New claims as Collins steps back

Judith Collins
Judith Collins
Oravida donated $30,000 to the National Party just days after Chinese authorities granted the firm the clearance for its milk imports that it had sought NZ Government assistance to gain, says NZ First leader Winston Peters.

Mr Peters released a document from Chinese border control agency AQSIQ to support his claim yesterday as Prime Minister John Key said he was pulling his embattled Justice Minister Judith Collins out of the firing line over the long running Oravida conflict-of-interest affair.

While Ms Collins will be in Parliament today and tomorrow, Mr Key said she would then take a few days off after showing signs that pressure from the Opposition over the Oravida saga and the resignation of ministerial colleague Maurice Williamson were affecting her judgment.

Ms Collins has faced weeks of questions over her visit to China late last year when she had a "private"dinner in Beijing with Oravida's bosses and an unnamed Chinese border control official.

The Opposition claims the dinner was about Ms Collins going to bat for the company that employs her husband, after it had asked for ministerial assistance to overcome obstacles to its milk exports to China following the Fonterra botulism scare.

Last night, Mr Peters released what he said was "an important Chinese import clearance document"from AQSIQ for Oravida's milk posted on the internet by the company about eight weeks after Ms Collins' Beijing dinner and just a few days before the company donated $30,000 to National on December 23.

"This suggests Oravida is boasting about having received clearance to export again from China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine [AQSIQ]," Mr Peters said.

"This is serious evidence that Oravida did benefit from Minister Collins' visit ... Their gratitude was shown three days later when the National Party received a $30,000 donation from them."

Mr Peters claimed to have further evidence that would implicate Ms Collins.

At National's northern regional conference over the weekend, Ms Collins lashed out at TVNZ parliamentary reporter Katie Bradford, for which she has now apologised.

Yesterday, Mr Key said he had discussed those "inappropriate"comments with Ms Collins on Sunday.

They were "a reflection of the fact she was letting things get under her skin and I think she would regret that," he said.

"We'll be encouraging her ... just to take a few days off."

But Ms Collins must front up in Parliament today and tomorrow, when the Opposition will grill her on Mr Peters' claims and a fresh Labour attack based on an Mfat document showing her visit to Oravida's Shanghai offices days after her Beijing dinner was officially described as being "to increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products into China".

Mr Key said he had had a "cursory look"through the documents referred to by Labour, and "there will be the normal political questions that will get asked and people will be able to work out why the Opposition asks those".

Labour MP Grant Robertson said if the time off was an attempt to make the Oravida issue go away, "it's not going to work".

The Oravida saga

August 2013: Oravida's managing director Julia Xu asks Trade Minister Tim Groser and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy for help to tackle a new testing regime which was blocking its milk imports to China.

Early October: Oravida invites Justice Minister Judith Collins to visit its Shanghai offices and to also go to dinner in Beijing.

October 20: Ms Collins arrives in Beijing where she attends lunch and the dinner with Oravida's Stone Shi and a senior Chinese border control official.

October 23: Ms Collins visits Oravida's Shanghai offices.

December 20: On its website Oravida posts an import certificate from Chinese authorities approving its milk imports.

December 23: Oravida donates $30,000 to the National Party.

March 12: Ms Collins put on notice by Mr Key after admitting she met Mr Shi on two further occasions than she had previously said.

April 17: Ms Collins admits she briefed the NZ ambassador to Beijing on the Beijing dinner.

May 2: Foreign Affairs documents reveal Ms Collins' office also asked for an official briefing.

- Adam Bennett of the NZ Herald

Maybe that's exactly why she told porkies

Hype, you know what the media is like. If she replied as you stated, nek minnit, it would be all over the media that she was up to no good and hiding something. And the media would have badgered and badgered as they do.

I would have told porkies too and for the record, if my wife had a company in another country I was visiting on business, I would have made time to call in as well.

The way I see it, as a politician she needs to be open and honest but when media start questioning matters outside her work position, she's entilted to tell media whatever she feels like telling them at the time.

Sure, she's a politican, but not 24 hours a day. Maybe you don't have a life outside of work but most do. And what we do ouside of work is no ones business but our own. 

You could do it but would it be wise?

"If I'm to fly home from a business appointment, surely I'm entitled to do whatever I like prior to turning up for the flight?"  

