An ugly spat has erupted between Phil Twyford and Judith Collins over allegations of bullying.

Over the weekend Collins retweeted a message from a well-known right-wing Twitter account, which falsely alleged two of the first KiwiBuild homebuyers had visited 204 countries.

The tweet used a romantic post taken from the couple’s personal social media account which read “204 countries and seven seas and I had the privilege of meeting you”.

Collins added the comment “maybe doesn’t need taxpayer support”, implying that if the two homebuyers had travelled so extensively they should not be able to qualify for a KiwiBuild home. Although it appears the couple had travelled recently, they have not visited 204 countries, not least because there are only 195 countries in the world. 

Judith Collins tells reporters Phil Twyford is “verging on hysteria” in his criticism of her post. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

On Tuesday morning Twyford said the couple had done nothing wrong and Collins’ actions were “appalling”. He said the couple had been forced to delete their social media accounts because of cyberbullying.

“She’s encouraging victimisation and bullying on the internet because she disagrees with KiwiBuild,” he said.

Collins said Twyford was making “completely false and defamatory” statements.

“I think Phil Twyford this morning was really quite disappointing, verging on hysteria,” she said. 

She said the controversy over the couple’s apparently privileged circumstances exposed the flawed eligibility requirements in KiwiBuild. 

She did not think her comments had exposed the couple to cyberbullying.

The Government fought back in the house, with Green co-leader James Shaw asking Twyford whether cyberbullying pertaining to KiwiBuild would be covered under the Harmful Digital Communications Act.

Collins herself introduced the HDCA as Justice Minister in 2017. 

A press release from 2017 said she was “calling time” on cyber bullying.

“No longer is bullying confined to the classroom or playground – the digital age has meant tormenters can harass their target anywhere, at any time and the trails of abuse remain in cyberspace forever,” she said.

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