No-one had ever thought of him as a potential Olympic performer but Iain Lees-Galloway’s back somersault with double twist this week would surely have qualified him.
If he doesn’t make it to Tokyo, he still won an award from the Prime Minister – he retained his job as Immigration Minister, despite calls from the Opposition for his resignation.
It may be something he comes to regret, for he now carries the stigma of a minister who is little short of a walking disaster, one who can’t be left to make a decision on his own.
He may be grateful that Deputy PM Winston Peters sought to defend him in the House, although Peters in effect gave the game away when he conceded Lees-Galloway had made a “mistake”.
And while the Opposition MPs kept calling for his resignation, they won’t be unhappy that he is still occupying a top Cabinet post, a permanent reminder of how accident-prone members of the Ardern team can be.
So what was his sin again? Conferring residency on a drug-dealing criminal who happens to be serving a prison sentence? Exercising poor judgement? Failing to read his papers? Blaming his officials?
Trying to be a humanitarian?
According to this Dom-Post report, he already had much of the “new” Interpol information he used to reverse his decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency.
A fresh Immigration New Zealand (INZ) probe into the drug smuggler found he was liable for deportation on grounds not previously considered. However, documents released under the Official Information Act show the minister would already have had access to that information.
On page five of the 12 page case file summary, it was indicated that Sroubek was an excluded person because of his convictions in the Czech Republic. But Lees-Galloway claims he was not asked to consider convictions outside NZ.
The report goes on…
However, when a reporter pointed out that this information was in the file he received and asked why he did not include in his decision, he said: “I don’t know every single detail of the Immigration Act. I had been asked to consider his liability for false identification and for the conviction in NZ. Whilst it was material to the overall decision, I didn’t look at that and say, ‘aha, he should be an excluded person’. That wasn’t something I was considering at that time.”
He said he knew what is in the file, and that Sroubek had been convicted, but at the time that information that was not relevant to making the overall decision. When asked if he did not understand the Immigration Act , he said that was not the case.
National’s Michael Woodhouse says:
“The Minister knew from the very beginning that Sroubek had left NZ multiple times, was wanted for grievous bodily harm against police officers as well as in relation to a murder, had committed passport fraud and was in prison for drug smuggling.
“It is beyond credible for him to now say it is new information that has caused him to change his mind. The convictions detailed in the initial briefing were more than enough to deport him.Lees-Galloway has jeopardised the safety of the NZ public, opened up the likelihood of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and years of court battles, and he must go.“
Labour clearly thinks the voting public will soon forget the Lees-Galloway “mistake”.
But sticking in the memory of those who witnessed the urgent debate in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon will be the look on the faces of the minister’s colleagues as he mounted his own defence.
Perhaps the most telling of all was the contribution from the Green MP, Chloe Swarbrick. She spoke for less than 30 seconds