Collins accused of misleading Parliament

00:13, Apr 22 2014
John Key
PRIME MINISTER: John Key.

Labour MP Grant Robertson is accusing Justice Minister Judith Collins of misleading Parliament over a conversation with New Zealand's ambassador to China.

Answering questions from Robertson in the House on Thursday Collins said she could not remember "'any discussions" with ambassador Carl Worker after the dinner, which included two representatives of exporter Oravida and an unnamed Chinese border official.  

"Judith Collins has misled Parliament. She said that she could not remember discussing the dinner with the Ambassador after it occurred, yet she told Campbell Live that she had spoken to him the next day about it," Robertson said.

Judith Collins
CORRUPTION CLAIM: Judith Collins is feeling the heat over a claim she acted inappropriately while on a taxpayer funded trip as a Government minister.

On the March 12 Campbell Live show she said she had invited the ambassador to the dinner but he had not been able to make it.

"I spoke to him the next day about it."

Robertson said Collins was unable to give a straight answer about her visit to China.  

Advertisement

"She has sought to cover up her clear conflict of interest at every opportunity. This was never a private dinner the moment that a senior Chinese Border Control Official was present.   Briefing the Ambassador after the dinner confirms that again." 

But Collins this morning insisted her story hasn't changed.

"Because I took notes when the whole matter first blew up, and I went back and sat down and thought of everything that had happened," Collins told Morning Report.

She said she had consulted her notes on Thursday, after answering questions from Robertson in the House, about the dinner.

"When I came back from the House and I did some interviews and I thought, 'hang on, I'm sure I spoke to the ambassador the next day. And basically, I thought Grant Robertson was talking about immediately after, which is why I said I went to bed."

She insisted her story had not changed, and her update with the ambassador  was a short discussion, not an official briefing.

"This has been something similar to what I think the witch-hunts of Salem must have been like, and I've had this day in, day out, for about seven weeks."

Meanwhile Prime Minister John Key has dismissed the Greens' call for full disclosure of ministerial meetings, saying the information could already be gained through official channels.

The Green Party has proposed a new "ministerial disclosure regime" in the wake of the Oravida scandal involving Justice Minister Judith Collins.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said its policy was based on a British model and would require ministers to make public records of their meetings with external organisations, overseas travel, gifts and hospitality. The quarterly declarations would be published online.

Turei told Breakfast this morning the register would remove all doubt over issues like the Collins affair.

"There's that issue that everybody thinks was an official meeting between a foreign official from a foreign government and business leaders from New Zealand," Turei said.

"She's [Collins] claiming it's private - everybody knows that it's part of her ministerial responsibility. That needs to be disclosed openly, and would be every three months.

"But also, the $5000 tickets to get access to John Key, the $6000 tickets to golf games with John Key. Where ministers are acting in their ministerial capacity, that information and those meetings should be disclosed to the public."

Key said the Oravida situation was no reason to implement full disclosure of political meetings.

"They're [the Greens] in the bottom of the barrel scraping things," Key said.

"Nothing has changed in that issue. As we said some time ago, her [Collins'] actions; the cumulative effect led to a perception of a conflict of interest that was wrong.

"But nothing in the register that Metiria Turei is talking about would change anything.

"We already have the Official Information Act, you already have huge capacity through [the register of] pecuniary interests for people to register and for people to have access to information."

Key also defended high-priced National Party fundraisers.

"I do fundraising dinners. Here's the surprise - it costs an awful lot of money to run campaigns and all political parties as far as I'm aware use their leader and other senior members to raise money.

"There's nothing wrong with that, and in fact the only option away from that is state funding.

"They [the Greens] just have to be careful they're not too hypocritical of themselves because they take their own set of money, they do their own fundraising things - are they as transparent as everybody else?

"Well, they're about the same, they're certainly no better.

"If they were Russel Norman would be telling us exactly what he promised [Kim] Dotcom," Key said.

Stuff