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Written By: - Date published: 3:00 pm, July 29th, 2009 - 58 comments
Categories: corruption, law and "order", national/act government - Tags:

Picture this:

Anchor “and now we go live to whatsherface outside the High Court in Christchurch to tell us the latest in the Weatherston trial”

Whatsherface “the prosecution is saying that Weatherston committed a grave breach of the Crimes Act but, look, I know of this other guy who killed someone and he was never caught. It happens all the time. So maybe Weatherston’s only mistake was being so obvious about it. Let’s not be too hard on him”

Horrible. Dispicable. That reporter would never work again.

It’s the line we got from Garner and Mold last night, and Patterson this morning: ‘we’ve been getting secret leaks of personal info for years. Bennett’s only mistake was doing it openly’.

No. Her mistake wasn’t getting caught. She broke the law. It was illegal when ministers did it on the sly. You should have dobbed them in. It’s illegal now.

Obviously this was fed to the media from Key’s office. Garner and Mold didn’t magically come up with the same line to round off their reports. Do better guys. Don’t be apologists for bullying ministers who have broken the law.

Even if you know others have broken the law. Even if Taylor suggested it really nicely and promises you some titbits in return.

58 comments on “Apologists ”

  1. Obviously this was fed to the media from Key’s office. Garner and Mold didn’t magically come up with the same line to round off their reports.

    The TV reporters caucus on their angles all the time. I presume that Guyon Espiner voiced this opinion and Garner and Mold quickly agreed with it. I highly doubt Key’s office was involved.

  2. Maynard J 2

    I get the impression that what is done often is that someone (minister, aide etc) would suggest “why do you not take a look at how much these people get”. Reporters would then use information that is in the public domain and decide if that was relevant (i.e. in general, how much DPB is given based on number of kids etc).

    That does not seem remotely similar to relasing actual details of payments in terms of method or outcome. In these other cases they mention, the minister might have the information, but does not disclose it. What the reporters were talking about seems to indicate they cannot see the difference either.

  3. Mike 3

    It would be quite interesting (ok not really), to go back and look at reporting surrounding various Labour government scandals and see how many times the reports are ‘balanced’ by equating the scandal of the day to the actions of the National governments in the 90s.

    I’m guessing the number is close to zero.

  4. Tim Ellis 4

    Apart from the distasteful and hysterical way that you have compared Weatherston’s actions with Ms Bennett, there is a genuine dispute about whether what Ms Bennett was legal. I think she probably should have sought legal advice before releasing the information, or erred on the side of caution. The point that the reporters make is very important, though. Labour have been shrieking “muldoonism” and more than one poster here has said that it’s a new precedent that didn’t happen before.

    What the reporters are all saying is that the media were regularly fed spin and information from Labour’s ministers, providing the other side of the story.

    Personally I think it’s refreshing for a Minister to front up with information, rather than providing sly, sneaky documents. The issue isn’t whether somebody gets caught. That is hysterical nonsense. The issue is whether it is a common practice by Ministers to release sensitive information about individuals when they complain publicly about their circumstances and withhold information. It appears that this practice was common under the last Government.

    • Maynard J 4.1

      “there is a genuine dispute about whether what Ms Bennett was legal.”

      I think she has been since she was 16.

      “The issue is whether it is a common practice by Ministers to release sensitive information about individuals when they complain publicly about their circumstances and withhold information.”

      Not what anyone I have heard from said. They said that the ministers might suggest where reporters might want to look, not that they release information directly.

      Can you please define hysterical, Tim, because it is a term you fire about frequently and it seems to mean no more that “Tim does not agree with this”. Your line about “Labour shrieking Muldoonism” has got to be more hysterical than anything written here. “Hysterics: Tim shrieking ‘Labour shrieking Muldoonism'”…

    • BLiP 4.2

      The issue is whether it is a common practice by Ministers to release sensitive information about individuals when they complain publicly about their circumstances and withhold information.

      Been onto the phone to your mates at Crosby/Textor and given your talking points with which to muddy the situation with your dribble and seek to climb out of the hole Bully Bennett has dug, Timothy?

      The issue is whether or not it is okay for the government to illegally use the resources of the state to silence dissent. Your blethering amounts to collusion with the John Key National Government Inc position that, yes, its okay.

  5. IrishBill 5

    You may well be right Danyl but like I’ve said I am unaware of personal details from a private citizen’s state-held file being shopped to a journo like this either on or off the record. If Garner or Mold have examples of this happening before I’d expect them to put them in the public eye.

