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Suing the taxpayer

Written By: - Date published: 8:06 am, March 30th, 2012 - 42 comments
Categories: Judith Collins, radio - Tags:

Now I think suing 2 Labour MPs isn’t the smartest political move. It keeps your scandal in the spotlight for months, reminding the public about the affair, and have them sour on you. You might win, in theory, so you might make Mallard and Little look bad and you a little less bad at the end of it all – it’s almost certainly not worth it, and a high stakes game if you lose (if you haven’t already lost by then).

But suing Radio New Zealand? Now who will be paying the legal fees for Judith Collins? And who will be paying the fees for Radio NZ? And who will pay the court costs and settlement should there be one?

Yes, that would be us, the taxpayers paying every little bit.

It seems like a Minister feels like she isn’t getting enough money from the taxpayer and is trying to squeeze a bit more out.

Now how does that make me feel about Judith?

42 comments on “Suing the taxpayer”

  1. That’s exactly what I thought, Bunji. The extent of public support for Radio NZ, last time they were threatened, make this a really dumb idea.

  2. Agreed Bunji although Collins will need to do a lot more if she expects the taxpayer to pick up her legal tab.

    Clauses 4.54 and 4.55 of the Cabinet Manual state:

    4.54A Minister may contemplate taking a suit as a plaintiff in a personal capacity to uphold his or her integrity as a Minister, for example, in a defamation suit. In such a case, the Minister may wish to be indemnified against the costs of the proceedings. Paragraphs 4.34 – 4.53 do not apply in these circumstances.
    4.55Any intention to take proceedings as a plaintiff must first be discussed with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (who will usually consult the Solicitor-General). The Attorney-General will then ask Cabinet to agree that the matter should be investigated by the Solicitor-General or by private counsel to determine whether it would be in the public interest for the Minister to take a personal action in the courts at the Crown’s expense to resolve the matter. An opinion on the merits of the claim, prepared either by the Solicitor-General or private counsel, will be provided to the Attorney-General, together with the Solicitor-General’s views on the public interest aspect. On the basis of this advice, the Attorney-General may seek Cabinet’s authorisation for the Minister to pursue the claim at the Crown’s expense.”

    So the decision is not and should not be clear cut.

    One thing I do not understand is why Collins is not suing the Herald.

    Fran O’Sullivan said six days ago:

    “[Collins] would quickly have reached the conclusion that all Boag’s email did was to compromise her.  Hence she sent it to the ACC. 

    Collins’ fingerprints will not be directly attached to the copy of the Boag email that was later leaked to the Herald on Sunday. 

    But the ACC Minister, who is a former Law Society president, will not be shedding any crocodile tears over Pullar’s predicament. Nor will she be concerned at Boag’s embarrassment after she was hung out to dry.”

    The reference to fingerprints not being directly attached to the Boag email is a pretty clear suggestion of the extent of Collins’ involvement.

    • Blue 2.1

      Crusher doesn’t want to buy herself a fight with Fran, clearly. Which makes her defamation action against RNZ and the Labour MPs look even more empty and pathetic.

      • tc 2.1.1

        Also granny’s been very good to the NACT at NZ’s expense so it’s a bridge that if she crossed would be blown to pieces behind her by both party and benefactors/backers.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 2.2

      Next week is just before Easter, so hopefully questions in Parliament will be asked about the above ‘advice’ by then.

  3. tracey 3

    What I object to is politicians making issues about them, whether it is Collins or Mallard or whoever. It’s NOT about them or their precious reputations it’s about serving the people.

    Creating sideshows wastes time and money. This country has neither to spare. There are many hundreds of thousands of kiwis out there working damned hard and struggling, they don’t need the people who can most influence that situation behaving as though they are the rightful centre of the universe.

    Interestingly POA and MUNZ get vilified for their actions which have ramifications for all of NZ. Yet getting the police to investigate tapes, issuing defamation proceedings, and so on and so forth from all major parties through time is childish and self serving and draws vitriol only from one side of the spectrum.

