National leader Judith Collins has thanked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for how her office handled receiving information about ex-National MP Andrew Falloon sending inappropriate images.
Falloon resigned effectively immediately as Rangitata MP on Tuesday morning after pressure from Collins, as more details emerged about his indiscretions - including Newshub's revelation of a third young women who was sent an image.
Newshub revealed on Monday that the Prime Minister's office was alerted by an individual about Falloon last Wednesday, and it was then passed on to Collins on Friday with the complainant's permission.
Speaking to The AM Show on Tuesday morning, Collins suggested the Prime Minister's office may have been behind details of the allegations against Falloon getting into the hands of the press.
"I have sought assurances from my staff, the very few who were involved in this yesterday, that they have not provided information to the media on a proactive basis, other than to clarify any questions, and I'd hope that the Prime Minister will be able to give that same assurance."
But Collins has now confirmed she does not think it was the Prime Minister's office that passed on the information to the press, and has thanked Ardern for how she handled the situation.
"I do [trust them] and I've been assured they were not involved in it - in breaching in any way the privacy of the complainant, the victim in this matter," Collins told reporters. "I thank the Prime Minister."
The Prime Minister confirmed her office had nothing to do with it.
"We acted with absolute integrity on this matter; received the correspondence, sought permission from the complainant and then passed it rightly on to the people who could deal with it, and that was the National Party," Ardern said.
"That email was received on Wednesday, we sought permission from the complainant and by Friday is was with the leader of the Opposition. By the time permission was received, it was then immediately forward on."
Ardern said the Prime Minister's office was "simply a conduit" for information.
Collins received the information from the Prime Minister's office late on Friday but did not act on it until Monday. She said she wanted to meet with Falloon face-to-face.
"These are very serious issues... I wanted to deal with him directly. I look people in the eye when I make decisions like this. The decision was made, he was gone."
Falloon announced plans to retire from politics after the election in a statement on Monday, explaining that he would not be contesting the upcoming election to focus on his mental health.
"As I noted in my maiden speech three years ago, when I was younger I lost three close friends to suicide. It was an extremely difficult period in my life," he said.
"Unfortunately, recently, another friend took their own life, which has brought back much unresolved grief. I have made a number of mistakes and I apologise to those who have been affected."
Falloon did not disclose at the time what those "mistakes" were.
"Recent events have compounded that situation and reminded me of the need to maintain my own health and wellbeing," Falloon added. "I have again been receiving counselling."
The following day, Falloon resigned from Parliament, effective immediately.
Collins said Falloon is suffering from "very serious" mental health issues and she believes the police will reopen an investigation into his alleged indiscretions now that more information has emerged.
She said Falloon lied to her because he didn't initially come forward with the latest information and she said it's "very obvious" he lied to the police.
"The police have made it clear to me that with the pattern of behaviour that they will be most likely reopening the case. I now need to seek permission from those women who have contacted me for me to be able to pass on that information to police," Collins said.
"I would also say if there are any other women or anybody who has received any of these from Andrew Falloon - these messages and pornographic images - that they should contact the police directly, because it is now a police matter."
Collins said she is concerned about a culture of drugs, alcohol abuse and pornography in some parts of New Zealand society.
"I think there is a culture problem in parts of New Zealand, and certainly within parts of society, around alcohol abuse, drug abuse, pornography, and that sort of behaviour."
Falloon is the 13th National MP to announce they won't stand at the election.
His resignation followed another high-profile scandal involving National MP Hamish Walker, who resigned earlier this month after admitting to leaking confidential COVID-19 patient data to the press, given to him by ex-National Party president Michelle Boag.
Collins said she will not be revisiting Walker's situation.
"I don't think there is any danger with Hamish Walker being there in terms of the public. He has lost his career for a totally appalling lapse of judgement, but I am not revisiting his situation."
Two other senior National MPs - Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams, announced last week they would stand down after the election, just days after Collins became leader.
Collins insisted it had nothing to do with her election as leader.
"We can never guarantee that someone won't have a family situation or a health situation. I have no problem with the resignations of people such as Amy Adams or Nikki Kaye - they're entirely expected in the circumstances."