Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Collins' cronyism - not just Oravida, remember

(Content warning: not obviously feminist ;-)  )

There has been some excellent blogging about the recent Oravida scandal in which senior Cabinet Minister Judith Collins is currently embroiled.  She's taking some leave to get disentangled, if not in fact then by the passage of time, and I thought it might be timely to reflect on some not so recent incidents.  There is a strong theme of Collins not understanding, or not caring, about conflicts of interest, and/or correct process.

Arranging for Dr Wayne Mapp to be appointed to the Law Commission in 2012 - some people may recall Mapp was a National MP (Shadow Minister of Eradication of Political Correctness under Brash iirc?).  He was also a law lecturer prior to entering Parliament, and was not well served by Collins' interference.

Overruling independent selection panel to appoint close friend of her husband to Director of Human Rights Proceedings, 2013 - a position that must be independent and seen to be independent from the government of the day as they are often taking cases against the government.

Dodgy "celebrity" appointment of Dame Susan Devoy as the new Race Relations Commissioner, 2013 - many people questioned whether Devoy was a good fit for this role and with some digging it became clear that Collins had skewed the process in her favour.

Very dodgy appointment of Dr Jackie Blue as the new EEO Commissioner, 2013 - which was a shame because Blue was a strong candidate and is now, from reports I hear and my own observations, doing a good job, but will now always be tainted by this.

Then we come to this year and the Oravida Justice trip to China - this is still very much alive.  This started with concerns that Collins had effectively endorsed Oravida's products and business, but has since evolved significantly.  For me the biggest problem with all this so far has been Key's statements to the House that it was a Justice focused trip and the Oravida bits were add-ons, when, as Rob Salmond has shown at Polity, actually Collins had Justice-related appointments to be cancelled to do Oravida bits.

Collins fundamentally does not seem to understand, and does not want to understand, that the role of Minister comes with some hefty rules and expectations around not interfering in a way that favours your mates.  I come across it all the time in local government - people ask me about this job or that contract and you have to be Very Very Careful, maintain a distance, declare interests pro-actively, and sometimes rudely interrupt people to say "I CANNOT talk about this with you."

Remember Collins has not apologised or accepted that she did anything wrong with any of the instances above.  Which means she is very likely to do it again.


Agnes said...

What I find interesting is the extra scrutiny Collins has come under due to being a woman. I find myself wondering if a man who had done the same thing would be so cruelly treated and dismissed by the media. Not likely - much more likely the old boy's club would kick in and a male politician would get a slap on the wrist, a private "She'll be right mate" and we would all be encouraged to forget about it. But when a female politician makes a mistake, she's thrown to the media sharks.

Anonymous said...

Agness... Collins is not facing extra scrutiny because she is a woman. She is facing the scrutiny because of her actions, as listed in the above post. Also she becomes a target, because in the past she has been more than happy to "dished it out". Unfortunately but she cant take it, when the dirt comes flying back at her. Maurice Williamson was sacked for arguably a lesser offence, and hes is a man!

ChundaMars said...

I was coming to say the same as Sarah, but she more or less summed it up. Key seems to be doing the opposite of "throwing her to the media sharks"...

Vincent Tuisamoa said...

The term of INDEPENDENT so how gets loss the HIGHER you become in your MIND / SOCIAL STRUCTURE in society ladder. With this we on the lower rung of the ladder perceive independent means want the dictionary meaning is. So maybe some one should buy her a dictionary NAH wait she can buy from the money she made for her HUSBAND on that dinner that she went to

Agnes said...

Sarah, Chunda, sexism is a very real and potent thing in the media today. Do your eally think Collins is somehow immune to it?

ChundaMars said...

I agree wholeheartedly that sexism exists in the media Agnes, and certainly Collins would not be "immune" to it.
In this case, however, I see no clear evidence that Collins is under "extra scrutiny as a woman". As Sarah points out, just last week one of her male colleagues feel on his sword for a lesser (in my opinion at least) offence.

Agnes said...

Do you not think the assumption that Collins is a simple appendage of her husband's, and that his business interests are hers? I can't remember the last time a male politician was assumed to be subordinate to his wife in business matters, can you?

If you believe sexism exists but it is not manifest against Collins, I frankly wonder why you think NZ's sexists, of whom there are so many, have spontaneously decided as a group to give her a 'month off'.

Collins is a fully formed person with her own interests, opinions and agendas. The fact that she is being assumed to just be a puppet of her husband's is obviously sexism.

That is to say nothing of the patronising and horrific tone of so much male-written media commentary on this case.

If you don't believe me check this out:

Notice how Williamson has a 'downfall' (a relatively neutral and non-emotive term) but Collins has a 'meltdown' (e.g, an emotional collapse, of the sort the patriarchy believes all women are prone to). Rob Hosking talks about 'blonde ambition' - because of course the most relevant thing is Collins' hair colour!

If this isn't sexism, then what is?

Anonymous said...

Judith Collins had a "meltdown" after reporters "dared" to question her version of events. The media are doing their job and holding cabinet ministers to account for their actions. This is something we do in democratic countries. I hardly call that sexist. I'd also add that her husbands business interests are also her own interests, no doubt both husband & wife will benefit financially from the involvement with Orivida.

Rebecca said...

I have to agree, Agnes, that politicians who are women end up facing the public through a media lens that is sexist, whether they have done something fantastic or appalling. Judith Collins is as much a victim of this as Clark was. It's important that people with political power are held to account, and it's important to notice the different ways we hold different people to account. I hadn't thought about this situation in that way and I appreciate the reflection.