The Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament yesterday that a Minister who paid a facilitation payment to unlock a free trade agreement would retain his confidence is an abhorrent development in the Saudi sheep scandal, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.
Hon David Parker: Would a Minister who authorised a multimillion-dollar facilitation payment to be made to a disaffected businessman to unlock a free-trade agreement retain his confidence?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Absolutely, and for the reasons I pointed out earlier. The previous Labour Government can run, but it cannot hide. On two occasions, it deliberately misled the Saudis. (Hansard 23 June 2015)
“The Prime Minister once again implied that the previous Labour government somehow created the $20 to $30 million risk that Murray McCully told cabinet justified the farm in the desert and the $4 million facilitation payment.
“Yet John Key refused to answer the basic question about whether there was a cause for action.
Hon David Parker: Does he believe that in 2013 the Al Khalaf group had a legal right of action against the New Zealand Government for $20 to $30 million?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is not for me to offer legal opinions in this House, and the member knows that.
“The ban on the export of live sheep for slaughter in 2003, renewed in 2007, and by National in 2010 and 2013 was always legitimate. Mr Al Khalaf had no cause of action. If he had, it would have expired under the Limitation Act.
“It is outrageous that Mr Key is now saying a Minister who authorised a multimillion-dollar facilitation payment to be made to a disaffected businessman to unlock a free-trade agreement would retain his confidence.
“The Prime Minister now knows that Mr McCully misled cabinet. Mr Key now knows the payments were to remove the obstacle that Mr Khalaf posed to the Saudi FTA.
“Mr Key is putting his political interests ahead of our country’s reputation for fair dealing.” says Andrew Little.