Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett: Signs are there that the Crusher of old is back

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Judith Collins Photo / Getty Images
Judith Collins Photo / Getty Images

In a world of change there is comfort in knowing some things stay the same. So it was some relief to find Judith Collins, the twice-risen minister, was unaffected by her time in the wilderness.

She was officially back last December, but we only truly knew she was back once Parliament returned - and with it Collins, ready to take on all comers.

With the twinset portfolios of police and corrections, Collins found herself assailed from all sides. There were police pursuit accidents, a high prison population, and news of old investigations into fight clubs at the old Mt Eden Prison years before the recent troubles at the new Mt Eden facility that led to the suspension of private prison manager Serco.

In response to the last, Collins insisted the old state-run Mt Eden Prison was a completely different beast from the new (previously) Serco-run Mt Eden Corrections Facility, so it was wrong to say fight clubs were part of the culture of the place. Oddly, she then insisted fighting happened in every prison, adding it was not acceptable and they would be punished whether in a state-run or Serco-run prison.

She then set about indulging in something that looked suspiciously like narking. Narking is a practice known in both her portfolios. It is a complex science. In prison, narks can get dealt to rather nastily by other prisoners. In the police, narking is encouraged when it is by crims but history has shown rules are more complex when it is the police themselves, because mates don't dob in mates. In politics it's a free-for-all.

So when Labour's Kelvin Davis questioned her about fight clubs at Mt Eden, she retorted by saying he "could actually go to visit someone other than Arthur Taylor". Taylor is a career criminal with a rap sheet of more than 150 charges including drugs, firearms and kidnapping.

At first blush, it did seem Collins had narked on Davis for spending quality time with hardened crims. The next day, when asked how she came by the information, she insisted everyone in the world already knew about it. This was true - the Herald had reported on Davis' visit to Taylor in August last year - but it was also disingenuous, given the Corrections Minister must sign off on any visit Opposition MPs make to prisons. The Green Party accused her of using information obtained as minister to criticise the Opposition.

If further evidence of Collins' reincarnation was needed, it came in her response to questions about police being urged to review their pursuit practices. Collins pooh-poohed any suggestion she would tolerate a softer police chase policy. "I am saying to you and to New Zealand that while I am Minister of Police I am never going to support anything where police just give up the roads to criminals. Under any circumstances. And I would resign rather than do that."

This last bit was pure hyperbolic nonsense, but she repeated it twice just to make sure everybody knew how very passionate she was on this point.

Instead, she had told police to look at inventive ways to stop people fleeing in the first place.

She even appeared to have come up with one of her own.

Which brings us to the third sign Collins was back and still a badass: the car-crushing law that gave her her nickname.

Collins proudly produced statistics showing boy racer offences had halved since she brought in the punishment of crushing the cars of repeat offenders. She was so proud she even hinted she could use it to catch two birds with one stone, by extending it so that the cars of those who flee police also ended up being crushed.

Admittedly, boy racers and police flee-ers are not necessarily distinct sets of people. Possibly she reasoned some of those fleeing police did so to prevent their cars being crushed. What better punishment than to crush their cars anyway? It is a genius idea. Not only is it hard to flee from the police without a car, but police would not have to embark on a chase at all if everybody's cars were crushed. Why not go further and simply make car-crushing the punishment for every infringement? Crusher is back.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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