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Senior Labour MP Shane Jones has been stood down pending an auditor-general probe into his conduct in an immigration case during the last government.
The announcement, late yesterday afternoon, is an unwelcome distraction for the Labour Party just as it was focusing its fire on the delivery of Bill English’s fourth Budget today.
Labour leader David Shearer referred the matter to a Auditor-General Lyn Provost asking her to investigate the matter – a dramatic shift in stance from only two days ago.
Mr Jones was sssociate immigration minister in 2008 and over-rode official advice not to approve citizenship for Chinese businessman Bill Liu.
Mr Liu, also known as Yan and Yang, is facing charges of passport fraud in the Auckland High Court and officials objected to his receiving citizenship centred around the “fit and proper person” test.
Mr Jones has repeatedly denied receiving any gifts, travel or money from Mr Liu, and although Mr Lui donated money to the Labour Party he is understood to have also made donations to National.
Mr Shearer has repeatedly defended Mr Jones’ decision in the case and only two days ago was reported as saying he would not stand Mr Jones down from his shadow portfolio roles.
“Based on my discussions with Shane Jones, I believe that he followed a proper process.
"But given the differing statements made in and outside of court and the questions that have been raised publicly, I believe an independent agency should review the case.
“I’ve asked for the auditor-general to look into all the departmental as well as ministerial processes involved in this case.
Mr Jones is a list MP, and if he were forced to resign from Parliament former MP and trade union official Carol Beaumont would be next on the list.
RAW DATA: Labour's statement
Labour refers Liu case to Auditor-General
Labour Leader David Shearer has today sent a letter to the Auditor-General asking her to investigate the decision-making process around the case involving Chinese businessman Bill Liu.
“Based on my discussions with Shane Jones, I believe that he followed a proper process. But given the differing statements made in and outside of court and the questions that have been raised publicly, I believe that an independent agency should review the case.
“I’ve asked for the Auditor-General to look into all the departmental as well as ministerial processes involved in this case.
“Shane has encouraged me to take this action because he has been left in the impossible position of not being able to clear his name. An inquiry will enable him to do so.
“While the inquiry is under way, Shane Jones will stand down from his portfolio responsibilities and from Labour’s front bench.
“I stand by my decision not to stand Shane down earlier because I believe that everyone has the right to natural justice and to be given the opportunity to answer questions.
“New Zealanders must be able to have confidence in the processes of government and that is why Labour believes it is important for the Auditor-General to provide reassurance that the appropriate action was taken in this case,” said David Shearer.