[Sitting date: 14 November 2012. Volume:685;Page:6578. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the
Minister of Immigration: Is he satisfied that Immigration New Zealand’s visitor visa processing system is robust and effective; if so, why?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Immigration)
: Yes, but there is always room for improvement. One hundred and seventy thousand visitor visas are processed annually by Immigration New Zealand, and it has made substantial improvements from the mess that National inherited from the previous Government. To improve the system, the Government is implementing by 2015 the state of the art Immigration Global Management System, which will, amongst other things, improve visa processing and increase the use of biometric identity checks.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has he compromised the integrity of New Zealand’s overseas visa system by doing secret deals with China Southern Airlines in a secret meeting he held with China Southern Airlines’ representatives on 20 April 2012?
Hon NATHAN GUY: There was no secret meeting with China Southern Airlines. I did have a meeting with China Southern Airlines. The representatives expressed to me some interest in increasing visitor flows into New Zealand, which is a tremendous thing, and, yes, there has been a deal struck with Immigration New Zealand and China Southern Airlines. That is going to allow high net worth individuals to come into New Zealand to ensure that we continue to grow our tourism benefits. In fact, there will be some checks, and, of course, that will mean that they still will need to get a visa, and they still will need to meet health and good-character checks. Considerations will be met in terms of deeming—[Interruption]; can I conclude—the evidence of funds and bona fides.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he read a memo to him from Immigration New Zealand dated 11 June 2012 concerning visa processing facilitation that states “[China Southern Airlines] has also advised that the most important feature for their clients was avoiding the necessity to answer questions relating to financial backing and employment history and to provide evidence of these.”; how can he make any statements that this is more robust, given that advice from that official?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As I mentioned in the answer to the previous question, we are indeed going to roll out this agreement with China Southern Airlines, and it is important that we are going to review—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking this Minister about questions and issues that have happened this year, not about what is being rolled out in the future, but what is happening right now, in respect of the 11 June memo that he got, and the meeting on 20 April. He is talking about—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to repeat his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he read a memo to him from Immigration New Zealand dated 11 June 2012 concerning visa processing facilitation that states “[China Southern Airlines] has also advised that the most important feature for their clients was avoiding the necessity to answer questions relating to financial backing and employment history and to provide evidence of these.”?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Yes, I am aware of that, and that, indeed, is their opinion.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware of concerns raised by an Immigration New Zealand official in an email dated 7 September 2012 that the risk of “imported criminality” from China is being “ignored in visa decision-making” in respect of a special arrangement being brokered with China Southern Airlines?
Hon NATHAN GUY: No, I am not aware of that, because the deal has not rolled out yet. I am looking forward to that deal rolling out and, as I said before, this will be reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure that it is robust and it is working as intended.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Minister concede that what is being alleged in these questions is happening right now, and is he aware that an Immigration New Zealand official has described the proposed special arrangement with China Southern Airlines as setting a “very dangerous precedent” and “defers risk assessment to uninformed expedience”?
Hon NATHAN GUY: No, I do not agree with those assertions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the public of this country have any confidence in the Minister responsible for Immigration New Zealand when such scandals—and this is one—are so numerous—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member must proceed with his question. [Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Big Ears is off again.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the public have any confidence in the Minister responsible for Immigration New Zealand when such scandals are so numerous, even to the extent of Immigration New Zealand’s intelligence, risk, and integrity division now raising concerns about what is happening about visa-checking processes or lack of them?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As a result of the recent Chinese student fraud, I have asked immigration officials to look at their systems. Indeed, they got PricewaterhouseCoopers in to look at their systems. That report concluded that their systems are pretty good but that there is room for improvement. They are working through those recommendations as we speak. My final comment is that this Government is focused on growing the economic returns for this country, and that means not putting at stake the $9 billion that we get in from tourists every year.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a memo sent from the Department of Labour to the Minister of Immigration dated 11 June 2012 titled “China Southern Airline Travel Facilitation”, which contains a reference to a meeting between the Minister and the airline on 20 April and details of the proposed special visa processing arrangement, and a second document dated Friday, 7 September 2012, subject line
“[China Southern Airlines] initiative”, which outlines the serious concerns of an Immigration New Zealand official.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.