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Collins’ last stand

Written By: - Date published: 6:55 pm, April 2nd, 2012 - 46 comments
Categories: same old national - Tags: ,

It was pretty clear listening to John Key’s press conference today that Collin’s has been told she’s on her own with her defamation suit.

Not so much because she’s having to fund it herself. Although I doubt very much that she made this decision without someone having a quiet word about how she won’t be getting taxpayer dollars for this misadventure, the reason could have simply have been how politically difficult that would be.

What was more telling was Key’s comment on whether she had a chance. To quote the man himself:

you’re really asking the wrong person as… I’m not… um… legally educated, if you like

Aside from the fact that the words Key was looking for was “a lawyer”, there’s no way he wouldn’t have sought an opinion on the unprecedented and high-profile defamation case his Justice Minister is taking against two opposition MPs and a state-owned broadcaster.

Which means he’s either been told she’s got no chance or he’s hanging her out to dry.

Either way this is looking more and more like Collins’ last stand. However it may offer just the sideshow the nats need to take the focus off the increasingly apparent fact they govern for their mates and the rest of us can go to hell.


46 comments on “Collins’ last stand”

  1. felix 1

    “Which means he’s either been told she’s got no chance or he’s hanging her out to dry.”

    I’d say it’s both.

    • Anita 1.1

      Is it the second because of the first? Or the second because he always wanted to and she finally gave him a chance?

      • IrishBill 1.1.1

        I reckon the latter.

      • felix 1.1.2

        Could still be both of those, too 😉

        But yeah, Key seems like someone who knows when his position is threatened well in advance. Those famous trading instincts, eh?

  2. Might this be the end of her political career then?

    • Pete 2.1

      Not for a while. Civil cases that go to court in NZ take on average 608 days from go to woah, according to a study from Otago University (pdf)

      Collins is probably banking on not having to go to a hearing until after the 2014 election. Or even quietly dropping it (sometimes settlements include non disclosure provisions which would gag Little, Mallard and Radio NZ if they’re unwise enough to accept such provisions). The defamation case itself won’t be a death of a thousand cuts, though – if you look at the Chris Cairns case in England, once it got to court it progressed relatively speedily.

  3. tsmithfield 3

    Irish, I don’t think public funding for Collins was ever going to fly, given the public opposition to this idea (81% against in the Herald poll today, for instance). So, I am not sure too much can be read into National not funding the legal action.

    I do wonder if this is a “best form of defence is attack” strategy from National, not just Collins, given the pressure they have been under lately. Even if the defendants win, it will be costly for them, given that they are unlikely to be fully reimbursed for their costs. So, the least expensive way for them to nip this action in the bud before it starts costing money would be for them to dump what ever they have into the public arena, forcing Collins to drop the action if it is clear she can’t succeed. Therefore, the longer things go on without them doing this will make me start to wonder if the defendants are really just bluffing themselves.

    Also, Collins herself funding the action sends out a message to the electorate that she believes strongly enough she has been wronged so as to fund the action herself.

    Also, do you think it is dangerous that people may be a bit to glib in putting their faith in Lange v Atkinson? I don’t believe this case would give people the right to say anything they wanted too about politicians. But if people believe they are protected, they might well say things that end up being a lot more lose in their comments than they otherwise might have been. So, I wonder if there is more risk to the defendants than what many seem to think.

    Interesting times.

    • shreddakj 3.1

      I think it really just comes down to trying to shut down criticism. What they said was hardly defamatory, and if it isn’t true would have worked better as a piece of political ammunition for Collins instead of a defamation lawsuit.

      • felix 3.1.1

        Yep, the whole thing reeks of desperation.

        A minister desperate to keep her job and desperate to avoid accountability. And a PM desperate not to get any on himself.

        • Balanced View

          Actually, desperation was demonstrated in Mallard’s unfounded comments, desperately trying to invent a scandal. I can’t wait to see how this ends.

          • shreddakj

            Hah! Now that is funny, claiming Mallard invented this scandal. You’re either a complete imbecile or you’ve been living under a rock, this scandal comes well and truly from within the National Party.

          • mickysavage

            Spot the CT clone.  They will keep on harping on how Mallard has no backing for his comments.  Guess what, he does, bluffing will not work.

