For all her bluster, Judith Collins still hasn’t sued Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little for supposedly defaming her by saying she was behind the leak of the Boag email identifying Bronwyn Pullar as the leaker of 6,500 ACC clients’ details. I’m not sure how you can argue its defamatory for a minister to be accused of leaking private information when Paula Bennett did it openly and received the praise of the PM and much of the public.
Then, there’s the defences: Lange v Atkinson qualified privilege, honest opinion, even truth.
Any court would have to consider that MPs are regularly accused of far worse things than leaking confidential information – just tune in for a few minutes of talkback – as well as the, clearly intended, chilling effect on political debate if a defamation suit taken by a minister could succeed on such weak grounds.
And Collins doesn’t exactly come at this with clean hands. She called Little a liar for stating what he honestly thought on the basis of the information he had. Little pointed out that could have triggered a defamation suit from him, were he so inclined, but he just got it because it’s all part of politics.
Collins’ lawyers will have been telling her all that and inviting her consider what sensitive information she holds may come to light during the discovery process.
Maybe she’s not intending to sue at all. Maybe it was just a ploy to intimidate the media (as a matter of course, media won’t repeat an allegation that is subject to defamation proceedings). It seems to have worked, too.