Saudi Sheep “deal” is going to require a scalp

An Ombudsman?s interim decision released about the existence or otherwise of legal advice on the multimillion dollar Saudi sheep deal shows MFAT has failed to back up the Prime Minister?s claims on the matter, says Labour MP David Parker.

“The Prime Minister and Murray McCully have both repeatedly claimed that there was a legal risk to New Zealand taxpayers that justified the payment of $4m to a Saudi businessman.”

“The Ombudsman has said MFAT are refusing to disclose whether a legitimate legal risk ever existed, now claiming this would prejudice New Zealand?s international relations.

“It?s an absurd position but a very revealing one.

“If the advice did exist, then Ministry officials would have confirmed National Ministers? assertions; but instead they?ve chosen to hide behind ?international relations? to avoid Ministers? embarrassment.

“How can the Minister and PM credibly say admitting the existence or otherwise of a legal claim would prejudice New Zealand?s international relations, when both have already publicly asserted the legal risk justified the payment?

“By hiding behind potential threats to international relations, there?s only one credible explanation; no advice existed.

“The excuse has always been hollow.

“The Government has misled New Zealanders. The suspicion is reinforced that in reality a multi-million dollar facilitation payment was made to a disgruntled Saudi businessman.

“It?s time for transparency and honesty.”

National can’t take this into an election year. ?McCully has looked shaky from the get-go, and nothing is on the horizon that’s going to allow this “bribery” problem a dignified exit for the government.

So here’s the playbook: ?McCully is going to get sacrificed on the Friday?parliament finishes?for the year. ?About 4:30pm, they’ll announce his resignation. ?There will be a soft place to land in the private sector which will be presented as “new exiting opportunities after a long and distinguished career”.

One thing is for certain: ?If McCully is still part of the National cabinet in the run-up to the 2017 general election, it will continue to fester and add to the image of an arrogant government.

This is the same sort of issue is not a vote change in and of itself, but the general attack on Nationals integrity will find more fertile ground. ?Center right voters will go shopping elsewhere, such as NZ First or ACT.

National has a chance to throw McCully under the bus and clean all this up before next year. ?So far the only back-channel chat is about toughing it out.