Holding Bennett to account

Written By: - Date published: 2:18 pm, August 11th, 2009 - 59 comments
Categories: national/act government - Tags: , ,

NZPA reports:

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff has confirmed she will investigate Social Development Minister Paula Bennett after the release of details of two mothers’ income.

Good. John Key has made it clear he won’t hold his ministers to account for abusing their power, now it’s up to the Privacy Commisioner to do his job for him.

The question now is whether Key will do the honorable thing and give Bennett the sack if the Commissioner finds against her.

59 comments on “Holding Bennett to account”

  1. BLiP 1

    Good news. Hopefully the two beneficiaries will get sufficient compensation so as to be able to complete their studies without the TIA.

    • starboard 1.1

      pffft..more wasted money..heres a thought..maybe they could get a job…earn some money…save it..and PAY FOR THE COURSES THEMSELVES !! Not rocket science.

  2. burt 2

    The ref will make a bad call. Parliament knows more about the rules than any ref ever would so parliament will rule as it should based on previous justifications.

    Move on ya muppets, it was good enough for Labour to make the rules up for accountability as they went along so it is good enough for National.

    OH: BTW – sack her is my call but I have been shouted down so many times calling for accountability that I’ll just agree with you all saying move on.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 2.1

      If she apologises for being a bit over-zealous, then takes the rap over the knuckles from the Commissioner, she should come out of it just fine. If she stays unrepentent and asks Key to back her, she will have used up a lot of brownie points.

      Either wa, sacking her for this sounds a bit over the top.

      • lprent 2.1.1

        Bugger sacking. As far as I am concerned she should be charged with fraud, malfeasance, theft as a servant, or something similar.

        She used information given to the ministry for a purpose that were not what it was given for – for political gain. Moreover, as a minister of the crown, she probably wasn’t entitled to even look at or know that information. I suspect that only civil servants were entitled to look at it.

        I think that if the law were perfect then she’d be serving prison time after short trial.

        Bugger – now I sound like burt on an extreme day…. But privacy is privacy – especially from ministers of the crown.

        • starboard 2.1.1.1

          Idiot. Why not just hang her from the nearest tree. Ms Clark set the benchmark for dealing with ” wayward ” ministers..so dont expect to much.

          • burt 2.1.1.1.1

            startboard

            So what would happen to me if I were working in WINZ and I released personal information like this? Would I just be required to apologise if it were deemed I broke the law or do you think I might loose my job? Or I might be charged with breach of the privacy act? I wonder….

            It’s very similar to Jolly Jim using the parliamentary franking machine some years ago for his wife’s local council campaign – he had to pay the money back – whoooopeeee… Meanwhile a service station worker lifting $5 from the till to pay for his bus fare home would be sacked as well as pay back the money…

            Why do you think we should not hold the MP’s to the same standard as joe average ?

            • starboard 2.1.1.1.1.1

              You must remember burt that the 2 females involved fired the first shots..and then only supplied half the info. Bennett was only balancing the argument with the full story. One must ask what the girls motives were in doing that. Me thinks it backfired and now they covered in the brown stuff.

            • burt 2.1.1.1.1.2

              starboard

              I have no argument the woman involved fired the first shot, and I’m also glad that we have the context of how much money they get from tax payers each week. But there is one little glitch – it is called the rule of law and that should be applied evenly and consistently. It is not up to the minister to make up how the law should be applied as she goes… Not this minister or any other minister.

              Hey look you are provoking lprent by calling him an idiot, how would you feel if he published your IP and your internet account details and/or your name and address? He could say you were asking for it because you called him an idiot…

              Oh, I call him an asshole if he did that – then where would it end?

            • burt 2.1.1.1.1.3

              starboard

              There was one other question in my previous comment. Why not hold MP’s to the same standard as joe average ? Or do you really think a front line WINZ worker would not be in trouble if they released the details like the minister did ?

