Bennett v Fuller

August 15th, 2012 at 2:50 pm by David Farrar

The Human Rights Commission reports:

The Director of Human Rights Proceedings announced today the resolution of a complaint under the Privacy Act against Hon Paula Bennett, Minister of Social Development.

The Director, Mr Robert Hesketh said, “On the basis of the Minister’s letter to me, I have agreed to close my file. The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. The letter from the Minister is attached. We have all agreed that the letter speaks for itself and we will make no further comment.”

The complaint had been referred to the Director by the Privacy Commissioner. This is the normal process under the Privacy Act when the Privacy Commissioner considers a complaint has substance, but the parties cannot agree on a settlement.

The letter is here. Bennett says she maintains she was justified in her actions, but regrets the comments same others made re Fuller, and the hurt that caused.

I do believe that if individuals who receive state support portray themselves publicly as “hard done by”, that there is an obligation for the full nature of such support to be revealed. Without it, we the public, have incomplete information.

However the best practice in future would be for the individuals involved to be asked to consent to MSD releasing their details. If consent is refused, that should be publicised, and if then a decision made on whether to release without consent.

Note this does not apply to individuals on state support criticising the Government or its policies generally. Absolutely not. Only if they talk about their individual circumstances in a way which doesn’t provide the full picture.

Charles not in charge

May 27th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has attacked the integrity of a solo mother who is asking for $15,000 to settle a privacy complaint against the minister, after previously denying she wanted any money. …

“I ruled it out right at the beginning, there wouldn’t be any cash settlement and I was incredibly surprised, particularly after her advocate [Labour MP] Charles Chauvel saying that she wasn’t looking for a cash settlement, to then get a letter from the Privacy Commissioner a matter of days later saying categorically that she was.”…

Mr Chauvel said he helped Ms Fuller draft the complaint and the letter sent a few weeks ago, but had since recommended another lawyer.

Charles seems to be backing away from Ms Fuller at fairly high speed.

The Bennett story

May 1st, 2010 at 10:39 am by David Farrar

TV3 ran a story on Thursday night that claimed Paula Bennett had offered money to Natasha Fuller. The basis was a couple of Facebook messages.

Bennett denied she had offered any money, yet TV3 still run the story purely on the basis of the Facebook messages.

It then transpired that Natasha Fuller has also said there was no offer of any sort. Her Facebook messages to a friend (and she should choose her friends better in future, as the friend went straight to TV3) were bullshitting about an offer.

Why didn’t TV3 talk to Fuller before they ran the original story? Given the Minister had denied the allegations, that would be the sensible thing to do.

I also note that the Herald and Stuff both ran the original story with allegations, but I can’t find anywhere on their site a follow up story carrying the details that the allegation of a proposed payment is totally false.

No money

April 30th, 2010 at 11:28 am by David Farrar

Paula Bennett has highlight in a statement:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is strongly rejecting inaccurate claims made on TV3 news last night that she offered money to settle a privacy complaint.

“These allegations are completely untrue,” says Ms Bennett. …

“The subsequent story that money was offered by me to settle the complaint was unbalanced and untrue,” says Ms Bennett.

Ms Bennett says in this morning’s New Zealand Herald, the complainant was quoted as saying there had been no offer of money. When asked about the 3 News report, the complainant said: “None of that is true”.

So both Paula Bennett and Natasha Fuller have said the TV3 report was false, in relation to any offer of money. TV3 should apologise unless they have some proof.

More on the welfare and privacy debate

July 30th, 2009 at 11:09 am by David Farrar

I have to say that I am gaining very very different impressions of the two women involved in the issue of the cutting of the TIA allowance and the release of their total income from taxpayers.

Jennifer Johnston has really impressed me with her sincerity, attitude and arguments. The Herald reports:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has asked her officials to look into setting up a loan to help solo parents cover their extra study costs.

The suggestion came during a phone call yesterday to Jennifer Johnston, one of two solo mothers whose details she released after they spoke out about her decision to cut the Training Incentive Allowance for tertiary level courses. …

She said she would take Ms Johnston up on an offer to join her for coffee when she was next in Invercargill.

Ms Johnston said she also apologised to Ms Bennett. “I was pretty angry yesterday. I don’t bear her any ill will.”

She said Ms Bennett had listened carefully to her case but also made it clear she could not promise anything.

“I run a family, she runs a department, but my family has a budget just like her department and at times I have to make financial decisions that are unpopular. Sometimes the people I’m responsible for, my children, will come to me and say, ‘Mum, how about we do it this way?’ Sometimes I can compromise and sometimes I can’t – that’s the reality of having a budget. I don’t know what will come out of our conversation but at the very least I know my minister heard my concerns.”

She brushed off concerns about privacy, saying it was not hard to find out what level of benefits a woman in her situation would be entitled to.

I made a similar point on radio yesterday. Most benefit information is a matter of public record. You just can’t calculate it to the exact dollor without knowing what someone’s rent is etc.

But as I said, kudos to Ms Johnston for her positive advocacy and constructive suggestion re expanding loans, rather than a grant.

I have to say that things are rather murkier with Ms Fuller. First of all is the fascinating revelation that she had her benefit information disclosed by Labour in 2007:

The single mother who is taking Paula Bennett to the Privacy Commission for releasing her income details has had her income disclosed publicly before – by Labour in 2007 and by herself on a Trade Me message board last week. …

Ms Fuller listed some of her entitlements on a Trade Me message board under her user name thehappyhocker last week, before Ms Bennett provided the information to the Herald.

Good to see the media pick up on the Trade Me disclosures for they are very relevant.

Ms Fuller’s income had also been used by the Labour Party in 2007 as an example of the success of its policies. She said she had given permission for then social development minister David Benson-Pope to use the information after she set up a cleaning business with an enterprise allowance.

In his speech, Mr Benson-Pope lists her total support from the state as $180.50, including an accommodation supplement of $91, a family tax credit of $69.50, and another $20 a week from Working for Families.

What is especially interesting to me, is what links (if any) Ms Fuller has to Labour. Often people trumpeted by Labour as sucess stories are Labour Party members and activists. This may not be the case, but it often is. And it all comes down to whether there has been appropriate disclosure.

A thread started by Ms Fuller on the Trade Me message boards also has some alarming allegations in it. Also a huge amount of abuse (some from other people on the DPB) – enough to make a general debate thread on Kiwiblog look like a polite conversation.

Dave at Big News blogs on some of the allegations. They include claims of boasting on Facebook of spending $200 on CDs in a month etc. If the claims are correct, Labour may once again be regretting their choice of champion.

And in another thread he blogs on posts by Fuller where she admits to living with her partner while getting the benefit, and knowing what she did was wrong.

And for those who think this is Big Brother, all Dave has done is catalogue posts made voluntarily by Fuller on the Internet.