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#Sheepgate – Key’s cheerleaders are sent in

Written By: - Date published: 9:06 am, August 7th, 2015 - 62 comments
Categories: john key, national, national/act government, same old national, trade, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: ,

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National must be hurting over this issue.  Yesterday morning we had contributions from two of this Government’s strongest leaders saying there is no issue here and we should just move on.

John Armstrong says that National has outmanoeuvred the opposition parties by saying it was all Labour’s fault and sticking to that line.  Memo to John, Key does this all the time.  He is like a child saying that he is innocent and someone else is to blame for something when clearly he is responsible.  The issue is focus grouped to an inch of its life and then Key sticks to the settled line mercilessly.  He does not budge no matter how implausible the line is.

The job of an investigative reporter should be to investigate that line and report on its accuracy, not repeat the line and then say Key won because he kept repeating the line.

So where is the evidence that it is all Labour’s fault?

There is none.

Where is the evidence that the claim was to settle a legal threat created by Labour?

Nope, no evidence of this either unless he is referring to the 2003 suspension of trade in live sheep.  If this is what he is referring to then the Saudis could not sue because amongst other things too much time had elapsed and in any event the decision was well within the New Zealand Government’s authority.

Was it National’s fault?

I believe so.  National has renewed the ban of the export of live sheep since coming to power.  Following the election National commenced negotiations with the Saudis to establish a Memorandum of Understanding to resume the trade in sheep.  The course of the negotiations have been described by Richard Harman as deceitful.

The background is described in this article from Stuff:

In May 2010, MFAT officials reported back to Wellington that the dealings between the New Zealand Government and Al Khalaf group were being watched at the highest levels “possibly even by the King and Crown Prince”.

Saudi investors at that time had written to Prime Minister John Key, asking him to intervene on the issue.

“Their letter notes an increasing sense of injustice and frustration, of the New Zealand Government acting in bad faith; of being stringed along for seven years and incurring significant losses while a phantom [memorandum of understanding] negotiation was undertaken; of having their positions misrepresented; of being denigrated by animal welfare groups…

“They raise serious allegations about New Zealand imposing conditions in the negotiations that questionable under international law,” officials in Riyadh warned.

And National has refused to release the letter itself.  I wonder why?

Of course Armstrong could have analysed the background and made a judgment on the claims.  Rather than repeating parrot like that it was all Labour’s fault.  But don’t believe me.  Have a read of the comments to Armstrong’s article which are almost universally scathing of his idolatry.

The second National cheerleader, Mike Hosking has said (video embedded here) that there was nothing to see and we should all move on.  He also said there was no smoking gun.  He does not refer to the duplicitous MOU negotiations or the attempts to hide the payment.  He also thinks the payment was fine because there was a good business case.

If this is true you have to wonder at the extreme measures McCully took to hide the payment.  And if there is a threat of legal action McCully has not extinguished it and worked to keep lawyers away from the deal.  If New Zealand Inc can be sued then the payment has not taken this possibility away.

Richard Harman has gone through the recently released papers and described McCully’s behaviour in this way:

Foreign Minister Murray McCully wanted to set up his deal over the Saudi Arabian farm so lawyers and bureaucrats would not be involved.

He did not want the payments to the Al Khalaf Group called “compensation” for the losses they suffered as a result of New Zealand’s ban on the export of live sheep for slaughter.

And his aides were busy instructing the Al Khalaf Group what wording to use on their invoices even before the Cabinet had approved the project.

Harman also theorises, correctly in my opinion, that “what Mr McCully appears not have bargained on was that all these papers would become public.”

Hosking’s reasoning fails in one important particular.  Despite the expenditure of $11.5 million of New Zealand taxpayer’s money we do not have a completed trade agreement with Saudi Arabia.  Not only does the payment have all the hallmarks of a bribe it also appears to have failed in its objective.

As for Hosking’s comment that no one is talking about sheepgate I disagree.  Every time I say to someone that the government has spent $11.5 million of our money setting up a sheep farm in a Saudi desert and flying a flock of pregnant ewes to Saudi Arabia and that most of the lambs subsequently died the usual response is to laugh.  The proposition is pythonesque in its idiocy.

So we have the payment of a failed bribe, a sheep farm in a Saudi desert where most of the lambs died, negotiation of a MOU with a foreign state where National’s behaviour has been described as duplicitous and an active attempt to avoid legal and bureaucratic oversight.  And Armstrong and Hosking think that National is on the right side of this issue.

Harman thinks that a privilege complaint alleging Mr McCully has misled Parliament cannot be out of the question.  I could not agree more.

