Jones smears Collins

March 14th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Collins today hit out at allegations by Labour MP Shane Jones that she had been living at the mansion formerly owned by failed finance director Mark Hotchin – now owned by Shi.

She said rumours mentioned today by Jones on RadioLive, that she was living at Shi’s mansion were “defamatory”.

Collins had earlier told Fairfax she and her husband had never stayed at the former Hotchin mansion. Suggestions they had stayed there while their own house was being renovated were wrong.

Jones’ comments were “hurtful”, she said today, but she would not elaborate on what the comments might have meant.

“I’m really disgusted that Shane would do that,” Collins said.

“It’s actually really hurtful. I’ve been to the home that Mr Shi has bought on many occasions because he is a close personal friend and he’s away a lot.

“But I’ve never lived there, I don’t stay there – I’ve been there, and that’s because it’s a very interesting place to go look at.

“I was really disgusted that Shane would do that. I never put the boot into Shane and yet he’s gone and done that.”

Talking to Marcus Lush this morning, Jones alluded to allegations Collins had stayed at the former Hotchin mansion for some time. …

“Grant Robertson is going to continue to dig at this. There’s all sorts of all rumours swirling, does she actually live at Paritai Drive [where the Hotchin mansion is]?

“There’s all sorts of rumours swirling around Wellington that she’s living there.”

It is quite legitimate for the Opposition to ask questions around the trip to China. No issue at all with that. The job of the opposition is to hold the Government to account.

But for a senior Labour MP to start repeating (false) rumours on radio is descending into a personal smear attack. Labour need to be very careful that they don’t over-reach on this one.

UPDATE: Jones has apologised. Good on him for that.

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Collins apologises

March 12th, 2014 at 12:02 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins has apologised for not being open about a dinner with the owners of a Chinese company associated with her husband during an official trip to China.

In a hastily arranged press conference this morning, Collins said the dinner came up in conversation with the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Wayne Eagleson last night.

He had advised her to tell media about it. Collins said she had spoken to Prime Minister John Key about it this morning.

She said she had private dinners with the company owner and his wife many times because they were close personal friends. But she added it would have been “smarter” to have mentioned the dinner last week.

Yep. Almost best to disclose everything up front. This disclosure was still voluntary (not something discovered by others), but it keeps the story going longer than it might have otherwise.

Newstalk ZB reports:

A rare apology to the media from Judith Collins this morning.

It’s over her trip to China.

She admits she went to lunch and a dinner with Oravida bosses in Shanghai, the company her husband is a director of.

The Justice Minister has told reporters at Parliament today, that she apologises for not broadening her answers.

No doubt there will be further questions in the House today.


Collins and Oravida

March 4th, 2014 at 7:21 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reported:

There are claims Justice Minister Judith Collins may have breached parliamentary rules around perceptions concerning conflict of interest.

Ms Collins visited the Shanghai offices of Kiwi fresh milk exporter Oravida when she travelled to China in her capacity as Justice Minister in October last year.

Her husband is a director in the company.

“I drop into a lot of New Zealand companies if they ask me to and I think it’s absolutely completely appropriate,” says Mrs Collins.

A photo taken during the visit was posted on Oravida’s webstie along with a Chinese quote saying “Mrs Collins personally tasted Oravdia’s products, giving her full endorsement of these products”.

The rule book governing cabinet ministers states no minister should endorse any product or service in any media.

“Well I certainly don’t endorse any products other than the fact that I always try and help New Zealand companies who are trying to export,” says Mrs Collins.

Ms Collins says she wasn’t aware of the comments on the website and would ask for them to be removed if they breach cabinet rules.

Collins is reported as saying she dropped in briefly on her way to the airport, and has done so for other NZ companies.

You do need to be careful if a family member is involved with a company, but her husband is a director, not a shareholder, and all she did was drink a glass of milk. I don’t think that is really an endorsement.

Mr Key says he is aware Mrs Collins visited Oravida and doesn’t believe her husband’s directorship creates a conflict.

“I don’t think it does preclude her from dropping in, there is no commercial value,” says Mr Key.

In the end the Cabinet Office will advise if there is an issue, but I don’t see anything wrong. Basically a Minister pops into a successful export company for half an hour or so, has a glass of milk, and they stick a photo up on their website. It is important that the company doesn’t try to make it look like an endorsement, but many many MPs attend business openings and promotions.

Oravida is listed as a donor to the National Party, which is the great thing about transparency with donations. But I don’t think anyone thinks you need to be a donor to have an MP drink a glass of milk. Ministers and MPs routinely do photo ops like this.

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Cunliffe calls Collins a trout

November 22nd, 2013 at 3:55 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliffe blogs:

A couple of months ago I was asked to write a post for the Ruminator and, rather optimistically, I agreed.The original brief was to respond to a post by Judith Collins. My post was going to be about snapper, not trout. But considering that issue, along with Judith’s leadership aspirations, has floundered, I’ll try another hook.

What is extraordinary is this is a written blog post – not an off the cuff remark.


This is quite correct. If a male National MP had called a female Labour MP a trout, almost every female Labour MP would have done press releases condemning the sexism.

This is not the first time Cunliffe has made an off colour remark about Judith Collins. he previously said:

The controversial radio host asked Cunliffe if he ever contemplated who he would mate with if he was on a plane and everyone else in the world suddenly died.

Cunliffe answered: “Well, I have thought that if Judith Collins was the last woman on Earth, the species would probably become extinct.”

He seems to have a fixation about Judith.

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A boost for Collins

November 13th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

CTU President Helen Kelly said on Q+A:

I’m leaving the country if Judith Collins becomes Prime Minister

That has to be a huge boost to Judith!

