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Privacy Commission guidelines

Written By: - Date published: 3:32 pm, July 28th, 2009 - 120 comments
Categories: national/act government - Tags: ,

Paula Bennett is trying, unsuccessfully, to dig herself out of her hole by arguing that the Privacy Commissioner’s website said the solo mums she’s bullied had given “implied consent” for their personal financial details to be released in the media.

Actually, Paula, that’s not the case at all. In fact, the Privacy Commission’s checklist for Ministers and departmental officials has an example directly on point:

6. Someone goes to the media about a Department’s decision to stop their benefit and is quoted as saying it shows the unfairness of the policy.

The Minister could comment in a way that discloses no further information than is already in the report (for instance explaining how the policy is designed to apply and why it says what it does). If the individual has misrepresented the facts on which the Department’s actions were based, the Minister could say that there are some undisclosed facts which give a somewhat different picture and, if the individual would authorise release of further details from the Department’s files, the Minister would be happy to oblige. Again, these facts could be set out in a letter to the individual and the media duly informed.

So, nope, she wasn’t allowed to release that info. She’s also breached the cabinet manual. Time for Paula to go.

Update: Good piece from Lew at Kiwipolitico too.

Update 2: More at No Right Turn.

120 comments on “Privacy Commission guidelines”

  1. Tigger 1

    Good post Eddie. There’s no reason Bennett shouldn’t have engaged with these women rather than jackbooted all over them. If handlled properly she might have actually turned the whole thing to her advantage. I’m disappointed in her – I thought she had the makings of a good Minister…though I suspect there are others in the caucus who are very glad to see her tripping up. Judith Collins in particular…

    • mike 1.1

      ‘If handlled properly she might have actually turned the whole thing to her advantage’
      She has turned it to her advantage – the feedback I’m seeing in the media (minus the usual socialist whinging) is very supportive.

  2. BLiP 2

    It would appear that she made no attempt to verify the information she released which further polishes up her slippery slope.

    Adios Paula – back to the benefit is it? Poor dear. What now – perhaps some more study?

  3. I’m pretty apalled at this. Espiner’s blog is a good summary. The Minister might feel she’s got a point to make, but she’s breached an important standard. Ministers can’t abuse their priviledged access to personal information to discredit a troublesome critic. Hell, this would be something Winston Peters wouldn’t be so stupid to do. What’s all the more remarkable is the Prime Minister’s support.

  4. r0b 4

    Key was initially “comfortable” with this abuse of power. But now that it has clear that Bennett has breached both Cabinet Manual and Privacy guidelines, Key can hardly run that line any more. He has an interesting problem on his hands.

    What are the odds, do you think, that he will uphold the high standards he promised us before the election and sack Bennett? I put them at “vanishingly small”…

    • Tigger 4.1

      Well certainly this line isn’t going to work much longer…
      Key: “I think the minister was trying to put a bit of balance around the story, wasn’t being over judgemental but was simply saying here are all the facts and New Zealanders can assess whether the government’s on the right track or not.”

      Bennett didn’t have all the facts and this clearly wasn’t about balance, it was about retribution. Fine for when it’s a fair fight but when it’s the government against a couple of solo mums, it starts to look a lot like bullying.

      Oh and Mr Key, for the sake of clarity take it from me, your government is SO not on the right track.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      I suspect he’ll be “comfortable” with it for a few weeks and then Bennett will resign for personal reasons which will later require the public not to know for National(s) Interest.

  5. burt 5

    It is great to see the standard being used to call for accountability in govt rather than defending the indefensible from Labour. If it takes Labour being in opposition for Labour supporters to expect accountability from govt then we should all hope Labour stay in opposition indefinitely.

    If Bennett has broken the law then she should be dragged into court and National should take the hit because of it. There is no need to validate her actions or for us to be told to move on only a corrupt and self serving administration would do that and only partisan hacks would support such actions because it was required to keep ‘their party’ in govt.

    • r0b 5.1

      Oh Burt, still convinced you’re the one true moral paragon I see.

      Clark stood Peters down from his Ministerial positions and then awaited the results of investigations by the proper authorities. Which is exactly what should happen in this case.

    • burt 5.2

      Its so easy to make you bite rOb, do you regret how you defended Labour for the same things you now protest about from National ?

