'Blind panic' led to Judith Collins' resignation - journalist

"Blind panic" may have led to the resignation of Justice Minister Judith Collins over the weekend, according to a journalist who contributed to her demise.

Ms Collins stood down from her ministerial duties on Saturday after the Prime Minister's office was given an email written by blogger Cameron Slater claiming Ms Collins was "gunning for" the head of the Serious Fraud Office, apparently contributing to a smear campaign against him. 

The resignation came as a surprise to journalist Matt Nippert who had been working on a story about Mark Hotchin, the director of failed finance company, Hanover Finance, who allegedly was using Carrick Graham to get right-wing bloggers, Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers, who blogs as "Cactus Kate", to attack the SFO head during its investigation of Hanover.

He says when he sent that story off to print on Friday he had no idea Ms Collins could be implicated.

"It absolutely blindsided me," he told TV ONE's Breakfast.

"People had raised with me earlier in the week - what about the link between Collins and Slater is there anything there?

"I had nothing in my material linking them, I actually dismissed those ideas as conspiracy theories, and well, I was proved far too conservative on Saturday morning."

Mr Nippert had got the material from the same hacker that gave Nicky Hager the correspondence on which he based his Dirty Politics book.

He says concern among those involved as to what he had on them seems to have forced them to into action, when in reality he hadn't seen the email that led to Ms Collins standing down.

"All the players knew what I was writing, I think they suspected I was holding something back, perhaps relating to Collins, and they in a bit of blind panic, perhaps a crisis of conscience, alerted the Beehive to what may have been coming, but it wasn't coming from me."

Blogger Cathy Odgers is understood to have sent the email to John Key's office on Friday. In it, Mr Slater claims "Any information that we can provide her on his (Feeley's) background is appreciated."

Mr Slater's email went on to say, "I have outlined for her (Judith Collins) a coming blog post about the massive staff turnover and she has added that to the review of the State Services Commissioner."

The former Justice Minister told reporters on Saturday that she was resigning her portfolios so she could fight to clear her name.

Mr Key says even if the allegations prove not to be true, it is important he responds to them.

"In my opinion when I got that email on Friday night, (it was) a very serious issue that needs to be resolved. New Zealanders can see that I will act," he told Breakfast.

Mr Key says he has taken some advice on a formal inquiry into the issue and hopes to announce more details tomorrow.

John Key reacts to the latest developments in the fall out over Dirty Politics. Source: Breakfast


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