Privacy Commissioner refers Bennett complaint

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, June 23rd, 2010 - 46 comments
Categories: accountability, Media, national - Tags:

As the old saying has it, the wheels of justice turn slow, but grind exceedingly fine. After many months (ht JAS and BLiP in comments), the Privacy Commissioner has ruled on the Paula Bennett case:

Privacy Commissioner Closes Investigation about Hon Paula Bennett Refers Matter to Director of Proceedings

“I have closed my investigation of the privacy complaint made by Natasha Fuller about the actions of Hon Paula Bennett,” Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said today.

“Unfortunately the parties did not reach a settlement on the privacy issues in this complaint.” “In my view the complaint has sufficient substance for me to refer the matter to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings, and I have contacted him accordingly,” the Commissioner said. …

Note for Media

Where we believe a complaint has substance and we have been unable to settle it, we may decide to refer it to the Director of Proceedings. His role is independent of the Privacy Commissioner and he will decide whether or not proceedings ought to be issued in the Human Rights Review Tribunal. This is a separate process from our complaints process and all hearings are commenced and heard afresh. The role of the Tribunal is to make a final determination about the substance of a privacy complaint.

So, one investigation ends and another begins. According to details available here:

In simple terms, the Director performs similar functions to those previously performed by the Proceedings Commissioner: litigating cases involving the anti-discrimination provisions of the HRA, and litigating cases under the Privacy Act 1993 [‘PA’] …

As indicated, a referral to the Director does not automatically mean that proceedings will be issued. The Director is, in reality, a ‘fresh pair of eyes’. Although the Director has no powers of investigation, much less the resources to do so, he approaches the matter anew and may in fact ultimately come to a different conclusion from the PC.

So nothing is certain yet, but the complaint has cleared the major hurdle, and is moving towards action. At this point Key should clearly stand Bennett down, but of course he won’t – there don’t seem to be any consequences for any kind of illegal or unethical behaviour in Key’s government (except for whatever it was Worth did). Even from a position of pure expedience, however, Key should act, as the longer this drags on the closer the eventual blow-up will be to the election.

Finally, let’s all hope that the media pay particular attention to the final comment from the Commissioner:

The complainant Natasha Fuller has asked the Commissioner’s office to convey to the media that she will be making no public statements on the issue. Any enquiries should be directed to her legal representative Joanne (Wattie) Watson of Hamilton.

Leave Fuller alone – she’s been through enough. Go chase Bennett through Parliament with your cameras why don’t you.

46 comments on “Privacy Commissioner refers Bennett complaint”

  1. BLiP 1

    Basher Bennett is going to have to eventually make a public apology, at least. Sad thing is, she and her tatty talkback taliban genuinely cannot understand what she has done wrong.

    • Bored 1.1

      Bennett wont apologise as to do so will challenge all the precepts she lives by. She is the embodiment of all she preaches, the ex sol mum on DPB who pulled herself up by the bootstraps. Ergo if she can do it so can everybody else, or so say those other legends in their own lunchtimes, the “strugglers” who make up the talkback Taliban (nice phrase BLiP).

      Must say the Bennett legend is good Nact Randism played out, but does the myth meet the reality? Has anybody got to the bottom of how she “rose up”, in perhaps the same way that other paragon of “self betterment” Christine Rankin’s myth was examined and found wanting?

      capcha Kill (the poor)….

  2. comedy 2

    Isn’t Joanne the PSA lawyer ?

    • Marty G 2.1

      don’t lawyers have many clients?

      and wasn’t the decision made by the Privacy Commissioner, not the lawyer?

      And what’s wrong with being PSA lawyer?

      • comedy 2.1.1

        Yes, Yes, Nothing that I know of.

      • A Hypocrite 2.1.2

        haha, so charlie shovel steps down as fuller’s lawyer, to have her case picked up by the psa’s lawyer. Guess it must be pro bono then since representing her is in the labour party interest.

        • lprent

          Do you have a problem with people having legal representation?

          Incidentally I don’t like your name so I’m changing it to something more appropriate.

        • JAS

          Do you really believe that Natasha Fuller should have to suffer this without representation? Bennett has legal advisors (and many other advisors) so why should Fuller not have the playing field levelled slightly.

  3. kerry 3

    Bennett is nothing but a pasty, there to push through some rather draconian measures against the Nats favorite punching bag – the poor. They’ll be able to drop her before the next election and deflect much of the anger that these measures have caused.

