One year on and still no answers on Saudi sheep deal
By Richard Harman (author)
Labour MP David Parker’s year-long campaign to try and uncover the legal advice that led Murray McCully to have the Government pay Saudi Arabian businessman Hmood Alali Alkhalaf $4 million met another brick wall yesterday.
Acting Foreign Minister Chris Finlayson told Parliament he did not know whether there was legal advice which would have prompted the payment.
Mr Parker later said the media and the Labour Party had been seeking clarification through the Ombudsman under the Official Information Act of the existence, or otherwise, of documents to show whether this was true or just an excuse.
“The Minister has been suppressing the documents,” he said.
“Murray McCully and the Prime Minister have repeatedly claimed the payment – made without Cabinet approval – was to avoid legal claims following New Zealand’s live sheep export ban. We still haven’t seen any evidence it was.
“Treasury couldn’t find any reference to legal proceedings in their advice.
“I suspect these long delays are to avoid admitting the ‘legal claim’ did not exist, and has been an excuse to justify a shabby, unprincipled deal.
"I do not believe there was any claim or any right of action. If there were, the official papers would show it.”
Mr Parker also asked Mr Finlayson whether anyone in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Minister had yet seen a draft version of the report by the Auditor General into the whole affair.
That inquiry – which was prompted by Parker and Greens co-Leader James Shaw was announced over a year ago, on August 18.
But Mr Finlayson again said he did not know.
There are, however, suggestions floating around the Wellington bureaucracy that the draft report has been completed and that it is with the Minister for comment.
There is no confirmation of that.
Mr Parker has been persistently asking questions about the Saudi deal.
In March he said National MPs had blocked Labour’s attempt to get New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to come back to the Commerce Committee to correct their answers on the suspension of funding for the Saudi agri-hub.
“In a bewildering attempt to clarify their answers publically, NZTE has said it has delayed funding until ownership has been clarified and admitted it has stopped funds but for some reason said the word suspended is wrong.”
This whole business has been hanging over the Government for more than a year now and what is remarkable is that neither McCully or the rest of the Government have been able to shut it down.
Perhaps that’s because some of the allegations may be difficult to refute.