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Nat Civil War: Suckerpunch

Written By: - Date published: 10:36 am, April 3rd, 2012 - 51 comments
Categories: john key, Judith Collins - Tags:

John Key just taught Judith Collins not to mess with the Boag faction.

The Cabinet Manual required her to consult with him before announcing the defamation suits. He expressed support. Said Cabinet would decide on the funding. Suckered her in.

Then, at the last minute, word came Cabinet wouldn’t back her – as should have been obvious from the start to her, it was a political non-starter. Humiliatingly, she was forced to give up her bid for taxpayer assistance.

Now, she’s left with high and dry. She can’t drop the suits now without looking stupid. But she’ll look like a fool if she pursues them – a justice minister taking vexatious law suits – and may well end up having to pay the respondents’ costs, especially given the danger the courts will see in letting ministers use defamation suits as a political tool.

And all that cost will now be on her head.

51 comments on “Nat Civil War: Suckerpunch ”

  1. marsman 1

    Ha ha.

  2. Enough is Enough 2

    Don’t rule out the Waitemata Trust funding this.
    There is more money in there than they know what do with

    • Anita 2.1

      It doesn’t much matter who covers Collins’ costs (as long as it’s not the crown), the damage is to her credibility and image, not her bank account.

  3. ghostwhowalksnz 3

    The Cabinet manual has been used as a door mat before. Refer to Nick Smith when his first letter should have been enough to make him walk, but it was a ‘mistake’ so didnt count.

    I can see them doing a flip flop when no one is noticing, or even not telling till someone asks a direct question. This is how they think- dont want another story in the 24 hr news cycle, so make it go away for now. Next year is another millennium away.

    It wont be a win win for her as even if she has a case the costs will exceed the damages if any.

  4. Pete 4

    The pre-trial discovery process will be very interesting too. Would Collins want to open up her private communications to that kind of scrutiny? I think she’s talked herself into a corner.

  5. Pascal's bookie 5

    Apparently Mallard and Little are still waiting for notification that a suit has been filed.

    Odd: she’s had plenty of time, and told Key last wednesday that she’d be paying for it herself. What’s the hold up?

    • Jim Nald 5.1

      The wannabe ingenue is trying to learn, erm find, her lines.

      In sooth, this declining MP is moving swiftly through the various ages of ministerial life.

      To adapt from the Bard, …..

      On the Natz political stage, all the men and women are merely players
      They have their entrances and their exits
      And each clown in his or her time plays many parts with numerous cabinet portfolios

      Now, like a self-Crushing soldier
      Full of strange oaths, .. Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
      Seeking the bubble reputation
      Even in the cannon’s mouth.

      p.s. I have been told by beltway contacts to keep an ear out for possibly one more development!

  6. captain hook 6

    I suppose she is feeling a bit ‘crushed”.

  7. Crusher Collins Crushed,

    What goes round comes round.

    Makes dirty politics more interesting, we will enjoy watching this play out.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    The test will be whether or not Collins actually files defamation proceedings. If she does, it will be because she feels she has a case that that is strong enough to at least make her point, even if she doesn’t win. For instance, if the papers filed by both sides lead to the view that the defendants could not prove they had told the truth, even if the court eventually finds they technically cannot be sued, then I think Collins will have had a victory of sorts.

    I don’t know why there is such confidence here in Mallard. After all, it looks to me like he has had previous form so far as defamation goes, for example, here, here, and arguably here (although he couldn’t actually be sued on that occasion given what he said was in the house).

    So, if past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour, it doesn’t surprise me that he is in the firing line of defamation proceedings again.

    • Craig Glen Eden 8.1

      “For instance, if the papers filed by both sides lead to the view that the defendants could not prove their point, even if the court eventually finds they technically cannot be sued, then I think Collins will have had a victory of sorts.”

      The court wont have to decide if they can prove their point, it has to decide whether their comments defamed her. Different tests I think you will find.

      • lprent 8.1.1

        As I remember it, she has to establish first that there was defamation. Then that there was damage arising from that defamation. Then overcome the defences that the defence puts up. That includes the qualified privilege and public interest defences from Lange v Atkinson. That in essence requires that they knowingly used false facts when they were aware of the true facts at the time. That is going to be really really hard to overcome because she’d have to show that they were in possession of evidence proving that she wasn’t the leaker.