    I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if she received “advice” to leak those details from above.

    • I’m not sure that Bennett’s skin colour is all that relevant 🙂

      • kerry 3.1.1

        Good call, That should read patsy 🙂

        • A Post With Me In It

          But still true and more funny so its one of those mistakes that turns out to be better than the correct version.

          Now does that make it a mistake at all one ponders?

          Pastry would have also been an acceptable mistake.

  4. tsmithfield 4

    Unfortunately for the left, until she commits some offence that causes wide public odium, I don’t think anything will happen. From what I could see from various public forums, the general public perception seemed to think the beneficiaries concerned were rorting the system and deserved to be outed. Thus, there is unlikely to be much negative public feedback from these events, and thus little incentive for the PM to stand Bennett down. You may not like it, but thats politics.

    • WOOF 4.1

      I think they would be barking mad not to find her guilty.

    • Pascal's bookie 4.2

      So what about you T? What do you reckon about the matter, as opposed to what you reckon the great public reckon?

      Do you think it’s a shame? Would you give any negative feedback to the Nats on this? Have you?

      Or do you just reckon the precedent will be quite safely not used against you and yours, so fuck ’em.

  5. ianmac 5

    Just what can the “Director of Human Rights Proceedings” do if he should find against Bennett? No powers of investigation? Progress?

  6. Peter Martin 6

    ‘Go chase Bennett through Parliament with your cameras why don’t you.’


    • WOOF 6.1

      Yes, let them hound her! 🙂

      • snoozer 6.1.1


      • pollywog 6.1.2

        Just imagining if Paula ‘too big to fail’ Bennett attempted a Carteresque escape through the back passages of power, [deleted – let’s not go there — r0b]

        …as sad as that might be, it would also be funny as…or not ?

        • Inventory2

          Charming … nice to see the moderators leaping in to maintain standards 😉

          [Dealt with in less than half an hour. Contrary to public opinion moderators don’t live on the site, we all have real jobs. — r0b]

          [lprent: I2: don’t be a complete idiot. Polly usually touches the edge every couple of weeks and gets a comment moderated. He/she/it doesn’t make a deliberate habit of it.

          We don’t read the comments as they are incoming and then release them (there are too many). We read them after they’re posted just like you do. Usually we see it when we’re sweeping the comments – in my case every few hours, or if someone draws it to our attention via e-mail. So whining 9 minutes after a comment is posted that it should have been moderated out is simply the behavior of a complete shithead luser.

          I’d prefer to moderate you out – your comment was simply gratuitous stirring. It has a lower standard of deliberate behavior than pollys (whatever that was) probably did from my viewpoint. ]

          • pollywog

            Fair enough, but now i’m wondering, if, in the course of getting chased through parliament an MP suffers an injury by falling down some stairs…Where does the law stand ?

            Would that be grounds for a law suit against the media ?

  7. ianmac 7

    I have no doubt that Bennett is under advice from her boss. They must believe that the chance of public approval for dealing to the “bludgers” is greater than the slighter risk of public disapproval. If this is so, its a bit cynical?

  8. There has been some speculation about the $15k allegedly sought in damages. I wonder if Natasha sought it or if it was an assessment of damages by the Privacy Commissioner. In either event it is a modest amount for what has happened.

    If damages are paid I bet it comes out of the public purse rather than Ms Bennett’s wallet.

    Interesting that if it does get to the Human Rights Review Tribunal that august body is stacked with reactionary nats like Ravi Musuku and Brian Neeson. I wonder which way they would vote?

    • Lanthanide 8.1

      Others have noted before, that if it is paid, they will likely take the money back out of her benefit anyway.

      • The Voice of Reason 8.1.1

        I wouldn’t have thought so, L., as any award would not be income (ie. subject to tax), so should not have any bearing on her benefit. But, in this Brave New World of doublespeak, who knows?

        It also occurs to me that the award could be channelled into a trust rather than being paid directly to her. Whatever happens, this is a very. very bad look for a very, very bad minister. Mind you, it won’t cost her personally, now that we have the Nick Smith precedent. It’ll be us mugs footing the bill.

        • Lanthanide

          Did you know that will entitlements count as income for benefit purposes?

          The aunt of an acquaintance had her ex-husband die (who had married again), and was told by the IRD to contest the will as a source of income. She refused, and the IRD cut her off in lieu of what they thought she would have received, had she contested the will. This is a second-hand story, so may not really be true, though.

