Collins vows to resign if she shames the boss again

Last updated 05:00 14/03/2014

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Justice Minister Judith Collins says she will resign if information emerges that she discussed the importation of Oravida products with a Chinese Customs official at a private dinner.

Collins was forced to give an assurance nothing more would come out that would embarrass Prime Minister John Key over her trip to China after she belatedly revealed the dinner to him and the media.

A storm has erupted over her visit to fresh food exporter Oravida's Shanghai offices, and a private dinner with Oravida chairman Stone Shi, managing director Julia Xu, Collins' adviser and an unnamed Chinese border control official.

Collins' husband, David Wong-Tung, is a director of Oravida.

Collins said the dinner conversation was kept firmly away from Oravida's business and focused on tourism in New Zealand.

Asked if she was prepared to resign if it emerged importation issues to do with Oravida had been discussed, she said: "Well, of course, but I didn't."

Collins initially failed to disclose the dinner despite a barrage of questions about her relationship with Oravida, after she was quoted on the company's Chinese-language website praising its products. The Cabinet manual bars ministers from endorsing products.

Key effectively put Collins on notice, saying on Wednesday that she had been "cute" by not mentioning the dinner.

Collins yesterday also confirmed she had a private dinner with Xu - a close friend - when they both spoke at the Apec Women Leadership Forum in November.

"I had dinner with my close friends. I don't know what you do at dinner but I eat food and I drink wine." She also hit out at allegations by Labour MP Shane Jones that she had been living at the Auckland mansion formerly owned by failed finance director Mark Hotchin - now owned by Shi. She said the rumours mentioned by Jones on radio were "defamatory". But she would not be taking action against him because nobody believed what he said.

Ms Collins had earlier said she and her husband had not stayed at the former Hotchin mansion, which is in upmarket Paritai Drive. Suggestions they had stayed there while their own house was being renovated were wrong.

An emotional Collins said Jones' comments were "hurtful" but she would not elaborate on what the comments might have meant.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that successive Labour and National governments overrode immigration officials' advice, and allowed a wealthy Chinese property developer to move to New Zealand.

Former Labour associate immigration minister Damien O'Connor approved residency for Donghua Liu in 2005 against officials' advice.

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O'Connor said he had been alerted to the decision.

"I have no recollection of it - quite likely though."

He said there were about 4500 cases a year.

"Most of the advice is that they shouldn't go through, otherwise they would have been approved, so it's pretty much standard advice from Immigration to say this shouldn't go ahead."

That was why people sought ministerial discretion, he said.

Labour Party secretary Tim Barnett said the party had no record of receiving a donation from Liu or his companies. The current law on disclosing donations applied only from 2008.

Liu was granted citizenship in 2011 by Immigration Minister Nathan Guy who overrode officials' advice. A year later Liu donated $22,000 to the National Party through one of his companies.

Related read: Shane Jones apologises over comments

- Fairfax Media


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