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Collins quits cabinet

UPDATE: Judith Collins has resigned from cabinet, but will stay on as an MP and campaign for re-election in her seat of Papakura. While her party might have preferred a clean break, under the Electoral Act it is now too late for National to substitute another candidate for the electorate, Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis tells NBR.

Ms Collins resignation from cabinet followed the emergence of an email from Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater to "Carrick" (presumably PR operative Carrick Graham), "Mark" and a third person whose name is blanked out (see photo below).

Ms Collins was the Minister responsible for the SFO at the time. In the email, Mr Slater says he has "spoken at length" to Ms Collins, whom he claims "is gunning for Feeley" and was keen to know anything of his background that she could pass on to the State Services Commission. Mr Graham's clients include at least one person who was under SFO investigation at the time.

Such actions would breach of the State Sector Act, which governs the employment relationship between a departmental chief executive and their Minister.

Ms Collins says she wants an inquiry, which she believes will clear her name.

NBR understands there's worse to come. A source close to the action says the next Whaledump, expected shortly, will be a full Facebook messaging exchange between Mr Slater and Ms Collins.

The email details how information being leaked to media by Mr Slater and others, and references a story by then NBR chief reporter Jock Anderson about Mr Feeley and his staff toasting charges against Bridgecorp's directors with an expensive bottle of champagne seized in an earlier raid on the failed finance company. The story was based on an interview with the head of the Criminal Bar Association, who called for Mr Feeley to stand down over the incident (the SFO head was ultimately let off with a caution after a State Services Commission investigation. He resigned 10 months later — three years into his five-year term — for a local body role in Queenstown).

In the email, Mr Slater also says "I have arranged with Matthew Hooton for iPredict ... to have a new stock released so people can invest in the probability of Adam Feeley getting the sack before Christmas or leaving."

Today, Mr Hooton told NBR he had no recollection of that approach from Mr Slater, "nor did I know the bigger picture [about Mr Feeley]". But that he assumed an iPredict contract had run on the SFO boss (it did). An approach from Mr Slater would not have been unusual. People often suggested ideas for contracts.

Mr Hooton's company Exceltium has had a longtime contract to promote the iPredict political marketplace, which is run by Victoria University and lets its 7000 registered users bet on the likelihood of various political events.

Mr Hooton says it is common for iPredict to run a contract on whether a public figure will resign. Currently, the site's member's are gambling on whether MFAT boss John Allen will take a fall. This week there was a contract on the possibility of Ms Collins' departure. "Ironically the stock was terribly wrong," he says.

What if it emerged that in the (unremembered) conversation Mr Slater had said he had inside information about events likely to affect Mr Feeley's prospects of keeping his job?

That would not be a problem, Mr Hooton says. "Insider trading is allowed on iPredict. That’s what makes it so accurate [in predicting political events]."

Key on Collins' resignation
Prime Minister John Key said he had accepted the resignation of Ms Collins following the receipt of new information that raised allegations about her conduct as a Minister.

“The relationship between a Minister and their Chief Executive is vital, and goes right to the heart of a trusted, effective government," Mr Key said.

“This new information suggests Ms Collins may have been engaged in discussions with a blogger in 2011 aimed at undermining the then Director of the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr Key released an email which had been recently been provided to his office.

“I have spoken with Ms Collins about the matters in the email, and she strongly denies any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on her part," he said.

“Ms Collins accepts these are serious allegations and that resigning as a Minister is the honourable step to take in these circumstances."

Mr Key says Ms Collins resignation takes effect immediately, and Hon Christopher Finlayson will be Acting Minister of Justice, Hon Craig Foss will be Acting Minister for ACC, and Hon Hekia Parata will be Acting Minister for Ethnic Affairs.

Mr Key said he had told Ms Collins not to expect a cabinet post in a re-elected Key government, although if an inquiry found in her favour, the possibility of a return to cabinet could not be ruled out.

ABOVE: At midday, the PM's office released this photo of a PC screen displaying an email from Cameron Slater to Carrick Graham and others. Mr Key said a copy of the email was sent to his office anonymously yesterday. Lobbyist and political commentator Matthew Hooton says he was called by "a Beehive source" about the email on Wednesday. Mr Hooton says the source was a low-level functionary, and he does not believe Mr Key was aware of the email at the time. Click to zoom.

Collins calls for inquiry, says will clear her name
At a press conference, Ms Collins read a statement then walked out, refusing to take questions.

Her statement read: "A new allegation has come to light from an email conversation from 2011 between Cameron Slater and others suggesting I was undermining the then Director of the Serious Fraud Office.

"I was not party to this email or discussion and have only today been made aware of it.

