The resignation of Judith Collins as a cabinet minister
on Saturday should pave the way for Prime Minister John Key to
get National's election campaign back on track.
However, Opposition calls for an inquiry to be conducted as
soon as possible may further derail his plan.
Another complication will be the investigation on Dirty
Politics being undertaken before the election by the
Inspector-general of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn,
Mr Key phoned Ms Collins on Saturday when a further tranche
of emails was released.
The emails appeared to indicate Ms Collins had worked with
right-wing blogger Cameron Slater, and others, to remove the
then head of the Serious Fraud Office Adam Feeley.
The conversation ended with Ms Collins offering her
resignation. Mr Key said if National was re-elected, Ms
Collins would not be considered for Cabinet. However, if an
inquiry cleared her, she may again be considered for a
The hacked emails appear to show former Hanover Finance
executive Mark Hotchin secretly paid bloggers Mr Slater and
Cathy Odgers to write attack posts undermining the Serious
Fraud Office, Mr Feeley, and the Financial Markets Authority,
who were probing his collapsed business in 2011 and 2012.
Mr Feeley is now chief executive of the Queenstown Lakes
District Council and could not be reached yesterday. In a
written statement, Mr Feeley says throughout his time as
chief executive of the SFO, he believed the work of the SFO
always enjoyed the support and respect of the Government.
Mr Feeley said in his years as a public servant he strived to
ensure, and believed he had, an entirely professional and
constructive relationship with ministers he worked with.
Finance Minister Bill English said yesterday the implications
of the emails would be serious if they were borne out. That
was why the prime minister had initiated an inquiry.
Asked on TV One's Q+A about the allegation Mr Hotchin
was behind the smear campaign, Mr English said it was
''If that is linked through the email to any kind of
ministerial conduct as is implied, that's a serious issue but
we've yet to see whether an email written by the blogger is
correct or not and an inquiry will deal with that.''
Labour leader David Cunliffe said evidence crucial to any
inquiry by Judith Collins and other National ministers and
staff must be protected. The State Services Commission must
order Ministerial Services to stop any computer files being
All documents in the Justice Minister's office needed to be
immediately secured. Judith Collins' closest advisers have
lost their jobs and should surrender their cellphones and
A full commission of inquiry must be held into the connection
between National ministers and Whale Oil blogger Mr Slater,
Mr Cunliffe said.
The 17,000 Kiwis who lost their savings in the collapse of
Hanover Finance would be shocked at the alleged connection to
Mr Hotchin, he said.
Mr Key was campaigning in Auckland yesterday and crowd scenes
posted on social media showed he was receiving a warm
welcome. He believes Ms Collins' resignation will be viewed
positively by voters.
It may give him a chance to start talking policy and get into
a better mood for the remaining election debate with Mr
On the first debate last week, Mr Key looked distracted,
annoyed, and ill at ease. Presumably, Judith Collins was on
The next debate is tomorrow in Christchurch, hosted by
Stuff.co.nz and The Press.
Investigations by the Otago Daily Times, to be
reported more fully later this week, found an underlying
resentment to the pace of the rebuilding of houses in
Christchurch, particularly east of the Square.
The leaders answer questions from the floor and Messrs Key
and Cunliffe will need the facts at their disposal.
While the rebuild bill has soared to $4 billion, general
dissatisfaction is being shown by some parts of the community
about the state of their houses and lives. The push for
commercial rebuilding has not impressed those living in
damaged houses for four winters in a row.
Labour has promised much in Christchurch but needs to
convince voters it can do what the Government has so far
failed to achieve.
In the same debate in 2011, Mr Key destroyed former leader
Phil Goff with his now famous ''show me the money'' quip. At
the time, Labour had not released its full fiscal costings.
This time, Labour has done its costings, pulling back on six
policies it planned to release but now says it can no longer
afford because of the Treasury downgrade in the pre-election
National is still ahead in public opinion polls, but support
has been slipping as the so-called teflon veneer of Mr Key
He has less than three full weeks to regain momentum, brush
off annoying questions and allegations being asked and made
about his office, staff and links with bloggers.
Mr Cunliffe has a difficult choice to make - push through
with the corruption and inquiry angle, or try to prove to
voters Labour is indeed the government in waiting.