Judith Collins has hit out at questions being put to Christopher Luxon - former CEO of Air New Zealand, now a National Party MP - over the airline's contracts with the Saudi military, calling them a "real Green Party hit job".
On Monday night it emerged Gas Turbines, a business unit in the majority state-owned airline, had been working with the Royal Saudi Navy - which has been blocking essential supplies from Yemen amid the Middle Eastern state's civil war and humanitarian crisis.
The contract was signed during Luxon's tenure as chief executive, before he quit in mid-2019 to pursue a career in politics, according to present chief executive Greg Foran.
Luxon was elected MP for Botany at last year's election, replacing the rogue Jami-Lee Ross.
Collins, leader of the National Party, told The AM Show on Wednesday people shouldn't jump to conclusions about what Luxon knew about the deal.
"We understand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is looking to see whether or not any laws were breached in this.
"I just think, this looked to me like a real Green Party hit job on Christopher - I think we should find out the facts before we jump to conclusions, but he's said there's no recollection of anything like this."
On Tuesday, Luxon said he didn't know anything about the deal, suggesting it "might've post-dated my time", contradicting Foran.
"I haven't worked at Air NZ for some time but it's good to see that they've come out and admitted this morning that yes, there was an error in judgment and they're wanting to do something about that."
Foran said the contract was worth a "relatively small" $3 million, so didn't cross his desk. The contract has since been terminated.
Collins suggested Luxon's critics should back off.
"Unless there's some evidence that Christopher Luxon was involved in anything, I don't understand why he's being targeted."
Collins said National "obviously" doesn't support what the Saudis are doing in Yemen, but wanted to know more before criticising Air NZ's involvement.
"I am going to wait for the full facts before I jump to conclusions... It sounded awfully to me like a bit of a hit job yesterday."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has come out against the airline's involvement, saying it "doesn't pass New Zealand's sniff test". Foran described the deal as "poor judgment" and Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman - who hails from the Middle East - as "horrific".
"New Zealanders will be heartbroken to find out [our] national carrier may have been involved in this way."