Sheep cover-up ridiculous

The ongoing cover-up of the Saudi sheep scandal has reached new lows with the Primary Industries Minister saying releasing a taxpayer-funded report into the lamb deaths isn’t in the public interest despite admitting he hasn’t read it, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.

“Question Time is becoming a farce when ministers are able to dodge questions in this way. Nathan Guy was asked a direct primary question on the NZTE report into the 80 per cent death rate of lambs on the Saudi sheep farm but admitted he had not even read the report.

“A minister cannot decide if releasing a report is in the public interest without reading it first. That’s a farce and he should be held accountable to Parliament and the public.

“This so-called demonstration farm has had more than $12m of taxpayer money thrown at it, including a $4m cash facilitation payment to a disaffected Saudi businessman. Ministers should answer questions in Parliament and release the report. Instead there has been cover-ups and smear campaigns to muddy the waters,” says David Parker.

18 November 2015

Groser bungle means Koreans can ban NZ buyers but we can’t ban theirs

Trade Minister Groser has been forced to admit in Parliament that South Korea can ban New Zealanders buying Korean homes after refusing to acknowledge this previously, Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker says
“National has blundered badly in its Korean free trade agreement.
“It is incredible that Koreans can ban New Zealanders buying their houses, but we can’t do the same here.
“This is incompetence of the highest order. Tim Groser and National have been negligent in negotiating this free trade agreement.
“This has a flow-on effect to China and the TPPA.
“Not that the acting minister Todd McClay understands that. He denied that the China FTA protected our right to ban foreign buyers of New Zealand homes, and for China to ban NZ buyers – as it has since done in some of its cities.
“Ministers Groser and McLay ought to understand this. They probably do, but deny it because they know 80 per cent of New Zealanders think they are wrong.
“Plenty of other countries ban foreign buyers from purchasing existing houses in their land, including Australia and Switzerland.
“Surely Tim Groser can’t have intended this to happen. The right thing to do would be to admit he is wrong and fix this issue. 
“But that’s not going to happen – Tim Groser has sold us down the river,” says David Parker.
10 November 2015                                   MEDIA STATEMENT


Govt refuses to even try to fix its Korea land sales mistake

National refuses to fix its major blunder in the Korean FTA which allows Kiwi homes to be sold to Korean investors – creating a flow on effect with other trade partners such as China, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.
“Tim Groser got this wrong. It is all the more remarkable when the Australians have managed to keep the right to ban foreign home buyers in their FTA.
“The fact that in Parliament today Mr Groser says he will not even try to fix this shows how out of touch he is with New Zealanders’ concerns. New Zealanders want Kiwis to own our homes and not to be outbid by wealthier foreign buyers.
“Mr Groser also would not confirm whether or not South Korea has reserved the right to ban New Zealanders (people not companies) buying Korean homes.
“Overdue written questions on similar issues in the TPP negotiations are another example of the minister ignoring the rules. This comes a month after the High Court found his refusal to answer Official Information Act requests illegal.
“Tim Groser has to come clean with New Zealanders on what he has signed away. Australia can stop foreigners buying Australian homes. We should be able to do the same,” says David Parker.

November 2015                 MEDIA STATEMENT

Saudi tender process reeks of SkyCity approach

The tender process for the $6m investment in a Saudi sheep farm reeks like the SkyCity convention centre deal and once again contravenes the government’s own procurement rules, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.
“The $6m contract for the Saudi sheep farm was awarded to Brownrigg Agriculture – long-time business associates and now partners of the Saudi businessman Hmood Al-Khalaf. This is separate to the $4 million cash payment to the Al Khalaf Group.
“During the contracting process Brownrigg Agriculture was paid to provide advice on the so-called business case and was paid by MFAT to travel to Saudi Arabia as part of a team to develop it. The planned second phase of the competitive contracting process was then cancelled and Brownrigg Agriculture was awarded the contract.
“This directly contravenes Rule 21 of the Government Rules of Sourcing that states: ‘an agency should not purchase procurement advice from a supplier that has a commercial interest in the contract opportunity, because to do so would prejudice fair competition’.
“That is yet more serious wrong doing by Mr McCully.  Cabinet’s explicit requirement for ‘strict conformity with government procurement rules’ was ignored. 
“It’s just like the tender process for the SkyCity convention centre which the Auditor General heavily criticised as favouring SkyCity over other bidders.
“National runs roughshod over good government to get its dodgy deals done and is undermining our international reputation for fair dealing,” says David Parker.


