NZ POLITICS DAILY: Paula Bennett's privacy problem

Paula Bennett

If your income is courtesy of the taxpayer you had better be careful about what you say publicly or who you give information to – unless you are a cabinet minister, apparently.

In the wake of Paula Bennett’s somewhat Clayton’s apology and lack of repentance for releasing the personal details of a solo mum, both Gordon Campbell (Paula Bennett’s problems with privacy) and Steven Cowan (Paula Bennett – Guilty as charged) point to the apparent hypocrisy that has seen ten WINZ staff sacked for breaching the privacy of beneficiaries. 

The failure to extend the department’s zero-tolerance policy on privacy to the top may be encouraging her colleagues. Education Minister Hekia Parata is accused of using private information about two teachers to make sure their principals and Boards of Trustees were aware of their political views – listen to Morning Report here, and see Chris Hipkins’ Red Alert blog post Bullying tactics an abuse of power
 
In contrast, no effort is spared when public servants are the leakers it seems. The investigation into the highly embarrassing Mfat leaks earlier in the year is reaching epic proportions, with the terms of reference being broadened and the two unions involved lawyering up. The inquiry, led by the omnipresent Paula Rebstock has similar powers to a court of law – see Vernon Small’s Net spreads in MFAT leaks hunt. It has all the hallmarks of a Witch Hunt in the Public Sector, says Robert Winter, but may turn into ‘a serious political embarrassment’.
 
Embarrassing leaks continue for the Government with Radio New Zealand ‘obtaining’ a Ministry of Health document that says drug testing for beneficiaries could cost twice as much as it will save and have a ‘dubious’ effect on health and welfare – see: Ministry worried about welfare policy. The Council of Trade Unions points out that while testing will catch recreational marijuana users, users of harder drugs such as methamphetamines are less likely to be caught – see Danya Levy’s High cost for drug testing beneficiaries: Health ministry.
 
One sure way to stop embarrassing leaks is not to have the information in the first place. Despite undertaking a massive consultation process on how to improve the lives of vulnerable children, Paula Bennett says just measuring child poverty is too difficult. The Government is, apparently cutting to the chase by ‘addressing poverty’ rather than measuring it – see Kate Shuttleworth and Claire Trevett’s Bennett slammed over child poverty claim (). Bennett’s behaviour while avoiding answering questions on the topic in Parliament yesterday earned her the wrath of one of her own National Party colleagues – see RNZ’s Bennett's behaviour worse than 3-year-old: Speaker
 
Other important or interesting political items today include:
 
Private members bills are a two edged sword for the Opposition. A Greens bill to extend a tax-credit to beneficiaries may have Labour squirming. It was Labour’s election policy in 2011 but there have been clear signals that the party was looking to dump the policy very soon – see Claire Trevett and Adam Bennett’s Labour offers limited support to bill backing its election promise
 
The reaction to Labour’s perceived backdown has been furious from blogger No Right Turn – see: Labour betrays kiwi kids. Meanwhile, David Farrar explores the issues in his online Herald column, Should beneficiaries get the in-work tax credit? And Gordon Campbell summarises Labour’s recent troubles in Shaky Shearer puts a bob each way
 
There is much speculation about just how real David Shearer’s roof painter is. Cameron Slater claims to have discovered proof that Rufus Paynter isn’t real. But one blogger on a sickness benefit is happy to tell their real painting story at The Standard – see: To the Back Teeth. And Beyond
 
The next source of tension within Labour could be their response to the Governments industrial relations changes writes Corin Dann in MP's outburst exposes Labour in-fighting.
 
Labour have missed the whole point of the regional tour idea says Mark Blackham. It’s about listening, not slogans and speeches – see: Hijacking the Heartland.
 
Find an unpopular target that your opposition has to defend, is Matthew Hooton’s advice to Labour. Beneficiaries are obviously the wrong target when you are up against Paula Bennett – try big business – see David Farrar’s Hooton on opposition strategy.
 
Labour’s promised resurgence in the Maori seats could be looking very shaky if Cameron Slater and iPredict are right – see: Is Shane Jones about to resign?
 
Revelation’s from TVNZ’s Amy Kelley (see: Employers offering illegal wages exposed) about the exploitation of migrant workers have forced the hand of Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson who has launched an urgent investigation – see Kate Shuttleworth’s Minister promises action on underpaid migrants.
 
Opposition MPs are accusing Maggie Barry of abusing cross-party goodwill to attack a private members bill on euthanasia –see: Isaac Davison’s Barry denies undercover bid to derail suicide bill.
 
The Christchurch CBD plan will steal from many to enrich a few, writes Hugh Paveletich in Christchurch’s Anti-Recovery Plan: Theft based on threadbare analysis.
 
The share loyalty scheme will need parliamentary approval and, as it transfers millions from taxpayers to a wealthy few, that is the least we can expect writes Brian Easton in Economy: SOE bonus scheme the PM’s priority?
 