              Note: I’m glad the details became public domain, but I;m not happy they were released like they were.

        • burt 2.1.1.2

          lprent

          Na, on an extreme day you would ban me and I would be silent. Sorry dude you can’t sound like a silent guy !

        • Tim Ellis 2.1.1.3

          Goodness me, LP. Anybody would think that Ms Bennett did something that previous Labour Ministers didn’t do. The advice from several senior members of the press gallery however is that Labour Ministers frequently leaked information to them about private citizens in order to spin a story.

          Are you calling for Labour ministers to be hung drawn and quartered as well?

          • BLiP 2.1.1.3.1

            Timmy – can you point to one – yes, just one – instance where a Labour minister broke the law to release private information of no relevance whatsoever to the discussion at hand?

            Let me remind you, the two beneficiaries that Basher Bennett dealt to were talking about the TIA – not the total income they were entitled to and for which they expressed gratitude. Little facts, maybe, but facts all the same.

            Now that the releasing of private information is an acceptable practise by National Inc, all sorts of outfits are taking a leaf from Bennett’s example and John Key’s comforting.

            Wonderful new standards we are seeing from National Inc. Are you lovin’ it yet?

      • Frank Macskasy 2.1.2

        “Over-zealous”?

        Abuse of ministerial power; mis-use of personal information; and demonising two women because they criticised a government policy – you call that “over zealous”?!

        Well, I guess the KGB were a bit “over zealous” in the way they harassed dissidents during the Soviet era. (But they were the Bad Guys. We is the Good Guys, y’know.)

    • Bright Red 2.2

      burt, this isn’t an issue for Parliament. Parliament passes the law, it doesn’t enforce it. Moreover, Parliament has made no finding as to the legality or appropriateness of Bennett’s actions.

      Bennett was acting as a minister, not as a member of Parliament.

      Still good you think she should go.

      • burt 2.2.1

        Parliament passes the law, it doesn’t enforce it.

        Yes it use to be that way before Darnton VS Clark and the corruption that was Labour.

        • r0b 2.2.1.1

          Hey Burt, you still haven’t said why ACT didn’t vote to allow that lawsuit to proceed. Why didn’t they Burt?

          Bet you dodge the question again.

        • burt 2.2.1.2

          Would you like me to link to where you deliberately and consistently misquoted Rodney to support your assertion here rOb? If you want me to highlight again how little integrity you have when you quote people I’ll happily do that, again. But it might be a bit embarrassing for you considering your recent quote banging on about how it is poor form to misquote people.

          • r0b 2.2.1.2.1

            Hey Burt, you still haven’t said why ACT didn’t vote to allow that lawsuit to proceed. Why didn’t they Burt?

            Bet you dodge the question again.

          • burt 2.2.1.2.2

            rOb

            You know I don’t have an answer for that, I have told you several times I don’t. Dodging the question is a figment of your imagination. (BTW: do you want me to define “that’ for you again or have you been able to understand “that’ since you managed to make a complete fool of yourself ignoring it’s meaning when misquoting Rodney)

            I suspect (my opinion) it was related to the issue that ACT did not support making illegal activities legal but I don’t actually know (as I have said before). However the question out of all of this is why you hinge the validity of Labour killing off Darnton VS Clark on what Rodney voted for. Are you saying that how Rodney votes should be a guiding principle for parliament?

            • r0b 2.2.1.2.2.1

              You know I don’t have an answer for that

              No, you really really don’t do you.

              I have told you several times I don’t.

              Please link to one burt.

              (BTW: do you want me to define “that’ for you again or have you been able to understand “that’ since you managed to make a complete fool of yourself ignoring it’s meaning when misquoting Rodney)

              Come on Burt, link to it, so we can all see what a plonker you’re making of yourself here.

              I suspect (my opinion) it was related to the issue that ACT did not support making illegal activities legal

              What does that even mean? If the court case was so vital to democratic integrity why didn’t ACT vote to allow it to proceed?

