Auditor General hearing on Shane Jones

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 16:28 27/03/2013

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National MPs have attempted to cast doubt on the validity of a key note used in Shane Jones' decision to grant citizenship to Yang Liu when Jones was a Associate Immigration Minister.

This morning Deputy Auditor General Phillippa Smith appeared before the finance and expenditure select committee, taking questions over her report into Jones' controversial 2008 decision.

His decision to grant citizenship to Liu, a Chinese national who was under the scrutiny of Interpol, was made despite an active police investigation being underway and the Department of Internal Affairs telling him not to.

It was Jones' first and only decision to grant an individual citizenship, and was made in less than a month because he wanted to complete the matter before a trip to Australia.

Labour leader David Shearer asked the Auditor General to investigate because of doubts about the case, as he dumped Jones from the party's front bench. Jones has since be reinstated.

The report, released in March found "an unfortunate combination of circumstances, but not evidence of corruption" on the part of Jones or officials, but was critical of the proper process not being followed.

A crucial element of the report clearing Jones was a lengthy hand-written note which he said was made immediately after a meeting with an Immigration Ministry official who had been investigating Liu.

Jones said he was told Liu faced being executed and having his organs harvested if he was sent back to China, and this was key to his decision to grant citizenship. The official in the meeting denies telling Jones this.

National MP for Wairarapa, John Hayes said the note was the only one of its kind made by Jones, despite him holding several meetings on the matter with officials. It was hand written on paper not usually used for taking such notes, and not dated.

"Do you think Mr Jones was telling the truth in the documentation that he prepared to you and don't you think that it's a bit cute that you get one file note, but not a track record of file notes, which suggests that Mr Jones was playing unfairly?" Hayes asked.

Smith said there were "deficiencies in papers available in this inquiry" but that questions of the validity of the note should be put to Jones.

Maggie Barry, National MP for North Shore, asked if the Auditor General had formed a view as to why Jones had not asked police about their investigations, given the Interpol notice, or a decision of Australian authorities to revoke Liu's residency.

"There are so many red flags around this individual, it seems remarkable that an Associate Minister or Immigration would not call on that expertise," Barry said.

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Smith responded: "We note that he [Jones] didn't and criticise him for failing to do that."

- Stuff

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