Prime Minister issues Judith Collins with last, definitively final, absolutely penultimate warning

Key insists that this is Collins’ “very last” penultimate warning.

Key insists that this is Collins’ “very last” penultimate warning.

Prime Minister John Key cancelled a campaign event in Wellington early this afternoon in order to publicly issue Justice Minister Judith Collins with a “definitively final penultimate warning” over her professional behaviour.

Collins – who was previously given a final warning over her questionable relationship with exporting company Oravida, and a final final warning after she leaked details about a public servant to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater – is being accused today of abusing her position as Minister of the Serious Fraud Office back in 2011.

An email has emerged today that shows Cameron Slater, at that time, assuring several contacts of his that Collins is “gunning for” then-Serious Fraud Office director Adam Feeley, and would be trawling for information with which to discredit him.

At a hastily-arranged press conference this afternoon, Key addressed the email, saying it raised some “very serious” questions, and acknowledged that a final final warning was “certainly not enough” in this case.

“Look, as I’ve said about a lot of the allegations that have been made recently, they have, by and large, been the product of what I’ve called a left wing smear campaign,” he said. “This, though, is, you know, a completely different matter, and I think that’s quite clear, and frankly, I think the right thing for her to do is to resign.

“Which is why I have issued her with a very last, final, entirely penultimate warning.”

Key assured media that Collins would not be allowed to remain a Minister “if she does anything remotely like this again, after having done it one or two more times before that but after now.”

“I think she accepts and is very mindful of what that means,” he added.

Reaction to the warning by opposition MPs has been swift, with Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei pointing out that was “unprecedented” for a senior minister to be issued with a last final penultimate warning this close to an election.

“But it maybe shouldn’t have been this close to the election,” she told 3 News Political Editor Patrick Gower. “In fact, I don’t think there’s any question that Judith Collins should have been issued with this third and almost final final warning months ago.”

But at a separate press conference just one hour after Key’s, Collins was defiant, insisting she would challenge the warning and seek to clear her name.

“Obviously, for the moment, I accept the warning that the Prime Minister has given to me,” she said. “But of course I will seek to clear my name and have it reversed. It is simply not tenable for me, as a minister, to expect to be able to continue in this capacity with only two, maybe three or four – possibly six – chances left.

“I think, as you all know, in order to do my job, I am going to need substantially more than that.”