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Sheepgate: the McCully mess

Written By: - Date published: 8:33 am, June 3rd, 2015 - 20 comments
Categories: Globalisation, International, john key, national, national/act government, newspapers, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , , , ,

McCully sheep in wolfs clothing

“I expect high standards from my Ministers … if they don’t meet the standards I set then obviously I will take action if necessary”—John Key, November 2008

You have to wonder how Murry McCully is surviving the mess known as Sheepgate.  With every further detail that is exposed the stench of what has happened grows stronger.

If John Key had kept to his promise of high standards McCully would be gone.  But Key faces a difficult problem.  If he sacks McCully the dark prince will spend his remaining time in politics undermining Key.  And the Cabinet reshuffle will probably mean that Judith Collins will be returned.

The PR treatment of the expenditure shows clearly how shonky this deal is.  Normally with this sort of proposal there would have been multiple press releases and ribbon cutting opportunities.  But in this case there was nothing, nada, nil.  This Government is so finely attuned to PR opportunities that an example of significant Government expenditure where there is no publicity whatsoever is reason for deep cynicism.

But I am just a left wing hack.  Perhaps I should let others express their thoughts on the merits of Sheepgate.

Like Fran O’Sullivan.  Agree or disagree with her she will always present a coherent thoughtful world view.  Last Saturday she asked the relevant question, was the Saudi deal a bribe or a facilitation payment, with the implication that it was both.  She discusses the morality of what has happened and comes up with this conclusion:

The reality is that what has been disclosed in this affair is a cavalier approach to securing international trade deals.

The straightforward approach – as with the Hollywood investors who threatened to bypass New Zealand if they did not get the help they wanted – would have been to simply say straight-up that the Government had made a decision to retain the ban on live sheep shipments and would compensate the Saudi businessmen who had invested on the basis of prior government policy commitments.

It would have been rightly embarrassing and would have caused great controversy.

But it would have been in the open.

This would have been far more preferable to the current situation where the Government has been confirmed as willing to buy its way into a free-trade deal through assuaging the private interests of an influential Saudi.

It does not pass muster.

Like the Herald Editorial from yesterday where the ethics of the sheepgate deal were questioned:

The Government would be well advised to put all its cards on the table for the public to see before this strange farm investment in Saudi Arabia is another day older. If New Zealand taxpayers have provided a Saudi businessman with a sheep farm in compensation for his loss of live sheep exports, it raises many more questions than Foreign Minister Murray McCully has been inclined to answer.

His manner of answering them gives the clear impression it is a deal the Government never intended the public to see but it is too late for that now. If there are confidences the Government has agreed to keep, it can break them. It is a government, answerable to its country, not to a sheep dealer, no matter how well connected to the Saudi regime he may be.

Even Tracy Watkins in this morning’s Dominion Post has called for a full investigation into what happened.

Opposition MPs have asked the auditor-general to investigate – let’s hope she does. The deal looks disturbingly like a case of the Government helping itself to wads of taxpayer cash simply to make a problem go away.

She expresses scepticism at the claim that the payment was to settle a legal issue and she concludes with these comments:


Some of the ensuing claims –  that Al Khalaf threatened to sue New Zealand for tens of millions of dollars – have run up against scepticism from Opposition MPs, who have used parliamentary privilege to use words like “bribe” and “pay off” in relation to the deal.

That makes it even more imperative that there be some sunlight shed over the deal. Maybe the time has come for Key throw his weight behind the Opposition’s calls for an independent inquiry.

If Key expects high standards from his Ministers then there needs to be an inquiry into sheepgate.  And McCully’s ministerial days must be numbered.

Update:  It gets worse and worse.  The Taxpayer’s Union have released this statement:

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s claim that the process which resulted in a company connected with Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf being awarded the tender to develop the Saudi ‘Agri-hub’ was independently audited is false. Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“After questions were raised by the Taxpayers’ Union, Trade and Enterprise claimed that the process was independently audited. We’ve now confirmed that the so called ‘independent auditor’ was none other than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the same officials pushing for Mr Al Khalaf to be ‘compensated’. This new revelation is likely to lead to more questions about whether this whole affair is chequebook diplomacy gone wrong.”

Can anyone see the problem with an “independent tender audit” of NZTE being conducted by MFAT?

And no doubt Hansard is now being scrutinised.  Opposition parties may be interested to note this comment from McCully made on May 26, 2015.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY : The contract for the lead provider’s position, which is what the member is referring to, was awarded through a tender process that was overseen by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and an expert who was formerly the chief executive of Landcorp. I am satisfied that the New Zealand Government procurement requirements were met in that respect..

Someone needs to have a really good look at this matter.

20 comments on “Sheepgate: the McCully mess ”

  1. Sable 1

    When was this government ever accountable to the people of this country? Since when did the MSM see its role as holding them to account?

    Its all a charade with the long suffering taxpayer as the fall guy (yet again).