19 August 2015                                                           MEDIA STATEMENT


Crucial Auditor General investigation welcomed

The Auditor General’s decision to investigate the Saudi sheep scandal is important, necessary and welcome, Labour’s Trade and Export Growth spokesperson David Parker says.
“The independent functions of the Auditor General are a cornerstone of the New Zealand system of government. The Auditor General’s oversight powers are intended to ensure taxpayer money is applied legally, and uphold proper standards of ministerial and departmental conduct.
“Spending over $11 million for the Al Khalaf group – including for a $4 million cash payment, a model farm in the desert and over $1m on flying sheep – has never made sense.
“The suppression of information has added to the suspicions. There are many disturbing aspects to this highly unusual arrangement.
“We look forward to the Auditor General investigating all of these.
“If, as appears likely, there has been improper conduct, or misrepresentation of the true nature of these payments, clarity from the Auditor General will help avoid any repeat and will go some way to restoring New Zealand’s international reputation for fair dealing, ”says David Parker.
18 August 2015                                                     MEDIA STATEMENT
Please see attached the Questions that the Auditor General needs to address


Did Murray McCully break Public Finance Act?

Murray McCully appears to have breached the Public Finance Act by dressing up the cash payment paid to Al Khalaf as a joint venture, new documents show, Labour’s Trade and Export Growth spokesperson David Parker says.
“In a briefing to Murray McCully on 19 April 2012, MFAT officials said they would find a way to meet Al Khalaf’s previously stated desire for compensation ‘possibly through the joint venture’. They did this after Mr McCully had earlier insisted the $4 million payment not be called compensation because that would cause “a plethora of layers and bureaucrats” to become involved.
“In a sign of how ridiculous the subterfuge was they even put the word “compensation” in quote marks. The $4 million payment was then turned into a joint venture contract for services with Al Khalaf Group, with no mention of compensation and the pretence it was for intellectual property and services.
“There were no grounds for any compensation in the first place, because Al Khalaf had no legal claim against New Zealand. This was a facilitation payment to pay off a Saudi businessman getting in the way of the Gulf FTA.
“It seems at least some of those involved knew this was an illegitimate ‘compensation’ payment, but Mr McCully insisted it be called a joint venture so he could get around ‘bureaucrats and lawyers’ and avoid the law.
“Treasury said a compensation payment would require a new appropriation under the Public Finance Act. Mr McCully’s duplicity in dressing up the compensation as a joint venture deceived the Treasury and could well be a breach of the Act.
“This stinks,” David Parker says.

2 August 2015                                                     MEDIA STATEMENT

Complaints laid with OAG and Treasury over McCully

Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker has today written to the Auditor-General and Treasury Secretary, asking them to investigate whether Murray McCully and MFAT misled them over the Saudi sheep scandal.
“It’s clear from last week’s document dump that the Auditor General and Treasury had serious concerns about the Saudi sheep farm deal. It now appears they were also misled by Mr McCully who refused to have the $4 million facilitation payment called compensation so that ‘lawyers and bureaucrats’ wouldn’t be involved.
“Mr McCully deliberately misrepresented the nature of his payments to the Al-Khalaf Group so that they would not be questioned by Cabinet, the Auditor General or Treasury. His actions were deceptive. When properly described these papers were outside the departments’ appropriation.
“Had his Cabinet colleagues, the Treasury, or the Auditor General known the true nature of these payments, they would have been stopped.
“As John Key is refusing to investigate his minister’s actions I have written to the Auditor General and Treasury Secretary asking them to investigate,” says David Parker.
Attachments: Letters to Auditor General and Treasury Secretary; Report of the Meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Hmood A Al Khalaf Group of Companies, March 2012 (see para 12)


11 August 2015                                                           MEDIA STATEMENT


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