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Zero tolerance for privacy breaches

Written By: - Date published: 9:04 am, August 17th, 2012 - 22 comments
Categories: Ethics, national - Tags: , ,

Consider two Ministers and their attitude to privacy. First, Judith Collins:

Minister furious over ACC’s privacy stance

ACC Minister Judith Collins wants the state insurer to start sacking staff who breach a new “zero tolerance” policy on privacy breaches.

A furious Ms Collins has revealed her astonishment at the failure of ACC to include privacy among nine of its “top priorities”.

“I’m not going to sit back and let one of the most important government entities [that] we have let people down time and time again around things such as privacy. …

“I think that they need to be – and they are now – taking on a culture of zero tolerance to privacy breaches, in particular,” she said.

Police had a “zero tolerance” approach to staff accessing private details about people without good reason. “People lose their jobs over it, and that’s something that I think ACC needs to have, which is that we have people’s very personal information, we should treat it with respect and should understand it’s a very privileged position.”

Second, Paula Bennett:

Bennett might release more details

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is unrepentant about releasing the personal details of a solo mother who criticised her, suggesting she might to do it again if faced with the same circumstances.

The Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, Robert Hesketh, has told the minister she breached mother Natasha Fuller’s privacy when she released details of Ms Fuller’s benefit in July 2009.

Collins can’t credibly call for zero tolerance on privacy breaches while working alongside a Minister who has not only breached privacy, but is unrepentant, and boasting that she might do it again. Bennett has breached the Privacy Act – what is she doing still in cabinet? The Nats have no credibility while she remains*. John Key has no credibility until he acts.

* And Gerry Brownlee trying to play semantics with the obvious twice in question time yesterday doesn’t help.

[And now. Hekia Parata appears to have infringed the privacy of teachers, who wrote to her in a private capacity to oppose government education policy, after replies were copied to their school boards. Meanwhile, Gerry Brownlee compares teachers and solo mums to the Beast of Blenhiem, as people whose private information the government might reveal. JH]

22 comments on “Zero tolerance for privacy breaches”

  1. Carol 1

    NAct is sliding in the direction of dictatorship, where they don’t tolerate any criticisms. They thumb their noses at transparency and democracy. A rep from the Post Primary Teachers Association talked on RNZ this morning about Parata’s alleged breach of privacy:


    The Post Primary Teachers Association says several teachers who wrote to Ms Parata about student/teacher ratios got a response that was copied to their school board and principal.

    The union says the teachers sent letters from personal email addresses and did not say where they work.

    PPTA president Robin Duff says he knows of three cases and this suggests Ms Parata’s office accessed their teacher records or matched their names with publicly available information.

    Constant pressure should be put on the government to be more democratic and transparent. The general public needs to be more aware of the issues here, and the government’s way of operating.

    • Dv 1.1

      Who signed the letters from the ministry of ed to the schools?

      AND reported in the dompost print on Mon? the guy from the correspondence school seconded for two years has gone back to his previous position after 2 months. He was seconded to set up charter schools if i recall. Can any one else shed any light on this?

  2. captain hook 2

    so what about the report on RNZ this am that another minister has taken personal details from e-mails and reported the senders to their employers.
    this government is getting nastier and nastier.

  3. shaz 3

    What I find interesting is why the Human Rights Commission resolution by the Director of Human Rights Proceedings was so timid. It said that there was a resolution to a Privacy Act breach even though the Minister has not acknowledged the breach of the Act in her letter, said that it was a matter of opinion and threatens to do it again. Presumably the length of time indicates that there were lengthy negotiations towards a better outcome which the Director was not ultimately able to deliver in the face of a determined, powerful and unapologetic transgressor. If this is the best protection that can be afforded by a privacy regime then it appears to be broken. A very bad situation for freedom of speech.

    • Socialist Paddy 3.1

      Good question Shaz. I think the answer is the response of Fuller. If she agreed that the investigation should end then Hesketh no doubt thought that he should do so. He may also have been afraid of the Commission making a call on the issue. It is packed to the gunnels with tories and a decision may have spelt the end of the Commission’s independence.

  4. ad 4

    – ACC privacy breaches both accidental and orchestrated

    – Education Minister’s office personal attacks and leaking personal emails

    – Social Welfare Minister personal attacks

    These three are Ministerial hubris. Evil.

    – Also the Police moves on DotCom at the instigation of the UNited States law enfrocement agencies, bulldozing through all kinds of actual due process, and only righted by a whole team of Auckland best and brightest lawyers.

    Loved Russell Norman’s phrasing in teh Hosue yesteray talking about a chill over democracy.

    And yet there’s Whaleoil over there still wondering why people are forced to use pseudonyms.

    I would just encourage this site to keep attacking these Ministers.

    • weka 4.1

      Norman also called NACT/UF the evil coalition yesterday 😀 (in relation to his bill about overseas land ownership)

    • BillODrees 4.2

      The common behaviour behind the three cases above is an excessive sense of entitlement. That is called Narcissism. 
       Narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder in which the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity. This condition affects one percent of the population. It was historically called megalomania, and it is closely linked to egocentrism.

      In a functional organisation this behaviour is curtailed or the nutter is removed. Obviously the National Government is now extremely disfunctional. .  


      A good read for all political junkies.