      • r0b 5.2.1

        Its so easy to make you bite rOb

        Yes Burt, despite years of experience as to the futility of it all, you can still occasionally get people to reply to you on a blog. Truly you are a genius of manipulation. Or something.

        do you regret how you defended Labour for the same things you now protest about from National ?

        What do you think you’re on about? Labour took the appropriate action against errant Ministers. I defended them against media lynch mobs (and “Labour Bad National Good” partisan trolls like you), but the appropriate action always took place and needed no defence. Winston Peters is the one you trolls love to hate – he was stood down from his ministerial position so investigations could take place. Let’s see now if Key takes the appropriate action against Bennett. Do you think he will Burt?

      • burt 5.2.2

        Labour took the appropriate action…. ha ha ha – you are a funny guy rOb. I notice you focus one one single incident with Winston, no mention of Taito Field, Benson-Peep, David (who-cares-about-the-receiver) Parker etc.

        Good on ya.

        • r0b 5.2.2.1

          no mention of Taito Field

          Lost his Ministerial position and thrown out of the Labour Party.

          Benson-Peep

          Lost his Ministerial position while investigated (over allegations of events that took place 20 years ago), police investigation inconclusive, returned to most (not all) Ministerial portfolio, lost them again, deselected as a Labour candidate.

          David (who-cares-about-the-receiver) Parker

          Resigned his Ministerial and AG position at the first hint of suspected trouble, cleared of all charges, reinstated Ministerial portfolios.

          So I guess your point must be Burt, that Key should stick to the high standards shown by Labour, and sack Bennett as a Minister. I quite agree with you.

        • burt 5.2.2.2

          Hopefully without a whitewash inquiry or two and stalling for almost two years.

          <sarcasm>Bennett was only guilty of trying to help people by clarifying the facts in an emotive debate.</sarcasm>

          • r0b 5.2.2.2.1

            Who are you accusing of whitewash enquiries Burt? The Police? Really? Please be clear – are you accusing the police of being under Labour’s control?

  6. Tracy Watkins runs Bennetts line in her blog:

    This morning, Bennett reacted to the furore by releasing advice from the Privacy Commissioner on the circumstances in which a minister is justified in releasing personal information.

    But now it appears the ‘advice’ was a quick read of the website.

    We can chew over Bennetts predicament for days but Key will slide all over the floor to do nothing.
    After all shes kicking beneficiaries which the base loves so she will get away with it.

  7. Nick 8

    What about point 8 from that checklist for a bit of balance?

    • Bright Red 8.1

      Nick. example 8 doesn’t apply. It only gives permission to release private information if:

      – the individual has already released “a large amount of personal information to the media”

      > read the Herald on Sunday report, there’s not ‘large amount of personal information there

      and

      – “the Minister releases only information which is relevant to the issues raised by the individual”

      > the amount of other benefit paymetns these women get is irrelevant.

      and

      – “the individual is not harmed”

      > they clearly have been and feel they have been

      example 8 doesn’t permit Bennet’s actions on all 3 counts, failing even one of them is enough.

    • Example 8 is simply not relevant to the case. Bennett’s victims were not making specific allegations against her department, and they did not in the process release a considerable amount of personal information – they simply criticised a change in government policy. The information released by Bennett was not relevant to those criticisms, but was simply a thinly-disguised smear and an attempt at intimidation.

      Example 6 is the relevant one, and even then, it revolves around the Minister being in posession of relevant information. And how much money a particular individual receives in benefit payments is simply not relevant to a general criticism of government policy.

      Bennett is simply a bullying thug trying to intimidate people into silence. There should be no place for such Muldoonist remnants in any decent government.

      Captcha: “blame”

    • Derek 8.3

      Point 8 doesn’t apply to this case. What kind of crazy interpretation are you working on?

    • Richard 8.4

      Point 8 says that:
      “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 Minister’s disclosure rather than by the individual’s own disclosure.”

      How much money these women receive from other benefits is of no relevance to whether or not they will be affected by changes to the Training Incentive Allowance.

    • snoozer 8.5

      Wow, triple slap chop, nice

  8. bobo 9

    Looks like Bennett has kicked this ladder out before shes even climbed up it.

