Let’s be perfectly clear about it – Judith Collins was fighting for her political life at the Chisholm inquiry into ‘Allegations regarding the Honourble Judith Collins and a former Director of the Serious Fraud Office’.
That a serving Justice minister should be forced to resign (she says she offered, but let’s face it, that’s what John Key telephoned her to say. ‘Clear my name’ motivation notwithstanding, it seems pretty clear she was given the options: stand down or be stood down); then find herself under inquisition in front of a retired judge, with her integrity and good judgement being examined for consistency with written records; required to surrender her electronic devices for cloning, to supply her passwords for email and social media accounts (the contents of these were, at least, brokered through KPMG for ‘relevance’ to the inquiry’s terms of reference); then peppered with questions by a smart lawyer, Victoria Casey, trained to locate and explore inconsistencies in her ‘story’ – well, it must have been a nightmare.
As a former lawyer (she retains a practicing certificate, she declared to the inquiry in the third sentence of her affidavit) who had been involved with her local law society, she would be aware of the endless parade of evidence presented to disciplinary committees demonstrating that lawyers can and frequently do fail a ‘fit and proper person’ standard — in similar proportions to, say, real estate agents. If not worse.
Add to that the stress of not knowing what else her ‘family friend’/needy puppy/febrile blowhard Cameron Slater had blabbed to his mates and his paymasters (shudder); and, of course, the icy chill of the terrible thought (paraphrased): “OMG! What have I ever said (or emailed, or Facebook-messaged etc etc) to that clown that might come back to bite me on the bum now?”
Here are some key extracts from her redacted affidavit (prepared sworn statement) to the inquiry, released under the Official Information Act: (For background, see my earlier post here).
I don’t personally know Judith Collins, but as I have said before, I have a real sense of her humanity and her loyalty to friends and family. I think the path of a female politician, which she and others walk, is a very hard road. An unfair one.
Sometimes male MPs can act like pigs. The awful barracking, jeering and personally abusive nonsense and bullshit that is carried on in the debating chamber is a disgrace. It demeans them all. In this 2013 post ‘Our heroes are personal‘, I wrote this about Judith Collins:
Let me say this: It takes guts to stand for election — to stick your head above the parapet of cosy anonymity and say ‘Vote for me. Follow me’. Both these women’s lives, Thatcher’s and Collins’s, demonstrate that courage, whether I (or anyone else) agree with their point of view or not.
In my observation, Judith Collins is often portrayed in a one-dimensional manner, often villified rather than criticised. Some people seem to believe she is an amalgam of a scheming Lady Macbeth and Machiavelli; a politician modelling herself on the polarising Margaret Thatcher, therefore a wannabe “Iron Lady”, steadfast, “The lady’s not for turning”; enjoying far too much the ‘Crusher Collins’ nickname conferred and reinforced by her sycophants.
Personally, I try to stay on the side of empathy for her, for her humanity, but given some of her documented actions, appearances in the media (trying to sabotage Katie Bradford’s career with a deliberate baiting smear fed to Brook Sabin) and her own words (not just those leaked to Nicky Hager) it can be a challenge.
Hager’s book contained the revelation that Mrs Collins was frequently in phone and email communication with PR attack blogger Cameron Slater, and it emerged that her office also gave him astonishingly favourable treatment when it came to the Official Information Act (almost certainly for political purposes, it would seem). So it’s not a bombshell to read her admission to the inquiry of such contact, followed in the next breath with the adolescent’s shallow But EVERYONE does it mum! normalising attempt/explanation for the ‘closer relationship’.
It’s nice that Mrs Collins is such a champion of the ‘blogs are part of the media’ argument. Kind of suits her case though, doesn’t it?
As a cabinet minister she says she was in such close regular contact with Slater Jnr not because he was a loyal attack dog whom she could and did incite, encourage and empower to smear and demean her rivals (within and outside the National Party caucus). And whom she promoted. Oh no.
In her model of the world (Planet Collins?), she was just talking to the “new media”.
“All Ministers and other politicians develop relationships with members of the media at which views are exchanged at an informal level.” Riiiight. Of course they do. To quote Charlie Brown: Bleurgh.
In the ‘Part 2’ I’ll take a closer look at the transcript of Judith Collins’s time at the inquiry as a witness. In the meantime, you can read the full affidavit which, effectively, lays out Mrs Collins’s ‘statement for the defence’ here:
Exhibits to her affidavit (13 pages) (PDF 1MB)
I’ve posted links to other inquiry evidence released under the OIA here: [Source documents] Judith Collins Lester Chisholm Inquiry evidence
Facts are stated to the best of my knowledge and commentary is my honest opinion. Corrections or clarifications are always welcome by email. Comments are open, but may be moderated.
– Best wishes, Peter Aranyi