Sroubek -> Hardcore -> Ardern – pressure builds for full disclosure

The Opposition have been pressuring Iain Lees-Galloway and Jacinda Ardern on the Karel Sroubek deportation issue for over a month. National have obviously been trying to connect Ardern to the original decision by Lees-Galloway not to deport Sroubek after he completed his current prison sentence.

Today in Parliament, and immediately afterwards,  some dots were joined.

9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Other than Karel Sroubek’s lawyer and family members, who made representations on his behalf in respect of the deportation liability that was the subject of the Minister’s decision on 19 September 2018?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): I can confirm that amongst the information I considered on 19 September were letters of support from family, friends, business associates, and fellow sportspeople. Alongside the letters of support were sworn statements by a private investigator and a lawyer in the Czech Republic regarding the Czech justice system in Mr Sroubek’s circumstance. I do not consider it in the public interest to release the names of those who provided support or information regarding Mr Sroubek. Some have requested anonymity, and I consider it likely that naming people would expose them to unwarranted attention. None of those who made representations were known to me; none were MPs or former MPs, or MPs’ partners. I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party.

That sounds carefully worded. Later:

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen any reports of the Prime Minister confirming that there were no “direct” representations to him; and, if so, what indirect or informal representations were made, including from MPs’ staff or supporters?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: None.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did Richie Hardcore, a former martial arts champion, make representations in support of his application not to be deported?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As I said, I do not consider it in the public interest to name specific individuals, and I’m not going to do it by a process of elimination either.

 

Afterwards from NZ Herald: Karel Sroubek supporter texted PM after residency initially granted

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received a text from a Karel Sroubek supporter after the Czech drug-smuggler was initially granted New Zealand residency, but she did not respond.

During Question Time today, National’s immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse asked Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway if Richie Hardcore, believed to be a friend and supporter who met Sroubek through kick-boxing circles, had supported Sroubek.

Lees-Galloway would not answer, citing a lack of public interest, but after Question Time a spokesman for Ardern confirmed that Hardcore had texted the Prime Minister after news broke of Sroubek being granted residency.

“The Prime Minister received a text message from Richie Hardcore following media coverage of the first decision about Karel Sroubek that acknowledged the decision. She did not respond to the text.”

The spokesman said that Ardern and Hardcore were acquaintances and she had known him for years through his public advocacy work.

She did not know whether Hardcore had advocated for Sroubek, the spokesman said.

So that is a new development, but Ardern appears to be being not entirely open and transparent with her disclosure.

Muay Thai. Boxing.Drug & Alcohol Harm Reduction.Public Speaking. Occasional Media Comment Maker. Politics.Punk. Hardcore. Hip Hop. Day Dreamer.Idealist

Early last year, the Greens had political connections with Hardcore.

From 4 April 2017: Greens unite celebs and Kiwis in ‘fresh’ campaign video

Continuing its push to engage the younger voter, the Green Party’s new campaign video features plenty of fresh, recognisable faces amongst its regular roster.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople‘s Taika Waititi pops up via an iPad, as well as social commentator Richie Hardcore and comedians including Chris Parker and Alice Brine.

Greens co-leader James Shaw said the campaign signals a “fresh, new look” for the party.

The video features a surprising array of Kiwis for a political campaign. As well as actors and celebrities, the party says it went on the road to include regular New Zealanders in the video.

“The people who were keen to be involved and the resulting campaign is testimony to the incredible range and depth of Green supporters in this country. This campaign demonstrates who we are and what we stand for,” co-leader Metiria Turei said.

20 August 2017:

 and 

Phil Twyford’s Facebook page from 16 August 2017:

Join Jacinda Ardern​, Richie Hardcore, Carmel Sepuloni and Phil Twyford at ZEAL in Henderson this Saturday 2pm at Let’s Talk with Jacinda​ – an event organised for West Auckland youth by West Auckland youth. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the future. It’s time to talk! #LetsDoThis
(Authorised by Andrew Kirton, 160 Willis St, Wellington.)

