Judith Collins

Judith Anne Collins (born 24 February 1959) is a New Zealand politician serving as Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the New Zealand National Party since 2020. She is the second female Leader of the National Party, after Jenny Shipley. Collins has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Papakura since 2008 and was MP for Clevedon from 2002 to 2008.[1] She was a government minister in the cabinets of John Key and of Bill English.

Judith Collins
Judith Collins.jpg
39th Leader of the Opposition
14th Leader of the National Party
Assumed office
14 July 2020
Deputy
Preceded byTodd Muller
29th Minister of Revenue
In office
20 December 2016 – 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterBill English
Preceded byMichael Woodhouse
Succeeded byStuart Nash
16th Minister of Energy and Resources
In office
20 December 2016 – 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterBill English
Preceded bySimon Bridges
Succeeded byMegan Woods
Minister for Ethnic Affairs
In office
12 December 2011 – 30 August 2014
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byHekia Parata
Succeeded bySam Lotu-Iiga
In office
20 December 2016 – 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterBill English
Preceded bySam Lotu-Iiga
Succeeded byJenny Salesa
35th Minister of Police
In office
19 November 2008 – 12 December 2011
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byAnnette King
Succeeded byAnne Tolley
In office
14 December 2015 – 20 December 2016
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Bill English
Preceded byMichael Woodhouse
Succeeded byPaula Bennett
9th Minister of Corrections
In office
19 November 2008 – 12 December 2011
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byPhil Goff
Succeeded byAnne Tolley
In office
14 December 2015 – 20 December 2016
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Bill English
Preceded bySam Lotu-Iiga
Succeeded byLouise Upston
47th Minister of Justice
In office
12 December 2011 – 30 August 2014
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded bySimon Power
Succeeded byAmy Adams
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Papakura
Assumed office
8 November 2008
Preceded byJohn Robertson (1996)
Majority5,583
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Clevedon
In office
27 July 2002 – 8 November 2008
Preceded byWarren Kyd (1996)
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Majority12,871 (34.9%)
Personal details
Born
Judith Anne Collins

(1959-02-24) 24 February 1959 (age 62)
Hamilton, New Zealand
Political party
Spouse(s)David Wong-Tung
Children1
Alma mater (LLM) (MTaxS)
Signature

Born in Hamilton, Collins studied at Matamata College, the University of Canterbury and University of Auckland. Before entering politics, Collins worked as a commercial lawyer and was President of the Auckland District Law Society and Vice-President of the New Zealand Law Society. She was a solicitor for four different firms from 1981 and 1990, before running her own practice for a decade. She was a director of Housing New Zealand from 1999 to 2001 and worked as special counsel for Minter Ellison Rudd Watts from 2000 to 2002 before she entered the New Zealand Parliament at the 2002 election.

Collins was appointed to the Cabinet by Prime Minister John Key when the National Party entered government at the 2008 election. She was ranked fifth in the Cabinet and the highest-ranked woman. Collins served as Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections from 2008 to 2011 and 2015 to 2016. After the 2011 election, she was appointed Minister of Justice and Minister for ACC. Collins resigned in 2014 following email leaks alleging she had undermined the head of the Serious Fraud Office whilst she was Police Minister. While she was not cleared of wrongdoing related to that incident, she returned to the Cabinet in 2015.[2] Collins served under Prime Minister Bill English as Minister of Revenue and Minister of Energy and Resources from 2016 to 2017.

After the National Party left government in the 2017 election, Collins served in several shadow portfolios. She was elected to succeed Todd Muller as National Party Leader by the parliamentary caucus on 14 July 2020, becoming Leader of the Opposition. She led the party to its second-worst defeat in the party's history at the 2020 election, losing 23 seats.

Early life and careerEdit

Collins was born in Hamilton. Her parents were dairy farmers Percy and Jessie Collins of Walton in the Waikato and she was the youngest of six children.[3] She attended Walton Primary School and Matamata College.[4] In 1977 and 1978 she studied at the University of Canterbury. In 1979 she switched to the University of Auckland, and obtained first an LLB and then a LLM (Hons) and later a Master of Taxation Studies (MTaxS). She met her husband, Chinese-Samoan[5] David Wong-Tung, at university. He was then a police officer and had migrated from Samoa as a child. They have one son.[3] Collins has described herself as a liberal Anglican.[6]

Collins was a Labour Party supporter from childhood,[5] but by 2002 had been a member of the National Party for three years.[7] She has been a member of Zonta International and of Rotary International.[8]

