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Heather du Plessis-Allan: Immigration Minister needs to go

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Sunday, 4 November 2018, 9:20a.m.

Iain Lees-Galloway can't continue as Immigration Minister.

He's stuffed up too badly. He should never have given New Zealand residency to a Czech drug smuggler on a nearly six-year stretch in jail. Karel Sroubek is not a guy we want in this country.

It's a bummer for Lees-Galloway. He's usually a capable and smart operator. And if he loses this portfolio, he'll probably be taking the fall for his officials. It looks like they've been the sloppy ones here. On the face of it, they didn't give the minister all the information he needed.

It looks like they missed some really important stuff. Like the fact Sroubek had been back to the Czech Republic twice. That's pretty important intel when he's been claiming that his life would be in danger back in that country.

It's also not difficult to find that info. It came up in at least one of Sroubek's trials. So it's in the court documents. Journalists got hold of those in just a few days this week. Immigration officials have had years.

The officials also missed the fact that Sroubek ex-wife's taking out a restraining order against him. Also pretty important, especially if the minister thought she wanted her ex to stay here.

So, a couple of big misses by officials. Big enough for Lees-Galloway to fairly say this is not all his fault alone.

But that's not how life works. The buck stops with the guy at the top. If he gets it wrong, he goes.

Also, Lees-Galloway should've realised something wasn't right. The rest of us did. When we heard a recidivist baddie had been given residency, we all responded with a collective WTF. It didn't sound right. A drug smuggler who hangs out with the Hells Angels has a lot of convincing to do before he gets to stay in New Zealand. He's got to be more sorry than David Cunliffe was for being a man. Anything short of that, he goes.

So letters to the editor started pouring into newspapers. Talkback lines lit up. It was obvious this was a bad call.

Lees-Galloway probably should've had the same reaction and maybe asked more questions of his officials. If he's the one making the tough call, if he's the one with his neck on the line, then he needs to check every dark corner of this guy's life. No cutting corners. No signing off on things just to clear the desk. Be sure. Because there's a lot at stake here.

Who's going to trust his decisions in the future?

Next time he decides to give residency to a dodgy character, who's going to believe he's made the right call? Or next time he cancels a deportation ... Or deports a law-abiding family over a technicality on their visa ... Who's going trust him next time he says he's made the best call he could after seeing all the information?

Have you Iain? Have you seen all the information? Because you didn't last time.

That'll be the reaction. And that's not a problem the Government needs.

These decisions come up more frequently than you might think. They came up 108 times for the last Immigration Minister. He was in the job nearly five years. Which means he made tough immigration calls like this every three weeks.

So, there'll be another like this one soon. And the last thing the Government wants is public fury like this time.

That's why Iain Lees-Galloway has to go. Because he's lost too much confidence. It doesn't have to be an embarrassing public sacking. He doesn't deserve that. Just a gentle move sideways at the next Cabinet reshuffle.

 

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