Hardcore’s Facebook page 26 August 2017:

Richie Hardcore
Oh my god I love the way Jacinda conducted this interview; she’s so intelligent and articulate, I can’t wait for her to be our Prime Minister leading a Labour Green Government. ❤️💚

@RichieHardcore 23 April 2018: @NZClarke Welcome home bro, rise above and all that! NZ’s a terrible place to have more than 4 people know your name! Stay positive! 💛

Remember that lees-Galloway said in Parliament today:

I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party.

This may just be a bunch of coincidental connections, but I think that Ardern needs to provide a full disclosure (open and transparent) about what sort of association she and Gayford have had with Hardcore, and whether there has been any link via Hardcore to the Sroubek deportation decision.

NZ Herald:

National leader Simon Bridges said tonight that Ardern had not been upfront and it was time she told the whole story.

“She’s only told us this much because of our relentless questioning. It beggars belief to say that this would be the first contact that she has had with Richie Hardcore about this case.”

Bridges said Ardern should release the full text message, and asked why Hardcore would have sent a text if she didn’t know who Sroubek was.

“For total clarity, the Prime Minister should appear in the House tomorrow and make a Ministerial Statement about her associations with Richie Hardcore, Sroubek and any of their other associates.”

Ardern has avoided addressing this openly, which has increased speculation and suspicions. Last week in Parliament when Bridges accused her of ducking and diving the Speaker Trevor Mallard stepped in and kicked Bridges out of the House.

But National are likely to keep coming back to this until Ardern fronts up openly and provides credible disclosure. Otherwise, it will look increasingly like she has something she wants to hide.

 

Employment Relations Amendment Act “helps restore fairness to New Zealand workplaces”

The Employment Relations Amendment Act has passed into law, Minister Iain Lees-Galloway claims it will help “lift New Zealand into a high wage, high skill economy with thriving region”, but doesn’t explain how that will happen.

Restoring balance to the workplace

The passage into law of the Employment Relations Amendment Act helps restore fairness to New Zealand workplaces and restore fundamental rights for workers, says Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The Government is determined to lift New Zealand into a high wage, high skill economy with thriving regions. The Employment Relations Amendment Act is one piece of our plan to do this, by restoring a better workplace relations framework for New Zealand workers.

“The Act restores many of the conditions that existed during the previous Labour-led Government, at time when the economy enjoyed record-low unemployment and unprecedented economic growth.

He doesn’t mention the fact that New Zealand was heading into recession at the end of the tenure of the previous Labour-led Government.

Nor does he mention that New Zealand survived the Global Financial Crisis and the economy recovered to a state of thriving when the current Labour-led Government took over – this revival happened under the conditions that the Government has now repealed.

“The Coalition Government believes everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. This Act helps achieve that by bringing back protections for workers, especially vulnerable workers, and strengthening the role of collective bargaining.” 

The key changes under the Employment Relations Amendment Act include:

  • reinstating prescribed meal and rest breaks
  • strengthening collective bargaining and union rights
  • restoring protections for vulnerable workers, such as those in the cleaning and catering industries, regardless of the size of their employer
  • limiting 90-day trials to business with fewer than 20 employees. 

“These are fair and familiar protections that strike the right balance for employers and workers, and mainly restores worker protections which were in place as recently as 2015,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

The majority of the provisions in the Act will come into force on Monday 6 May 2019. Further information on the changes will be available at www.employment.govt.nz.

NZ First moderated the changes, insisting on the 90 day trials remain for small businesses.

Newshub: 90-day trials scrapped for medium, large firms

Small businesses get to keep the trial period thanks to New Zealand First, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in January.

National called the Act “one of this Government’s biggest economic mistakes” and said it would repeal it, should it win the 2020 election.

“The cumulative impact of changes to workplace relations in this Bill will choke economic growth, further hurt business confidence, stifle job opportunities for vulnerable employees, return us to 1970s-style adversarial union activity and be bad for employees and employers,” said workplace relations spokesperson Scott Simpson.

“It seeks to grow trade union membership and influence, and reinforces the political, historic and financial relationships between the union movement and the NZ Labour Party.”