          • felix

            If you were right (and you’re not) and Mallard did “invent a scandal” (and he didn’t) then you’d have to take your hat off to him wouldn’t you?

            It’s already taken out a senior minister, cancelled the PM’s holiday, tied up most of the National party for a week and a half with firefighting and damage control, and seriously embarrassed one of the frontrunners for the top job (and the clock’s still ticking).

            Not bad for something Trev just made up, eh? Well done that man.

          • alex

            Great pseudonym Balanced View. Really makes you come across as unbiased and not at all like a National troll.

          • Balanced View

            I was referring to the scandal of a minister “deliberately leaking” the email. Honestly, do you really think that Mallard should be able to make unfounded accusations without fear of reprisal? Imagine what parliament would be like if this was allowed.
            I find it hard to believe that he has proof the leak was deliberate and came from Collins, if he had this piece of dynamite he would have already released it. Also, with a court case pending, isn’t it now his responsibility to prove she did as opposed to her responsibility to prove she didn’t?

            • lprent

              No, he doesn’t need to have proof. They merely have to show that they had a reason to suspicious. Read Lange vs Atkinson. She is a politician and a minister. It is in the public interest that her actions are speculated on.

              It is Collins burden to prove that the speculation and/or evidence was completely unreasonable. Basically she has no real chance…

              I think the other commentators are right. Your intelligence appears to be impaired or you are talking about things that you have no understanding of.

              • Colonial Viper

                You have to ask, which legal eagles were advising her in taking this decision? Or did she just shoot from the hip having done first year law many moons ago? Weird.She doesn’t seem to be making her decisions rationally at all.

                • lprent

                  She was a lawyer. She will be aware of the law. I don’t think this will ever go to trial, and I suspect that she was aware of that it was a vaporous threat when she issued it.

                  Kind of silly. I for one just look at it as being on a par with the rest of her ineffectual political life. She talks tough and does bugger all. Reminds me of McCully

            • Balanced View

              So much abuse on this site.
              Actually I don’t know anything about the legal part oft this issue, that is why I asked a question.
              I agree that her actions should be speculated upon. But surely so should his? I’m not really fussed either way, it’s all a bit of a sideshow to the real issue, but it doesn’t sit right with me that one MP can make a statement about another seemingly without any proof. And then when she takes actions to defend her name, she cops abuse for it. Crazy

              • Colonial Viper

                You’re not really any good at this “logic” business are you?

                As for the abuse…harden up.

              • lprent

                She “cops abuse for it” because as a lawyer she should know how unlikely it is that she can win or even make a case. As a politician she is quite aware that this level of scrutiny is normal and that speculation between politicians is normal. After all she does it herself to a rather over the top degree – for instance referring to Benson-Pope as being a pervert in the house.

                Her actions appear to be motivated for reasons of intimidation and stifling debate about her than anything else, in the opinion of most around politics. Even if you take them at face value as you seem to do, then they look like the actions of someone who is too thin skinned for politics.

                Besides which, in my opinion, Judith Collins is one of the most bigoted gutless hypocrites around political life. She regularly abuses and criticizes many people, but will only do it from the safety of parliament or by bad mouthing large groups of people. Essentially a rather spineless individual.

                Perhaps you should read up about the disgusting history of Judith Collins? You do sound somewhat ignorant about it.

              • Balanced View

                This is my new favorite website! Everyone is so highly strung!
                lprent, thanks for your explanation. I was aware of some of what you noted. That doesn’t mean I can’t look at this issue separately although I can understand where you’re coming from.
                Felix, I hope you’re wearing your medic alert bracelet, I am worried for you.
                I understand parliamentary privilege, but if everyone walked outside the doors and said whatever they liked, then PARLIAMENT would turn into a farce.
                Thanks for clarifying the burden of proof though on any possible defamation case, I guess I was swayed by the Chris Cairns case where it was reported Modi had to prove his claims.
                I look forward to the next name calling session.

                • felix

                  “I understand parliamentary privilege, but if everyone walked outside the doors and said whatever they liked, then PARLIAMENT would turn into a farce.”

                  Good lord. It’s like Brett Dale with spellcheck.

            • felix

              Oh “Balanced”, you are a one.

              “Honestly, do you really think that Mallard should be able to make unfounded accusations without fear of reprisal?”

