Iain Lees-Galloway and Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Why Iain Lees-Galloway should resign (and why he shouldn’t)

The immigration minister has revealed that Czech convicted drug smuggler Karel Sroubek is liable for deportation after all. Does it all mean Lees-Galloway should resign, as some have demanded? Toby Manhire battles it out with Toby Manhire

A review of evidence in the case of Karel Sroubek, the Czech drug smuggler who Iain Lees-Galloway decided could remain in New Zealand after he completed his prison sentence, saw an embarrassing reversal yesterday. He was liable for deportation after all, announced the immigration minister.

Since the minister’s original decision, media had reported that Sroubek had in fact travelled to the Czech Republic, undermining his claim that his life would be in danger were he to return. Interpol information also revealed convictions and charges he’d faced before he fled to New Zealand in 2003 on a false passport. The new facts, said Lees-Galloway, meant the name-swapping, kick-boxing Czech national should have his residency revoked. The review had revealed the need for, well, another review – into how case files are put together.

National says it amounts to a offence for ILG. Are they right?

The Case For A Resignation: He should resign.

The Case Against A Resignation: No, he shouldn’t resign.

Yes he should.

Could you elaborate?

It’s a question of judgement, and Lees-Galloway has revealed his is lacking. He’s got to go.

Not at all. It was established yesterday that the file Immigration NZ provided him with had incomplete information. Now he’s been furnished with all the information, he’s accordingly changed the decision.

He spent less than an hour reading the file in the first place – not that he even read the whole file. And he clearly failed to ask the right follow-up questions. It left the prime minister having to awkwardly stage-whisper to media “read between the lines”, hinting that Sroubek would face risks to his life should he return to his homeland.

Come on, seriously, who reads the full file? That’s the job of officials. He read the important material, weighed up competing claims and made a call. In the light of new information he has changed that call. It happens. This is altogether overblown.

He threw his officials under the bus. Whatever happened to ministerial responsibility?

He never blamed officials. Just their advice.

The extra info was pretty easy to find. He could have just done a few “quick Google searches”, as Simon Bridges put it.

That may not be the ideal process. After all, “quick Google searches” is very much the evidential base for most Stuff comments.

Great point.

Thank you. Is it entirely fair that you (The Case For) gets bold text and I (The Case Against) get plain old Roman?

How about italics?

Thanks that’s better. Anyway, the right decision has been arrived at. It’s over now.

Of course it’s not over. This will be fought through the courts like the kickboxing, MDMA guzzling bastard child of Kim Dotcom and Colin Craig. You won’t hear the end of it.

Maybe. It will probably just get chucked out by the courts, and so will he.

The lawyers will be licking their lips. Not least because much of the information that Lees-Galloway says is new turns out to have been in the original report after all.

Oh. The stuff about travelling back to Europe?

No. Not that. There was no reference to his destination. The information unearthed by media showing Sroubek travelled to Europe in 2009 was drawn from court documents for a case in which he was acquitted, so was not something on which the minister could base his decision.

What then?

The material from Interpol about previous convictions was there. It was right there in the report summary.

Huh. But it wasn’t flagged up. ILG does not know every clause of the grounds for deportation by heart. It might as well have been a footnote.

Weak.

Look, it was a difficult decision. Processes are being reviewed. There was no right answer for Lees-Galloway – he had to balance conflicting risks and ultimately looked to a ruling by Judge Roy Wade, who had accepted Sroubek would be in danger were he deported, and accordingly dismissed his conviction. Crucially, there is no suggestion that Lees-Galloway ever behaved without integrity. He should not resign.

OK, but he said: “Public trust and confidence has been damaged. As minister I take responsibility for that.” He should resign.

OK, but then he said: “I also take responsibility for fixing this process and restoring that trust, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” He’s not going to run away from the problem. We know this because he said: “I’m not going to run away from the problem.”

So there are no consequences for him?

It’s pretty clear that this has had, let’s say, implications.

How so?

He announced, presumably after discussions with Jacinda Ardern’s office, that he was “acutely aware that trust and confidence has been damaged by this episode” and he’d accordingly apologised to the prime minister, and that apology had been accepted.

What does that mean?

You’ll have to read between the lines.


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