62 comments on “#Sheepgate – Key’s cheerleaders are sent in ”

  1. repateet 1

    Armstrong doesn’t want to talk about the real issue and then we have “Hosking’s reasoning.”

    Cheerleaders? Cheersheep.

  2. Charles 2

    Labour, Labour, it’s their fault

    If they dropped the ball…

    …we can too!

    Gimme a K,

    Gimme an E,

    Gimme a Y,

    Why?

    As

    pir

    National!

    Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay KEY!

  3. Stuart Munro 3

    I may be in Dammam again shortly – might try to get a look at this agrihub. 2 million sheep per year is surely achievable, but probably not by flying ewes business class. I wonder what degree of Agresearch participation there has been – I expect they know a thing or two about sheep farming – though not so much about bribery.

  4. Karen 4

    Thanks for this Mickey. I was astonished by Armstrong’s piece – I would have expected a bit better from him, in spite of his Nat bias.

    Brent Edwards has posted an excellent summation this morning.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/280707/woolly-claims-about-questionable-deals

    • dukeofurl 4.1

      Well Armstrong is now second fiddle to Hosking with NZME. They are combining the two operations newsrooms, NZ Herald and ZB.

      It looks like the new Herald editor is just assigning a background piece from Armstrong ( written mostly from nationals press release/backgrounder for the day) while Mikes Minute video was the main item- (cant have anyone disagree with magic Mike !)

    • tc 4.2

      Smellstrong is a major nat sycophant and a perfect example of the resident bias of the NZ herald.

    • aidan 4.3

      yeah same. i wonder how he feels when he publishes these pieces. i can only assume he is payed well as a sop to his pride. actually it would be interesting to find out if these cheerleaders are getting facilitation payments for there published opinions

      • dukeofurl 4.3.1

        Not a peep out of him during the “Sercus” debacle ?

        I sometimes wonder if he did write one or more articles but the editors didnt publish

      • Oh he probably feels like a winner and doesn’t give a crap about the actual facts because he’s WINNING. lol.

  5. DH 5

    I must admit I’ve had a little trouble following all the threads but my reading of it was that the Saudis weren’t upset at the Labour Govt rather they were pissed because National Party representatives had promised the Saudis to repeal the ban on live shipping when National next came into power and had failed to keep that promise.

    Is that how others read it or have I interpreted it wrong?

    • mickysavage 5.1

      My take as well. The MOU that was going nowhere seemed to be the main irritant.

      • aidan 5.1.1

        same. its wierd that i have to read all these things here or tdb, since all the msm articles keep repeating the same things bout labour doin it etc, even when this information has come to light

    • Karen 5.2

      I agree DH.
      Al Khalaf was annoyed with Labour for stopping live sheep exports, but it was the Nats promising to change the law when they got in and then reneging that made him really angry.

      I’d love to know what donations to the Nats he made. The fact he wanted to get the wording right for the invoice suggests maybe he had had some previous experience with the Nats of having to change details to cover something up – perhaps changing the name of the recipient and/or amount on a cheque?

    • John Shears 5.3

      Agreed DH

    • mary_a 5.4

      @ DH (5) No, you are correct, I read and heard it as well. David Carter was well involved with this one, because he was expected to be agriculture minister in the next NatzKEY government (which was the case when NatzKEY was elected in 2008).

      As he is implicated in this issue up to his eyeballs, it will be interesting next week when Parliament (conveniently) resumes, to see how far he allows Opposition questioning of NatzKEY over the corrupt Saudi sheep dag deal!

      Carter’s position is now compromised. I think he should temporarily (depending how things pan out, perhaps permanently) step down as Speaker, to allow some unchallenged questions to be asked!

  6. Matthew Hooton 6

    The way the invoice was prepared could draw the attention of the Serious Fraud Office.

    • mickysavage 6.1

      Agreed and it certainly is inconsistent with his claims that the payment was compensatory in nature. McCully seems to have had different versions of what was happening depending on who he was dealing with at the time.

    • Tracey 6.2

      have you laid a complaint with them?

    • freedom 6.3

      Returning to a question from the other day Matthew. As you saw, Macro posted the ex-Hansard answers I was referring to and I am sure you know I knew what you knew the Government had and had not said about any legal advice they had sought.

      I am sure you would agree a Ministry’s in-house legal department are no replacement for the authority and the accountability of The Crown Law Office. Seeing as the Government admits they did not seek any advice from Crown Law, what do you consider the proper action should be against a Government who claims they are facing a legal threat of $30 million dollars, pays out $11 million dollars to the people making the alleged threat, yet at no time seeks the advice of the Crown law Office?

