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Resignation-watch: Suit cash a confidence vote on Collins

Written By: - Date published: 8:16 am, April 2nd, 2012 - 61 comments
Categories: Judith Collins, law - Tags: , , , ,

Cabinet today will decide whether the Crown will pick up the tab for Judith Collins’ defamation suits against Trevor Mallard, Andrew Little, and Radio New Zealand. These suits haven’t a hope of winning. The suit against RNZ, whose offence was to do live interviews, is particularly egregious and calculated to chill media comment. But that’s straight out of Key’s playbook, eh?

I mean, this is the PM who had three media outlets raided by the police during an election campaign to intimidate them into not publishing the tea tapes, all on the grounds of a ludicrous police complaint that wouldn’t have been given the time of day by the cops had it come from an ordinary citizen. Key even had the gall to claim that the Police had ‘spare time’ to investigate while 220,000 crimes went unsolved last year.

Collins’ behaviour is entirely consistent with this modus operandi. Public money will be used and limited state resources – this time of the Courts – tied up for a purely political agenda.

It will be unprecedented for the public to pay for a minister to take defamation suits. But we will. If Cabinet were to vote against that decision, it would be a vote of no confidence in Collins, which would undercut Key who has been giving her his backing.

I don’t think Collins’ opponents are united enough to go there. But it’s interesting to see though the Brat Pack faction in the form of David Farrar moving to undermine Collins again by saying that it will be a political disaster if the public is made to pay for Collins’ politically-motivated law suits.

61 comments on “Resignation-watch: Suit cash a confidence vote on Collins”

  1. Jim Nald 1

    Taxpayers underwriting Judith Collins’ antics is such a bloody waste of taxpayers’ money when the government itself is making a virtue of madly cutting and slashing public services, and Cabinet should not stomach the kind of gagging nonsense that John Key is so fond of playing.

  2. The more I think of this issue the worse it gets.  

    If this is approved the Governement will be using state funded terrorism of opposition politicians by lawyers to bludgeon them into submission.  If it is funded it will have a chilling effect on the effectiveness of our opposition parties.

    And how paradoxical it will be if at the same time that legal aid for the poor is being cut legal aid for the rich and powerful is increased. 

    The cabinet vote will be interesting.  If Collins is turned down her days may be numbered. 

  3. james 111 3

    Yes and she should get the money to defend her name just as other Mps including Philip Taito Fields, and Winston Peters have got it before her.

    • James you could at least know what you were talking about before you make a statement.

      Tell me:

      1.  What financial assistance did Field get to conduct a defamation suit or otherwise?
      2.  What financial assistance did Peters get to conduct a defamation suit or otherwise?

      And if the answer to both questions is “none” do you promise to check on things before making any further statements? 

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        James you could at least know what you were talking about before you make a statement.

        Wow, that’s way too challenging high expectations for Jimmie boy.

    • Jackal 3.2

      That’s funny, I wasn’t aware that they had even requested funding to take defamation cases against other Members of Parliament? Collins is digging a pretty large hole for herself if you ask me… let’s hope it sucks the rest of the corrupt Natz down as well.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    I remember once Ruth Richardson claimed she was defamed by a Christchurch newspaper, but wisely, she said it wasnt strategically a good idea to be embroiled in a legal dispute with the ‘hometown’ newspaper.

    A pointer to the reasons for Collins choosing opposition MPs and a state owned radio network ?
    The trouble with pursuing a political case like this to the bitter end, is the courts may extend the defence of fair comment even further when its another MP and its directly political comment.

  5. Will who pays for Mallard and Littles defence be a Labour vote of confidence or no confidence in them?

    Exactly the same reasoning you are trying to apply to Collins, where you seem to be trying to guarantee yourself a win. That will gurantee yourself a loss with your own.

    If Collins chooses to proceed with a defamation suit I think she should fund itn herself.

    And if Mallard and Little choose to not back down and defend it they should fund that themselves.

    Same rules apply.

    [ this comment displays a disturbing lack of knowledge from someone who ran for parliament last year. Mallard and Little aren’t part of the Executive so there is no option for their costs to be covered by the Crown. Eddie]

    [lprent: Nope. The disturbing lack of knowledge is yours. They can apply to get defence if whatever they are defending could be construed as defending something they did as part of their duties. It happens reasonably frequently.

    Anita below has the relevant link… ]

    • Jackal 5.1

      What are you talking about Pete George? Mallard and Little have said they will pay for their own defense… I suggest they also seek costs against Collins personally. Why should we pay for her defamation cases when the question of the leaked Boag email remains unanswered?

    • So Petey you agree the taxpayer should not fund Collins. 

      You then lurch into a diatribe about how Mallard’s and Little’s should not be funded.  There is no proposal that this should occur.

      You have no idea about how the Government’s finances work Petey do you. 