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Collins on girls dressing

November 10th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Judtith Collins writes in the HoS:

I’ve never been a big fan of short skirts. With our robust Kiwi figures, they’re best left to super models. So, I’ve been interested to hear a couple of middle-aged males commenting on what these fashion choices mean. What’s the scantily-dressed girl trying to say, they ask.

Well, for a start, John and Willie, they’re not dressing for you. They’re not even dressing for teen boys. Girls dress for other girls. They dress to fit in. They dress to be part of a group. They want to be respected and they want to be liked. They want to be beautiful. They dress to impress. They copy their celebrity idols.

I’m no expert on this, but I suspect Judith is dead right. You are dressing up to fit in with your peers.

These might well be fashion crimes, but short skirts and cleavage don’t signal a willingness to be victimised.

New Zealand is internationally rated as one of the best countries to be a woman. This year, we celebrated 120 years of women winning the right to vote.

With that goes the right to not be abused.

Hear, hear.

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Million dollar union slush fund may be cut

October 1st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rob Hosking at NBR reports:

A $1 million government funding to the Council of Trade Unions to run accident prevention workshops is under review.

ACC Minister Judith Collins recently announced a near doubling of the amount of funding the Accident Compensation Corporation makes for accident prevention work, from $22.4 million to $40 million.

However that is accompanied by a review of existing programmes and in an interview with NBR ONLINE Ms Collins said she had told officials there are no sacred cows with regards to existing programmes.

“And I’ve told them if they need to kill sacred cows that need slaughtering, I’ll back them.” 

And in the next breath she queries the value of programmes run by the Council of Trade Unions.

The CTU gets “about a million dollars a year” to run such programmes and she says it is not obvious this is the best use of that money.

“What I want to see is what is working.”

Comparatively few accidents happen in the workplace, she says – about 20%, although these injuries tend to be more serious.

This is beyond excellent. Not only is Judith Collins doubling the amount of funding for accident prevention, she is going to ensure it is actually spent on accident prevention rather than union membership recruitment.

I understand the $1 million a year funding to the CTU was established by a former Labour Deputy Leader when he was ACC Chair. Labour constantly tries to find ways for taxpayers to fund unions so that the unions in turn can fund the Labour Party!

The CTU has responded by hysterically demanding Judith Collins resigns, because she is demanding proof that they actually do anything worthwhile with their $1 million a year.

I understand Business NZ gets some funding also. I’d scrap the funding to both bodies, and use it to run safety campaigns at the coal face.

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Speedier court judgements

September 27th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins is putting judges on notice that painfully slow delivery of reserve judgments will no longer be acceptable. …

Rather than imposing her own plan on what is a reasonable time, she wants each judicial sector to come up with a plan: the Employment Court, the Environment Court; the Maori Land Court; the District Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Cabinet has agreed to pass a law that will require the chief judges to set protocols for their courts about reserved decisions, including providing information on the progress of decisions and on the number of judgments outstanding beyond a reasonable time for delivery.

Judges would not necessarily be named and shamed, “not unless that is the protocol,” she said, “but I would say there is a lot of public appetite for knowing what is actually happening to people’s cases.”

Some courts are addressing the issue voluntarily, including the High Court, and the court that Ms Collins points to as the worst offender, the Employment Court.

But there will now be a statutory requirement for all courts to address it.

She was particularly concerned about delays in the Employment Court where the difference between hearings and judgments being issued can be up to two years.

Waiting two years for a decision is way beyond unacceptable. The approach proposed seems sensible – have each Court set their own protocols about the maximum expected time for a decision.

Ms Collins said some members of the bench might see her actions as interference with judicial independence.

“The concept of judicial independence is something I take very carefully. But my view is that judicial independence relates to what is in the judgment, not whether or not we have one.”

Bar Association president Stephen Mills QC said timeliness of judgments was “highly desirable”.

“The issue of whether that is best managed as it is now, internally by the heads of bench, or whether it is appropriate it be the subject of some kind of legislative direction is a matter the Bar Association will have a view [on] when it looks more closely at what the minister has in mind.”

Another useful change:

Another of Ms Collins’ measures will require a consistent approach by the courts to judicial conduct and what judges should and shouldn’t do in terms of appointments, activities outside work and when they should recuse themselves from cases.

Ms Collins acted as Attorney-General over the case of former Supreme Court judge Bill Wilson, who resigned while fighting allegations of misconduct for not recusing himself from a case involving a business associate.

The Judicature Modernisation and Other Matters Bill is expected to be introduced by the end of the year.

Sounds like a good piece of law reform.


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Caption Contest

August 30th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar



Enter your captions below. As always, they should be funny, not nasty. Enjoy.

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Correct Wikipedia editing

July 10th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Fox at Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins’ office has become embroiled in a Wikipedia war with ministry critic Roger Brooking.

Brooking is an outspoken critic of Collins and the Justice Ministry and was a prolific Wikipedia editor – now banned – under the username Offender9000.

Writing on his blog at the weekend Brooking said his entries had been slashed from lengthy articles to stubs of little more than a few hundred words.

He voiced concerns that Collins or her staff were behind the edits though admitted to Fairfax Media he had no proof.

This reminds me of the time when I worked in the PMs Office and a fervent Alliance activist publicly accused me of having used my Internet black box over-ride to block her from accessing the Internet. The reality was that Ihug just had an outage (I know as I was on the same ISP!).

In this case if Brooking has been banned from editing Wikipedia, it will be because he consistently broke the rules. It is quite hard to get banned. You have to be quite irrational, or consistently doing biased edits. Some people think Wikipedia is a forum for them to make people look bad. It isn’t.

