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Blood for milk? Pull the other one

Written By: - Date published: 8:44 pm, December 20th, 2010 - 29 comments
Categories: exports, iraq - Tags: ,

It’s surreal to see people who said that we should have gone to Iraq and that not going cost us a trade deal with the US, now saying that the Reconstruction Team we sent was to get access for our milk exports. The claim’s based on a US Embassy cable but that doesn’t make it gospel. In reality, the Right wanted us to fight in Iraq to get an FTA with the US.

The cables say:

“Senior MOD officials (strictly protect) tell us it was not until Finance Minister Michael Cullen pointed out in a subsequent Cabinet meeting that New Zealand’s absence from Iraq might cost NZ dairy conglomerate Fonterra the lucrative dairy supply contract it enjoyed under the United Nations Oil for Food program, that the prime minister found a face-saving compromise and sent combat engineers in a non-combat role to Basra, where they were embedded with British forces…

…Sending combat engineers to Iraq has enabled the giant New Zealand dairy exporter, Fonterra, to bid on lucrative Iraq-related contracts… I don’t mean to imply that New Zealand has participated in these efforts solely for its own gain.”

Let’s examine the proposition that Labour changed its mind because of some possible threat to Fonterra’s “lucrative” Iraq contracts. They surely must have been worth of money for a government to change its mind, eh?

In fact, Fonterra’s contracts were worth just $50 million a year. That’s less than a percent of Fonterra’s turnover. The cost of sending the Provincial Reconstruction Team would surely have been in the tens of millions. So, the idea that the government went to that cost, and risked lives, merely to enhance Fonterra’s chance of getting some crumby post-war contracts is laughable.

Fonterra’s then CEO Craig Norgate said he didn’t think that Labour’s position on the invasion would have any influence on his company’s role in post-war Iraq.

We sent the PRT to Iraq for the same reasons we sent one to Afghanistan and a medical team to the First Gulf War – to live up to our commitment as a good international citizen to helping societies rebuild after war, not to sell a minuscule amount of milk powder.

The irony here is that it was actually National wanting us to send combat troops to Iraq to enhance our trade prospects. There was John Key’s hysterical rant for example:

“Where is our name? Missing! It is “MIA” just like it was during the war in Iraq—missing. This country will pay for that—members need not worry about that. There will be no US free-trade arrangement with New Zealand. One thing we do not have to worry about is container ships going to America, because none will be leaving this country for America; there will be no free-trade arrangement because of the absolute shambles that the Government has made of that position.”

So, who wanted to risk blood so we could sell more milk?

29 comments on “Blood for milk? Pull the other one ”

  1. Of course, some of us considered that sending troops to free millions was reward enough.

    • Zorr 1.1

      And destabilize the region! Costing many more civilian lives than under Saddam! WOOOOOOOOOOO!

      Shall we also try forget the Iran-Iraq war that the US supplied weapons to both sides of?

      Brutal dictator that he was, he was good for one thing and one thing only. Bringing a semblance of peace to the region under his iron fist.

  2. Successive governments have shied away from overt displays of cosiness with the USA. We have a view that our hard one right to stand up for ourselves (and the respect that goes with it) must not be traded down the river. David Lange’s nuclear-free stance and its inherent defiance of authority resonated deeply with our kiwi values of egalitarianism (big brother will not tell us what to do) and independence (big brother will not tell us what to do). It resonated in a way that almost all kiwis understood and it can’t easily be “unresonated”.
    In light of this, John Key’s repeated readiness to sell New Zealand’s independent foreign policy down the river surprises me. Sure, it’s unprincipled, but it seems unusually bold in a PM who has shown himself to be domestically poll-driven.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Yep. Time for NZ’ers to get back their own independent voice of leadership in international policy. Never gonna happen under a Bill and John “what NZ workers rights can we sell out to you today Mr Big Corporate?” Government.

      BTW the US is in for a crappy next two years. China recently overtook Japan as the second largest economy in the world. And it is on track to be the largest single economy globally by the time yesterdays new baby finishes university.

  3. Jenny 3

    The seabed and foreshore legislation was enacted to head off any possible legal challenge to multinational exploitation of our marine resources based on indigenous customary usage, or title.

    And the notorious Free Trade Deal with Communist China which was signed at the crescendo of violent suppression of Tibetan democracy protests. And against the objections of the union movement here.

    When it came to promoting Free Trade, you have to admit Marty, that the last Labour Government was pretty gung ho.

  4. JJ 4

    Clark didn’t send engineers to Iraq for $50 million dollars

    Key didn’t change his stanc eon alcohol policies for $10k in a wine orchard.

    The end.

    Can we stop the paranoid partisan politics now?

    Oh wait this is the blogosphere

    Move along folks, nothing to see here.

    • felix 4.1

      “Key didn’t change his stanc eon alcohol policies for $10k in a wine orchard.”

      Cool strawman bro.

      The issue with Key having his fat little fingers in so many money pies is one of conflict of interest, and the conflict exists regardless of any decisions he might or might not make.

      Oh, and all the lying about it. That was a bit weird, dontchareckon?

  5. This is not fair Marty G. You use facts and reasoned analysis to disprove wingnut manufactured hysteria.

    How are they going to have a chance of actually winning an argument if you do this?

  6. felix 6

    Anyone know where to find the audio or video of Key’s bloodthirsty money-grubbing rant? It’s quite revealing of Key’s character and true nature.