  9. Nick 10

    At first blush I could quite easily make out a case for Point 8 but don’t have the time right now.

    • Lew 10.1

      It’s ok, Nick, you’ll be spared the effort by (one or more of) Paula Bennett making the case for #8; Paula Bennett issuing a comprehensive redaction and apology; Paula Bennett being sacked.

      L

    • snoozer 10.2

      at first blush a lot of things look like how you want them to look

  10. outofbed 11

    Some advice please
    I was going to write a letter to my local Newspaper (Nelson Mail) criticising Nick Smith for citing a Nzier report showing that it would have “a cost of about $15 billion per year at 2020”, or $60 per person per week.(40%) when the report says no such thing
    http://publicaddress.net/default,6075,nick_smith_spanking_now.sm#post6075

    However should I now be scared that my medical records or tax records will be published by the minister to shut me up ? Should l I lie awake at night fearing that knock on the door?

    I await a response

    PS lucky I don’t post under my real name eh ?

    • snoozer 11.1

      oob. a suggestion. send that as your letter with a few edits eg:

      Some advice please. I was going to write a letter to the editor criticising Nick Smith for citing a NZIER report showing that it would have “a cost of about $15 billion per year at 2020″, or $60 per person per week when the report really says that’s the cost of not cutting emissions if our carbon credit allocation is lowered.

      However, in light of ‘Bully’ Bennett’s actions, should I now be scared that my medical records or tax records will be published by the minister to shut me up ? Should l I lie awake at night fearing that knock on the door?

      incredibly – captcha: ‘knocked’

    • jarbury 11.2

      Hmmm…. good points OOB. Quite scary even.

  11. graham 12

    most taxpayers who arent left wing agree with what she did .Middle ground people pay tax and resent people who always are on the take.this blog may disagree but in order to win a election you guys dont matter it is the middle income and middle ground people which count.

    • Classical Liberal 12.1

      graham – the fact that the great unwashed see this as a “couple of bludgers” getting their dues misses at least three points.

      Bennett has kicked the ladder from the wall after she climbed it.

      The government is demonstrably anti education and training when investing in human capital is NZs road to improving our social and economic position.

      The government has shown that dissent and valid disagreement is likely to be met with disproportionate force – mess with them and you are likely to face a tax audit or other unpleasant consequence.

      Hardly bodes well for democracy.

  12. graham 13

    why cant these women get a student loan anyway

    • Eddie 13.1

      irrelevant – Bennett has breached the Cabinet Manual’s rules and the Privacy Act. Who her victims were doesn’t matter, or is it going to be attack the victim from the Right again? Provocation?

      • Swampy 13.1.1

        No she has not breached the Privacy Act. As an MP she is specifically excluded from its coverage.

        • Lew 13.1.1.1

          Swampy, you fail at being a bush-lawyer. The concept you’re scrabbling for is ‘Parliamentary Privilege’. It quite clearly doesn’t apply in this case.

          L

        • Eddie 13.1.1.2

          No she isn’t dimwit.

          Go on, show me where in the Act a mp or minister is excluded from its coverage.

          In fact, the Act and the Commissioner specifically refer to when ministers may and not not release information.

  13. outofbed 14

    i think the first time Bennett saw the website was

    11.24 ish

  14. sausage fingers 15

    If you are whining about how you are not being sufficiently subsidised by everyone else, how is the extent to which you are already being subsidised by everyone else irrelevant?

    • Its irrelevant because the amount of benefit they get is set on other other entitlement parameters. People on the benefit will get a different amount according to the individual circumstances. Bennett is claiming she was releasing this info for balance but what she has done is say they are getting x amount with no context and without their permission.
      The issue for these ladies is the loss of the training allowance, Bennett should have been debating the need for and allowance not individual benefit entitlements.
      Lastly the handling of an Individuals private information is a basic day to day activity for all public servants. What this situation has shown is Bennett couldn’t hold down a job in the local office of the Department she is Minister of.

  15. andy 16

    Bennett on Checkpoint:

    Shorter Bennett: its Phil Goffs fault.

