The Saudi sheep deal will be investigated by the Auditor-General.

We need to know why that deal went ahead. Who authorised it? And why? What did we stand to gain by spending $11 million on a so-called Agri-hub in Saudi Arabia?

Meanwhile, the opposition parties' immediate response is for Foreign Minister Murray McCully to stand down while the investigation takes place.

I disagree.


As our foreign minister, his profile is significantly heightened overseas given our role on the UN security council. I think it would be damaging to our reputation if McCully was stood down.

The minister is not accountable until we know the facts - and the auditor-general will determine exactly what those facts are and how and why $11 million dollars of public money has been spent on the Saudi farms deal.

There are many questions to answer. Many.

Was the spending authorised by parliament?

The Auditor-General already had doubts about this - we've seen the documents that reveal as much.

Why did we make a cash payment of $4 million to the Al-Khalaf group?

And then, ofcourse, there's the justification for flying 900 ewes to a desert farm.

Some information has been suppressed. We need to know why that is. At the moment, all it does is fuel suspicion. We need some transparency.


But should we stand down McCully before we know the facts? No.

The deal looks messy. The deal looks murky. It appears we have paid what amounts to a bribe, but we shouldn't risk tarnishing our international reputation until we know for sure.

If McCully needs to go, then his exit has to be based on facts, and only the auditor-general can and will determine that.

Debate on this article is now closed.