Unions are happy, but want more.

Council of Trade Unions: Victory for working people in New Zealand

The Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sam Huggard says that tonight’s passing of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill will be a victory for working people over an expensive lobbying campaign run by big business. “This law allows Kiwis to access their basic rights at work, to make more informed choices about their employment, and help each other get a fairer deal,” he said.

We congratulate the Coalition Government for helping working people get ahead and win some decency at work with this law. We look forward to further progress soon, including women in paid work being able to access equal pay, and Fair Pay Agreements for our vulnerable Kiwi industries.”

Tertiary Education Union:  Changes to employment law are a first step

“MPs took a step forward this week, which is welcome. However we are still a long way from the changes we need to ensure New Zealand is country that protects and enhances the right of people to come together to make their workplaces safe, rewarding, and fulfilling places to be,” Sharn Riggs, TEU national secretary said.

Decisions made by successive governments over recent decades have made it harder and harder for working people to come together to address issues like low wages, inadequate meal breaks, and a lack of protection from arbitrary dismissal within their first 90 days of employment. National in particular made it more difficult for people to access help and advice from their union.

They would obviously like more from a Labour-led government, but with NZ First having a say this may be the limit of what unions will get this term.

Lees-Galloway changes decision, Sroubek to be deported

After a lot of attention given to his decision not to deport Karel Sroubek, plus political pressure, and getting new information, Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway has reversed his decision not to deport Sroubek after he ends the prison term he is serving.

This has all looked quite sloppy from Lees-Galloway, and he has apologised to the Prime Minister – he said he was “acutely aware that trust and confidence has been damaged by this episode” and he’d apologised to the prime minister, and that apology had been accepted – but as Sroubek has remained in prison while this has been in the spotlight no real damage has been done except to Lees-Galloway’s reputation.

RNZ: Sroubek liable for deportation – Immigration Minister

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has announced Czech drug-smuggler Karel Sroubek is liable for deportation when he is released from prison.

Mr Lees-Galloway said some information was not available to him when he made the original decision.

This included new information from Interpol confirming details of his convictions, including that he was present in court when found guilty and that he appealed the verdict to the highest court in the Czech Republic.

“He doesn’t have residency now because he’s not produced a valid travel document. But this decision of deportation overrides that.

“At the point where he was released on parole or at the end of sentence, INZ would step in and he would be removed from the country.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said Sroubek was being removed because he never had the right to hold the visa in the first place.

He had the right to appeal that.

“This was an unusual case,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.

Sroubek’s release is scheduled for around 2022.

RNZ: Immigration Minister knew of Sroubek’s crimes in Czech Republic

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway was informed of Karel Sroubek’s violent crimes in the Czech Republic and allowed him to stay in New Zealand anyway.

Sroubek was “liable for deportation” because his Czech convictions meant he should not have been allowed in New Zealand in the first place, he said.

However, the case file – revealed under the Official Information Act – showed the Minister was informed of those crimes before he made his original call.

“Mr Sroubek is also wanted by Czech authorities for service of 54 months’ imprisonment in connection with an incident on 28 June 1999, in which he attacked and greviously injured two Police officers and another incident on 4 October 1999, when he attacked a taxi driver,” the case summary said.

“It is understood that Mr Sroubek was convicted on 12 February 2002 of disorderly conduct, damaging of another’s property and attacking a law enforcement officer.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said he was only asked to consider Sroubek’s New Zealand convictions and didn’t think to consider the rest.

“I didn’t think of that,” he told reporters. “It would be quite extraordinary to expect someone to think of all the other possible questions that might be asked.

“I don’t know every single detail of the Immigration Act… I didn’t look at that and say ‘aha, he should be an excluded person.’

“That wasn’t something I was considering at the time.”

He has been criticised for not knowing every detail of the Immigration Act, but a lawyer has defended him on this.

This was sloppy from Lees-Galloway and his inexperience showed. He should have learned to take a lot more time and care when considering deportations of known criminals. He should be on notice not to stuff up again like this.

