Tova O'Brien: Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern failed New Zealanders by acting too slowly over Andrew Falloon

National Party leader Judith Collins ; ex-National MP Andrew Falloon; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
National Party leader Judith Collins ; ex-National MP Andrew Falloon; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub

OPINION: Both Judith Collins and the Prime Minister's office should have acted faster to get Andrew Falloon the hell out of Parliament.

Falloon was able to continue serving as an MP with free access around the Parliament for five days longer than he should have.

Both Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins owe the public and the people of Rangitata - Falloon's former electorate - an apology for allowing him to hold such a privileged role knowing what he'd done.

Newshub has learnt the Prime Minister's chief of staff sat on the email detailing Falloon's indecent messages to a 19-year-old for more than 24 hours before informing the Prime Minister.

Once Jacinda Ardern was made aware the consent was sought from the correspondent to pass it on to the National Party.

It was another four hours before the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff spoke to Judith Collins' Chief of Staff.

Timeline:

Wednesday 15 July

  • Around 5pm - Email is forwarded from Prime Minister's generic inbox to the Prime Minister's chief of staff

Thursday 16 July

  • Prime Minister is in Invercargill, isn't told about email

Friday 17 July

  • 9am - Prime Minister told about email
  • 11.20am - Prime Minister's office emails complainant to seek permission to pass on to National
  • 12.42pm - Prime Minister's office receives confirmation from complainant
  • 4pm - Prime Minister's chief of staff starts attempting to contact Collins' chief of staff
  • 4.42pm - Chiefs of Staff finally make contact

Saturday 18 July

  • Collins is told by her chief of staff
  • Collins' office speaks over the phone with Falloon, doesn't seek assurance about incident and he doesn't volunteer any information about what happened
  • Collins does weekend media rounds and holds an election photo opportunity

Sunday 19 July

  • Collins does more weekend media

Monday 20 July

  • Collins finally calls Falloon in for explanation
  • He resigns candidacy that afternoon

Tuesday 21 July

  • Collins calls for Falloon to resign from Parliament
  • Falloon obliges

Collins argues that she needed to address the issue with Falloon face-to-face and Monday was the earliest opportunity.

"I am not going to address issues like this by phone or email or text. That is not the way to address serious issues," Collins told Newshub on Wednesday morning.

Ardern's office concedes it could have happened faster but that getting it right was more important than speed. Only four people in her office knew about what was happening.

Both leaders have failed New Zealanders; they acted too slowly and allowed a man who had no place in this Parliament to remain here five days longer than he should have.

Tova O'Brien is Newshub's political editor.

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