Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Judith Collins on her last chance - Key

Judith Collins was "unwise" to pass details of a public servant to blogger Cameron Slater and she is now on her last chance, Prime Minister John Key says.

His warning comes just five months after an earlier final warning to his Justice Minister.

Speaking before the Maori King's anniversary celebrations outside Turangawaewae in Ngaruawahia this afternoon, Mr Key said he could only take Ms Collins' word that she only leaked public servant Simon Pleasants' job title and also phone numbers and not his name to Slater.

Mr Key's comments come after a fresh dump of documents by the individual who claims to have hacked Slater's computer to obtain his email correspondence with Ms Collins and Mr Key's senior communications adviser Jason Ede.

Read more:
Calls for Collins to resign over Dirty Politics row
English: Alleged revenge attack 'not my style'
Why the Whaledump hacker came forward
'Teapot Tapes' cop to look at Slater complaint

One of those documents appears to be the email where Ms Collins passes on Mr Pleasants' details to Slater. The email, sent from her private rather than her ministerial address, shows she sent Slater Mr Pleasants' telephone numbers, a detail which was not included in author Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics book which uncovered the incident.

"I think there are some details there which I think it is unwise of a minister to pass on," Mr Key said this afternoon.

Mr Key also put Ms Collins on her final warning in March when she was found to have misled him and the public about her Beijing dinner with Oravida boss Deyi Shi.

Mr Key this afternoon said that warning was still in place. He denied she was now on her "last last" chance.

"What she's on is on her last chance after what happened last time. But at the end of the day she's also subjected to a left-wing smear campaign. And people will actually see that as well for what it is."

Other than the unwise move of sharing private information, Mr Key generally trusted Ms Collins' judgement, he said.

Finance Minister Bill English this morning moved to distance himself from Slater's attack on Mr Pleasants which was launched in revenge for Labour targeting Mr English's use of a taxpayer-funded accommodation allowance.

Hager's book claims Ms Collins held the "unfounded" suspicion that former Labour Party employee Mr Pleasants, who worked in the ministerial property department, was responsible for leaking details of Mr English's accommodation payments to Labour back in 2009.

After receiving Mr Pleasants' details from Ms Collins, Slater launched an online attack on the public servant, prompting a torrent of abuse and death rates from the blog's readers.

English: 'I wasn't after revenge'


Finance Minister Bill English. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Mr English's appearance at this morning's Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update at Treasury was temporarily diverted into a series of questions about the incident.

"I don't know what went on with all that", Mr English told reporters.

"All I know is there was issues that came up that I was involved with which were dealt with five years ago. Whatever else other people were doing well that's entirely their business.

"I wasn't after revenge, I straightened out a situation that wasn't appropriate and dealt with it."

He said Slater's actions were part of "a style of politics that go with this blogger".

"It's not a style that I like and I don't participate in it. I wouldn't do it, I wasn't involved in any of it it's not my style of politics, it's certainly not John Key's style.

"I certainly wouldn't condone an attack by a blogger on public servant doing their job."

Cunliffe: Differences 'becoming apparent'


Labour Leader David Cunliffe. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Speaking to reporters at the same event as Mr Key this afternoon, Labour Leader David Cunliffe said differences among senior National Government figures about how to handle the fallout from Hager's book were "becoming apparent".

Asked about Mr English's comments he said:

"That's a matter now for the Prime Minister because it would appear that there's a strong difference of view at the most senior levels of the National Party".

Mr Cunliffe said Ms Collins would eventually "have to front up" and answer allegations surrounding her involvement with Slater.

He said it was up to New Zealanders to decide whether the fallout from the book would stain Mr Key's image.

"I think they can see a clear difference between the kind of systematic activity that Mr Key and his office and supporters have been involved in and the positive policies that Labour is putting before the country to get unemployment down to 4 per cent, to get wages up, to get our healthcare more affordable and to get a warm dry roof over everyone's head."

Read more:
Calls for Collins to resign over Dirty Politics row
English: Alleged revenge attack 'not my style'
Why the Whaledump hacker came forward
'Teapot Tapes' cop to look at Slater complaint

Labour MP Grant Robertson said the latest revelations about Ms Collins passing Mr Pleasants' phone numbers to Slater were "abhorrent".

"John Key and Judith Collins have claimed she only released publicly available information. What we now know is she released Mr Pleasants' job title and phone contact details. This is outrageous behaviour from a minister.

"John Key must sack her right now."

- APNZ

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