              However the question out of all of this is why you hinge the validity of Labour killing off Darnton VS Clark on what Rodney voted for. Are you saying that how Rodney votes should be a guiding principle for parliament?

              Parliament killed it off Burt, and not even ACT voted to save it. The point is that it was such a crap law suit that not even ACT saw any merit in allowing it to proceed. Only you Burt, only you carry on the lost and lonely fight for Darnton vs Clark…

            • burt 2.2.1.2.2.2

              (http://www.thestandard.org.nz/helen-stop-critiquing-polls )

              Here we go rOb, the history of you saying it is OK to do unconstitutional things as long as it is Labour. Also you asking why Rodney didn’t vote for keeping the amendment that Labour also voted against and of course your misquoting of Rodney when your defence of Labour was looking more and more desperate. There is also my first English lesson on the word “that’ which I have had to repeat for you again since you tried again to misquote Rodney. Clearly you needed your misquoted version to be seen to be true for your argument to hold water because without that it’s a colander.

              As for being the only one who cares about Darnton VS Clark, I suspect I’m not the only one who thinks parliament should not be above the law. Although I get the fact that you think it is OK for Labour, I also suspect you will agree with me completely if National ever stoop so low as to use the power of parliament to defeat an embarrassing court case against them.

            • r0b 2.2.1.2.2.3

              Well done for linking to it Burt. Now the 0 people who are interested can go and see for themselves what a pack of lies you create in your memory about the discussion that we had.

              National ever stoop so low as to use the power of parliament to defeat an embarrassing court case against them.

              Well you’d better explain to Rodney how badly he got it wrong I guess.

            • burt 2.2.1.2.2.4

              rOb

              I’m happy to be called where I’m inconsistent about these things rOb. So far the only high ground you have is that Rodney didn’t vote to keep Darnton VS Clark. Must be hard for you needing to use the decision of someone you denigrate to justify the decisions of someone you defend irrespective of what they do.

      • burt 2.2.2

        Rex

        The same might have been said about Bradley before it was expedient for Labour to say he didn’t know what he was talking about.

        • Rex Widerstrom 2.2.2.1

          Agreed. And the way is always open for Key to say Shroff doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I’d love to see him do it to her face though 😀 I for one wouldn’t dare.

    • Rex Widerstrom 2.3

      The ref will make a bad call.

      If so, I think we can safely say that would be the first time Marie Shroff has made a seriously bad call during her entire career. She wrote the MMP-era Cabinet Manual, after all, and had a formidable reputation as fierce sticker-to-the-rules as Secretary of Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council.

      If Bennett has broken a rule, expect Shroff to say so. However don’t expect her to step outside those bounds and start commenting on the morality of what Bennett did, which is a different issue.

  3. bill brown 3

    If she’s found guilty, he’ll make her say sorrreeee and then give here a piece of chocolate and a pat on the head later when no one’s watching.

    • burt 3.1

      No bill, if she is found guilty then National will say the referee made a bad call and validate her actions becuase parliament know more about the intent of the law than anyone else. Move on will be the call but who knows, that might involve chocolate or a special trip to meet Owen Glenn – who knows.

  4. Steve 4

    “Good news. Hopefully the two beneficiaries will get sufficient compensation so as to be able to complete their studies”??
    You mean continue with their hobbies …

    • felix 4.1

      Nursing and teaching? Are you serial?

      • Steve 4.1.1

        Tie dying silk scaves, or maybe that was others on DPB

        • Bright Red 4.1.1.1

          Steve you don’t even know what you’re talking about. In fact, you’re confusing your Nat lines.

          It was Tolley cancelling Adult Community Education funding who dismissed language courses for immigrants and trade tranining courses as ‘hobby courses’.

          Bennett cancelled the Training Incentive Allowance for degree courses, like nursing and teaching, which is what these women were taking.

