Trotter on the Shame Jones affair

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.


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  • blokeintakapuna

    Perhaps the terms of reference were so narrow, that this was the only possible outcome the AG could reliably come to?

    I wonder what the findings would have been of the AG was empowered to look at every single aspect of this stinky, sordid fiasco?

    Something is wrong in our political system when the well known events are all pieced together and the AG says there’s been no corruption – yet a wealthy businessman on the run from Interpol and the Chinese authorities can approach the Labour Party using 3 alias’s… And with a $15K donation the Labour Party, he receives citizenship against the advice of Immigration officials in a privileged, private ceremony on Parliamentary grounds… Yet the AG still found no corruption?

    I call fucking bull shit on that and insist the AG recuse herself from office, resign immediately and the PM order another inquiry but this time with no limits on any terms of reference.

    Auntie ordered an inquiry a few years back, but the ToR were so narrow as to be completely useless. The same echo’s here.

    • AnonWgtn

      Did not Shearer determine the terms of reference of the AG report ?
      He requested it.

      • blokeintakapuna

        I believe shearer did. However it was probably like Auntie’s ToR as to be so narrow… It’s next to fuckin’ useless!

        A new inquiry is needed with no ToR, so the AG can conduct a full and proper inquiry …. Not one where she’s put blindfolded into a large dark room and only given 1 match to look into only corner of the entire building…

        Something stinks about the report and it creates more questions than answers. I hope the Owl and WO will keep trying to find out more please….

    • Patrick

      I do not understand how the miscreants political master gets to frame the ToR. Shouldn’t the Auditor General be totally independant & capable of investigating properly & thoroughly? Anything else is a whitewash as we saw with the initial Taito Philip Field case.

      • le sphincter

        The AG decides whats the terms of reference for the inquiry.

        You seem to forget the same phrasing was used for the report into Sky Citys buying of influence over the convention center.
        “No evidence of improper conduct”

        Same result in the Pansy- Sammy Wong using taxpayers money to pay for business trip.
        “No evidence”- as the Wongs claimed the visted friends only.

        of course Sammy flying to Christchurch to mow the lawns on his rental property using taxdpayer funds was a , so it was ignored

        • Patrick

          I am no expert Mr Asshole Valve but I have to disagree, Clarke set the terms of reference for the Field inquiry & she set very limited terms. That was an attempt to limit the scope of the inquiry no doubt about it. My point is not meant to be partisan, instead any inquiry should have the scope & power to seek the facts & the truth, not the rubbish “Claytons” inquiries we currently see.

  • cows4me

    It’s really more a test of Liarbore’s ethical standards. Yes the leader should lead but what about the rest of the useless noddies in the cabal. I bet they sat there like zombies in the mornings caucus meeting not daring and not wishing to challenge the report or even discussing it. Not only is Shagger ethically challenged the whole damn sorry lot would struggle to recognise an ethical issue even if it kicked them up the arse.

    • Dan

      A decision which was no doubt easier for them to make in the wake on Nick Smith’s reinstatement.

    • Gazzaw

      I dare say that the Nats will be baiting Shearer & Jones in the House for some time to come. Jones won’t get off the hook easily.

  • Kacanga

    Nah, Shearer handed it over to the AG for speed – if it was left to him to decide he’d still be going: “Ah, um, mmm, umm, you know, but, mm, ah….” When Jones was retiring in 2033

  • GregM

    How the hell the AG came to that conclusion staggers me. The full report is absolutely damning in my opinion. I think I know who their chief investigator is.

  • JeffDaRef

    Completely undermines Labour’s love affair with the fat German…

    • le sphincter

      How so ?

      The fat german bankrolled that corrupt mayoral candidate- you know where he advised to split the payments and then signed an affidavit saying – I know nothing!

      • JeffDaRef

        The wailing about him being given residency…at least he didnt buy off those giving approval!
        Far be it for your side to be throwing the “corrupt” word around there sphinc….