Ardern finally fronts up on Hardcore re Sroubek

Jacinda Ardern made things difficult for herself for nearly two months by evading questions over her connection to Richie hardcore, who is connected to Karel Sroubek and his attempt to avoid deportation.

Ardern finally saw fit to provide what sounds like a reasonable explanation in Parliament today:

This is the only text I received on the matter of Mr Sroubek. It’s the only communication I had with him on Mr Sroubek. I’ve had no conversations with Mr Hardcore on this case, nor would it have been appropriate. Again, as I’ve said time and time again in this House, I had no involvement in this case, no knowledge of it until it was in the public domain, and the member very well knows that the Minister himself made the decision one afternoon, with officials in the room, after no conversations with any other members of Parliament.

Most of the exchange in Question Time in Parliament today.

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions in relation to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, and season’s greetings to the member.

Hon Simon Bridges: Thank you. Will she release the precise content of the text message she received from Richie Hardcore about Karel Sroubek; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve already indicated in public interviews, I am concerned around precedent setting. Obviously, I receive hundreds of messages from members of the public on issues where I have no clear involvement or decision-making role. I have, however, given an indication of the content of that text. I’ve acknowledged that Mr Hardcore acknowledged to me that he knew Mr Sroubek and, of course, that he agreed and commended the decision because he knew Mr Sroubek. I’ve also acknowledged that I did not respond and that I received the message after the decision was made and after it was in the public domain.

Hon Simon Bridges: What exactly did the text message say?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I’ve said, I wish to seek some advice from the Ombudsman on the handling of information that I receive from members of the public, because I receive hundreds of messages. Indeed, on this case, I have received over a hundred messages—obviously, some not so favourable. I am seeking some guidance from the Ombudsman as to how I handle each of those individual pieces of correspondence.

Hon Simon Bridges: Was it a thank-you text?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When we went down and advised ourselves that I had received that message—openly—I acknowledged that it commended the Government on its decision.

Hon Simon Bridges: How many text messages has she received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I just simply cannot answer that. I have said from the outset that I’ve known Mr Hardcore for a number of years. My recollection is primarily that it was through his role with Community Alcohol & Drug Services as an anti – drug and alcohol campaigner based in Auckland, and subsequently his involvement as an anti – violence and sexual violence campaigner. My understanding is that he’ll know a number of members on that side of the House, as he does in Parliament generally.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is this the only text message she’s received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister: one solitary text message about Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve already acknowledged that I know Mr Hardcore through a range of his work and functions and roles. I’ve already acknowledged that publicly. This is the only text I received on the matter of Mr Sroubek. It’s the only communication I had with him on Mr Sroubek. I’ve had no conversations with Mr Hardcore on this case, nor would it have been appropriate. Again, as I’ve said time and time again in this House, I had no involvement in this case, no knowledge of it until it was in the public domain, and the member very well knows that the Minister himself made the decision one afternoon, with officials in the room, after no conversations with any other members of Parliament.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why didn’t she directly answer Susie Ferguson’s question today on Richie Hardcore on Morning Report: “How would you characterise him? Is he a friend or a family friend?”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would not characterise him as a family friend. He’s someone I’ve known for a number of years, and I’ve been very open about that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know why he has repeatedly, in the recent past, described her as someone he’s lucky enough to call a friend?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have no qualms about him doing so. What is at question and in play here is whether or not I had any engagement with Mr Hardcore over this case, and as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, the answer is no. In fact, when his name was first raised in Parliament, it was myself and my office that proactively acknowledged that I had received a message from him.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Iain Lees-Galloway took less than an hour to decide the Sroubek matter?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, and this raises the contradiction in the member’s line of questioning, he has consistently criticised the Minister for making the decision the same day he was informed of the case but, at the same time, has tried to imply there was inappropriate involvement from other members and Ministers. The fact is the Minister has always acknowledged he made the decision on the day it was given to him, the first time he was told of the case, when he was in a closed room with officials.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Sroubek is a gang-affiliated, convicted drug dealer?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I accept that the Minister of Immigration has now made a decision that would lead to the deportation of that individual.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Richie Hardcore made representations for Sroubek that are on the deportation file the Minister considered?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I can only rely on what the Minister of Immigration has said in this House because I am not aware and do not know who made representations, but my understanding is that last week in the House, the Minister of Immigration ruled out him being involved or making representations on this deportation order.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that she knows that same Richie Hardcore well?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve acknowledged that in the House; I’ve made no secret of that. I have known Mr Hardcore for a number of years in a number of guises.

If Ardern had been as explicit as this weeks ago she would have avoided a lot of hassle and speculation.

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.