National's media pets turn blind eye | The Jackal

18 Sept 2017

National's media pets turn blind eye

I was hoping that after Murray McCully's claim that he’d received legal advice from MFAT about a Saudi sheep deal gone wrong was proven entirely false, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Bill English, would be grilled by the media about what he knew and when he knew it.

Clearly the Minister of Foreign Affairs lied to the public, journalists and the House of Representatives by saying MFAT's legal team had advised the National led government to pay a huge bribe to a Saudi businessman in order to stop him suing New Zealand.

But what isn't so clear is who in National knew that McCully was lying?

On Friday, Radio NZ reported:

Saudi sheep deal: MFAT didn't provide legal advice on lawsuit risk

The admission that no legal advice on the lawsuit threat ever existed directly contradicts comments in 2015 by then-Foreign Minister Murray McCully that the ministry had taken advice on the issue.

The National government did an $11.5 million deal with Saudi businessman Hamood Al Ali Al Khalaf after Cabinet was advised in February 2013 that the Al Khalaf Group was threatening to sue New Zealand for $20-$30m. Mr Al Khalaf had invested heavily in New Zealand and believed New Zealand's 2003 ban on live exports had left him misled and out of pocket.

The deal included using taxpayer funds to build Mr Al Khalaf a $6m agrihub farm in the Saudi desert, as well as flying in over 900 sheep and handing over $4m in cash.

Being that English was the Minister of Finance at the time and would have been involved in the $11.5 million payout to Hamood Al Ali Al Khalaf, you would think journalists would be asking him some hard questions about McCully's fake legal advice?

Instead, they reported him playing with kittens. On the next day he played with a Weta.

The media should forget about the cute animal stories and instead be asking if English knew McCully was lying about the legal advice from MFAT and paid the bribe anyway?

Journalists should be grilling the PM over who exactly within the National party leaked Winston Peters’ pension details in order to conduct a smear campaign? They should be holding English’s feet to the flames over a potential breach in our national security.

Because if the media doesn't do their jobs, then the government will never realise there's consequences over and above the ones voters can impose at the ballot box.