Justice Minister Judith Collins has apologised to TVNZ's Katie Bradford after raising questions about the political reporter's ethics.
Ms Collins said Ms Bradford made an inappropriate approach in 2010 on behalf of her (then) husband, who was trying to get into Police College.
In an interview with rival TV3 at National's northern region conference this morning, Ms Collins was asked about a Herald on Sunday story that said when Police Minister, she was approached by Labour MP Ross Roberton for help. Mr Roberston asked about leave entitlement of his daughter, who was a police officer and a serious athlete. Ms Collins subsequently did make inquiries of the police, the story said.
Rather than comment on the Herald story directly, Ms Collins turned the question around and said, "I think it's very important that when media want to raise issues about behaviours that they need to understand that sometimes they can be very inappropriate as well. It' just like when a member of the Press Gallery approached me about how her then husband was having difficulty becoming recruited by New Zealand Police?"
Asked what the reporter wanted, Ms Collins said, "She had been told that was a problem and that her husband wasn't going to be acceptable as a Police recruit because of her family connections."
Ms Collins said she shut the conversation down at that point.
Later in the interview she added, "I'm just really surprised you haven't asked me who it is ... I think you should talk to Ms Katie Bradford."
TVNZ reporter Katie Bradford — at the time of the approach a Newstalk ZB reporter — is the daughter of former Green MP and veteran protester Sue Bradford.
As she walked away from the TV3 interview, Ms Collins said, "Let's see if you hold your own people to account, shall we, after what you've done to Maurice."
On Twitter, Ms Collins baited TV3 to follow up her comment, saying Ms Bradford's approach was "Very odd and wrong."
There was already bad blood between the pair. A TV report by Ms Bradford last night said she had not seen Ms Collins at the conference. On Twitter, the Justice Minister called Ms Bradford a "liar".
Katie Bradford released a statement saying, "I've had a good working relationship with the Minister in my years covering politics in parliament but I have never asked her for a personal favour. Back in 2010 my ex-partner was considering applying for the police force — at the time it had been suggested to him that he might have an issue being accepted. I recall that this came up in informal conversation between the Minister and me but I never asked her to intervene. As it was, my then partner never formally applied to join the police."
At a standup press conference, Prime Minister John Key said, "I don't believe every individual thing people say or every inference they make, but we have a good working relationship with the media. The media have got a job to do. We have got a job to do and that is where is should start and finish.
The PM said he had a "long conversation" wiht Ms Collins about her comments. Ms Bradford was "thorough professional," Mr Key said.
"There's lot of times that I might see coverage on TV that I either don't agree with or the way its phrased or the way its worded or the things that people say but in the end I soak that up and move on," Mr Key said.
Ms Collins uiltimately decided to try and move on, too, tweeting late this afternoon: "Katie I was answering questions abt wider public engagement. Yr example came to mind. Reflected on that.Shouldnt have.sorry."