“One law for all” – except MPs. (Part Rua)
The issue of privacy, politicians, government departments, and ordinary citizens is something that has played out in the public arena in the last few years…
In 2009, two women; solo-mothers; on the domestic purposes benefit; criticised the Government for cutting the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA).
This was the same TIA that Paula Bennett herself used to put herself through University,
“I have never made a secret of the fact I have been on and off the benefit and that I did receive the TIA.
“What I can tell those people who are looking at tertiary study is that it’s not going to be easy but if they back themselves, and this Government is backing them as well, then they can get off the benefit. They may even end up a cabinet minister.” – Source
The two women were on training courses to be a teacher and nurse.
In retaliation to criticism, Bennett gained access to their MSD (Ministry of Social Development) files and released figures regarding the two women’s WINZ payments, to the media. In doing so, Bennett clearly violated the women’s, privacy,
Bennett defended her actions by stating that she wanted to “round up a one-sided story“. Bennett added that “she had not sought the women’s permission she felt they had taken the matter public by talking to the news media and writing on the internet“. (Source)
So there you go, folks. The rules set by the current regime are simple; if you criticise the government and talk to the media – be prepared to have the State retaliate, using your own personal information against you. (Stalin would be proud!)
Fast forward to December, last year,
WINZ head, Janet Grossman said,
“These people have let us down badly. Their actions cast a shadow over our honest and hard working staff who understand that client privacy is sacrosanct.”
It is a shame that Paula Bennett’s – and other politicians – understanding of “sacrosanct privacy” appears to differ markedly from what you and I might think on the subject.
So it was hardly surprising that John Key was scathing in the matter of a secretly-recorded conversation between himself and John Banks, at the Urban Cafe in Epsom last year,
“I’m not bothered in the slightest about what is on the tape, secondly, I am very bothered by the tactics that I believe have been deliberately deployed by the ‘Herald on Sunday’.” – Source
Politicians, though, have recourse to the full force of State power – the police – to guard their privacy. And John Key certainly seemed to have no qualms about engaging the Police on this issue. After all, as Key stated,
“The good thing is we’ve lowered the crime rate by seven per cent across the country so they do have a little bit of spare time and this is a really important issue.” – Source
A politician’s privacy is “important” – even if half the media-contingent in Auckland were present at the meeeting between Banks and Key. Folks can see for themselves just how private their conversation really was,
The “moral” of this story?
If you’re an employee at WINZ, and access personal files of clients without appropriate reasons – then expect to lose your job.
If you’re the Prime Minister – your conversations are always private. Never mind the dozens of journalists you’ve invited to the latest pre-arranged photo-op. (If in doubt, the Police can be called to enforce the Prime Minister’s wishes.)
If you’re a recipient of social welfare – then your privacy is at the discretion of government ministers.
Have I missed anything out?
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