Professional careerEdit

After leaving university, she worked as a lawyer, specialising in employment, property, commercial, and tax law. She worked as a solicitor for four different firms between 1981 and 1990 and then became principal of her own firm, Judith Collins & Associates (1990–2000). In the last two years before the election to Parliament, she worked as special counsel for Minter Ellison Rudd Watts (2000–2002).[8]

She was active in legal associations, and was President of the Auckland District Law Society (1998–1999) and Vice-President of the New Zealand Law Society (1999–2000). She served as chairperson of the Casino Control Authority (1999–2002) and was a director of Housing New Zealand Limited (1999–2001).[4]

Early parliamentary career (2002–2008)Edit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2002–2005 47th Clevedon 48 National
2005–2008 48th Clevedon 12 National
2008–2011 49th Papakura 7 National
2011–2014 50th Papakura 7 National
2014–2017 51st Papakura 6 National
2017–2020 52nd Papakura 16 National
2020–present 53rd Papakura 1 National

Collins was elected to Parliament in the 2002 election as the National MP for Clevedon. Although technically a new electorate, Clevedon was largely based on the old Hunua electorate, held by National's Warren Kyd.[9]

In Parliament, Collins became National's Associate Spokesperson on Health and Spokesperson on Internal Affairs. In 2003, these responsibilities were changed for those of Associate Spokesperson on Justice and Spokesperson on Tourism. She was generally regarded as having performed well and when Katherine Rich refused to give full support to the controversial Orewa Speech by then-party leader Don Brash, Rich was demoted in February 2005 and Collins became National's spokesperson on Social Welfare instead.[10] Collins then served as spokesperson on Family and spokesperson on Pacific Island Affairs.

In 2003, while in opposition, Collins campaigned for an inquiry to find out whether New Zealand troops were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and if so any effect this subsequently had.[11] Despite previous inquiries stating otherwise, the committee established that troops were exposed to defoliant chemicals during their service in Vietnam, and therefore operated in a toxic environment.[12] This resulted in an apology in 2004 from the Labour-led Government to Veterans and the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support veterans.[13] In 2004 Collins was awarded the Ex-Vietnam Services Association Pin for campaigning for the inquiry.[11]

Collins' Clevedon electorate disappeared under boundary changes for the 2008 election. She originally announced her intention to seek the National Party nomination for Howick, which comprises the urban part of her former Clevedon electorate. However, following objections made to the Electoral Commission over draft changes to the boundaries that saw a major redrawing of the adjacent constituency Pakuranga, the draft Howick was redrawn and renamed Botany. Collins then sought and won the nomination for Papakura (which comprises the other half of her former Clevedon electorate) and allowed her colleague National Party MP Pansy Wong to seek nomination for Botany. Collins won Papakura with a majority of more than 10,000 votes.[14]

Fifth National Government (2008–2017)Edit

The National Party formed a government after the 2008 election, and Collins entered Cabinet with the portfolios of Police, Corrections and Veterans' Affairs. Early in 2009, she was created Minister Responsible for the Serious Fraud Office.

After the 2011 election she was appointed Minister of Justice, Minister of Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and Minister of Ethnic Affairs and, with a Cabinet ranking of five, was the highest ranked woman.[15]

Minister of CorrectionsEdit

 
Collins at the National War Memorial, 2010

In 2009, Collins questioned the leadership of, and later refused to express confidence in, Department of Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews, after a spate of bad publicity.[16] However, after an enquiry by the State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie, Matthews kept his job because Corrections had made efforts to improve and had warned the government of the day and the previous government that under-resourcing was putting public safety at risk.[17]

Collins increased the availability of work programmes in prison,[18] and increased funding to widen the availability of alcohol and drug treatment programmes. Corrections built three new Drug Treatment Units and introducing condensed treatment programmes for prisoners serving shorter sentences.[19] Collins oversaw completion of a new prison in Mount Eden, Auckland, and instigated the private management contract for the new prison to British company Serco, on the recommendation of the Department of Corrections. This was the first prison since 2005 to be managed by a private sector contractor.[20][21]

In June 2010, Collins announced that from 1 July 2011[22] tobacco smoking and possessing lighters in prison would be banned, to reduce the health risk that smoking and fire presented to prison guards and prisoners.[23] This ban was subsequently successfully challenged in court on two occasions, resulting in a law change to maintain it.[24][25]