    • Generally good comment but I’m puzzled by “draws vitriol only from one side of the spectrum.”

      • Akldnut 3.1.1

        “draws vitriol only from both sides of the spectrum.”

      • tracey 3.1.2

        Cameron Slater is very upset but is ok about turning on National cos his heart’s with ACT and if ever a party could be helped by a scandal, it’s ACT by these.

        Other than that is Farrar outraged at all? Other National folks who voted for the higher standard of MP behaviour than they felt Labour showed? The police being used to halt the teapot tapes, was that widely vilified by those supporting national?

  4. Tom Gould 4

    This silly knee-jerk ploy by Collins simply proves she is unfit for higher office, unable to see the bigger picture or play the long game. She has out smarted herself. An ‘own goal’ against her own career, in my view.

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    Is this how it is going to be from now on? National Ministers to attack media outlets everytime they deviate from the “party line”?
    ShonKey led by (bad) example with the “teapot tapes”.

    Trev and Andrew are skilled enough to look out for themselves to a large extent, but RNZ is hated with a vengeance by the torys, still under a funding sinking lid and vulnerable to political pressure.

  6. ianmac 6

    4.55Any intention to take proceedings as a plaintiff must first be discussed with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (who will usually consult the Solicitor-General). The Attorney-General will then ask Cabinet to agree that the matter should be investigated by the Solicitor-General or by private counsel to determine whether it would be in the public interest for the Minister to take a personal action in the courts at the Crown’s expense to resolve the matter.
    That’s odd. Judith declared her intention to sue for Defamation within a couple of hours of Mallard/Little broadcast. Be pretty hard to get through all of section 4.55 in that time frame!

    • Aye and I cannot see, for the reasons set out by Bunji, how it could be in the public interest for the Crown to pay for this.

      I get the strong impression this is a gagging action.

    • Frida 6.2

      Agreed ianmac. I would have thought that the Solicitor-General would have to prepare a briefing paper, which went to the Attorney-General with a recommendation and then went to Cabinet (on Monday?) Seems extraordinary timing to have had all those steps ticked off within a couple of hours!

      • Pascal's bookie 6.2.1

        Does indeed.

        As far as I know from media reports, it’s just been lawyers letters sent to people so far, threatening action.

        Wonder what happens if the legal advice to Cabinet is that the case is weak. Maybe Collins will have to fund the suit herself, if she wants to proceed.

        But if she backs down—> eaten alive. So she might have to fund a case that she has been told is weak, and could well lose 😮

    • tracey 6.3

      She was very quick to defend herself as opposed to the 6000 clients of ACC, etc etc

  7. ianmac 7

    I have listened to the broadcast several times and cannot see where the defamation is.
    Broadcast is still up which would be surprising if there was substance to the complaint?

    • deuto 7.1

      I listened at the time but have not yet relistened, and certainly in the interviews themselves, I don’t recall anything that I would consider (as a non-legal) to edge on defamatory.

      But I did have an instinctive feeling of “disquiet” once or twice in the wording of the short lead-ins that Morning Report uses to inform listeners what is coming up. I can’t remember the exact wording – and don’t want to put my faulty recall in writing for obvious reasons! – but it was much more definite than the ensuing interviews as to what Labour (or possibly it was Mallard they referred to) had stated re Collins’ involvement. Thought at the time that it was sloppy wording on the part of the programme. These lead-ins don’t usually get included in the replays on the website.

  8. Tigger 8

    All Labour has to do is remind everyone who is footing the bill and appear reasonable. Clearly Collins has a lot to hide because she’s too canny to do something like this without a reason, a big, dirty reason.

    • Jim Nald 8.1

      Yeah, can we hear the damning comment, made in the Ryall kind of snotty screechy sour tone, saying “what a waste of taxpayers’ money!” ?

      Tony can remind Judith that at the next meeting with their cabinet colleagues.