              Eh? If what he’s said is unfounded, there are reprisals. Like being sued for defamation for example.

              Christ on a bike that’s what this whole discussion is about, Collins and her “reprisals”. Thing is she doesn’t seem all that keen on following through with it, which does tend to make people think that Mallard, Little, and Radio NZ might not be as “unfounded” as you think they are.

              “Imagine what parliament would be like if this was allowed.”

              wtf? Parliament is like that you terminal fool. You can say damn near anything in parliament without being sued. It’s a fairly important principle of our system of representative democracy. Can you imagine how parliament would ever work without parliamentary privilege?

              Are you really so dense you thought this was all about something said in parliament?

              “Also, with a court case pending, isn’t it now his responsibility to prove she did as opposed to her responsibility to prove she didn’t?”

              No. It would be her responsibility to prove she had been defamed.

              But who says there’s a court case pending? Only you and Collins so far, and it’s been fairly well established that at least one of you is a complete fucking idiot.

        • Frank Macskasy

          And a Prime Minister who is also on the defensive… http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/key-defensive/

          Things are not looking good for Dear Leader.

  4. Custers last stand maybe.
    Huge price to pay for being dogmatic.

  5. tsmithfield 5

    Collins sets out the rules of engagement. It pretty much ties in with what I said above.

    Collins said Radio NZ had responded to her letter last week but they too still faced legal action.

    “There would be no cost and no case to answer if Mr Mallard, Mr Little and Radio New Zealand told the truth and presented their evidence,” Collins said.

    This statement suggests to me that the aim of the action is to flush out whatever the defendants have, rather than suppress anything. The alternative is for it to start costing the defendants money. Probably not too much of an issue for RNZ. But given that the other defendants have said they will fund their own costs independently, it could get expensive for them very quickly. Therefore, the logical option is for them to dump the truth into the public domain straight away, to nip the action in the bud before it starts costing them money. If they don’t, then they can look forward to some expensive legal bills they could otherwise avoid.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 5.1

      lol TS, do you think Little and Mallard will pay the slightest bit of notice to Collins’ bullshit threats? But then I seem to recall you telling us that ” Key and Smith have had the smarts to front-foot this. Next they will stonewall. It will be forgotten within the week.”

      How’s that working out for them?

      • tsmithfield 5.1.1

        They’ll have no choice but to take notice if proceedings are filed and they start having to dig into their own pockets.

        And the previous comments about Smith and Key front-footing were made on the basis of what was known at that stage, which was one letter. The whole game changed once it became known he had written more than one letter.

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          Oh I’m sure they’ll cope. The potential for ridicule would be worth the ticket price on its own, and guess what – their political careers will be just fine too. Collins’? Not so much.

          This is great. Collins looked like a real contender at one point, a possible leader. Now she’s a toxic waste trap waiting to spew all over her mates. Nick Smith was good enough but Collins is a bonus 😀

      • Jackal 5.1.2

        One of them front-footed it off a cliff; the stone wall is about to fall on their heads.

    • “This statement suggests to me that the aim of the action is to flush out whatever the defendants have, rather than suppress anything. ”

      What would Radio NZ have, that requires “flushing out”?

  6. Blue 6

    My first thought was that Key is letting Collins hang herself.

    The defamation action is absurd and totally without legal merit, and it’s political suicide. If this is a taste of what Collins’ political judgment would be like as PM, then it’s better for National if she self-destructs now and is out of the leadership race.

    But then I recalled John Key’s own idiotic mismanagement over the tea tapes saga, and decided to put it down to simple incompetence.

    Born to rule Tories who can’t quite work out why no one else thinks their supposed reputations are as precious as they do.

    • Collins’ day of reckoning is coming. It will be the day when she has to reckon with the stupidity of her actions and the attendant consequences.