  5. weka 5

    Bunch Of Fucking Hypocrites.
    I hope everyone realises the subtext here. ACC recipients are unfortunate people who’ve been working! and who deserve our support. WINZ beneficiaries are bludgers who should be grateful for their crumbs but they don’t otherwise have rights.

    • Carol 5.1

      Actually, weka, I don’t think it’s that straight forward. The ACC breaches are largely systemic, from within ACC – except for an email to/from Pullar.

      The WINZ breach was a deliberate act by the minister.

      • weka 5.1.1

        I think we are talking about different things Carol. I was meaning the message from NACT is that ACC clients are legit, WINZ one’s are scum.

        • Carol

          In the above article, I guess you mean, weka.

          But, overall, NAct’s approach has also been to treat ACC claimants as malingerers, unless forced to acknowledge otherwise.

          • weka

            Yes, I was meaning the political spin of late. I know ACC treat their clients very badly. It says something that I’d rather be a WINZ client than an ACC one.

  6. So if collins claims that the privacy breach in acc is just not acceptable,that should
    also mean that bene bennett’s privacy breach is also not acceptable and its even worse
    when bennett claims she will do it again.
    Our dear leader should have pulled her up and told bennett to pull her head in,however
    i’m thinking our dear leader will promote her for her attitude to those they have discarded
    to the waste bin when cutting jobs, people on benefits is a by-product of mis-management
    of the economy and the nact govts continued attack on those who have next to no
    representation in parliament.
    It is a nact party pass-time when in govt to attack beneficiaries and now the nact
    party goes on full out attack mode even threatening exposure to the media if anyone
    should speak out against anything they feel unjust.
    Dictatorship rules in nz under nact.

  7. AmaKiwi 7

    What is our Bill of Rights worth if it can’t protect our privacy from MP’s like Bully Bennett?

  8. xtasy 8

    The truth is, National will not discipline or even sack Bennett, unless she commits a more serious offence, which would result in her ending up before a court.

    They have tasked her with the most ruthless welfare reforms since the ones implemented in the early 1990s, she is the front person to soon announce the second phase of radical changes to welfare, changing the whole setup and regime, including an even more “relentless” focus on work ability and pressure on even sick and disabled to ready themselves to do some forms of work.

    It is at the core of National’s agenda to see this through, and to have Bennett disciplined, demoted or even sacked now just does not fit into the plan.

    So nothing will happen, she is allowed to be a kind of bull-dog and will continue to be let loose to beneficiaries, budgeting services, advocacy services and others, who may try to hamper the further welfarce changes soon to be announced.

  9. mike 9


    No doubt Key has told her to not do it again, not because he gives a sh*t about anyone’s rights, but because he doesn’t want to have to sack her. Where will he find another Paula Bennett so he can carry on scapegoating and ignoring the needs of our most vulnerable? (Actually I think he grows these ministers in an underground lab beneath his mansion, but I can’t back that up.)

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      No doubt Key has told her to not do it again, not because he gives a sh*t about anyone’s rights, but because he doesn’t want to have to sack her.

      She’s electorate MP that got in by the skin of her teeth, if he sacks her there’s a high probability that National would lose a minister. Although they’d still be able to govern with the support of the Maori Party they wouldn’t be able to get their preferred policies through.

  10. mike 10

    Just felt like re-posting this for any of the rabid NAct troll out there thinking of trying to defend this woman with another sad “but it’s my money so I should be able to humiliate these people as much as I decide is appropriate” argument. They do seem to have gone rather quiet on this matter.

    Carol said:

    “And WINZ code of conduct guaranteeing privacy is just for show and really means nothing:


    You have the right to:

    be treated with courtesy and respect
    cultural sensitivity
    use any of our services
    be given information about the services we offer
    be given correct information and entitlements
    be listened to
    be given fair, non-judgemental service
    have your information kept private and confidential ….

    … and more rights listed at the link.”

    mike said:

    (Imagined phone conversation between the head of WINZ and Paula Bennett.)

    “Hey Paula, you might want to read this… Yeah it’s on the WINZ website… Start your browser… Click on the WINZ icon… The yellow one… Yes I’m sure it’s there I made it hot button on your browser when I was last in your office… Got it? Go to our service charter… Yes we did put it on our website, it wasn’t my idea, sorry Paula… It turns out the Human Rights Commission was right after all… I know, so weird… Slow down, did you say delete it?… I’m guessing Carol from The Standard has already cut and pasted it… How do you want to play it?… OK so we just carry on with the ‘I do not agree with that view’ line until the spin team comes up with something better… I guess it’s worked fine so far… How about you start talking about drug-testing the peasants again?”

  11. Russel’s questions exposes what may really be in store for us in the future, especially those who ask questions or raise valid concerns. Paula Bennett represents the majority view in her Government:

  12. schools4all 12

    NO!!! The letters wern’t COPIED to the employer. They were SENT to the boards of trustees and copied to the teacher and his/her principal. Hekia is making it seem much less insidious than it is by suggesting she replied directly to the teacher and copied in the board – which might be ok in some ciricumstances but that isn’t how it worked. No teacher who wrote received a direct reply. Replies went straight to the employer with the clear intention of intimidating the employee and discouraging them from exercising their democratic rights in the future.

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