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Ministers sat on immigration claims for a year

Lockwood Smith MP
National Party Immigration Spokesman

13 May 2008

Ministers sat on immigration claims for a year

National Party Immigration spokesman Lockwood Smith says senior Labour Ministers have known about serious claims levelled at a top manager of the Immigration Service for more than a year.

“Answers in Parliament today reveal that the Immigration Minister first found out about the claims levelled at Mary-Anne Thompson in April 2007. Clayton Cosgrove and his predecessor, David Cunliffe, both knew, but it took a full year for the serious allegations to find their way into the public arena.”

Mary-Anne Thompson resigned as head of the Immigration Service today. Mr Cosgrove previously told media he found out ‘before Christmas’.

“The Labour Government expects New Zealanders to believe that two Ministers knew about the serious allegations against their most senior immigration official and failed to ask any questions whatsoever. That beggars belief.

“It was clearly in the public interest for those allegations to have been made public at the earliest opportunity.

“Labour is treating New Zealanders as if they are stupid. They are suggesting Ministers knew about these most alarming claims, and never bothered to follow them up, never asked any questions, and never checked the outcome.

“Worth noting is that the claims are so serious that they have led to the resignation of Mary-Anne Thompson and provoked two separate inquiries.

“Furthermore, Labour continues to defend the decision to keep secret the findings of the damning Oughton report, which raises other questions about senior managers who’ve allegedly pressured staff to approve immigration applications.

“How can a Minister dismiss as an ‘operational matter’ these most serious allegations? Why did it take a full year for the Minister to order a second inquiry? Why did it take more than seven months for the Immigration Service to release a heavily censored version of the Oughton report?

“Ministers interested in protecting public confidence in the Immigration Service would have moved quickly and transparently to bring these matters to public attention and fix them. The fact that Labour sat on them for a year will serve to reinforce public perceptions of a shabby cover-up.”


ENDS

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