When Judith Collins resigned on Saturday, she asked the Prime Minister to hold an inquiry so she could clear her name.
The new Inquiries Act 2013 means that such an inquiry will essentially have the same powers as a Royal Commission of inquiry, whether it is called one or not.
The new act means we cannot have a repeat of the problems Dr Noel Ingram, QC, had in investigating allegations of corruption and bribery by Taito Phillip Field under a non-statutory ministerial inquiry.
The lack of statutory powers to compel meant that a number of witnesses had declined to be interviewed.
Under the new Inquiries Act, which has only been used once before for the inquiry into Fonterra's whey protein concentrate contamination incident, all inquiries are now public inquiries (including Royal Commissions) or government inquiries and all inquiries have the same compulsion powers.
These powers include compelling people to be witnesses, forcing people to give evidence under oath, and being able to order the presentation of documents.
The Public Law Toolbox during the election period
During the official election period (August 20 to September 19, 2014 as defined by the Broadcasting Act 1989), the public law toolbox of constitutional watchdogs, complaints bodies and the courts become crucial referees of the contest.
First, they preserve trust in the electoral process. As Baroness Onora O'Neill said in her 2002 Reith lecture on trust and transparency, despite "high enthusiasms for ever more complete openness and transparency" - public trust "seemingly has receded as transparency has advanced. Perhaps on reflection we should not be wholly surprised ... [T]he very technologies that spread information so easily and efficiently are every bit as good at spreading misinformation and disinformation. Some sorts of openness and transparency may be bad for trust."
Her solution: "If we want to restore trust we need to reduce deception and lies rather than secrecy. Some sorts of secrecy indeed support deception, others do not. Transparency and openness may not be the unconditional goods that they are fashionably supposed to be. By the same token, secrecy and lack of transparency may not be the enemies of trust."
In The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, Drew Westen writes that despite people being encouraged to vote on policy, research shows they vote with their hearts rather than their heads. Emotion drives the decision-making process.
Thus, voters faced with a myriad claims and counterclaims about which parties and politicians can and can't be trusted need help from independent bodies to determine the truth and who to trust. The upside for those impugned is that such watchdogs may also be the best way to be cleared of any allegations, if those accused have done nothing wrong.
The reason why the courts in particular become important during the election period is that the time limits are absolute - it ends when we vote, and there are very prescriptive rules to ensure no one can buy the election and to ensure transparency and accountability.
That is why political parties, candidates and even the police bring cases to court to challenge issues that can have an influence on the outcome of elections, and with the stakes so high, it is inevitable that the election will be scrutinised by the courts, as well as voters.
But life goes on: Wednesday saw the release of a Supreme Court decision in Ridgecrest NZ Ltd v IAG that all homeowners need to be aware of.
The owner of a Christchurch building, insured by IAG, was damaged by earthquakes on four separate occasions between September 2010 and February 2011. On either the third or fourth occasion, the building was damaged beyond repair.
The insurance policy had a fixed sum assured of just under $2 million - considerably less than the replacement value of the building. The policy provided that claims could be made up to the value of that fixed sum for each separate event on which damage occurred.
However, IAG argued that because the owners had not begun repair work by the time the building was damaged beyond repair, there should be no separate compensation for the earlier damage; the damage caused by the earlier earthquakes was "subsumed" within the damage caused by the later earthquakes.
The Supreme Court disagreed.
Although the policy was subject to an indemnity principle - regardless of any cap on the sum assured, the total amount payable could not exceed the replacement cost of the building, it found that within that overall limit, the homeowner could recover up to the value of the sum assured for each separate earthquake event.
The real lesson for most homeowners from this case is to check that their policies have an overall sum assured which is equal to or greater than the replacement value of the property.
The likelihood is that insurers will try to change the wording of their policies to limit their liability when and if such circumstances happen again in the future. The alternative is that premiums will rise to reflect the increased risk.