Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:
A spokeswoman for Ms Collins was unable to say whether the minister had asked for Crown funding but did say the matter would cost the taxpayer nothing if Mr Mallard apologised or backed up his remarks with evidence.
Wellington lawyer Graeme Edgeler said that while there were instances of the Crown paying legal costs for ministers who were the target of defamation proceedings, he could not recall ministers receiving taxpayer funding when they were the plaintiffs.
Furthermore, “this doesn’t really seem government-related at all”.
“This is an offence to Judith Collins’ personal reputation.”
Even though any damages and costs awarded if the suit was successful would go back to the Crown, the case was “really for her personal benefit”.
My view is that when the Minister is a defendant, then the Crown should pay the legal costs. But I am uneasy with the notion of the Crown paying legal costs for a Minister as a plaintiff to sue other MPs and a media outlet. It may be permissable within the Cabinet Manual rules, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.
Apart from anything else it would allow Mallard and Little to portray themselves as martyrs with the resources of the state being used to try and silence them.
If it is privately funded, then it is a very different matter in terms of how the public will view it.