  16. outofbed 17

    Implied consent sounds like a line from the Richard Worth

  17. BLiP 19

    Paula Bennett says: Beneficiaries BEWARE!! Should you wish to complain about the John Key National Government Inc. it will use ALL MEANS NECESSARY to silence your dissent.

    Big Sister has spoken.

    • Swampy 19.1

      No if you let the Labour Party use your case for political purposes you risk that other parties will release the full details.

      That is a fact and a risk anyone takes when their case is released into the public arena. In this case that Labour took the letter and used it for political purposes. After all this is what happened to Bruce Burgess who made his case in a public newspaper, once he is silly enough to grandstand in a public arena then it can be turned into a political campaign.
      This is also what happened to Neelam Choudry in the Richard Worth case as it became known her husband had a certain reputation plus that she was also a Labour candidate.

      • BLiP 19.1.1

        Your understanding of this situation is zero. Fair cop on Burgess but his information was publicly available, that’s why the media got onto it so quick. The personal income details of the two women hung out by Bennett was protected by law – and, before you start your spluttering, the Privacy Act does not allow for Bennett’s sickening behaviour in this instance.

        Carry on trolling . . .

      • Lew 19.1.2

        Swampy, you fail at equivocation as well.

        The Burgess case is different because they put the issue of property on the table. The women in this case did no such thing with their privately-held information; indeed, they were apparently careful not to.

        L

  18. mike 20

    Why does Bennett scare the left so much? Calling for her head after she’s outed another labour smear makes you guys look a bit desperate and fearful.

    Where as Goff has the Rights full support to stay as long as he wants..

  19. Mike Collins 21

    I don’t agree with Paula Bennett’s actions here. But at the same time I am glad the information is public. It allows me to make an informed choice as to what weighting I give these women’s opinions, which is sweet FA considering they look to be professional trough snufflers.

    To me the second outrage here (Bennett is definitely in the wrong) is that the entitlement mentality is alive and well in this country. Not content with receiving hundreds of dollars per week from the taxpayer each (for the last few years), these two women feel they should criticise the Government for not filling the trough up to the same level as it used to be. Remove the word Government and replace it with taxpayer or neighbour and that’s what the reaction should be. No sympathy from me sweethearts.

    Captcha: Wastes – indeed

    • So Mike Collins these woman are professional trough snufflers? I am not sure what information you have from what Bennett has released that makes you informed/ or qualified to pass that judgment. From this tax payers and business owners point of view there is only person with her snout in the trough and that is Bennett. Why? Because she has taken tax payer money most of her adult life and still is. What’s more she is bloody useless at the job. If she was one of my staff and had released some ones private information to a news paper it would result in dismissal, as it would if she was a public servant working in any Government Department. Oink oink Mike Collins

    • Eddie 21.2

      So, if someone is ‘bad’ in your opinion that justifies breaking the law to punish them?

      Scary.

  20. bobo 22

    Interesting the Nact gov are only too happy to release private info on beneficiaries who are private citizens but not give out public information on public figures such as Key not disclosing why he sacked Worth.

    All goes back to the dehumanizing of beneficiaries in the 1990s, dob in a dole bludger, stir up the scapgoat beneficiary pot.

    I’m expecting work for the doll to make a comeback, with the Zero interest for loans to slowly slip away as National probably feel they don’t need the student vote.

  21. Mike Collins
    A mother of three in Orcland doing school, babysitting, study, cooking, shopping, housework, parenting – the lot on this pittance – I might say go phuck yr male self but yr wife would just have to clean up after me.

  22. graham 24

    both duncan garner and guyon espiner have made the point that under helen clark her cabnet ministers would have leaked that info to a tame journo like in the burgess case so me thinks you doth protest to much

    • Macro 24.1

      Oh!! well I just can’t wait to bow down to duncan and guyon! they are the fountains of knowledge in all matters political! Get a life! others have just as valid opinions as those two. I don’t have to take what they serve up to me.

    • Eddie 24.2

      So what? It’s OK because it’s been done by others and they weren’t caught? Do you have the same attitude when a murderer is arrested?

  23. RedLogix 25

    It allows me to make an informed choice as to what weighting I give these women’s opinions, which is sweet FA considering they look to be professional trough snufflers.

    Thanks. Now I can make an informed choice as to what weighting I give your opinions.

