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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Hopefully Jones has learned his lesson

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National highlighted the Auditor-General's observation that Jones knew there were ongoing investigations by Immigration and the New Zealand police into the Chinese millionaire. Photo / Michael Craig
National highlighted the Auditor-General's observation that Jones knew there were ongoing investigations by Immigration and the New Zealand police into the Chinese millionaire. Photo / Michael Craig

If and when Labour's Shane Jones gets another shot at being a Cabinet minister, it is to be profoundly hoped he takes on board the Auditor-General's blunt criticism of his handling of the Bill Liu citizenship case.

Nine months in the political wilderness awaiting Lyn Provost's painstaking report may well have done the trick. There has been an awful lot of soul searching on Jones' part during his enforced sabbatical - even to the point of considering whether to chuck politics in altogether.

Now that it has been confirmed that Provost's inquiry could find no evidence of corruption, Jones is a man unchained and seemingly raring to re-enter the fray. His colleagues, however, may deem his reinstatement to Labour's front bench his last chance to prove himself, given previous questions about his energy and commitment.

National has pointedly reminded Labour leader David Shearer that he got all high and mighty with regard to the recent report by the Deputy Auditor-General into the proposed SkyCity national convention centre.

Labour should consequently apply the same standards to something that happened in its own backyard.

In particular, National highlighted the Auditor-General's observation that Jones knew there were ongoing investigations by Immigration and the New Zealand police into the Chinese millionaire and that he should have consulted those authorities before making his decision to grant Liu citizenship.

Not only that. Jones' decision to approve an urgent private citizenship ceremony so close to the decision granting that status caused consternation among Internal Affairs staff.

To some degree, Jones, who was making the citizenship decision only because the Internal Affairs Minister at the time, Rick Barker, had "connections" with Liu, also seems to have been the victim of a fair degree of bureaucratic incompetence in terms of the information and advice he received from officials - or rather the lack of it.

Even so, Jones should have been more alert to the perceptions that Liu was receiving special treatment from Labour because of whom he knew and to whom he was giving donations.

As Provost repeats time and again, decisions in the public sector not only have to be right, they have to be seen to be right.

- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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