Beware of unbridled government

Written By: - Date published: 6:53 am, July 29th, 2009 - 33 comments
Categories: corruption, human rights, national/act government - Tags: ,

‘Beware’ that was Mary Wilson’s conclusion to her interview with Paula Bennett yesterday. The audio is here: Beware of Bully Bennett

govt vs the little guy– Beware that if you voice any opposition to a government policy and the minister decides it has been going on too long or it’s too damaging, they will release confidental information on you.

– Beware that if you oppose their tax policies, they might just decide that the public needs to see your tax returns.

– Beware that if you want harsher punishment for criminals, maybe they’ll publish your speeding fines.

– Beware of government that feels it can disregard the rule of law and constitutional conventions, and use its power against individuals when it suits.

Nobody – whether they are Left or Right, whether the Government is Labour or National – should accept a situation where ministers are willing to abuse the powers entrusted in them to bully members of the public who dare to oppose them.

National has no real excuse. The line they cobbled together in a panic yesterday morning, ‘if we’re going to have a debate these facts needed to be on the table for balance’, doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. Why would the incomes of two women (who just so happen to be the ones opposing the policy) be relevant information to considering whether anyone should have access to the training incentive allowance? Even if it were relevant, that will still not permit the release by a minister of private information about an individual without their permission or legal justification.

Key, naturally, is ‘relaxed’. He doesn’t care about the rule of law. He won’t enforce the Cabinet Manual but there’s still the Privacy Act. We can hope that the Privacy Commissioner will stand up for the rights of all us to be free of such abuses of power.

33 comments on “Beware of unbridled government”

  1. The Ghost of Winston Peters 1

    I would like to see all the records of government MPs released into the public domain, I’m sure Paula could help facilitate this seeing as she has ushered in this new era of absolute transparency ;).

  2. RedLogix 2

    Interesting to see the Herald running interference for the govt as usual:

    GROUND ONE
    Implicit consent:

    “Authorisations do not have to be in writing. They may be given orally or inferred from statements made … the minister need only believe, on reasonable grounds, that the individual has authorised the disclosure.”

    GROUND TWO
    Where a person has released personal details to make allegations and the minister wishes to add further detail to respond.

    “By releasing a large amount of personal information to the media, the individual is taking the risk that unfavourable publicity could result. If the minister releases only information which is relevant to the issues raised by the individual, that person may not be able to claim that any particular harm was caused by the ministers’ disclosure rather than by the individual’s own disclosure.”

    Source: Privacy Commission checklist for ministers and departmental officials.

    If revealing ANY personal information into the public domain is going to give carte-blanche for Ministers to retaliate by releasing personal information… then no-one should be talking to any Herald reporter.

    • BLiP 2.1

      The Herald will be running scared because it published the information which, surely, must also be a breach of the Privact Act – same for the cretin inside the Ministry of Misery who handed over the details to Bully Bennett, I would suggest they are liable as well.

  3. Eddie 3

    Redlogix – I don’t see the Privacy Commissioner buying it.

    The issue will be harm.

  4. Eddie 4

    Just now on RNZ “as we mentioned Paula Bennett refused to come on Morning Report to discuss this issue but we understand that her media staff having been monitoring the programme”

    what does that mean? they’ve got an angry phone call from a Nat staffer complaining about the coverage.

    Bad move when the issue is National trying to stifle dissent.

    • exbrethren 4.1

      Not surprised that Bennett is not on the media after her performance on Campbell Live last night.

      I can just imagine the Nat caucus last night.

      Shon Key “Who’s that underprepared slob on with Campbell. She’s as thick as two short planks.”

      McCully “That’s your girl Paula”

      SK “I am not relaxed”

  5. jcuknz 5

    Privacy! Jeez! What a weird world we live in. If you live by the public purse then the public has a right to know what you get.

    • Derek 5.1

      Fascist.

      • TightyRighty 5.1.1

        dork. jc was just expressing a view. then you roll over the top with bullying language and tone. just what you deride paula for.

        • Eddie 5.1.1.1

          no, tighty, Derek just knows his definitions.

          fascism is the ideology that says those who have the strength and will to obtain power ipso facto have the right to exercise that power how they choose and to subjugate or dominate the weak as they see fit. That’s exactly what jcuknz is defending.

        • Derek 5.1.1.2

          I don’t deride Paula Bennett for her language and tone, I deride her for her abuse of state power to victimise her critics.

          That kind of behaviour is not acceptable in a democracy. There is something deeply fascistic about people who would defend this sort of abuse of power against their political opponents.

      • travellerev 5.1.2

        Goes for the MP’s as well then surely. And while we’re at it those campaign contributions they thought were privacy protected should be published forthwith too. No?

        Captcha: opinion. LOL. So true.

    • Relic 5.2

      I must remember this, because I am quite interested in the details of what pay and benefits Don Brash and Wodneys other friends are receiving for their current little stints “looking into things’, quite a few dpbs I reckon.

    • gobsmacked 5.3

      jcuknz

      The difference between these women and you, is that they expressed an opinion in an open and transparent way, whereas you (and I, and most on this blog) choose to be anonymous. Obviously you think transparency is for them, but not you.

      The women’s details were published by the Minister simply because she knew their names.

      So could you please give your full personal details in your next comment, so we could find out how you benefit from our tax dollars?