        • jarbury 4.1.1.2

          Nice one Steve. You just made a complete arse out of yourself.

  5. gobsmacked 5

    In the rush from one headline to the next, it’s easy to forget that the real killers are often the slow burners.

    The pledge card spending was a “beltway issue” (Clark) for months, while the Auditor-General prepared his report. By the end, it had done enormous damage to Labour, was their first real setback in the third term, and they never really recovered.

    If Key is true to form, Bennett will get the Melissa Lee treatment, with all good wishes for her future, a very long way from his Cabinet.

  6. SJ Hawkins 6

    Jennifer Johnston said it best:

    Johnston says anyone can look up the benefit payments a woman like herself is receiving, and says she is simply fighting for the chance to keep up her training and get off a benefit.

    “The information that (Bennett) gave is not anything that people could not have readily accessed,” she says.

    http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/solo-mum-privacy-isn-t-real-issue-2879584

    I won’t argue the decision of the privacy commissioner though, that is her job not mine

    • Bright Red 6.1

      To know the amount a particular person is getting, you have to know exact information about them – number of children, housing costs, medicial costs, what training they’re in, any childcare payments. Apparently, Bennett actually got it wrong because they forgot to count offsetting childcare payments.

      If you don’t believe that’s true, do and work out what Johnston’s entitlement is without relying on any of the info given out by Bennett, just the initial HoS article and the MSD website.

    • gobsmacked 6.2

      Thank goodness it’s her job, not yours, S Hawkins.

      I can get info about my neighbours from the public domain (electoral roll, phone book, etc). Or I can rummage through their mail box – illegally. It is not the information, it is the method of acquiring that information, and the lack of consent, that defines an invasion of privacy.

      Bennett could have pointed to details that were already made public. She didn’t. She accessed the department’s computer (or ordered a staff member to), without consent, for political point-scoring, and without the knowledge of her own chief executive, because he would have refused.

      Fortunately, the privacy commissioner will uphold the law.

  7. No need for sacking surely?
    Just quietly promote her to another ministry.

  8. If the commissioner finds against Bennett, I’m sure Key will sack her, I hope the Police investigate Fuller also for not declaring to Winz her access to her ex’s credit card.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 8.1

      No he won’t- he’s already publicly backed her and her actions. More likely he’ll treat her like Melissa Lee- hope she goes away.

  9. I see there is a new Auditor General – Lyn Provost – Hopefully she will be as willing to stand up to the government as the Privacy Commission (if they do actually chastise Bennett)

    • Tim Ellis 9.1

      I hope the Auditor General stands up to the Government when necessary too, Loco. I also hope the Auditor General never receives the kind of abuse from politicians that Ms Provost’s predecessor received from ministers in the last Labour Government when he criticised the parliamentary spending by political parties on election expenses.

      • Loco Burro 9.1.1

        There isn’t a party in Parliament that hasn’t criticised the Auditor General at some point or another Tim. That is why the position is important and should maintain an indepedent status, not everyone has to agree with the Auditor General but it is a voice that is needed.

    • burt 9.2

      Here here. Absolutely shameful behaviour.

    • BLiP 9.3

      The Timmy & Burp Show continues unabated and bereft of facts . . .

      Tell me, did you know it was actually National Inc’s new buddy Peter Dunne that attacked the Auditor General but you chose to lie anyway or were you just ignorant? And what do you have to say about National Inc’s total back-flip on what was previously an “attack on democracy”? Any time frame yet on when National Inc will be paying back the $112,000 it owes in GST for its election spending? Labour paid back its overspend – why can’t National Inc?

      • burt 9.3.1

        BLiP

        No argument about the windsock being involved in claiming it was a bad call. I’ll be more careful putting ‘Labour-led’ rather than just Labour in the future.

        However, the behaviour of the Labour-led govt was a disgrace and the Labour-led govt should be utterly ashamed of itself over that incident.