A spokesperson for Collins admits to making minor changes but said they were up-front about who they were – claims backed up by Wikipedia logs and supported by a Wikipedia editor.

Comments from Collins’ office appear in the Wikipedia logs.

“I am Judith’s press secretary. Happy to help out by providing a more recent photo for use. As I have a clear [conflict of interest] … I won’t be editing content on the page but I may suggest changes which you can choose to take up or not and can provide further background material etc as requested,” the press secretary wrote in February.

That is exactly the way to do it. Be up front on who you are, and propose changes on the talk page, rather than make edits directly.

Brooking pointed to pages he had edited, including articles on legal aid, the police, corrections, Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Government Communications Security Bureau – which had been slashed.

“I thought New Zealanders had freedom of speech – according to the Bill of Rights we do. But Judith Collins and Chris Burns don’t seem to think so,” he wrote.

Speaking to Fairfax, Brooking admitted he had no proof but was concerned about the changes and the fact he had been banned from editing Wikipedia.

While Brooking bemoaned the changes he was often forced to defend his own entries and changes against accusations of bias by other editors.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can ignore Wikipedia’s rules. Mr Brooking is free to set up his own websites where he can say what he likes about Judith Collins. But he can’t pollute Wikipedia with his edits if they don’t comply.

A Wikipedia editor with the username Gadfium told Fairfax Media via email that Collins’ office had been open about its contributions though they were told they should refrain from making further changes.

“They declared their conflict of interest and only edited the Judith Collins article to supply a requested photo,” the editor said.

The removal of a comment from an article about David Bain which it considered defamatory to Collins was “understandable” and the staff did not try to reimpose the changes when they were reinserted but “began a civil discussion at an appropriate page”.

I love it when an article quotes someone by their online alias. Gadfium is a long-standing and well known editor of Wikipedia. He makes the point again that the best practice is to discuss potentially controversial edits on the talk pages, not just have an edit war.

Gadfium said Brooking was blocked from editing because of concerns about bias and because he was also operating anonymous accounts, something which is not allowed.

When you start setting up anonymous accounts so you can say nasty things about someone on Wikipedia, you need to relax and get a life.

There is an interesting contrast between the Stuff article on this issue, and the NZ Herald article. The Stuff article includes the claims by Brooking, but includes an interview with a Wikipedia editor, goes into lengthy detail of what Collins’ office did do, and how they followed correct process. It also highlights how Brooking has been banned, and why. I think it is very well balanced.

By contrast the Herald article gives a very different impression. It doesn’t provide key details (which are important to those who know this stuff) such as the staff identified themselves on the talk page, and explicitly said they don’t intend to do edits etc.  I’m not having a go at the Herald article but I urge peopel to read both articles and reflect the entirely different impressions they leave. It shows how decisions on what to include and highlight can dramatically change the impression you get from an article.

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Jackie Blue appointed EEO Commissioner

April 16th, 2013 at 9:57 am by David Farrar

Judith Collins has announced:

Justice Minister Judith Collins today announced the appointment of Dr Jackie Blue as the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Commissioner.

“I congratulate Dr Blue on her appointment as EEO Commissioner for the Human Rights Commission,” Ms Collins says.

“The EEO Commissioner has an important role to play in championing EEO principles, issues and practices in New Zealand as well as appreciating their relationship to social, economic and labour market trends.

“Dr Blue is committed to human rights and equity issues and is currently the Chair of three cross-party groups in Parliament. I’m confident she will be a very capable Commissioner.”

Dr Blue will be leaving Parliament to take up her new position. She will assume office on 4 June 2013.

Congratulations to Jackie on her appointment. I was very critical of the appointment of former National MP Brian Neeson to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, so I will criticise political appointments that lack merit. but this is not one of those cases.

Jackie has a good track record at working with MPs from all parties, and will do well in the role I am sure.

Her departure from Parliament will of course create a list vacancy. The next candidate on National’s list is former MP Paul Quinn. Media have previously reported he does not desire or intend to return to Parliament. If he declines the spot, then Wellington Central candidate Paul Foster-Bell will become a List MP.

If Tim Groser does become WTO Director-General, then the next on the list is broadcaster Claudette Hauiti.

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Geddis praises Collins

January 19th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Geddis blogs on the criminal mistreatment issue. He sums up the proposal:

A prisoner is in jail serving their punishment – doing the time for their crime. Whilst in jail, they are mistreated … in a way that breaches the rights guaranteed to all New Zealanders under legislation. They then get monetary compensation (only after all other means of remedying the situation have failed). That compensation first pays any debt they owe to any person they may have harmed through their crime – assuming there is such a debt in place.

And then the Government takes back the rest of the compensation and uses it to bolster the account it uses to pay for the support of victims of all crime.

So, in essence, the Government is proposing to fund a system of helping crime victims with money that it pays to prisoners after mistreating them whilst they are in its custody. And it will take that compensation away no matter how grievous the rights breach the prisoner has suffered, and irrespective of whether the crime that put the person in prison caused any individual any loss at all.

He states:

But to go from those propositions to a solution that prisoners have no right to receive compensation for harms caused to them by the State, but instead must pay it over to help society meet its obligations to crime victims, is to in effect say that prisoners are not people. And that is wrong.

That is why I’m pleasantly surprised to see Judith Collins essentially agree with me and announce that she won’t be following through with Simon Power’s proposal, but rather moving to make permanent the existing claims system. …

Quite right. So credit where credit is due – my first words of 2013 are praise for Judith Collins.