  9. Unfortunately for the left, until she commits some offence that causes wide public odium, I don’t think anything will happen. From what I could see from various public forums, the general public perception seemed to think the beneficiaries concerned were rorting the system and deserved to be outed. Thus, there is unlikely to be much negative public feedback from these events, and thus little incentive for the PM to stand Bennett down. You may not like it, but thats politics.

  10. Damages, if awarded, come out of the personal purse of the accused … just like Michael Law’s recent payout to an aggrieved recipient of his vile tongue lashing.

  11. tsmithfield 11

    PB “So what about you T? What do you reckon about the matter, as opposed to what you reckon the great public reckon? Do you think it’s a shame? Would you give any negative feedback to the Nats on this? Have you? Or do you just reckon the precedent will be quite safely not used against you and yours, so fuck ‘em.”

    I think that political expediency is not reserved for those on the right. In similar circumstances the left would probably do the same if it was a politically popular move. Does this mean its right? No.

    Its a bit similar to Groser spending on booze and Carter et al spending on massages, dirty movies, and golf clubs. Objectively the offences are on the same level. However, at the level of public perception there is a vast differences. This is why Goff was compelled to take action whereas Key was not.

    As I say, political expediency is not necessarily right, but by definition it is best for the party concerned.

    • Pascal's bookie 11.1

      So this:

      Or do you just reckon the precedent will be quite safely not used against you and yours, so fuck ‘em.


      Good to know.

      • tsmithfield 11.1.1

        Just pointing out the political realities that I am sure you are well aware of. There likely will be situations in the future where the boot will be on the other foot. Just so happens at the moment the Nats are on the winning side of this stuff.

  12. If she keeps chewing like that she’ll have no lips left.

  13. jen 13

    If the Director of Office of Human Rights Proceedings decides that the case has sufficient merit, he can choose to represent Ms Fuller himself. He will look at the case with “fresh eyes” as the privacy commissioner says and made a decision as to whether it warrants recieving the assistance of the Office. Even if he decided it was not meritorious and did not represent her Ms Fuller could still pusue her case the Human Rights Reviw Tribunal using her own representation.

    • Rex Widerstrom 13.1

      Yes, I’m somewhat confused. Why does Ms Fuller, at this point, need Ms Watson? The Director’s role is, as I understand it, akin to that of a Director of Public Prosecutions – assessing the evidence and then taking a prosecution if he finds it has merit. Independent counsel would be necessary only if he refused. Or am I wrong?

      It seems like a victim of a crime engaging a lawyer (albeit a pro bono one) when it’s the Crown’s job to prosecute. It sounds more like what she has is a PR consultant, and I don’t believe that’s a good look. It allows Fuller to be made the centre of attention and not Bennett, for one thing. Hopefully Ms Watson has the sense to be quiet and let the Director do his job, which is undoubtedly in Ms Fuller’s best interests at present, and not continue to engage the media, which palys to the interests of her employers, their political allies and the media itself.

  14. As an orphan bought up by a widowed aunt with a daughter in the 1930s London with a Tory government that gave little if any help to such families Im disgusted at this joke of a welfare minister.This ghastly charlatan who used the Social- Democratic laws to benifit herself then crushes others who are in need of help. I hope she is charged and sacked .She is the very worst type of Tory , a working class traitor .The sooner she is gone the better for us all.However its very unlikely that the other pretender to the working class will take any action against her,

  15. freedom 15

    two days and still not a whisper about this story on the stuff site,
    (i don’t know if it has appeared in print as i cannot afford to get the daily paper)

    but when an MP on a plane is overheard to criticise a child’s behaviour it took minutes for a full fledged media marathon to be up and running

    • Im sory to say freedom that this is what we on the political Left has to accept.I really have no idea how to overcome gthgis.Its been one of my concerns for years. I dobelieve however that we should use the local giveaways by sending” letters to the editor”. We must use every possible way to get the Left message across. N

  16. Mike 16

    “…she will be making no public statements on the issue. Any enquiries should be directed to her legal representative Joanne (Wattie) Watson of Hamilton.”

    I took this to refer only to enquiries, and not that Fuller was being actively represented in any potential Actions. Sounds like a good approach to me, prevents Fuller from being misquoted or saying anything inopportune, and the lawyer *should* be capable enough of laying enough of the issue on Paula Been-it’s doorstep.

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