However I think that calls for his resignation may go too far. It would be ridiculous for resignations to follow every ministerial stuff-up.

Simon Bridges looked and sounded like a dork demanding a resignation. It is a demand made far too often by Opposition MPs and leaders.

National MP Michael Woodhouse sounded more credible criticising the original decision.

Is Lees-Galloway really at risk as a minister?

The Karel Sroubek issue continues to cause discomfort for Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway, and this is creating a problem for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

National have been calling for Lees-Galloway’s resignation, and repeated that yesterday after Lees-Galloway admitted to spending just an hour considering the deportation of Sroubek, and to not reading the whole file he was given.

Ardern has now changed her stance from expressing confidence in Lees-Galloway to not expressing confidence, which may be an ominous sign.

I’m reluctant to jump on the sack-the-Minister bandwagon. And Lees-Galloway had seemed to be doing an ok job as a Minister.

But being a Minister of Government is a very responsible job. Minister’s make decisions that have major impacts on the lives of individuals (and of many people).

It appears that Lees-Galloway has not been up to scratch on this. I don’t know whether that justifies a resignation or a sacking, but either is looking an increasingly likely outcome. That would be sad as a result of a bit of a slack stuff-up, but that’s the nature of politics, and if Lees-Galloway isn’t up to the job he shouldn’t be given that responsibility.

Sroubek affair continues to dog Lees-Galloway

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway has made a mess of deferring the deportation of Karel Sroubek, and has made more of a mess of the handling of it when it was pushed by National.

He now admits he didn’t read the whole report given to him before making a very important decision about someone’s future, and he made the decision within about an hour. This seems to contradict assurances he gave to Jacinda Ardern that he had given the matter “careful consideration”, which could put her in a difficult position.

In Parliament today:

Question No. 2—Immigration

2. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Did he meet with officials on 19 September 2018 to discuss the deportation liability of Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik; if so, at what time?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yes, at 4.30 p.m.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he confirm he first considered Karel Sroubek’s case on 19 September 2018, as indicated in his answer to written question 27289?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he confirm he wrote to Karel Sroubek’s lawyer confirming his decision to grant residency that same day?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I understand that the letter was post-dated to that day, but I am advised that it was sent on the 21st.

SPEAKER: Backdated, I think the member means.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he therefore confirm it took him less than an hour to make his decision to grant residency?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As the decision maker, it’s important that I base my decision on accurate and robust information. Immigration New Zealand prepared a comprehensive file, detailed information, which I used to make that decision, following exactly the same process that that member used when I made that decision. I made that decision on that day.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A helpful elucidation of the process which did not address the question, which was “Can he confirm he took less than an hour to make that decision?”

SPEAKER: Well, I’ll ask the Minister to have another go at it. I mean, days don’t finish at half past five., but carry on.

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I made the decision on that day using the information that I had available to me.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Why was this decision, one which the Prime Minister has said he gave “careful consideration to” and was “a very difficult decision”, decided just minutes or hours after being presented to him?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because I used the comprehensive file that was prepared by Immigration New Zealand and presented to me. As a decision maker, it is important that I base my decision on accurate and robust information. Publicly available information may be wrong or unfairly prejudicial. That’s why it is important to have a robust process to prepare the information for my consideration.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is it common practice for him to consider cases to, in his words, “weigh matters of public safety and the criminal behaviour of the individual involved” just minutes or hours after being presented to him?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I used the same process that the member used when he was Minister.

RNZ: Immigration Minister made Sroubek decision in just one hour

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has admitted he took only an hour to decide to let Karel Sroubek stay in New Zealand and did not read the entire case file.

In response to questions in Parliament, Mr Lees-Galloway confirmed he made his decision on the same day he received the file.

He later told reporters he took “an hour or so” to make up his mind and said that was “much, much longer” than he’d taken on other cases.

“I took the time that I felt was necessary. I certainly asked questions. I certainly looked closely at different aspects of the file,” he said.

Mr Lees-Galloway said he went through the summary with his officials, but admitted he did not read the file in its entirety before making his decision.

