Judith Collins wants National to avoid 'constantly sniping away from the sidelines' as it rebuilds

Judith Collins has revealed how she wants National to avoid "constantly sniping away from the sidelines" as the party rebuilds after a crushing election defeat. 

"I think we're very wise to sit back and wait a little while before we go charging into full Opposition mode," Collins told Magic Talk, when asked why National didn't criticise the Government over the latest COVID-19 community case. 

It was in contrast to ACT leader David Seymour, who was quick to criticise the Government last week for not having health officials monitoring people leaving the Auckland CBD apartment complex where the latest community case of COVID-19 lives. 

"It's Seymour who appears to be getting the publicity, who appears to be getting the cut-through with his statements," Magic Talk's Peter Williams told Collins. "Anyone would think it's Seymour who is leader of the Opposition." 

Collins responded: "I think one of the problems we have is if people see us as constantly sniping away from the sidelines and not putting up very good policies... then we'll go the way of traditional Opposition which is further down, and that's not something we want to do."

Collins pointed out that she and her new deputy Shane Reti appeared on Newshub Nation over the weekend where they spoke about how the Government could improve its response, such as requiring a negative test from people before they travel to New Zealand.  

"We certainly had Dr Shane Reti out on the weekend along with me on Newshub Nation talking about these various things, so we certainly can do that and we are doing it but don't expect us to jump out of airplanes just to get some publicity."

National suffered a heavy election defeat and now has just 33 MPs down from 56 after the 2017 election. In contrast, ACT increased its seats in Parliament from one to 10. 

Collins said her team has been spending time getting out into their electorates and hearing from people about the pros and cons of National's election campaign. 

"We've been hearing a lot about the fact that disunity is never a winner... it's very important to listen to people about how they found the COVID lockdown very difficult to deal with and really hard to get people interested in policy when they're worried about their health," Collins said. 

"I think disunity was the big pillar in our campaign... I think it's never helpful to have three leaders in four months if you want to have unity.

"The other thing is, every political party goes through these issues after they go into Opposition. The fact is, we just happen to have ours all in one very short period of time and we need to get the focus back on the people."

The National Party is conducting an internal review of what went wrong during the election campaign and Collins said this weekend's AGM meeting will provide the chance for reflection before Parliament kicks off again. 

"What we can't do is to constantly think about ourselves and naval-gazing and that's why it's really good for us to get out," Collins said. "My view is we need to get out there and listen for a change."

Collins unveiled her new shadow Cabinet last week and it came as no surprise that Paul Goldsmith was stripped of the finance portfolio after he used out-of-date figures in National's economic plan during the election campaign. 

"In his case he could add them up but the trouble is he was working off outdated figures," Collins said. 

The finance portfolio has now been split between Andrew Bayly who will focus on revenue - how money comes in - and Michael Woodhouse who will focus on the fiscal side of things - basically how the Government spends it. 

"Occasionally it's been used - I have to say - that finance portfolio, as something of a political prize. To me, this is far too serious to be treated like that," Collins said. 

"In both Andrew and Michael I've got people who have very sound - not just economic - but accounting credentials. They know how to add things up... these are things that I think are really important."

Collins refused to address speculation that Simon Bridges turned down one of the finance positions because he didn't agree with splitting the portfolio into two roles. 

"I don't discuss anything about how those things are done but I can tell you that my views has been all through that we need to have two people in those - one the treasurer and one on the finance side," Collins said. 

"That is something I have been absolutely unapologetic about because that's been my view all the way through. It's too important to leave all of that with one person."