Judith Collins aims dig at author Nicky Hager while defending old Dirty Politics accusations

New National Party leader Judith Collins has defended her rocky past - including her being the focus of investigative journalist Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics book - as a mis-read of her sense of humour.

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The new National leader spoke about having been the focus of Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics book six years ago. Source: Breakfast

She told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning she was "thrilled" to be the party's leader after her third attempt at the position.

National MPs held an emergency caucus meeting last night after Todd Muller's shock resignation just 53 days after he rolled Simon Bridges for the role.

Ms Collins said her focus moving forward will be rebuilding the economy and creating jobs for Kiwis, particularly in infrastructure.

Last month, though, in discussing her new autobiography, Ms Collins told TVNZ1’s Q+A  she felt “very disappointed in [then-PM Sir John Key]” in the lead up to the 2014 General Election.

It was alleged at the time she was involved in a smear campaign against former Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley after an email emerged which appeared to show a link to her. 

Ms Collins was later cleared of wrongdoing after an inquiry into Dirty Politics allegations.

The saga at the time cost Ms Collins, who was a popular figure in the National Party at the time, her ministerial positions and her “Honourable” title. The title has since been restored.

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The Justice Minister reacts to allegations in Hager’s Dirty Politics book Source: Breakfast

However, this morning, TVNZ1's Breakfast host John Campbell revisted Ms Collins' correspondence with controversial right wing blogger Cameron Slater, which was revealed in Dirty Politics.

Ms Collins said in emails to Mr Slater, "if you can't be loved then best to be feared".

"Is that who you are, someone to be afraid of?" Campbell asked.

"I think, John, that most people who know me very well would know that I have sense of humour. Sometimes that humour works, sometimes it doesn't," Ms Collins responded.

"People make all sorts of comments when they're talking to people in a private capacity that they don't expect someone's going to go and steal emails then go and use them against them.

"My style is very collaborative. You can ask around Parliament - there are people who I've worked with for years."

However, in Mr Hager's book Campbell recited that what Ms Collins and Mr Slater shared most "were dislike and enmities". 

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The Dirty Politics author said it looked to him like an organised campaign by National to find dirt on Labour. Source: Breakfast

"Their hostility towards many people in the National Party was at least as strong as their dislike for their political opponents."

Campbell also raised that this was Ms Collins' third attempt at leadership, with her first time only getting a handful of votes. He asked if she felt she was liked within the party.

"Most people who put hands up for these positions actually lose the first time or so. And the thing is, if you read my book - a far better read than Dirty Politics, it's called Pull No Punches, and by the way is a bestseller in New Zealand unlike Dirty Politics - I think it's really important people say, 'Well, why would you stop people putting their hand up for something just because they might lose?," Ms Collins said.

"The fact is you'd never get anything done. I know, for instance, that this job I've got now, it's a tough job but we can do it."

In another dig at Hager's book, Ms Collins also said her book was "much more positive" and "actually true".

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Nicky Hager’s latest book ‘Dirty politics’ has prompted a series of official complaints. Source: 1 NEWS