"I strongly denied the claim and any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour.

"I am restrained in clearing my name while I am still a Minister inside Cabinet and I believe the right thing to do is to resign as a Minister so I am able to clear my name.

"I have asked the Prime Minister for an Inquiry into these serious allegations so that my name can be cleared. I will, of course, cooperate with any Inquiry."

Ms Collins said she was the victim of a two-year smear campaign, and had done nothing wrong.

She said it was her decision to resign.

Back on the front foot?
"National party supporters will be absolutely thrilled that John Key looks fully priminsterial again for the first time since August 15," Mr Hooton said this afternoon.

"But unfortunately it seems Mr Key only knows the tip of the iceberg about what has been going on under his nose."


Speculation Collins will be sacked as PM calls short-notice press conference
EARLIER:
Members of the press gallery are speculating Justice Minister Judith Collins will resign or be sacked from cabinet at a 12.30 press conference called by Prime Minister John Key.

Mr Key cancelled scheduled campaign engagements in Lower Hutt's Queensgate Mall to accommodate a 12.30pm standup at the Beehive.

The NZ Herald is reporting that new evidence emerged in the past 24 hours of Ms Collins involvement in an effort to discredit SFO boss Adam Feeley.

NBR columnist Matthew Hooton has sighted emails that indicate leaks from Ms Collins office to Whale Oil about the subject of an SFO investigation. The information is said to have ultimately been passed on to the subject of an SFO investigation.

In another development, this morning, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards confirmed to NBR ONLINE that his office has received a complaint from ACC claimant Bronwyn Pullar regarding Ms Collins.

ACC mistakenly sent 6500 files to Ms Pullar, some containing sensitive information. Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater learnt her name, then published posts accusing Ms Pullar of trying to black mail the agency; she would go to the media if ACC did not pay out on her own claim, Mr Slater alleged. Police investigated the allegation, but dropped the case after Ms Pullar and Michelle Boag released a recording of their meeting with ACC managers — which contained no discussion of blackmail. The affair was revisited in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics.

Mr Edwards did not comment on the substance of Ms Pullar's complaint, but it has been reported it relates to Ms Pullar alleging Ms Collins leaked false information about her to Whale Oil.

This morning's developments comes on top of a series of controversies for the Justice Minister. 

Mr Key's office has refused to comment on that he will cover at 12.30pm.

On August 20, the PM said Ms Collins — already on her "final warning" over the Oravida affair — was "on her last chance" for supplying personal details of alleged whistleblowing civil servant Simon Pleasants to Whaleoil.

In May, the Justice Minister went on a week’s leave after first accusing OneNews reporter Katie Bradford of requesting help for her (then) husband’s bid to get into Police College, then apologising and withdrawing the accusation. 

This week has also seen a new accusation from NZ First leader Winston Peters, who insists he was approached earlier this year about the possibility of entering into post-election negotiations with Judith Collins instead of John Key.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

Comments and questions
62

As a National supporter I say this is the best news I have heard for months. Now watch for a further lift in the polls.

As a Greens supporter I, too, welcome this as the best news for months. Now see National bomb in the polls so bad they need Winston in tow to govern, and Lord help them then.

Its still a race for the party likely to do least damage to NZ going forward. So far that's still National.

Well. its only national because they have already done most of their damage to the country already.

Hop on a plane and do a quick trip around the globe. The signs of the GFC are everywhere with a couple of exceptions; the most noticeable exception is New Zealand. We have been extremely lucky and extremely well served by our government. . . .

"As a National supporter I say this is the best news I have heard for months."

Glad to hear that you're celebrating finding out that the Justice Minister from your party has been actively undermining the head of the Serious Fraud Office, not to mention that shopping-list of other misdemeanors.

Comprehension may not be your strong point. I did not say I was pleased with anything she had done.I commented that I am pleased she has gone.

lol .. have another read of your comment -- you specified no such thing.

May I add with your inclination to twist previous statements, you'd have a splendid future ahead of you as a National Party Cabinet Minister.

I think it would be obvious to most that my comment related to the heading and subject of the article 'Collins quits cabinet'. If I had anything to say about matters within the article, I would have stressed that.

And now Judith Collins is saying she is the victim of a smear campaign against her

And John Key is obviously playing along with this tripe or he would have her expelled from the party for such offenses

This is about the fifth FINAL chance that John Key has given Judith Collins

Yes, it's time she went. She is far too error prone to be a cabinet minister. It's just a great pity that this didn't happen earlier.

John Key should have dropped her weeks ago or even suspended her.