Judith’s opponents sometimes try to paint her as one-dimensional, but if you look at her overall track record in both Police and Justice, I believe it is in fact quite sophisticated  in balancing up the various rights and responsibilities of those involved in the justice system.

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Three law professors on Fisher v Binnie

December 20th, 2012 at 8:15 am by David Farrar

I called yesterday for more focus on the substance of the Bain issue – mainly whether or not Fisher’s criticisms of Binnie’s report are justified and substantial, and wanted to hear from legal experts rather than those with a vested interest.

Was pleased to have commenters discover or point out that no less than three law professors have actually commented publicly on this issue. And it appears they have all concluded that they agree with Fisher’s critique. Let’s go through them all.

First, there is this video on TVNZ with Otago University Law School Dean Mark Henaghan. Definitely worth viewing.

Then the ODT report:

Having read both reports, Prof Henaghan said a main issue of concern with Justice Binnie’s report was whether it relied on the onus of Mr Bain proving his innocence, rather than the Crown proving his guilt.

”In this case, it is not a criminal trial. If you are asking for compensation the onus is on you to prove you deserve it and that was one thing Robert Fisher was worried most about in respect of Justice Binnie’s report.”

He thought Dr Fisher’s recommendation to have a revised report drafted and opened for feedback from all involved was sensible, and anyone preparing such a report could at least benefit from Justice Binnie’s ”thorough” compiling of data.

Tapu Misa reported:

The Otago University law professor, Kevin Dawkins, told Radio New Zealand last week that he agreed with Robert Fisher’s criticism that Binnie failed to consider circumstantial evidence and the way we in New Zealand approach it.

Professor Dawkins said Binnie’s dismissal of individual pieces of evidence was problematic and “corroborates the Minister of Justice’s conclusion that the finding in the report is not supported by robust reasoning and analysis”.

He also agreed that Binnie incorrectly imposed the burden on the Crown to prove Bain wasn’t innocent, when the onus of proof should have lain with David Bain.

Also ZB reported Dawkins:

Otago University Law Professor Kevin Dawkins says there’s an ongoing concern in the Fisher review, that Justice Binnie was more inclined to believe David Bain’s version of events, than the Crown’s.

“I think there were parts of Justice Binnie’s report which indicate an inclination to find David Bain innocent on the balance of probabilities.”

Kevin Dawkins says Ian Binnie may have been confirmed in his view by the verdict of the jury in David Bain’s retrial, but that point isn’t relevant in this inquiry.

And finally we have Andrew Geddis. He has blogged extensively on this at Pundit. he is very critical of Judith Collins over not giving Bain’s camp a copy of Binnie’s report, and the way Fisher was commissioned. However he also gets into the substance of Fisher’s criticisms and his main conclusion:

I think Fisher’s core criticism of Binnie’s approach to the physical evidence is right.

And in detail:

But how and why Binnie thought this footprint evidence (put together with the timing issue, and the no blood in the shoe point) was stronger than the combinedevidence that pointed towards David Bain’s guilt we’ll never know – all we know is that he says he considered the matter and came to that conclusion.

And that is a problem, because it is only in the overall “thickness vs sharpness” analysis that you can reach an overall assessment on the balance of probabilities of whether David Bain is innocent. So I think Fisher is absolutely correct in this aspect of his criticisms: even if Binnie really did do what he says he did (and remember, an absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence), we needed to see him doing it in order to be fully satisfied about his conclusions.

So, yes – for all the problems that I have with the way Fisher’s review of Binnie’s report was commissioned and framed, Collins was right to conclude from it that Binnie’s report is not a safe basis for concluding that David Bain is innocent. Having read that report, and Fisher’s critique, and Binnie’s response, that is the conclusion I myself have come to.

So there seem to be three options going forward:

  1. Pay Bain compensation, despite the documented inadequacies of the Binnie report.
  2. Do not pay Bain compensation, on the basis that the Binnie report has failed to make the case that he is innocent.
  3. Ask someone to do another report on Bain’s likely innocence, and make a decision on compensation based on that.

I don’t think anyone expects (1) will occur. Nor should it occur.

I think (2) would be rather unfair to David Bain. It is not his fault that Binnie’s report was sub-standard. He shouldn’t lose his chance for compensation because of it.

So inevitable we need another report. As some have noted it can use as a starting point, the evidence collated by Binnie.

But who should do it? You have a double challenge. First to identify someone acceptable, and secondly to convince them to do it – considering the toxicity of the environment around this now.

Geddis blogged:

So maybe the only way through this is to give the job to more than one person. As my Boss at the Otago Law Faculty, Mark Heneghan, has suggested, “at least with a panel of judges they can reality-check each other and make sure they are not being influenced by one thing.” And as I make it a policy to never disagree with my boss, I’m going to suggest that this is a brilliant idea from a fair-minded, highly intelligent and devastatingly good-looking man.

The idea of a panel is not a bad one.  Maybe two NZ Judges or QCs who have had nothing to do with the case, and one Australian?

If you have a sole reviewer, and they reach a different conclusion to Binnie, then the Bain camp will criticise that as having hand picked a favourable reviewer. But if you have a panel, it is much harder to criticise it – and it worth recalling appellate benches are always panels.

Of course a reviewer or review panel may come to the same conclusion as Binnie – and that is fine, so long as their report correctly sets out why, and the tests they applied.

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Gower’s MP of the Year

December 17th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News Political Editor Patrick Gower blogs:

It ‘Twas the year of the ball-breaker: and therefore Judith Collins is my politician of the year.

No doubt this will make plenty of people angry, because “Crusher” has her enemies not just on the Left, but on the Right.

But the fact that she is now widely recognised as a front-runner for National’s leadership shows just how big a year Collins had.