      • ghostwhowalksnz 5.2.1

        Its not supposed to happen but the disgraced Nick Smith was funded by the taxpayer for shooting his mouth off when he was a mere MP.
        I hope he wasnt also paid some costs when he was convicted of contempt of court, the circumstances of which led to his colleagues supporting him and attacking the Solicitor General , who acted on the complaint of a judge that he was interring with a witness during a hearing.

    • Pascal's bookie 5.3

      Hi again Pete.

      As noted above, it’s been reported that the Labour mps will be paying their own costs. It was reported in the same story where the 5pm deadline passed with the mps ignoring it.

      Earlier on that day, you claimed that the reaction to the deadline would possibly tell us something about how honest the Labour MPs were being. Whether or not they were just maliciously lying or what have you.

      Would you care to follow up on that comment of yours?*

      Does the way things have panned out tell us anything?

      Or was that a one way bet you were making?

      *laughs, of course you don’t. It was yet another hit and run passive aggressive smear that didn’t work out, and you won’t take back.**

      **prove me wrong and take it back, in detail***

      ***And I’ll ask why you needed to be prodded; doesn’t exactly make you look honest.

    • Anita 5.4

      Eddie writes:

      [ this comment displays a disturbing lack of knowledge from someone who ran for parliament last year. Mallard and Little aren’t part of the Executive so there is no option for their costs to be covered by the Crown. Eddie]

      Actually MPs can have their legal costs covered by the crown. This explains the rules quite neatly.

      It is worth noting that as the payment would come out of the party leader’s fund it wouldn’t actually increase the cost to taxpayers as the party would have to spend less on other things.

      • mickysavage 5.4.1

        Hi Anita

        I can assure you the Labour leader’s budget would not be spent on such frivolities.  I am not sure I know how Smith did it … 

  6. DavidW 6

    Hold the horses a minute. Has Collins actually requested funding from Cabinet? If so Eddie can you please point us towards a reference that confirms she has?
    If she hasn’t asked, Cabinet will not decide today.

    I know the latest poll must have screwed with your mind eddie but sheesh, you could attempt to use fact as a basis for your rambling.

    • KATY 6.1

      If She hasn’t why are cabinet considering giving it to her ?.

      • DavidW 6.1.1

        Don’t believe everything the Herald published about political matters Katy – it is far from an authoritative source on what passes for news these days.

    • Craig Glen Eden 6.2

      Key said Cabinet would discuss the funding of Collins defamation case today, when he was on Q and A on Sunday morning. Sheesh DavidW could you at least have some idea about what you are posting about. You Nat supporters and PeterG are really starting to look so bloody stupid!

    • deuto 6.3

      Perhaps you should keep up with the play before airing off .

      Or perhaps you should air off at the Herald for example – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10796093

      I seem to recall that this was also discussed in Key’s interview of Q & A yesterday.

      There are a number of discussions on other blogs about this – for example, Farrar on Kiwiblog. Farrar is less than enthusiastic at taxpayer funding of Collins’ defamation action.

  7. ianmac 7

    Of course there will be a very long delay between a Defamation charge being laid and the actual hearing in court. Maybe years? Next minit or decade or so, who will know or care? By then Trevor will be tending his roses and reminiscing about cycling he has done as he hobbles down to see if the paper has come..

  8. tsmithfield 8

    My view is that the public shouldn’t be funding these sorts of cases unless it is an obviously outrageous sort of defamation. However, if it is just what the public would view as political point scoring, then politicians should fund it themselves if they feel strongly enough about it.

    For this reason, I hope the government doesn’t fund Collin’s for her defamation case. It might well be other National politicians think along the same lines. So, refusal to fund might not be an indication that Collins lacks credibility on the issue.

    • OK TS what about funding the action against Radio New Zealand?
      Putting Mallard to one side, the use of our tax dollars so one part of state can sue another part makes no sense whatsoever except to the Legal Profession, doncha think?

      • tsmithfield 8.1.1

        I agree. In saying that, I am not suggesting that Collins’s case is without merit. To me, it just doesn’t seem to cross the threshold for public funding. If it had been suggested she has sex with 13 year old boys or something, then that would be different. But when it is something as banal as claims about leaking a letter, which most in the public probably think is common place for politicians anyway, then I don’t see the justification in funding this publicly.

        Public funding is probably inevitable for Radio NZ, if they intend to defend the claim. OTOH, I wouldn’t want to see anyone stripped of their rights to take legal action if they felt strongly about it. So, they will have to seek costs back from Collins if she loses.

        • Pascal's bookie

          If it had been suggested she has sex with 13 year old boys or something, then that would be different.

          Why? That would seem to be an entirely private matter.

          • tsmithfield

            In her beehive office then?

