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Money for nothing and the sheep are for free

Written By: - Date published: 8:36 am, May 29th, 2015 - 35 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, bill english, corruption, david parker, exports, farming, john key, national, Politics, same old national - Tags: ,

Sheep Farm

[New Zealand’s pilot agribusiness hub deep in the Saudi Arabian desert]

Competence matters more than spin in government. You need to know now that the experienced people you have will NOT work in a government run by McCully. I and others will not tolerate him exercising the same influence he does now.

Email from Bill English to Don Brash, 2005 – Hollow Men

Sheepgate is developing in a way that must be of concern to the Government.

David Parker has highlighted the difficulties.  Yesterday he suggested to Parliament that McCully’s behaviour may have been in breach of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Heather DuPlessis-Allen from TVOne has been doing sterling work on the issue.  She recently set out the extent she had to go to in an effort to find out how much was actually paid to the Saudi Arabian businessman.  The work required has been extensive and her tenacity should be acknowledged.

And she stated yesterday that the threat of litigation by the Saudi Arabian businessman against the New Zealand Government was withdrawn a year before the cabinet paper was presented.

From the One News website:

… a source has told ONE News the legal claim was withdrawn a year earlier, in February 2012.

Mr McCully has confirmed there was no pending legal action at the time he took the paper to Cabinet.

He says, “it certainly would’ve been [withdrawn] by the time the cabinet paper was filed.”

Mr McCully added, “At the beginning of these events there was legal action being discussed. Also a WTO suit was being discussed among some of the parties as well.”

But the cabinet paper (at least the redacted version) makes no mention of the withdrawal of the threat of legal proceedings which apparently occurred well before the paper was presented.

This has been confirmed by McCully and by John Key.  This morning’s Herald contains the following statements from McCully:

“At the beginning of these events there was legal action being discussed amongst the parties, also a WTO [World Trade Organisation] suit being discussed amongst some of the parties as well.”

Mr McCully said that legal action was off the table by the time Cabinet agreed to the farm, “because I had been dealing with the matter and tried to avoid the compensation claim and taken compensation out of the discussion”.

Key has had to burn up political capital in defending McCully:

Prime Minister John Key said whether a legal threat was “live” or not at the time Cabinet was told of the deal was not critical.

“Sometimes people say I might take legal action… sometimes what then happens is you try and find a way to resolve that issue, and therefore, because you are looking to resolve it, they put that legal action on hold. That’s a pretty normal practice.”

So if there was no pending legal action why did McCully raise this as a justification for payment of the funds?

If you want to see the extend that McCully has been claiming that resolving a legal dispute was the reason for the payment then this interchange from Parliamentary Question Time on Wednesday provides an example:

Hon David Parker : If this businessman needed New Zealanders to pay for the model farm using New Zealand technology and New Zealand sheep, what intellectual property justified this multi-million dollar payment?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY : As I indicated in my primary answer, the agreement that was struck between officials and the Al Khalaf group included all of the intellectual property associated with shifting the Awassi sheep breeding operation from New Zealand to a new location in Saudi Arabia. Also in the minds of officials would have been the fact that the Al Khalaf group had taken legal advice and could mount a legal claim against the Government for an amount estimated to be up to $30 million. It is a bit rich for members of the former Government, who exposed New Zealand to the risk of a $30 million claim, to berate members of this Government for resolving the issue for one-third of that amount.

Hon David Parker : Was the real reason the first $4 million was paid to pay off people whose influence in Saudi Arabia was getting in the way of the Gulf free-trade agreement?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY : I made it clear that one of the consequences, sadly, from this whole saga was that the relationship between New Zealand and Saudi Arabia was poisoned, and that poisoned relationship spilled over into the wider Gulf Cooperation Council. But I have also made it clear that the officials negotiating this matter had to consider the fact that there was a looming claim for up to $30 million, resulting from the actions of a Government of which the honourable Mr Parker was a member.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Is it not a fact that this is a new low in our international relationships, and that this is a multimillion-dollar bribe that has been given to private interests in Saudi Arabia? Is that not a fact?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY : I have made it clear that the officials who were dealing with this matter would have had on their minds the damage that had been done to New Zealand’s fading relationship with Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf, as well as having on their minds the exposure of the New Zealand Government to a substantial claim for damages resulting from the actions of the Government of which the right honourable member was a member.

