Audrey Young 's Opinion

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Collins carries an obstacle of her own making

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Such is the impact of her style that she is now a contender for next National Party leader which, if National loses the next election, will also be next Opposition leader. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Such is the impact of her style that she is now a contender for next National Party leader which, if National loses the next election, will also be next Opposition leader. Photo / Mark Mitchell

When Judith Collins' political history is written, the events of the past week will be an important chapter.

It showed the best and worst of the Minister of Justice.

It was the week in which she confirmed her fearlessness, when she attacked the reputation of an eminent international jurist without a moment's hesitation.

Whether you call it ballsy, gutsy or arrogant, her ability for calculating condemnation is breathtaking.

It is a steeliness that has not been seen since Labour leader Helen Clark, but Clark had more subtlety about her.

Collins has none, in tone or style. (For one of the most important press conferences of her career on Thursday, she wore shocking pink).

Her hardball manner has defined her ministerial career as former Corrections chief Barry Matthews knows when she refused to express confidence in him.

"I have confidence Mr Matthews understands exactly just how seriously I am viewing this issue."

As a budding backbencher in 2003 she nominated German general Field Marshal Rommel as one of her heroes - for his ethics and standing up to Hitler.

Others who know about her style are ACC bosses in the clean-out this year, Opposition MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little whom she sued for defamation, and now retired Judge Ian Binnie, formerly of the Supreme Court of Canada, who she effectively accused of incompetence in his report on David Bain's guilt or innocence.

Such is the impact of her style that she is now a contender for next National Party leader which, if National loses the next election, will also be next Opposition leader (Prime Minister John Key has said he wouldn't stick around to be in Opposition).

The events of the past week have also showed up Collins' biggest weaknesses - her lack of self-doubt.

The unflinching belief in herself is what led her to excoriation of Justice Binnie's report while insisting that the report must remain confidential to her.

At least she realised quickly that such a breach of natural justice was unacceptable and did the only fair thing by releasing the report and the critique of it.

The lack of self-doubt has not got her into serious trouble yet, but it is not the same thing as having confidence in oneself.

It is a dangerous trait when mixed with leadership.

- NZ Herald

Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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