Monday, May 18, 2015

A regulatory bribe

A couple of weeks ago we learned that the government had bribed a Saudi billionaire to get him to exert his influence over Gulf governments and back a free trade agreement. It was a sordid, disreputable deal, which undermined New Zealand's position on corruption. But it gets worse - because it turns out that we gave him a regulatory bribe as well:

An investigation by ONE News has discovered the Government agreed to "delete" a proposed rule around animal safeguards when a Saudi businessman asked.


Foreign Minister Murray McCully wrote an undated letter to Hamood Al Ali Al Khalaf, which ONE News understands was written in March 2012, detailing just how far New Zealand would go to help him. Mr Khalaf lost hundreds of millions of dollars when New Zealand banned the export of live sheep to Saudi Arabia nearly a decade ago.

Mr McCully said the export of sheep for breeding, not slaughter, could be allowed "relatively easily" providing some rules were put in place.

But Mr Khalaf didn't like all of them.

Mr McCully wrote to Mr Khalaf: "You expressed strong objection to provisions that extend past disembarkation." In other words, any rules around what happens to sheep once they land in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Khalaf responded saying local rules were strong enough.

Mr McCully caved, saying: "I agree to recommend deleting provisions past the point of disembarkation."

Which coincidentally creates an enormous loophole allowing live animals to be exported for slaughter again, provided the exporters lie that they're breeding stock. It would be interesting to know how many have been exported under this new provision - and how many have died in transit.

Meanwhile, wouldn't it be nice to have a government that stood up for our values, rather than giving them away as bribes to the rich?