Sir Bob Jones

Commentary on issues of the day from the property tycoon, author and former politician

Bob Jones: Collins' arrogance in Bain case unprecedented

Judith Collins. Photo / NZPA
Judith Collins. Photo / NZPA

Age and experience have a moderating effect and teach one never to rush to judgment on issues without the full facts.

It's certainly the case with me, which may surprise readers. But analysis of my columns will show that while I may use colourful or comic comment if a strong view is expressed, it's invariably supported by the facts.

My life-long interest in politics dates back to the 1949 election and the shock as a small boy of seeing tears in my father's eyes following the defeat of the Labour government. I recall every subsequent election and have known nearly all of our prime ministers, commented in hundreds of articles and books on our politics and participated in the process.

So with that background and the moderation rider I mentioned, I have no hesitation in saying there has never been a more disgraceful political action in the post-war years than the behaviour of the Justice Minister Judith Collins over the Bain compensation matter. Its breath-taking arrogance is without precedence.

She has effectively said she disagrees with a jury's findings after an exhaustive three-month trial, disagrees with the widely regarded greatest law lord of the past half century and his Privy Council, and disagrees with Canada's (former) top judicial figure after his three-month investigation. All of this after John Key and his Cabinet signed off on then Justice Minister Simon Power's proposal to seek a determination from Justice Binnie and achieve a once-and-for-all finality.

The minister's role is to uphold justice, not dispense or twist it which is the effect of her intervention and disgraceful bias in showing the Binnie report to the prosecution but not the other side. Her banana republic behaviour has brought disgrace on her office. Given this precedent we could save $1 billion-plus annually by the police simply submitting a weekly list of their intended criminal prosecutions for the minister to tick either a guilty or not guilty box, an exercise one suspects would involve her in about two minutes.

When the highly respected Justice Binnie referred to her as a former tax lawyer, he was not jeering. Rather he was pointing out that as with 99 per cent of lawyers who enter politics, her legal background was as a solicitor and not a barrister. No barrister would act as she has done.

There's an interesting parallel to this situation, namely the Thomas case. While probably 99 per cent of the public now accept that Arthur Thomas was the victim of a horrible miscarriage of justice, that wasn't always so. When concern over Thomas led to then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon reopening the matter, then Justice Minister Jim McLay was that rare animal in politics, namely a former barrister. At the time Jim, like numerous other folk, was in the "Thomas did it" camp but his barrister's respect for due process had him unhesitatingly backing Thomas' acquittal and compensation.

He knew better than to pass judgment based on newspaper reports. Jim's view was simply his "feeling" but he also had no doubt that the case against Thomas was pathetic in its absence of evidence. Indeed, when the matter was raging, leading up to Christmas, Jim and I agreed that over the holidays we would each write an essay outlining why it was respectively the other, that is him or me, who murdered the Crewes, believing that using our imaginations, we could make a better case against each other than the police had managed against Thomas.

These essays were to be published in a small booklet. Believe it or not it was me who put an end to this lark on the grounds that it was unbecoming for a Justice Minister to indulge in such antics while the issue was still unresolved.

This appalling Bain situation is a matter for the Prime Minister's intervention by way of a Cabinet reshuffle, which often occurs following the Christmas break.

Judith Collins is temperamentally unsuited for the Justice Ministry. I suggest he gives her the troubled education portfolio to "clean up". Now that would be fun. Her justice ministerial replacement could then quickly accept the Binnie report, get on with the overdue compensation and finally put the incredibly costly Bain case behind us.

Coincidentally, the minister and I share an interest, namely I manage her nephew, the promising young boxer Joseph Parker. If she doubts my moderation then I would remind her of my comments a week ago when she asked me about his prospects. I expressed concern at the media attention Joseph is attracting, building up expectations that are yet to be proven.

Both aunt and nephew have high personal ambitions with the media talking up Joseph as a future champion and Judith as a future Prime Minister. So far Joseph hasn't faltered but sadly that cannot be said of his aunt, whose conduct in the Bain matter suggests inadequacy for the top job.

•This is the last Jones column for 2012. He will be returning in the new year.

- NZ Herald

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