She simply smashed her way through the year – nearly everyone who came up against Collins came off second-best.

Gower looks at the other contenders:

Greens co-leader Russel Norman’s been cited by most of the commentariat as politician of the year. He had a great year, rising as defacto leader of the Opposition and was a superb economic communicator, even putting himself up as a future Finance Minister.

But Rusty came off second-best when he came up against himself. Yes, that moment of madness when Norman thought getting a laser printer to copy off some New Zealand $20 notes could pay for the Christchurch rebuild and solve New Zealand’s economic woes. It is frankly impossible to name someone who suggests printing money as politician of the year.

It is good to see a journalist actually cite policy issues in appraising an MPs performance, rather than purely how they handle the media etc. We need more focus on policies.

That takes me to Collins – she did not come off second-best, even when hit with the full-on wave of destruction that was the ACC Bronwyn Pullar scandal.

It wiped out Nick Smith as a Minister. It swept so far it even briefly touched Key – nobody seemed immune.

But Collins wiped out the chairman John Judge, and board members Rob Campbell, John McCliskie and Murray Hilder. Chief Executive Ralph Stewart freaked out and jumped.

Heads rolled.

Collins never looked entirely safe throughout – it was “harum scarum” stuff by her.

Collins was under extraordinary pressure. It seemed she had mishandled it – that there were things that would come back at her. They haven’t – yet. How she managed that, I don’t know.

Labour’s Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little tried to take her on over it. They lost – in the courts no less, when Collins did them for defamation. Collins put a hit on Mallard – that should not be under-estimated as a political hit. Collins beat up Mallard.

By the time the ACC report came out, Collins had it under control. The heads had rolled – this in a country where heads never roll.

In a scandal to hurt so many, for Collins to come out virtually unscathed shows considerable political skill. And maybe some luck.

Not much luck I’d say.

Next year there must be more policy and less politics from Collins – she must sort out ACC to really prove her mettle.

But this year Collins made a move.

She survived and managed the ACC mega-scandal. She put Bain’s Compensation claim in a choker-hold.

She got her way time and time again.

She has cemented herself as a potential future leader of the National Party.

And not once did she come off second-best. It was ball-breaking stuff, it wasn’t always pretty, but it worked – and Collins is my politician of the year.

A ballsy call.

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The David Bain reports

December 13th, 2012 at 3:15 pm by David Farrar

The reports are out. Not online yet. Now on Scoop. The summary from Robert Fisher includes:

  •  Justice Binnie went beyond his mandate. He did not have authority to express any conclusion on the question of whether there were extraordinary circumstances such that compensation would be in interests of Justice. Nor was he invited to make any recommendation as to whether compensation should be paid.
  • In assessing innocence, Binnie J made fundamental errors of principle.
  • In assessing misconduct by authorities, Binnie J has also made fundamental errors of principle
  • Correct principles should now be applied to the evidence afresh. That is not saying a fresh assessment would produce a different outcome. It is possible that it would vindicate Binnie Js conclusions
  • Binnie J criticised named individuals without giving them adequate opportunity to respond.
  • Instead of assessing each piece of evidence to see whether it increased or reduced the likelihood of innocence, and if so by how much, Binnie J discarded any item that was not individually proved on the balance of probabilities.
  • Instead of considering the cumulative effect of all relevant items of evidence, he arrived at a provisional conclusion of innocence based on one item (luminol footprints) followed by a serial testing of that conclusion against others in turn.
  • Instead of requiring David Bain to satisfy him on the balance of probabilities throughout the enquiry, he imposed an onus on the Crown wherever the Crown suggested a factual possibility inconsistent with innocence
  • He appeared to regard the jury acquittal as something that was relevant to the question whether David Bain had proved his innocence
  • He appeared to accept David’s version of events without question except where it directly conflicted with other witnesses
  • His decision to disregard any item of evidence that did not prove a subsidiary fact on the balance of probability was contrary to the law of NZ and to a proper understanding of the probability theory.
  • Discarded were evidence of blood stains on David’s clothing, broken glasses, David’s fingerprints on the rifle, arguable shielding of part of the rifle, Robin’s motive, Robin’s mental stability, David’s post-event admissions, factors consistent with suicide, David’s admission that he heard Laniet gurgling, David’s gloves, and knowledge of the trigger key.
  • The way in which Binnie J approached the cumulative significance of the evidence in its totality seriously skewed the exercise towards an innocence outcome which is contrary to the law of evidence in NZ when dealing with circumstantial evidence.
  • Logic and experience suggest that if a suspect has lied in denying his responsibility for the crime itself, he will scarcely shrink from lying about the details. For the purpose of drawing inferences from surrounding facts, most decision-makers will prefer sources other than the suspect.

This poses a real challenge to the Government. Do they make a decision on the basis of the Binnie report, or do they now commission a new report? I am firmly of the view that  if the Binnie report had not had the issues detailed above, then the Government would follows its recommendations (even if some Ministers have different private views). Not following a recommendation is politically damaging. But unless Dr Fisher is incorrect in his peer review, it is hard to have confidence in the conclusions.

Also a must read is this article by Martin van Beynen of The Press, who actually sat through the entire second trial. His summary:

1. How did the cadaverous Robin fight off son Stephen in a fierce fight and sustain no injuries?

2. Why did he put on David Bain’s gloves to execute his family when he was going to spare David, not implicate him, and commit suicide?

3. Why did he change into fresh clothes between killing his family and taking his own life? He took the soiled clothes and put them neatly in the washing basket.

4. Why were none of Robin Bain’s fingerprints on the rifle, especially since he must have clasped it tightly to kill himself in the very odd way he chose?

