A subdued but defiant
Judith Collins endured a flurry of Opposition attacks over her
Oravida connections in a torrid session in Parliament this
Ms Collins takes some time out from Parliament later this
week and early next week after showing signs of strain over
the long running Oravida affair which cast a shadow over her
future as a minister.
In the meantime however she faced questions over the matter
in Parliament today.
Even as she entered the House this afternoon, Labour MP Grant
Robertson made fresh allegations, saying he had evidence that
a Chinese company that imports exactly the same milk as
Oravida was having its products rejected by Chinese
authorities in December at the same time as Oravida's milk
was being accepted.
He put that down to Ms Collins influence with the unnamed
Chinese border control official she dined with at a dinner in
Beijing late last year arranged by Oravida's bosses Stone Shi
and Julia Xu.
"I would have thought that was drawing a very long bow", Ms
Collins told reporters on the way into the House.
This afternoon's session began with a personal statement from
Ms Collins clarifying her statement two weeks ago when she
said she hadn't spoken with Ambassador to Beijing Carl Worker
about the dinner.
As she revealed to the Herald two week ago, Ms Collins told
Parliament this afternoon she had actually spoken with Mr
Worker afterwards, telling him nothing of note had taken
place at the "very nice and very short"dinner.
Ms Collins faced three primary questions, the toughest being
from Mr Robertson who quizzed her on why a scheduled business
and legal roundtable event in Shanghai during her trip was
replaced with a visit to Oravida's offices.
Over a month ago, Ms Collins told Parliament that when she
was in Shanghai that day, "The only other choice was to go to
the airport or to go to Oravida and then to the airport".
Ms Collins said Mr Robertson was wrong to suggest she'd had
the roundtable event removed so she could visit Oravida.
The event was on a draft intinerary prepared by MFAT, it did
not go ahead, "but it was not at my request".
Her answer was interrupted by Labour MP Trevor Mallard who
interjected with a suggestion her family had received "half a
million dollars" from Oravida.
Ms Collins' husband David Wong-Tung is a director of Oravida
and Mr Mallard later explained the figure he mentioned was
based on the fact Mr Wong-Tung was also on the board of four
other related companies.
Ms Collins took exception and asked for Mr Mallard to
withdraw his comment. When asked to do so by Speaker David
Carter, he refused and was ejected from the chamber.
Drawing from a series of emails regarding Ms Collins' China
trip released last week by MFAT, Mr Robertson also claimed
the ministry prepared a briefing on the unnamed Chinese
official she dined with, which he said undermined her claim
it was a private dinner.
Ms Collins denied she had been briefed on the official. She
has previously said that while her staff asked MFAT for a
briefing, she said it was not required when she found out
Ms Collins' final questions came from NZ First Leader Winston
Peters who became frustrated at her answers and resorted to
asking her about why she would not be in the House on
Thursday and early next week, "rather than staying to do the
job she's being paid to do".
"That member seems to know more about my diary than I do", Ms
Ms Collins who still has the backing of Prime Minister John
Key will face further questions tomorrow before going on a
- By Adam Bennett of
the NZ Herald