The Government’s inquiry into the appointment of the Deputy Commissioner of Police will not answer key questions, reports Thomas Coughlan.
The Government has announced that Pauline Kingi has been appointed to lead the inquiry into the appointment process of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Wally Haumaha. It has also released the terms of reference for the inquiry.
But National’s Police Spokesperson Chris Bishop said the terms of reference do not answer the critical question about whether Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha would have been appointed had Police Minister Stuart Nash and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern known the extent of concerns over his character and comments.
The inquiry was launched after complaints against Haumaha’s appointments, focusing on comments he made about former officers accused of raping Louise Nicholas.
Nicholas’ allegations led to the convening of Operation Austin in 2004, which investigated police sexual offending in the Bay of Plenty in the 1980s.
Nicholas has said statements from officers held in the Operation Austin investigation file make it clear that Haumaha had tried to block the investigation and dismiss her allegations. She has been a vocal critic of his appointment.
The inquiry will examine the process of the appointment, but its terms of reference do not extend to looking at Haumaha’s suitability for the role.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters told a news conference on Monday that if Haumaha’s suitability was looked at it would only happen after the inquiry is completed.
Inquiry doesn’t answer key questions
Bishop told Newsroom that the inquiry’s terms of reference fail to encompass three key questions.
These are: firstly, what did Police Commissioner Mike Bush know; second, what did Nash and Ardern know; and finally, whether Cabinet would have approved Haumaha’s appointment if they had full knowledge of his character.
“Hanging over the whole thing is if Nash and Ardern and the whole Cabinet had known what he said to Operation Austen would they have appointed him?” Bishop said.
“That is the critical question.”
The inquiry is instead focused on the State Services Commission, the information it gathered and the processes it followed.
Conflicts of Interest
The Minister in charge of the inquiry will be Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, a New Zealand First MP.
The inquiry is independent and Martin will have no power to impinge on its independence, but critics argue that it is inappropriate for the inquiry to fall within her portfolio.
In 2005, Haumaha was selected as a NZ First candidate, although he did not run in the election.
Bishop said the inquiry falling within Martin’s portfolio was “wholly inappropriate” and that Kingi should have been appointed directly by Cabinet or put the Attorney General, David Parker in charge.
Dr Pauline Kingi has a 28-year career in public service. She is a past Councillor in the Council for New Zealand Healthcare Standards, and Chair of Auckland University of Technology.
She is a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
The inquiry will begin on August 6 and is expected to report back six weeks from then.