    I suspect the truth is they don’t.

  6. As I’ve said on my blog, Lianne Dalziel leaked legal papers regarding an immigration case to TV3, lied about it and was forced to resign.

    My understanding is that Labour Ministers and staffers DID leak private information to the press, but in an off-the-record capacity that was designed to influence the way the story was covered without putting the information out there for the public. So, hypothetically, if someone was attacking CYFS for taking their child into custody a staffer would inform the media that CYFS records showed that the child was being abused, but that they were unable to say so publically because that would breach privacy.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      One case where the person who did it was forced to resign. You hypothetical situation is actually legal from my reading of the privacy act.

    • Tim Ellis 6.2

      The CYFS case is probably a bit different, Danyl as it concerns the welfare of a child.

      • snoozer 6.2.1

        Can you point to the section of the Privacy Act that says ‘if you’re an adult, this Act does not apply?’

        of course you can’t because you’re full of crap.

        • Tim Ellis

          No that’s not what I said snoozer. It is well established in criminal law that the perpetrator of violence or abuse against a child can’t be identified if it would identify the identity of the child.

          • BLiP


            • IrishBill

              He’s right. That is the law and it’s why the courts generally grant permanent name suppression to people that sexually abuse their children.

            • BLiP

              No he’s not. This is what he said:

              It is well established in criminal law that the perpetrator of violence or abuse against a child can’t be identified if it would identify the identity of the child.

              Just one exampleof the sad litany of child abuse in New Zealand: Kahui. Timothy may have meant that the names of children who survive sexual abuse and/or violence carried out by someone who would by association identify the victim then, yes. Otherwise, its another example of Timothy bullshit.

            • BLiP

              No he’s not. This is what he said:

              It is well established in criminal law that the perpetrator of violence or abuse against a child can’t be identified if it would identify the identity of the child.

              Just two examples from the sad litany of child abuse in New Zealand: at one end of the continuum Kahui, and Jimmy Mason at the other. Would you like more examples?

              Timothy may have meant that the names of children who survive sexual abuse and/or other violence carried out by someone who would by association identify the victim then, yes. Otherwise, its another example of Timothy bullshit.

      • Graeme 6.2.2

        I don’t see that it’s different. The child is safe – already removed from the unsafe environment. If you need the information out there to protect a child, sure, but that wasn’t the hypothetical.

  7. I’m no fan of Bennett. I think she’s in the wrong and have said as much on my own site.

    But is it necessary to bring the Weatherston case into the discussion?

    He killed someone in a brutal manner. She may have breached the Privacy Act. Let’s keep some perspective on things.

    • snoozer 7.1

      I see the point – just because someone has got away with something in the past doesn’t make it acceptable when someone else does it and gets caught.

      Sometimes an extreme example is needed to show the ludicrousness of the logic in an argument

    • The Voice of Reason 7.2

      Dunno, Scott, they both seem to like the provocation defence. Hope it works out just as well for Bennett as it did for Weatherston.

      • BLiP 7.2.1

        It is exactly the provaction defence. Further, Bennett’s decision that she knew better than to ask for advice indicates a certain level of narcissism that is becoming more and more apparent in National Inc.

  8. burt 8

    “They did it too’ is the last refuge of the apologists.

    ( One spectacular case that sticks in my mind was a muppet telling me that National once validated $50m so Labour validating an unknown amount of money covering 14 years was just fine by him )

    The debate needs to be lifted from ‘but your team did it too’ to a debate on principles, ethics and standards. The people (the voters) have a right to expect their elected representatives will act in the best interests of the voters above their own or their parties. We must be able to expect that our elected representatives will act within the law. (Particularly so with regard to laws they have written to ‘govern’ themselves)

    I think you are right to make a stand about Bennett and the apparent breach of the privacy laws. It is good to see that opposition has removed the burden of defending the govt for Labour supporters and allowed them to focus on right and wrong rather than defending expedient and convenient. Defending expedient and convenient has been picked up on National party supporter bloggs.

    It’s a funny game of musical chairs the partisans play, I’ll be mighty impressed if this attack of principles here at the standard survives for long once Labour are back in power. But that is a few years away so lets get on holding the govt accountable to us now and worry about the game of it all next time somebody calls out ‘all change seats’.

    • Tim Ellis 8.1

      burt, I was using the “but Labour did it too” defence against the specific claim that it was a new thing, and that Labour didn’t do it.

      I think there is a genuine question of principle about whether it is appropriate for a minister to present important contextual information about a person’s case, when that person is only presenting half the story about their case.

