Update: Documents from OIA show that trip was planned. h/t POLITY. The stated purpose of the trip was:
"To increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products into China".
Well I don't think any of my questions really matter now do they? But I guess this answers why a BORDER OFFICIAL was at the dinner. I think we can add two and two.
1. Cabinet Office: Why wont the Cabinet Office advice be released? John Key said there was no conflict of interest and no endorsement back in March (in response to visit to Oravida HQ) but now today he says that Collins was not careful enough for there to be a perception of conflict of interest (in response to new info about dinners).
2. Close Personal Friends: Minister Collins said she met with close personal friends who are the managing director and chairman of Oravida and that's why we can't know anything about it. Fine. But was the border official a close personal friend of hers too? Or was the border official their friend? Why was the border official there? We also know she asked the NZ Ambassador to China to attend who refused. Why would you ask the ambassador to attend a private dinner? Is the ambassador a close personal friend too? Why would you feel the need to update the ambassador after a private dinner?
3. Official Business: Her office requested a briefing from MFAT which was later cancelled. What made her office think that a private dinner was official? Do Ministers put their private lives on official calendars? We know the $30+K trip to China was part of official business in her capacity as Minister of Justice. How much can you extend taxpayer funded trips for non-official trips that result in 30K donations for the party?
4. High Ethical Standards: The Cabinet Manual says that Ministers have to be seen to be upholding the highest ethical standards. If there is perception of conflict of interest as Key himself said today, is that still holding the highest ethical standards? What is his definition of highest ethical standards? And does that include making threats to the press?
All these questions just make me wonder one thing. What does Collins have on Key that's stopping him from firing her? 'Cause I bet Ministers have resigned for much less. Remember Phil Heatley and a few bottles of wine? This seems much much much much much much worse!