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Judith Collins takes swing at Press Gallery journalist

Sunday 4 May 2014 4:48 p.m.

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Justice Minister Judith Collins made an extraordinary attack on a TVNZ journalist at National's northern regional conference today.

Ms Collins was upset over the media's role in forcing Maurice Williamson's resignation as a minister last week.

She said members of the media should be open to the same scrutiny as politicians. Then she named one.

"I think it's very important that when the media want to raise issues about behaviours, they need to understand that sometime they can be very inappropriate as well," she says.

This is how it unfolded. 3 News was asking about a story that stated Ms Collins, in her former job as Police Minister, asked the police a question about leave entitlements on behalf of a Labour MP and his daughter.

She says if you have problems with entitlements, go to your MP.

"What you should do is go to your MP, and that's the right thing to do. And that way your MP can deal with the situation in a proper way.

"It's just like when a member of the Press Gallery, about how her then-husband was having difficulty being recruited by the New Zealand Police. She said that was a problem and had been told that her husband wasn't going to be acceptable as a police recruit because of her family connections."

As we got back to the original question, the minister was not finished.

"I think you should ask Katie Bradford about that matter."

Katie Bradford is a TVNZ political reporter, but was working for Newstalk ZB at the time.

"It was unusual that she raised the issue," says Ms Collins. "I immediately said I couldn't have anything to do with that because that would be an operational matter."

So Ms Collins is still refusing to name the border official she dined with in China, at the centre of the Oravida controversy. But she is naming the journalist.

"I think it's so fair. Someone could OIA me for the information and I'd have to tell them anyway."

As for Ms Bradford, she said in a statement: "Today's reported comments have come as a complete surprise. I recall that this came up in informal conversation between the minister and me, but I never asked her to intervene."

But Ms Collins wasn't finished. As we moved onto the Oravida issue, she kept pressing the comments about Ms Bradford.

"You might just find I have recall on all sorts of things. We'll just wait and see."

On Oravida, she said her staff asked for a foreign affairs briefing on a dinner that was attended by a Chinese border official because they were overzealous.

"My office is full of control freaks who want to have all the information they possibly can, and when I found out they'd asked for a briefing I said, 'Don't do that; it's a private dinner. You'll waste MFAT's time.'"

And then we moved onto revelations from 3rd Degree that another company her husband is a director of, Oravida Kauri, has been digging up swamp Kauri to eventually send offshore. She told us to "mind your own business".

"Has that got anything to do with me? Am I the minister of wetlands? So go and find someone who cares about this, because I don't."

The interview was over, but not before one last comment as she was walking off.

"I hope you hold your own to account, after what you've done to Maurice."

It was a reference to Mr Williamson, who resigned as a minister last week over contacting police on behalf of a Chinese businessman facing domestic assault allegations.

Prime Minister John Key says his government has a constructive relationship with the media.

Late this afternoon Ms Collins apologised to the TVNZ journalist on Twitter, but Mr Key will still face intense pressure over this.

The simple questions are: Did Ms Collins go too far today? And will he do anything about it?

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