New Zealand Labour Party

Treasury latest to withhold Saudi sheep scandal information

The Labour Party will today lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman after the Treasury became the latest government department to withhold information on the Saudi sheep scandal.

Labour’s Trade and Export Growth spokesperson David Parker says the Government has been trying to hide facts from the public since it was revealed two months ago it flew sheep to Saudi Arabia, spent millions on a farm in the desert and provided a $4 million facilitation payment to the Al Khalaf group.

“Since then journalists and opposition MPs have been seeking documents, while Ministers have dodged questions and changed their stories.

“There has been an orchestrated delay in releasing documents under the Official Information Act from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Trade and Enterprise and now the Treasury.

“Yesterday the Treasury listed documents relevant to media and opposition enquires but said they “will be made available on the Treasury website in early August through proactive release.”

“So, now delays in breach of the OIA means “proactive”. The Treasury has the information and is obliged to release it now. It is in breach of the OIA to wait for an orchestrated and politically convenient moment to dump edited documents, as is happening across all the departments.

“A Minister has been caught paying a facilitation payment to a disaffected Saudi businessman getting in the way of a free trade agreement. The Treasury and other departments are helping the Government avoid responsibility for that.

“The politicisation of the Treasury is yet another example of National lowering standards for integrity in the public service and letting the public down.

“We have a right to expect better from the Government and its ministries,” David Parker says.