Justice Minister Judith Collins has been forced to walk the plank by Prime Minister John Key in what appears to have been the deliberate scuttling of her ship, rather than the result of enemy attack.
An ‘anonymous’ source whose identity the Prime Minister admits is known to his office sent the PM’s chief of staff a copy of an email originally written by blogger Cameron Slater in 2011. The leaked email did not appear in Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book, yet if Hager had seen it there is no doubt he would have used it, as the allegation was far more serious than the email he did use about Collins leaking the name of a civil servant to Slater.
NZ First leader Winston Peters told TV3’s Patrick Gower this afternoon that the email appears to have been leaked from within National circles in a bid to force Key to remove Collins – although Peters claims the motivation was to divert attention from his own allegation that a Collins’ supporter was making quiet approaches about a possible leadership bid.
Either way, it seems likely that Collins has taken a direct hit from within, rather than without. It’s not the first time a story of infighting within National has emerged.
Turning to the email that broke the PM’s back, Slater claims to have had a lengthy phone conversation that day with Collins and reported to his other contacts that the Minister was “gunning” for Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley, who’d been caught up in a scandal over a champagne bottle.
As Collins had stated on other occasions, Feeley was “operationally independent”, so any inference of the Minister taking part in a campaign to “undermine” the head of the SFO was a constitutional no-no.
READ THE EMAIL HERE Email
Read John Key’s statement:
Judith Collins resigns as a Minister
Prime Minister John Key today announced that Hon Judith Collins has resigned from Cabinet.
Mr Key says the resignation of Ms Collins followed the receipt of new information that raises allegations about Ms Collins’ 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.
“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. Ms Collins was the Minister responsible for the SFO at the time.
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.
“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.
READ JUDITH COLLINS’ STATEMENT:
This morning I informed the Prime Minister that I am resigning as a Minister from Cabinet.
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 absolutely and strongly deny this 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.”
“The Election should be focused on the issues that matter such as law and order, health, education and the economy and I do not want this matter to be a distraction for the Prime Minister or the National Party during the campaign.
“I am a strong advocate for the people of Papakura and I will continue to put the same passion and energy into representing them.
“I am getting on with my job as MP for Papakura and will campaign strongly for re-election this year.