Minister of PoliceEdit

Following a police trial of tasers in 2006–07, Collins supported their introduction by then Police Commissioner Howard Broad.[26] In the 2009 budget she announced NZ$10 million worth of funding to complete a nationwide taser roll-out to all police districts,[27] and since then has advocated that the police be given further discretion about when they can equip themselves with tasers.[28] She has also supported increased access to firearms for frontline officers, by equipping all front-line police vehicles with lock boxes for firearms, but does not support the full-time general arming of police officers.[29]

During her early years in parliament, Collins developed a reputation for tough talking and in 2009 was nicknamed Crusher Collins when she proposed legislation to 'crush' the cars of persistent boy racers.[30] Collins described herself as the minister "who brought back deterrence".[31][32][33]

Minister of JusticeEdit

In 2012, Collins moderated the cuts-back to legal aid begun by her predecessor, Simon Power. She reduced the charges for family and civil cases, delayed the period before interest is charged on outstanding legal aid debt and dropped a proposal to make it harder to get legal aid for less serious crimes such as theft, assault or careless driving.[34] She did however retain fixed fees for criminal work and the rotation of the legal aid to lawyers in all but the most serious cases, which attracted criticism from some lawyers.[35]

After a two-year investigation the Law Commission produced a report for government with 153 recommendations to reform New Zealand's alcohol laws. While some legislative changes were passed in December 2012, the Opposition and health sector lobbyists said the evidence-based advice from the Commission was disregarded by Collins and her predecessor Simon Power with the result that the final legislation "was a pale imitation of the landmark Law Commission report it was based on."[36] Examples include Collins originally announcing a ban in May 2012 of ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages with 6 per cent alcohol or more from off-licenses. However, in the face of criticism from the liquor industry, she back-tracked on this ban, and three months later announced that the industry would develop its own voluntary code "to limit the harm to young people caused by RTDs".[37] The Commission also recommended a 50 per cent tax increase on alcohol (which was dismissed immediately by the Government) and an increase in the purchase age, which was also dismissed after a conscience vote in September 2012.[36] Collins herself voted to raise the purchase age.[38] Overall Collins said "the reforms struck a sensible balance by reducing the serious harm caused by alcohol without penalising people who drank responsibly."[36] The Labour Party and Professor Doug Sellman of Alcohol Action[39] stated that the changes were weak and would do little to reduce the harm caused by binge drinking. Sellman said: "It's called the Alcohol Reform Bill but it has no reforms in it".[40]

In December 2012, Collins revealed she had concerns about the robustness of a report authored by retired Canadian Supreme Court judge Ian Binnie, which recommended that David Bain should be paid compensation for the 13 years he spent in prison before being acquitted at retrial in 2009.[41] The report had been presented to Collins on 31 August 2012, but the dispute only became public after Binnie threatened to release the report on his own.[42] Collins had provided a copy of the report to the police and the Solicitor-General and ordered a peer review by former New Zealand High Court judge Robert Fisher, sending a "34-point list of issues attacking the case" along with her letter of instruction.[43] She did not provide a copy of Binnie's report to Bain's legal team. This fact, combined with the circumstances around the peer review by Fisher, led to accusations from Bain's team and from Justice Binnie that Collins was not following an "even handed process".[44] Collins subsequently released the reports publicly.[45] A month later, Mr Bain filed a claim in the High Court seeking a review of Collins' actions. The claim alleged Collins breached natural justice and the Bill of Rights Act in her treatment of him and that she "acted in bad faith, abused her power, and acted in a biased, unreasonable and predetermined manner".[46]

Minister for ACCEdit

In August 2011, a significant privacy breach occurred at the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) following the accidental release of 6700 claimants' details to ACC claimant, Bronwyn Pullar.[47] Following the breach, Collins wanted a change in the culture at ACC to make "privacy and information security" the most important focus. As part of these changes the board chair, John Judge, did not have his tenure on the board renewed,[48] and the chief executive Ralph Stewart resigned the next day.[49] In May 2012, Collins sued Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little for defamation over comments they made on Radio New Zealand linking her to the leak of an e-mail from Michelle Boag about Pullar's case.[50] The case was settled after a High Court hearing in November 2012.[51]

ControversiesEdit

In March 2014, Collins was accused of a conflict of interest after an overseas trip where she 'dropped in' and endorsed the milk produced by Oravida – a New Zealand company which exports to China – of which her husband is a director. After being admonished by the Prime Minister, Collins apologised and stated that she and a Chinese executive were 'very close personal friends'.[52][53][54] Over the following weeks the Labour Party continued asking who the Chinese official was. Collins did not provide his name, which House speaker David Carter described as "very unsatisfactory".[55] Prime Minister John Key stated publicly that Judith Collins was on her final warning over this incident.[56]