        Finally if she manages all of that, then I think that she’d have prove that it did damage to her reputation (since that is what she is purported to be defending). As a politician is going to be be pretty hard because basically most people class them somewhat below used car salesmen in being evil bastards. I think she’d go for actual damage myself like loss of a ministerial salary because that’d be a lot easier to argue than having a succession of people coming up and saying it did no significant damage to her reputation.

        • Anita

          lprent writes,

          That in essence requires that they knowingly used false facts when they were aware of the true facts at the time.

          Wouldn’t it be sufficient if they recklessly claimed things were facts when they weren’t adequately certain of their truth, while knowing that their claims would damage her reputation?

          • lprent

            That would probably be the case if she wasn’t a politician. But the Lange vs Atkinson decisions effectively said that public interest overrides it.

            There are very very few things in real life that are absolutely certain facts these days because so little of it is done with matter. Even less in the political area where so much of ‘fact’ is perception.

            Consider a statement like “they moved the money from that account to this other account”. Sounds like a fact doesn’t it? Until you look at moving money between two general ledger account codes, or shifting it through internet banking.

            Or a statement like X moved the money from that account to this other account because of ideological stupidity. The first fact (the act) might not be in contention. However the second is an interpretation about why they did something also expressed as a fact.

            You’ll find both of those types of statements in Joe Atkinson’s article that caused David Lange to sue him for defamation.

            If you start extending your standard out in the modern political world, you’d find it very difficult to ever examine or criticize a politician in public. Which is why the court of Appeal extended the public interest aspects of defamation. Note that our court of appeal both then and now aren’t exactly the most innovative court. However they felt compelled to leave the political debate open with what amounts to factual uncertainty in there as well.

    • Pascal's bookie 8.2

      I don’t think a back down from “I didn’t do it” to “You can’t prove it” will be a victory at all.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 8.3

      If Collins files it will be evidence that tax lawyers have a limited understanding of the contempt in which they are held. If she files and wins look for a record low payout for a defamation action – I’m thinking 10c.

    • Eddie 8.4

      Of course, the actual test will be whether she wins said suits. If she pursues them at all.

  9. vto 9

    Of course she will file, otherwise she will look like a complete and utter tosser fool wolf crying bubba.

    But the escape route will be being planned of course – my bet says post-proceedings issue. Maybe it will be stretching out the case over years with delays until the appropriate day to can it. Maybe it will be some weak excuse in a few weeks or months time that she will simply carry until it peters out. Maybe it will be something else again.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    “I don’t think a back down from “I didn’t do it” to “You can’t prove it” will be a victory at all.”

    Neither do I.

    But if the defendants rely on say L v A, rather than proving they told the truth then I think they will be viewed as getting out of it on a technicality, so would be a moral victory of sorts for Collins. Also, a victory for the defendants under this scenario might result in them wearing their own costs.

    If, however, Collins believes they can prove they have told the truth through fairly incriminating evidence, then I doubt she will file proceedings, or if she does, it will be to drive out the evidence now rather than close to the election, for instance.

    Furthermore, I have no idea what evidence Mallard etc think they have, but lets say it is an anonymous source. It is one thing to give information under the cloak of anonymity and quite another thing to give it under the glare of cross-examination in a court. Remember how those witnesses who were called against Chris Cairns stood up to scrutiny in a court setting.

    • Pascal's bookie 10.1

      Good point about the sources. National party parliamentary insiders. That’ll look great for the government, of course.

      • tsmithfield 10.1.1

        If there are National part sources spreading wild rumours, then good luck with getting them to take the stand and verifying what they might have told Mallard previously. Especially if they’ve signed confidentiality agreements which they would have clearly breached by going to Mallard in the first place.

        • Pascal's bookie

          Now you’re starting ot think old boy. Keep at it.

          Remember, there is nowhere any of this stuff could have come from that isn’t ‘The National Party’.

          You said before that Collins was trying to flush something out.

          No shit.

          Or, trying to prevent things flushing out, as the case may be.

