Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Jones won't speculate on political future

Shane Jones. File photo / Mark Mitchell
Shane Jones. File photo / Mark Mitchell

An angry Shane Jones has again hit out at Internal Affairs over the William Yan case, and the Labour MP is yet to decide whether it could lead him to quit politics altogether.

Labour's leader David Shearer has assured Mr Jones he would be reinstated to the front bench if the Auditor-General found he acted properly granting citizenship to the Chinese businessman now accused of immigration fraud.

Mr Jones was stood down yesterday from his portfolios and his front bench place after Mr Shearer asked the Auditor-General to investigate the handling of William Yan's citizenship case by the MP and the Department of Internal Affairs.

Mr Jones granted citizenship against the advice of officials who said there were questions about Yan's multiple identities and a warrant for his arrest in China.

The latest furore is the second controversy Mr Jones has been embroiled in.

Two years ago Mr Jones was stood down after charging pornography to his taxpayer-funded credit card.

Mr Jones, once touted as a possible future Labour Party leader, told Radio New Zealand this morning he won't be making any decisions on his future in politics until after any possible investigation by the Auditor General is completed.

"I'm dealing with what the issues are in front of me in terms of a four-year-old decision.

"Longer term questions about on-going involvement in politics - I'm not making an announcement about that at this stage," Mr Jones said.

"It's been a torrid time and it's probably not the time to make a precipitous decision in the eye of the current storm, but it doesn't make one feel flash."

Mr Jones said his name "has been maligned" by the comments of Internal Affairs officials in court.

"Internal Affairs are the people who in 2008 leaked the file.

"Internal Affairs are the people who stood, apparently, and said that I had the file for 24-hours. Both of which have been proven to be demonstrably untrue. I'm disinterested in hearing anything about what the Internal Affairs officials think, do or say."

Today, Justice Timothy Brewer will deliver his ruling on whether Yan is guilty of making false declarations on immigration and citizenship papers, after a two-week trial in the High Court at Auckland.

Mr Shearer said he still believed Mr Jones' assurances that he had acted properly. However, despite Mr Jones' own attempts to explain his decision publicly this week, there were still ongoing questions.

"He has been left in the impossible position of not being able to clear his name. An independent inquiry will enable him to do so." He had made the suggestion to Mr Jones and Mr Jones had supported it.

He said the Auditor-General was the best body to look into the matter.

"There are very few options as an Opposition MP to get your name cleared and get an investigation that will give people confidence."

The Auditor-General is yet to decide whether it will start an inquiry, which could take up to a month.

Mr Shearer said he stood Mr Jones down immediately because he had made a point of saying he would stand down any of his MPs who were under investigation.

Mr Jones says he supported an inquiry.

That was after an Internal Affairs official said that the department was under pressure to hurry the application through and Mr Jones had granted citizenship only one day after he received it.

Information released first in 2008, and again by Mr Jones this week, showed it was actually more than three weeks later.

Mr Jones said he made the decision on humanitarian grounds because a senior official told him Yan risked execution if he returned to China.

"I was told he would be executed, which is the reason the officials gave for him not wanting to go back to China."

Mr Jones said he was told that Yan would be "jailed, executed and his organs harvested" if he was sent back.

"That to me comprised grounds for a humanitarian decision," Mr Jones said.

However, Yan already had permanent residency status in New Zealand, which former Immigration Minister David Cunliffe declined to revoke when asked to by his officials.

Mr Cunliffe said this week that he had sent officials back to investigate further - although the residency issue was not mentioned in the briefing paper given to Mr Jones in 2008.

A Department of Internal Affairs spokesman said officials were now checking their records to see if Mr Jones was verbally advised that Yan would be executed.

"Our advice was written on the case. That advice is out there in the public arena. We're checking our records now."

Mr Jones - who has kept a lot of the paperwork relating to the case since it was first revealed by Investigate magazine in 2008 - said he had written a file note of it because it was so striking.

Officials had advised Mr Jones that Yan did not meet the good character test for citizenship because he had two passports, with two names and two birthdates.

A number of MPs lobbied on behalf of Yan, including Dover Samuels, Pansy Wong and Chris Carter.

Yan also donated $5000 to both National and Labour and held political fundraising events at his restaurant.

- NZ Herald

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