Judith Collins misses the point

Judith Collins has wheeled out her advisor, Margaret Malcolm, to defend her against the corruption allegations she’s facing. Ms Malcolm was the senior advisor who was present at the “private” dinner in China, along with Collins, Oravida’s CEO, Oravida’s managing director and the mysterious Chinese border official whose identity Ms Collins refuses to disclose.

Ms Malcolm has corroborated Ms Collins’ assertion that Oravida business was never discussed. From the stuff.co.nz article:

Malcolm, who travelled with Collins to China as her senior adviser, backed the minister’s claim that they did not discuss Oravida’s business over the dinner and that they talked mostly tourism.

“The dinner was very short and discussion was restricted due to some participants having limited English. The conversation centred around New Zealand as a tourist destination.”

She had not taken any notes in her capacity as adviser.

With all due respect to Ms Collins, that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter whether Oravida and its business was ever discussed. The issue is that Ms Collins was at a dinner with a number of senior Oravida personnel, and those Oravida personnel saw fit to bring along a Chinese border official. The only conceivable reason for the official to have been invited is that Oravida wanted to show off the level of the company’s influence with NZ politicians. “Hey, we and Minister for Justice are BFFs!”

The dinner was about benefiting Oravida – a company of which Ms Collins’ husband is a director – whether Oravida business was discussed or not. Ms Collins has been played, wittingly or unwittingly, by Oravida, and she owes a duty to reveal who the official was. To my mind, this is a conflict of interest situation, pursuant to the Cabinet Manuel, and the official’s right to privacy doesn’t exist.

UPDATE:

I’ve just noticed this passage from a NZ Herald story on Ms Collins feeling that she’s been “humanised” by the corruption debacle:

NZ Ambassador to China Carl Worker was invited to the dinner but declined.

So the NZ Ambassador to China was invited to what Collins has described as a private dinner with close personal friends? I see. I wasn’t aware that Collins was such close personal friends with our Ambassador to China. Or was the Ambassador invited by Oravida merely to add to the show of power?

Your response, Ms Collins?

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