The Government is, understandably, trumpeting much improved figures for surgery waiting times – see: Bronwyn Torrie’s Elective surgery wait 'no longer than four months'. They should perhaps give a nod to Labour for very helpfully culling many from the lists – 35,000 in 2007 – see: Hospitals cull waiting lists by thousands.
 
In her latest Listener column Jane Clifton explains why the Government’s Charter Schools project is ‘madness’, but so too is the overreaction of its opponents – see: Charter-schools policy debate.
 
John Ansell and Louis Crimp won’t pose too much of challenge to the bi-cultural consensus, but the Constitutional Advisory Panel report in 2013 is a different story writes Chris Trotter. It may play out nicely for National’s 2014 election campaign – see: Treatygate and the subversion of biculturalism.
 
Finally, Tahu Potiki writes that separate racial systems have a long history in our country – see: Maori: achievers and grievers?
 
Bryce Edwards
 
Today's content:
 
Drug testing beneficiaries
 
Child Poverty
Kate Shuttleworth and Claire Trevett (Herald): Bennett slammed over child poverty claim
Chris Hipkins (Red Alert): Bullying tactics an abuse of power
 
Paula Bennett privacy breach
Steven Cowan (Against the Current): Paula Bennett – Guilty as charged
 
Tax credit for beneficiaries
Claire Trevett and Adam Bennett (Herald): Labour offers limited support to bill backing its election promise
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Shearer’s Latest Lose-Lose
 
Labour Party
Gordon Campbell (Wellingtonian): Shaky Shearer puts a bob each way
Mark Blackham (Political Business): Hijacking the Heartland
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Hooton on opposition strategy
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Is Shane Jones about to resign?
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Labour and Social Media
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Proof: Rufus Paynter isn’t real
Pete George (Your NZ): The Standard versus Pagani and Pagani
Mike Smith (Standard): Hands on Labour
 
Treatment of migrants
 
Tobacco
 
Mfat Leaks
Vernon Small (Stuff): Net spreads in MFAT leaks hunt
Robert Winter (Idle Thoughts): Witch Hunt in the Public Sector
 
Christchurch
Paul Harper (Herald): More Port Hills homes zoned red
 
Other
David Fisher (Herald): Auditor's probe stalls casino talks
Adam Bennett and Claire Trevett (Herald): Bill to extend tax credit to beneficiaries will go to vote
Tahu Potiki (Press): Maori: achievers and grievers?
David Kennedy (Local Bodies): 15 Ethical "Fails" Under National!
Jane Clifton (Listener): Charter-schools policy debate
Craig Mundy-Smith (Dom Post): Can an online rant cost your job?

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6 Comments & Questions

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In No Right Turn's fluff piece he is right to be so concerned about Bennett's 'information thuggery', yet what she did, once, is nothing compared to what IRD do to innocent taxpayers every single day. Where are the statists demands for moral accountability on that? I'd love to know how on the same issue they can both bay for justice in a minor instance, while turning a blind eye to an ongoing privacy massacre.

Meanwhile there's <a href="http://lifebehindtheirondrape.blogspot.co.nz/2012/08/ltc-regime-reprise-... important follow-up story</a> here to the biggest tax story regarding the current government. Original, breaking, researched content regarding some of the worst taxing legislation foisted on the innocent taxpayers of NZ. No sexy, gossipy party political nonsense, though.

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C'mon Mark!! The info. she released was to edify the observers of a debate that was initiated by the "hurt" person. I congratulate and support her. What do the winz feeders want? Only their side of the story told? No, you go Ms Bennett, a public that is fully informed is more likely to come to a more sensible conclusion, than a public that hears only one side.

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Absolutely right John. Natasha Fuller effectively lied by omission - choosing which parts of her "story" she wanted told to suit the Labour party's purposes.
If she wants to join in the political spin, then she should be prepared for warts'n'all - same as any other political flunky.
Bronwyn Pullar has also - correctly - had her story gradually pulled apart by subsequent scrutiny of her version of events.

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"Bronwyn Pullar has also - correctly - had her story gradually pulled apart by subsequent scrutiny of her version of event,"
No the public has not heard the full story re Pullar and Boag. Everybody who cares about open and honest NZ must insist the FULL story is told and any attempt at blackmail that is revealed MUST be prosecuted to the full.
Thanks for bringing it up CD. Cheers.

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Shame on the bully Bennett for her un-parliamentarian behavior. MPs are put into power to represent their constituents. Not use their extreme power and influence to oppress critism by turning on the people who pay their salaries.
Just an absolutely disgusting state of affairs. Bennett shoul be kicked out.

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Ms Bennett did nothing of the sort, she simply added facts to the debate, important facts that the public were entitled to know. After all, it is the publics money that these WINZ/ACC feeders lounge around on. Would you prefer the public lived in the dark?

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