  7. bad12 7

    Slippery isnt a happy man at all,the way this was to play out as dictated by the 9th floor was to indulge in a spot of ”drag the problem person through the mud” and the faithful will all fall into line again in a week,

    Attempting to drag Pullar through the mud by highlighting Her big bucks settlement with Her private insurance company and have one of the tame yapping puppies form Prime allude to the fact that that payout may have been even bigger went down like a lead balloon,

    Crusher,s determination to charge headlong into legal action against Mallard and Little thus dragging the ACC saga out into the dark passages of the future with the risk of yet even more damaging revelation to come also wasnt part of the plan to manage this little debacle post Nick Smith,s timely resignation,

    After the Epsom tea-cups melt-down where Slippery after 3 years as Prime Minister was finally being asked to justify His existence by a pissed of press with other than smile and wave carefully scripted 5 second media opportunities the last thing the Prime Minister wanted to encounter was a press corp provoked to further hostility by one of His Ministers suing the press for what was said on live radio in an interview with Little and Mallard,

    Such an attack on them,(yes the press in the end see themselves as ”them),the press can now only conclude when weighing both the Epsom incident where the Prime Minister himself set the Police onto the press and Crusher,s law suit against RadioNZ as an attempt to silence ”them” from following stories which dont show National in a good light,

    Having had a dream 3 years where the press openly ridiculed then Labour leader Phil Goff painting anything Goff said or did with derisive comments in what looked from here to be a united and co-ordinated campaign Slippery must be losing the odd bit of sleep dreading what the next 3 years of His new relationship with the press,parts of which are now openly hostile to Him,will do to His presidential style of popularity,

    If the TV1 political poll is any indication, Slippery having lost 4% of His personal popularity since the election,it aint going to be pretty,but,if you are into blood sport the next 3 are a must watch…

  8. ianmac 8

    And on a lighter note Steve Braunias writes a naughty column outlining a day in Judith’s Diary.
    Bryce Edwards sure can pick ’em.

  9. DH 9

    If I was a lawyer I’d be salivating over the thought of defending a suit like this. I’m not saying I’d win but there’s a whole heap of great arguments for the defence.

    If memory serves me correctly defamation is when a person is lowered in the public esteem by false accusation(s), or words to that effect. I’d think a politician would struggle to prove loss of public esteem over something like this. Plenty of case history that says it’s water off a ducks back to the public. Paula Bennett had plenty of accusations levelled against her in similar circumstances and she still got voted back in, which kinda suggests the public esteem argument is on shaky ground. False statements alone don’t make defamation.

    I think she’s daft to pursue this, on a hiding to nothing there IMO.

    • King Kong 9.1

      If you were a lawyer it would only be because they had intoduced a moron quota at the bar.

      Using your ridiculous argument I think you also might be able to find examples where politicians have been accused of skullduggery and been kicked out by the electorate.

      • DH 9.1.1

        Oh I could come up with plenty more arguments. As a lawyer I’d have nothing to worry about but it would be fun trying. Politicians occupy a special place in the public esteem and that provides plenty of scope for trying to convince a jury that the bar for defaming them is a lot higher than for a private or professional person. Good lawyers like a challenge.

        I think she’s daft to pursue it because it will have repercussions whether she wins or loses. Politics will get more spiteful.

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          Collins is a politician and a lawyer. That bar you mention is impossibly high – her public reputation is that of a person who tells lies for money.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    I would expect that if Collins is actually prepared to file proceedings then Mallard et al will have something to worry about. That is because both statements of claim and defence will need to be filed soon, even if the case takes a while to get to court. Thus the basis for both the claim and defence will be known in fairly short order.

    Therefore, I don’t think she would have taken a position on this if she didn’t think she could carry through with it, as she would quickly be found out to be bull-shitting if her statement of claim didn’t stack up, or if she bailed before filing proceedings. So, my prediction is that she will proceed with the case.

    I don’t think she actually has to win the case. But, if in the proceedings it becomes clear that Mallard et. al. have been relying on dodgy evidence then public opinion will fall behind Collins. So, we could get a fairly good idea of the true situation within the next couple of months.

    The case itself might end up being settled out of court, or never be proceeded with to court. But if her position looks favourable on the initial proceedings then that may be all she needs.

  11. Lovechild 11

    If the public purse was to be opened, the cabinet manual says that Judith Collins ought to have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (who will usually consult the Solicitor-General) when forming the intention to take proceedings as a plaintiff.

    The only reason given in the cabinet manual for Cabinet to authorize such a personal action at the Crown’s expense is if it is in the public interest.

    It seems Ms Collins preempted consideration by cabinet of whether a public interest exists in funding her defamation action.

    This made it difficult but not impossible for cabinet to agree to fund the action.

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