It's been a tough week for the National Party and Judith Collins in particular.

After weeks of being challenged about her side trip to her husband's company Oravida in China while visiting as Justice Minister, she's taking a few days off the rough and tumble of Parliament.

The push over the edge was applying her combative style into an inaccurate criticism of a TV journalist - enough for the PM John Key to have a "long conversation".

As a former journalist and public servant who worked closely with ministers' offices, I find it interesting that the straw that broke the camel's back was this - it's only marginally worse than her regular Twitter jabs.


Of course it is damage control - or damage prevention more accurately - rather than consequences for behaving badly.

She has misled Parliament with her answers to this Oravida visit - beyond any perceived conflict of interest in associating with her husband's business while on an official visit, a "no no" according to the Cabinet manual.

Documents released this week show the visit wasn't just a "cup of tea on the way to the airport" as claimed but a conscious action to "increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products", Oravida.

It was another mis-step by National that caught Collins out - her support for minister Maurice Williamson, who resigned after making an ill-advised call to the police to enquire about National Party donor Donghua Liu's violence charges. Oravida also made donations to National.

I was also concerned about the police reaction to the call. They commit to "serve without fear or favour" but, in reality, and I know from first-hand experience, it is hard to say no to a minister. It is hard to say "that isn't appropriate" and push back.

However, I am more than happy for our police to say "mind your own business" to politicians who call on behalf of their wealthy supporters - there can be no special considerations when it comes to policing.

And they say trouble comes in threes - the revelation of the regional "Cabinet Clubs" - where paid members get access to MPs at events around the country again sends the message that for the Nats, money talks.

Some claim "that's just politics" and maybe some other parties have undertaken similarly marginally-appropriate fundraising efforts, but there is a pattern here of the Nats putting how much money you have at the heart.

Whether any of these situations are within the sometimes-pliable rules isn't the point - the message is clear: If you are wealthy, you appear to get privileged access to and support of ministers and MPs under the Nats. That's not right.

I don't buy into these examples being mistakes either - these are experienced politicians. They are simply reflecting the culture and values of their organisation - unfortunately it is our Government!

Some may bandy around the word corruption - while others would take great offence at that because at least they are being open about their approach and priorities, defending them even. I guess it depends on the definition of corrupt - these may not literally be examples of bribery but it is still a lack of integrity.

Funnily enough, what really got my goat this week was a speech given by Key where he emphasised that this Government supported a diverse New Zealand and encouraged immigration. True - if you have the money! Our quota for refugees remains at 1987 levels - going backwards on a per capita basis and well behind Australia.

Anyway what makes a good citizen? Is it having enough money to afford a donation to the political party most likely to give you a tax cut?

Aren't there other values we hold up like caring for the elderly or raising children or volunteering or conserving wetlands?

Yes wetlands - the kidneys of our planet. We would not survive without them. But Collins, when questioned about her husband's business interests in clearing ancient swamp kauri for a buck, said "ask someone who cares".

Well, I care - about wetlands, about open democracy and about ethics in politics.

Nicola Young is a former Department of Conservation manager who now works for global consultancy AECOM. Educated at Wanganui Girls' College, she has a science degree and is the mother of two boys.