    Listening to Chauvel this evening on NatRad it may turn out that Bennett has even failed to give correct information. Chauvel could not be specific without further compromising the women’s already badly dented privacy, but it would appear that there may be a Child Support Agreement in the loop here.

    Look I really expected no better from Bennett; she simply not up to the job, but what really appalls me is that the Prime Minister is defending her. I guess he’s hoping that the same tactic that he got away with last week in attacking Burgess, will work for him again this week.

    • Swampy 25.1

      Oh is that the Burgess where Labour sat on the true picture because they knew it would not reflect well on them but they shamelessly milked it for all it was worth until Goff was made to look a fool as the true facts were known.

      And now Paula Bennett has released information Labour has sat on, Labour would have leaked that information if it suited them (in different circumstances)

  24. Akldnut 26

    Were the amounts Bennett stated gross or was it in the hand?
    If it was the former that would make a huge difference after TAX and IMHO they would just be making ends meet.

  25. Macro 27

    What does it matter. These are payments that both women are ENTITLED to and bear no relevance what so ever to the issue in hand. That is the canceling of the Training Incentive Allowance – of which, one might add, Paula Bennett has herself been a recipient!

    • Lew 27.1

      Macro, you’re damned right. The Nats desperately want to make this about entitlements. It’s not – it’s about information and privacy.

      L

    • Mike Collins 27.2

      Bollocks – what they are already getting is highly relevant in my opinion. They made out like they were being hard done by with the withdrawal of govt support. The reality is they are receiving, and have a long history of receiving, plenty from the taxpayer. Don’t cry poor if you’ve got your nose so deep you need a snorkel.

      Now that doesn’t mean that Bennett should have released the information. Politically, she should have leaked it like Clark would have done.

      • burt 27.2.1

        Exactly.

        • RedLogix 27.2.1.1

          burt

          Umm… the DBP doesn’t pay $715 pw. What do you think is happening here? Think about it.

          • burt 27.2.1.1.1

            I’ve thought about it and being a tax payer since I left high school I have very little experience with the benefit systems. Perhaps a friendly lover of state dependency can explain it to me.

            Oh, I can tell you all about tax though – but I guess that’s of no consequence to people on a benefit because that’s what other people pay to cover the cost of the kids they have a right to have supported for them.

            • RedLogix 27.2.1.1.1.1

              I have very little experience with the benefit systems.

              So you don’t know what you are talking about. Situation normal. At least you have been candid.

              Understand what a “Child Support Agreement” is then?

            • burt 27.2.1.1.1.2

              Yep, so what you are saying is that we the tax payers should be compensating for the fact her x-partner is not paying her as much as she would like ?

            • logie97 27.2.1.1.1.3

              Funny how “I’ve paid tax all my life” comes up in these discussions. Particularly from the self employed. How many pay their full dues… commission an accountant to write off all sorts of spurious expenses against tax.

              Last I heard we had one person one vote. Didn’t depend on how much tax you paid …

            • burt 27.2.1.1.1.4

              logie97

              You are correct, one person one vote.

              I’m not arguing we shouldn’t have benefits to support people who cannot support themselves. That would be barbaric. The level is always a hot topic of debate. I’ll give you some context to my position.

              Driving a mate up Brookly hill one day he commented that more than half of the state flats had Sky dishes. (this is a few years ago now, I’m sure its more than half now) He said he didn’t get why he as a low income single person couldn’t afford Sky but people earning less than him could. He’s got Sky now though & a big TV, he qualified for WFF. Good for him eh – he’s a mate and I’m happy for him.

            • RedLogix 27.2.1.1.1.5

              Yep, so what you are saying is that we the tax payers should be compensating for the fact her x-partner is not paying her as much as she would like ?

              No it means that most likely the Minister has included as part of this person’s income, monies that is actually coming from her ex-partner.

              A very common arrangement.

      • BLiP 27.2.2

        Bollocks to you.

        How many beneficiaries are going to share the same luxury you have of criticising the government now that the John Key National Government Inc is prepared to break the law to silence you? What a contribution to society, what a great motivating factor to utilise mechanisms to remove yourself from the welfare trap, what a wonderful example of how to communicate with other human beings, and what a wonderful display of the sorts of standards in government the nice Mr Key promised.

