The NZ Cabinet is above the law.
Blog No. 129.
As I will be in Australia for most of the next fortnight, I am bringing the posting of this blog forward. Life will become less turbulent after that and the next blog will be posted on Saturday 8th July – inch’a’Allah.
Last week, the leader of the New Zealand First party, Winston Peters, formally requested that the Ombudsman investigate the attempts by Simon Bridges, Minister of Transport, to avoid his responsibilities under the Official Information Act. http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/333106/rail-proposal-that-minister-s-office-tried-to-block-released “Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier wrote to Prime Minister Bill English seeking an assurance ministers were not flouting the law when dealing with requests for official information.” It seems like a certainty that this is exactly what the Honourable Bridges had attempted to do.
Last month, in like fashion, we had the case of Prime Minister Bill English, apparently ordering the Chief of the Defence staff to misrepresent the truth to the public. It would appear that this was to be done to enable the government to quash any investigation into well-documented allegations that a war crime had been committed by NZ soldiers in Afghanistan. At the start of a previous blog on the role of investigative journalism in NZ, I quoted this case in some detail. http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=3172 In it, the Chief of the Defence Force appears to have been asked (or ordered?) to expose himself to possible charges of being an accomplice after the fact of a war crime.
Welcome to New Zealand
On the 14th June, I lodged a similar complaint, about rogue ministers exceeding their constitutional powers, with the Ombudsman. In this instance, former policeman and now senior civil servant, Stephen Vaughan, Acting General Manager of Compliance for Immigration New Zealand, had been asked by the Ministers of Justice and Immigration to himself commit an offence by inciting a third party to commit an offence. Here is my complaint:
5. I am complaining about:
The Ministers of Immigration and Justice instructing the acting head of INZ to commit an offence.
6. Details of the complaint:
Ministers seem increasingly to conduct themselves as though they were above the law. Is it parliamentary privilege that is so elastic as to allow such conduct?
The ministers’ actions to which this complaint refers, would seem to be based on a decision to use extreme psychological pressure to coerce a stateless refugee to leave NZ as an undischarged bankrupt and enter a third country without proper travel documents. Were he to comply, the victim would be lured into breaking both the law of New Zealand and that of a third country. The coercion comes from the infliction of extreme psychological pressure through the enforced separation of the victim from his wife for the past two years.
In support of the above analysis, there is the recent and quite blatant incitement to commit such a dual breach of the law. This has come in the form of the attached letter, dated 18th May 2017, from the acting head of INZ, in which he claims to be obeying instructions from the two ministers. As a former senior police officer, the writer should be fully aware that incitement to commit a crime is in itself a crime.
7. Steps taken to resolve the issue:
In regards to incitement, I wrote to the official concerned on 1st June (see letter attached.) As yet, I have received no acknowledgment. In regards to the coercion, I have a voluminous correspondence with the Cabinet Office regarding the callous brutality emanating from it – some of which I offer as an attachment. Though, last year, the Associate Minister of Immigration agreed to review the case of the couple’s separation, he has still not managed to find the time to do so. (The day after I lodged this complaint, the all-powerful Minister, with his personal and absolute discretion to ruin people’s lives, should the whim take him, revealed the outcomes of his six month review – see below.)
8. Outcome sought:
The ‘I was only obeying instructions’ defence having been discredited at Nuremberg, the law against incitement of, as yet, innocent third parties to break the law, should be applied to both the civil servant carrying out his unlawful instructions and to the ministers (one of them of Justice!) who instigated that action.
9. Supporting Material:
• Letter from Stephen Vaughan to Harmon Wilfred. (Note the absence of any address to which a reply could be sent. It took some time to extract an email address from MBIE.)
• My letter to Stephen Vaughan (unrequited.)
• I also have attached two strings of correspondence with the Cabinet Office in regard to the attempt to coerce Harmon to break the law. (Not included in this blog.)
MINISTRY OF BUSINESS, INNOVATION & EMPLOYMENT
Client Number 2647357718 May 2017
Wilfred Holdings Ltd PO Box 69219
Dear Harmon Wilfred
Your email of 10 April 2017 to the Minister of Justice and your email of 19 April 2017 to the Associate Minister of Immigration have been forwarded to me to reply.
You state in your emails that Immigration New Zealand has enforced a separation upon you and your wife. I completely refute that allegation.
You chose to renounce your citizenship of the United States of America without ensuring you retained citizenship of another country. You chose, and continue to choose to remain in New Zealand unlawfully and are therefore unable to work. Choosing to remain unlawfully in New Zealand has also impacted upon your wife’s ability to demonstrate that she is a bona fide visitor and as a result she has not been granted a visa to return to New Zealand.
You state that you are ”prepared, should the NZ government deem it in the country’s best interest, to explore alternative solutions in our current attempts to gain a formal status t hat would allow us to realise our intentions to invest, settle and retire in New Zealand”.