          • tsmithfield

            People here seem to be assuming that the leak can only have come from Collins.

            But it appears that Collins had forwarded the e-mail through to ACC,.

            Any Cabinet minister sitting in “The Crusher’s” shoes – particularly a politician with as strong an instinct for self-preservation as Collins has – would quickly have worked out the impact of Boag’s email was they were also likely to be dragged into the same mud-pool which subsequently swallowed Nick Smith.

            The ACC Minister would quickly have reached the conclusion that all Boag’s email did was to compromise her.

            Hence she sent it to the ACC .

            So, if the e-mail was also with ACC, then it there is another plausible source for the leak. Given that ACC hasn’t been the paragon of secrecy and discretion lately, I think this is entirely possible.

            • felix

              You should tell Collins, because her reluctance to make good on her legal threats seems to indicate that she hasn’t thought of that. Or that she knows it’s not true, of course.

            • Pascal's bookie

              Most people have followed the story quite well I think

              She forwarded it to 2 people, the chairman, and the CEO;

              Those 2 people plus Collins, plus Boag are the 4 people you may have heard talked about who are known to have had access to the document.

              Remember too, that she is Minister of ACC. She is not the chair, she is not the CEO. Then think about “Parliament” and “responsibility” with a side order of “Who got the doc, and who gave it to who?” Fobbing it off on the people she gave the doc to, will not be a slam dunk.

              One other thing to think about.

              What was the leak intended to achieve. Why was it leaked. What narrative was that doc meant to support. Who benefits from that narrative, and who loses. Are there multiple winners?

              Extra credit: Who was pushing that narrative hardest and fastest after the leak? What else happened that furthered that narrative? Was anyone skiting?

              • tsmithfield

                Oh, I don’t know. As an alternative to the theories being proposed here, just to make things interesting.

                Perhaps someone in ACC, who had some beef with Collins, leaked the e-mail with the intended effect of inducing speculation that it was in fact Collins who leaked it. After all, if you think it is so obvious that Collins had leaked it, then perhaps you might also wonder whether it was a bit too obvious and unlikely that Collins would be so sloppy as to draw attention to herself.

                Hell, I can’t believe I’m getting into this sort of stuff. I getting as paranoid as you lot now! 🙂

            • Kotahi Tane Huna

              Not at all TS: I think it’s most likely that Collins is responsible for this criminal breach of privacy. Perhaps her hard copy has a twin, for example, or perhaps she’s just a lying tax lawyer (is that a tautology?).

              But her determination to humiliate herself takes the discussion well beyond the identity of the leaker, and into the revolting behaviour of this woman and her colleagues. Manipulative, bullying, mendacious and at the same time pathetic and hilarious.

              And she shows no sign of realising that the longer she takes to resign the more damage her party will suffer, and the more of her colleagues will be dragged into it, until they are all tainted by their association with her. It’s fantastic 😀

              • tsmithfield

                Don’t get too excited yet.

                • Jackal

                  Why would anybody get excited about things that shouldn’t be occurring? This isn’t what government should be about… it’s a fiasco! We can either laugh or cry at what has become of our government… which has become a disgrace!

                  A humiliation played out on the world stage. While a fat guy insults other countries they watch in wonder at the frontal lobotomised ring-circus that was once called the National party. What can we call it now?

            • tracey

              Can it be argued that ACC is her “office”? As a person of integrity she wouldn’t shirk the concept that the ACC buck stops at her, would she?

              • Anita

                No. The concept of a Minister’s Office, and its separation from the Ministry or Department is very clear and well understood.

        • Frida

          TS – Easy. Subpoena them and then get them declared hostile so you can in effect cross-examine them (which you can’t normally do when leading evidence).

    • ghostwhowalksnz 10.2

      The best thing about the court proceedings , is that it too is privileged. And if Mallard wants to use ‘truth’ as a defence and has witnesses and evidence then Collins may not wish collateral damage if it means Keys office is drawn in.

      It would be like the Pike River Royal Commission, every day more headlines about shocking behaviour !

      • Pascal's bookie 10.2.1

        Christ. A right wing blogger, sitting there in the witness box, with his hard drive open.

