The Dim-Post

March 29, 2012

Political theatre watch, best defense is a good offense edition

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:04 pm

According to media reports, Judith Collins is suing Trevor Mallard and Radio New Zealand on the basis that this interview is defamatory. But if you listen to it, Mallard is pretty careful. Will Collins claim that the interview implies that he stands by the much more direct statements he made about her in the House under Parliamentary Privilege? I’ll be interested to see what our various law-bloggers say about this.

There’s also a (high) chance that this is never intended to see the inside of a court-room – that the threat of a lawsuit is merely political theater designed to shift the focus away from the civil war currently underway inside the National Party, and onto an adversarial, Labour vs National framework, while also allowing Collins to get some breathing space by refusing to answer questions pending the outcome of the enquiry, court-case etc. It’s exactly the same tactic they used over the teapot tapes, which didn’t play out too well.


  1. There are two broadcasts. The one with Trevor Mallard that you have highlighted and another which is a summary including Trevor and Andrew’s comments. Both are still on line at National Radio.
    I listened to both and I am damned if I can see/hear any defamation from a non-legal mind.
    So its a bluff or
    Time gainer or
    Panic or
    Since that broadcast was before 9am and Judith Collins published the intent to charge was about 2 hours later, there seems to be very little time for her to reflect. Must have been an instant decision which might cause her to regret such sudden action. It might even harm her reputation in the long run – maybe.

    Comment by xianmac — March 29, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

  2. It is an attempt, as most defamation cases brought by MPs are, to close down the debate by claiming the issues are sub judice.

    Collins was running a similar line in Parliament today, refusing to answer questions on the basis that it was “not in the public interest” because of the Privacy Commissioner’s investigations.

    Guess everyone has something to hide, apart from her and her monkey:

    Comment by toad — March 29, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

  3. It’s probably strategy – if it comes out she didn’t do it then Mallard and Little will have been shown to be liars and she’ll be making sure that as much attention is drawn to that as possible and Labour are fucked.

    Or she did do it and she’ll resign and possibly bring down the govt as she’s been supported all the way through by Key.

    Depends on who’s sillier.

    Comment by NeilM — March 29, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

  4. This is bad for Phil Goff.

    Comment by statlerandwaldorffromthebalcony — March 29, 2012 @ 7:50 pm

  5. Interesting that she is suing RNZ A few years back it was the game to sue RNZ or TVNZ as a way to raise money from the public purse. It was like taking candy from a child.

    Comment by ron — March 29, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

  6. Legal beagle alert: time for an exposition/update/analysis on this in regard to Lange v Atkinson?

    Comment by ChrisM — March 29, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

  7. “I’ll be interested to see what our various law-bloggers say about this.”

    Don’t try and suck up to us … it’s too late for that now. Your years of disinterest and contemptuous snarking have left us cold to you.

    Comment by Grassed Up — March 29, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

  8. Grassed Up. Ouch. What are you, a German?

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 29, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

  9. At last humour returns to this blog.


    Methinks the lady doth protest too much.


    Comment by peterlepaysan — March 29, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

  10. BTW I am laughing at your post.

    This little internecine spat on the National party is totally foreign to John Keys corporate guide to governance. Expect him to initially try and treat it like a manageable spat on the board of directors, before realizing he he has no fucking clue about how to control a squalid bout of Tory politicians on the make.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 29, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

  11. Honestly, I think what we are seeing is a factional fight that’s spilled out into the open. I don’t know if Key can contain it at this stage and Nick Smith probably was the first of more casualties to come and was probably just caught in the crossfire. It seems like there was/is also a culture of cronyism within the upper echelons of the National Party and it just comes off like a tactic to delay any investigation into how deep the rabbit hole goes.

    Comment by Vagabundo — March 29, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

  12. Ooh, squabbling Tories are such fun!

    Comment by PJ — March 29, 2012 @ 10:29 pm

  13. @Vagabundo – You make it sound like Key isn’t part of a faction himself.

    Comment by alex — March 29, 2012 @ 11:21 pm

  14. Key himself being implicated as having at least a peripheral role in these shenanigans now.. Also Pullar threatened her private insurer with negative media publicity if they didn’t kowtow to her demands for ridiculous amounts of money? I’m starting to see a pattern here..

    This is really the gift that keeps on giving.

    Comment by Rob — March 30, 2012 @ 12:39 am

  15. I’m just waiting for Michelle Boag to join the legal bunfight with defamation proceedings of her own, against Cameron Slater:

    The stakes just got to casino level…

    Tho, has Collins actually launched defamation action? Media reports hint that she may just be threatening to do so. In which case, surely the Speaker would know/be informed, and force Collins to answer questions in the House?

    Comment by bob — March 30, 2012 @ 1:40 am

  16. @bob – I think it was something like Collins giving Mallard and Little a deadline of 5pm yesterday to withdraw their comments on RNZ, after which point she will go ahead with her defamation suit or something to that effect. I might have got some of the details wrong, but that was the impression I got.

