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McCully won't resign over sheep deal

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/11/2016

The government's controversial Saudi Arabian sheep deal might have been legal, but that doesn't mean it's ethical according to the Green Party, who want Foreign Minister Murray McCully to resign.

Mr McCully and the government have been cleared of corruption and bribery in a report by Auditor-General Lyn Provost, but it was found there were "serious shortcomings" in a deal settled with wealthy Saudi Arabian sheep farmer Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf.

Green co-leader James Shaw said the use of a contract for services to settle a diplomatic dispute was rogue and brought New Zealand into disrepute.

"I think Murray McCully's got to go. We cannot tolerate this level of incompetence, this cavalier attitude toward public funds and this lack of transparency in government ministers," Green co-leader James Shaw said.

"Legal is not the same as ethical and if you look at the report it cites numerous instances where the behaviour was rogue, where there was clear incompetence in that they didn't make their business cases, had no method of measuring effectiveness and they were doing some pretty dodgy stuff."

But Mr McCully said he accepts the report's criticisms, stands by the advice he gave cabinet about the existence of a legal threat and won't be resigning.

He put findings of a lack of transparency in the deal down to "a joint failing of government ministers and the New Zealand media".

"We look forward to the fulsome co-operation of the news media as we focus on the substantial benefits of the FTA as it's concluding sometime soon," he said.

But while the report found there was no evidence of the benefits of the deal, Mr McCully said that was not the case and indicated Ms Provost maybe had old information.

Labour's David Parker said the report didn't exonerate the government.

"It's a terrible state of affairs, millions have been wasted, our reputation has been sullied, and parliament and the public have been misled," he said.

Act leader David Seymour said the government deserved to be embarrassed by the deal.

"Wasteful deal-making like this is the natural consequence of a culture of corporate welfare. The Saudi sheep deal only escapes being labelled 'corrupt' by virtue of how common these arrangements are across all New Zealand governments," he said.

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