Judith Collins' biggest controversies: Troublesome tweets, resignations and Dirty Politics

Judith Collins is the new leader of National after the party accepted Todd Muller's resignation and backed her to take over on Tuesday.

It's been a tumultuous road to the helm for Collins, a role she's put herself forward for twice before - one fraught with resignations, troublesome tweets and Dirty Politics.

But she's arrived now, and believes there are no skeletons left in the closet.

"If anyone's gone through having all their emails gone through, all their phone records and everything else for years… I think we're perfectly fine," she told Magic Talk on Wednesday.

"If someone wants to try something, fine. I'm ready for them. I'm focused on the people of New Zealand, I'm not worrying about the sort of muckrakers we've dealt with in the past."

Need a reminder of what Collins has dished up in the past? Below are the biggest controversies of her political career.

Oravida 'conflict of interest'

Judith Collins was accused in 2014 of a conflict of interest with Oravida bosses - a company where her husband was a director - and a Chinese official.

During a taxpayer-funded visit to China in her role as Justice Minister in 2013, Collins was welcomed into the New Zealand export company and endorsed the milk it produced.

Prime Minister John Key criticised the visit, causing Collins to apologise. However she said the Chinese official - who she refused to name - was a "very close personal friend".

Judith Collins had dinner with a Chinese border official and bosses of Oravida on a taxpayer-funded trip to China.
Judith Collins had dinner with a Chinese border official and bosses of Oravida on a taxpayer-funded trip to China.

She also claimed it was "not necessarily true" that her husband would benefit financially from the company doing well, as he wasn't a shareholder.

Key told media Collins was on her final warning over the incident - but she maintained she had Key's permission to meet with the company.

The Dirty Politics scandal

Also in 2014, Collins found herself embroiled in the scandal sparked by Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics - an explosive book that had an entire chapter devoted to her alleged unscrupulous tactics.

The book makes a variety of claims, including that she helped get an inmate moved as a favour to right-wing blogger Cameron Slater, and that she passed on private information to him about public servant Simon Pleasants.

Slater then used the information in an attack post on his blog, which drew death threats against Pleasants, an Internal Affairs staffer.

The book also alleged that Collins gave confidential details to Slater about the Bronwyn Pullar ACC leak.

Allegations about Collins in Hager's book ranged from leaks of confidential Government information to smear campaigns.

Collins resigns over Serious Fraud Office 'distraction'

To top off a disastrous year, Collins resigned in 2014 following the release of a 2011 email in which Cameron Slater insinuated Collins was out to get another public servant.

In this, the email said, Collins was "gunning for" Adam Feeley - the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), an agency she was the appointed minister for.

Judith Collins smiles after the Chisholm report clears her of wrongdoing.
Judith Collins smiles after the Chisholm report clears her of wrongdoing. Photo credit: Newshub.

Collins denied any wrongdoing, but stood down as an MP because she believed her presence in Parliament was distracting from National's 2014 election campaign.

She requested an inquiry into the matter so she could clear her name, and in November that year the Chisholm report cleared of the allegations.

Collins was reinstated to Prime Minister John Key's Cabinet and the portfolios of Corrections and Police in December 2015.

Collins dubs Ardern 'My Little Pony'

'Crusher' Collins has a reputation as someone who speaks her mind - but that can, on occasion, go too far.

Before she became Prime Minister, Hager's Dirty Politics revealed Collins had referred to Ardern as 'My Little Pony' in emails with Slater.

Ardern laughed off the insult in an interview with Stuff in 2015, and in 2017 responded with humour to an anonymous correspondent who sent her a letter reading: "Who would vote for a woman who has a mouth like a horse (or donkey)?"

Judith Collins called Jacinda Ardern 'My Little Pony' in private emails, Dirty Politics claimed.
Judith Collins called Jacinda Ardern 'My Little Pony' in private emails, Dirty Politics claimed. Photo credit: Newshub.

A history of troublesome tweets

Collins is no stranger to the odd controversial comment on social media.

'I am a woman of colour'

In November 2019, Collins described herself as a "woman of colour" in a now-deleted tweet in response to a Bill introduced to Parliament to ban female genital mutilation.

"MPs band together for female genital mutilation ban," she wrote. "I am a woman of colour - the colour white - and I fully support a ban on this mutilation inflicted on women."

Collins later apologised, revealing a staffer had convinced her it was insulting and should be taken down.

"I wasn't trying to offend anybody," she told The AM Show. "I was trying to be empathetic and you know, even I - just occasionally - can make an error. Only very, very occasionally."

Collins has repeatedly asked if there's "something wrong with being white" in response to questions about ethnic representation in the National Party. Her comments about race were passionately criticised in Parliament by Māori Labour MP Peeni Henare earlier this year.

'Hugely disappointing' tweet about Labour's gay MPs

It wasn't Collins' first questionable act on social media.

In June 2018, she 'liked' a tweet that likened Labour to "a virus" and described the party as the home of "academics, gays and greens".

Rainbow Youth executive director Frances Arns said Collins' online support of the message was "really sad".

"The suggestion that queer people are a parasite on our society is hugely disappointing," she said.

Collins said she couldn't see the offence in it. When asked whether she believed the tweet inferred gay people are not decent and hardworking, she said it wasn't her interpretation.

'Fake news' tweet to Jacinda Ardern

Less than two months after liking the 'Labour gays' tweet, Collins misfired again on Twitter - sharing an article on a known fake news website to take aim at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

She had challenged Ardern to denounce French child abuse laws, tweeting the article to hammer home her point - but the article was from a website famous for fake news and conspiracy theories, home to claims Katy Perry is a cannibal and Justin Bieber a shapeshifter.

"I'm not worried about people saying it's not a legitimate website when it clearly is a website - but is the story legitimate or not?" Ms Collins said. "It seems that the story is legitimate."

That's despite the article claiming France's child rape laws are a campaign by liberal activists to legitimise paedophilia around the world.

'I'm not personally' contributing to climate change

Asked in July 2019 if climate change was caused by humans, Collins said she didn't know.

"I presume it is. I'm personally not adding to it - I only had one [child]," she told host AM Show host Ryan Bridge.

The comment came after the Government proposed a scheme lowering the cost of electric and fuel-efficient vehicles.

Collins said she's "sick of everyone having to feel virtuous".

When asked if she believed scientists who say climate change is driven by human activity, Collins said "some of it" would be.

"Clearly not volcanoes. Volcanoes clearly do help towards climate change, affect climate change, but they are definitely not manmade."

Volcanoes emit less than 1 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions released by humans, according to scientists.

Last year Collins also penned an impassioned Facebook post about her stance on global warming, which was questioned by experts in the field.