MFAT officials refuse to back Prime Minister on Saudi sheep claims

An Ombudsman’s interim decision released about the existence or otherwise of legal advice on the multimillion dollar Saudi sheep deal shows MFAT has failed to back up the Prime Minister’s claims on the matter, says Labour MP David Parker.
The Prime Minister and Murray McCully have both repeatedly claimed that there was a legal risk to New Zealand taxpayers that justified the payment of $4m to a Saudi businessman.”
“The Ombudsman has said MFAT are refusing to disclose whether a legitimate legal risk ever existed, now claiming this would prejudice New Zealand’s international relations.
“It’s an absurd position but a very revealing one.
“If the advice did exist, then Ministry officials would have confirmed National Ministers’ assertions; but instead they’ve chosen to hide behind ‘international relations’ to avoid Ministers’ embarrassment.
“How can the Minister and PM credibly say admitting the existence or otherwise of a legal claim would prejudice New Zealand’s international relations, when both have already publicly asserted the legal risk justified the payment?
“By hiding behind potential threats to international relations, there’s only one credible explanation; no advice existed.
“The excuse has always been hollow.
“The Government has misled New Zealanders. The suspicion is reinforced that in reality a multi-million dollar facilitation payment was made to a disgruntled Saudi businessman.
“It’s time for transparency and honesty.”
Letter available upon request

21 October 2016 Media Statement

Planning reform report a turning point?

A joint report from business and environmentalists on the Resource Management laws could be a turning point for both planning and environmental protection, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker.
“The four organisations, the Environmental Defence Society, the Property Council, the EMA and NZCID are to be congratulated for a mature and considered approach in yesterday’s report.
“Three points stand out for me:
1.    At long last there is recognition that many of the frustrations arise outside the RMA, from the Building Act and the Local Government Act.
2.    Regional councils have been ineffective in stopping pollutions of our rivers, estuaries and wetlands. The report highlights that many participants in the study believe this is because Regional Councils have been captured by farming interests, and central government has failed to provide the national direction needed.
3.    Urban planning improvements need to address more than the RMA, and must to pay better attention to empirical evidence and rational economic principles, rather than conjecture and suppressed price signals.
“Labour agrees this is complex work which needs to be carried forward through measured inquiry, which we will follow through when elected.
“National has for the last 8 years made the RMA ever more complex, without fixing the wider urban planning challenge, or the rural environment. The result is unaffordable house prices and dirty rivers. National has failed.
“The latest bungled amendments to the RMA by National are so flawed that it has been stuck with no progress since December last year!
“National’s current Bill once again makes the RMA more complex and undermines the environment. It removes rights of public participation and confers dictatorial powers on the Minister, Nick Smith.  The submitters –developers, councils, or environmental NGOs – don’t want it, and they are right. 
“Meetings to progress the bill at Select Committee have been delayed for month upon month upon month, because the Government does not know how to proceed. Two special days of meetings scheduled for next week were cancelled yesterday, because cabinet has yet to make up its mind.
“In Labour’s view, it is time for National to admit their latest RMA Bill does not help, and in fact makes things worse, and should be dumped,“ says David Parker.

29 September 2016   Media Statement



Friday fish dump stinks

This government has dumped bad news on a Friday to try to avoid political scrutiny in Parliament, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker.

“Heron QC is to be thanked for a fearless report.

“After years of denials of problems, and attacks on those who made criticisms, the first independent report has turned up serious wrongdoing.

“The report says the cover-up of widespread quota fraud in the industry by senior enforcement personnel was partly caused by concern for their own reputation, after they earlier failed to enforce the law.

“New CEO Dunne is not at fault, but is wrong to say it is time to move on.

“The question of why there was systemic failure in the upper echelons of Ministry for Primary Industries enforcement has still not been properly answered.

“It is fair to question whether the Ministry is too close to the Fishing industry and have put commercial needs well ahead of environmental bottom lines.

“There are also serious questions about the actions of a number of officials over a long period and this needs to be investigated.

“The QMS population modelling used to assess remaining fish stocks may also be wrong, given that it was based on lower than actual catch data. There are many questions yet to be answered, David Parker says.

16 September 2016     Media Statement

Government still covering up real reason for $4m Saudi payment

The Government has now spent more than a year resisting disclosure of official information regarding whether there was legal advice supporting Murray McCully’s statement that the $4 million cash pay-out to a Saudi businessman was to settle “a legal claim”, Labour MP David Parker says.