You do not meet the requirements for any further visa in New Zealand and the circumstances you now find yourselves in have been entirely of your own making. You should make immediate arrangements to depart New Zealand.
Acting General Manager. Compliance, Risk and Intelligence Services Immigration New Zealand
The justification given in the above letter for Carolyn Dare Wilfred’s being refused entry to re-join her husband in this country, is markedly different from the reasons INZ gave to the Ombudsman, when he was reviewing Carolyn’s complaint about their enforced separation. In this letter Vaughan openly admits that she is being punished for the ‘crimes’ of her husband. Add ‘deception of the Ombudsman’ to the list of the current cabinet’s constitutional misdemeanours!
From: Hugh Steadman
To: Stephen Vaughan: Stephen.Vaughan@mbie.govt.nz
Dear Mr Vaughan
I have known Mr & Mrs Wilfred since 2005 and in 2008 my wife and I sold 50% of our family business to their investment company. We remain not only their business partners but also their friends.
Harmon showed me the letter you wrote to him on the 18th May. In that letter, you gave no address to which any reply could be sent. I have however, with some difficulty, managed to obtain your email address from the Ministry. That delay accounts for my having complained about your letter to the Cabinet Office without having first approached you directly.
I have had my eyes opened wide in recent months to the duties that one might be asked to perform as a senior government servant. Over the recent ‘Hit and Run’ scandal in Afghanistan, I watched the hapless Tim Keating, Chief of the Defence Staff, having repeatedly to lie for his country on behalf of the cabinet. (Having myself worked as a British military intelligence Officer in another mountainous, medieval and Moslem country and having also worked alongside British Special Forces, I feel well-qualified to recognise untruths as untruths in that particular instance.) In so doing, the clearly embarrassed Keating was laying himself open to being seen as an accomplice after the fact of what was technically a war crime. His Prime Minister, in the meantime, remains protected by privilege.
Now we have this letter from you, in which you, apparently acting at the behest of two cabinet ministers sheltering behind privilege, appear to be inciting, or even attempting to coerce, my friend and colleague into breaking NZ law by leaving the country while still an undischarged bankrupt and, at the same time, into breaking the laws of another country, by entering it without valid travel documents.
Your other comments about the Wilfreds, seem to indicate a lack of understanding about the realities of their case. You have been ordered to do a hatchet job, but I doubt have been made privy to the reasons for doing that job. These would appear to be more a question of National Party interest, than one of national interest. In fact a strong argument could be produced that their treatment by the current government runs directly contrary to the national interest.
I don’t know what access to the relevant files is available to you, but If you wish to have a better understanding of the case, I would be happy to come up to Wellington, if that is where you are, and give you a fair and full briefing. Your present position is doing the country no favours. This is a matter calling for urgent rectification, albeit, not in the manner you suggest.
Unsurprisingly from a civil servant, who attempts to fire on his enemy from behind the cover of no address to which a response could be addressed, no acknowledgment of my letter has been forthcoming.
The day following my lodging of the complaint, the Honourable Minister for Immigration confirmed his part in Vaughan’s incitement. The Minister’s extraordinary letter is copied at the end of the press release that has just been posted at http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=3272 It would appear at first sight to be a malicious taunt from a Minister revelling in the unchallenged impunity with which he can pull the wings off butterflies. Words to the effect: “I will be in Canada and could see your wife if I wished, but, ha-ha, you cannot.”
In the meantime, I have been in regular communication with the Cabinet Office in which Harmon and Carolyn have been told to live on in the hope that the Minister would be formally reviewing Carolyn’s case in the first half of this year. They now have to accept that the brief email ‘offer’ below is the outcome of the Minister’s promised formal review. The hopes and emotions of the mice were simply being toyed with by the Minister, who is evidently enjoying having them in his claws.
No doubt this brutality will continue until and unless, as one former Minister of Immigration, when commenting on the case, suggested:
“…there were to be a dramatic deal-breaker; say, new information; or interest from an investigative journalist; or a TV documentary. But those options are easier said than done, I’m afraid and in any event can be a 7 day wonder if the government simply stays silent and denies; the shot is fired; nothing happens; the media and the public move on; there is no second bullet in the barrel… Older people, like you and I are left with a sense of justice not done.”
As he hints, my correspondent does indeed come from a time when the ‘Honourable’ title of cabinet ministers meant what it said. It would seem that in today’s neo-liberal-speak, it has a different meaning all together. My suggestion is that ‘Winner’ should be the word to replace ‘Honourable.’ ‘The Winner, Michael Woodhouse,’ has a certain ring about it that I am sure he would appreciate.
Are there any investigative journalists or documentary producers out there? If our society is unable to develop constitutional mechanisms (such as a re-invigourated and effective Fourth Estate) to put a damper on the accumulation of ever more power by a generation of cabinet ministers possessed of a winner-takes-all, neo-liberal ideology, New Zealand society will end up in a very unpleasant place.