'Inappropriate behaviour': Judith Collins' 'tip-off' about Labour Party minister

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jul 2020, 9:49AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

'Inappropriate behaviour': Judith Collins' 'tip-off' about Labour Party minister

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jul 2020, 9:49AM

National Party leader Judith Collins claims she has been given information about alleged "inappropriate behaviour" of a Labour Party minister.

Collins says she has passed it on to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and it was up to her to deal with it. The information was about a minister planning on staying in Parliament after the election, Collins said. The Prime Minister has just called an unexpected press conference in Wellington, due to begin at 11am.

Collins said the allegation was serious enough that if it were about a National MP, she would seek more information.

Collins' apparent tip-off came to light when she was speaking about former National MP Andrew Falloon, who quit Parliament on Tuesday after it was alleged he sent inappropriate messages to a young woman.

Asked by MediaWorks if she had "received anything about Labour ministers or Labour MPs", Collins replied: "I have actually".

"I have advised the Prime Minister and I have asked for anybody who has that information to send it directly to her," she said.

"I am not going to be indulging in any attacks on Labour on these things," she told MediaWorks.

"I spoke to the Prime Minister yesterday as we were coming out of Question Time. I asked to speak to her and I said I had received such a tip-off and I did not want to receive any information on it. I would be asking the person to send it directly to her. She has provided me with an email address for that and that has been passed on to the person who contacted me. I don't want to engage in this."

Asked about Collins' comments, Cabinet Minister Chris Hipkins told RNZ that it was a matter for the Prime Minister to comment on.

But he added that it seemed to be a contradiction for Collins to say she didn't want to get involved and then to put the matter into the public domain.

Collins disputed that she had thrown it into the public domain, saying on RNZ that she had been asked a direct question on the AM Show and she had answered it.

She said she had received an email from a member of the public yesterday and that led to her conversation with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after Question Time.

"I don't want to go into detail but it was fairly inappropriate behaviour. I'm going to leave it up to the Prime Minister to deal with," Collins told RNZ.

It was about a current minister who was planning to stay on after the election, she said.

"This person is not my MP, and I thought she [Ardern] dealt with the matter relating to our MP well, and I'm not going to do anything other than treat this matter as something for her to deal with."

"I don't want us engaged in this. I want to focus on what matters to the people."

A spokesperson for Ardern said there was no comment to make at this stage.

Collins defended the initial framing of Falloon's inappropriate text messaging as a mental health issue, saying she had been "very concerned" for Falloon's

"One of my big concerns is that we would have a suicide," she told RNZ.

She arranged for Barbara Kuriger, the party's chief whip, to put Falloon on a plane to Christchurch, where he was collected by National's mental health spokesman Matt Doocey, who then drove Falloon to his parents' house in Ashburton.

Collins said what Falloon had done was "despicable", but he was "still a human being".

Collins yesterday condemned Falloon, calling him "a liar" and saying it had become apparent his actions were a "pattern of behaviour" with three more women coming forward yesterday to say they'd also received explicit images.

Falloon's political career began to unravel on June 30 when he sent a pornographic image - not of himself - to a university student. Police investigated but decided the matter didn't meet the threshold for prosecution.

The teen's parents then emailed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office on Wednesday, which sought permission to pass the matter onto Collins.

The Herald understands Collins' chief of staff was emailed about the incident on Friday afternoon and Collins was told herself at 11.30am on Saturday.

The leader called him that day to discuss the allegations and summoned him to a meeting first thing on Monday morning to put it to him in person.

Collins said she asked Falloon on Monday whether there was anything else they should know about.

"We were told 'no'. That's an enormous lie and one that goes to the heart of whether or not I could trust him as an MP and so he's gone."