WINZ Privacy for some – but not for others
Most of us remember this apalling episode of Paula Bennett’s career as Social Welfare minister,
In 2009, Bennett made public private details of two solo-mothers. She handed over personal information to the media without the knowledge of the two women, Jennifer Johnston and Natasha Fuller.
The information included each woman’s weekly income from the State, including benefits and allowances.
Her move was supported by misogynists; right wing nutjobs; assorted beneficiary bashers; and National’s core constituency of conservative cranks.
Bennett’s actions were roundly condemned by fair-minded New Zealanders who recognised the Minister’s actions as a gross abuse of her power and invasion of their privacy. No wonder that many who remembered Rob Muldoon’s style of authoritarian governance likened Bennett’s behaviour to the late, former, Prime Minister.
But Bennett defended her mis-use of Ministerial powers,
“If someone is deciding they’re happy to use their case to speak about or against something we are doing, I think it’s fair the full story be told.”
Three years later…
Deputy Chief Executive, Janet Grossman, who had been head-hunted from Britain and paid over $50,000 of taxpayer’s money to re-locate to New Zealand, resigned only eleven months after taking up her role with WINZ,
Despite quitting less than a year into her new job; and despite over $50,000 paid to relocate her to New Zealand; it is reported that Grossman was paid out $97,000 as some sort of severance pay.
When Labour MP Jacinda Ardern questioned this extraordinary payment in Parliament, this exchange took place with National Minister, Jonathan Coleman,
Jacinda Ardern: Was the only reason she was given for Janet Grossman’s departure in that briefing or information that “her husband has had job opportunities in the UK and she wishes to return back there.”?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes.
Jacinda Ardern: Was Janet Grossman paid a termination benefit?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As you know, $97,000 was allocated across five people who left that year, and there will be no breakdown given, for privacy reasons, of the allocation to any of those five executives.
Really? Dr Colemnan cited “privacy reasons “?!
Chief executive of Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle, was reported by Radio New Zealand as stating,
Mr Boyle says there is nothing unusual in paying out someone their entitlements when they resign but he refuses to disclose just what payment Mrs Grossman got, saying to do so would breach her privacy.
So let’s get this straight…
Two solo-parents who have done nothing wrong; and their only ‘misdemeanour’ was daring to criticise a politician; have their personal details of WINZ payments splashed all over the country’s media, inviting lunatics to attack and threaten them…
But the payout to a senior WINZ executive who resigned/sacked/? is suddenly a matter of “privacy”?
The double standards set by National, and their cronies at highest MSD levels, beggars belief. However, it is unsurprising.
National’s reputation for One Rule For Everyone and One Rule For Themselves, is by now fairly well known in this country.
It demonstrates their complete contempt they have for the rest of us.
This is the sort of arrogance that in other countries leads to authoritarian rule; jails full of political prisoners; eventual uprisings by the populace; and a bullet through the head of despots.
Here in New Zealand, we do things differently. Here, despots get elected to two terms of government.
Previous related blogposts
NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums
Fairfax Media: Paula Bennett accused of Muldoon-style bullying
NZ Herald: Work and Income boss quits
Fairfax Media: Social Development Ministry grilled over security
Radio NZ: MSD chief clashes with MP in committee
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