In August 2014 the book Dirty Politics, written by Nicky Hager, revealed that Collins was friends with right-wing blogger Cameron Slater and had passed on private information to him about Simon Pleasants, a public servant at Internal Affairs. Collins believed Pleasants had leaked information about Deputy Prime Minister Bill English misusing his housing allowance. Slater published Mr Pleasant's name and details on his blog as well as the abuse and death threats that were subsequently directed at Mr Pleasants.[57] A 3News-Reid Research poll taken at the time revealed that 63% of voters believed Prime Minister John Key should have stood Collins down over this incident.[58] Key said Collins had been 'unwise' and placed on her second final warning.[59]

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters claimed he was approached to do a post–2014 election deal with National with Collins as the leader. Peters went on to say he would swear an affidavit that he had been approached. Collins denied this claim. On 29 August 2014 Key backed Collins up by stating "I accept Judith 100 per cent at her word."[60]

On 30 August 2014 Collins resigned her Cabinet positions following the leak of another e-mail written by Slater in 2011, which suggested she had also attempted to undermine another public servant, Adam Feeley. Feeley was Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Collins was the Minister responsible for the SFO at the time. Collins says she resigned because she believed the attacks on her had become a distraction for the National Party leading up to the election. She called for an inquiry so she could clear her name.[61]

After the 2014 election, John Key left Collins off the "Roll of the Honourables" due to the ongoing inquiry into her role with Adam Feeley. This made her ineligible to use the title 'The Honourable'.[62] Collins expressed surprise about having found out about the decision through the media,[63] and Key admitted that his decision should have been explained to Collins.[64] On 25 November 2014 the Chisholm report was released, clearing Collins of the allegations into her dealings with former SFO director Adam Feeley,[65] so on 4 December 2014 Collins was granted the right to retain the title of 'The Honourable' for life.[66]

Collins was cleared of involvement in the Adam Feeley smear.[2] On 7 December 2015, Key announced Collins would return to Cabinet, to hold her former portfolios of Corrections and Police again. She was sworn in again on 14 December 2015.

2016 leadership campaign and aftermathEdit

 
Collins in 2016

John Key announced his resignation as leader of the National Party on 5 December 2016. The following day, Collins announced her intention to stand as his replacement, which would have elevated her to the prime ministership.[67] The other candidates were Bill English and Jonathan Coleman. On 8 December, both Collins and Coleman withdrew as candidates, allowing English to be elected unopposed.[68]

On 20 December 2016, she was officially sworn in as a minister with new portfolios in the new Bill English cabinet. She dropped in cabinet rank but was made Minister of Revenue, Minister of Energy and Resources, and Minister for Ethnic Communities. The corrections and police portfolios were given to Louise Upston and Paula Bennett, respectively.

Opposition (2017–present)Edit

2018 leadership campaignEdit

Bill English announced his resignation as leader of the National Party on 13 February 2018. The following day, Collins became the first person to announce their intention to stand as his replacement; she was later joined by Amy Adams and Simon Bridges. She cited the need for "strong and decisive leadership".[69] Collins was endorsed by former National leader Don Brash,[70] and political commentators Duncan Garner,[71] Mike Hosking,[72] Cameron Slater,[73] and Chris Trotter.[74] Hosking later retracted his endorsement when Steven Joyce announced his candidacy.[75] Bridges went on to win the leadership role.

In late May 2018, Collins, in her capacity as Opposition Transport spokesperson, raised the matter that Transport Minister Phil Twyford had made an unauthorised phone call while his flight had taken off; a violation of national civil aviation laws. In response, Twyford offered to resign as Transport Minister. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stripped Twyford of his civil aviation portfolio but retained him as Transport Minister.[76][77][78]

2020 leadership campaignEdit

On 14 July 2020, Collins was elected as leader of the National Party following a leadership election held following the abrupt resignation of Todd Muller earlier that day. Gerry Brownlee was also elected as Deputy Leader of the National Party.[79][80]

She became the second female leader of the National Party.[80]

Collins faced criticism during her campaign for being out of touch with common New Zealanders after she severely underestimated the price of a block of cheese after being asked how much it cost during an interview.[81]

Leader of the OppositionEdit

Collins led the party to the 2020 election as significant underdogs, with opinion polls suggesting historically large swings to the Labour Party, reflecting its well-received response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Collins, although more popular than her predecessors Todd Muller and Simon Bridges, still significantly lagged behind Jacinda Ardern as preferred prime minister by 30 to 40 points.

