Written By: - Date published: 6:28 pm, January 28th, 2017 - 52 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, bill english, im/migration, peter dunne, Politics - Tags: citizenship for sale, granny herald, Nathan Guy, nz herald, peter thiel, tech
Matt Nippett (and other journos) have been looking at the question of how Peter Thiel gained citizenship of this country.
Nippett has done several articles in the NZ Herald that summarise the situation reasonably adequately – probably because they appear to all be from their business pages.
In the latter article from today, he summarises
Thiel revealed that his first visit to the country was in 1993, for an adventure tourism jaunt in Queenstown, and he was looking to buy property both there and in Parnell.
But despite this public declaration of love, and a pipeline splurge of local investment (he appears to have invested more than $40 million in Xero and other local ventures in the 12 months before and after being awarded citizenship), he didn’t make mention of his freshly-minted diplomatic status as a Kiwi.
News of this citizenship has caused waves in Wellington and abroad. Questions have been asked as to why he was granted “exceptional circumstances” dispensation,….
Peter Thiel is one of the world’s foremost tech sector venture capital players, with deep links across the field. And he is interested in citizenship. The residence requirements for normal paths to citizenship simply will not work for an international investor who spends much of his time abroad. And maintaining residence while spending substantial amounts of time in Silicon Valley – the basis for his exceptional potential value in helping New Zealand tech firms build links to there – is not easy. Ministerial discretion looks like the only option. Citizenship would encourage him to deepen his links with New Zealand’s tech community, and in so doing help to bring them to the world.
Who could say no? It was a great bet consistent with the public interest provisions for grants of citizenship. The government makes a lot of bets on the tech sector, including some often pretty unwise subsidies for research and development.
I have no real issues with giving him citizenship. I work in the tech sector, have been aware of what he has been doing for years, and have no real issues with having relatively harmless skilled nutbars investing in and developing tech industries here. After all I have worked for them, beside them, and have dealt with them through decades of exporting tech to a world wider than the tiny market in NZ. Geek nutbars come from all countries, including NZ 🙂
However what I do have a problem with is the point which Eric Crampton, Bill English, Peter Dunne, and others appear to be avoiding as if it was a rotten carcass that it currently smells like. How the apparent 1 use of the discretionary powers of the Minister in the Immigration Act 1977 section 9 (1) (c) came to be used for Pete Thiel’s citizenship, and why this action wasn’t transparent to the public.
At the very least, Nathan Guy – the minister who at the time granted it, should have made a public declaration of the use
Now lets consider what the undisclosed “exceptional circumstances” of “other nature relating to the applicant” could be.
As it stands right now, and at least until until February 15th 2 or an earlier release to similar questions being asked by journalists under the official information act, we simply won’t know.
And how many more immigrants have been passed into NZ using this same discretionary power and why? This isn’t a question for Winston Peters. This is a question of the transparency and clarity to the public about how the exceptional circumstances of our immigration process are being used and why.
Quite simply, if the ministers of any government right or green or left or conservative choose to hide or not reveal the use of exceptional powers granted under acts of parliament, and it can be so easily be construed as being a way of hiding corrupt practices, then we the public need to strip those powers from our ministers. Right now we need to have a public review of the decisions made under this section of the immigration act to see how widespread this potentially corrupt practice is.
The misuses of ministerial powers are particularly the case in immigration where part of the criteria now appears to be how much money you have and can pay to get a NZ passport. This isn’t a new problem, I can remember similar issues arising all the way back to when Aussie Malcolm was minister. However the level of secrecy on this is disturbing – even if it does turn out to be innocent.
This morning Lees-Galloway said he lodged written questions in Parliament with Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne seeking to know when Thiel was granted citizenship, under what grounds and whether the venture capitalist billionaire was a resident for tax purposes.
The Herald understands, due to the Parliamentary break, the questions will be required to be answered by February 15.