Like most people, I was surprised to hear that Judith Collins emailed a civil servant’s details to blogger Cameron Slater.
I have now spoken to Judith, and I have made it clear to her that this is her last chance. I may have said something similar a few months ago when Judith’s role in the Oravida matter caused some concern, but this is a quite different matter. My warning back then related to her activities in connection with a dairy company. While I have not read Nicky Hager’s book and do not intend to, I have not been made aware of any specific allegations made against Judith in the Hager book that relate to milk.
But actually, let’s all focus on what this is really all about. At the end of the day this issue only arose as a result of a smear campaign by a left-wing extremist who probably doesn’t like the All Blacks. But look, I accept that Judith acted unwisely this time.
I have told Judith that this is absolutely her last chance. If she makes another mistake like this one, I will have no choice but to take action. I will be forced to issue her with a warning.
If Judith transgresses again after I have issued her with a warning, then the consequences will be severe for her. I made it very clear when I became Prime Minister that I expected a very high standard of behaviour from my ministers.
That’s why if Judith gets it wrong after I have issued a warning, she will receive a final warning.
I’m sure Judith wouldn’t need to be spoken to again after receiving a final warning. She has been a hardworking and competent member of my team, and she has made real gains for ordinary New Zealander in all of her portfolios.
But in the unlikely event that I find myself being embarrassed by Judith after having issued a final warning, then I will be forced to issue a formal reprimand.
I have no doubt that if that were to happen, Judith would reflect on where she has gone wrong. She has been a senior minister in my administration for a number of years, and in general I have found her to have sound judgement and a good political radar.
However, should Judith Collins fail to respond to a reprimand, she would place me in a very difficult position. I respect Judith’s judgement and integrity, but actually, at the end of the day, the New Zealand public expect their politicians to adhere to high standards of behaviour.
That’s why if a reprimand doesn’t do the job, I’ll be left with no option but to issue an ultimatum.
Now if I were to issue an ultimatum, I have no doubt that Judith would take it on board and become a better person for it. I’m enormously proud of the things she has achieved in the Police and Justice portfolios during her time as a minister, and there is no more well-respected MP in our caucus than Judith.
But if an ultimatum doesn’t do the job, there really won’t be anything else to do. She would be inviting the ultimate sanction from her party leader. It’s a step I would be loath to take, but a continued failure to adhere to high standards must have some consequence.
That is why if Judith Collins fails to heed the warnings, final warnings, reprimands and ultimatums issued to her, I will have no option left to me. I will be forced to express my disappointment in her behaviour.