  9. deuto 9

    Latest contract on iPredict – Judith Collins to sue the Standard. Just gone up today and no bets so far.

    https://www.ipredict.co.nz/app.php?do=contract_detail&contract=COLLINS.STANDARD

    Should we all be very scared? NOT.

  10. tracey 10

    I notice to date Boag aint suing no one for defaming her!!!!!

  11. captain hook 11

    this national government is a congeries of venal imbeciles who are there solely for peculation and self aggrandisement.
    it is no wonder that their edifice is crumbling when there was nothing there in the first place.

  12. mikesh 12

    Winning the case and settling for an apology plus costs would appear to be a good outcome for Ms Collins since it would appear to exonerate her of any leaking, and would not cost the taxpayer much. And if the matter was settled out of court it would be even better since she then gets what she wants without risking a courtroom battle.

    • ianmac 12.1

      Are you real mikesh or just being ironic? I fear for Judith. She is looking desperate and a little foolish. Not a good way to go.

    • Draco T Bastard 12.2

      Why would it settle out of court?

    • mikesh 12.3

      I don’t see how winning in court would not be good for her. Perhaps you and I should be aware of our bias and consider how the proverbial man in the street would view such an outcome. Surely he would see it as exonerating her.

      • lprent 12.3.1

        She won’t win…

        Given the current defamation law in NZ, a politician trying to make a case against anyone would have to prove that the people she is accusing made a statement of fact about her that they knew at the time was certain to be false. It doesn’t matter that she says that it was. the only thing that will matter is that they didn’t.

        I do find your simple minded faith in some mythical legal position of Ms Collins rather touching, considering that damn near everyone else views it as a device of Ms Collins to try to gag debate.

        • Pascal's bookie 12.3.1.1

          I’ve not seen that it’s gone further than lawyers letters yet.

          And according to the cabinet manual, to take a suit as plaintif and have the tax payer foot the bill, she has to jump through a number of hoops;

          getting advice from the government leagal beagles on the likleihood of success, and then submit that advice to cabinet and get cabinet approval to go ahead.

          Given she sent out the press release (a ‘NZ Govt’ press release, written as minister) within a day of the alleged defamation, I strongly suspect she jumped the gun.

          That puts her in the position of having to decide whether to back down completely and drop the suit (which would be politically disastrous), launch the action now (and pay for the suit herself), or wait around for the legal beagles and cabinet to make their minds up and hope thye say she has a good case and that the taxpayer will pay for it (all the while listening to Little and mallard asking when the suits coming).

          It’s a tight spot.

  13. The Stepper 13

    Agree that Collins probably jumped the gun. Strongly defensive response, possibly (probably) disproportionate. Being overly defensive often indicates guilt of some kind.

    The thing is though, what if being overly defensive is actually the result of being offended other people’s statements, questioning your integrity and harming your future employment prospects/leadership ambitions? I think we can all agree that Mallard shoots from the lip frequently, and Little has long experience in the art of making someone look morally suspect. That’s what a good union leader does.

    What if the conspiracy theories re. Collins are entirely inaccurate? I might very well have to eat my words, but it seems like no-one is willing to consider that Collins might just have a point. Can you, best beloved, imagine if someone was accusing you of gross dereliction of duty/negligence/being generally evil when you knew you hadn’t? Wouldn’t you go after them (particularly when you probably won’t have to pay the legal bills) with all the means available to you?

    As far as I am aware, Collins has no history of dodgy dealings. She’s certainly ambitious, and ruthless up to a point, but a hamfisted attempt at smearing a former fringe National supporter for no tangible gain seems to go against the grain. There have been comments about this being a way to discredit various factions of National, but Collins has far more effective means up her sleeve. Why resort to this?

    • ianmac 13.1

      Not sure that they are smearing her. They ask the questions which is their right and responsibility and She chooses to not answer or she deflects the answer. What if it turns out to be say an ACC staffer? Can’t see how the defamation action would rebound on Tevor or Andrew.
      What would help is a proper enquiry from a credible QC. Then all the flim-flam would disappear.

    • felix 13.2

      “As far as I am aware, Collins has no history of dodgy dealings.”