  11. deuto 11

    I am not trying to divert this thread from the focus of the post, but had a quick look at the DimPost post on the Collins’ action. One of the comments relating to Collins’ legal background/competency provided the following link to Steven Price’s comments on an interview with Collins last year re the Search and Surveillance Bill.


    Hope for her sake the grounds that she is taking this defamation action are a bit more rock solid than her comments in that earlier interview.

    • felix 11.1

      It seems to me that Collins has bluffed, blustered and bullshitted her way through every step of her career.

  12. Lovechild 12

    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.

  13. Clashman 13

    It seems she has given Mallard and Little another chance to apologise. She cant be very confident. Im betting this wont get anywhere near a court.

    • felix 13.1

      Didn’t she do that last week as well?

      She’s so full of shit. A stalling, grasping, knifed by her own team, watching her dreams die, dragging it out, loser.

  14. Colonial Viper 14

    Remember, Collins only took this action because she felt it was necessary in her positioning for a post-Key National Party leadership challenge.

    She doesn’t give a shit about “reputation” etc. per se.

    • felix 14.1

      Well sort of, she’s trying to establish a reputation as someone not to be fucked with.

      How do you reckon that’s working out for her given that no-one on either side of the house seems to take her threats even halfway seriously?

  15. Te Reo Putake 15

    Given that the worst possible thing for the National Party would be for this ridiculous case to go ahead, both for the potentially wonderful info to be found in the discovery phase and for the embarrasment when it eventually gets chucked out of court, I wonder if it would be helpful if Teh Standard got in behind Collins?
    A Facebook campaign, perhaps? Maybe set up a fundraising appeal to encourage her to go to court?
    Howabout a rock concert? Lie Aid, anyone? Leakstock? Liarpalooza?

  16. Pascal's bookie 16

    Little and Mallard seem a lot more confident about things than Collins does.

    It all could be a ruse on her part of course, just acting all blustery and full of wind before lowering the boom, as it were.

    But still.

    Mallard and Little know what is in the lawyer’s letter she sent, as does she of course, especially if she wrote it herself, as Little implied. They can’t really talk about it unless Collins says they can go public with what she has accused them of, they’ve asked her to release the letter, I seem to recall. but it’s a bit sensitive I guess.

    No doubt all part of her cunning plan.

  17. Pascal's bookie 17

    Here’s an analysis on the potential downsides for National, and Collins:

    More important – what if Collins loses on defamation? She has still highlighted the Mallard attack approach and will have made Labour more cautious with that as well, despite any attempts at bravado. She will have forced Mallard to front up with facts or look a dick.

    At worst if Collins is embarrassed and resigns (I think that’s looking unlikely unless for once Mallard really does have some damning evidence), that’s a loss to National but not too damaging.

    Thoughtful points, powerfully made.

    • bad12 17.1

      We dont think Crusher will resign over the debacle,by all accounts Slippery is spitting tacks that this little scandal having claimed one Minister was not quietly put to bed as was the plan dictated by the 9th floor after Nick Smith walked the plank moments befor a dark slippery shadow was twarted in His intention to push Smith under the proverbial bus,

      What we have heard is that Crusher is under immense pressure from within National,s Caucus not for the fact that She is trumpeting about suing Mallard and Little but for the fact that having now said She will She may be made to look a fool whatever the out-come and by association so will the National Government She represents,

      Collins was strangely deflated in the House today,still defiant but with head down and the writing or more to the point the whispering may have already indicated to her that should Slippery be Prime Minister after the next election Crusher is unlikely to be a member of His Cabinet,

      So at this point we dont see Crusher resigning unless Her few remaining supporters in the National Government indicate that the numbers are their to force such a resignation, We can tho see where if it has come to the point where the whispering has commenced in the halls of power occupied by the Blue team then there is every likely-hood that Crusher wont seek re-election….

  18. tracey 18

    In order to be defamed you must have a reputation of a type that the comment could defame. The constant reference to her calling a fellow MP a “pervert” may be an attempt to pitch her “reputation” at a level which is harder to besmirch? That is, someone who calls fellow MPs a “pervert” is not coming tot he court with “clean hands” reputationally speaking. Just a thought.

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