National leader Judith Collins claims outgoing MP Dr Nick Smith has been "under a tremendous amount of stress" and is questioning if a recording of a "verbal altercation" in his office was legal.
Smith announced on Monday that he will retire from Parliament on June 10 after more than 30 years of service. He lost his prized Nelson seat at last year's election and has now decided to move on for "personal and professional reasons".
The MP also revealed Parliamentary Services is conducting an inquiry into a "verbal altercation" in his Wellington office last July. Without going into specifics, Dr Smith said he regrets the incident and has apologised.
Newshub understands the verbal altercation was with a male in his 20s who worked in Dr Smith's office and occurred just after Collins became leader. It's not known what the yelling was about, but Newshub's been told both parties were shouting and that it didn't last long. Newshub has also been told it wasn't the staffer who made the complaint.
Collins told The AM Show on Wednesday morning that Parliamentary Services have not briefed her on the incident, but she has been advised by Dr Smith that a staffer yelled at him and he shouted back.
"Another person, a staff member of another MP, also heard that and recorded it, made a complaint to Parliamentary Service. Nick's staff member did not complain to Parliamentary Service," Collins said.
Asked if making such a recording was underhand, Collins questioned its legality.
"It is also, I would have thought, illegal. Prima facie, under the Crimes Act, recording a conversation of which you are not a party without anyone's permission, that person's permission, might well be illegal."
The leader told The AM Show Dr Smith rang her on Monday to advise her that he would be retiring. She said he told her late last year that he wasn't sure he would see out the term and that he wasn't enjoying being a List MP.
"I think he has been under a tremendous amount of stress and he said, look he has got other things he can do now, and he does have other things to do."
Collins said he's been a hard-working MP, loyal to his former electorate.
"Nick has been there for 30 years. In that time, I am not aware of any personal grievance that has ever been brought against him," she said.
"He has been an extremely hard-working MP. In fact, many would say too hard because he has just never given himself a break. He is very, very passionate about his work. He has been immensely loyal to Nelson. It was Nelson this and Nelson that."
However, Newshub has spoken to a number of former National Party staffers who'd either been directly affected by Dr Smith's behaviour or witnessed it. None would speak on the record.
- "Smith was notorious for that red mist"
- "One of the most difficult assholes I've ever worked for"
- "I have no fond memories of that guy"
Some said Dr Smith's behaviour was well-known by every National leader dating back to Jim Bolger.
Dr Smith declined an interview with Newshub on Tuesday.