15 Sep 2021

Judith Collins stands by calling microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles a hypocrite

10:48 am on 15 September 2021

National Party leader Judith Collins has doubled down on calling microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles a 'big fat hypocrite'.

National leader Judith Collins during her press conference at Parliament.

National leader Judith Collins during her press conference at Parliament. Photo: NZME / Mark Mitchell / Pool

Wiles, who was named New Zealander of the Year for her work advising the NZ public on Covid-19, was seen at a beach with a friend, who is part of her bubble, and not wearing a mask.

Dr Wiles was filmed at Judges Bay in Parnell, about 5km from her Freemans Bay home in Auckland. The incident was reported a website run by Cameron Slater, known for his now defunct Whaleoil blog.

The friend went for a swim, which is against current alert level 4 restrictions.

Wiles said on Twitter after the incident she admitted she could have stopped her friend, but did not in the moment.

"Yes, she broke the rules. To be fair, she wasn't in any danger. But that's not the point. She broke the rules and she shouldn't have done. I should have stopped her. But she's a grown woman and I'm not her mum," Wiles wrote on Twitter.

Wiles said at the time the story became public she was "gutted" her actions fed into a political story about the Covid-19 response.

Collins told Morning Report she believed "thought leaders" directing the Covid-19 response should follow the rules not just to the letter, but in the spirit of them. She said calling Wiles a big, fat hypocrite was simply a phrase similar to the widely-used phrase 'fat, big liar'.

"I believe that she was very hypocritical, certainly appears it, and I've seen no evidence that she wasn't," she said.

"It's really important that we have our thought leaders on Covid, who are actually seen to be doing what the rules are."

"There is a saying that we use in New Zealand, just like, you know 'big fat liar'... It is important that our thought leaders in Covid who are telling us how to behave in Covid do so themselves."

Collins said she did not want to see complacency creep in around Auckland.

"We don't want to see the sort of complacency come in, that we saw before Delta came, became such an issue for us," she said.

"And I think also the complacency we're seeing in places like Sydney, where people are just going off the beach, spending time together and saying, 'look, I can't be bothered now'."

She said she did not share Act leader David Seymour's position that the government's elimination strategy should not be scrapped.

"Until we get vaccination rates up to a reasonable level then it's a bit too early to take about that and the reason I say it's a bit too early is that we all know that Covid-19 in various forms... they are going to keep coming here as soon as we let people into the country and that's the way it's going to be."

The National leader said it was correct for the government look at the possibility of bringing the school holidays forward in Auckland the extending the next term to address concerns students' education was suffering during lockdown.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is currently seeking advice from his Ministry on the matter, although principals and teaching leaders have expressed reservations over the possible move.

"I think the government has been talking to schools about that and the unions," Collins said.

"It is really important because we've got kids that have been home in Auckland coming up to three weeks... I think we should be looking at it, if it's possible. Is it feasible or too late because they haven't planned for it."

Collins said it was also right the Law Society look at the case of the Auckland couple who apologised for breaking lockdown rules by flying to a holiday home in Wanaka.

Twenty-six-year-old laywer Hannah Rawnsley fled alert level 4 with her partner William Willis using essential worker exemptions to go to Hamilton, from where they took a commercial flight to Central Otago.

"I think the Law Society will have a look at it," Collins said.

"People are concerned at no misuse of these exemptions are seen to be taken. I feel very sorry for the families of the couple because they've got a backlash too and ultimately people are really grumpy in my electorate when they've got lockdown, small houses, big families."