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Collins and Oravida - a conflict of interest?

TVNZ reported:

There are claims Justice Minister Judith Collins may have breached parliamentary rules around perceptions concerning conflict of interest.

Ms Collins visited the Shanghai offices of Kiwi fresh milk exporter Oravida when she travelled to China in her capacity as Justice Minister in October last year.

Her husband is a director in the company.

“I drop into a lot of New Zealand companies if they ask me to and I think it’s absolutely completely appropriate,” says Mrs Collins.

A photo taken during the visit was posted on Oravida’s webstie along with a Chinese quote saying “Mrs Collins personally tasted Oravdia’s products, giving her full endorsement of these products”.

The rule book governing cabinet ministers states no minister should endorse any product or service in any media.

“Well I certainly don’t endorse any products other than the fact that I always try and help New Zealand companies who are trying to export,” says Mrs Collins.

Ms Collins says she wasn’t aware of the comments on the website and would ask for them to be removed if they breach cabinet rules.

Collins is reported as saying she dropped in briefly on her way to the airport, and has done so for other NZ companies.

You do need to be careful if a family member is involved with a company, but her husband is a director, not a shareholder, and all she did was drink a glass of milk. I don’t think that is really an endorsement.

Mr Key says he is aware Mrs Collins visited Oravida and doesn’t believe her husband’s directorship creates a conflict.

“I don’t think it does preclude her from dropping in, there is no commercial value,” says Mr Key.

In the end the Cabinet Office will advise if there is an issue, but I don’t see anything wrong. Basically a Minister pops into a successful export company for half an hour or so, has a glass of milk, and they stick a photo up on their website. It is important that the company doesn’t try to make it look like an endorsement, but many many MPs attend business openings and promotions.

Oravida is listed as a donor to the National Party, which is the great thing about transparency with donations. But I don’t think anyone thinks you need to be a donor to have an MP drink a glass of milk. Ministers and MPs routinely do photo ops like this.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.

Comments and questions
23

Yeah, Judith Collins pops into a company directed by her husband, which donates to the National Party on the tax payers dime. A Pansy Wong-edition rort.

This is a storm in a Labour tea cup to try and divert attention from Cunncliffe's foot-in-mouth. ANY promotion of NZ products overseas has to be good. Labour voters no doubt work in the factories producing the product in NZ. Golden Goose shooting by Labour is hilarious.

What involvement. Show me a video of her making this comment of endorsement. This is nothing but an attempt to generate a scandal where one doesn't exist. The accompanying text with the photograph is nothing other than advertising license misuse of English for sensationalist purposes - i.e standard advertising dishonesty

Standard Labour Party deflect tactics, bait & switch and with the help of complicit and willing MSM, invent another "crisis" to distract unwanted attention away from another failing leader.

If the invent really was an "issue" Labour would have made a BIG deal of it at the time - back in mid/late 2013. It never was an issue - month's back, nor now...

How convenient for Labour though, they're able to uncover this story just a day after their failing leader has the worst week of his very short leadership.

Laughable in reality, substance, timing and Labour's intent.

But I guess, desperate times call for desperate measures and any deflection has got to help right?

Last night, when I turned in to watch the Broadcast arm of the NZ Labour Party, TVNZ, and it's nightly news programme, I was expecting to see a thorough expose on Cunliffes use of an anonymous Trust to find his election campaign (so he can hide who he owes political favours too and what did he know and when did he know it) front and centre on the news. It wasn't. What I actually saw however was more time devoted to this trumped up nonsense than to Cunliffe's hypocrisy.

Speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Yep - saw the same. TV3 ran it as headline news.

TVNZ not a word about CunningCV until very late in the news and then it was brushed over. Crusher having a glass of milk month's ago was headline news.

With TVNZ being proven to be a breeding ground for numerous wanna-be Labour Party politicians and just this one example of blatant political bias - one can only hope the BSA and ombudsman are ensuring over-sight.

TVNZ have become a joke. Their bias is plain to witness with just this one example of political beat-up.

From the Board and Executive who condone this type of political bias and slanting of the news, through to the biased "editors" they all need to be exited from the ability to disseminate slanted information to the masses.

The bias is so evident, it's verging on political corruption.

Enough is enough - especially from an entity funded by all of NZ taxpayers.

When will the authorities stop this political propaganda forced upon NZ by unethical, biased TVNZ - who are funded by the tax payer?

NZ deserves better than a propaganda station for the Labour Party.

For goodness sake - let's talk about some important issues in NZ!!

Absoluteley!!!!!!!!!!!!

