National must back up bluster and immediately release papers

Labour is calling John Key’s bluff and insists he immediately release papers he claims show Labour was aware of a supposed legal threat by Saudi businessman Hamood Al Ali Al Khalaf, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.

“Today I tried to table in Parliament the Cabinet Papers from the previous Labour Government in 2007 that John Key claims show Labour caused the legal threat he says justified the multimillion dollar payment to the Khalaf group in 2013.

“Those papers show the then government making a legal decision to extend the ban on the basis of poor treatment of sheep in transit, and the growing concerns about the treatment of sheep after landing, including slaughter methods that are not allowed under New Zealand animal welfare codes.

“Labour wants the papers released but we cannot release them on our own, without going through the Official Information Act process, which could see the release declined or significant parts redacted.

“John Key is in a hole and his diversion tactics are straight out of the McCully playbook. But no one’s buying it anymore. Murray McCully’s diversions have failed miserably.

“He said the first $4m payment was to settle a $20m to $30m legal threat caused by Labour. Then he said the supposed legal threat had been taken off the table a year before Cabinet made its decision. The payment is a facilitation payment, which was dressed up as legal compensation, to advance the FTA.

“No New Zealand government pays out millions on the basis of grizzling and complaints. Everyone knows that the Al Khalaf group was annoyed by the original 2003 decision and the extensions. If a multi-million dollar businessman thinks he has a sound legal case for $20m to $30m he doesn’t normally make idle threats, he issues court proceedings.

“That’s why no one buys John Key’s claims yesterday. National renewed the ban of live sheep exports twice – in 2010 and 2013. He should stop trying to blame Labour.

“The fact is there was no case for compensation, especially given the Limitation Act means claims expire after six years,” says David Parker.