“I read the aspects of the file that I felt were necessary to make the decision that I made.”

The minister defended his decision-making, saying he followed the exact same process as the previous government.

“This is the usual process for these decisions.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said he’d since read the full file “several times” and stood by the decision he made on the basis of the information provided.

Asked whether in hindsight he would have taken more care and time, he insisted he was “thorough” and had given the case “due consideration”.

“That’s the job.”

It appears that Lee’s-Galloway did not do a thorough enough jonb in making his decision, and has done an awful job of dealing with the flak.

Also today Sroubek put out a media statement:

Following the Minister of Immigration recently cancelling my liability for deportation there have been numerous reports and statements about me made to and reported in the media.

Much of what has been said about me and my circumstances does not present the true picture.

In 2010 I faced charges. I was properly acquitted at trial, as were all of the other people charged. Comments made about that case in the media are not balanced, and in particular do not reflect that the key prosecution witness’ evidence was discredited.

The National Deputy leader by her questions in Parliament has implied I may have had something to with an alleged burglary of a property I have an interest in. The allegation I was involved in that burglary is completely without foundation. I was not involved in the burglary.

Until New Zealand Immigration reports backs to the Minister and I have had the opportunity to respond to him on any issue he may wish to raise I will be making no further comment or statement.

And National are not backing off.

Ardern wants Sroubek residency review fast tracked

KiwiFirewalker: Oh so now NZ wants to talk about about immigration!

There was a lot of talk about immigration in last year’s election campaign, but until the Sroubek issue came up the Government has kept fairly quiet – probably because their election promises (Labour’s and NZ First’s) seemed to have been put aside.

Its funny isn’t it that the immigration debate in New Zealand can limp along with barely any discussion on exactly how problematic the situation is for years until a Czech drug smuggler gets permanent residence then people loose their minds.

There has been some good coverage over time, such as Steve Kilgallon and Dileepa Fonseka’s excellent series of articles on Stuff about exactly how widespread migrant exploitation in NZ is and how badly our immigration system is being rorted, but I have not herd the words “migrant exploitation” or “immigration rort” in the last six months as much as I have herd the words “Czech drug-smuggler” in the last week.

Ian Lees-Galloway, as Minister of Immigration, made his decision about Karel Sroubek in one of the three following contexts:

1. Lees-Galloway (or one of his minions*) did not actually read past the cover sheet and just made their decision on the easy (but incorrect) emotion angle of the case,

2. Lees-Galloway read the file but the file the file did not have all the info so the decision was made with incomplete information, or

3. Sroubek was given residency as part of some deal with the Police, or some other agency, as part of his connection to the Hell’s Angels and drugs smuggling in NZ.

Any of the above could be true but since we are listing facts about this case then lets list a few more.

4. Immigration NZ is run like a fast food franchise with lowly paid employees, quantity over quality decision making, outsourced  and offshore functions** and a risk adverse senior management which knows the problems exist but will not face them,

5. Appeals to the Minister of Immigration only make it to their desk when ALL other avenues are closed and things are looking BAD (as in nobody wanted to approve your application), and

6. Its a total crap shoot when your case is gone to the minister for appeal, anything could happen.

In my five years at Immigration NZ I watched all sorts of cases get declined at every single other level and then go to the minister for final judgement and in some cases people that should definitely not be allowed into the country got to stay while those who had cases with the most compassionate grounds ever get rejected outright with no reason or explanation, because at that level the Ministers power is effectively absolute and there is no appeal if you loose (or in the case of those highly questionable individuals who got in: won).

That said the Minister can also make the right decision and one of the most heart wrenching cases of my career, that I was unable to approve despite it being a obvious “yes”, finally got approved later by the Minister; to my utter happiness, and relief.

A bouquet for a National Minister of Immigration:

And for the record the Minister that I, and most of my fellow Immigration officers, felt made the best decisions was Michael Woodhouse.