“The media and the Labour Party have been seeking clarification through the Ombudsman under the Official Information Act of the existence, or otherwise, of documents to show whether this was true or just an excuse.

“The Minister has been supressing the documents.

“Murray McCully and the Prime Minister have repeatedly claimed the payment – made without Cabinet approval – was to avoid legal claims following New Zealand’s live sheep export ban. We still haven’t seen any evidence it was.

“Treasury couldn’t find any reference to legal proceedings in their advice.

“I suspect these long delays are to avoid admitting the ‘legal claim’ did not exist, and has been an excuse to justify a shabby, unprincipled deal.

“I do not believe there was any claim or any right of action. If there was, the official papers would show it.

“It’s time John Key and Murray McCully disclosed the documents, to show whether the ‘legal claim’ was real or made up,” David Parker says.
6 September 2016 Media Statement

It’s OK to have a few slaves, just not too many? Minimum wage loophole hasn’t gone away

New Zealand still needs legislation to ensure adult New Zealanders are not exploited by being taken on as contractors for less than the equivalent of the minimum wage, says Labour list MP David Parker.

“My Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill was defeated by one vote this week – 61 to 60. The National party voted it down. They acknowledge it happens, but say it is not widespread enough to fix. This is like saying it’s OK to have a few slaves, just not too many!

“It remains a travesty that adult New Zealanders can be engaged as contractors and paid less than the minimum wage. Other countries like the UK apply the minimum pay rate to work, whether as an employee or a contractor. My Member’s Bill did the same.

“Submitters made the point that closing the New Zealand loophole would help New Zealand meet its obligations as a member of the International Labour Organisation, whose rules member states should combat ‘disguised employment relationships’.

“There is rising exploitation of low paid workers in New Zealand. They are disproportionately young, women, Māori and Pacific Island people. The large number of work-permitted foreign students are especially vulnerable to exploitation. Some are not even paid the equivalent of the minimum wage.

“The sad fact is that in our country, which used to pride itself on being fair, it remains legal to exploit low paid workers this way. We will fix this when elected to government,” says David Parker.


26th August 2016      Media Statement

Saudi sheep deal still stinks

Documents released today confirm Treasury were not aware of any threat of legal action from a Saudi businessman to justify the Government handing over millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money, Labour MP David Parker says.

“Almost $12 million has been spent on equipment and sending sheep to businessman Hamood Al Khalaf’s farm in Saudi Arabia.

“Foreign Minister Murray McCully and the Prime Minister have repeatedly claimed a $4 million payment was to avoid legal action following New Zealand’s live sheep ban.

“The documents reveal that just a week after John Key claimed that payment was to avoid legal action, officials from Treasury couldn’t find any reference to legal proceedings in their advice.

“It’s appalling that the truth had to be dragged out of both Murray McCully and the Government. The Auditor-General is currently investigating and, if it’s confirmed the deal was improper, the Government needs to respond appropriately.

“These new documents only confirm what we have been saying all along – that this was a shabby, unprincipled deal that has wasted millions dollars of taxpayers’ cash,” David Parker says.

29 July 2016 Media Statement

PCE proves water quality still deteriorating

The PCE State of the Environment Report shows that river water quality is continuing to get worse across large parts of New Zealand, says Labour’s Environment and Water spokesperson David Parker.
“Water quality has deteriorated in Canterbury, Central Otago, Auckland, Taranaki, Central North Island, the Wairarapa and the Manawatu. 
“After eight years of National, this is a fail. Land use intensity that is increasing pollution to our rivers is not yet under control. National’s wadability (rather than swimability) minimum standard is part of the problem. 
“New Zealand needs to return to the form of National Policy Statement under the RMA recommended by former Chief Environment Court Judge Sheppard. It said clean rivers should be kept clean and dirty rivers cleaned up over a generation. To achieve this increases in land use intensity should not be a permitted activity until plans have the rules needed to keep our rivers clean.
“The problems caused by erosion, including the siltation of our rivers and estuaries, are made worse by poor government policy. Current water and climate change policy distorts land use choices to the detriment of forestry profitability. This is a significant cause of the problem,” says David Parker.

29 June 2016 Media Statement