Embattled Justice Minister Judith Collins appeared to be
close to tears this afternoon as she was targeted by the
Opposition over her links with wealthy businessman Deyi Shi.
Ms Collins was yesterday facing Opposition claims she lobbied
a senior Chinese border control official on behalf of Mr
Shi's company milk exporter Oravida during a dinner in
Beijing in the wake of the Fonterra botulism scare.
However, on the way into Parliament this afternoon Ms Collins
appeared to become distraught when asked by reporters about
suggestions from Labour MP Shane Jones that she had been
staying at Mr Shi's home - the luxury Hotchin mansion.
"I'm really disgusted actually that Shane would do that. It's
actually really hurtful. I've been to the home that Mr Shi
has bought on many occasions because he is a close personal
friend and he's away a lot but I've never lived there. I
don't stay there, I've been there."
Prime Minister John Key gave the high flying cabinet minister
a stern warning yesterday after it emerged she failed to tell
him and the public about the dinner last year attended by her
close friends and Oravida bosses Mr Shi and Julia Xu and the
Ms Collins maintains Oravida business was not discussed at
the dinner. However, NZ First Leader Winston Peters
challenged that in Parliament this afternoon.
"Following the botulism scare of last year is it not a fact
that her visit to Oravida was predominantly access and
customs clearance for Oravida products in the Chinese market,
and that is the real reason why a People's Republic of China
border official was present at that dinner?"
Ms Collins denied that and said her senior adviser Margaret
Malcolm who was also present at the dinner would confirm
Oravida's business was not discussed, which is exactly what
Ms Malcolm did when contacted by the Herald this afternoon.
Earlier this afternoon Ms Collins refused to name the Chinese
border control official or say which agency they worked for,
and indicated she was being kept on a short leash by the
"I think you should talk to the Prime Minister's office
because I am giving you the words that I have been told that
I should say otherwise there could be an issue with China."
- By Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald