Thursday, September 22, 2005

A disappointing start

The government has finally announced an inquiry into Taito Philip Field's possible conflict of interest (or corruption) in using his influence in an effort to secure a work permit for a man who was conveniently tiling his house in Samoa. Unfortunately, the time given for this inquiry, in which numerous people must be interviewed, the facts assessed, and conclusions drawn, is a mere nine days. By comparison, the Douglas White inquiry into John Tamihere and the Waipareira Trust got over thirty.

The head of the inquiry, Auckland QC Dr Noel Ingram, will struggle enormously to do a thorough investigation in the time available. But then, I suspect that that's the point. Rather than having a proper investigation, which would embarrasingly drag on past the date when a government should be formed, the government has chosen to whitewash things instead. If you think that possible corruption is something that should be taken seriously, it's a disappointing start to a possible third term.


I'm quite in favour of a fast investigation - doing a bunch of interviews and coming to a preliminary conclusion and releasing it to the public quickly is good. It'll also allow the outcome of the investigation to be included in the allocation of ministerial responsibilities.

That said, it's only really acceptable if it's treated as a preliminary investigation with three possible outcomes:
1) Clearly no case to answer
2) Clearly a serious problem
3) Unclear, requires further investigation.

Posted by Anita : 9/22/2005 10:09:00 AM

What concerns me is that speed is goign to come at the expense of thoroughness - or justice. But fortunately Dr Ingram seems to want to do a decent job, despite the hurdles.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/22/2005 10:39:00 AM


I'm sure nobody is questioning the personal integrity and independence of Dr. Ingram. But he's got to work with the terms of reference he's given - and on the face of it, it appears he must have a report on Clark's desk by October 4th, regardless of whether he's satisfied or not.

Putting aside the politics of this (although Clark obviously hasn't), these allegations are extremely serious - at best, they place in doubt Philip Field's credibility and good judgement to ever hold a ministerial warrant again. At worse, he's guilty of flat out corruption and exploitation of a vulnerable overstayer for his own benefit.

Surely, it's more important that Dr. Ingram be given the freedom to do the job right, rather than be pressured to do it right now? As I/S has pointed out, if Field is completely exonerated there will always be that lingering question mark over him in many minds...

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/22/2005 01:03:00 PM


I have no problem with there being a requirement for Ingram to have a report on Clark's desk by the 4th as long as an acceptable conclusion/recommendation is "More investigation needed".

I would hate to see Field either benched for longer than absolutely necessary if he is exonerated, or allowed to continue on as a Minister and Associate Minister if he should be out.

If this can be wrapped up quickly then it should be. If initial investigations show that more are needed then Clark should know that (and it should be public that she does) so that she can decide who will investigate.

Finally, if the specials come in on the 1st, and Clark announces that she's sorted out confidence and supply on the 3rd, when will she announce the new ministerial appointments? If there's any chance for Field to be definitively ruled either in or out by then I think we'd all be much more comfortable. I would guess Ingram reporting "more investigation needed" on the 4th counts as ruling him out for any portfolios.

Posted by Anita : 9/22/2005 02:35:00 PM


I take your point, and I'd also feel a lot easier if I didn't have the sense that October 4 is a firm deadline in Clark's mind.

But as far as I'm aware there is NO constitutional or practical urgency that requires Clark to announce a full Cabinet on either the 3rd or the 1st. It would be POLITICALLY sticky to have Ingram's report in her hands much later, but I think we can all agree that properly investigating serious allegations of corruption against a Minister of the Crown is more important.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/22/2005 04:11:00 PM