5. Why did he wait until David Bain was just about bouncing through the door before writing his suicide note and killing himself?

6. If he was supposed to put on fresh clothes and cleaned himself up after the killings, how come he still had spots of blood on his hands?

7. Why would he kill with a full bladder and after an undisturbed night?

8. Why did he follow his normal routine – set his alarm, get the paper from the gate – if he was so disturbed he had decided to kill the family?

9. How come it was David who was scaring the family before the killings by threatening behaviour with his rifle?

On the basis of these points, compensation for David Bain would be a travesty.

Binnie has responded to the Fisher report, which is at the link above. Somewhat amusingly it also seems he sent an e-mail to  the Minister this morning in ALL CAPS.

What I will be interested to hear, are opinions from lawyers who have some expertise in this area, who are not connected to the case. Do they think Fisher’s concerns are correct?


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The Press on Bain report

December 13th, 2012 at 9:41 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Collins’ announcement explaining why she had sought the review was candid, even sharp, but in the circumstances reasonable. The fact that she has had Binnie’s report since September had raised expectations that the matter would be put before the Cabinet and a decision announced before Christmas. It has also become well known, and has not been denied, that the report is favourable to Bain. The reasons for the delay needed to be explained and Collins did so in a characteristically forthright style.

It is worth noting that Collins did not seek publicity. It was in response to media inquiries that her statement was released as to why she sought a peer review. The announcement of Fisher was not made public, but inevitably leaked out.

Binnie’s report, she said, appeared to contain “assumptions based on incorrect facts, . . . showed a misunderstanding of New Zealand law . . . and lacked a robustness of reasoning used to justify its conclusions”. Binnie, perhaps unused from his lengthy term on Canada’s highest court to such direct comment, was stung by Collins’ remarks into responding. It was an unwise move.

By convention, judges never comment on their decisions once they are delivered. The decisions are taken to contain all the facts and reasoning required to be able to speak for themselves. Binnie is no longer a judge, of course, but in this procedure he is acting as one. Once he had delivered his report to Collins in September the function for which he was hired was over and he should have remained aloof from anything that ensued, whatever it was. It is unseemly and undignified of him to get into the mud and the dust of the political arena in the way he has done.

I think his response was a massive mistake. If he has confidence in his report, he should let that speak for itself.

If nothing else, it raises misgivings about his judgment. Fourteen long paragraphs in response to a terse couple of sentences from the minister looks weirdly disproportionate. In addition, questionable statements Binnie makes, particularly concerning the alleged views of the Privy Council on Bain’s guilt or innocence, look faulty enough to suggest that Collins’ doubts about the report are well-founded.

Again, I agree.

Collins said yesterday she was considering releasing the report along with the review of it this week. She says that both should be released together. While that would be ideal, she should go ahead and release Binnie’s report (both the original and the two subsequent versions that Binnie has given her unsolicited) whether the review is ready or not. The tumult is not going to die down, and rumour and surmise will fill the vacuum if she delays.

I understand there is a reasonable chance both the Binnie report/s and the Fisher report will be released tomorrow.

Also of note is this exchange in question time:

CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: What are the specific “assumptions” based on “incorrect facts” demonstrating some “misunderstanding of New Zealand law” that she alleges are contained in the report of Justice Binnie concerning the application by Mr Bain for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice) : I stated in my media release that “My concerns are broadly that the report appeared to contain assumptions based on incorrect facts, and showed a misunderstanding of New Zealand law.” Prior to giving examples, I need to give just a little bit of context to this. I can advise the House that an independent peer review of the first Binnie advice is being done by the Hon Robert Fisher QC, and I am considering the public request made by Mr Bain’s supporters to release both these reports—or advice to me—before Cabinet has made its decision. One of the things I am considering is whether or not it is going to be in Mr Bain’s interests or in the interests of justice to do so. But in relation to the examples sought, there are many. I will give the House two of those. The first is relying on incorrect understanding of what has been given in evidence. In this case, Justice Binnie asserts that a named scientist testified at the first trial that he had chemically enhanced the prints and later sought to resile from this. The reference to chemical enhancement was an error on a label attached to a fingerprint, and this was explained as such by the named scientist at the retrial. A second example is in relation to assumptions as to the correctness of submissions on the law. Justice Binnie appears to have assumed to be correct Mr Karam’s submission that the adverse inferences should be drawn against the Crown case on the basis of evidence that is no longer available. This is incompatible with the onus of proof being on Mr Bain in this particular case, because this is, in fact, a request for Cabinet to use its discretion, and that is very clearly wrong.

Again, the reports will be interesting.

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Binnie responds

December 12th, 2012 at 9:05 am by David Farrar

Ian Binnie has responded to the statement from Judith Collins about concerns with his report. What strikes me as fascinating is how passionately pro-Bain he is. He complains that David Bain has not yet been given a copy of his report, for example.

He also cites the Privy Council judgement at length, but of course that was a decision there were grounds for a retrial. That was not a decision that on balance of probabilities Robin Bain was the killer.

A commenter makes the point:

Binnies statement, reproduced above, is the best evidence so far supporting Judith Collins stance. In it, he quite clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of the law and the facts.

In paragraph 4 he states that the decision of the Privy Council that there had been a miscarriage of justice was reinforced by the verdict in the 2009 retrial. I am astounded that he would make such a statement.

The acquittal did not reinforce the conclusion of the Privy Council. The Privy Council was at pains to say that it did not have an opinion as to whether Bain was guilty or not. In NZ, the term miscarriage of justice refers to the process, not the outcome. You can have a trial which is found to have been a miscarriage of justice, but which still reaches the right result.

