Unrepentant Bennett must resign or no confidence in Govt [UPDATE]
[UPDATE-- 3:30PM: Question Time in parliament this afternoon put the Minister on the spot. She tried, with Gerry Brownlee running interference throughout, to avoid giving a substantive answer to the question as to what possible defence she was offering for getting her ministry to release confidential information about her political detractors to the media...
All she would say is that she consulted the Privacy Commissioner's website about "implied consent" and said that the two people involved (seemingly by complaining about the government's policies) had in her mind implied their consent!? An answer as ridiculous as it is lacking in foundation. The answer she was trying to step out of - and did - was whether other Ministers were involved in getting her to take this course of action. But if you go to the website that she is leading people to believe was the only source she used to form her opinion as to what she was doing was proper or not we get...Where is it? "Implied consent" - very hard to find any reference to it on the site she supposedly consulted. Nothing relevant here. And yet somehow she found something to say it was OK... really? Why didn't she check Limits on disclosure of personal information instead? If she read that she would find nothing whatsoever about "implied" anything.
And then she had the nerve to end on a patronising note about one day a beneficiary (like she was) one day "may even be a Cabinet minister". What is the word for the person that exhibits that sort of behaviour? I can think of a few.
Unbelievable. On the day she should have resigned she makes that statement - gloating effectively that she is still a Cabinet Minister! There can be no confidence in this Minister - and because she is protected by the Cabinet and her Party colleagues there can be no confidence in the entire Ministry while she goes unpunished.
Why provide any government agency with information if it can be used on a whim and without any repercussion against you/made public as an act of political revenge by Ministers of the Crown? This is the new reality now. It is totally unacceptable.Some people just don't get it. It's not about the benefit - it's about every person who has any confidential information held by the government having the right to have that information protected. You don't give up that right by complaining about the government!
To a right winger the class of person someone is (and specifically their financial dependency on the state) is a relevant consideration to whether or not they ought to have the protection of the law. What they don't seem to understand is that when we defend the rights of these beneficiaries we are also defending the rights of the right wingers to their privacy as regards all their dealings with the state too. But for them it's a matter of class and of privilege. Those right wingers who think it is acceptable to do this to these people deserve all their private dealings with every government agency released to the media. You whinge the Herald gets a fax from the IRD, MSD, Courts, Police, DHB etc, etc. Is that fair? --UPDATE ENDS]Paula Bennett must resign. She must. A Minister cannot order their department to furnish them with the personal details of their political detractors for the purpose of then breaching their privacy and scoring political points using that confidential information. And a Minister most certainly cannot then release those personal, private details to the public. The only valid reason would be an overwhelming case that the information passed to the Minister had an over-riding "public interest" in being released. That simply is not the case here - there is no legitimate public interest in knowing the benefit details and income of this Minister's political enemies.
She could have made the same point she seeks to make by giving hypothetical examples - not the actual cases themselves. That was a step too far and it must be met with a strong rebuke and loss of office. The Minister's tactic this morning of pretending it's some sort of normal practice tells us that the Nat's have not got a handle on this. Are they intending to run this line at 2pm during question time in Parliament?
They seem to think that a couple of lowly beneficiaries having their financial details with a government department released to the media is not going to have repercussions... wrong. That standard must be applied to everyone else having any sort of financial relationship with the State. Well... those that the National government don't like. They are mistaken - totally mistaken on the scope of this breach. The category of person that the National government thinks should not have any privacy rights - at this moment in time - are hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries.
But the question - at this moment in time - is what other categories of person does this new rule apply? Unhappy contractors? State employees in wage disputes? Patients complaining about a DHB? It's a very long list.
You start at a couple of "whinging dole-bludgers" as a target, but if consistency and principles mean anything it will also apply to every person having any sort of connexion with the government; which via taxes and assistance programmes, pensions, contracts etc. is a vast majority of the population. Complaining about your tax situation... and you don't like Peter Dunne... is it now OK for Peter Dunne to release your tax records to the NZ Herald? This is the new standard if Bennett remains.
The PM cannot condone that - the precedent would destroy more credibility in the NZ Government itself than losing/demoting Bennett would do to the National Ministry. If the PM or senior ministers try to defend this there will be no confidence in the government.
I just heard her on the radio saying it was done "in the interests of fairness." !? It was done to score political points. There is no option now but to resign from the Ministry, or at the very least accept a heavy demotion in lieu of a sacking. But at the moment they seem to be closing ranks. It's a mistake. She's made a terrible blunder - a precedent that should not be set. Her fellow ministers cannot condone this and they cannot defend it.
Goff ought to be firing all cannons this afternoon, but no doubt the Nats will use his leaking of Don's "gone by lunchtime" comment (when Goff was Foreign Minister) that was a breach of his privacy for which Goff claimed - with much success - was of public interest and was right to be revealed. But these cases are miles apart - this is the little guy versus the Minister, not top-level political intrigue.
This is Goff's chance to put the "millionaire beneficiary" case of last week behind him too. However much more is at stake this afternoon than ephemeral politics.
[UPDATE: And David Farrar will apparently not mind his financial relationship with Parliamentary Services and the government being released to the media then...One rule for them... --UPDATE ENDS].