      Wasn’t there something to do with her and her husband scamming a free car or free petrol or some such?

      • The Stepper 13.2.1

        Agree ianmac. A proper enquiry from a credible (let’s not get into the argument about what credible means) QC would clear it up. Apart from the fact that whichever side didn’t ‘win’ would argue the toss incessantly. Ombudsman? Not familiar enough with the machinery of government to know if that’s realistic.

        As stated, I think the response has been disproportionate at best, but possibly understandable if Collins has nothing to hide. It might lead to nothing, but if she is innocent of the allegations it’s something of a line in the sand, both to Labour and to National.

        felix – no idea. Something rings a bell, but that’s as far as I get. A very lazy google search doesn’t reveal anything, but then it was very lazy!

        • ianmac 13.2.1.1

          Ministers get a chauffeur Government car and unlimited use of a self drive car. The tax-payer petrol for her self drive car was somewhere around $400 per month. A huge mileage there perhaps from her husband. Judith was challenged by a reporter and she very quickly put the reporter in his place. It is legal and within the rules.
          What bothered me was the rude arrogant response Judith handed out. I bet the reporter remembers that put-down!

          • Pascal's bookie 13.2.1.1.1

            It was Paddy Gower: http://bit.ly/GZXyCl

          • Draco T Bastard 13.2.1.1.2

            A huge mileage there perhaps from her husband.

            A huge mileage when it was obvious that she wasn’t using the car and thus we were paying for her husband to go to work. Sure, it was legal, just not right.

        • Pascal's bookie 13.2.1.2

          I hear what you are saying Stepper, and I’m not without sympathy for her if she is, in fact, innocent of being at all involved in the leaking of the Boag letter.

          But in a way, that’s irrelevant.

          She is the Minister, and the letter only went, by her reckoning, into 3 hands. The other two people who legitimately have it are within the organisation she is responsible for. There is no real escaping the fact that she is responsible for the letter’s safekeeping. Therefore, as Kevin Hague says, she actually does need to have a bit of a thick skin about questions and allegations with regard to things she is responsible for when things go pear shaped. Especially when someone, somewhere, is actively doing things wrong. These are not accidents that are happening.

          If she is innocent, the refusals to answer questions in the house about seemingly trivial details like ‘when was the email printed?’, and ‘who did she give it to?’, do nothing but wind the opposition up and foster suspicion.

          And given that her opponents will be well enough aware of her temperament, a failure to keep a control of her own reactions to their subsequent goading isn’t something I have a lot of sympathy for.

          I freely admit my own bias. I don’t like her politics.

          I was appalled, quite frequently, at her performance and comments as Minister of Police, and of Corrections. It often seemed that she was the minister *for* police, and her double bunking comments about post earthquake looters in christchurch were beyond the pail. I simply don’t accept that she didn’t know exactly how what she said would be interpreted by a large swathe of the country. Prison rape jokes are not that uncommon.

          So while, like I said, I can feel for her if she has genuinely been accused of doing something of which she is entirely innocent, I won’t be pretending to shed a tear if her recklessness and pride end up costing her politically.

          • The Stepper 13.2.1.2.1

            Yep, agree (far too much agreement on here I think!).

            That said, I think Collins is far more calculating than you give her credit for. She made provocative comments when she was trying to make her name (and everyone knows her name – even before this) and those comments appealed to the ever capricious general public. She, to be completely fair, portrayed the uncompromising, stern Minister that people respond to.

            I entirely appreciate your comments with respect to her comments about prison rape. But it was appealing in a visceral way to the ‘man on the street’.

            What I’m trying to say is I don’t think she has a hair-trigger temperament. I don’t think she does or says things things without thinking them through. For example her comments in the House – that seemed to me (happy to be proved wrong) that it was a quite deliberate wind up. Start Labour frothing and making unsubstantiated comments, and then prove yourself completely right. Nothing like the moral high ground as a basis to become Prime Minister (sidenote: the fight for the leadership between Parata and Collins will be fascinating. Joyce won’t compete. Far better to be the power behind the throne than have to justify yourself in public, and Joyce will back his ability to manipulate whichever of Parata or Collins would win. A tough, uncompromising woman vs a tough uncompromising yet slightly more appealing Maori woman. Pure theatre).

