Home > The Body Politic > Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

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Most of us remember the situation of  Natasha Fuller and  Jennifer Johnston, solo-mothers, who protested at the canning of the Training Incentive Allowance that was specifically set up to allow single-parents to upskill and enable them to find jobs for themselves.

The Training Incentive Allowance was used by a personal friend of mine, who was on the domestic purposes benefit,  to obtain qualifications as a teacher; land a job at a primary school; and earn a salary. Instead of receiving a welfare benefit, she now pays taxes.

Paula Bennett, the Minister of Social Welfare, did precisely the same and used the Training Incentive Allowance to pay her way through University. As I wrote in an earlier piece, Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy, this was Ms Bennet’s own circumstances,

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A bit of background into Paula Bennett’s life before she came to Parliament…

  • Paula Bennet was a solo-mother, at age 17
  • Just two years later, she got a Housing Corporation loan to buy a $56,000 house in Taupo.
  • All of this while on the domestic purposes benefit.
  • Paula Bennet was a recipient of the Training Incentive Allowance (a WINZ benefit)
  • Paula Bennet obtained her degree at Massey University, through the TIA – a taxpayer-funded benefit

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As is their right in a democratic society which values freedom of expression, Natasha Fuller and  Jennifer Johnston both challenged Bennett on her decision to axe the TIA. They reminded Ms Bennett that the TIA was designed to get people of the DPB, and reminded Ms Bennett that she herself had used this allowance for her own betterment.

Paula Bennett did not take kindly to this criticism. On 27 July 2009, Bennett instructed her staff to release sensitive, personal details of both women’s WINZ payments.

It was a gross abuse of ministerial power.  It was an attempt to bully the two women into submission, using the reactionary, red neck abuse from certain misogynistic elements in our society. (And those elements duly obliged.)

On 11 August 2009, Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff confirmed that a complaint had been laid with her office over Bennett’s releasing of the two women’s details.

The releasing of the Human Right’s document, as outlined by TV3,  has ‘upset’  the Prime Minister who feels that Paula Bennett’s “human rights” have been breached,

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John Key says,

It’s a bit odd when something’s before the Human Rights Commission and yet the Human Rights of one of the parties seems to have been breached.” Source

Pardon?!

It seems outrageous that John Key is not as concerned that one of his Ministers – sworn under oath to uphold the laws of the land – released private information to “destroy” the credibility of her critics (Natasha Fuller and  Jennifer Johnston).

Or is using peoples’ private details to discredit them, if they dare criticise the government, now acceptable practice?

This government does not take kindly to criticism. This list outlines just some of the people who have criticised this government and been abused or derided;

July 2009

Natasha Fuller &  Jennifer Johnston, solo-mothers

Personal WINZ details released to the media by Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, to discredit both women after they criticised National for canning the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to pay her way through University).

May, 2011

Jon Stephenson, journalist
John Key derides Stephenson’s research into NZ activities in Afghanistan: “I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

September, 2011

Nicky Hager, writer, researcher
John Key dismisses Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan:  “I don’t have time to read fiction,” quipped the Prime Minister, adding that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1300 footnotes to referencing documentation.)

October, 2011

Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, broadcaster, blogger
Criticised John Key on Radio NZ. Subsequently banned/ “uninvited”  from returning to Radio NZ as a panellist for the Afternoons with Jim Mora segment.

November, 2011

Robyn Malcolm, actor
Criticises the John Key led National government for it’s failures at a Green Party campaign launch, and is, in turn, vilified by the ‘NZ Herald’, and by one-time National Party aspirational-candidate, Cameron Brewer.

Whilst “Bomber” Bradbury and Ms Malcolm were not directly attacked by this government,  actions taken against them were made as a direct result of criticising John Key.

Quite simply, it is apparent that one criticises this government, and especially John Key, at some risk to themselves.  New Zealanders should be appalled. This is what is known as going down the road to a Police State.

If you are reading this and are starting to feel uneasy – rest assured, that is a normal response.

It is people who think this is all ok, that worries the hell out of me.

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  1. Deborah Kean
    13 November 2011 at 7:56 pm

    This all has the chilling effect that Key et al hope it will… I am reminded that back in the 80s, oddly right after I had been first led to read Ayn Rand, I went for a job interview with a boss who was a Randbot. He asked me my political leanings then turned me down for the job on the grounds that because I was a “leftist” I would sabotage his business.. As the receptionist? I doubt it! At the time, I dobbed him in to the Labour Department (I had been referred to him by them). Now, I would think twice – but then, I was a student, and not desperately under the thumb of WINZ..