    Comment by Vagabundo — March 30, 2012 @ 7:50 am

  17. @alex – good point. Some talking heads have mentioned two factions, one headed by English and the other by Joyce and from where I’m sitting, it looks like Key has sided with the latter. Who knows, though?

    Also, to follow up on what Rob said in comment no. 14, there was something that came up on Close Up last night which, at the very least, suggested a connection between Pullar and Key (as well as Simon Cushing, Wayne Mapp and Jenny Shipley) relating to an (alleged) attempt by her to bully Sovereign Insurance into giving her a $14million pay-out for something. There may not be much actually there, but it is rather interesting considering an association with Pullar has already wiped out one senior National MP’s career.

    Here it is, if anyone missed it.

    Comment by Vagabundo — March 30, 2012 @ 7:55 am

  18. One of the main ways of rewarding acolytes and servants of the party (other than symbolically powerfuly but monetarily worthless gongs) is the use of patronage. What we are seeing here is the carefully constructed veil of secrecy that usually surrounds this hidden web of patronage and cronyism ripped away. The damage to the government isn’t that it is exposing anything stunningly illegal (although a deliberate leak of sensitive ACC data is serious, Bennett got away with it) – it is in the confirmation bias this provides to Joe and Jane Six Pack and their suspicion that the system is routinely gouged by hypocritical insiders for their own benefit.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 30, 2012 @ 9:44 am

  19. bob @ 15: Probably pertinent to note that the National Party president that immediately preceded Boag was WhaleOil’s father, John Slater. Careful where you tread: here thar be monsters.

    Comment by Vanilla Eis — March 30, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  20. If Mallard made his arguments under parliamentary privilege, then it’s likely a show of hot air from Minister Ratched. On the wider ACC issue, claimants who’ve been left high and dry will probably be asking, “what’s Ms Pullar got that we haven’t?”

    And the feud between Whaleoil and Boag likely dates back to the party presidency tussle from a few years back.

    Comment by deepred — March 30, 2012 @ 10:14 am

  21. Sanctuary, you have it described. It’s the pure entitlement that amazes, the network of privilege that’s willing to exercise power.

    In New Zealand rarely does action break the law. And if it does that’s what lawyers are for; in the worst case you can defraud thousands of people of millions of dollars, without remorse, and expect no more than a few weeks picking up rubbish. No, it’s the morally corrupt nature of this that is more disturbing.

    Comment by George D — March 30, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  22. damage to reputation georged, don’t forget the damage to reputation

    and it was an untrue statement not a false statement that got doug graham into trouble – big difference you know – ask any lawyer

    Comment by Me Too — March 30, 2012 @ 10:54 am

  23. Apparently you can bet on the outcomes of this on iPredict. I wonder if there’s a clique of mad gamblers playing the numbers constantly within the Nat circles. If so, I expect the outcome will be very bad for them, both the gamblers and the Nats. There’s something incredibly narcissistic about that system.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 30, 2012 @ 11:04 am

  24. tut tut

    Comment by merv — March 30, 2012 @ 11:24 am

  25. The damage to the government isn’t that it is exposing anything stunningly illegal (although a deliberate leak of sensitive ACC data is serious, Bennett got away with it) – it is in the confirmation bias this provides to Joe and Jane Six Pack and their suspicion that the system is routinely gouged by hypocritical insiders for their own benefit.

    First David Shearer, now this. We have to stop agreeing, Sanctuary.


    Comment by Lew (@LewStoddart) — March 30, 2012 @ 11:59 am

  26. Pullar’s response to the Close-Up story exonerates Key, but it’s too late for the details to matter. The public are just hearing a daily chorus of “Boag NATIONAL Collins NATIONAL Pullar NATIONAL Smith NATIONAL Key NATIONAL Slater NATIONAL …”

    All the opposition have to do is keep piously saying there should be an inquiry, and hope Key continues to oblige them by not having one.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — March 30, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

  27. “Some talking heads have mentioned two factions, one headed by English and the other by Joyce and from where I’m sitting, it looks like Key has sided with the latter.”

    I’m not sure if this is the case, but if it is, nobody should be surprised that Key would side with Joyce. Joyce, while not politically untalented, came up due to Key’s patronage, while English has a power base that predates Key’s ever being interested in politics.

    Comment by Hugh — March 30, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

  28. @26, Yeah, this is very much a case where “If you’re explaining, you’re losing” is true.

    And we don’t know who put the Sovereign doc out there, when watching it I thought it looked far worse for Boag than Key. Key’s denial was fast and thorough, and her response was confused and floundering.

    The explanation today, doesn’t gel with what she said yesterday either.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — March 30, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

  29. The document was certainly far more damning for Boag and Pullar than any one of Cushing, Mapp, Key or Shipley for sure. There didn’t seem to be anything that was illegal in what Cushing or Mapp did and maybe neither Key nor Shipley really did anything to help her, besides having their names used in a letter to Sovereign – but it’s also solidified the views that there is an institutionalised culture of cronyism and nepotism within the upper echelons of the National Party – which would explain how a fairly capable and experienced MP like Smith could get caught out and it makes Key’s ongoing refusal to have a serious inquiry into the leak and the fall-out all the more suspicious. There’s also probably going to be a serious witch-hunt within the National caucus to find who’s sending out all the documents. Even if Collins doesn’t fall, I’m sure someone else will and it’s going to be someone high up enough to know where the bodies are buried.