So David Farrar , Nationals current polling man, Ex National employee, says no conflict of interest,
just a glass of milk.
Ook ay

Ask sir doug Graham about the responsibilites of being a director and the ramifications. Then tell me Judith Collins isn't giving the nation 'the finger'. Another example of the love affair between the voters and National allowing the government ministers an obnoxious level of arrogance in these matters.

I would have thought anything positive about kiwi milk in China was a good thing right now. In fact get the whole cabinet over there swigging away on a glass of milk.

Intriguing that this forbidden behaviour (by rules of Parliament) is treated by the usual rightwing malcontents as of not being of any importance. When Labour does wrong HUGE HEADLINES IN NBR and KIWIBLOG. When National does worse a small paragraph or two. So much for journalistic ethics.

But will vote them this election after witnessing the hypocrisy dripping from the mouths of Labour politicians, starting with David Cunliffe, in recent times.

Have not seen ONE single mention by Labour leaning journos and bloggers regarding Cunliffe's use of Trust to hide names of donors.

Labour are desperate. And well they should be too. Unfortunately NBR's editorial policy and the Queen's more polite English prevents me from using the best and most appropriate language to accurately describe them.

Relationships are paramount in Asian business. Even though in our culture we don't consider it entirely appropriate, an Asian business is more than happy to put up a photo, for example, that links the company, their product, or senior management, to an important person or institution even if that famous or influential person or institution never had any intention of endorsing that business or product. They may have paid nothing more than a simple visit and said a few polite and positive words but these may then be used in marketing by the company, often with out the other parties knowledge.

The Left's attempt to turn this into some sort of an issue just goes to show how out of touch, both culturally and with business, that they really are. And these are the people who want to form the next government.

Well done Anon #10. Would really be an Interesting (read disaster) situation where we end up with a bunch of no names no business or other useful experience about how the world works ie the Labour bunch, in power. Get this - talk to no one , we could get tainted or taint them just enjoy the sites, have coffee, of worse come vack to NZ saying we're pure but sorry no promo of NZ products. Get real lefties!!!

#10 totally agree that relationships are paramount in Asia. Slightly different twist, amazing that a Minister of the Crown, whose husband is Asian did not know this. Of course they were going to publish her photo etc. Go to any Chinese company and there are photos all over the place. Therefore she should have known this would happen and therefore there was always a risk of the perception of a conflict. Note the test is perception not actual.

I wonder how many other companies she visited on that trip, how many other dairy companies she has blessed with her presence.

In terms of my own dealings, have made a few requests for a minister to meet with some of our business partners - always too busy, too hard etc. Maybe need to think about donating to the National Party, or marrying an MP.

Well said

Media bias; poicical bias; left wing; right wing!

You expect the same level of judiciousness from an MP as you would from any other civil servant as that is what they are. Therefore, as you would expect any civil servant to adhere to the rules so you would an MP.

That being said, ANY civil servant is to act in a manner that is appropriate and in terms of any conflict of interest, declare anything that MAY be construed as a conflict; WHETHER IT IS OR NOT.

Again, I understand the Cabinet manual states, (and indeed my own organsiation's) even if there is an appearance of conflict. The fact that this has riled up both sides of the political spectrum indicates that it quite clearly APPEARS to be a conflict.

Conflict declared; apology due.............no?
None from Cunliffe either; speaks volumes for integrity, honesty and trust amongst MPs.

LETS MOVE ON.

While I am no fan of Ms Collins, I feel it is a media beat up against her in this case. She visited as a New Zealand Cabinet Minister, and the "endorsement" appears to have been written by a well intentioned local. Are our Cabinet Ministers to never promote companies selling our products overseas, because that is what a measly minded interpretation of the No Endorsement rule would mean. The shades of past Trade Ministers of all persuasions will be either livid with fury, or roaring with laughter at the petty-mindedness shown in this case.

tagree we need to no go too far, but the fact is this was not any cabinet member, it was the wife of one of the Directors. To say because he is not a shareholder means he will not benefit is b.......t. I would almost guarantee that he has a bonus arrangement, and if not his salary is dependent on the success of the company. I would suggest that no member of parliament should visit a company in isolation if there is other MPs with a direct or indirect interest.

I am sure there are a lot of the Infant formula companies from NZ that would have loved a minister to visit them and say what great product it was....but it did not happen.

As per above, just like cunliliffe it appears that our MPs think they are allowed to do whatever they like.......because they know best.

So lunch and dinner. She has mislead everyone. Maybe the National Party or her husband will be in for a payrise but of course that is unrelated. In China it would be considered corruption but not in pure NZ just part of business.....yeah right.

Just reading these comments in hindsight after today's disclosures. Most of these commentators must be wearing very red faces. The right political bias shown by many of these comments is pathetic. No better way to describe them.