John Key must take responsibility for Saudi Sheep Scandal

John Key must take responsibility for his Government’s Saudi sheep scandal, and apologise to New Zealanders for sullying the reputation of our country for fair dealing, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.
“His ham fisted attempt to blame everyone but his own Government has now unravelled with yesterday’s release of official papers. He stands guilty of having sullied New Zealand’s international reputation, and wasting over $11 million of taxpayers money.
“The attempt to cover this up for years has failed. This unscrupulous deal that has even raised the ire of foreign diplomats in New Zealand who have voiced their concern over this debacle with me.
“It’s now clear that the Auditor General has raised concerns over the deal arguing that she was not convinced by the business case, which she said at the time “does not appear to us to be in the form of a traditional business case”. She complained to Foreign Affairs that her input had been misrepresented. She later emphasised that her office’s comments did not “provide assurance of any nature and neither do they constitute endorsement of Government policy.
“Also damning is the fact that Treasury repeatedly refused to endorse the agrihub proposals in the cabinet papers. They couldn’t see the benefits of the Saudi farm in the desert, and also opposed the $4 million cash payment to Al Khalaf group, which they described as a goodwill payment.
“On the very day Cabinet okayed the agrihub, Treasury still did ‘not support’ the proposal.
“The $4 million payment is the worst aspect. It is unprincipled and without precedent. It was to advance trade with Saudi Arabia not to settle a legal claim. This is the first time ever New Zealand has paid off a disaffected businessman in order to advance a trade deal.
“The continued denial of responsibility for this sham, in the face of the documents now released, is wrong. Journalists who have pored over the documents have reached this conclusion independently of the Labour Party. It is time National fessed up, “says David Parker .

5 August  2015                                                           MEDIA STATEMENT


$4 million was to advance trade not settle legal claim

It is now even more apparent that the $4 million payment to the Al Khalaf group was to advance trade with Saudi Arabia, not to settle a legal claim, says Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.
“Documents released today show the Auditor General found the Indicative Business Case raised more questions than it answers.
“The Government has wasted $6 million on the farm in the desert, a $1million on flying sheep on Singapore Airlines and worst of all gave $4 million as a cash payment to Al Khalaf group, for which there is no legal justification.
“This is the first time ever New Zealand has paid a facilitation payment to a disaffected businessman in order to advance a trade deal.
“Murray McCully first disclosed the $4 million up-front payment in May this year because he could not hide it any longer. A 2013 cabinet paper was to be released the next day which referenced it.
“He had kept the payment so quiet it was not mentioned in any press releases from him or his government going back to 2012.
“In May Mr McCully said in Parliament that the $4m payment claimed was to settle a legal claim of up to $30 million by the Al Khalaf group.
“He then changed his story, but only after I personally contacted every Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Ministers of foreign affairs, trade, finance and agriculture in the Labour-led government from 2005 onwards. That is Ministers Clark, Cullen, Peters, Goff and Anderton. None recalled any contact with MFAT or any other government agency about this alleged claim.
“No legal basis for a successful claim ever existed. Even if it had, by 2013 it would have expired because of the six year limit to commence Court proceedings under the Limitation Act.
“Mr McCully’s pretence was unpicked, and he had to acknowledge any threat of claim had been dropped.
“Over recent months, the Government has delayed the release of information at every turn. The OIA has been repeatedly breached. The Government has suppressed release of official documents for many months. The documents released today are edited – even the media talking points provided by officials have been redacted.
“The delays have rightly made people suspicious. Today’s documents show an unscrupulous deal which no New Zealand government should be part of,” says David Parker.

4 August  2015                                                           MEDIA STATEMENT


Will poor TPP dairy outcome stop National selling out our homes?

After failing to protect the right to stop foreign speculators buying our houses it’s clear the Government is not going to get wins on dairy in their TPP negotiations either, Labour’s Trade and Export spokesperson David Parker says.
“Labour has set out our bottom lines on the TPP, but it appears National’s keep sliding.
“First, they gave away the right to ban house sales to foreigners. Now it looks like bad news for dairy.
“Reports from media in New Zealand that John Key and National will sign up to any deal will have been read by embassies from other TPP countries and fed back.
“Far from being clever trading, National’s obvious willingness to settle for a bad deal has weakened New Zealand’s negotiating position.
“No wonder many New Zealanders are worried about the TPP.
“Let’s hope that the poor dairy deal causes National to rethink their capitulation on foreigners buying NZ houses,” David Parker says.