Ultimately, the 2020 election saw a massive Labour landslide, with the party winning 65 seats, enough to form a majority government in its own right. Meanwhile, Collins lead the National Party to a crushing defeat, suffering a 18.9% swing against them, and a 23 seat drop; finishing with 33 seats. The result was the second-worst defeat the National Party had ever suffered, edged out by the 2002 disaster, where the party won an even grimmer number of 27 seats.[82] The election even saw the party's Deputy Leader Gerry Brownlee lose his own seat of Ilam, which was considered National heartland.[83]

With the result beyond doubt, a near-tearful Collins announced on election night that she had telephoned Ardern and conceded defeat, but vowed that the party would bounce back stronger in the next election.[84] Despite these setbacks, Collins retained her electorate seat in Papakura by a final margin of 5,583 votes.[85]

In early February 2021, Collins confirmed that the National Party would be standing candidates in the Māori electorates, reversing the party's policy of not contesting those seats.[86] As Leader of the Opposition, Collins has opposed alleged policies of "racist separatism" towards the Māori community including race-based affirmative action policies and the creation of separate Māori governance authorities including the Māori Health Authority and the introduction of Māori wards in local government. Collins' stance on these issues drew accusations of racism from the Māori Party, which Collins rejected.[87][88][89]

In mid–June 2021, Collins supported the Labour Government's apology for the Dawn Raids of the 1970s and early 1980s, which disproportionately targeted the Pasifika communities. She stated that "this historic act of discrimination against our Pasifika communities caused anguish that reverberated across decades and it is right that we acknowledge this."[90]

In early September 2021, Collins drew controversy when she described immunologist and science communicator Siouxsie Wiles as a "big, fat hypocrite" during a virtual conversation with a Pasifika group aligned with the party. Collins' remarks came after right-wing blogger Cameron Slater posted a video of Wiles socialising with a friend at an Auckland beach during an Alert Level 4 lockdown in the Auckland Region in response to the August 2021 Delta variant community outbreak. Slater had alleged that Wiles and her friend flouted lockdown restrictions in his blog BFD. In response, Wiles clarified that her friend was part of the same bubble as her and that the pair had cycled 5km from her house to the beach.[91][92] In response to Collins' criticism of Wiles, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield defended Wiles from allegations that she breached lockdown restrictions.[93]

Political viewsEdit

Collins has been described as a conservative.[94][95] She is seen to represent the right wing of her party, and in her previous roles as Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections, she has promoted law and order policies.[95] Collins has praised former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.[96][94]

In 2003, Collins voted against the Death with Dignity Bill, which aimed to legalise euthanasia in New Zealand,[97] but in 2020 voted in support of the End of Life Choice Bill to legalise assisted dying.[98]

Collins has a mixed record on LGBT issues. In 2004, she voted against the Civil Union Act 2004 and the Relationships (Statutory References) Act 2004, stating not because of any sort of homophobic views but because it created a parallel form of marriage. In Parliament she stated, "This Bill is a sop to gay couples, in which they are being told that they can have second best. That is not good enough."[98] She later voted for the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill 2005, which would have amended the Marriage Act to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.[99] In 2013, however, Collins voted for the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in New Zealand.[100]

In 2005, Collins voted for the Sale of Liquor (Youth Alcohol Harm Reduction) Act, a bill aimed at raising the drinking age to 20 years.[101] In 2012, in her role as Minister of Justice, she introduced the Alcohol Reform Bill,[102] a bill that introduced several restrictions on sale of alcohol including stricter opening hours for bars or liquor stores (but ultimately did not raise the drinking age).[103]

In 2009, Collins voted against the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, a bill aimed at amending the Misuse of Drugs Act to allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes.[104] In 2020, Collins voted no on the 2020 New Zealand cannabis referendum.[105]

In 2011, Collins pledged to support abortion-law changes which would make it illegal to perform an abortion on someone under the age of 16 without parental notification. Collins had proposed adding this to the Care of Children Act in 2004.[106]

In 2020, Collins supported the Abortion Legislation Act 2020, which decriminalised abortion.[98]

In June 2021, Collins defended the advocacy group Speak Up For Women, a group opposed to gender self-identification which had been prevented from hosting a meeting at a Christchurch City Library venue on the grounds of alleged transphobia.[107]

In August 2021, Collins called for a referendum on the growing use of Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand, in official documents and statements. This was in spite of the fact that Collins had used the name Aotearoa several times during her time as a minister in the previous Fifth National Government.[108]

BibliographyEdit

Non-fictionEdit

  • Pull No Punches (2020) ISBN 9781988547510

ReferencesEdit

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