    • Macro 6.4

      “The way the invoice was prepared could draw the attention of the Serious Fraud Office”.Absolutely agreed. It smells to high heaven.

  7. Brendon Harre 7

    Murray McCully has to go before he destroys NZ’s entire foreign policy.

    We all know he is a devious conniving little s…. and to have him representing us kiwis in an official capacity is not acceptable.

    Meanwhile John Key’s time will come, when we eventually get around to cleaning up shop the sycophants will be cleared away too. Can’t come soon enough for me.

  8. aidan 8

    just wondrin bout the legality bout the whole thing (not just the facilitation payments) i mean isn’t live exports illegal? thats the whole point of this thing

    • freedom 8.1

      I understand they were legal exports because they were exported as ‘breeding stock’ not slaughter fodder. The fact most of the lambs are reported to have subsequently died in circumstances that differ depending upon who is reporting what happened, and any evidence of the differing circumstances is apparently protected/lost/unimportant is obviously just a left wing conspiracy but it’s okay because look a flag!

      • John Shears 8.1.1

        @freedom, “Most of the lambs died” that seems to be all we get.
        A NZ Farmer would be able to quote you his lambing percentages
        for a season. That is, how many live lambs were docked, the number varies but more than 60% of NZ Farmers will achieve between 120- 140%.
        Can anyone find out what the % was for the Saudi ewes? then we might have a real discussion as to the merits or otherwise of this venture.

        • Macro 8.1.1.1

          You completely mis-understand the nature of this “deal” John. This “deal” turns out to be nothing more nor less than a sweetener to a Saudi businessman who is miffed about not being able to import some sheep for the Haj and threatens to interfere in negotiations. In most countries (including NZ) it would be called a bride.
          It is worsened by the fact that the “deal” entails setting up some “model farm” to be owned by the Saudi businessman in the middle of a desert without any irrigation and little shelter from the sun for the animals. The export of “breeding ewes” gets around the problem of exporting live sheep for slaughter, but the animals arrive – coincidentally – just in time for – wait for it -The Haj! I doubt you will find one animal alive today.
          The fact that the FTA failed to eventuate makes the “deal” even more of a failure. That’s $11m of your money and mine misused by a minister who it appears failed to inform his Cabinet colleges of what he was up to. Is this the sort of “deal” you can be happy with John?

          • greywarshark 8.1.1.1.1

            That sizes it up well Macro. I hope that we don’t run out of sheep to sacrifice soon because he might replace them with us, the sheeple.

    • Skinny 8.2

      The $11 million compo deal was a sloppy backhander to keep the door open for trade. Typical loose behavior by McCully Even though he was given a cushy number out of the Country by Key & Joyce, still embarrassedly causes National grief. Key’s creds take another hit as he lies through his teeth buckpassing to the long forgotten Clark Government. An excuse which is wearing pretty thin with public opinion.

      • Rozgonz 8.2.1

        You should wait for the next poll before you make statements like that

        • freedom 8.2.1.1

          and when they publicly release the questions and methodology employed in the creation of the polls as standard procedure,
          they might be worth paying attention to

          • Matthew Hooton 8.2.1.1.1

            They do.

            • Skinny 8.2.1.1.1.1

              A lot of these pollsters frame questions misleadingly, influencing those being surveyed. Bet you know all the tricks there Hooton lol.

            • freedom 8.2.1.1.1.2

              Sorry Matthew, that was very unclear on my part. I meant alongside wherever they publish/use results of the polls in any public arena, ie newspapers radio TV etc. Yes, the polls themselves have a report released that those who are so inclined can spend time looking for. The media today [more often than not] do not bother to even mention the pool polled or the margin of error as standard procedure these days. It’s completely understandable of course. Reminding millions of people that the [manipulated] opinions of a few hundred are being used to leverage how they react to a situation is terribly inconvenient. Pesky details so often get in the way of a good soundbite.

              I am sure there are many opinions written about why this is so, but like your opinions on the Government not approaching Crown Law for advice on the Sheep deal, perhaps they are also locked away behind paywalls.

  9. roy cartland 9

    – “He is like a child saying that he is innocent and someone else is to blame for something when clearly he is responsible.”

    Heh, my 6yo does this all the time. Whenever he shits his pants, he blames it on his 3yo brother right up to the point where he is entering the shower. I THOUGHT he reminded me of someone…

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    Harman thinks that a privilege complaint alleging Mr McCully has misled Parliament cannot be out of the question. I could not agree more.

    And either should charges of bribery and corruption and a long prison sentence. This type of behaviour should not be allowed.

