John Key must take responsibility for his Government’s Saudi sheep scandal, and apologise to New Zealanders for sullying the reputation of our country for fair dealing, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.
“His ham fisted attempt to blame everyone but his own Government has now unravelled with yesterday’s release of official papers. He stands guilty of having sullied New Zealand’s international reputation, and wasting over $11 million of taxpayers money.
“The attempt to cover this up for years has failed. This unscrupulous deal that has even raised the ire of foreign diplomats in New Zealand who have voiced their concern over this debacle with me.
“It’s now clear that the Auditor General has raised concerns over the deal arguing that she was not convinced by the business case, which she said at the time “does not appear to us to be in the form of a traditional business case”. She complained to Foreign Affairs that her input had been misrepresented. She later emphasised that her office’s comments did not “provide assurance of any nature and neither do they constitute endorsement of Government policy.
“Also damning is the fact that Treasury repeatedly refused to endorse the agrihub proposals in the cabinet papers. They couldn’t see the benefits of the Saudi farm in the desert, and also opposed the $4 million cash payment to Al Khalaf group, which they described as a goodwill payment.
“On the very day Cabinet okayed the agrihub, Treasury still did ‘not support’ the proposal.
“The $4 million payment is the worst aspect. It is unprincipled and without precedent. It was to advance trade with Saudi Arabia not to settle a legal claim. This is the first time ever New Zealand has paid off a disaffected businessman in order to advance a trade deal.
“The continued denial of responsibility for this sham, in the face of the documents now released, is wrong. Journalists who have pored over the documents have reached this conclusion independently of the Labour Party. It is time National fessed up, “says David Parker .