John Key’s explanations of the Saudi sheep scandal continue to be riddled with inconsistencies and irreconcilable backflips, Labour’s Trade Spokesperson David Parker says.
“Either he has been misled by his Minister Murray McCully or the Prime Minister is deliberately obfuscating in order to confuse the public;
Having stated the upfront $4 million payment to the Al Khalaf group was to settle a legal claim caused by Labour, John Key on Thursday admitted that Al Khalaf had ‘no cause of action’.
Having stated that Al Khalaf had no ongoing financial interest in the 900 sheep flown to the $7m plus model farm in the desert, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise on Thursday conceded the New Zealand Government had no financial interest in the sheep, or their lambs. These must then have passed completely to the Al Khalaf group.
“The Prime Minister is the person New Zealand relies on to uphold this country’s standards and reputation internally and internationally. This scandal is undermining New Zealand’s reputation for fair dealing, for humane treatment of animals and for excellence in agriculture.
“The facilitation payment has sullied our reputation for fair dealing.
“The Labour Party will continue to hold the Prime Minister, and his Ministers, to account. New Zealanders have the right to expect those they have elected to work ethically and in the best interests of our country,” David Parker says.
22 June 2015 MEDIA STATEMENT
Blaming Saudi sand storms for the deaths of 70 per cent of Kiwi lambs born on a model farm meant to showcase New Zealand agricultural expertise is another part of the ludicrous attempt to disguise buying the cooperation of a wealthy Saudi Arabian businessman, Labour’s Trade Spokesperson David Parker says.
“Ministers are now trying escape being caught up in the scandal caused by Murray McCully.
“Yesterday Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy said he did not know of the extraordinarily high rate of lamb deaths. Today at Select Committee he said ‘a lot of sand and the wind’ may have been the cause of a ‘climatic event’ which killed high numbers of lambs born at the Saudi Arabian farm.
“At question time Trade Minister Tim Groser said that NZTE told both the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in December last year of the lamb deaths. Then this afternoon the NZTE contractor, Brownrigg Agriculture, said a desert storm was the cause.
“The truth is the so called ‘model’ farm has never been a model of New Zealand expertise. It is an embarrassment.
“This latest twist in this bizarre and sad waste of millions of taxpayers’ dollars is further evidence that the real purpose was to buy the cooperation of the Al Khalaf group who were, according to Mr McCully’s own cabinet paper, obstructing the Saudi FTA.
“National is sullying our international reputation for fair dealing, animal welfare and agricultural excellence,” David Parker says.
17 June 2015 MEDIA STATEMENT
The 2007 cabinet papers relating to the prohibition on the export of live sheep for slaughter will be released at 1pm today if the Government fails to do so, says Labour’s Export and Trade spokesperson David Parker.
“It is now three weeks since the Prime Minister and Mr McCully claimed that former papers from the last Labour government proved that the $4 million facilitation payment to the Al Khalaf group, the $6 million model farm and the million dollar sheep flight were justified, and were to settle a claim for $20m to $30m by the Saudi group.
“Labour sought and obtained the 2007 papers from the Cabinet office. The papers show the original ban being extended because of concerns about inhumane treatment after landing, using slaughter methods not allowed in New Zealand.
“National’s excuse was always nonsense. The actions of the prior Labour government were legal, and indeed renewed twice by National in 2010 and 2013. No claim had ever been filed by Al Khalaf, and would have expired under the Limitation Act even if it had been real.
“Trying to shift the blame to its predecessor is standard practice for this Government, even after seven years.
“We sought to table the papers in Parliament on Thursday 4 June. National blocked this, saying the papers could be processed and released ‘in the next day or two’.
“It is now the 17th of June. They have still not been released, and so yesterday we again sought to table them. This was again blocked by National.
“The convention is former Ministers who have accessed Cabinet papers will not release them publicly until they have been put through a proper vetting process.
“This convention is now being abused by the National government by their inexplicable delay.