 

31 July 2015                                                               MEDIA STATEMENT


Minimum Wage Amendment Bill to protect contractors

All New Zealanders should be treated fairly at work. Currently, the law allows non-employment relationships to be used to get around the minimum wage. This is unfair, says Labour MP David Parker.
“The Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill, a member’s bill in my name, is due to be considered in Parliament this evening. It protects New Zealanders who are paid less than the minimum wage on contract.
“It adopts protections found overseas, where minimum remuneration applies to both employees and contractors.
All New Zealand workers deserve to be treated decently, and that includes minimum protections. Not enforcing the minimum wage undermines the good employers who do pay their workers properly.
“If passed the Bill will help people like contract cleaners who are currently falling through the cracks. Couriers, telemarketers and others who are contracted to do a large amount of work in limited time will also be protected.
Those currently at risk are not employees, are not in unions, and are often the least powerful in society.
“Examples include a 60 year old subcontractor who didn’t have a written agreement. She was not paid properly for three months and had no rights as an employee because she was engaged as a contractor. Her only recourse was via the Disputes Tribunal.
 
“This Bill does not fix the avoidance of holiday pay, or sick pay, or zero hour contracts, or unpaid long-term interns. But it will stop the minimum wage being avoided through contractual devices.
 
“I hope MPs across Parliament will support this initiative” says David Parker.
22 July 2015                 MEDIA STATEMENT

 


Treasury latest to withhold Saudi sheep scandal information

The Labour Party will today lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman after the Treasury became the latest government department to withhold information on the Saudi sheep scandal.
Labour’s Trade and Export Growth spokesperson David Parker says the Government has been trying to hide facts from the public since it was revealed two months ago it flew sheep to Saudi Arabia, spent millions on a farm in the desert and provided a $4 million facilitation payment to the Al Khalaf group.
“Since then journalists and opposition MPs have been seeking documents, while Ministers have dodged questions and changed their stories.
“There has been an orchestrated delay in releasing documents under the Official Information Act from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Trade and Enterprise and now the Treasury.
“Yesterday the Treasury listed documents relevant to media and opposition enquires but said they “will be made available on the Treasury website in early August through proactive release.”
“So, now delays in breach of the OIA means “proactive”. The Treasury has the information and is obliged to release it now. It is in breach of the OIA to wait for an orchestrated and politically convenient moment to dump edited documents, as is happening across all the departments.
“A Minister has been caught paying a facilitation payment to a disaffected Saudi businessman getting in the way of a free trade agreement. The Treasury and other departments are helping the Government avoid responsibility for that.
“The politicisation of the Treasury is yet another example of National lowering standards for integrity in the public service and letting the public down.
“We have a right to expect better from the Government and its ministries,” David Parker says.
17 July 2015                                                               MEDIA STATEMENT

 


Response to comments by Susan Devoy

Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy’s comments are wrong and undermine her role, Labour’s Shadow Attorney-General David Parker says.
Ms Devoy has said today that the use of “half-baked” housing data to suggest overseas Chinese nationals are increasingly buying property in Auckland is “disappointing”. “Chinese New Zealanders deserve better than this and so does anyone keen on actually solving this issue.”
“The data used by Phil Twyford was carefully checked by him, and by the NZ Herald, which published it.
“The data used is the best available and the Herald story makes that clear. Ms Devoy does not present any alternative data.
“Ms Devoy’s comments are wrong and undermine her role. She should re-read the Human Rights Act because there is nothing in the Act that says contentious issues ought not to be discussed.
“There is nothing racist in what has been said. Labour’s policy is that if you have the right to live here you have the right to buy here, whatever your ethnicity.
“I am surprised Ms Devoy has not commented that it is outrageous that the Herald article showed that Maori and Pasifika are grossly under represented as house buyers, house sellers and agents.
“Surely this level of social exclusion is bad for race relations.”
13 July 2015                                                   MEDIA STATEMENT

 


More questions – why was the Former National Party President involved with Saudi Farm Deal in 2011?

Today in Parliament Murray  McCully said the reason Michelle Boag was involved in 2011 in the Saudi farm scandal was in her capacity as a member of the New Zealand Middle East Business Council. The problem with that answer is that she was not on that council until 2012, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.
“Ms Boag was on TV on the 31 May of this year defending the government. Asked then about her involvement, she said she worked for the Middle East Business Council. Asked if she helped with the farm deal she said: ‘ No, no it was done entirely by officials.’
“The letter dated 2 November 2011 to the Foreign Minister from Brownrigg Agriculture (the eventual tender winner which built the multimillion dollar farm in the desert) said the letter was being copied to “Michelle Boag, who has been in contact with both of us in her capacity as a director of Laurium Asset Management, regarding her interest in seeing the live sheep export issue resolved and free trade with the Gulf States advanced.’
“This newest information, and the letter from Brownrigg Agriculture, shows yet more inconsistencies.
“The $4 million initial payment was a facilitation payment. It, and the bizarre $7 million spent on a model farm in the desert, were made to remove the barrier to the FTA. There was no legal claim.
“Mr McCully has misled his cabinet colleagues and sullied New Zealand’s reputation for fair dealing, animal welfare and agricultural excellence,” says David Parker.
24 June  2015                                                     MEDIA STATEMENT

 

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