      • exbrethren 8.1.1

        Bennett says that it was important to release this information as the people concerned were talking about the law change but says it is inappropriate to release her own info, blatant hypocrisy. She also appears to have been very selective in what she released in a pretty transparent attempt to get talk radio to savage these women.

        It is certainly a moral abuse of ministerial power if nothing else.

        • Tim Ellis

          I don’t think Paula Bennett has ever misrepresented the amount of money she got from the state to advance her case for getting more benefits from the state.

          • lprent

            Yes she did. It was mentioned on the campaign trail many times last year. For that matter as recently as this week.

            In effect she was using previous benefit payments for arguing for more benefit payments as a MP. Subsequently she used it when appointed as minister and for promoting this government. As such it belongs in the public domain using her own criteria.

            I can’t really distinguish between people drawing benefits from the state.

          • snoozer

            Neither did they

          • exbrethren

            They are campaigning to keep the TIA, she is campaigning to scrap it despite benefitting from it herself. Using her logic all her finances should be released as well.

            • Maynard J

              Her salary as a demonstration of what you can do if the ladder is not pulled up in front of you by the last person to climb it?

              Na, two wrongs do not make a right. I do not want to know what she got, and have no right. Same as with these two.

            • exbrethren

              I totally agree, but was just pointing out her rank hypocrisy over the issue.

      • The Voice of Reason 8.1.2

        Hi, Tim and brave of you to keep using your real name, given the circ’s!

        The issue the women were highlighting is the removal of the TIA, not the total benefits they were on. They want to see the allowance retained. Bennett doesn’t. That’s the issue, that’s the argument. The other payments they receive have no bearing whatsoever on the validity of their position against its removal. So it was completely underhand for Basher Bennett to release the details and if it costs Key another Minister, that’s appropriate.

        Glad that you mentioned the welfare of children, too. Wonder how the kids of these two women are getting on at school today? Any chance they’re receiving the same kind of abuse Bennett has caused to be dished out at their mums?

        • felix

          Hi, Tim and brave of you to keep using your real name, given the circ’s!

          Not really, Tim doesn’t criticise the govt so he’ll be fine.

          • andy

            Not really, Tim doesn’t criticise the govt so he’ll be fine.

            This government, but what about the next one?

            • snoozer

              Tim will have no objection to them releasing personal information about him to ‘balance the debate’ if he opposes them

            • Tim Ellis

              Sure, felix, if I go public about an entitlement I want to receive and explain my personal financial circumstances as a reason for receiving the entitlement, but withold half of the information about my personal circumstances, I would not be bothered if the government released the rest of the facts. In fact on the privacy commissioner’s website, the eighth example highlights just that scenario.

            • Pascal's bookie

              I’m not at all sure that that’s the case here Tim, but even so.

              It seems that if someone claims that the current level of taxation is too high, and that that is affecting their business, or whatever else; then you would have no problem with the IRD releasing all the info they hold about that person’s income and tax details.

            • Tim Ellis

              I think the tax issue is quite different, PB because there are strict tax secrecy laws. If those laws didn’t exist and Party A started a campaign saying: “Tim Ellis pays too much tax! He pays $50,000 in tax! Give him a tax break!”, then apart from the tax secrecy requirements, I wouldn’t have a problem with Mr Dunne coming out and saying: “That’s not correct. He paid $10,000 in tax last year, missed a tax payment the year before and he’s got working for families for the past four years meaning he’s paid no tax.”

            • Marty G

              Tim. Can you point me to these ‘strict secrecy laws’ that somehow set a higher standard for privacy on tax issues then on other confidential info that the government holds on you.

              What you fail to see, Tim, is that by being willing to sacrifice or disregard these women’s rights in this case, you’re opening yourself to be the next person to have their rights abused. We stand together or we fall alone.

          • The Voice of Reason

            I’m more worried that Tim has got offside with Burt! I hate to see the right squabbling amongst themselves, its so anti-aspirational.

            • IrishBill

              Tim you’ve already gone public on lots of issues right here on the Standard. Using Bennett’s “logic” releasing your personal information could be justified as balancing the debate by demonstrating how you would personally gain/lose from the implementation of the policies you argue for/against.

            • Tim Ellis

              Not really, IB, because I haven’t gone publicly campaigning and misrepresenting my personal circumstances to get more from the government, and nor has any political party on my behalf.

