Saudi sheep deal finally over

The Saudi agrihub sheep deal initiated in 2013 by the Government became very controversial and embarrassing for National, and in particular Murray McCully. It has finally put out to pasture.

NZ Herald: Government axes Saudi sheep deal

The controversial Saudi sheep deal been shut down, which the Government says will save about $1 million.

The deal was made to set up an agribusiness hub in the Saudi desert for Saudi businessman Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf, which would be used to showcase innovative New Zealand farming operations.

Taxpayer spending on the agrihub was approved by the previous National Government in February 2013, and the following year 900 sheep were flown over on Singapore Airlines.

But Trade Minister David Parker said the deal has now been axed.

The then-National Government had paid about $10m, including a $4m payment to Al Khalaf, for the deal.

Opposition parties at the time called it a bribe to set up a free trade agreement.

It wasn’t only opposition parties.

The deal was made partly as an effort to secure a free-trade deal with the Gulf States.

Al Khalaf had lost millions of dollars after New Zealand banned live sheep exports for slaughter over animal welfare concerns in 2003, and ill-feeling over his treatment was identified as an obstacle to an FTA progressing.

Former Foreign Minister Murray McCully also said there was a risk Al Khalaf could take legal action. As a result, the deal saw a $4m facilitation payment made to the Al Khalaf Group, and a further $6.5m allocated to create a farm on his land.

The Auditor-General criticised the deal, but found no evidence of corruption or bribery.

No evidence of corruption or bribery perhaps, but plenty of indication of a shonky deal by McCully, approved by the National Cabinet, and swept under the political carpet when exposed.

26 Comments

  1. Finbaar Rustle

     /  February 12, 2019

    Clearly trade and business deals are complex.
    You won’t always get what you want.
    Not all succeed.
    Trade offs are simply part of all deals.
    McCully is a very moderate long standing Minister.
    To be fair a storm in a tea cup.

  2. Blazer

     /  February 12, 2019

    Thanks…Murray…another fucking useless Nat M.P !

    • Mother

       /  February 12, 2019

      It could just be a problem with dealing with another culture?

      If we are happy with halal killing in our freezing works (for the sake of appealing people from another culture) we should be able to make business deals with people whose ways involve bribery.

      Perhaps Mr McCully took unfair criticism. Perhaps government should have persevered.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  February 12, 2019

        The sheep are just as dead no matter how they are killed, and as 90% of our dead animals are exported and can’t be sold to Muslim countries if they are not Halal, we would be fools not to have it in some (not all) meatworks. It would be foolish to stuff up a major component of our exports by not being Halal certified when the slaughtered animals are going to Muslim countries. The idea that it’s because of NZ Muslims is a false one. They don’t eat 90% of the animals put to death in NZ.

        • Mother

           /  February 12, 2019

          There were some zealous Christian farmers who complained re the Halal issue and boycotted freezing works. They couldn’t see that their faith was displayed as weak over this issue.

          The world’s free people are the smartest people. Perhaps if the Saudi sheep project had been successful, we would now have more money to help our poor. Just an idea. The whole issue is now a mine field.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  February 12, 2019

            They are free to do so, but I can’t see that it’s that important; it’s not as if the animals are being converted before they are killed and hacked up before being eaten.

          • Mother

             /  February 12, 2019

            Trying to clarify, since you presumed I had the wrong idea about meat processing, and who eats it.

            My point is that some very right, so right, zealously right Christian farmers were willing to sacrifice good business for the sake of their religion. I personally witnessed this and the fallout between an oppressed/luke warm in faith church elder and a zealous elder (both farmers).

            Also, that we should have been able to make this recent Saudi deal work out regardless of their different ways of doing business.

            And to say that there is a moderate way to do our Christianity, one which gives us ability to hold fort within the world and to live sociably together.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  February 12, 2019

      McCully was a rogue. He was bloody awful on many levels and both Parliament and the Nats are well rid of him.
      We’re finding out now what bloody useless MP’s look like though. The last Govt is looking better by the minute.

      • Duker

         /  February 12, 2019

        last government …the weekly lies of John Key …you miss that?
        Even English , and his double dipping and his fake persona of the Southland farmer (Skellerup award finalist…..!), when he reality he was a treasury bureaucrat and the chair of the Haitaitai branch of the national party just before selected for Awarua seat. Apparently being a Wellington public servant is bad in the national party- especially the donors- so its was whitewashed away , along with his love of going to the ballet

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 12, 2019

          Please don’t call someone a liar without proof.

          • Duker

             /  February 12, 2019

            “Prime Minister John Key is refusing to apologise for misleading the public by denying he was texting Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater, even though he was.

            “On Tuesday, Mr Key was asked if he had been in contact with Slater.

            “[I] can’t recall,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to him for months and months and months on end. He sent me a text one time and I can’t remember when that was.”

