When Judith Collins was initially confronted by media about the accusation in Dirty Politics that she had leaked former Labour staffer, Simon Pleasants’, name to Cameron Slater, she refused to answer questions. It was all lies, just a smear campaign.
Then she admitted that the allegation was indeed true – she’d provided Slater with Pleasants’ name and job title, as described in the book.
That changed over the weekend. Apparently Cameron Slater already had Pleasants’ name; Collins was merely providing his job title.
Now, with the gradual dumping of the original emails on Twitter by Nicky Hager’s source, we know that Collins also provided Mr Pleasants’ phone and fax numbers, including his cell phones numbers. As with the Oravida scandal-saga, it appears to be a case of waiting to see how the story changes when new information is revealed.
Nonetheless, John Key has announced this morning that he stands by Ms Collins, although her actions were “unwise”. She’s on her Last Chance, but it’s the same Last Chance as she was previously on, not a New Last Chance:
“What she’s on is on her last chance after what happened last time. But at the end of the day she’s also subjected to a left-wing smear campaign. And people will actually see that as well for what it is.”
Matthew Hooton, yesterday on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon programme, opined that Mr Key needed to fire someone, but that Jason Ede was too far down the food chain. Given her previous behaviour over Oravida, and the final warning that flowed from that, one would have thought she’d be the ideal candidate.
Nonetheless, the script for National still seems to be one of absolute denial wherever possible. Offering up National Party scalps provides Nicky Hager and his allegations with legitimacy. Key seems intent on brazening it out till election day.
To see just how thin Key’s defence of Collins really is, you only have to listen to his Morning Report interview with Guyon Espiner, which Hooton described as Key’s worst in six years. Here’s the Judith Collins segment, with thanks to Karol at The Standard:
ESPINER: OK. Well what about the behaviour of your minister Judith Collins? Is it acceptable for her to divulge the name of a public servant, because he may have leaked details ?
KEY: Well I don’t have the details on that one
ESPINER: she suspected he did.
KEY: I just don’t
ESPINER: Well, why don’t you ask her?
KEY: Well because I. A: it’s very. Sorry it’s. Look to be
ESPINER: In fact, in fact, with respect, Mr Key, she has admitted that. She conceded she did pass on that name.
KEY: Yeah, but I don’t know the details under, of all of that scenario.
ESPINER: So why don’t you ask her?
KEY: Because, at the end of the day, we’re five weeks out from an election, people can see that Nicky Hager’s made a whole lot of things up in his book. He can see that he can’t back a lot of them up.
ESPINER: Well, I’m talking about one that can be backed up. You’re not going to get away with that.
KEY: See he
ESPINER: Because, because, this is one that can be backed up, because the Justice Minister of New Zealand has conceded publicly, that she did pass on the name of a public servant. That resulted in him getting some pretty severe death threats. And you think that’s, OK?
KEY: And people can see that
ESPINER: It’s OK?
KEY: And people can see
ESPINER: Yes or no? Is it OK?
KEY: And people can see that this
ESPINER: Is it OK?
KEY: People can see
ESPINER: Is it OK that Judith Collins did that, yes or no?
KEY: And people can see that this is a smear campaign by Nicky Hager and
ESPINER: I’m not asking you for a critique about Nicky Hager’s motivation
Key: Well I
ESPINER: I’m asking you about something that is publicly in the arena. Judith Collins has said, “I passed on the name of this public servant.” And we know what happened after that.
KEY: But the
ESPINER: I’m asking you a simple question. Was that appropriate, Yes or No?
KEY: context is totally relevant, because at the end of the day, I don’t know all the context of what happened here and in all those situations
ESPINER: You know the context here, Prime Minster. Please answer the question.
KEY: We don’t know
ESPINER: Was it appropriate for your Justice Minister to pass on the name of a public servant doing his job, who was then severely sanctioned on a website?
KEY: So, I don’t know all the details behind all of that. But what I do know, is that this is a series of selected pieces of information. Many of which can’t be backed up. I know that this was
ESPINER: I’m asking you about one of them.
KEY: Yeah, well, I’m not going to go into your individual ones, because in the end, this is a smear campaign, about which, I gotta say, started the week with with people, you know, out there
ESPINER: No, I’m not, you’re not going to talk about burning effigies, etc, because it has nothing to do with this.
KEY: Well, it does [voice hits a squeaky note]
ESPINER: I’m talking No
KEY: to do with this, because, at the end of the day,
ESPINER: No. this is about the behaviour of your Justice Minister. Do you stand by her today?
KEY: Yeah [slightly squeaky voice] I stand by her. And in the end, it does have a lot to with it, because we started the week with burning effigies. Then we went into, into, sorry, FU videos. Then we went into into burning effigies, then we went into Bill
ESPINER: OK, we’re not going to traverse the whole history. Here’s a final question for you.