Can anyone reconcile the fact that there was no pending legal action with McCully’s statements highlighted above?  If the claim had been withdrawn then why did McCully not say this?  Why did he choose to present the existence of a legal claim when there was none?

This type of spin is dangerous.  Often you will get away with it because the English language is too sloppy to pin down an accurate precise interpretation.  But sometimes you cannot reconcile what was said with reality.

Bill English was correct.  Substance is more important than spin.  I suspect that McCully’s days may be numbered.

[Title borrowed from the Green’s James Shaw]

35 comments on “Money for nothing and the sheep are for free”

  1. ianmac 1

    Perhaps McCully is being set up to withdraw or be withdrawn ready for an opening to be made in 2017 for the Conservative Party in McCully’s electorate.

  2. muso64 2

    No mention of this at all on the news last night. No wonder we have people supporting this government uncritically. We need an in-depth investigation of it.

    Mind you, it won’t be until it actually affects people in the pocket or on a personal level that they will wake up. Sometimes I despair.

    • Tracey 2.1

      That’s just a coincidence. That it wasn’t mentioned. BUT isn’t TVOne doing alot of the leg work?

    • Karen 2.2

      It wasn’t on TV3 news but DuPlessis-Allen did a story on TvOne last night.

      Her involvement makes me a bit suspicious as she is the one that did the soft whitewash feature on Cameron Slater for Seven Sharp, and she was also the one who “scooped” the story about Carmen Sepulini’s mother facing charges for benefit fraud.

      So my question is, who is feeding her this information?
      The obvious candidate is someone close to Judith Collins as she is the one who is likely to benefit from a cabinet vacancy.

      • Tracey 2.2.1

        There does seem to be a pattern (might be imagining it) that if a news outlet is pursuing a story, like an exclusive or whatever, the other channels ignore the entire story so as not to have to attribute to competition?

  3. A small technical point, but in shifting the sheep (presumably alive) to Saudi Arabia isn’t that the government being complicit in live sheep exporting? Which is against their own law?

    Have I got this right?

    Certainly from the sheep’s perspective it presumably feels much the same as being exported alive.

    • mickysavage 3.1

      Looks like the ban is on the exporting of livestock for slaughter although permission can be sought.

      https://www.mpi.govt.nz/exporting/overview/general-requirements/animal-welfare-export-certificates/exporting-livestock-for-slaughter/

      • Tracey 3.1.1

        So, what follow up on the livestock to ensure they weren’t slaughtered?

        And, is there a time limit cos presumably the Saudi’s weren’t just going to keep them as pets til they died of natural causes?

      • Puddleglum 3.1.2

        Thanks mickysavage.

        That’s interesting.

        The information in that link suggests either that (a) the sheep will not be slaughtered (or assurances to that effect were given) or (b) the sheep will be slaughtered but the particular case met, in the Director-General’s opinion, the conditions for exporting in a manner that does not damage New Zealand’s reputation for trading agricultural exports based on the following factors:

        – the export is for slaughter of livestock in commercial slaughter houses

        – the importing country has requirements in place that meet the World Organisation for Animal Health ‘Guidelines for the Slaughter of Animals’

        – cattle exported for slaughter are stunned prior to slaughter in accordance with any of the methods described in the Guidelines

        – the importing country has requirements in place that meet the World Organisation for Animal Health ‘Guidelines for the Transport of Animals by Land, Sea and Air’, in relation to the unloading and post-journey handling and transport of livestock

        – a pre-shipment audit of slaughter facilities by inspectors nominated by MPI, carried out at the exporters’ expense, demonstrates compliance with the above requirements

        – any other matter the Director-General of MPI considers necessary to manage the risks to New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible exporter of agricultural products.

        Exporters are also required to provide a declaration as to the purpose of export for all livestock exports.

        The Director-General may review the factors he or she considers relevant at any time, taking into account such matters as the experience from past trade.

        It would be interesting to know if an exemption was applied for and, if it was, the basis of the Director-Gerneral’s decision on it in relation to those factors that can be taken into consideration.

  4. I think that when John Key said that his government was going to be one in which he imposed ‘higher standards’ what he meant was that the standard of the threshold for when he would sack a minister would be raised far above such minor issues as lying to the public.

    It all makes sense now.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      +1

      This government has far lower standards for corruption and lying than any other NZ government I’ve known in my lifetime.

