Judith “Tipline” Collins is really growing on me. She has been able to keep stories surrounding Dirty Politics alive by throwing petrol onto a fire which may otherwise have been burning out.
Last night she claimed that she had been exonerated by the Privacy Commissioner of the allegation that she had leaked information about Simon Pleasants to Cameron Slater.
Radio New Zealand reports her statement as follows:
I have been cleared by the Privacy Commissioner… and I do not want to go into any detail on matters which are currently the subject of multiple complaints,” she said.
Ms Collins said Privacy Commissioner John Edwards had ruled the information she passed on to Mr Slater was not private.
However, a letter from Mr Edwards last week said no such thing and instead stated he would not investigate a complaint about the matter without the support of Mr Pleasants.
The Commissioner made no judgement on Ms Collins’ actions.
Ms Collins refused to be drawn on whether she had effectively facilitated cyber-bullying by passing on Mr Pleasants’ details.
“Actually, no. We’re not going to talk about details of a matter which are currently with police… if I did, I would then be accused of trying to influence the police.”
As Justice Minister, Ms Collins is responsible for and has championed anti-cyber-bullying legislation introduced to Parliament last year.
The trouble for Collins is that the Privacy Commissioner said no such thing. This is what he said about the Greens complaint:
The request for the investigation did not come from the public servant who was the subject of the disclosure. I advised the Greens that the Privacy Act gives me the discretion to refuse to investigate a matter where the complainant (in this case, the Green Party) does not have a sufficient personal interest in the subject matter of the complaint.
The Privacy Act is fundamentally concerned with the preservation and promotion of individual autonomy. It protects the right of an individual to determine, or at least influence, the extent to which their personal information is placed into the public domain and becomes the subject of public discussion.
That purpose would not be served if we were to investigate a complaint in a highly politicised and publicised environment that is neither on behalf of, nor supported by, the affected individual.
Get that? If Mr Pleasants complains then the Privacy Commissioner will consider the matter. But at this stage he does not think that an investigation is appropriate. There is no way that Collins has been “cleared” and if she really believes this then she lacks the competence to be a Minister.
And reinterpreting the opinion of the Privacy Commissioner is not someone that the Minister of Justice should be doing. Collins is the Minister in charge of the Privacy Commissioner. Her statement politicises the office in a way that the Commissioner was trying to avoid.
I was heartened to hear that her friendship with Cameron Slater will continue. Because it is clear that the cluster%$k that is National’s right will continue to remain active.
Update: Radio New Zealand is now reporting that Collins is backing away from her original claim. She is now saying that her view was based on media reports and she now accepts that a complaint and investigation is now possible. Makes you wonder why she said what she did in the first place without checking it out.