        Oh, why can’t National pay back the GST. Simple, to do so they will need to spend money they are not legally allowed to do. Therefore to pay it back (the unpaid GST) National will break the law. So, National did request a retrospective amendment to allow them to pay that money back but Labour were not having a bar of it. Rightly so some (including myself) would say.

        Perhaps National could now pay that money and validate themselves (under urgency clearing any civil cases that might erupt during the process) for doing so – what would you say to that?

      • burt 9.3.2

        BLiP

        I was unaware of the back flip, cheers for bringing it to my attention. Interesting that National want to keep that provision now they are in Govt, more interesting if Labour claim it is unfair. This could get really interesting.

  10. Rodel 10

    Kermit won’t stand up to Miss Piggy.I Look! If she’s found guilty he’ll make lame excuses for her and ‘y’know move on.

  11. outofbed 11

    How long before Brady stands as a Nat or Act candidate
    ….he says to be controversial

    • Loco Burro 11.1

      Out of Bed – “How long before Brady stands as a Nat or Act candidate”

      Heh, maybe in Ohariu-Blemont, him and Peter Dunne already dislike each other, maybe they’ll get into a rumble ……. just kidding! 🙂

  12. Deep Throat 12

    Can you imagine the media if this shit happened on Clark’s watch.

    The minister in question would have been stood down from her portfolio while the investigation progressed and either returned to cabinet or fired.

    Standards?

    • BLiP 12.1

      Under Labour, Bennett would have been gone long before lunch. Turns out the new standards promised by John Key and National Inc are actually lesser standards than previously.

      • burt 12.1.1

        Gone by lunch time but back before afternoon tea exonerated and promoted….

        Must be a bit of a glut in the whitewash market now Labour can’t cover everthing with it to make us move on.

  13. just another student 13

    I have to wonder if any commenting (here or elsewhere in the past few weeks) have considered just what effect PB’s actions have had not only on those women, but on their families.

    There are children involved here, who have had to suffer the effects of the actions of the Minister. Sadly there are many horrible people in this country of ours and children are not immune to that cruelty.

  14. • The group Hand Up was officially established on 10th July with the establishment of a Facebook page
    • The first Lobby Letter from HANDUP to all MP’s was written and sent out on 15th July.
    • The NZ Herald published an article (NZ Herald, Govt axe destroys dreams) highlighting two women’s stories was published on 19th July, to support the Facebook campaign. The reporter approached the women personally, not the other way around.
    • The second Lobby Letter to MP’s was written and sent out on 20th July.
    • The TIA issue was discussed in Parliament Q&A time on 22nd and 23rd July. This is the first time that these two women have been mentioned IN PARLIAMENT, along with their full names but their personal financial details were not talked about.
    • Monday 27th July, the Minister for Social Development & Employment leaks personal financial details to a reporter who then contacts the women for their comment (NZ Herald, Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums).
    • Natasha contacts Campbell Live to try and defend herself re the article. Message Boards, radio and TV talkback & shows, and Blog sites go ‘viral’ in their response to the release of the information.
    • The Hand Up group had grown and the founders (not the women in the NZ Herald story) developed and established a website, which went live on 28th July.
    • The group released a Media Statement on 30th July.

    • It is interesting to note that although Natasha, Jenni, Greg, Trudy and Christine were all quoted or talked about in Q&A in Parliament on 22nd and/or 23rd July ONLY Greg, Natasha and Jenni’s first AND last names were mentioned.

    • It is further interesting to note that Greg is an Invalid Beneficiary and thus it would be expected that his plight would elicit maximum sympathy due to that but that choosing Natasha and Jenni, as DPB recipients, would elicit a howl of response and fuel ‘bene bashing’.

    • It would seem that the Minister used these discussions in Q&A, the Facebook page and the NZ Herald article as ‘implicit’ permission to further investigate the personal financial circumstances of Natasha and Jenni.

    Now you have FACTS.

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