  5. Anne 5

    Mind you, it won’t be until it actually affects people in the pocket or on a personal level that they will wake up.

    And then they will be told its all Labour’s fault and they will believe it.

    McCully is a machiavellian character from way back, so the chances of duplicity are very high. With such “scandals” in the international spotlight, now is the time for all good NZ investigative journalists to put their heads together and expose NZ’s version for all to see.

    Sheepgate! What an appropriate name for NZ’s contribution to international bribery scandals.

    • Tracey 5.1

      I think Bill’s advice to brash fell on deaf ears cos like brownlee, McCully has killed a few but knows where other people’s bodies are buried too.

  6. And thenthere'sme 6

    Isn’t deliberately misleading Parliament an offence under the jurisdiction of the Privileges Committee?

  7. Tracey 7

    “Sometimes people say I might take legal action… sometimes what then happens is you try and find a way to resolve that issue, and therefore, because you are looking to resolve it, they put that legal action on hold. That’s a pretty normal practice.”

    Can I just say that my experience of legal matters over the years is that when you say or write to a party that you might take legal action, when it is a LARGE/MONIED organisation, they usually write back and say yeah but nah, and wait to see if you will take it further and watch you spill your money into the lawyer pit. Then if you do instigate a legal action, they (the defence) do the very minimum while making the other party burn their money on lawyers and ONLY enter negotiations when they absolutely have to.

    Now, you might deviate from this course if, for example, you have done something that you don’t want your customers to know about cos you think it would hurt your business… and that needs to be quashed.

  8. Melanie Scott 8

    Maybe there is a job for Mr McCully at FIFA. Let’s hope so. Great title to the article by the way.

    • Tracey 8.1

      I know some people who have worked “with” McCully and other sports ministers. They all rate him very low (even below Cosgrove who gets no bouquets). Mallard rates highly as a Minister who let them get on with the governance and operation. McCullys couldn’t keep his paws off everything…

    • Tracey 8.2

      perfect audition by our former minister of sport

  9. mickysavage 9

    James Shaw used it in Parliament yesterday and it was that good I had to recycle it!

  10. Puckish Rogue 10

    Wonder if James Shaw can be tempted to the dark side…

  11. ianmac 11

    Have seen almost nothing on this story in mainstream media today. Wonder why?

  12. Maybe Heather could help uncover what ‘deals’ have been done over the sale of ‘surplus’ educational land of Northcross Bush here in Browns Bay?

    Gone from public to private ownership, without notification:
    Title sliced off for piece of land locked land, without notification:
    Title amalgamated to another conveniently purchased to give access, without notification:

    COD – sounds a bit fishy? – now going for notified application ASAP – i.e before PAUP is adopted and claiming they preferred notification – failing to mention their application for non-notification was rejected and they are likely to get it through faster than if non-notified!

    Murray refused to meet with concerned residents on site preferring instead to visit with Nickki Kaye and the principals of Sherwood Primary and Northcross Intermediate – all blinded by dollars signs as they get to divvy up the proceeds – my guess the principals have shot themselves in the foot since it will go to fix their leaky buildings which the Ministry of Education would have to have fixed anyway and in the process they have deprived the children, and their children of an educational resource that most schools would give their proverbial eye-teeth for – viz a panorama of regenerating native forest illustrating the succession from bare pasture to weedy regrowth and regeneration to mature bush with increasing birdlife etc:
    as well as being a self-sustaining ecosystem and thus valuable part of the North-Wets Wild Link that Auckland Council and Ministry for the Environment claim to be protecting and which will be lost when this is cut in half since 5 hectares is the minimum for it to function in this manner.

    This will never be ‘affordable’ housing so what deals have been struck?
    Has it anything to do with Long Bay College wanting more playing fields?
    Please get to the bottom of this Heather . . . :}

    PS I am sure Murray will come up with an attractive ‘compensation’ package for COD – maybe a shipment of live possums to benefit NZ and their own country???

  13. esoteric pineapples 13

    “Key has had to burn up political capital in defending McCully”

    I think it is safe to say that – given National just got 54 percent in the latest poll – Key has about as much political capital to burn up from his slavish devotees as solar power has available from the Sun.

    • ScottGN 13.1

      Except that political capital is more like a fossil fuel rather than a renewable like solar – once it’s gone it’s gone.

    • Tracey 13.2

      what do you think about the behaviour of mccully, if the accusations are true?

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