ACC Minister Judith Collins' defamation action against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little has been settled following a hearing in the High Court at Auckland today.
Ms Collins initiated the defamation case against the pair after comments they made on Radio New Zealand linking her to the leak of an email from former National Party President Michelle Boag.
The email identified Bronwyn Pullar as the woman at the centre of a massive privacy breach at ACC.
And the story goes on to quote the joint settlement statement:
In a statement today following their meeting, the three parliamentarians said they agreed "the leak of the email Ms Boag sent to the minister and forwarded on her instructions as the responsible minister to the chairman and chief executive of ACC raised an issue of serious public concern, and that Messrs Mallard and Little were entitled to question who was responsible for that leak".
"The parties continue to differ over whether the comments made by Messrs Mallard and Little respectively on Radio NZ implied the minister falsely assured the House that neither she nor her office was responsible for the leak.
"Messrs Mallard and Little have confirmed to Ms Collins that was not their intention and wish to make that clear publicly that in the event such meaning was taken they regret it."
In the statement, the three politicians said they would make no further comment.
So; it's a lukewarm and conditional expression of regret for Messrs Mallard and Little. But it is a back-down for them nonetheless. Just a matter of weeks ago, Trevor Mallard was full of bluster about going to trial and calling John Key as a witness. Today, he and Mr Little have accepted that their comments had the potential to damage Judith Collins' reputation, and like the honourable gentlemen that they as Members of Parliament are, they have settled out of court.
This case was never about damages. On that basis, it is a points victory to Judith Collins' whose integrity has been restored. And it is conversely a loss on points for the two Labour MP's who have admitted that their choice of words was poor, and that they may have implied that Miss Collins had leaked information into the public domain.
This case was never likely to go to trial. Nevertheless we commend Judith Collins for standing upo for herself, and bringing an action against Messrs Mallard and Little out of her own pocket when she could have, as a Minister used public funds. Reputations are worth taking a stand for, as Judith Collins has demonstrated.