Pressure on Collins following outburst

01:55, May 05 2014

Embattled Justice Minister Judith Collins' outburst at a press gallery journalist, was "completely inappropriate" and she will be "very careful going forward", Prime Minister John Key says.

Pressure is mounting on Collins to resign after she lashed out at TVNZ political reporter Katie Bradford yesterday before issuing a hasty public apology.

Collins has faced scrutiny for weeks about her dealings with Chinese company Oravida, of which her husband is a director, and she has complained about family being dragged into political matters.

But yesterday, Collins went on the attack outside National's northern region conference in Auckland, claiming some media actions were "very inappropriate", citing the example of one journalist - Bradford, who she said had asked about a police job for her partner at the time.

Bradford denied she ever asked Collins for help, which the minister has acknowledged.

Key said on Breakfast this morning, he still had confidence in his minister, but had a couple of "good and long conversations" with her yesterday.

"The first thing I'd say is yes, she's been under a lot of pressure," Key said.

"I think the Oravida thing is what it is. Ministers have to be careful about creating the perception of conflict of interest. The fact she wasn't as careful as she should have been allowed the Opposition to get their claws into her, if you like.

"But yes, she's friends with Maurice [Williamson], and she's feeling what he's going through, but as I said to her and as she agreed with me, that [the outburst against Bradford] was completely inappropriate."

Key said Collins had publicly apologised, and no more would be heard on the matter.

"And I think she'll be extremely careful going forward," he said

In an interview with TV3 about a separate occasion where Collins was asked to intervene in a policing matter, the former police minister said she had been approached by Bradford about the journalist's former husband potentially joining the police.

Collins asked the TV3 reporter whether the media would be held to the same standards as politicians, days after Williamson was forced to resign as a minister because he phoned police about an ongoing investigation into a National Party donor.

Collins took to Twitter, in what appeared to be an attempt to goad TV3 into doing a story on the interview, claiming she felt it was "odd and wrong" for the journalist to raise the matter with her.

Several hours later Collins apologised to Bradford, after Key told media he would talk to her about the episode.

"Yr example came to mind. Reflected on that. Shouldnt [sic] have.sorry" Collins tweeted.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said Collins' performance on 3 News yesterday was "beyond the pale".

"Ministers attacking journalists is something we haven't seen in a long time, and I think it sadly shows a minister whose under tremendous pressure."

He said Collins had not accepted the prime minister's judgement about Williamson.

"She does not think Mr Williamson was at fault, the prime minister does. The prime minister needs to take action against a minister who has just countermanded him - one of the most serious discharges of duty a prime minister can do, which is to accept the resignation of a minister."

He said Collins was cracking under the pressure over the Oravida affair.

Documents released last week by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed Collins conducted company business on a ministerial trip, Cunliffe said.

"This is a conflict of interest, it was not properly declared - the Prime Minister has a very clear decision to make.

"It's impossible for Ms Collins to be at that dinner with a border control official, and not talk about Oravida business."

Labour's Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson described Collins' comments about Bradford as petty and vindictive and said she should resign as minister.

"I thought it was disgraceful," he said.

"Judith is clearly under pressure and needs to take responsibility for her own actions rather than hitting out at journalists."

Asked whether he thought Collins should resign he said: "I do. I think John Key now needs to take some serious action.

"She hasn't faced her conflict of interest around the Oravida situation and is now behaving in a way that is not acceptable for a minister, so the pressure is on John Key to deal with that."

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman tweeted: "You know how I gave a speech describing this Govt as Muldoonist, and some people didn't believe me? #Judith."

Collins was already expected to come under pressure when Parliament resumes tomorrow after a two-week recess over the latest developments involving her controversial visit to China last year during which she had a dinner with Oravida executives and an unnamed Chinese border official.


The Dominion Post