Regular readers of Keeping Stock (whose numbers seem to be growing if the Alexa stats I've been directed to are correct) will be aware that I have few kind words for Helen Clark. And so, with the announcement tonight that she has asked the Auditor-General to investigate the scandals within the Immigration Service, I'm not sure whether to view her with grudging admiration or disdain. Anyway, here's the Herald story:
Part of me wants to say "Well done Helen" for acting quickly on this. She only arrived back in the country over the weekend, and she has certainly acted decisively. The Auditor-General will have wide powers, and will set his own terms of reference. It is sure to be a comprehensive enquiry.
But here's where my attennae start to twitch. Once an inquiry is underway, the matter will effectively disappear from the public domain. Opposition members will be limited in what questions they can ask, and Ministers, and indeed the Prime Minister, will have a ready-made excuse for obfuscation - "I can't comment on that. All will be revealed when the Auditor-General completes his inquiry." - so there is little political capital for the opposition parties to use. And as the cheese ad says, "Good things take time" - I'm sure that it will be a stretch for the A-G to conduct and complete an inquiry then report back to government prior to the election.
Helen Clark is the consummate politician. She admits to being "blindsided" by this rapidly spreading cancer. However in a quote in the Herald article, she seems to be trying to innoculate her Immigration Ministers, both current and former from fallout when she says:
""We feel we have been constantly blindsided by events and developments," she said.
"It's fair to say that the confidence of the Cabinet has been somewhat shattered. There are things that obviously never came to our attention.""
I don't buy that. So on the basis of probability, I believe that Clark's decision today to call in the Auditor-General is more about political expediency that it is about good governance. And I'm probably not alone when I recall the Ingram inquiry into the actions of one Taito Philip Field.