Written By: - Date published: 7:38 am, February 12th, 2019 - 44 comments
Categories: david parker, national, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, trade, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: matthew hooton, murray mccully, sheepgate
One of the weirdest episodes in New Zealand politics is now at an end. The Government has pulled the plug on the Saudi Sheepgate deal.
I have followed the story for a while. A more potentially corrupt use of state resources I cannot imagine. When you boil it down it sounds totally insane. And it was. Here is my earlier description:
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.
And now, years later, we still have no trade deal with Saudi Arabia. Not only was the deal an example of a potentially corrupt payment to an individual in hope that there would be a free trade agreement signed by a foreign state but it was something worse. It was a failed attempt to get a free trade agreement signed.
And won’t someone think of the sheep?
To make matters even worse it has been reported that three quarters of the lambs born to the ewes who were transported to the farm have died from causes such as starvation, scours and issues around animal husbandry. Who would have thought that placing New Zealand sheep on a farm in the middle of a desert would be so disastrous?
Well it is finally at an end. David Parker has pulled the pin on the last part of the deal and saved us a million dollars. From the Herald:
The controversial Saudi sheep deal been shut down, which the Government says will save about $1 million.
The deal was made to set up an agribusiness hub in the Saudi desert for Saudi businessman Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf, which would be used to showcase innovative New Zealand farming operations.
Taxpayer spending on the agrihub was approved by the previous National Government in February 2013, and the following year 900 sheep were flown over on Singapore Airlines.
But Trade Minister David Parker said the deal has now been axed.
“We’re not spending any more money on its installation or delivery,” Parker told 1 NEWS.
“We have managed to bring it to an end, saving the last million dollars or so. But I’m afraid the other $10 million that has already been spent has been flushed down the drain by the prior Government.”
It means that a $2.5m kitset abattoir, which is in the Hawke’s Bay and was intended for the hub, will no longer be sent overseas.
About $1.17m had been identified for abattoir delivery and installation.
Matthew Hooton has been a trenchant critic of the deal and has not held back in his summary of what happened.
The major players have of course gone. McCully has retired and Key has his knighthood and is doing various corporate gigs.
But the next time someone tells you that National are better managers tell them about the time they built a sheep station in a Saudi desert and how almost all the sheep died and how they paid an individual $4 million to settle a legal claim that did not actually exist, forgot to get him to agree that the dispute that did not exist had been settled, and failed in the whole reason for the exercise, and that was to get a free trade deal with Saudi Arabia.