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Immigration, Minister—Mary Anne Thompson

Thursday 3 July 2008 Hansard source (external site)

Smith12. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) Link to this
to the Minister of Immigration

When was a Minister of Immigration first made aware that Mary Anne Thompson was the staff member at the centre of an investigation into unlawful decision-making in the Immigration Service?

JonesHon SHANE JONES (Acting Minister of Immigration) Link to this

I am advised that the former Minister of Immigration was briefed in April 2007 about a situation where Mary Anne Thompson’s family members had obtained residence in circumstances that appeared irregular.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

Just to get this clear, was the Minister of Immigration at the time, David Cunliffe, told that the inquiry involved the head of the Immigration Service, Mary Anne Thompson?

JonesHon SHANE JONES Link to this

I repeat the answer I have been given—

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Answer the question.

JonesHon SHANE JONES Link to this

Mr Smith, just because puku is sitting next to cuckoo, calm down! On behalf of the Minister—

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

No—would the Minister please be seated. That is unacceptable. That is just unacceptable. I know that interjections do provoke a response and then we get disorder, which is exactly what happened. So I will ask all members to restrain themselves. The Hon Shane Jones will please just address the question.

CullenHon Dr Michael Cullen Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You brought the Minister to order and warned him, and immediately one of the two members somewhat humorously referred to interjected before the Minister had a chance to respond.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Yes. Obviously, if the member could reflect on what I said, that would be greatly appreciated.

JonesHon SHANE JONES Link to this

I repeat the answer that I have been given for the House: in April 2007 the former Minister of Immigration was briefed about a situation where Mary Anne Thompson’s family members had obtained residence in circumstances that looked irregular.

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you would please reflect on the answer just given by the Minister, where he said: “I repeat the answer that I have been given for the House:”. He is speaking today as if he were the Minister of Immigration, and therefore he should not be able to preface an answer he gives so as to indicate it may not be the right answer. Clearly, if he says this today, it stands as the words of the Minister of Immigration given to the House.

CullenHon Dr Michael Cullen Link to this

It might come as a terrible shock to members opposite, but Ministers actually have draft replies to principal questions, which are put down on notice, in the same way that members opposite have draft supplementary questions written out in full for them. The member is simply indicating that he is repeating the previous answer he has been supplied with, on behalf of the Minister.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Yes. I think, obviously, that the Minister is responsible for the answer. It is just the expression.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

Did the Minister of Immigration at the time, David Cunliffe, give the Prime Minister a heads-up that an inquiry was under way into unlawful decision-making involving the head of the Immigration Service, Mary Anne Thompson?

JonesHon SHANE JONES Link to this

Upon the Minister of the time being informed of such a situation, he was informed that an independent investigation by senior officials within that department was about to be undertaken. I have no advice in respect of what, if anything, was said between him and the Prime Minister.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Acting Minister is answering as the Minister, and he should not be able simply to say that he has no advice. The question has been on notice, it is a very specific question, and my question was very clear: did the former Minister of Immigration for whom he is speaking today—the Hon David Cunliffe—give the Prime Minister a heads-up that an inquiry was under way involving the head of the Immigration Service? Given the nature of the primary question, it should be possible for the Minister to answer that.

CullenHon Dr Michael Cullen Link to this

Ministers come to the House with prepared information, but that information does not always cover every issue raised in a supplementary question. The member has given an absolutely accurate answer in that case. Members may recall that I gave a very similar answer in the House earlier this afternoon.

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

I think the point here is that even Dr Cullen was suggesting at the start of this question that this line of questioning had been going on for quite some time. Indeed, it has. We have, for some weeks now, been endeavouring to find out more and more about this particular situation. The revelation in the answer today from Shane Jones—albeit it was just advice he got from the department—was in fact that David Cunliffe did know that it was Mary Anne Thompson whom he was advised about. It seems to me that when Government Ministers have over such a long period of time avoided answering the question, which has been put in those terms on many occasions previously, it might be the case that matters relating to that—in other words, the involvement of the Prime Minister and the knowledge of the Prime Minister in this situation—are something that Mr Jones was apprised of. If in fact the Government’s policy is simply to pick a Minister who knows nothing, so that that Minister cannot say anything to get into trouble, then really that does defeat the point of question time.

CullenHon Dr Michael Cullen Link to this

If the member had a question that was as specific as that, he should have asked that question as the principal question. Ministers cannot be expected to guess in advance every supplementary question the member may ask—particularly when this member keeps asking the same supplementary questions week after week. This at least was a new one.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

As members know, I think that, in this instance, certainly the Minister did address the question. If members want to be given a more specific answer, then the matter should be put down in the primary question. The Minister, in this instance, I think, has addressed the question, so we will move on.

SmithDr the Hon Lockwood Smith Link to this

Does the Minister believe, given the Prime Minister’s “no surprises” policy, that the former Minister of Immigration, David Cunliffe, would not have alerted the Prime Minister to the fact that an investigation was going on into unlawful decision-making involving the head of the Immigration Service—the former acting chief executive of the Prime Minister’s own department?

JonesHon SHANE JONES Link to this

The Minister of Immigration at that time was briefed, and it was dealt with in the context of being an employment matter. Section 33 of the State Sector Act precluded the Minister from overstepping that boundary, and I repeat, in relation to a repetition of the question from the member, I have no advice on that matter. It was an employment matter.

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