Chris Trotter echoes my thoughts on the Shane Jones affair:
Here’s a question for Labour. When confronted with evidence raising serious questions about the judgment of a senior caucus member, what should the leader do?
Should he measure the member’s actions against his own beliefs about what constitutes right and proper conduct in someone holding a ministerial warrant? Examining the facts of the case, should he ask himself how he would have acted differently? Should he take moral stock of the environment in which the member’s actions occurred? Paying special attention to the actions of the member’s staff, should he ask himself whether he would have felt comfortable working alongside them? Would he have trusted their advice?
Or, should he simply outsource the whole job to the auditor-general?
As we know Shearer sent requested the A-G look at this issue. Perhaps because he lacked the courage to deal with it internally.
On Tuesday Auditor-General Lyn Provost announced that her office had found “no evidence there was any improper motive, collusion, or political interference” in the decision of Shane Jones to authorise New Zealand citizenship for the mysterious Chinese businessman Yang (“Bill”) Liu.
Ms Provost did admit to there being a “combination of unusual circumstances and decisions” associated with the case, and that it was “not surprising” that people had started asking questions.
“We found reason to criticise most of those involved in different aspects of the decision-making process,” she reported. “In the public sector, decisions not only have to be right, they have to be seen to be right.”
No sooner had the auditor-general’s report been released than the Labour leader, David Shearer, announced that Mr Jones would be returning to the Opposition front bench.
Disregarding the chain of “unusual circumstances and decisions” and the auditor-general’s criticism of “most of those involved”, Mr Shearer decided that the absence of any conclusive evidence of serious impropriety was the sole criterion Mr Jones needed to satisfy to ensure his complete rehabilitation.
The whole report is an outrage…if you read the whole report it is actually damning, the only wonder is that Lyn Provost couldn’t bring herself to actually deliver a proper finding.
The New Zealand public, on the other hand, can easily be forgiven for wondering how the auditor-general’s finding that Mr Jones did not act improperly has somehow been construed to mean that Mr Jones did not act unwisely. Is he truly innocent of any failures of judgment that a Labour leader keen to run a tight ethical ship might see as good reasons for keeping him away from ministerial decision-making in the future?
The Liu report was always going to be as much a test of Mr Shearer’s ethical standards as it was of Mr Jones’handling of Mr Liu’s citizenship application. The auditor-general has given Mr Jones a pass.
Can we say the same for the efficacy of Mr Shearer’s moral compass.