judicial inquiry such as Armstong was suggesting should be established and as Adam has been calling for ever since he started commenting on this matter, but the Auditor General is a move in the right direction, but it is not a silver bullet and it remains to be seen what the Auditor General will construe as his frame of reference, because that will be critical.

It is also worthy of note to mark these comments by Audrey Young also:-

The integrity of independent inquiries have undermined after the stone-walling that Noel Ingram QC faced when he tried to get to the truth of the Phillip Field-Thai tiling fiasco – and on very narrow terms of reference set by the Government.

He had no power to compel people to speak to him let alone speak the truth to him, nor did he have powers to seize documents.

A commission of inquiry is able to do that, but for the Thompson-Immigration scandal, that would have been out of the question in election year. The process is too public.

The Auditor-General has the same powers of compulsion but tends to work under the radar.

Emphasis is Adam’s.

Here we have the key to the issue and why Clark and Labour have spun this issue.

1 They will now claim they cannot comment as the AG is investigating

2 There is a strong probability that he will not have reported prior to the election.

3 The AG does not carry out his inquiries in public, unlike a Commission of Inquiry which functions more openly.

4 Labour will now think they have shut the matter down and that the media will move on to something else.

Adam has an additional concern that with 4 inquiries going on, there is plenty of opportunity for key issues to slip between the cracks and not be addressed at all. Plus reporting delays will tend to occur as each inquiry waits for the other, so that they ‘Conclude in Unison’.

Adam hopes his fears will not be realised.

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Posts on the Immigration Scandal by adamsmith1922 at The Inquiring Mind

Immigration Scandal

Update 1

Update 2

Update 3

Update 4

Update 5

Update 6 (essentially a note of an event – not a detailed comment)

Update 7

Update 8 – similar to Number 6

Update 9

Update 10

Update 11

Update 12

Update 13

Update 14

Update 15 – Significant New Questions

Update 17 – Another Herald editorial

Update 18 – Serious new allegations

2 Comments
  1. John Armstrong permalink
    21/05/2008 11:47

    Yes, on Sunday afternoon, when I made my inquiries — motivated mainly by Saturday night’s TVNZ story —-the information that the Government was happy with the existing inquiries was utterly reliable. Things changed during the evening after my deadline and at Cabinet on Monday.

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  2. 20/05/2008 13:18

    My inital reaction was that Clark was serious about getting to the bottom of this scandal, but then I did some thinking.

    This is a burning issue for the government today. However, calling in the A-G will neatly remove it from the public consciousness for a while as he conducts his inquiry. And I get very suspicious when Helen Clark claims to have been “blindsided” by this, and seeks to distance her ministers, before the inquiry begins.That seems to me to be a coded message to the A-G not too foc us too much attention on what ministers knew what, and when they knew it!

    Call me a cynic, but too much has been swept under the carpet under this adminsitration to inspire confidence in Helen Clark’s quest for truth.

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