Judith Collins’ role as new National Party leader cements a leadership role she has sought for some time, as a lawyer who also once served as president of the Auckland District Law Society and has been a strong ‘law and order’ proponent for decades.
Her election to National leadership following the inglorious appointment-and-departure of the previously unknown Todd Muller, has not been without some controversy and via a circuitous route. After serving as Justice Minister she was fifth-ranked in Cabinet and its highest-ranking woman, but resigned on 30 August 2014 following e-mail leaks alleging she had undermined the head of the Serious Fraud Office whilst she was the minister responsible for that organisation.
She was cleared of any wrong doing.
Despite her reputation as a ‘tough cookie’ and the ‘Crusher’ caricature, as Ben Thomas wrote in The Spinoff she is “chameleonic – able to take on whatever role is required of her politically and play it to perfection, switching through her emotional range at will.
“In opposition she hounded education minister David Benson Pope out of parliament with a campaign of political pressure – and then later appeared in a women’s magazine in a well-received sympathetic story with her family talking about the toll the bearpit of politics took on her, Thomas wrote.
In the social development portfolio she led John Key’s softened pitch of caring for the “underclass”.
Having a tough countenance balanced with an easy manner, she is regarded as a good boss and a well-liked MP despite the image of being a hard-to-handle operator. To the contrary she is quick to learn and adapt to circumstances and combines that with her easy ability to perform well for the media and to front-foot issues with the equally media-savvy Jacinda Ardern.
She obtained first an LLB and then a LLM (Hons) and later a Master of Taxation Studies (MTaxS) from Auckland University before working as a solicitor for four different firms between 1981 and 1990, and then became principal of her own firm, Judith Collins & Associates in the decade up until 2000.
She became a special counsel to Minter Ellison Rudd Watts for the two years up until she entered parliament in 2002.
She was also heavily involved in various legal associations and was President of the Auckland District Law Society in 1998-1999 – saying she wanted to make a difference “at a more macro level” – and was vice-president of the New Zealand Law Society from 1999-2000. (She also served as chairperson of the Casino Control Authority (1999–2002) and was a director of Housing New Zealand Limited (1999–2001)
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