“It seems they are doing this to avoid responsibility for the disreputable conduct of Mr McCully, which has sullied New Zealand’s reputation for clean and fair dealings by making a multimillion dollar facilitation payment, which in other countries is called a bribe.
“Despite having also wasted more than $10 million dollars of taxpayers’ money, the Government seems to be hoping that its delays will allow the controversy surrounding this scandal to die down.
“But this is no trifling matter. It is not going away. It is also time for Mr McCully to return home, to stay and attend Parliament to explain his actions,” says David Parker.
17 June 2015 MEDIA STATEMENT
The Foreign Minister’s refusal to answer questions around the tender process for the multi-million farm in the Saudi desert is appalling, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.
“We are now four weeks into the unfolding scandal about the $4 million facilitation payment – in other jurisdictions called a bribe – and the so-called model farm.
“Knowing that Murray McCully was away today, I put the question to Steven Joyce, who was responsible for NZTE. The documents say NZTE was one of the groups who would evaluate the tenders.
“The Government chose to transfer the question to Todd McClay. Any Minister who turns up to answer on behalf of Mr McCully can fairly be expected to know the facts. Mr McClay couldn’t answer the questions.
“However he did admit that in respect of the model farm ‘I am not aware that there are a great number of other farmers in that part of the desert.’
“The second to last paragraph on page 11 of the Government’s own document (attached) said that ‘evaluation of final proposals will be undertaken by representatives of MFAT, NZTE, and interested Saudi parties….’
“The denial by the Government that Saudi parties were involved seems hard to believe.
“The Minister’s refusal to tell parliament when he first learnt of the business association between members of the Al Khalaf group and the successful tenderer Brownrigg Agriculture, is an unacceptable lack of transparency. The refusal to answer this question is at odds with his detailed knowledge of the date when Al Khalaf took a shareholding interest in Brownrigg Agriculture.
“The continued refusal to release documents is also an indictment on the government. Paying off a disaffected businessman to advance a free trade agreement is disreputable and a waste of millions, and this new low has no precedent in New Zealand,” says David Parker.
16 June 2015 MEDIA STATEMENT
Questions remain about secrecy surrounding a shipment of 50,000 sheep to Mexico this week, following years of controversy and problems with live exports, Labour’s Trade spokesperson David Parker says.
“New Zealand’s international reputation for humane treatment of animals is very important to the premium price New Zealand farmers get for chilled lamb exports.
“New Zealanders expect the Government to openly show how they will guarantee and monitor the health of these 50,000 sheep with only a single vet on board.
“National also kept the details of the $4million facilitation payment – which in other jurisdictions would be called a bribe – to the Al Khalaaf group in the Saudi sheep export controversy.
“It is now a week since Labour tried to make public the 2007 papers which deal directly with concerns about animal welfare upon landing of live sheep exports to Saudi Arabia. The Government alluded to these papers but has blocked their release since.
“The public is left in the dark and New Zealand taxpayers, New Zealand farmers and our international reputation all suffer the consequences,” says David Parker.
11 June 2015 MEDIA STATEMENT
Mr McCully told Radio New Zealand: ‘Look, I think you’ll find that the National Government did exactly the right thing by telling Mr Al-Khalaf what was going to be possible and what wasn’t, what the rules were going to be, to the extent that he was disappointed with that’.
“The Minister has also changed his position on the supposed legal threat from Mr Al-Khalaf from ‘legal claims estimated to be up to $30 million’ a week ago to ‘he was taking legal advice about his remedies’ today.
“Millionaires with substantial claims for $20 to $30 million issue proceedings. No New Zealand government pays out millions on the basis of grizzling and complaints.
“Murray McCully’s story is unravelling by the day. The ban on the export of live sheep for slaughter, introduced by Labour and extended twice by National, is and always was, legal. “This was a multi-million dollar facilitation payment, which is known in other jurisdictions as a bribe, to get a block out of the way of the FTA,” says David Parker.