Written By: - Date published: 8:36 am, June 24th, 2015 - 42 comments
Categories: david parker, Economy, farming, john key, national, national/act government, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: murray mccully, saudi arabia, sheepgate
There was some crazy talk in Parliament yesterday. Greens leader James Shaw suggested that a National Cabinet Minister may have invited the Saudi Sheep Farmer whose sheep raising efforts have not been very successful to sue NZ Inc.
James Shaw and David Parker asked John Key some very interesting questions. The video is here:
The transcript from Hansard included these passages:
James Shaw : Does he have confidence that all of his Ministers, in particular Murray McCully, disclosed all details about the threat of legal action against the Government by Mr Al Khalaf and his associates?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes. I will refer the member to the Cabinet paper on this matter.
James Shaw : Did any of his Ministers suggest to Mr Al Khalaf and his associates that they sue the Government of New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, I cannot speak for the other Ministers—I have never asked that question—but I know I certainly did not and I would be surprised if they did.
So John Key would be surprised if his ministers suggested to a Saudi sheep farmer that he should sue NZ? I mean was he being real? I mean WTF? Did he really think that it was possible?
Then there was this question:
James Shaw : Why then did Brownrigg Agriculture in a letter dated November 2011 to Murray McCully say that Mr Al Kalaf will be looking “to seek commercial redress, as indeed suggested by your Government as a last resort option for him.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I cannot answer that question because I was not privy to those conversations, but what we do know by the paper trail that was released last week is that this problem was the making of Labour, which misled that investor and misled Saudi Ministers. [Interruption] It is very inconvenient for those members, but it is actually factually correct.
The “it is all Labour’s fault” is getting really weak. And for a Minister to suggest to someone that they should sue the Government should be grounds for immediate sacking. Shaw then asked if it was true:
James Shaw : Did the Government encourage Mr Al Khalaf to seek commercial redress so that his Government could justify buying Mr Al Khalaf’s cooperation for the Gulf States free-trade deal?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not aware of all the conversations that other Ministers would have had, but the reality of the situation was that Labour inherited a mess by deliberately misleading the Saudis over this issue.
Surely the answer should have been “NO NO NO”. So National Ministers may have encouraged the Saudi sheep farmer to seek redress but it was all Labour’s fault?
James Shaw : Why did the Prime Minister say to the media last week that he was not aware of any cause of action when Murray McCully claimed in the House that the reason for the farm in the desert was that New Zealand was exposed to “legal claims estimated to be up to $30 million”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Because the way I interpreted the question was, had I actually seen the action of the $20 to $30 million, and I said I was aware of it. My point was that I was aware of it in the Cabinet paper, but I was also aware that that was a potential threat, and it was parked up when negotiations began.
Key should allow release of the unredacted cabinet papers so that his claims can be understood. Then David Parker asked this question:
Hon David Parker : Does he believe that in 2013 the Al Khalaf group had a legal right of action against the New Zealand Government for $20 to $30 million?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It is not for me to offer legal opinions in this House, and the member knows that.
So that is a probable no. Parker then again sought to table the un-redacted version of the Sheepgate Cabinet papers but this was refused. Murray McCully suggested that the proof was in the unredacted part of the cabinet papers. If so he and Key are reading something that no one else has been able to.
The final question was a doozie:
Hon David Parker : Would a Minister who authorised a multimillion-dollar facilitation payment to be made to a disaffected businessman to unlock a free-trade agreement retain his confidence?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Absolutely, and for the reasons I pointed out earlier. The previous Labour Government can run, but it cannot hide. On two occasions, it deliberately misled the Saudis. They know it. Phil Goff actually went to Riyadh—
So facilitation payments aka bribes are acceptable to the Prime Minister?
Brownrigg Agriculture Group Limited is the company in which the Saudi Sheep farmer has an interest. It supplied the sheep which were airfreighted to Saudi Arabia with disastrous results for the sheep’s offspring. I would be really interested to see how that tender process was handled given the threat to commence legal proceedings.
Director David Brownrigg confirmed the important details of the letter. From the Herald this morning:
David Brownrigg, managing director of Brownrigg, said it was the company’s understanding the Government had suggested commercial redress as an option for Mr Al Khalaf.
Asked if Mr Al Khalaf considered commercial redress as a response to National’s actions, Mr Brownrigg said: “Yes, it is our understanding that Mr Al Khalaf considered commercial redress as a response to Governments’ actions on live sheep exports over the previous seven years.”
One burning question I have is if Labour did damage the relationship with the Saudis then why were they able to successfully commence free trade negotiations which have been concluded? It seems much more likely that the Saudi sheep farmer is upset at National’s broken promise to lift the ban on the export of sheep for slaughter than he was for Labour continuing the ban which started in 2003.
Murray McCully is back in the country and I am pretty sure he will be targeted for questions in Parliament today. Talk about leading sheep to the slaughter …