Judith Collins denies rumblings in National Party caucus, going 'ballistic' at Chris Bishop

National leader Judith Collins has denied going "f***ing ballistic" at COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop, insisting she never loses her temper. 

Collins was responding to a NZ Herald report on Friday claiming she unleashed on MPs Chris Bishop and Erica Stanford for publicly suggesting they didn't support the party opposing the law banning conversion therapy

The following day Collins announced a portfolio reshuffle, in which Bishop lost his role as Shadow Leader of the House. It led to speculation that Bishop was being punished for not toeing the party line. 

But Collins denies this, telling Magic Talk on Monday she likes to regularly refresh her Shadow Cabinet, and that it made sense to lessen Bishop's workload given the importance of scrutinising the COVID-19 response. 

"I don't know quite what it is they're talking about last Friday. We didn't have anything like that at all," Collins told Magic Talk's Peter Williams, in response to the article. 

"It's really important that we constantly refresh and look to see if someone's better in one portfolio than the other. It's part of the whole process I've been running since December last year of actually giving our MPs the opportunity to say what they believe they can do, what portfolios are best for them, and then working through to see how that all matches up as a team.

"We've had almost a year of that and the last round of meetings finished on Thursday last week, and on Friday, [deputy leader] Shane Reti and myself made the decisions around those portfolios and then consulted with the MPs."

National leader Judith Collins denies going "f***ing ballistic" at MP Chris Bishop.
National leader Judith Collins denies going "f***ing ballistic" at MP Chris Bishop. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Williams asked Collins to confirm if she went "f***ing ballistic" at Bishop, as was reported. 

"I'm going to be very clear about this, Peter, I never lose my temper, and I'm sure you know that over many years of dealing with things, it's not something I do," Collins said.

"I need Chris absolutely, 100 percent, focused and not worrying about the procedural issues in Parliament."

Collins pushed back on the narrative that Bishop was demoted. 

"I thought it was a shocking bit of journalism with some media saying that I had demoted MPs. Nobody got demoted other than as you would be expecting. Todd Muller having announced his retirement, he's dropped down, as would be normal.

"There's been some shifting of portfolios. That is absolutely the right thing to do, and as I said, every MP had their consultation process."

Judith Collins seems unfazed by National dropping four points in a Roy Morgan poll.
Judith Collins seems unfazed by National dropping four points in a Roy Morgan poll. Photo credit: Newshub

Collins seemed unfazed by a new Roy Morgan poll showing National down four points to 25 percent. The same poll shows ACT maintaining its record high of 13 percent, while Labour is unchanged at 39.5 percent. 

"I don't take any notice of it. We're in a lockdown situation. Nobody takes any notice of these at this time," Collins said. 

"You can absolutely be aware of the fact that the country has been put into quite a state of fear having been promised vaccines and promised that MIQ facilities would be properly run. It turns out neither of those things happened."

How COVID-19 got into the community is still under investigation, but it has been linked to a returnee from Sydney in managed isolation and quarantine. 

The Government has been criticised for the slow roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines compared to other OECD nations. The programme is now ramping up as Pfizer delivers larger quantities. So far, more than 1.14 million people in New Zealand are fully vaccinated. 

On Friday more than 90,000 doses were administered, leading to concerns supply could run dry. Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall told The AM Show on Monday this level can only be sustained for a few more weeks. 

Dr Verrall confirmed the Government is exploring ways of increasing vaccine supply, but whether that means borrowing some from other countries or paying Pfizer to deliver more, she wouldn't say.