            But remembering the text should have been really easy. Slater had sent a text to Mr Key just the night before.

            Now released by Mr Key, it said: [An unnamed journalist] gave it away to me… [Phil] Goff leaked SIS report.”

            Mr Key replied, “It’s a joke isn’t it”.
            https://www.newshub.co.nz/nznews/john-key-genuinely-couldnt-recall-text-messages-2014112718
            “He’s lied about the lie. He’s corrected the lie. He’s lied about correcting the lie. It just goes on.” – Andrew Liitle

            I have lots more if you still want to go there..lots and lots more

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  February 12, 2019

              He may not have read the text; it’s unlikely to have been the only one that he had.

              Andrew Little is hardly the most reliable source.

  3. NOEL

     /  February 12, 2019

    How much was the legal bill for the 1million saved?

  4. duperez

     /  February 12, 2019

    I would seek out and check a bit of the opprobrium from the various commentators over the time of the various revelations about the Saudi deal. I’m fearful of opening the box though, of being deluged, swamped, crushed by the sheer torrent and amount of it from people like Hooton.

    Since apparently it was of one of the most dodgy affairs in the history of NZ politics and if it had it happened in any other western country it would’ve seen resignations and probably arrests, there’d be truckloads of condemnatory stuff about it. You know the sort of stuff you’d find with having dispassionate commentators trying to protect a place which we keep telling ourselves has no corruption. Well they keep telling us when it suits their purposes.

    The episode likely happened and wasn’t ‘a major’ because Murray McCully was brazen, wasn’t really called to account and played it how he wanted. Matthew Hooton is opinionated and ubiquitous.

    His trotting out of the “no corruption in NZ” is a hypercritical perversion, a brazen opportunistic throw away line because it suits his purposes now. It’s a kick in the guts of reasonable commentating and should be another hole in the hull of his credibility.

    I guess if this is as Nicky Hager as he gets in 2019 we can looking forward to him saying in some book in 2033 that Jason Ede was a naughty boy. And something about at that time we kept telling ourselves New Zealand was corruption free.

    • PDB

       /  February 12, 2019

      dupz: “Since apparently it was of one of the most dodgy affairs in the history of NZ politics” “And something about at that time we kept telling ourselves New Zealand was corruption free”.

      You’re confusing the sheep deal with the Labour party’s pledge card rort…

  5. Blazer

     /  February 12, 2019

    must have for this saga..

  6. PartisanZ

     /  February 12, 2019

    We tried once too often to punch above our weight … and in the wrong boxing ring maybe?

    It might’ve worked if it was a ‘Dairy Deal’?

    • Gezza

       /  February 12, 2019

      God that phrase irks me. We’ve always punched at our weight. And we don’t weigh much.

      • PartisanZ

         /  February 12, 2019

        Sheez Gezza … Tell that to the All Blacks … or TeamNZ … or perhaps a dozen other national sports teams …

        • Gezza

           /  February 12, 2019

          Oh, I wouldn’t bother. When we manage to conquer what really is usually a tiny little area of some very specialised sport in a massive field of sports & events for a while there’s no harm in patting ourselves on the back, but given the amount of time and resource that gets poured into the All Blacks I’d hate to think we were crap at the game. There are other countries which similarly produce a champion or two – athletics for example. Maybe their populati rave on about punching above their weight to but I like to keep it in perspective. We’re a very small country. With an inferiority complex that makes us make all sorts of claims to greatness, usually by invoking the phrase “punching above our weight”. As I say, getting real, and I’m pretty patriotic, the fact is, we don’t.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  February 12, 2019

            Nah. We do actually. Rate highly in medals per capita at the Olympics. Also high in various economic and quality of life measures. Conquered Everest, split the atom, gave women the vote, …

            • Gezza

               /  February 12, 2019

              Can you show me the relevant medals per capita comparison chart, out of interest?

              We didn’t conquer Everest. A British party with Sir Ed made it first (well, isn’t there still a debate over whether Tensing did, because it was his turn to try and they struck it lucky with the conditions. So we can’t count that as ours really.

              One Kiwi split the atom – a long time ago. What other notable things have any Kiwis done in physics in comparison to other countries?

              We gave women the vote first but how is that punching above our weight? Didn’t other countries follow their own process on their own or can you point to some evidence NZ swung them into line?

              I don’t really think the per capita issue matters that much when Kiwis achieve notable feats on the back of others or using the facilities of other countries – and resting on the laurels of a few from decades back doesn’t really amount to punching above our weight for me.

              Not being unpatriotic, just saying we get carried away with this trope too often.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  February 13, 2019

              Can be overdone but you are under doing.

  7. PartisanZ

     /  February 13, 2019

    So many good intentions come to naught …

    I mean anyone can see that what Saudi Arabia needs is a sheep meat and wool industry!