      Thanks very much.

      • Marty G 5.3.1

        In my opinion, Bennett’s actions just further justify the use of pseudonyms by this blog’s authors. They would be out for each and every one of us and they would break the law to ‘get’ us.

  6. Mike 6

    To more fully round out the story don’t we also need to see Paula Benefit’s academic records from secondary and tertiary study?
    After all her education was subsidised by the taxpayer so should be a matter of public record by the Minister’s logic.

    • Derek 6.1

      Health records would be good too. List of sexual partners. STD checks. Tax returns for the last ten years…

      You can see where Bennett’s precedent can lead. It’s okay though, John Key’s “relaxed” about ministers abusing their power to silence dissent.

  7. Marty G 7

    I think the fact that Bennett needs to receive her briefings in chart and pictorial form tells us all we need to know about her educational prowess.

    http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/3606/features/13494/outrageous_fortune,1.html;jsessionid=93E9E3316A2FEF6CE86D746332A3A947

  8. Murray 8

    “Unbridled Government” good description of the Helen Clark era.
    Good on Paula Bennett for bring balance to the discussion
    More pathetic winging and hand wringing from Labour
    Just another in the long line of sideshows from labour to detract from what should be the important topics, The recession and The Economy.
    I guess when Labours got nothing constructive, sideshows are all they can come up with

    • Maynard J 8.1

      Gee, I wonder if getting people off benefits, helping them get an education and getting jobs is good for the economy?

      What do you think Murray?

      Let me rephrase that: Do you think, Murray?

    • BLiP 8.2

      If you think the government using its power to silence debate is a good thing, then you’re right – interesting to note your mates in the John Key Natinal Government Inc are left floundering around waiting for the Crosby/Textor Australian offices to open before they have anything substantial to counter with.

      Meanwhile, anyone with anything constructive to offer the government will be wondering about whether their personal details will be splashed across the front page if John Key disagrees – or maybe you only want to hear “approved tallking points”?

  9. Bill 9

    Does all this mean that the next time the government comes out with some policy announcement that there will be no room for government spin…that full disclosure of all remotely relevant information will be placed on the table of public debate?

    That’s nice. Looking forward to fully informed debate on government matters…to a slightly enhanced representative democracy.

  10. Murray 10

    I don’t think anyone is disputing the worth of these benefits, Least of all Paula Bennett.
    So try and get your brain out of the lets bash national mode and try to use it rationally

    • snoozer 10.1

      so as long as it’s a National minister breaking the law, you’re ok with it, Murray?

      • Daveski 10.1.1

        The summary of the legal viewpoints I’ve heard is that it’s more of an ethical rather than a clear legal breach. It may yet prove to be both.

        As is normally the case, the truth lies somewhere between the dominant view here and what the Nats are saying. Suffice to say, Bennett surely can’t be impressing those who matter with her judgement nor her competence to manage a high stress and high profile portfolio.

        • gobsmacked 10.1.1.1

          Certainly Daveski is right about the competence.

          Scene: a typical NZ courtroom …

          “How do you plead?”

          “Not guilty, your honour.”

          “And where is the counsel for the defence? Do you have a lawyer?”

          “No, sir. But it’s all on this website!”

        • snoozer 10.1.1.2

          Who are you hearing?
          The guy on Morning Report who suggested there probably was a legal breach and certainly was an ethical breach?
          the guy on Breakfast who thought there certainly was a legal breach and an appalling ethical breach?
          The one in the Dom (I think it was)?
          The senior lecturer in law http://15lambtonquay.blogspot.com/2009/07/ministers-disclosure-of-benefit.html who says it was a clear breach of the privacy law and thinks there is a case in tort?

          And why is an ethical breach somehow OK?

          • Daveski 10.1.1.2.1

            Morals ethics and politics are a dangerous combination. However, there is no excuse for illegal actions. It is certainly possible that Bennett has acted illegally but it is definitely not irrefutable and still seems to be the subject of opinion.

            I made my view on Bennett quite clear. Likewise, the reaction needs to be in line with the action (unlike the clamour to convict Worth of what was only proven to be breaches of moral conventions and common sense).

            At least Labour has got a break and I note with interest it was Granny leading the charge. Not much of a right wing conspiracy. I doubt anyone here will have the guts to admit it but Labour has been far too willing to use individuals to score political points.

            The same principles applied to the recent Burgess (??) bungle – once in the public spotlight, expect the worse.

            • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1.2.1.1

              Morals ethics and politics are a dangerous combination. However, there is no excuse for illegal actions.

              Pretty much the type of answer I was expecting. If it’s not illegal then in must be ethical seems to be the mantra on the right.

              Clue: Politics is probably more about morals and ethics than anything else.

            • Daveski 10.1.1.2.1.2

              DTB

              You misread me well.

              You’re therefore comfortable that if someone finds homosexuality morally repugnant or women voting culturally inappropriate it is therefore acceptable to base your politics/laws on these beliefs?

              I’m simply pointing out that there is a major difference between an ethical issue and a legal one.

              Give me a little bit more credit than your response does.

              Ha captcha = garbage. Not me this time 🙂

      • Murray 10.1.2

        Can you show where it has been established that any law has been broken

  11. Nick 11

    Great photo! I had to laugh at that.

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