Judith Collins debuted this morning as a columnist in the Sunday Star Times.
It is an interesting concept. I am a bit of a purist and always thought that the fourth estate should be kept away from the politicians. It is bad enough that corporate interests are so well represented. Giving politicians a direct feed into a newspaper feels a bit North Korean to me.
She obviously feels exonerated by the Chisholm Report. It did what was intended and acquitted her of the allegations that she had used Cameron Slater to attack former Serious Fraud Office head Adam Feeley. It is a shame that Mark Hotchin, Cathy Odgers and Carrick Graham were not interviewed. The allegation is that they sought to affect a SFO investigation and such activity should not be allowed in a civilised society. As well as this Chisholm could have been asked to investigate related attacks on former head of the Financial Markets Authority.
Adam Feeley was interviewed recently by reporter David Williams of the Otago Daily Times. He had a few interesting things to say:
Yesterday, Mr Feeley, who left the SFO to take the helm at the Queenstown Lakes District Council, told the Otago Daily Times the Chisholm inquiry’s terms of reference were very narrow.
“You’ve got a report that’s given within the constraints of fairly tightly-defined terms of reference, so in that sense, yes [the decision was inevitable].”
Justice Chisholm’s 98-page report said an electronic search of Ms Collins’ email, telephone and social media records turned up “very little” relevant material; her Facebook account had been deleted and comprehensive phone records were not available.
The report details how former Hanover director Mark Hotchin, who tasked public relations consultant Carrick Graham — who then engaged bloggers Mr Slater and Cathy Odgers — to “rebalance” the public perception of the businessman, whose company was being investigated by the SFO.
Justice Chisholm decided not to interview Mr Hotchin.
Feeley had one of the most understated yet best descriptions of the effect that Dirty Politics had on him.
“I think most people see me as an unfortunate meat in a very unpleasant sandwich.”
Collins debut column (not on line yet) is about the dangers of drilling and cutting concrete fibre board without adequate ventilation and protection. The issue is an important one. If inhaling specks of dust has a similar effect to asbestos then the results can be disastrous. This is a topic worthy of discussion.
There was an accompanying article which provided some comment by Collins about her recent problems. Apparently she never liked the name “Crusher” and the framing of her character as someone to be feared was all a big misunderstanding. And her plight was caused by other people, not by her own actions.
As for Dirty Politics she says essentially that Hager has cherrypicked a few comments from a large collection of her messages and emails to make her look bad. In one intriguing passage she is quoted as saying:
Aside from the book’s serious allegations, such as her potential connection to Slater’s ugly campaign against civil servant Simon Pleasants, she is also quoted mouthing off about “total destruction”, and “rewarding” enemies with “double”, and how “if you can’t be loved, then best to be feared”.
Such bellicose talk was just “nonsense”, says Collins, and the impression Hager created of her “was so false in many ways”.
Maybe so. Yet for anyone who had watched Collins in action through the year – during her increasingly combative responses to questions about her husband’s company Oravida, during her amusing yet mean-spirited critique of Metiria Turei’s clothing, and especially during her bizarre, vengeful attack on political reporter Katie Bradford – Hager’s portrait of a vindictive, aggressive Collins seemed all too believable.
Collins gets that. “It’s unfortunate that I had allowed the image to become so harsh that people would believe [Hager’s] was a fair rendition. And that’s just stupid to have done that.”
I take it she is claiming saying that she never said or did the things alleged of her. Certainly she is seeking to recreate a persona that is deeply damaged and scarred with the effects of Dirty Politics and the Oravida scandal. Some sort of apology would help to speed up the process.
Apparently there will be a prominent hard hitting left wing columnist introduced into the SST next week. I have no idea who it will be. But I would prefer that the media put its efforts into proper investigative journalism rather than allowing talking heads to tell us what we should be thinking.