        Thanks National Inc. Fuck you very much.

      • IrishBill 27.2.3

        I hate to tell you this Mike but nobody in Clark’s government ever released the confidential financial details of someone who stood up against them, either publicly or off the record. If they had taken that approach to confidential information gathered by departments we’d all know where the Sensible Sentencing Trust got it’s money from, and probably DPF and Hooton and Family First as well. One legal audit of each of them would have been all it took.

        Maybe next time around. After all we’ve got a precedent now.

        • burt 27.2.3.1

          They did threaten The Herald with a tax audit when the naughty journalists had a personal agenda for tax cuts.

          • Pascal's bookie 27.2.3.1.1

            No they didn’t burt.

          • burt 27.2.3.1.2

            Let me guess Dr. Cullen was just having a laugh about that one?

            Look I agree that Bennett should be held to account under the law – bring it on I say. You will google long and hard to find me defending the alleged illegal behaviour of any MP.

            • Pascal's bookie 27.2.3.1.2.1

              Let me guess Dr. Cullen was just having a laugh about that one?

              He was making an argument burt. One that you might appreciate in fact. As I understand your position, the Herald owed the tax and they should pay it, the law being the law, and retrospective changes being bad.

              Cullen was arguing the opposite, that there was no tax owing.

            • BLiP 27.2.3.1.2.2

              Don’t have to google, Burt-the-twerp, you’re doing all over the site this very evening.

            • burt 27.2.3.1.2.3

              BLiP

              That was a most valuable contribution and my life has been enhanced on many levels by it.

            • burt 27.2.3.1.2.4

              Pascal’s bookie

              Take care with general statements like that, rOb will argue that retrospective changes are good if they were done during the 1999-2008 period.

            • Pascal's bookie 27.2.3.1.2.5

              You’re not making any sense burt, and moving away from our subject.

              Cullen did not threaten the Herald with an audit.

              Here’s the story as the Herald tells it.

              “The Herald would be wise to consider the consistency of its position,” he added.

              “The owners of the Herald recently found themselves liable to a very large tax bill even though they could reasonably argue that the transaction which triggered it would not at the time have done so according to the general understanding of the law.

              “As a result the Government has agreed to support legislation which effectively retrospectively validates that understanding and relieves the Herald’s owners of the bill.”

              He said the bill would pay for a large number of elective operations.

              He challenged the Herald to explain the difference between its own tax case “and the current storm in a teacup over Parliamentary Service funding – other than that the former is very much larger.”

              PricewaterhouseCoopers tax firm chairman John Shewan, an adviser to APN, said the changes in the legislation were a correction of a technical issue.

              “It’s a clarification of the law that has a retrospective effect.”

              Do you see what Cullen did there? He pointed out that if he believed the Herald’s argument, (which he doesn’t, remember), then the Herald would owe tax. It’s a conditional, where the condition is not met.

              So it’s not the simplest argument, but it’s hardly a difficult one either. Brash, and dpf, spun it the way you did above; as a threat. But that makes no sense.

              Surely you are not just parroting the National party’s ‘Labour bad’ line are you?

            • burt 27.2.3.1.2.6

              Pascal’s bookie

              I think you are right, I was clearly easily misinformed. I may also have conflated that incident with this one.

              However I think the most interesting part of this story is that the NZ Herald reports him as warning the press gallery they were at Parliament only with the permission of the Speaker.

              This reads to me as a threat to journalists that if they displease the Government, then the Speaker may remove their accreditation.

              Can anyone spell Muldoon?

              Otherwise, I should have shut up about The Herald. Sorry.

            • Pascal's bookie 27.2.3.1.2.7

              Fair enough, but again, I think dpf is engaging in a fair amount of spin there.

      • Lew 27.2.4

        MC, your opinion is irrelevant in this case because nobody, not Bennett or anyone else has grounds to question the entitlements, claim the entitlements are too much, or question the entitlement to the TIA (before it was cancelled). Those things are not at issue here. The only thing at issue is the fact that a minister of the crown released a constituent’s private information without consent, for a political purpose, and didn’t even bother to run it by the legal team before doing so – just looked it up on a website.