And a brickbat for another:

For whatever reason when it usually needed to be declined he did and when it needed an approved he approved while, in my time at least, the worst  Minister was Jonathan Coleman who we could only believe was deliberately doing the opposite of what should be done, every single time, as there seemed to be no other rational explanation for the atrocious range of appalling decisions he made…

It’s not the party that matters, it’s the personality of the Minister.

So the real questions in these circumstances is not “why did the minister approve Sroubek” but how can Peter Thiel get the red carpet treatment but Karel Sroubek cannot?

Two of the most controversial residents.

Yet the likely outcome is Sroubek will go while Theil and Yang get to stay because apparently Kiwis can only get outraged about immigration issues when its drugs and not abuses by the wealthy,  obvious cases of espionage, migrant exploitation or marriage-for-residency scams which makes this less a genuine issue and more the most recent round of “wont someone think of the children!”.

So lets not turn the issue into another round of political point scoring or as an obvious distraction from a genuine high crime, like National selling slots in their party to the highest foreign bidder, but instead say “yes” to kicking Sroubek out but lets also get rid of that billionaire guy who got citizenship only because he’s filthy rich and that lying intelligence operative for a hostile power who is also, mysteriously, a sitting MP.

If Sroubek goes so should Thiel, Yang and all those other “economic citizens” who will have the dollars to buy a seat in Parliament because its just not right.

Good discussion points, but apart from Sroubek I doubt there will be any change for Thiel and Yang.

 

Ardern has confidence in Minister of Immigration

It will be annoying for Jacinda Ardern and Labour to have the immigration and deportation thing hanging over their conference weekend, but it is an unresolved issue that deserves more answers.

She should be disappointed.

Duncan Garner (Stuff):  Dear Iain, your shocker continues to seep

Bet this wasn’t how your Labour mates saw this weekend’s party conference playing out.

Can’t imagine, Iain, you’ll be dragged up on the stage as ministerial eye-candy either.

Standing ovation anyone? Iain Lees-Galloway for services to a foreign crook and an unsafer New Zealand.

They’re hard places to hide those party conferences too.  Unlike parliament, the pillars to hide behind are few and far between, so just keep expanding the designer beard, it’ll soon envelop you.

John Roughan (NZH): Czech ‘refugee’ shows Government needs better judgment

Putting aside all we know about Karel Sroubek now, it is easy to say the crimes Lees-Galloway knew about ought to have outweighed the risk to the life of a drug importer with gang associations. But did they really? Often it is not until you sit in a decision making chair that the right course of action becomes clear.

To my mind the significance of the crimes for this decision was the question they raised about Sroubek’s honesty and therefore the credibility of his claim to be in mortal danger in the Czech Republic. Lees-Galloway ought to have asked his officials to check that claim more closely. Had he done so, they would easily have discovered the court records showing he’d been back to his homeland on business at least once, albeit under the false name he was using when he entered New Zealand.

It is easy to blame Immigration officials for not doing these checks of their own accord but again, it’s the person in the hot seat who can see these needs clearest. It worries me that Lees-Galloway did not ask enough questions of this supposed refugee and surprises me that Jacinda Ardern was so quick to endorse his decision on Monday. A Prime Minister occupies the ultimate hot seat and is usually hyper-alert to political danger.

This issue will be ongoing pending the up to 3 week inquiry ordered by Lees-Galloway.

Laura Walters:  Immigration Minister in a precarious position

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway will be stuck between a rock and a hard place for as long as three weeks, as questions hang over his decision to grant residency to a convicted drug smuggler and gangster.

Lees-Galloway has spent the past week trying to explain his discretionary decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency – but without actually divulging any of the details of the case.

This has left him stuck in a politically precarious position where, upon legal advice, he is refusing to answer any substantive questions on the controversial issue. But the risk of making a further mess of things by spilling his secrets is much greater.

The heat still on Minister of Immigration

Pressure is still being applied to Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway over his decision to allow Czech Karel Sroubek to stay in New Zealand after he leaves prison (drug importation offences). Galloway has ordered an urgent review, but that may take weeks. The heat is still being applied.