  7. …. here it is http://thestandard.org.nz/the-nats-on-iraq/

    I’ll add the video to the post

  8. burt 8

    No no this blood for export earnings can’t be true, the National party are the ones who have policy dictated by the US and make secret deals for big business.

    I guess if Winston from the Labour-led govt accused National of using secret trusts and having secret business backers and Labour say National party policy was dictated by the US and had secret deals with big business – then it all makes sense.

  9. Bill 9

    10% of Fontera’s milk solids were sold in Iraq during the ‘Oil for Food’ programme. That’s not insubstantial and was arguably set to increase with the ending of the programme. And as the article linked to in the post suggests, the potential was there for the market broadening to include other dairy products.

    Also, $NZ80.5 million may well represent only a small %age of turnover, but it’s not an insubstantial amount.

    It might be useful to know the current level of Fontera sales to Iraq and what their expectations were back in 2003, no?

    David Shearer on RNZ’s ‘the panel’ yesterday also seemed to take it as read that there was a trade-off. So is the thinking behind the post merely based on a difficulty to accept that a Labour government would ‘wheel and deal’ policy for trade? Why?

    I mean, even Labour MP’s are saying it happened and that the trade-off was a reasonable compromise.

    (edit) Wasn’t progression of free trade talks a result of Goff phoning Clark and NZ dropping it’s veto on the transfer of nuclear technology to India? Trading, wheeling, dealing.

    • burt 9.1

      OK Bill, so you are being a Labour apologist over 10% of our dairy exports so perhaps you could tell us where the “It’s OK because Labour did it” line is;

      Is 5% of our dairy exports enough ? Is 1% of our dairy exports enough ?

      How about if I see a person in the supermarket buying the Nestle flavoured milk rather than the Anchor – should we send the army in to blowup their house with your “Labour good” blessing ?

      • Bill 9.1.1

        Never been accused of being a Labour apologist before. Quite an insult, there wee fella. Groundless though.

        Just so’s you know, I don’t think that any foreign personnel or contractors should have been ushered into Iraq under the auspices of the occupying powers. Know what I mean? Iraq should have been provided the finances from reparation payments and they then should have made the decision as to whether to contract out rebuilding efforts to foreign companies.

        So the compromise is not something I agree with.

        By the way. Nestle flavoured milk? What’s a ‘nestle’ taste like Burt?

  10. Lanthanide 10

    NZ is never going to get a free-trade agreement with the US, at least not one that does us any good.

    The US has got very strong farm lobbies, and because the senate must approve any free-trade agreement, and many senators come from farm states, it just isn’t going to happen.

  11. Murray 11

    I mean, even Labour MP’s are saying it happened and that the trade-off was a reasonable compromise.
    Then according to Marty G These Labour MP,s are plainly wrong.

    • Bill 11.1

      Whether or not it represents a ‘reasonable compromise’ is open to debate. And how much of an influence Fonterra’s potential trade had on the policy decision is also open to (fairly pointless) speculation.

    • burt 11.2


      Would these be the same Labour MPs who have still not acknowledged Taito Field was corrupt and who still claim Winston was the victim of a baseless attack and would happily form a coalition with the proven liar again?

      It’s OK when Labour do it….

      [lprent: Interesting – do you have a link for “…who still claim Winston was the victim of a baseless attack…”. I know I think that there was no substantive base for it, but I wasn’t aware of any Labour MP’s who’d said the same thing. The most that I’ve heard is the same as John Key post-election – that they won’t rule out working with Winston if he got elected.

      Or are you just making up bullshit and would like the opportunity to retract it? ]

      • burt 11.2.1


        Accept my most sincere apologies for such gross misrepresentation. May I re-post that comment as follows.


        Would these be the same Labour MPs who have still not acknowledged Taito Field was corrupt and who still claim that there was no substantive base for Winston Peters being called a liar other than his being proven to have not declared donations in his party funding returns which he publicly denied.

        It’s OK when Labour do it….

        [lprent: Still doesn’t have a link for “.. same Labour MPs … who still claim that there was no substantive base for Winston Peters being called a liar…”. I cannot recall any of them saying any such thing.

        Link to substantiate your claim of fact please. I’m getting impatient…

        BTW1: The other one is a negative. I could equally well say “Would these be the same National and Act MPs who have still not acknowledged Taito Field was corrupt” and it would be equally valid.
        BTW2: That Winston Peters is a liar I’d agree with. But I frequently think that you are and I know John Key is.
        BTW3: Nonsense statements like what you’re trying here should probably be expressed as being your opinion, not as statements of fact unless you can prove them. ]

  12. Carol 12

    There’s an interesting interview with Fran O’Sullivan from this morning’s Nine-to-Noon:


    She sees it as a fairly understandable and ordinary thing for cabinet to consider something like the Fronterra issue, but that it doesn’t mean it was acted upon. It’s just thaat cabinet usually has some fairly wide-ranging discussions. She says it looks kind of different from that reality, when it makes a stark headline in the dailies as a Wikileaks cable – basically she doesn’t think the headlines necessarily match the reality.

    In the interview O’Sullivan & Ryan weigh up the possibility of Fronterra’s potential contracts influencing the decision to send non-combat troops to Iraq. FO’S seems to think that the relationship between the Clark & UK governments was as big a consideration, or maybe a bigger one.

  13. burt 13

    Dear Andrew Ferrier,

    Can you please tell John Key what is good for Fonterra so that he may be as useful to your companies profit as Helen was.


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