Justice Minister Judith Collins was under pressure on two
fronts yesterday, facing further questions over both the
Oravida conflict-of-interest saga and widespread fresh privacy
issues in her ACC portfolio.
However, a determined Ms Collins last night told the Herald
she was confident Prime Minister John Key would continue to
back her and that her place in Cabinet was safe.
It emerged this week that Oravida, the company she, her
family and the National Party have close links with, formally
requested assistance from ministers in overcoming obstacles
to its milk exports to China after the Fonterra botulism
scare last year.
Amid revelations that ACC was handing thousands of clients'
case details to recruitment agencies, Ms Collins was also
pushed to identify the senior Chinese border control official
she and her friend and Oravida boss Stone Shi dined with in
Beijing in October during her ministerial visit just weeks
after the company made the request.
In the House, Labour MP Grant Robertson asked her whether the
official worked for China's Administration of Quality
Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). The agency
last year left thousands of tonnes of New Zealand meat
exports sitting on Chinese wharves through a paperwork
problem. The Opposition claims that Ms Collins' dinner with
the border control official was intended to help Oravida get
its milk into China.
However, Ms Collins, who denies Oravida's milk imports were
discussed at the meeting, once again said it was "a private
dinner for which I do not have ministerial responsibility".
Mr Robertson later told the Herald Ms Collins "had the
opportunity to rule out that the official at the meeting was
from the agency responsible for letting Oravida's goods into
"She didn't do that. I think we can make a fairly safe
assumption that is exactly where the official was from and
that raises the conflict of interest because we know that
Oravida were lobbying to try and get their products into
But Mr Key said whether the official worked for AQSIQ was
"not relevant and that's the advice I've had from the Cabinet
If it was proved that border control issues were discussed at
the dinner, "that would be a problem," Mr Key said.
"But I don't think that's going to be the case."
With just another day in Parliament before the Easter weekend
which looks likely to rob the Opposition's attacks of
momentum, Ms Collins told the Herald: "I have the confidence
of the Prime Minister and I have the confidence of the people
I work with.
"I am going nowhere."
Ms Collins said she was unaware Oravida was having any
problems getting its products into China at the time of the
That was in spite of her husband David Wong Tung being on
Oravida's board and the fact Mr Shi and Oravida's managing
director Julia Xu were "close friends".
"My close friends get to see me on rare occasions because I
am working most of the time and when I am with my friends
we're talking about things that are fun things, not about
problems at work."
Her husband had not considered resigning from the company
despite taunts from Labour MP Trevor Mallard on Twitter that
he would be gone by mid-May. "That's the level of pond life
that I'm dealing with in this matter," she said.
Meanwhile, Mr Key confirmed Oravida had received several
thousand dollars in taxpayer-funded compensation after the
botulism scare. However, the decision to award that
compensation was not made by ministers.
- Adam Bennett of the NZ Herald