    • JanM 1.1

      I’d feel more sympathy for ‘the long suffering taxpayer’ if he woke his woolly ideas up, recognised the extent to which he is being fleeced and voted accordingly. It’s not as though we live in a dictatorship!

      • Sable 1.1.1

        Blame the MSM not the innocent people they mislead Jan….

        • JanM

          Innocent? If we aren’t meant to be using our brains what are we doing with the vote? If we’re all just meant to be sitting ducks believing everything we’re told why bother with a democracy?

        • JanM

          Innocent? If we aren’t meant to be using our brains what are we doing with the vote? If we’re all just meant to be sitting ducks believing everything we’re told why bother with a democracy?

  2. wyndham 2

    ” But Key faces a difficult problem. If he sacks McCully the dark prince will spend his remaining time in politics undermining Key.”

    Never a truer word Micky. McCully has more on Key than Key has on McCully !

  3. Draco T Bastard 4

    You have to wonder how Murry McCully is surviving the mess known as Sheepgate.

    Oh, that’s easy. You just have to read what Key said:

    “I expect high standards from my Ministers … if they don’t meet the standards I set then obviously I will take action if necessary”

    Key obviously doesn’t find it necessary yet. He may be finding that necessity soon though:

    Embattled Foreign Minister Murray McCully has contradicted himself over a crucial reason for the Saudi farm deal.

    Mr McCully told Parliament the Government paid $11.5 million towards Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf’s farm in Saudi Arabia to avoid possible legal action.

    Last Thursday he said “the New Zealand government was also exposed to a legal claim for up to $30 million ” by Mr Khalaf.

    But One News has an email in which Mr McCully denies there was ever a legal threat.

    In an email dated 13 May, reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan asked Mr McCully’s press secretary, “Was the Minister made aware of a threat by Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf or his business ventures to take legal action domestically over the ban of live sheep exports?”

    The following day the press secretary responded “I have just been able to speak with the Minister the answer is no.”

    Oops 😈

  4. Tracey 5

    “I will take action if necessary”

    “necessary” = slumping in daily polling

    Mickey, did you read Fran’s plea for Banks? She seems to have left her soft spot for him cloud the facts. Not mentioning once that the police didn’t lay charges because the 6 months time bar had expired.

    • Fran O'Sullivan 5.1

      Problem was that action was time barred as you mentioned.

      The bigger issue was who was telling the truth and the actions of Crown Law. That raises big issues for me. We can rightfully expect better from the Crown prosecutory side or we are all vulnerable.

  5. Brillo 6

    This is just the sort of story that unaccountably fades from media scrutiny. We’ve seen it happen too many times.

    The Nats wait till everyone has stopped fulminating and fuming, then suddenly : “Look! a kitten!” and they’re off the hook, and the media are chasing another butterfly.

    Guess it’s up to us to keep complaining very audibly about the smell, till someone with a nose investigates where the stench is coming from.

  6. Anne 7

    …the Nats wait until everyone has stopped fulminating and fuming, then suddenly: “Look a kitten!” and they’re off the hook, and the media are chasing another butterfly

    Not quite a kitten and a butterfly… rather a despicable attack on the honesty and integrity of Labour Deputy, Annette King and former Foreign Affairs minister, Phil Goff this time.


    An example of the depths of lying, deceit and general sliminess he is willing to sink to… in order to get himself off the hook. Listen to the 10 mins. for the full impact of his venom!

    • Tom Gould 7.1

      Blood-Tory Audrey Young did her best to divert and cover, while the great international statesman and peacemaker is in the middle east setting up miracles, those nasty petty Labour people are down in the gutter making mischief, which they started anyway. Is that about the drift of her ‘ninth floor’ approved story today?

      • Anne 7.1.1

        Put it this way, that was the guts of the memo sent out to selected “blood-tory” journos re- the line to be taken by them in somehow – anyhow – diverting attention away from their skulduggery and making obviously false accusations about the Labour Govt. John P Key is the most obnoxious, vindictive creep this country has ever had as PM.

    • David H 7.2

      Even after Annette King got him to withdraw his smears, he still pushed the boundary in the last question. but it was the usual “we’re in trouble, better blame Labour again” But this time TricKey named Names. And that was different, he usually just blames Labour.

  7. TonyT 8

    But wait, there is more…it seems Nathan Guy is wallowing in sheep shit too!. The Nada, left Timaru last week , amid a storm of controversy, coverups, rumours, and the rest. Guess what people? it seems these sheep belong to the same guy McCully just handed a windfall to, the Saudi businessman in the McCully/Sheepgate story. Helping out the Mexicans? YEAH RIGHT. not only did the Saudi guy get an $11 million bribe, but it seems this govt was happy to waive the laws around live animal exports to for the same guy. WTFF is wrong with the MSM who have so far failed to connect the two. ?
    No wonder the Nada was off the radar, the Timaru POrt had no record of its arrival and departure, and seems many were in on the whole big coverup. They said the secrecy was cos they didnt want to be picketed by animal rights activists, and it seems the MSM and the public bought that.

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