            I am sure you get the drift of what I mean. And I think we would all benefit by not going any further down this line of thought. :smile:

        • lprent

          If it had been suggested she has sex with 13 year old boys or something, then that would be different.

          Why? That is still a personal matter of protecting her reputation. If she wants to protect her reputation then she should pay for it.

          So, they will have to seek costs back from Collins if she loses.

          NZ courts will usually award less than 50% of the costs to whoever wins. That is kind of a bogus argument.

          The only reason that I would consider that the public purse should be used to fund MP’s in defamation suits is for MP’s to defend against a plaintiff. Being a MP or a minister means that you are a target for nuisance suits as part of your job. There is a clear need for the employer to defend MP’s ability to say what they think where it isn’t actual defamation without being stymied by the risk of being sued in nuisance suits. The success rate of such state assisted defences over the years shows the value of them.

          That a minister with a thin skin can call on state resources to sue someone else for defamation is somewhat ridiculous. It is also outright dangerous because it would be a great way to launch unfounded nuisance suits like this one to stifle criticism – which is what this daft action appears to be. She cannot win unless she manages to completely turn L v A on it’s head.

          • tsmithfield

            “The only reason that I would consider that the public purse should be used to fund MP’s in defamation suits is for MP’s to defend against a plaintiff.”

            I expect that the PM may also share that view. If that is the case, then it would be inaccurate to assume other motives for not backing the case.

  9. deuto 9

    So, refusal to fund might not be an indication that Collins lacks credibility on the issue.

    Perhaps not, but I wait with interest to her (probably bollistic) response if that happens!

  10. ghostwhowalksnz 10

    Normally the taxpayer pays legal costs for ministers , who “inadvertently” defame a private individual or company during the course of their public duties.
    To pursue a vendetta, against another MP ? Ridiculous

  11. On the herald site there is an article about acc it states ‘VIP’S get preferential treatment’
    by John Gibb of the otago daily times.
    Just what is going on in acc,it was set up for the people and yet it is not acting
    in accordance with those rules.
    ACC has continually turned away genuine cases.
    Key and Collins must step down, there is questionable antics going on in
    acc,there is more than meets the eye and the whole system should be
    investigated,of course key and collins wont want a full scale enquiry
    they have plenty to hide,their jobs are at stake.
    Collins threw her toys out of the cot and
    needed to create a diversion,the cabinet meeting will be more of how to manage
    the fallout,free speach is not national’s
    idea of the public’s rights in nz.

    • just saying 11.1

      The VIP unit was going under Labour, and so was much of the routine shafting of ordinary people. It effectively means that most of those whose opinions would be reported in the media, or who have the ear of the political class, are treated differently, allowing ACC to treat ordinary people like crap with impunity. There is a similar situation whereby “important” people are more likely to access private health services, and this allows the disgraceful conditions in many of our public hospitals to go unchecked. It seems that disproportionate resources go into emergency, cardiac, and ICU wards, which are more like to be frequented by one percenters (whose lives are the only ones that actually matter).

    • Draco T Bastard 11.2

      ACC ‘VIP claims’ policy under fire

      Dr Denise Powell, president of Acclaim Otago, a support group for ACC claimants, said that if VIPs had an accident, they received “preferential treatment within ACC”.

      The corporation’s delegation manual stated that these claims were to be handled differently, she said.

      “If the service provided by ACC is world leading, why would the manager of the ACC service centre have to handle the VIP claim, rather than the service centre staff?” she asked.

  12. 80% of nz’ers say that tax payers should not fund collins defamation costs,herald poll.

  13. PunditX 13

    Err no Starlight. 80% of people who respond to Herald polls say that tax payers should not fund collins defamation costs,herald poll. Not quite the same thing..

  14. captain hook 14

    ACC has melted down into a sorry venal mess of typical money grubbing kiwis looking for the main chance.
    It needs proper supervsion and a total rework of their culture, attitude and efficiency.
    it stinks like a dead mackerel in the moonlight.

    • Craig Glen Eden 14.1

      Acc actually works well at least it did till National got in. While people will always have there issues with any system on the whole it works way better than private insurance.I deal with Acc on a daily basis and while they are more annal under National I still prefer to deal with them than the private insurance companies.

  15. Pascal's bookie 15

    So Collins is paying for it herself.

    Good; also and too; haha.

    Just this morning she was reported talking about how the way to avoid the cost to the taxpayer was for Mallard et al to apologise.

    Looks like Cabinet declined to proceed with funding this folly, despite the fact that the original press release announcing the suit was from the NZ Government and headed by the Minister of ACC, and referring to the Minister throughout.

    I suspect preliminary legal advice was short. It’s a shame it’s not OIAable

  16. DavidW 16

    I suppose it would be a pointless exercise to obtain retractions (apologies would be even nicer) from those who maintained that Cabinet would be considering funding Collins defamation case today and an acknowledgement that there was much hot air for nought now that Collins has announced that the proceedings would continue and that she HAS NOT ASKED CABINET for government funding. This from ZB news at 1600hrs 2 April 2012. Eddie, are you listening?