            • Marty G

              Tim. get it into your head. Your privacy is not subject to you being ‘worthy’ or ‘good’ in a minister’s judgement.It is a right. They don’t have the power to throw that out the window… not even if your story is, horror of horrors, taken up by the Opposition

  9. graham 9

    so irish bill you dont remember erin leigh what a bad memory you have
    please keep attacking national it helps to raise their support

  10. felix 10

    Can someone start a “kid’s table” thread just for the two of them to fight it out?

    • felix 10.1

      oops that was supposed to be a reply to TVoR.

      • burt 10.1.1

        Oh, no offence Tim. I normally agree with much of what you say and you don’t automatically take a contrary position to everything I say like some muppets.

        However as much as I like knowing how much these welfare cases who are lovers of state dependency really take off productive people each week – I don’t think Bennett was right to release the details.

        • Tim Ellis

          Fair enough burt. I’ve said elsewhere that I thought it was a line call from Ms Bennett, and I think she probably thinks now she should have got legal advice before releasing it and I don’t know the privacy law to be able to say one way or the other whether it was appropriate.

          I think though there are three issues. Should there be a defence if a person goes public with only half their details, to allow the Minister to release the other half of the details to put the case in perspective? I think so, and the advice from the Privacy Commission is they have that defence. I don’t know if it applies in this case.

          Secondly, is it ethical for a political party to put up individual cases (people often in quite difficult circumstances) to put up only half the relevant information and then expose those individuals to humiliation when the media finds out the full facts? This isn’t the first time that the Labour Party has done this. Mr Goff seems to be fashioning his leadership style around hamming up a case using only half a story, and then leaving the poor sod to face the music when the media finds out the rest of the facts.

          Thirdly (and it isn’t the you did it too defence), but I get annoyed with Labour saying that they didn’t do it. It’s either acceptable conduct for a Minister or it’s not, as you say. Labour shouldn’t play for outrage game over it when according to half of the press gallery it was common practice for Labour to shop this around. That is not an excuse for the conduct but it does mitigate against Labour’s outrage over it.

    • burt 10.2

      I wasn’t responding to Tim, but I guess he thought the cap fitted. I don’t care about Tim’s position. Change the players and Tim & rOb are interchangeable as far as I’m concerned. Sure they both mean well but really there is a limit to how much “My side was justified” I can take in any one day.

  11. burt 11

    As a side issue, how did Bennett get hold of the details for these two woman?

    What I’m asking is; Can the minister just ask somebody in MSD/WINZ/Social Welfare to give her the details for individuals?

    This in itself sounds wrong ?

    • RedLogix 11.1

      Bennett was also confronted in Parliament by questions about where the information had come from. It appears from her answers to Annette King that Bennett has a computer in her office from which her welfare officials can access beneficiary files.

      That is how she got the information – without going through the chief executive of the ministry of social development, Peter Hughes.

      Labour is suggesting that Hughes, one of the public service’s leading CE’s, is furious about it. That may or may not be true but at the every least he should have been consulted about such a sensitive matter.


      Not sure if this makes it any better or not. At least the Ministry may not have been directly involved.

      • burt 11.1.1


        That is actually quite disconcerting. Are we to believe that there is access to individual welfare case files in the ministers office? That sounds like BS to me and I suspect somebody is telling porkies.

        However if the minister has direct access available to individual case files the question “WHY?” needs to be asked.

        Oh, cheers for the Herald link.

    • felix 11.2

      I wondered that too burt, I would have thought a person’s private information would be off limits to anyone apart from those directly working on that particular case, including Ministers.

      It’s worrying to think that a Minister would have free access to personal details at all, whether they were to make them public or not.

  12. burt 12

    OK, so she did get access to personal details now the next question is; Excluding the overarching conditions imposed by the privacy commission, what declarations of secrecy and privacy did Bennett sign when she became a minister? Surely there were non disclosure arrangements that remove her rights to publicly discuss details concerning information that is not already in the public domain?

    • burt 12.1

      <wind_up_the_muppets>Actually in the theme of apologists – we must not forget that the business of govt is whatever govt decide it to be.</wind_up_the_muppets>

  13. Maggie 13

    If John Key was discovered in bed with a group of girl guides, Tim Ellis would tell us how wonderful it was that the PM was taking such a personal interest in the welfare of our young people…..

    Didn’t Bennett say something in Parliament about her office having to regularly field enquiries from MPs about the WINZ entitlements of individual constituents?

    Why on earth should those enquiries go to the Minister’s office? Isn’t that the sort of thing that electorate secretaries and local WINZ offices are for?

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