The Standard can now reveal that Murray McCully has shares in a company that stands to benefit directly from National’s mining policy. As a member of Cabinet deciding this policy McCully has a significant conflict of interest.It's a shame that, while technically McCully was putting himself in a position where he could be conflicted, no real conflict exists. I say a shame because I have no great love for the man, and would have enjoyed watching his disgrace.
The company that McCully has a stake in, according to the MPs’ Register of Pecuniary Interests, is Widespread Portfolios (almost sounds like a front company for a Bond villain, eh?). Far from being “widespread”, its investments are exclusively in mining and oil. These include New Zealand-based mining operations.
Its subsidiary Widespread Energy is a petroleum and phosphates company. It owns prospecting permits over land north of Lake Brunner in the South Island and large areas of the seabed. Widespread Energy and Widespread Portfolios have jointly applied for a permit to prospect for phosphate on the Chatham Rise. The phosphates are found around hydrothermal vents – unique and fragile ecosystems that we are barely beginning to understand. They are the basis of some of our most important fisheries.
Mining will annihilate these ecosystems. As of June last year, McCully’s companies were lobbying Crown Minerals to develop “suitable” rules for undersea mining
McCully told Checkpoint tonight he was trying to get rid of the shares, but they're so worthless he can't find a buyer. He said their value was $31.63. Apparently there has been no cabinet discussion on conservation mining yet, so no technical conflict has arisen.
Still, it's a bad look when a minister gets tripped up like this. There are growing signs that members of this Government are being careless about their personal affairs. Last year it was Bill English. This year we've had John Key's uranium shares, Heatley's and Brownlee's credit cards, and now McCully. With the possible exception of English, these appear to be acts of simple carelessness. But they suggest Key and his ministers are not particularly disciplined in their personal affairs.
Good on The Standard for exposing the carelessness though.