Newsroom:  Immigration Minister in a precarious position

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway will be stuck between a rock and a hard place for as long as three weeks, as questions hang over his decision to grant residency to a convicted drug smuggler and gangster.

Lees-Galloway has spent the past week trying to explain his discretionary decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency – but without actually divulging any of the details of the case.

This has left him stuck in a politically precarious position where, upon legal advice, he is refusing to answer any substantive questions on the controversial issue. But the risk of making a further mess of things by spilling his secrets is much greater.

Understandably the Opposition and the wider public have been critical of Lees-Galloway’s decision – Sroubek is a man who came to New Zealand under a fake name, using fake documents, who was convicted for smuggling MDMA into the country, then granted residency as he feared for his life should he be deported to the Czech Republic.

The criticism of Lees-Galloway’s decision to cancel Sroubek’s deportation liability, coupled with the Minister saying as good as nothing about the particulars of the case, has left an information vacuum.

National will keep trying to fill the vacuum.

More ‘new information’ that prompted reconsideration of Sroubek residency

A report that there was more new information that prompted a reconsideration of the Sroubrek residency decision than that he had returned voluntarily to the Czech republic.

Newstalk ZB: Details surrounding Karel Sroubek’s residency revealed

Yesterday, Newstalk ZB revealed Sroubek had allegedly returned to the Czech Republic since arriving to New Zealand, which went against the suggestion the residency was for his protection.

Newstalk ZB can exclusively reveal the change in circumstance that could see controversial criminal Karel Sroubek lose his residency.

Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper understands the new information, which has sparked the change of heart, centres on Sroubek’s now ex-wife.

Initially, she supported Sroubek’s case for residency and said she was happy for him to stay in the country once he was released from jail, where he is currently serving a sentence for importing drugs.

This is believed to be the information Lees-Galloway used to make his decision.

However, the wife is now in the process of taking out a restraining order against Sroubek.

The decision came as news to Lees-Galloway, and he is now reviewing his decision.

See Immigration Minister to reconsider Sroubek residency decision

Immigration Minister to reconsider Sroubek residency decision

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway announced that he would reconsider the decision to grant residency to illegal immigrant and convicted drug importer Karel Sroubek after National brought up ‘new information’ in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had suggested that media ‘read between the lines’ on the decision and it was assumed that residency was granted because Sroubek feared for his safety if he returned. However it has been revealed that he has returned to the Czech Republic voluntarily since coming to New Zealand. This suggests that the safety concerns may have been overstated, and he may not have informed officials of his travel.

Both Lees-Galloway and  have pointed their fingers at immigration officials for not providing complete information.

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?

Hon Simon Bridges: Why did her Government grant residency to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, to correctly categorise the decision that was made, my understanding is that he already had residency, albeit in an incorrect name.

Hon Simon Bridges: What is her response to the Dominion Post this morning, which said, “So yes, prime minister, we have read between the lines. Our reading of it suggests that Sroubek is a person of poor character, a criminal who cannot be trusted, who arrived here under false pretences. He should be deported. You have got this wrong.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as that member should know given that when he was in office there were roughly 100 deportations cancelled. From time to time to time Ministers do have information put in front of them that makes for very difficult decisions. I have seen information that would suggest, from the information reports, that they have been in very similar circumstances.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t it clear that her Government has prioritised a dangerous criminal’s welfare over public safety, contrary to her statement that any further offending actions by Karel Sroubek “sits with this individual … anything further is off the minister’s conscience and it’s on theirs.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is being made absolutely clear by the Minister. He has put into writing that anything further would mean that he would automatically be deported. On the face of it, of course, it looks like an obvious decision, which demonstrates that from time to time, Ministers in this position do receive additional information. What we have to make sure is that that information that the Minister makes the decision on is consistent and clear, and that’s for officials to ensure that they have provided that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t it the case that since the early 2000s, Karel Sroubek has been back to the Czech Republic, and doesn’t that make any decision by Iain Lees-Galloway ridiculous?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Minister made the decision based on the information he had at the time, and he is no different to any other Minister of any political persuasion. They have to deal with the information provided to them by officials. If there is information that contradicts the basis on which the Minister made the decision, then that would be for him to go back to the officials and seek further advice. I would have an expectation that he would do that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Did she and the Minister not know he had been to the Czech Republic since the early 2000s, and is she going to fess up they just got this clearly, badly wrong?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Every Minister does rely on the advice that they are provided by officials, and the Minister is no different in that regard to the last Minister, who overturned 108 deportations. We are all, as Ministers, reliant on the information we are provided. Again, if there is anything that contradicts the information that’s been provided, it is for the Minister to go back to officials, and it would be my expectation he would do that.