  11. lprent 11

    Old Mickey just got a permanent full ban for a defamatory comment

    I was considering what to keep from the comment, but decided there were everything except the first sentence was stated as fact and had no backing.

    The final sentence shifted from politicians to someone outside of the range of the protection of Lange vs Atkinson, was quite clearly defamatory, and went well beyond the material that was published.

    Besides, I’d already warned him a month ago about this kind of behaviour.

    If anyone else cares to follow him, I will be happy to accommodate them. It is your responsibility to make sure that you do not put this site in danger. If you do then I will make sure that it never happens again.

  12. hoom 12

    Its unashamably the Chewbacca Defense

  13. adam 13

    I don’t want to take this off topic, as I think this is an important issue. Mickey if you think this is, please move it with my apologies.

    New Zealand has a truly odd relationship with Saudi Arabia. One one hand we are doing all we can to get a free trade deal – I would have thought as we move through the 21st that co-operative deals would be better for many countries. Rather than our fetish over free trade. Working on ways to co-operate in trading environment, rather than some sort of open slather dog eat dog approach that the free trade merchants have inspired.

    More about our odd relationship. Are we comfortable with the fact that Saudi nations were the bulk of the pilots at 9/11? Or the fact that ISIS gets money from people inside this country? And the fact they cut the heads off people, and call that a justice system? Lets leave that aside – because I’m sure it will inflame some.

    Another problem we have is over refugees. We have many Saudi Arabian refuges here, who have fled Saudi Arabia because if they stayed they would in all probability, be imprisoned, tortured or die. We now have one less. Khalid Muidh Abudulla Alzahrani. http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/ mentioned him the other day from two pieces that appeared on stuff.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/70485868/fears-saudi-refugee-who-left-new-zealand-may-have-been-executed

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/70751149/new-zealand-government-has-moral-obligation-to-help-saudi-refugee

    The sheep droppings of McCully are effectively corruption. Lets be honest about that – political in nature and probably driven by a desire to get a free trade deal. Murry, you got caught – you thought you were slick, and you got caught.

    But, now we have another situation with this, dear I say – theocratic state. Maybe it’s because I’m a Catholic, but I feel really uncomfortable us dealing with any theocratic states. I want Mr Khalid Muidh Abudulla Alzahrani to be all right, but my gut is telling me, like this sheep deal – it is not all right.

  14. Stuart Munro 14

    I don’t think NZ is doing all it can or all it should. We’ve furnished livestock & agricultural expertise to many countries but usually not with bribery on top – and we usually made sure the farms worked. A genuine relationship with Saudi would mean we did no less for them – and only a genuine relationship would enable us to advance human rights concerns – or be a reasonable basis for an FTA.

  15. Rozgonz 15

    I think the question the left needs to ask itself on this issue is – WHO REALLY CARES?

    • freedom 15.1

      I think you got sent the wrong crib sheet.
      The “who cares?” line was for the Amanda Bailey situation.
      For the Saudi farm deal its ‘blame it on Labour!’

  16. ianmac 16

    Bryce Edwards ‘ Opinion
    Political roundup: “Guilty or not? The Saudi sheep scandal.”
    A pretty good roundup though he does put the case for the Government first.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11493647
    The Crosby effect has worked so far. Just slide over crisis. Move on.

    • Putting the Government’s case first is actually really bad journalism. If you can verify something’s false you should report on people saying it after you’ve talked about verifying it’s false.

  17. Irascible 17

    http://photobucket.com/images/lieagra

    Armstrong and Hosking have been prescribed this drug from Key’s doctor and CT pharmacy.

  18. Tracey 18

    John Roughan takes up the cheerleading today… with

    mccully clumsy not corrupt.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 18.1

      Clumsy as in “oops, this bribe just fell out of my pocket. Would you pick it up for me please?”

      • tracey 18.1.1

        or clumsy as in

        mccully just sustained serious injuries falling down the stairs

        • Macro 18.1.1.1

          He tripped, or fell. I wasn’t anywhere near him at the time.

          • Macro 18.1.1.1.1

            The fact that he landed some distance from the stairs has nothing to do with it – no way can you accuse Key of “dropping” him.

  19. Rakuraku 19

    The fact is McCully is an absolute clown, always has been, wouldn’t know the first thing about a sheep.

  20. Rakuraku 20

    Armstrong and Hoskings are John Key cheerleaders they wouldn’t know the front end of a sheep from the back end of the sheep.

    This deal is an absolute cock up from woe to go. Clowns at work.

    Key will be getting right up McCully over this one.

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