    • Pascal's bookie 16.1


      If you believe the only discussion had was her saying to cabinet that “I won’t be asking” you’re an idiot.

      If she wasn’t going to ask, then why on earth would she have not said so days ago?

      Why was her office saying that she hadn’t made her mind up, but that the taxpayer could avoid the cost if Mallard et al apologised? That certainly seems to be a comment leaning towrds her asking for it to be funded.

      She obviously ultimately decided not to ask, but all evidence, from the initial press release through to her office’s comments, point toward that being aface saving decision along the lines of not asking when you know what the answer is going to be.

      Honestly, do you not find it a teeny weeny bit strange that she announces this after Cabinet, and not immediatly before?

      What could possibly explain that, derp derp.

    • deuto 16.2

      The fact that Collins has now said that the defamation proceedings will continue but that she has not asked Cabinet for government funding does not rule out that Cabinet may well have discussed this today.

      In view of:

      1. the Cabinet Manual provisions which I understand require any Minister to get approval via a number of steps which would at the least take a couple of days BEFORE initiating any legal action. [Collins announced her decision to take defamation action only about an hour after the National Radio interview and certainly could not have gone through the required processes in that time.]

      2. there being no precedence for the circumstances of this particular case of a Minister initiating defamation against other Members of Parliament and a Crown entity

      3. mounting public opinion against taxpayers footing the bill

      – IMO this (Collins continuing with the defamation action but supposedly paying for it herself) is a face-saving compromise which may well have been discussed in Cabinet, but if not, with Key and other Ministers, National Party gurus etc.

      It is exactly the sort of “solution” I was expecting.

    • Frida 16.3

      David W. Naive. I think you’ll find the Solicitor-general told her to bugger off and Cabinet took that advice!

  17. DavidW 17

    Too much fun having the usual suspects flailing around speculating, taking some hack’s report in the Herald about the Cabinet Agenda as gospel and reaching for some whacky (or should that be whacked out) conclusions.

    Either way there was much frothing around the dentures for bugger all effect.

  18. Collins funding her own defamation case, that will cost her some big bikies.

  19. Pascal's bookie 19

    Felix Marwick reporting that Key is saying Collins told him she’d foot the bill last wednesday. erm, yeah ok.

    But leaving aside the obvious, why not speak up till now then. He was all over the media saying there was no decision yet, he didn’t know, nor did she.

    They wanted the crown to pay for it, but hve been guzzumped by the backlash. Now backpeddling.

    • deuto 19.1

      Agreed re back peddling etc. Re the big bickies, some of Collins’ political friends may be willing to help out.

  20. DavidW 20

    Never miss the opportunity for a good conspiracy theory to hatch eh? I think it was the inimitable Mr Prentice who explained about Occam’s Razor once. Perhaps you should check it out.

    [lprent: You forgot the word “sarcastically” as in “sarcastically explained”. I never use that unless I am being sarcastic. ]

    • Pascal's bookie 20.1

      So what is the most parsimonious explaination for the facts to date, including:

      the form and tone of the press release; http://t.co/u78pm9b6 (nb: the letter head, and the mention of her office, who issued the press release, etc)

      her reluctance to say anything at all about who might be funding the case untill after the cabinet meeting.

      According to Key, she told him on Wednesday night that she would be funding it, so why delay announcing that?

      Get yer razor out Davi, show me how it’s done.

      I’d say the most parsimonious explaination is that she wanted cabinet to approve, found out they wouldn’t, and has fallen back to ‘I didn’t ask’.

      Explains all the facts quite nicely I should think.

  21. Blue 21

    Lovely little gem from Collins: “Even though I am fully entitled to do so, I have not asked Cabinet for funding.”

    Pure born-to-rule arrogance and entitlement. Thank heavens she doesn’t have a moat.

    • Anita 21.1

      Worth noting that she’s saying she is entitled to ask, not entitled to receive :)

      • mickysavage 21.1.1

        Aye she is entitled to ask and entitled to be told by independent legal officers that her case is ridiculous.  She should fund it herself or forget.

        She is in face saving mode.

        Either she comes up with $300-400k and goes the full hog to receive minimal damages because she has been accused of being a Machiavellian politician or she forgets it.

        But if she forgets it she has to explain how Nick Smith’s blood came to be all over her hands.

        I almost feel sorry for her … 

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          Don’t. She’s just another Tory when it comes down to it. These people deserve our understanding, but not our sympathy.

  22. DavidW 22

    Blue, the Cabinet Manual says she is entitled to ask fro funding, there is nothing automatic about it nor is there any entitlement to funds as of right.

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