  2. Gosman
    14 November 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Only one of those examples was anything like you paint it in terms of a Government abusing it’s powers to attack their critics and that was the first one involving Natasha Fuller & Jennifer Johnston,

    The other ones were simply Politicians deflecting potentially damaging attacks on aspects of their policies, (which happens regardless of the Party in charge), or cases not even involving interference or actions by the National led Government.

    The left is just as capable of personally attacking people who they disagree with. All you need to look at is Darien Fenton’s rant at the Mad Butcher or the insults hurled at journmalist, (I believe), Tracy Watkins recently over her views on the outcome of debates.

    Stop acting so precious Frank.

  3. fmacskasy
    14 November 2011 at 2:35 pm

    The other ones were simply Politicians deflecting potentially damaging attacks on aspects of their policies, (which happens regardless of the Party in charge), or cases not even involving interference or actions by the National led Government.

    Which, if you read what I write a bit more carefully, is why I said,

    Whilst “Bomber” Bradbury and Ms Malcolm were not directly attacked by this government, actions taken against them were made as a direct result of criticising John Key.

    As for Darien Fenton’s comment: whilst I do not agree with her sentiments, it should be pointed out that she was not a government MP .And I’ve no idea what Tracy Watkins said – you need to be a bit more specific.

    Anyway, deflection aside, Gosman, it seems fairly apparent that those who criticise this government suffer an inordinate amount of criticism, pressure, or other consequences heaped upon them. Pointing to “But They Do It To!” is not a valid justification.

    • Gosman
      15 November 2011 at 9:10 am

      People who make public comments should expect to get criticised for those comments if they are controversial. This includes someone coming out and stating that they think the opinion of the particular person isn’t worth that much.

      I didn’t have a problem with Darien Fenton expressing her displeasure at the Mad Butcher’s public endorsement of John Key. I did have a problem with her seemingly encouraging, (by her publically stating what she was thinking of doing), a boycott of a business based on someone’s political leanings. It matters not a jot whether she was a Government MP or not. She is in a position of influence and if that influence is used for purposes such as these then it is wrong.

      Deflecting attention is standard practice in politics. It is less a matter of ‘But they do it too’ as ‘Politics as normal’. I haven’t yet come across a political party that hasn’t engaged in it at one time or another. They do so because it serves a purpose by avoiding questions they think are irrelevant and/or embarrassing. You may not like it but it is unlikely to change anytime soon.

      There is no hard evidence linking the actions talken as a result of Martyn Bradbury and Robyn Malcolm attacks on John Key to the Government. If the Government is not applying pressure for these sorts of counter attacks then your beef is with the organisations in question that have carried out the actions. I would suggest that it has little to do with whether it is a National led Government in charge. I suspect you would have got similar experience from RNZ National and some Newspapers under a Labour led administration.

  4. fmacskasy
    15 November 2011 at 1:08 pm

    “People who make public comments should expect to get criticised for those comments if they are controversial. This includes someone coming out and stating that they think the opinion of the particular person isn’t worth that much.”

    No, Gosman. One expects that people making public comments have those comments addressed, not personalised criticism; abuse; having personal information released; etc.

    Private citizens who criticise their elected representatives’ policies and actions: those representatives are there to serve us, and not the other way around.

    The invasion of privacy of Ms Fuller and Ms Johnston was the worst abuse of political power I’vre seen in a long time. The state collects data on us for a myriad of purposes and I’d doubt if you’d take kindly to a Party (that you oppose) releasing sensitive information designed solely to embarress you.

    “There is no hard evidence linking the actions talken as a result of Martyn Bradbury and Robyn Malcolm attacks on John Key to the Government. “

    Gosman, you should read what I’ve written. Cameron Brewer was considering standing as a candidate for the National Party. He is an Auckland City Councillor. Therefore, his role on Council is partisan, and reflects on National. For him to advocate removing Robyn Malcolm as the public face of Auckland’s recycling programme is indicative of the culture of that Party.

    If not, let the Prime Minister dissassociate National with Brewer’s comments.

    In all, your apologistic comments leave me wondering if you’re prepared to accept all manner of abuse of State power against dissidents.

  1. 13 November 2011 at 1:18 pm
  2. 25 March 2012 at 11:19 pm
  3. 28 March 2012 at 2:02 pm
  4. 11 June 2012 at 1:45 pm
  5. 21 July 2012 at 12:52 am
  6. 20 August 2012 at 6:13 pm
  7. 31 August 2012 at 1:02 pm
  8. 28 November 2012 at 8:15 pm
  9. 30 January 2013 at 11:59 pm
  10. 31 January 2013 at 12:03 am
  11. 14 April 2014 at 11:46 am
  12. 21 April 2014 at 8:01 am
  13. 19 May 2014 at 8:00 am
  14. 18 July 2014 at 8:01 am
  15. 18 May 2015 at 7:23 pm
  16. 23 May 2015 at 8:01 am

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