2 Jun 2021

Nick Smith resignation: Judith Collins says she became aware of inquiry last year

9:09 am on 2 June 2021

National Party leader Judith Collins has not confirmed nor denied reports that she had warned outgoing MP Nick Smith, or her caucus, of an upcoming article on an inquiry into a "verbal altercation" he had.

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National Party leader Judith Collins says MP Nick Smith had already indicated to her last year he would be leaving at some stage. Photo: Dom Thomas

Collins told Morning Report she found out he was stepping down on Monday afternoon - the same day the news broke.

Smith had said he was advised on Friday that the inquiry and its details were leaked to media and were due to be released the next day.

Collins said Smith had had previous conversations with her about him stepping down.

"He had spoken to me last year and said that he didn't think he was going to see out the whole of the term. He certainly was not happy being a list MP, having been 'Nick4Nelson' for 30 years and losing a seat at the election.

"He indicated to me then that he would be going at some stage, and I didn't realise that it would be on Monday."

A Politik article claimed she told Smith last Friday the story would be published this Tuesday in relation to his incident, and also claimed she warned her caucus early last month that media were about to break a scandal involving one of the party's MPs.

In response, Collins said it would not be fair to not let MPs know of any adverse stories in relation to them beforehand, but did not specify what, if anything, she had told her caucus or Smith.

"Whenever I hear of any stories that may be adverse to any of our MPs, I will always let them know. And I'll let them know because I will not allow MPs to go stumbling into a situation where they have no warning."

She said any discussions with her caucus were confidential.

"I'm not someone who is going to advise media or leak things to media from caucus and I think it's very important that I don't.

"Any discussions that I had with Nick Smith, other than what I've already said, are entirely between Nick and me and I will not go down that track."

She said she became aware of the investigation into his altercation somewhere around the end of last year.

"Parliamentary Services has not seen fit to brief me on it or any draft report, which I understand Nick has got. But it's a matter that Parliamentary Services has taken up as the employer."

Other National MPs have denied knowledge of the inquiry or incident prior to the news, with just chief whip Matt Doocey saying he did know beforehand.

Collins said she would not discuss private conversations she has had with Smith.

"I can say very clearly is that Nick has made it clear to me that he wants to go on his own terms, and in terms of if there's any suggestions on that, I'm very happy to say that Nick has been a very good MP for 30 years and I support his decision."