Written By: - Date published: 10:25 am, April 26th, 2014 - 32 comments
Categories: accountability, alcohol, democracy under attack, john key, Judith Collins, same old national, slippery - Tags: conflict of interest, corruption
Judith Colllins and John Key are probably toasting Shane Jones (and Murray McCully) right now: they Oravida conflict of interest controversy wasw pushed off the front pages when the heat was really. But information and marginalised news don’t easily disappear off the online record – including from Wikipedia. Collins also tried to slip a fast into the public arena as it turned to focus on ANZAC Day – a press release notifying of the delay of her decision on alcohol pricing: a statement that ignores the evidence and conclusions in a pricing review.
Last Wednesday morning, Adam Bennett reported in the NZ Herald that things weren’t looking so great for the minister. Collins was ducking and diving in response to seemingly contradictory statements about whether or not her dinner with Oradiva people in China, was a private event or not.
It seems the NZ Ambassador to China, Carl Worker did think there were potential political issues that may have been raised at the dinner – ones he wanted to be informed about
Ms Collins has refused to answer questions about the dinner late last year, attended by her friends and Oravida bosses Stone Shi and Julia Xu, on the grounds it was a private dinner.
But after denying in Parliament last week that she had spoken about the dinner with Mr Worker, she later told the Herald that she had not only discussed it with him afterwards, but he had also asked her to keep him informed of what was discussed.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday said he didn’t have details of Ms Collins’ discussions with Mr Worker about the dinner.
He said that if it was proved Ms Collins misled Parliament over her discussions she would have to formally correct her answers.
Surely this is an inadequate response from a PM in the light of the possibility of one of his ministers having misled parliament. Key, for whatever reason, has been in support of Collins and claimed she may just have misheard the question in the House. So the whole issue gets buried among the fudging and denials.
Meanwhile, over at Wikipedia, the Judith Collins page is being edited by someone to fudge the strength of the allegations against Collins. Roger Brooking has been keeping a watch on it, and posted his observations on his blog last Sunday. Brooking states:
She’s doing her best to cover up the identity of the Chinese government official who attended her now infamous dinner party in China – good luck with that!
But is she also trying to cover up the cover up as well? Her wikipedia page has a Reputation section about her ‘hardball’ manner and ‘take no prisoners’ attitude. But once Oravida is mentioned, the Wikipedia description of events begins to sour.
Brooking then goes on to catalogue the deletions:
This sentence has just been deleted: “It subsequently emerged that Collins travelled 30km in the opposite direction to the airport in order to drop in.” And the following paragraph, which goes into more detail about the Chinese government official, has been deleted entirely – by an editor calling himself (or herself) ‘Nick-D’. Who could that be?
This is part of the deleted section – a section that charts the unfolding of the Oravida controversy:
Amid on-going accusations of corruption and a conflict of interest from Winston Peters and Grant Robertson, Collins began avoiding the media waiting for her in the halls of parliament. Because her husband is a director of Oravida, she claimed the media were attacking her family but also said the attacks had ‘humanised’ her. She told the Weekend Herald: “I’ve never been seen as someone who was particularly human.”
Judith Collins seems to have generally become a little sensitive about how she is seen by the public. Collins, in her role as Justice Minister, revealed a non-decision on alcohol pricing, just before public and media attention swung towards ANZAC Day. On Thursday there was an announcement on her delay of a decision on alcohol pricing. Olivia Wannan reports today on Stuff:
Justice Minister Judith Collins’ decision to wait and see on a policy that could significantly reduce alcohol harm has been called election-year cowardice.
Minimum alcohol pricing – a scheme focused on cut-price liquor such as cask wine – could save the country an estimated $624 million in alcohol harm over a decade, a Justice Ministry report found.
The scheme, already established in Canada and voted through by the Scottish Parliament, sets a base price for alcoholic beverages based on the number of standard drinks per bottle.
The Justice Ministry report concluded “overall, any price increase will effectively reduce harmful alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm”.
And yet, Collins seems to be trying to ignore this evidence:
But Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said the Government knew that increasing prices worked, which was why it was now targeting tobacco by bumping up taxes year by year.
Williams believed Collins’ claim that minimum pricing would unfairly affect moderate drinkers was “bollocks”.
“It’s designed to curb that really cheap access that makes alcohol available at pocket-money prices for young people.”
Trying to slip this under the public radar on Thursday, indicates Collins judged her decision to be either dodgy or unpopular. Surely this is a bit of a come down for a politician who thrives on media attention?