NZ election 2020: Andrew Falloon to resign from Parliament immediately after pressure from Collins

Andrew Falloon has informed Judith Collins that he will step down from Parliament immediately.

It comes after the National Party leader piled the pressure on the embattled electorate MP to leave now - not at the election.

Falloon, the Rangitata National MP, announced on Monday he would step down from Parliament at the election after making a "number of mistakes". In a statement, Falloon said the recent suicide of a friend brought back "unresolved grief" for him after previously losing three other friends to suicide. Collins said he was dealing with "significant mental health issues".

It is understood he allegedly sent an inappropriate image to a young woman. Police investigated "after receiving a report of an individual sending an unsolicited image [and] the investigation determined it did not meet the threshold for prosecution".

There have been reports that Falloon claims he left his phone alone at a party and acquaintances used it to send the inappropriate image. This was "clearly a lie", Collins told NZME on Tuesday morning.

The National leader told The AM Show she had taken Falloon at his word on Monday when he told her that he had mental health problems and had been receiving assistance.  

"It has since emerged that the story has now changed from Andrew Falloon and I have reached the view this morning that it would be in his best interests, the best interests of the young woman - who is my first priority - and for his family if he were to resign from Parliament immediately.

"I think that is actually the better outcome for him as well because he can now then move straight into receiving the professional medical help that he clearly needs," she said.

The National Party later confirmed to Newshub that Falloon would step down immediately. He has written to the Speaker of the House and Collins.

Speaking to The AM Show, Newshub's Political Editor Tova O'Brien said: "We understand that there could be another incident that is going to come out today, perhaps similar behaviour from this MP. That hasn't been confirmed yet and we don't have the details".

"I think that's what Judith Collins was alluding to in that interview. She is now telling Andrew Falloon on your show, sending a very direct message: 'Get the hell out of here, step down right now'.

Stuff reports that Falloon has sent sexually explicit material to more than one young woman.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show that if one of her MPs had been in similar circumstances, she would have expected them to stand down.

Collins, the National Party leader, said Falloon had been "heavily drinking". 

"This is another issue that I will be raising with MPs, is the culture that some have indulged in over the years. Obviously, Andrew Falloon is one of those. We are a professional body. We need to act professionally. It is very important that people understand that it is not acceptable to blame alcohol use or anything else for this sort of behaviour."

The leader has contacted the young woman to "offer my sympathy for what had happened to her and my condemnation of what had happened to her".

Collins has also provided the woman with her cellphone number and email address "if she wished to discuss any other issues or anything else that we could do to assist her". 

"This is something that no one should expect to receive and it was clear that this young woman only knew Andrew Falloon in a professional sense and there was no reason at all that anybody would think that that was an appropriate communication."

The Prime Minister's office was initially alerted to the incident involving Falloon via an email detailing inappropriate, drunken behaviour. Collins' chief of staff was advised on Friday evening and Collins said she became aware of the issue on Saturday. 

"I required that Andrew Falloon meet with me [on Monday] morning in my office in Wellington and he resigned following that."

Collins said the email provided to her was from a young woman "who had received an unsolicited pornographic image and Andrew Falloon confirmed that he did that, he had sent it and he told me he had significant mental health issues and that he understood he would need to stand down from Parliament at the election."

"We made sure that he got home to his family and to get the professional help. He told me he was receiving or has been receiving professional help. It is a very difficult situation."

She said she had been "very concerned" about Falloon on Monday.

Asked on The AM Show why National didn't initially mention anything about the indecent image, Collins said it was to "protect the privacy of the young woman".

"She is the victim in this and she has asked for confidentiality and privacy and we have provided it to her. What I am concerned with is that quite clearly members of the media had far more information about this and 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 hope that the Prime Minister will be able to give that same assurance."

O'Brien said Collins' tone "has changed a lot from yesterday".

"The tone from the leader's office yesterday was really different and what we saw in those press statements that came out of the National Party, both Andrew Falloon and Judith Collins', the chief concern in those statements was his mental health and that was the focus, they were all framed around that.

"Today, Judith Collins just wants him gone."

The Newshub Political Editor said that, once again, the National Party is talking about itself.

"Once again, the National Party is navel-gazing. Once again, the National Party looks utterly dysfunctional and when you are navel-gazing and dysfunctional, you can't talk about policy, you can't talk about the economy, you can't talk about the upcoming election, you can't combat the upcoming election."

O'Brien said National is "a party in complete disarray" and needs "to get its act together".

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