Judith Collins dubbed 'minister of corruption'

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 17:34 16/04/2014
Judith Collins
PHIL WALTER/ Getty
CORRUPTION CLAIM: Judith Collins is feeling the heat over a claim she acted inappropriately while on a taxpayer funded trip as a Government minister.

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Justice Minister Judith Collins has hit out against the latest conflict of interest allegations levelled against her by Opposition MPs.

Collins has been under fire over allegations she used her ministerial position to benefit her husband's business interests.

She was also refusing to name the Chinese border official who she, Oravida managing director Julia Xu and chairman Stone Shi, who were close personal friends, shared a private dinner with while on an official trip to China.

The latest allegations levelled by NZ First leader Winston Peters under parliamentary privilege were that Collins went to the rescue of Oravida after it wrote to the Government seeking assistance after the Fonterra botulism scare last year.

The letter said Oravida had been "profoundly negatively" affected by the disaster and urged "ministers and the New Zealand Government to help us to navigate through this difficult time".

Collins has avoided the media, but told RadioLive today the allegations made by Peters were "utterly untrue".

"Worse than that, TV3 and Winston Peters have made utterly false comments and stated as fact things that are not fact," Collins said.

"Pretty much everything" about the allegations was false "and I'm not going to to dignify them with a response", she said.

"I'm not responsible for the company, I'm not responsible for actions that they take and I'm absolutely disgusted at the way in which my family has been dragged through this by some elements of the media."

She denied it was a bad look for her to meet with Oravida after the company wrote to Trade Minister Tim Groser and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy seeking government help.

"It does not look wrong. It looks no more wrong than the fact that 41 companies wrote or received some funding from the Government because of the issue," Collins said.

"I am absolutely disgusted at the way in which some people want to make an issue out of something that is not an issue."

When asked why she would not front media she said "if people want to speak to me then they can make an appointment to see me in my office and do an interview. But I am not going to put up with these filthy allegations about my family.

"I am a family person and I am so disgusted at the way that people like you and your colleagues have used my family in such a disgusting manner."

'MINISTER OF CORRUPTION'

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Labour leader David Cunliffe today used the protection of parliamentary privilege to attack Collins over her links to milk exporter Oravida, labelling her the "minister of corruption".

Cunliffe accused Collins of lobbying for the interests of her husband's business while in China on taxpayer-funded business and told Parliament she was "toast".

Collins had lectured the Chinese about corruption "on the same taxpayer-funded trip where she had dinner with the chairman of her husband's company and the senior Chinese border control official that company wanted to get its products through".

"That is corruption; that is what - to quote her - corruption looks like."

Cunliffe also targeted Prime Minister John Key.

"John Key is no better. He is donkey deep in the Oravida scandal."

Labour MP Grant Robertson questioned whether the official was from China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, also known as the AQSIQ, which was responsible for decisions about letting New Zealand milk products through the border in the wake of the botulism scare.

In a testy series of exchanges Collins refused to answer because it was a ''private dinner'' and later told Parliament she could not be bothered answering other Opposition questions either.

Documents released yesterday showed Oravida had lobbied government ministers to intervene over New Zealand milk products being slapped with stringent new border requirements.

Collins also faced more questioning from Peters about why she would not reveal the name and position of the border official.

Also using parliamentary privilege, Peters claimed Collins had been "enlisted specifically to address" issues to do with border testing.

Other companies in the same position did not get the same help, he said later in the House.

"While these companies struggle through the waves of a bureaucratic sea, Oravida goes past on a jet ski with Minister Collins at the helm."

There was only one reason the Chinese official was at the dinner and that reason was Oravida, Peters said.

- Stuff

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