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Ingram Report—Associate Minister of Immigration

Thursday 1 March 2007 Hansard source (external site)

Smith8. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) Link to this
to the Minister of Immigration

In which paragraph, if any, of the Ingram report does Noel Ingram QC “conclusively conclude” that the former Associate Minister of Immigration did not receive information about Taito Phillip Field’s involvement with Sunan Siriwan before making his decision on 23 June 2005 to authorise a work visa for Mr Siriwan?

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration) Link to this

I refer the member to the responses I gave to supplementary question Nos 1, 4, 5, and 6 following question for oral answer No. 9 on 28 February 2007.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Would the Minister like to expand, and, if necessary, read out the answers. Just making reference is not sufficient.

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

Madam Speaker, you would like me to read out all of those answers again?

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

If necessary. The member who asked the question wants it to be addressed fully.

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

In response to supplementary question No. 1, I said as follows—

Hon Members

Which paragraph?

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

I am following the Speaker’s direction. I said as follows: “These matters were fully covered in the Ingram inquiry. Dr Ingram QC talks about the most likely scenario of events and that member in his select committee has issued a report that says the former Minister was blameless.” In response to supplementary question No. 4, I said: “My understanding of the balance of the Ingram inquiry’s report conclusion is the same as the member’s own and the select committee report issued”—then—“2 days ago, which says that the department’s processes compromised the Minister.” In response to supplementary question No. 5, I said—[ Interruption]

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Would the Minister please be seated. There is constant criticism that Ministers do not fully address questions. It is entirely unacceptable in this House for the Minister to be told to shut up when he is addressing the question. [ Interruption] The member who said that can leave, please. That is just outrageous.

MappDr Wayne Mapp Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would certainly withdraw and apologise. I do take the point you make. However, I have question No. 12.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

I hope that members do take my point. Members are constantly complaining that these matters are not properly addressed. The Minister is addressing the question. No Minister has to give a yes or no answer to the question. That is clearly understood. Would the Minister please succinctly address it.

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Thank you for considering the position that Dr Wayne Mapp found himself in, but please accept that his outburst was based on the frustration of knowing that the Minister was asked a simple question as to which paragraph it was. The Minister would do better to say nothing than to bore the House to tears with his lack of knowledge.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

No, that is not a point of order. If we all clearly expressed ourselves through frustration in this House, there would be no one left. We have to show some restraint. Would the Minister please just address the question succinctly.

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

To assist the House, I think that I can say that the responses to supplementary question No. 6 on that day were similar to the others that I have just read out.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the Minister’s performance that you have just witnessed brings this House and its procedures into disrepute. The Minister has had on notice, for the last 4 hours now, a very clear question asking which paragraph contains what that Minister told the House on Tuesday of this week—that Noel Ingram conclusively concluded something. It is a very clear question, and I believe, if this House is not to be brought into total disrepute, that the Minister should answer it. He has not.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Of course, the members in this House can read the Ingram report for themselves, and they probably have. The Minister is not obliged to give an answer in any particular form or to identify statements in the report that he is not responsible for. The Minister certainly must address questions. It is not his report, but the member cannot demand that a particular answer is given to a particular question. What the Standing Orders require is that the question be addressed. If members do want specific answers, then I would ask them to please have the Standing Orders changed. It would make life a lot easier for most of us.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question I asked the Minister was actually about a statement that the Minister made to this House. So I was not asking him about the Ingram report in general, for which he is not responsible. But he is responsible for what he has told this Parliament. He told this Parliament on Tuesday of this week that Noel Ingram “conclusively concluded” that Damien O’Connor did not know before he made his decision. I asked the Minister where in the report that is contained.

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

The clarification from the member is helpful, because he has clarified that it was my opinion that he was after. In response to that point of order, I am happy to clarify that in my opinion, because the Ingram inquiry is the only authoritative analysis of the matter, the effect of its on-balance judgment must be regarded as conclusive.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

How would that Minister describe his answer to the House on Tuesday this week that “the Ingram inquiry report conclusively concludes that the Minister in question did not receive the information before he made the decision.”, as anything other than false, when the Ingram inquiry report actually concludes: “Real uncertainty results from the available evidence.”?

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

Although I would not claim that my answer has particular elegance, I would suggest that it is rather better than the circular and repetitive questions.

MappDr Wayne Mapp Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That surely cannot be seen to be addressing the question.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

I think the Minister has addressed the question. One of the difficulties is that when Ministers are asked for opinions, they do not necessarily have to give their opinion. I think that the line of questioning has been along the lines that these are statements of fact.

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There is another difficulty that arises here. The Minister just used the opportunity to speak to another point of order to clarify a mistake he made in an answer earlier in the week. At what point did he become aware of that, and why did he not formally correct an answer he gave earlier in the week? He is trying to couch it in terms of his own opinion. If we read the Hansard, he categorically stated that the Ingram report “conclusively concluded”, and he presented it to the House as though they were the words of Noel Ingram QC. Clearly, they were not. Quite the opposite is true.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

We understand the point.

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

Speaking to the point of order, Madam Speaker, I have to say that had I felt I had made a mistake, I most certainly would have clarified that point to the House. I did not make, and do not feel I made, a mistake; rather, I am restating the opinion I gave the other day, which is quite simply that because the report is the only authoritative analysis we have, its conclusions must be taken as conclusive. Quod erat demonstrandum.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

How does this Minister explain the file note of the Apia branch manager, James Dalmer, following his phone call with Damien O’Connor’s private secretary on 28 June, 5 days after Mr O’Connor signed his letter to Taito Phillip Field granting a visa for Mr Siriwan—a file note that reads: “Knowledge of Thai cases. Knows that Taito had these people working for him. Damien knew that before he made the decision.”?

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

That too has been quite thoroughly covered in Mr Ingram’s report, which, of course, the member is at liberty to reread. As I recall it, in my opinion, the balance of judgment was that what the private secretary thought she said was different from what Mr Dalmer thought he heard.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

Who is the more credible: the Apia branch manager, who had a clear file note that “Damien knew … before he made the decision.”, or the Minister’s private secretary, who first told the Ingram inquiry she could not recall a logged phone call, then that she could but could not remember what was discussed, then that she could remember the discussion but did not take any notice of it, then that she told Damien many weeks, if not several months, after his decision, and, finally, that she told him within a day or two of his decision—whose evidence is more credible?

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

As we have exhaustively clarified in this House, I am not responsible for Dr Ingram or the manner of the production of his inquiry. I simply refer the member to the only authoritative analysis that the House has at its disposal, and I would not presume to second-guess it.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

How plausible is it that Damien O’Connor’s private secretary, who knew the then Associate Minister had declined a visa for Siriwan in October 2004, and again in March 2005, who was present at the meeting with Taito Phillip Field on 17 May 2005 and knew that Mr Field had misrepresented the outcome of that meeting in his letter of 18 May, who would receive an email from compliance officer Murray Gardiner about Mr Field’s involvement with Siriwan in Samoa on 27 May, and who would further receive a phone call from the head of service international on 9 June confirming Siriwan’s involvement with Mr Field in Samoa, would say nothing whatsoever to her Minister when she gave him the file for his decision just 8 days later?

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE Link to this

In my humble opinion it is entirely credible, and, for what it is worth, it is conveyed in paragraphs 157 and 158 of the Ingram inquiry report. If members would indulge me, I might add that it is supported by evidence referred to by Dr Ingram in paragraphs 125, 131, 138, 144, 151, 153, 188, 200, and 491—and why would I second-guess that?

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