Binnie has demonstrated in his statement that he does not understand the meaning of the term miscarriage of justice, nor doe he understand the PC decision. He has also demonstrated a failure to understand the 2009 jury’s verdict. His statement quite clearly demonstrates a belief that the not guilty verdict equates to a finding of innocence.

Then in paragraph 5 he states that “all of the “external” judges who have looked at the record of the case have rejected the arguments of the Solicitor General and the Crown Law Office regarding David Bain’s guilt”. Again a mistake that goes to the very heart of his integrity.

The PC made no judgement on David Bain’s guilt. Their judgement states “In closing, the Board wishes to emphasise, as it hopes is clear, that its decision imports no view whatever on the proper outcome of a retrial”

Collins doesn’t have to release the report now. Binnie, by his own statements, has vindicated everything she has said about the report.

Another commenter (who is a lawyer) also says:

I have read Binnie’s statement which shows a scary misapprehension of events. The PC did not make any comment about guilt or innocence. It refused to go into that arena. It dealt with admissibility of evidence. The jury did not find him innocent. It found that the Crown had failed to prove guilt beyound reasonable doubt. I gather that he refused to hear from one of the jurors who expressed concern about jury misconduct. He cannot do that and, in the same breath, conclude that the jury found him innocent. I have no wonder why Collins is getting a second opinion.

Also worth reading this post by Andrew Geddis at Pundit.

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Collins on the Bain report

December 11th, 2012 at 9:57 am by David Farrar

ZB reports:

Judith Collins is blunt in explaining why she wants a second opinion on the report on compensation for David Bain.

She says the retired Canadian judge’s report appears to contain assumptions based on incorrect facts, and shows a misunderstanding of New Zealand law.

The Justice Minister has asked for a peer review into the report by Justice Ian Binnie.

Judith Collins says the report lacks a robustness of reasoning used to justify its conclusions.

Since she told him she wasn’t happy, Justice Binnie has provided her with two revised versions of his report.

The minister says seeking a second opinion was not a decision she made lightly, but justice needs to be done, and a proper process undertaken.

It will be fascinating to see the original report, the revised reports and the peer review report. I’m hoping they will all be released.

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The right to be an idiot

November 29th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Michael Forbes at Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins says it is important that Kiwis retain the right to be idiots and make fools of themselves.

Ms Collins made the comment during her speech at a NetSafe conference in Wellington today, where she reinforced the her view that a hard line should be taken on cyber-bullying and harassment.

In doing so, she pointed to reports out of Britain this week where a woman was found guilty by a jury of racially abusing her New Zealand-born neighbour by calling her a “stupid fat Australian” during a drunken tirade.

Ms Collins said that while the Government was considering a range of initiatives and law changes to stamp out cyber-bullying, she did not want to see people’s freedom of speech restricted to that extent.

“I don’t think that’s something we want to see in New Zealand. I do think it’s important to retain the right to be idiots and to make fools of ourselves,” she said.

“But when it goes too far, particularly the sort of bullying that ends with young people committing suicide, that’s where we need to be very-much focused.”

There definitely is a case for some law changes. But we do need to be aware that the proposed Communications Tribunal with proposed powers to order material to be taken down does pose significant free speech issues – and it is important we get the balance right.

In August, the Law Commission released its report on harmful digital communications, which recommended a new electronic communications offence for those aged 14 and over and the establishment of a Communications Tribunal to enforce apologies, take-down and cease-and-desist orders, and unmask anonymous offenders.

Brian Edwards has a blog post on anonymous bloggers. He says:

More contemptible by far than the anonymous correspondent is the anonymous blogger, particularly in a democracy like New Zealand where freedom of speech is limited only by the laws of defamation.  Such lack of spine contrasts starkly with the courage of those anonymous bloggers and pamphleteers who are the advocates of freedom and democracy in totalitarian societies.

The irony is that those who blog under their actual names tend to be much better and effective for it. When you know that your words will be linked to you, you tend to take greater care in what you say.

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Mallard and Little fold

November 14th, 2012 at 5:14 pm by David Farrar

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports;

ACC Minister Judith Collins’ defamation action against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little has been settled following a hearing in the High Court at Auckland today. …

In a statement today following their meeting, the three parliamentarians said they agreed “the leak of the email Ms Boag sent to the minister and forwarded on her instructions as the responsible minister to the chairman and chief executive of ACC raised an issue of serious public concern, and that Messrs Mallard and Little were entitled to question who was responsible for that leak”.

“The parties continue to differ over whether the comments made by Messrs Mallard and Little respectively on Radio NZ implied the minister falsely assured the House that neither she nor her office was responsible for the leak.

“Messrs Mallard and Little have confirmed to Ms Collins that was not their intention and wish to make that clear publicly that in the event such meaning was taken they regret it.”

In the statement, the three politicians said they would make no further comment.

If Mallard and Little had said that a few months ago they could have saved themselves a lot of money.

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Salient interviews Collins

October 1st, 2012 at 5:33 pm by David Farrar

Asher Emanuel of Salient has an extended interview with Judith Collins. It is an interesting read. A couple of extracts:

A: I’ve read that you were once a staunch Labour supporter—

J: Oh, well that’s what happens when you grow up in a family that is [chuckles]. Everyone’s allowed to be stupid once, I always say!

A: On Labour, you once said that it’s a group of people “who think that policy papers can change the world”—

J: They do. Actions speak louder than words.

A: How would you characterise the difference?

