22 Jul 2020

Judith Collins denies playing politics over Iain Lees-Galloway affair revelation

7:06 pm on 22 July 2020

Opposition leader Judith Collins denies playing politics over the affair of sacked Cabinet minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

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National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

He has lost his ministerial portfolios and his political career after admitting to an affair with a former staffer, who was working at one of his agencies at the time.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says he opened himself up to accusations of improperly using his position, and lacked the judgement expected of a minister.

This incident was related to his portfolio of Workplace Safety and Relations, but Lees-Galloway also held ACC and Immigration, all of which have been transferred to other ministers.

Yesterday afternoon, Collins passed an allegation to Ardern's office, then spoke about it during media interviews this morning.

The affair lasted about a year and Ardern said she understood it ended several months ago.

In the end, she decided Lees-Galloway had shown a complete lack of judgement, and had lost her confidence.

"In undertaking this relationship, he has opened himself up to accusations of improperly using his office," she said.

"He has not modelled the behaviour I expect as a minister that is in charge of setting a standard and culture in work places."

The person who came forward was a third party and not the woman involved in the relationship. Ardern said that woman was unaware it was being made public.

"It was very clear to me that this was being done without their knowledge."

Ardern was asked for her view on how Collins had handled the information.

"I received information, I passed it on to the leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Opposition has received information and has obviously chosen to deal with that differently.

"That is her judgement, I made mine - she's made hers."

Collins denies any dirty politics, saying the limited information she had was handed over in good faith an hour after she received it.

"I refused to receive any detail from the informant, I asked them to send it directly to the prime minister's chief of staff".

Not only did she take the initial allegation to Ardern, but she spoke about it in media interviews this morning.

She said she was not playing politics, but was not going to try to dodge a straight question.

"I wasn't going to obfuscate", Collins told reporters, "that would have simply been a headline and I had nothing to hide".

Based on media reports, Lees-Galloway's behaviour "sounds to me as though it's an imbalance of power and abuse of office", she said.

"Those are different things from a consensual affair between adults."

Collins had written to Ardern calling for them both to take a stand; "that we should together take a lead on this and we should sit down and work out what we believe are MPs and also staff should have a safe working environment - how we can bring that about.

"You know Parliament and these precincts are not always a safe working place and it's not okay and I believe that she and I have an opportunity to fix it."

With the election looming, she said it was time to get back to talking about "the things that matter to New Zealanders".

"Most New Zealanders don't know who Andrew Falloon is and hopefully will soon forget."

Ardern has asked Ministerial Services to investigate and make sure no taxpayer money was used inappropriately in the course of the relationship.

Carmel Sepuloni will become the Minister for ACC, Andrew Little will pick up the Workplace Relations and Safety portfolio, and Kris Faafoi Immigration.

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