Last month, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett caused outrage when she suggested somehow banning child abusers from having children. The suspicion at the time was that this was a desperate and cynical attempt to distract the public from the government’s hypocritical and deeply unpopular plans to increase class sizes while sending their own kids to private schools. And now, thanks to FYI, the public OIA site, that interpretation looks to be the case.
Policy doesn’t appear form nowhere (at least, good policy doesn’t). There is a paper trail: aide memoires, briefing notes, position papers, leading up to Cabinet papers and a formal government decision. So what’s the paper trail on Bennett’s “policy”? There isn’t one. Ministry of Justice, who you would expect to be consulted due to the significant human rights issues involved, knows nothing about it. They “ha[ve] not been involved in developing policy on this issue and [do] not hold information relevant to your request”. As for MSD and its Reference Group on Vulnerable Children, they don’t know anything either:
I am able to advise that the Reference Group has not considered any policy that relates to preventing abusive parents having children. To date, the Ministry has not produced any in-depth advice on the relative merits or implications of specific options for adults who have seriously abused or killed young people who then go on to have more children. Your request is therefore refused under section 18(e) of the Official Information Act as no such information exists.
When the Ministries who should be developing a policy know nothing about it, its fair to conclude that the Minister made it up on the spot, and that at the time the government was not seriously considering it. They might be now that the Minister has spoken on talkback; if so, that’s a terrifying insight into how policy is developed under National.