- Date published:
9:57 am, September 15th, 2017 - 26 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, corruption, john key, making shit up, national, Politics, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: murray mccully, sheepgate
When the history of this National Government is reviewed by academics and scholars the tale of Sheepgate will stand out. In future years people will wonder if it was even true or the insane invention of someone high on drugs. Because if ever a series of posts deserved the “you can’t make this shit up” it is these.
Lets recap the history:
… a rich Saudi businessman became upset when New Zealand stopped live sheep exports following a particularly disastrous ship trip during which four thousand sheep died. National made noises as if the ban would be reversed but then resiled from this. To assuage the rich Saudi businessman’s feelings a total of $11.5 million of taxpayer’s money has been or is being paid. The sums include a “compensation but not a compensation” payment which was designed to keep the lawyers away from it and which incorporated a payment to the Saudi businessman for intellectual property for hosting New Zealand sheep on a New Zealand designed farm. The rest included the construction of a model farm in the middle of the Saudi desert and plane tickets for 900 sheep, most of which died after landing.
It seems clear the payment was essentially a facilitation payment to get the Saudi’s to sign a free trade agreement. Not only is this on the face of it corrupt, but it has so far failed so it is also clear evidence of incompetence.
Initially McCully tried to sneak the issue through Cabinet and then hide the mess. And when it was reported on National used that good old technique of blaming Labour for the situation.
The Auditor General became involved. National celebrated a finding that McCully had not acted corruptly. How low National’s standards are.
Here is a video of John Key in Parliament where he said that Cabinet was confident that the payment would remove the prospect of any litigation. Marvel at the high quality level of distortion and diversion. Key was extraordinarily good at this.
And here is video of McCully in Parliament saying that “I am satisfied that we would never have done so had we not been advised that the claim had some prospect of success.”
Advised by who? An OIA seeking to verify the existence of any advice was buried by National but has recently been resolved.
And in a case of extraordinarily bad timing it was confirmed that no legal advice concerning the dispute from MFAT was ever received. National paid out a large amount of money to settle a non existing legal dispute and did not even bother to receive legal advice before doing so and then tried to blame the opposition for it.
From Radio New Zealand:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not provide legal advice to the government on the risk of being sued by a disgruntled Saudi Arabian businessman, documents reveal.
The admission that no legal advice on the lawsuit threat ever existed directly contradicts comments in 2015 by then-Foreign Minister Murray McCully that the ministry had taken advice on the issue.
The National government did an $11.5 million deal with Saudi businessman Hamood Al Ali Al Khalaf after Cabinet was advised in February 2013 that the Al Khalaf Group was threatening to sue New Zealand for $20-$30m. Mr Al Khalaf had invested heavily in New Zealand and believed New Zealand’s 2003 ban on live exports had left him misled and out of pocket.
The deal included using taxpayer funds to build Mr Al Khalaf a $6m agrihub farm in the Saudi desert, as well as flying in over 900 sheep and handing over $4m in cash.
The government argued that the deal saved New Zealand from the risk of being sued for a much larger amount.
However, MFAT and Mr McCully have long refused to release any legal advice it relied on in doing the deal.
In a 2015 interview on TV3’s The Nation, Mr McCully was asked repeatedly what the advice said and whether he would release it.
He replied “it’s the ministry’s advice” and “I’m not going to release the ministry’s advice”. When asked if there was any legal basis for a lawsuit, he said “the advice was that those circumstances did provide such a basis”.
Yet an Official Information Act response from MFAT “following discussion with the Chief Ombudsman” has revealed “it did not seek or provide advice on the extent of the risk of a claim in the New Zealand courts for compensation from the Al Khalaf Group against the government”.
“Effectively, the minister had misled the public,” said Labour’s David Parker.
“This confirms that the $4m cash payment was never legitimate and thanks to disgraceful covering up by MFAT and McCully it has taken more than two years to get an answer.”
If ever you wanted a clear cut case of National misleading Parliament and the country this is it.