Very weak leadership bordering on powderpuff

Next clean up Murray McCully. Still no sign of the Malaysian arriving back in NZ as promised and unlikely based on recent reports which are all stage managed

Collins error prone? That is the understatement of the year. Collins has many of the attributes of a person with serious behavioural issues.
Boldness, Disinhibition and Meanness are the three headline traits of her personality.

Google those three traits together and see what the ex-Justice Minister has become.

Yes, no choice but for her to go

If true, might it be too late by Mr Key? As Minister of Justice of all people Collin's conduct should not have been tolerated full stop.

Couldn't agree more. Aggression and even the odd lack of judgement is ok when backed up by competence and decency. She is a major liability and I'm very happy if she goes. So should all her "yes m'am" sycophantic appointees.

Sorry fella's but the 'smell' will remain while she is still 'about' only total resignation / withdrawl as a candidate will clear the the deck for John Key

Couldn't agree more - she should be on the slow boat to China as quickly as possible.

National can look to 3 more weeks of this not to mention whatever else is drip-fed to the public over that time.

Only completely severing the gangrenous limb can help save the whole patient....

Really, 3 weeks of this?

In NZ in case you were not aware there ia difference between accusations and convictions based on evidence. As for the hand picked, edited emails in Hagers book which wouldn't stand up in a court of law, lets not start on those.

I too are glad she has stepped down but my opinion or yours doesn't make her or anyone else guilty.

What are you on about guilt and courts for?

Perhaps you are not aware that in the NZ legal system we have a process of evidence discovery which is what you are currently seeing played out in the media in slow-motion in front of you.

How can National expect to win when they will be fighting this (by this I mean these accusations, innuendo and scuttlebutt) all the way up to the 20th?

I don't know if they are true or not or mean Collins or anyone else is guilty of anything but as this spreads beyond being a beltway issue it will make National look increasingly worse in the eyes of the public than anyone else in parliament.

Hence the better option today for National would've been Collins retiring completely from parliament. Key's weakness in not sacking her will only allow this to continue on and on like a festering wound.

Sadly his lack of leadership is a real weakness in this current scenario.

Tuesday was the last day for electoral candidate registration. Candidates cannot be withdrawn or added now. That is why the Key was waiting. He didn't want the problem of getting a replacement candidate as well as a replacement minister. Key is as gutless as he is calculating.

Dirty politics are not to be taken lightly.....any delay can be tragic to any NZ candidate.

The only bad news in this is that the nats single most odious individual Chris Finlayson continues to float to the surface.

Good for Judith !

She will make bucketloads more money selling milk and can crush the product into bite sized chunks

One day however the consumers will finally realise it don't make much difference to their physique but that is for the future

Head 1 to Winnie

Best election in years - dinner and a show

There is a difference between arrogance and aggressiveness, regardless of whether you are a male or female. She has both in bucket loads. What she lacks is a Teflon coat as strong as Winnie Petters. What a frigging shame.

The only shame is that she it has taken this long, and she is still employed.

Awful person who should not be involved in politics.

What a frigging shame both Collins and Peters have stayed so long in politics and tainted NZ politics to such an extent. Should Peters ever get into a ministerial role again, you ain't seen nothing yet .

If Matthew Hooton is correct and the Beehive knew about the email on Wednesday, it could explain why Key was so distracted during the debate.

Hooten is a turncoat trying to protect his own arse.

Spot on Amanda, JK was pre-occupied with this matter.

I doubt the PM knew about the email until today. He knows very little about what happens under his nose. But low level staffers knew about it on Wednesday - but there is not much loyalty anymore between the junior staff and the top brass anymore, so I doubt the person I spoke to would have told the PMO.

I doubt that most NZ reporters understand what is happening under their noses. It was clear that somebody had an agenda to get rid of Judith Collins. In any event her demise was good news for Kim. See his tweet below:

Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) tweeted at 12:33pm - 30 Aug 14:

Operation Karma:
◻ John Key
✖ Judith Collins
◻ Chris Finlayson

(https://twitter.com/KimDotcom/status/505513655740293121)

Unfortunately she is still an MP she should be completely gone - let's hope the voters sack her themselves!

Unfortunately, in her electorate you could put a monkey up for election and stamp National on its forehead and the stupid Papakura voters will vote for it.!!

''If Matthew Hooton is correct and the Beehive knew about the email on Wednesday, it could explain why Key was so distracted during the debate.''

So..If that is correct and Beehive did know about this Wed night..then why would John Key say he was told about it Friday night..?

here comes the rainnnnn!

1.35pm Saturday 30 Aug 14: re the TV1 Corruption Special:

True to form, Judith Collins read her lines and haughtily stalked off leaving the New Zealand public to digest yet another dollop of spins, twists and convolutions.

