Press Release – New Zealand First Party
The Saudi Arabia sheep farm deal is a new low in New Zealand diplomacy, says New Zealand First Leader Rt Hon Winston Peters. Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
Member of Parliament for Northland
28 MAY 2015
Questions Still to Be Answered Around Saudi Farm Blackmail
The Saudi Arabia sheep farm deal is a new low in New Zealand diplomacy, says New Zealand First Leader Rt Hon Winston Peters.
“It is a disgrace and borders on bribery,” says the Member of Parliament for Northland. “New Zealand has been successfully blackmailed by two highly connected Saudi businessmen who have said ‘pay up or else your free trade deal is sunk’.
“We are paying for their business decisions. That opens up a Pandora’s Box of potential claims bearing in mind agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) now being negotiated.
“The National government’s line ought to be, we don’t give in to blackmail. But Prime Minister John Key just gave in with at least $11.5 million and counting. This is twice what Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said three weeks ago. The final price could reach $15 million and there are many serious questions that need to be asked and answered.
“Going back to before the 2008 General Election, what promises were made by senior National Party figures to George Assaf, of Awassi Ltd, and especially the Saudi Minister of Agriculture, who visited Mr Assaf’s Hawke’s Bay farm on 16 July of that year?
“Why did the Agriculture Minister and now speaker, David Carter, tell 3News in 2009 that the National Party Government intended ending the moratorium on live shipments if assured the animals were properly treated, only to then do a 180-degree turnaround?
“Is the taxpayer now expected to pay what is tantamount to a bribe in order to get this government off promises. The money is coming from MFAT ‘savings’ or, should that be, redundancies and cutbacks?
“If this so-called demonstration farm is the centrepiece of New Zealand Trade Initiatives in the Middle East, why did Mr Key and Trade Minister Tim Groser not visit it when they were recently in the Middle East? Perhaps they were embarrassed.
“If this was a private company you could be facing serious jail time under the Crimes Act (Section 105C) and/or the Secret Commissions Act, but this government thinks it can get away with something that looks like bribery condoned by the highest levels.
“Other questions to pose:
“How was former National Party president Michelle Boag appointed as executive advisor to the New Zealand Middle East Business Council and what money has she earned in that role?
“Does the council receive any public funds given MFAT hosts their events?
“On 8 May Mr McCully said New Zealand spent $6 million to help establish a demonstration farm near Dammam, in eastern Saudi Arabia, saying it would be used to showcase New Zealand’s agricultural technology. But why would you place that in Saudi Arabia (New Zealand’s number 15 market) as opposed to the United Arab Emirates, which not only has better links but is our number 10 market? “