Collins cleared of conflict: PM

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 15:38 05/03/2014

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Justice Minister Judith Collins has been cleared of any conflict of interest after she visited a company for which her husband is a director while on a taxpayer funded trip to China, Prime Minister John Key says.

Collins visited the Chinese offices of Auckland-based dairy company Oravida, which later claimed on its website that she had endorsed its products.

Labour says a translation from Oravida's website claims Collins' endorsement after she drank some of its milk.

Endorsing products is a breach of the Cabinet manual.

Collins said today she had asked Oravida to remove any references to her visit that did not comply with the Cabinet manual but was unapologetic about her visit to the company.

"I drink milk, shock horror I drink milk," Collins said.

"I love milk, I was bought up on it, I'm from a dairy farm in the Waikato."

Referring to the Fonterra botulism controversy, Collins said government ministers should use every opportunity to have "have milk with their tea and drink lots of milk" .

Oravida donated more than $55,000 to the National Party in 2011.

Labour MP Grant Robertson said the fact Collins' husband was a director made her visit to the company a clear conflict of interest.

Key said he had sought clarification from the Cabinet office to ensure Collins had not broken any rules "and they unequivocally came back and said there's no breach".

Asked about the statements on Oravida's website, Key said the Cabinet office did not consider that to be an endorsement.

"That happens all the time, I go to a lot of things where I say I use your toilet paper, or whatever it might be, that's not deemed to be an endorsement. "

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