    Comment by Vagabundo — March 30, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  30. And if anyone had misgivings about Paul Quinn, this incident only reinforces them. In fairness, the Nats quickly knew he was a liability.

    Comment by deepred — March 30, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  31. Quinn’s still next on the Nat list though I think?

    Comment by Leg Break — March 30, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  32. @Hugh: 12.42pm
    Key would go with the Joyce faction, the divide there is that the Key/Joyce faction are successful businessman, and the English faction career politicians. This scandal is shaping up to be a leadership challenge and Nic Smith was the first casualty.
    The leaked Sovereign letter with the list of names could be an attempt to throw mud from one side to the other if indeed that scenario did exist.

    Comment by Kevin — March 30, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

  33. @Kevin: What, an English leadership challenge?

    If that actually happens I will eat a copy of Loaded magazine. Challenging a leader with approval ratings as high as Key’s would be that rarest thing in politics – authentic political suicide.

    Comment by Hugh — March 30, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  34. If English and Joyce are heading two factions in an internal struggle, with Key siding with Joyce, why wouldn’t English make a dash for the leadership position? If he’s on the way out either way, what’s he got to lose? He’s an experienced politician who’s been there before, although it didn’t end well, and he’s been in politics for years that it could be eating him up inside that some Johnny-come-lately just swans in, takes over the leadership position and succeeds where he failed so spectacularly. And now, he’s getting cosy with some balding idiot who looks like Humpty Dumpty? Come on, man!

    Comment by Vagabundo — March 30, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  35. “why wouldn’t English make a dash for the leadership position? ”

    Because he’d be unsuccessful.

    Comment by Hugh — March 30, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

  36. Are we able to follow and observe the ex-justice ministers servicing 😉 the community in a way they have not in the past?

    I do hope so.

    Comment by boganjosh — March 30, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  37. “And now, he’s getting cosy with some balding idiot who looks like Humpty Dumpty? Come on, man!”

    Quite right, I saw Steven Joyce on Campbell Live last night and looking closely I could see that his arms actually come out of his head.

    “Because he’d be unsuccessful.”

    So what?

    Comment by Aztec — March 30, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

  38. it is in the confirmation bias this provides to Joe and Jane Six Pack and their suspicion that the system is routinely gouged by hypocritical insiders for their own benefit.

    except that Pullar was furious because she didn’t get special treatment. ACC was not moved to treat her case any differentlyt from others. She attempted to play up her contacts but she got very little out of it.

    Of all the opposition MPs I think Kevin Hague has done the best by focusing on what he sees is a change of culture within ACC as a result of National’s policies. He’s stayed away from the scandel-mongering style of Labour.

    Comment by NeilM — March 30, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

  39. I have to say that for all their gains, I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that this is what Labour decides to pursue. It looks like “Bugger the watersiders (‘cos the focus groups warned us off that); instead, let’s pursue a scandal instead and score a few scalps.” Politically it makes sense, but actually (potential) corruption and cronyism is an apolitical issue. It’s not presented as being ideological in the slightest and it doesn’t require Shearer to make a commitment – instead, he’s leaving it to Mallard and Little to do the dirty work while he can remain “above it all”.

    Certainly the cronyism is vile and an abomination to anyone who cares about our implicit constitution (it may not be written down on a single piece of parchment, but it exists by implication and no less strongly for that across a multitude of documents from the Magna Carta through the Treaty of Waitangi and other documents), and the government’s bullying of dissenters is even more sinister, so opposition to that is to be praised… but still, what does The Labour Party stand for in all this?

    I’m pleased that corruption and cronyism is coming to light, I’m even pleased that this increases the chances of a “left” government being formed out of a coalition in 2014, but for what it’s worth (ie., not much), I’ll say that this is not good for Phil Goff because David Shearer’s still not different from Phil Goff in any way that matters.

    I see scandal-mongering and risk avoidance – not leadership, not virtue, not principle, not courage.

    In short: OK, National are shits, but we knew that… but why vote Labour? Because they’re getting better at theatre now? Fuck that.

    Comment by Rhinocrates — March 30, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

  40. Would a Steven Joyce-lead National Party a vote winner with broad appeal? I would think not.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — March 31, 2012 @ 2:21 am

  41. Lots of conspiracy theories here in the comments, I thought you lot were brighter than that.

    Comment by mary — April 1, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

  42. Hardly, Mary.

    To paraphrase Sir Bernard Ingham, why look for a conspiracy theory to explain the behavior of government when cock-up theory will suffice?

    We have a bunch of grubby carpet-baggers vs party jobsworths airing their dirty laundry in public, not rocket surgeons with a cunning master plan.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 2, 2012 @ 10:29 am


    Comment by Sanctuary — April 2, 2012 @ 10:37 am

  44. +2 Sanctuary. Bloody funny!

    Comment by merv — April 2, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

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