Collins must be holding something over the PM — Peters
UPDATE / May 14: Winston Peters has hinted that Judith Collins won't be "gone by Monday", as he predicted yesterday, because the Justice Minister is blackmailing John Key.
On TV3's Firstline this morning, the NZ First leader said that by his count, Ms Collins had survived after breaking the law eight times (by his measure) during her official trip to Beijing last October, which included private engagment's with her husband's company, Oravida.
By contrast, Maurice Williamson and Pansy Wong had made one mistake then been asked to leave cabinet, Mr Peters said.
Asked why the Prime Minister would sack Mr Williamson and Ms Wong but not Ms Collins, the NZ First leader replied, "Well, it’s because she knows something that’s got to be terribly embarrassing to him."
He added, "There’s got to be a reason. You’ve seen over the years that when a politician gets caught like this they either stand down or they go pending a full scale enquiry. Here, nothing."
Peters fires a blank
UPDATE / May 13: Winston Peters made a new allegation against Judith Collins in Question Time in Parliament today — but on the face of things it will not see the Justice Minister gone by the end of the week, as the NZ First leader had promised.
Mr Peters said Ms Collins received support, transport, accommodation from the Chinese during her October 2013 official trip to Beijing , but failed to report it on the registry of MPs' pecuniary interests, which was recently updated, despite briefing the PM on the freebies. The NZ First Leader tabled a cabinet travel document in support of his accusation.
Prime Minister John Key said he would look into it, but that it did not seem to be anything out of order.
"We would have to go and check with the Pecuniary Interests Register, but if the member is basically making the allegation that because she was on a visit where there was a private meeting that she used government funded things and that's a pecuniary interest, then my understanding is the dinner [with Oravida] took place in the hotel [where Collins was already staying]," Mr Key said.
"If there's some irregularity on the Pecuniary Interests Register we'll have a look at it. On the face of it, it doesn't sound like that to me."
MPs do not have to declare travel costs met by a government or parliament if they are on an official parliamentary visit. Ms Collins was on a ministerial trip to investigate justice issues. Mr Peters argued it was a ministerial trip, where all interests have to be declared. The NZ First leader said he would now take the matter to the Privileges Committee.
In Mr Key's view, the smoking gun had turned out to be a pop gun. It was a potential technical breach only, the PM said.
As on RNZ, this morning — where he promised to later today reveal information that would see Ms Collins "gone by Monday" — Mr Peters appeared to slur as he spoke.
"If the member could just speak a bit more clearly, it would help everyone," Mr Key said.
ABOVE: Winston Peters questioning John Key in the House today.
PM reacts to Peters' claim that 'Collins will not survive next week, with what I know'
May 12: "Judith Collins will not survive next week, with what I know," NZ First leader Winston Peters said on Q+A over the weekend. Mr Peters offered no immediate detail of what he knows.
The PM reacted to Mr Peters' threat on Breakfast this morning, claiming to be unimpressed with with the NZ First leader's promise of more revelations to come on the embattled minister.
"I will personally come into this studio and apologise if Winston Peters is right. He won't be right. He's never right," Mr Key said.
The broader question for the government is whether Budget 2014 can act as a circuit-breaker, moving attention on from the Williamson and Collins controversies that appear to have dented its support.
Billion dollars in new spending
"There's about a billion dollars' worth of additional expenditure," coming Thursday's budget, but no pre-election lolly scramble," Mr Key said.
"It's primarily by health and education," the PM said on Breakfast.
"But a $1 billion is not much. If you look at Labour in their last five years, they pretty much spent $2.7 billion to $3 billion extra a year. So we're not going crazy."
Budget 2013 involved total spending of around $82.8 billion, against an estimated $69.7 billion in tax revenue. Finance Minister Bill English says he is on track to project a small surplus in Budget 2014.
The PM also hinted paid parental leave could be extended beyond the current 14 weeks with Thursday's Budget. Mr Key said it had always been the government's position that, "When we can afford more, we'll do more."