We are fed up to the teeth with the spins, twists, convolutions and weasel words that have permeated our society.

We accepted passively the Epsom electorate being turned into something resembling 'room101'. This was a mistake. What is to be the next '101', the Papakura electorate or the whole country?

To hell with legalese and arrogant pretenders.

"At the end of the day" we too "only deal in facts" John, because for the most part we are people of substance.

We need a strong leader - a bold, honest and frank leader - a consistent leader who has the guts to start at the top and rid our society of the creeping malignancy of corruption before it becomes endemic.

Key knew last Wednesday about the email, and only acted on it when The Sunday-Star times were going to produce it tomorrow. Matthew Hooton was asked about it then.

I'm afraid we live in an era where these politicians and their minions have very little in the way of the integrity we would like them to aspire to at least (not much chance of them recognising an adequate definition of integrity if it was wrapped around a dead trout and slapped in their faces) and only care if they get caught.

The only real political sin these days is getting caught. Just remember the old parable that you don't have to outrun the lion, only the other buggers running away from it.

Cunnliffe is the only clean MP. I love him.

All I can say is the PM's office needs a good cleanout - the rats and mice have taken over. Becoming like the Muldoon erra.

Is the featured comment an NBR attempt at putting lipstick on a pig?

It is beyond belief that John Key took no action against this corrupt politician. Either he didn't know what she was doing or he was too weak to act. (Or he privately agrees with her modus operandi) Neither is a good look for a Prime Minister. I don't want this level of ineptitude from the man who leads our country. He must stand down too.

He should appoint David Cunliffe as caretaker PM until Sept 20th

Lindsay Fergusson where are you?

Being a man of integrity are you still defending Judith Collins and the National Government

Maybe you are one who managed to fly over the Cuckoo's nest.

The way things are looking we need a lion in the plush green seats up there on the hill. Even a reincarnation of Muldoon would be acceptable.

Muldoon was not one to tolerate being addressed with the opening comment "With respect"... He would have responded in a most unkind way to being constantly patronised with the comment "At the end of the day"...

Who lives by dirty politics falls by dirty politics. Ironic, though much too late. Given that she is on a still quite save place on the National Party list (31?), will she now get another 3 years in parliament to keep damaging the National party brand. Sad.

She could be expelled from the Party if that is what it takes and her conduct is proven to be as bad as alleged.

Seemed faintly ridiculous, putting on the stoic: "This lady's not for turning" persona, when we all could see she was running at breakneck speed down a blind alley, straight into a brick wall.

Not a smear campaign - a truth campaign

Collins has always been fascinating to watch as she seethed with vindictiveness and annoyance while trying to convey calm and control and all pitched to the public in a pretty pink souffle that's always quivered on the brink of collapse.
She must be really happy with Cam - such a good friend.

National needs to lose the election in order that they can focus on cutting out the cancer before it becomes terminal.

Deeper question - Why was she gunning for him??
Bet there is a link to [snip*]?

[*No we won't publish the name of the rumoured person/company - CK]

The only smear campaign that Collins has been caught in, is her own. Blow back sucks for you.

Collins will be back. What's the scandal, that Slater said she wanted a member of the serious fraud office sacked because he stole from the companies he was investigating? Really, is that the scandal, is that it? Good on her. The left are getting more pathetic & desperate every day. Not many voters will change who they vote for because the lunatics on the left are not an option to anyone with more than half a brain.

Hilarious that Collins ended up being hoisted by her own Whaleoil petard in the end. Slater and Lusk must be fuming all those years of skullduggery and undemocratic manipulation to get Collins the top job down the drain...

A true liability to NZ Inc

justice was slow to prevail ...

While Collins isn't a good look for National, you'd have to be brain dead to think that Cunliffe is not telling porkies with his political promises! Kiwibuild will build 100,000 houses! Raising the top tax rate and the minimum wage will get unemployment down to 4%! Let's see some iPredict stocks on that!

Of course the Gnats housing policy and spin is entirely believable when they haven't even provided enough dollars to meet their projection.
JK is done anyway, and the nats are hamstrung even if they swallow all the dead rats and get into bed with Peters, Craig and Honewira.
Wonder if we will se their rowboat ad on TV much more; starting to look like the Titanic....

There is an inevitability to Collins' downfall. When you sleep with the Devil, you can expect to have his barbed tail sting you in your jacksy.

The fallout is eddying out in all directions, claiming Cathy Odgers (aka Cactus Kate); and I wonder how Oravida sees the value of David Wrong-Tongue, now that his wife has no political clout.