Sure, speedfreak43.  Are you also entitled to tell porkies about what you've been doing?  If it was a private activity, completely unrelated to your employment (or your husband/wife), you are in my opinion entitled to say, "Nothing to do with you, none of your business."  But misleading them?  How would your boss, your partner, react to finding out you'd told them something that was not the truth?  How much respect and trust would you lose, how much criticism could you expect to cop from them and the in-laws and various other people who have their own ideas about the importance of honesty in people in positions of trust?

Porkies

Hype: I think you have pretty much nailed it. Collins plays the strong-arm character in National and didn't recognise her cue to eat humble pie. I think her leadership chances have diminished. Although if Cunliffe can come back from his disloyal acts in Labour then maybe Collins isn't down and out. [Abridged]

Or maybe just a figure of speech

Granted, it's not on the actual way to the airport but likely just one thing she needed/wanted to attend to before going there.

If I'm to fly home from a business appointment, surely I'm entitled to do whatever I like prior to turning up for the flight? As is she. 

Our imaginative Ms Collins

Speedfreak43 says Ms Collins "was there on Government business, sure, but when that's attended to, who really cares what she got up to in her off time?" But that's not really what it was about, was it?  Among the gradually emerging facts that appear strangely at odds with her original story that she called in at Oravida on her way to the (only an hour in the opposite direction) airport" is this one:  'Mfat document showing her visit to Oravida's Shanghai offices days after her Beijing dinner was officially described as being "to increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products into China"'.  Well, maybe that's what she does in her time off, where a lesser person might go shopping or visit an art gallery or catch up on some shut-eye.  But then, why come out with that first account, the one about a casual visit on her way to the airport?  Is she in training for a post-politics career as a novelist, I wonder?

The eyebrows have it

I think her eyebrows are the real brains of the operation. If they where raised anymore they would be on the back of her head.

Storm in a tea cup

You're quite right, Hype. She was there on Government business, sure, but when that's attended to, who really cares what she got up to in her off time? She is allowed some off time, isn't she?

Key's modus operandus

In Key's case it is "If I don't see no evil, I don't hear no evil, then no evil has occured."  Then he can sit back with a smug face exactly as he has done with Peter Dunne, John Banks, the whole Dotcom issue, the GCSB fiasco etc and concentrate on the really important things in life such as organising a round of golf to give some good photo opportunities to his mates.  Cynical?  Justifiably so.

 

 

It's the porkies

"Most voters beyond the "belt-way" couldn't care less about the Oravida saga," writes sv3nn0.  
Speaking for myself, I couldn't care less that she made the planned visit because it's one of the things MPs (and Mayors) do to emphasise good relationships with trading partners.  In China this personal interest is particularly valued.  What I don't like is the same as what turned my opinion of Helen Clark.  Ms Clark claimed to have drawn a picture when she hadn't.  It was a completely trivial matter yet she chose to "misspeak" about it.  If a person tells porkies about matters of no importance what are they likely to do when it's an occasion where the truth is of vital importance?  
The same with Ms Collins; if she had said outright that she managed to fit in a dinner with an important business that buys NZ's exports there could have been a couple of snarky remarks about its being the company her husband is involved in but 99.99% of us would have shrugged and promptly forgotten - it would have been a stir that failed.  It's not the deeds, in both cases they were not worth all the fuss.  It's the porkies.

Media being played?

The media is doing National a favour by focussing so hard on Collins and Oravida. Most voters beyond the "belt-way" couldn't care less about the Oravida saga. It makes me wonder if Judith's indiscrete comments to the media may have been a deliberate ploy to deflect attention from Maurice Williamson who actually did something bad that voters do care about (unlike Collin's saga which National can paint as helping a company in the wake of the Botulism scare).
The media and opposition beat Collins with it for ages with no traction so voters tired of the story. When Williamson was only at the start of his beating and already showing physical signs of distress (which were distastefully broadcast by the media) Collins put her hand up to put her foot in it again. She did so by exploiting the media's emotive treatment of Williamson which played into Collin's hands because she could make her indiscrete comments without getting off side with the public who found themselves feeling sorry for a man who clearly broke the rules!
She certainly got offside with the media, however, and most politics stories yesterday and today are about Collins who people are sick of hearing about and Williamson is left to sort himself out.
It seems to me like the touchy parts and self-important factions of the national media has been played for a fool by National party strategists. If they wake up to that and it doesn't get National offside with the grumpy media then nothing will.

John Key has his head in the sand

"Mr Key said he had had a "cursory look"through the documents "

Just like he didn't read the police report on John Banks and other offical documents that make uncomfortable reading.

There is a limit to how many times the public will accept him refusing to answer questions by claiming "he hasn't read the document"

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