Judith Collins and Anne Tolley played "hard cop, soft cop" at the law and order session of yesterday's National Party conference.

Collins began the second day by pulling out her Taser, a cherished memento from her three years as Police and Corrections Minister.

"Where's Mr Mallard?" she said, joking about the Labour MP she has filed defamation proceedings against.

She said the police wouldn't let her have a battery charger for the stun gun and seemed quite disappointed.


It's not that Tolley, the new Police and Corrections Minister is particularly soft but next to Collins most of her colleagues would appear so.

She wears her "Crusher Collins" nick-name with as much pride as the former owner of the Nissan Laurel that was crushed this year under her legislation. She shoots Glock pistols. She is the tough face of the National Party and she loves being it.

She took over the Justice portfolio from Simon Power. His liberal streak secured him an affectionate place in the hearts of Opposition MPs.

Collins is a more natural enemy and perhaps a better camouflage to the seriously liberal programmes going on under National to reduce drug and alcohol dependence among prisoners, to improve their skills, and to try to prevent recalcitrant youth becoming blights on society.

"Whatever works," is the maxim of the justice team, led by Collins and including Tolley and Associate Justice Minister Chester Borrows who have set some very ambitious targets to meet by 2017 under the Better Public Services: reducing crime by 15 per cent, violent crime by 20 per cent, youth crime by 5 per cent and reoffending by 25 per cent.

The aim is to find ways to get better results, through better equipment, or ways of working or better programmes.

Tolley told the conference that 65 per cent of sentenced offenders had drug and alcohol problems, 60 per cent were unemployed just before offending and 90 per cent could not read or write.

She said talked about the prisoners in Christchurch who are repairing Housing New Zealand prefabricated homes and gaining skills from plumbers, carpenters, electricians and painter and decorators, how good Fletchers had been.

The prisoners might work on school prefabs next.

You might think employers would be wary about employing ex-prisoners but many had been very supportive. Corrections had held an open day at Springhill prison so employers could go and see the sorts of skills prisoners were picking up.

"A lot of change is happening," she said.

Borrows' is a former policeman and lawyer with a strong liberal streak. Hi speciality in this Government is youth crime. He talked tot he conference about the Limited Youth Service Volunteer Scheme that 3000 youth had gone through and said that 75 per cent that had been unemployed before they did the scheme were now employed.

The modernisation of courts would save time and money he said, including making lawyers run simple procedural appearances from behind their desks on Skype rather than charging clients for taking several hours for court appearances.

Tolley spent Friday night with the police in Auckland, first in its booze bus and then with a unit that responded to a serious crash in Papakura. As soon as the officers had registered the car registration into their system via their smart phones, they were able to see that it had been involved in a less serious crash earlier in the evening when the occupants had come out of a pub.

They were saving thousands of hours of police time.

In a first, any savings made across the sector can be ploughed back into any of the agencies that the ministers agree would benefit most.

As Collins said: "We're happy to look at anything if it's going to reduce crime."