        L

        • Mike Collins 27.2.4.1

          I call bollocks on that. Notwithstanding the issues caused by Bennett’s flagrancy, we have a situation whereby two women are claiming to be hard done by because an entitlement is being removed. A little context around their circumstances is relevant to the point they are trying to make.

          • Lew 27.2.4.1.1

            Mike, you can call bollocks as you like, but it doesn’t change the fact that nobody is challenging their entitlements. Nobody. If you have grounds to do so (actual grounds, beyond ‘I reckon’) then by all means, have at it. Until then: irrelevant.

            ‘Context’ is not a justification for breaching the Privacy Act and the government’s own policies on official information. Nor should it be.

            L

            • Mike Collins 27.2.4.1.1.1

              Lew – you will note that nowhere do I state that Bennett was right to do what she did. And I am not questioning the entitlement in the sense that I think they have committed fraud or anything like that. I would be fairly confident that they are “entitled” to what they are getting. That being said, it is legitimate to question, as a society, how much we are prepared to give to beneficiaries and under what circumstances.

            • BLiP 27.2.4.1.1.2

              The go onto the net and look it up. Its not like the entitlement structure and dollar values are a secret.

            • Lew 27.2.4.1.1.3

              Mike, it is legitimate to question what society gives beneficiaries and under what circumstance – but that’s not what’s happening here. You’re making an argument -not that it was right for Bennett to release the information, but for the information to be released by some means. That’s not legitimate.

              Either there is a justification for the information being released, or their isn’t. In this case there isn’t, because the women in question didn’t bring the information into the public domain themselves, and ‘I reckon we should know’ doesn’t count.

              L

      • Macro 27.2.5

        BOLLICK yourself! It has NO bearing at all – that entitlement is calculated on the basis of their circumstances without taking into account education. as Bennett and you and everyone else knows or should know.

        • Mike Collins 27.2.5.1

          Lew @ 10.40pm. I’m not saying the information should have been released by Bennett – either directly as she has done, or indirectly such as leaking. Politically I think she is naive for not leaking if she really wanted it out there but that doesn’t mean I think she should have breached the privacy of the two involved. She could have turned the tables effectively on the two by publicly inviting them to release the information themselves to provide context to their claims.

          However, the fact is now this information is in the public domain. Why shouldn’t I be prepared to use it, even if I disagree with how it got there? It bemuses when people say that it is irrelevant. Well yes it would be if I were trying to defend Bennett, which I am not. What they are receiving is entirely relevant to the point I am trying to make: That these two women’s position regarding being hard done by, is compromised by the knowledge they are already receiving large amounts of support from the taxpayer. That stands irrespective of how that knowledge came to hand.

  26. RedLogix 28

    Sorry Mike, either you think it is ok for a Minister to abuse their position and power to reveal state held information about individuals who have embarrassed them, regardless of how ‘relevant’ you think the info is…..

    OR you think that that “Bennett should not have released the information”.

    Can’t have it both ways buster.

    • Mike Collins 28.1

      Yes I bloody well can. Constitutionally I think Bennett has overstepped the mark and I wouldn’t want to see the precedent set where people are too scared to speak out against the government. For that she should be censured, put on last warning, or sacked.

      That, however does not detract from the information itself being interesting and highlighting the snuffling going on from these women. Their situation is relevant to whether they are hard done by or not.

      The way this should have been handled was Bennett saying “oh yeah, they said that did they? How about you ask them how much they receive from the taxpayer, how much they have received in the past and how long they ave been receiving taxpayer support? That way the public can make up their own mind as to whether these women are justified in pleading poverty.”

      • burt 28.1.1

        I agree Bennett has gone too far, so the only option is to hold her accountable under the law. Meanwhile the issues of people expecting other people to pay for their kids is an interesting one.

        Oh, I wonder if Key will do exactly what a self serving major party leader is expected to do and say ‘move on’. NZ would be better off with a true proportional voting system to knock the stuffing out of the large self serving political parties who think NZ politics is best as a two horse race.

      • So lets have the same principles applied to Bennett and at the same time Key can tell us why he lost confidence in Worth. After all we must have the right to know as all involved have their snouts in the trough taking hard earned tax payer money. Right MC and after all that would be really interesting!

