'Crusher' Collins in trouble

16:00, Mar 13 2014

I've always liked Justice Minister Judith Collins because of her no-nonsense approach to politics.

She has been - up until last week - one of the stars of this National Government, which is why she sits on the front bench.

But Crusher - as she was crowned after her controversial boy-racer car crushing bill - found out first-hand that in politics you can go from hero to zero in the beat of an electoral poll.

And what would have started as a harmless dinner with business associates of her husband's in China could almost cost her job as a Cabinet minister.

Prime Minister John Key tried to shut down the story of her dinner with senior members of Oravida when he heard the full extent of who attended.

But by then the media and Opposition were milking this story for all its worth.


The dinner was with senior members of Oravida, a company that deals with New Zealand dairy products, and a senior Chinese government official.

Collins' husband David Wong-Tung is a director of the company. Initially she denied there had been a meeting or a dinner and tried to brush off questions.

But when photos and more information of the dinner emerged, Key had no option but to publicly chastise one of his senior MPs.

Privately, Key would have told Collins that this slip-up exposed the Government to some risk that could have had dire consequences because if it looks and smells like a conflict of interest, even if it isn't, it is.

Key said Collins had "misled by omission" and had a responsibility to reveal all the meetings she had in China.

The fact she didn't tell her boss about the dinner was a major slip-up by Collins, ranked No 5 in the government totem pole.

She has been marked as a potential future prime minister.

Collins has been a loyal lieutenant to Key and has done much of the grunt work when called upon to push through unpopular legislation.

But this gaffe has seen her star wane considerably and questions will now be asked about her capabilities.

As I said, I like Collins because she gets in and does the job. She's one tough cookie and is not afraid to take on the big or bad boys. Her take-no-prisoners attitude has forged her reputation in Parliament as someone you don't want to mess with.

But not telling her boss is something that will be hard to shake. And it's given Labour a golden opportunity to come back after a miserable start to its political year.

Manukau Courier