            • Adele 13.2.1.2.1.1

              The Stepper,

              The only contrary view I have with the analysis you paint is that Joyce does not have sufficient juice to manipulate either woman.

            • Pascal's bookie 13.2.1.2.1.2

              Right, wellpurely for the sake of disagreement, here’s an alternative theory of what’s going on:

              (Warning: may contain traces of assumption)

              On the friday before all this blew up, (the first leak in the Sunday Herald about the mass privacy breach), the NBR ran a story saying there were tensions in cabinet and Collins was’ livid’ with Smith about being handed a ‘Lemon’ with ACC. The story described the whole thing with the levies being at a level that private co’s couldn’t compete, effectively scuttling the opening up to competition.

              A suppososition that this wasn’t all Collins was upset with Smith about re ACC doesn’t seem like a stretch in hindsight. She may have been made aware, to some extent, of the Pullar business before it became public

              After that first leak, presumably from Pullar/Boag, ACC made the claims about ‘blackmail’ and the Boag letter was leaked.

              Concurrently to this going on, the Smith letters came out and he resigned after a day.

              So here’s the theory. (Capital T theory, plz don’t sue me Judith, it’s not even opinion, it’s speculation, probably not true at all no sir).

              The story is spiralling out of control, and the ninth floor weighs in. We’ve got police investigations into the matters stemming from the Boag letter leak (the ‘blackmail’) and privacy comm. investigations into the privacy breach. Smith falls on his sword.

              This tidies up* everything except the leak of the Boag letter.

              Now what if Key says asks Collins how the Boag letter got out, and she denies knowledge. Key wants assurities on this before he’ll publically go into bat for her. He got burned taking Worth’s word on the fact that there was nothing to an allegation.

              So he gets a letter of resignation from Collins, puts it in a drawer, and says if I suspect you lied, then this letter admitting you leaked it, goes into effect.

              Or something along those lines.

              Worth promised Key an affidavit, and defamation suits against anyone who went public with the accusations. He got neither.

              Key might have learned something from that.

              Might maybe etc.

              *for certain definitions of ‘tidy up’ only.

              • The Stepper

                While I hate to disperse the air of agreement, to follow your lead I’m not sure if I agree. To be fair, it’s a bit of stretch, for the following reasons:

                1. I imagine Key has had a written, signed but undated letter of resignation from every Minister (if not MP) in his drawer since 2008.

                2. I really don’t see a ninth floor flavour in most of this. I think that this is Collins acting off her own bat. The ninth floor would have handled it much more smoothly. Collins is asserting her own authority, in her inimitable ‘crusher’ style. This is a message as much to ninth floor and to the rest of Cabinet as to the public.

                3. Didn’t read the NBR article, though I would be angry at anyone who handed me the ACC lemon should I (heaven forfend) become a Minister. With privatisation in the wind, there will be few portfolios come next election that could prove more of a poisoned chalice. Might not have blown up now, but it will. The way I read this situation is that Smith kept the ‘Pullar Affair ™’ to himself, hoping it would go away (or more likely never thinking that this formerly friendly woman would turn on him so).

                My theory: the entire matter spills from Smith acting foolishly. Collins may have been made aware of the matter, but certainly not to the point that she thought she would have to do anything about it. I don’t think she would be stupid enough to compound her mistake (her mistake being accepting the portfolio, though how much choice she had is debatable) by leaking any email for scant, if existing, gain.

                I think Mallard and Little have reacted too quickly, and overzealously. I suspect they egged each other on. Backpedalling (or more wisely dead silence) when the outcome of the investigation starts to become apparent. Collins seems to be expecting to emerge from this as the moral (if not legal) victor, which will stand her in good stead come 2014-7. Your move Hekia.

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