20 Oct 2015

Collins' car deal: 'She thinks she's above the rules'

1:57 pm on 20 October 2015

Judith Collins says her decision to be an ambassador for a car dealership is well within the rules for MPs, but people on the street are not so convinced.

A South Auckland company is giving Ms Collins a car for six months, with her petrol costs covered.

Radio NZ spoke to a number of people on the street in Wellington this afternoon about whether this was appropriate for an MP, and got a mixed reaction. While some said she was entitled to take advantage of such deals, others said it wasn't acceptable, and she followed her own rules.

Under Ms Collins' deal, if people mention the National MP by name when they buy a vehicle, the company makes a donation to the Papakura Community Crimewatch Patrol.

Ms Collins said she was doing it for her constituents rather than herself and had not felt it necessary to run it past Prime Minister John Key, as it was "well within the rules".

"There's possibly some personal benefit around if I took the car to the supermarket on the way back from work, but that's why I would put this in my pecuniary interest register."

She said that her petrol and mileage would ordinarily be paid for Parliamentary Services, which was a generous allowance, but that having the car allowed her to work for her constituents by gathering funds for the Crimewatch Patrol.

"I'm representing and working for my constituents. Law and order is the biggest issue that they have to deal with in Papakura... Actually, I'm trying to help them to get funding. I understand that the first four-figure sum is about to be paid [by the company]."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has criticised the free car arrangement, but Ms Collins said that the vehicle and petrol was an important part of representing her constituents.

"The fact is that under the rules that Parliament has, we're not covered by the same rules as the electorate or cabinet ministers, and that's because a backbench MP doesn't really have much of a weight of office, we're ordinary MPs who go about our job representing our communities, in my case Papakura."

Ms Collins said she was not being paid to be a brand ambassador.

She said some MPs in other parties had had no problem endorsing products or owning and directing businesses, but in her case the benefit was actually going to worthy community-based charity.

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