Axed NZ opposition leader Collins unbowed

A new broom is needed for New Zealand's opposition, former leader Judith Collins says.
A new broom is needed for New Zealand's opposition, former leader Judith Collins says.

New Zealand's axed Opposition leader Judith Collins wants the broom that scrubbed her from the top job to continue to sweep through the National party's old guard.

Ms Collins vacated her job on Thursday after losing a partyroom confidence vote, ending her 500-day spell in charge of NZ's major centre-right force.

The Nats will meet again on Tuesday to decide their new leader, leaving five days for candidates among the 33-strong caucus to emerge.

As many as six have been mooted as possible contenders, though only former leader Simon Bridges has publicly declared his interest as of Friday morning.

Speaking to Newshub, Ms Collins offered a terse "no" to the suggestion either Mr Bridges or Mark Mitchell - both ministers in the last National government - could take the helm.

"It's time for the party and caucus to look to the next generation for some leadership," she told Newstalk ZB.

Next-generation choices could include Christopher Luxon, the former Air New Zealand boss who entered parliament last year, as well as liberal-minded millennials Nicola Willis and Chris Bishop.

"I really like Christopher (Luxon). He works really hard and he is highly intelligent," Ms Collins said.

"Not many people yet have been talking about Chris Bishop. You couldn't find a harder working or more effective politician (and) Nicola Willis is another.

"We need a new broom and we need to be able to move forward."

Mr Luxon, former PM Sir John Key's political protege and friend, is seen as the frontrunner despite just a year in parliament.

Rounding out the most likely six is Ms Collins' deputy Shane Reti, the party's interim leader until Tuesday, whom Ms Collins called "one of the most outstanding people".

Dr Reti is a quietly spoken doctor who may have found his moment given his medical expertise during a pandemic, and the softer political environment created by Jacinda Ardern's prime ministership.

The leadership battle will focus National minds after the dramatic end to Ms Collins' tenure.

The 62-year-old demoted Mr Bridges for a lewd comment he made in 2017 to National MP Jacqui Dean, issuing a late-night press release to that effect.

Her caucus saw the move as politically motivated, and sacked her the next day.

Ms Dean subsequently told the Otago Daily Times she did not want the issue elevated as Ms Collins' did.

Ms Collins' former press secretary Janet Wilson said the act was reckless - in keeping with Ms Collins' entire leadership.

"She overplayed her hand by bringing out a five-year-old incident which had already been dealt with ... she fired up the caucus by doing it," she told Radio NZ.

Australian Associated Press