Sun, Aug 31, 2014 - Page 4 News List

New Zealand politician quits over ties to blogger

DIRTY POLITICS:Hacked e-mails revealed that Judith Collins had possibly conspired with a blogger in 2011 to remove the then-serious fraud office director from office

AP, WELLINGTON

New Zealand Justice Minister Judith Collins yesterday resigned from her portfolios amid a scandal about her ties to a controversial blogger.

The resignation comes just three weeks before New Zealand’s general election and could impact the chances of center-right Prime Minister John Key returning for a third term in office.

Opposition parties are likely to see the move as a victory, while Key is expected to hope that it brings closure to the scandal.

Collins was one of Key’s top ministers and observers had considered her a possible future prime minister.

New Zealand freelance investigative journalist and liberal activist Nicky Hager, first detailed the extent of Collins engagement with blogger Cameron Slater in a book he released this month, Dirty Politics, which was based on hacked e-mails from Slater’s Whale Oil blog that Hager had obtained.

The blog takes a no-holds-barred approach to promoting Slater’s conservative views and mercilessly attacking opponents.

Key did not mention the book in an announcement yesterday. He said that Collins had resigned after he received new information that raised questions about her conduct as a minister.

“This new information suggests Ms Collins may have been engaged in discussions with a blogger in 2011 aimed at undermining the then-director of the Serious Fraud Office [SFO]. Ms Collins was the minister responsible for the SFO at the time,” Key said in a statement.

Key also released a 2011 e-mail, written by Slater and addressed to several people, in which Slater said that he had spoken at length with Collins and that she was “gunning” for then-director Adam Feeley.

Collins said in a statement that she had nothing to do with the e-mail and denied any inappropriate behavior. She said she was resigning because she did not want the matter to become a distraction for Key or his National Party during the election campaign.

She said that despite resigning from her portfolios, she would remain a legislator and planned to campaign for re-election.

Recent opinion polls have indicated that Key remains a popular leader and the front-runner to win the election. Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, parties typically need to form alliances to govern.

On his blog yesterday, Slater said he felt bad for Collins, who was a friend and the victim of a left-wing campaign to remove her.

“This game, this beautiful game, this dirty game, it is brutal,” Slater wrote.

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