J: They think that having a strategy paper [...] followed by a work plan paper, followed by a consultation document should take up about three years of government and then they can say that they’ve done something. [...] It’s a bit like those people who say things like ‘one day I’m going to run a marathon’, and then never actually put their running shoes on to go and start. I guess I’m someone who feels very aware, Asher, that I have a certain amount of time on earth, I have a certain amount of time and I don’t believe I get to come back here to earth, so—not a buddhist. [...] And I am absolutely aware that every single minute has to count.

I think you could apply that to the health system. Labour had dozens of strategies, goals, targets and objectives. Tony Ryall came in and set six or seven clear national goals for the health sector, and we’ve seen some real tangible and important improvements.

A: How does your gender affect you media portrayal?

J: Well, there’s no point moaning about it, because you won’t get anywhere with it, but women politicians are quite clearly judged on an extra set of characteristics than our male counterparts. Our clothes are criticised, or sometimes ever MARKED. Hair, weight, age; all these things are up for grabs, and to the extent that our male colleagues don’t get the same sort of scrutiny. However, that is also an opportunity for us to actually show ourselves as different from what is the norm, and so every difficulty or every problem is actually an opportunity.

A: You’ve said before that you’re “pro-women” rather than describing yourself as a feminist.

J: I’ve never had a problem with saying that I am actually someone who is pro-women, and the trouble with the label feminist, is that it’s used in a derogatory way by many. It’s also used [in] a celebratory way by many. [...] Far too often—and not just in Parliament, in business and particularly around boards—we have far too few women. Or the women that some of the men feel comfortable with are the women who play supportive roles. Well… I’m not a supportive role player. Unless it’s part of the team—I’m very happy to be part of the team. But I’m not a handmaiden. And I think that some men, who feel threatened by that, that that’s a bit of a shame, because they hold back the best people, and they spend their time worrying about someone being threatening.


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Collins voting yes on same sex marriage

August 21st, 2012 at 8:41 am by David Farrar reports:

[S]peaking briefly to Daily News yesterday afternoon as she left Auckland’s Aotea Centre after helping open a Human Rights Commission conference encouraging diversity and ‘a fair go for all,’ Collins said of marriage equality: “I’ve got no problem with it.”

On enabling same-sex couples to legally adopt children she responded: “I’ve got no particular problem with that either.”

It’s great Judith is supporting allowing same sex couples to marry, if they want to.

It is likely the first reading on the bill will be Wednesday 29 August. However unclear if it will complete the two hour debate that night.

People may be surprised at how certain MPs vote.

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Collins on ACC and privacy

August 13th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

John Hartevelt at Stuff reports:

ACC Minister Judith Collins wants the state insurer to start sacking staff who breach a new “zero tolerance” policy on privacy breaches.

A furious Ms Collins has revealed her astonishment at the failure of ACC to include privacy among nine of its “top priorities”.

“I’m not going to sit back and let one of the most important government entities [that] we have let people down time and time again around things such as privacy.

“They have to act in the way that I expect them to act. When I go around the branches, most of the people there absolutely understand it.

“But, actually, a few are letting them down and when we have things like the audit and risk committee having nine priorities for the year and not one of them [being] privacy, how can that be acceptable given everything else that’s going on?”

Ms Collins’ comments come as figures from ACC show 11 staff members have been reprimanded over “serious misconduct” since 2010.

The breaches involved: theft; fraud against ACC or a claimant; serious misuse of ACC property, including information and systems; dishonesty; disobeying a lawful and reasonable instruction from a manager; and any act that had the potential to bring ACC into disrepute.

Nine staff were sacked as a result of the breaches and two were given final written warnings.

Ms Collins said while the serious misconduct cases were “a shame”, she was pleased they were taken seriously and not covered up. “I think that they need to be – and they are now – taking on a culture of zero tolerance to privacy breaches, in particular,” she said.

Police had a “zero tolerance” approach to staff accessing private details about people without good reason.

“People lose their jobs over it, and that’s something that I think ACC needs to have, which is that we have people’s very personal information, we should treat it with respect and should understand it’s a very privileged position.”


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What happened to the claims this would never go to court?

July 18th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

ACC Minister Judith Collins begins court action against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little for defamation today.

The High Court list for Auckland yesterday named Judith Anne Collins v Trevor Colin Mallard and Another for first call before Justice Geoffrey Venning.

Collins has accused the two MPs of defaming her in relation to a leaked email from former National Party president Michelle Boag.

Boag had emailed Collins about a case involving ACC claimant Bronwyn Pullar, who blew the whistle on ACC inadvertently releasing her details about thousands of ACC claimants.

Defamation cases often take some time to come to court with both sides jockeying to set the terms of the case.

Today’s hearing is a face-to-face conference for lawyers to plot out the case’s timetable and sort out how it is going to be run.

Both sides have retained senior and experienced counsel with Collins being represented by Queen’s Counsel Julian Myles and Mallard and Little represented by Wellington lawyer John Tizard.

Collins is not seeking damages – just a declaration that the statements made were untrue and defamed her, and of course her costs.

UPDATE: The application by Mallard and Little for a stay of proceedings until the report of the Privacy Commissioner is done was declined by the Judge. The settlement hearing is in November (the report is due in September anyway, but could of course be delayed) and the trial in February 2013.


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Is the taxpayer funding Mallard and Little’s legal fees

June 27th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Judith Collins has stated she is paying for her own expenses in the defamation suit against Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little. She had the option of applying for taxpayer funding, but chose not to.

Has anyone confirmed whether or not the taxpayer is funding the legal costs for Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little? It would certainly be within the rules, for them to be funded  out of David Shearer’s parliamentary budget – but have they chosen to do so?

If they lose, and have to pay Collins’ legal expenses (she is not seeking damages, just a declaration and costs) will that also be funded by the taxpayer?

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