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Posts Tagged ‘Janet Grossman’

WINZ Privacy for some – but not for others

28 November 2012 5 comments

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Most of us remember this apalling episode of Paula Bennett’s career as Social Welfare minister,

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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,

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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.

See: Social Development, Ministry—Resignation of Deputy Chief Executive

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.

See: MSD chief clashes with MP in committee

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.

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Previous related blogposts

“One law for all” – except MPs

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Sources

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

NZ Parliament: Social Development, Ministry—Resignation of Deputy Chief Executive

Fairfax Media: Social Development Ministry grilled over security

Radio NZ: MSD chief clashes with MP in committee

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“One law for all” – except MPs. (Part Rua)

2 February 2012 4 comments

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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,

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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,

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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,

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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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Previous Blog entries

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

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