  27. Nick 29

    I hate to tell you this Mike but nobody in Clark’s government ever released the confidential financial details of someone who stood up against them, either publicly or off the record.

    Financial entitlements for beneficiaries are hardly confidential. They are easily available from WINZ staff, its website or from beneficiary advocates.

    And maybe confidential financial information was not released but there were many instances where Clark’s government released/leaked private information, either publicly or in the House, to damage opponents: Peter Doone and Erin Leigh come to mind.

    • IrishBill 29.1

      Entitlements for beneficiaries are based on personal circumstances. Without access to the individual case file nobody could have calculated exactly how much each got.

  28. Nick 30

    Ok, I accept that IB. But you can get very close.

    • Izzy 30.1

      And, in getting close to calculating their entitlement, would find out their personal circumstances and begin to understand the justification for the amounts received. Rather than getting righty outrage at the bludging beneficiary getting seven hundred a week.

  29. Swampy 31

    You are talking nonsense and Labour is practising huge hypocrisy.

    The Privacy Act specifically excludes MPs from being bound by it. Therefore Labour’s complaint to the Privacy Commissioner, when they already know what the law says, is purely grandstanding for public attention but will go nowhere.

    Labour has spent days grandstanding on this issue in Parliament yet when Paula Bennett releases the information they have sat on, they have a temper tantrum and accuse her of breaching the Privacy Act.

    • burt 31.1

      Swampy

      Now that’s an interesting twist. (specifically excluded)

      • Eddie 31.1.1

        burt. Don’t believe a word that Swampy says. He thinks MPs are excluded from the Privacy Act. He is wrong.

        Remember, the post? Remember how it specifically deals with when a minister can and cannot release private information?

    • BLiP 31.2

      No. The Privacy Act does not exclude MPs in this instance. In fact, Bennett is likely to end up in Court for publishing the information.

      Carry on trolling . . .

  30. ross 32

    On November 22, 2008 the Herald published an article about Paula Bennett.

    The article mentioned that as a 19-year-old Bennett had received a $56,000 loan from Housing Corp whilst she was on the DPB. Nice if you can get it. In the same article she said “You’re not going to have me bagging the solo mums”. How wrong can someone be?

  31. RedBack 33

    Oh I wish I was back in NZ just to watch Paula Bennett get hung out to dry on this indefensible incident. Its funny reading the Your Views section in the Herald. All the Paula Bennett apologists are lining up claiming that ‘Citizen taxpayer has every right to know what a beneficiary recieves’. Well … yes but generic benfit levels is already public to anyone who asks social services. Its not a state secret.

    The point the right wing seem to be missing is the sheer insidious reasoning behind Paula Bennetts argument for releasing this information. These two women exercised their inalienable right to speak out in public against the current government. It was cordial and in no way desceded into personal attacks.

    People in NZ should be able (I would hope are able) to enjoy the basic democratic right to criticise the incumbent government without any fear of retribution. The method she has used to come back on this issue was not only inbreach of the privacy act but it was also hugely undignified. But she has been in politics for 5 minutes. This action goes along way to prove just how amatuer she is at this.

    I can see a by-election on the horizon.

  32. CMR 34

    Bennett was actually right to do what she did. Beneficiaries are answerable to all those who fund them.

    Privacy rights? What about my right not to have my wallet thinned by a rapacious government.

    Hats off to Bennett!

    • Pascal's bookie 34.1

      Not a fan of the rule of law, CMR?

    • Craig Glen Eden 34.2

      Bennett broke the law simple. There are no excuses, try and justify it all you like but shes stuffed up and she should pay the price. Secondly these woman have the right to question Government Policy. Thats the right that our soldiers fought and died for in two World wars. The right to democracy and the right to freedom of speech without personal ridicule from ELECTED members of Parliament. Shame on Bennett and shame on you CMR for supporting a minister who is trying to Bully these woman.

  33. Norma 35

    Paula Bennett must not be allowed to use her position to break the law, which clearly she has. Not abiding by the Cabinet Manual is enough for John Key to relegate her to the back benches. Remember when Lianne Dalziel released information about a Sri Lankan person seeking residence in NZ? Helen Clark removed her ministerial warrant. I expect the same of John Key.

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