Winston Peters jumped in to try to support Ardern, and tried to divert blame to the National Government. His initial efforts were ruled out of order, and responses by National MPs were disproportionately punished by the Speaker.

Rt Hon David Carter: Because it’s not your job—

SPEAKER: That’s six. Any more?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yeah, OK. It’s worth it.

SPEAKER: That’s 10 supplementary questions that will be taken from the National Party today.

But Peters was allowed to rephrase.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: On the basis of information being given to this House in good faith, has the Prime Minister been appraised of the number of times this man came back into the country, and who was the Government at the time?

Ardern briefly took the opportunity to take a swipe at National but switched back to the more serious matter before her.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, members will draw their inference from the fact that we have only been in Government for 12 months. Again, though, I reiterate that a Minister would make a decision based on the information in front of him, and we would all have a fair expectation that if there is information to contradict that, we would expect the Minister to go back to his officials.

The next question also addressed the issue.

2. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Justice: What is New Zealand’s process for extraditing Czech nationals to the Czech Republic, and what stage is the application for extradition of Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik, at?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): The Czech Republic is able to make an application for extradition of one of their citizens, and any application is made under the Extradition Act 1996. There is a process that usually starts with an application being made through diplomatic channels. It goes to the Minister of Justice in New Zealand. It is an application ultimately determined by the District Court on the grounds of eligibility, and then the final decision on whether or not an extradition is made is made by the Minister of Justice of the day. On the second part of the question, despite the Czech Republic indicating to the New Zealand Government in 2015 that it had an interest in Mr Sroubek, no formal application for extradition has been made.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why is the Parole Board aware of an extradition request?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I’m not responsible for the determinations of the Parole Board.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Did the Minister speak with the immigration Minister ahead of the Minister approving residency for Karel Sroubek?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Was the Minister aware of any controversy around Karel Sroubek before the Minister of Immigration granted residency?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No, and there’d be no reason for me to have been so.

Hon Mark Mitchell: If officials advise there is sufficient evidence to support an extradition request, will he extradite Karel Sroubek back to the Czech Republic?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That member will be well aware that it would be entirely inappropriate and not in the public interest for me to comment on any case that may be the subject of an extradition application.

It became a triple whammy.

4. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he believe he has considered all relevant factors in deciding to grant residency to Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Shortly before question time today, I became aware that information may exist that appears, on the face of it, to directly contradict information that I used and relied upon to make that decision. I am now taking advice on my options and need to consider the veracity of the new information that has been made available to me.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did all of those factors include submissions from Czech Republic officials about any statements Mr Sroubek had made relevant to them, and, if not, will he be also asking the Czech officials to provide submissions?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Given the potential new information that I have just become aware of, I do not intend to make any further comment on the information that I was provided. I need to take advice, and I need to carefully consider the way forward from here.

So a commitment by Lees-Galloway to reconsider the residency decision due to new information becoming available.

This issue was already awkward for the Government. It has now become embarrassing. One would hope that a minister would do as much as possible to ensure he had all relevant information before making an obviously contentious decision.

National have called for the Minister to resign over this, but I think that’s a silly overreach. This looks more like a stuff up than anything like a sackable offence. Perhaps sloppy, but probably not a misuse of ministerial powers.

So Lees-Galloway should learn a lesson from this and be a more careful minister in the future.

This is a bit of a blow to Government credibility, but probably isn’t a major. However it reinforces National’s campaign that keeps claiming the Government is soft on criminals.