Sunday papers on Bennett

There is little new in the Sunday papers on the Paula Bennett story, but worth looking at what has been said.

The main story in the HoS quotes from the two letters released yesterday, and is pretty unexceptional. What I found more interesting was the HoS Editorial, which seems to be slightly schizophrenic in part prasing Paula, while part insisting the public had a right to know. I suspect their original story got a bit of a backlash. An extract:

On the face of it, and in the absence of any evidence arguing to the contrary, Bennett’s decision to take Halaholo under her roof and her pleas in mitigation on his behalf are unexceptionable, understandable and even commendable. At times of strife, particularly when the law is requiring an errant youngster to face the consequences of his actions, family bonds are tested, and those that do not break are precious indeed. It is difficult to imagine that Bennett’s motives in allowing her granddaughter’s father to be bailed to her home were anything other than entirely blameless. Her personal history, which has not been free of tribulation over which she has triumphed, would equip her to be an ideal guardian of a young man who needed watching over, and the non-custodial remand alternatives, presuming they existed, would very probably have been less satisfactory.

I think most people have reached that conclusion.

But that is not the issue. As a society, we quite properly regard election to any public office, and particularly to Parliament, as imposing duties of disclosure above and beyond those that attend on normal citizenship. This is particularly true of ministers, which is why they are required to declare their assets. It is for the public, not the executive, to decide what among their private financial arrangements is and is not relevant to the discharge of their public duties.

There are additional duties of disclosure, but I am not sure your daughter’s boyfriend qualifies. Where do you stop? Your brother’s P habit? Your uncle’s drink driving? Unless there are links to your actions as a Minister, I tend to think it is private business. If a Minister’s child crashes a private car, it should not be noteowrthy. If the car they crash if a Ministerial taxpayer funded car, then it is noteworthy.

So it is in this case. Only three years after being elected to Parliament, Bennett has been entrusted with an important cabinet portfolio at what might be regarded as a tender age. There is no evidence that the hospitality she extended to Halaholo compromised her, but the questions this paper wished to put to her and to her boss remain of public importance. When did she become aware that Halaholo was involved in a gang? What contact has she had with other gang members or associates? Did she, in the security vetting that all ministers undergo, disclose her relationship with a convicted violent offender? What discussion has occurred about the potential security risks involved?

I really don’t think the daughter’s boyfriend being associated with some gang members (I understand he is not in fact a member of any gang) is quite the same thing as having an affair with the girlfriend of a Russian spy (Profume affair).

John Tamihere has a brother who is a convicted killer, and probably knows dozens of gang members. Is anyone suggesting he (when a Minister) should have had to detail to the Cabinet Secretary every gang member he has ever associated with in case it somehow is a security risk?

Hey Rob Muldoon had a few sessions with gang leaders. That is a security risk I guess. Well mainly a risk to the gang members 🙂

Personally I think the security risk angle is merely justification for running the story. Not that I’m upset the story was published – I think it shows that Ministers are not some privileged elite with perfect families and lives.

Finally we have the SST story. It is largely unexceptional, except for this first paragraph:

PRIME MINISTER John Key has reprimanded his renegade social development minister Paula Bennett after she failed to tell him about letters of support she had written for her daughter’s jailed partner.

Paula is now a renegade Minister? Wow, let’s use the really colorful language. defines a renegade as:

1. a person who deserts a party or cause for another.
2. an apostate from a religious faith.
3. of or like a renegade; traitorous.

So maybe we can agree that’s going a bit over the top. As in 1000% over the top.

But at least Paula is in good company if she is now an official renegade. That is also the Secret Service codename for Barack Obama, as detailed in the Telegraph.

My favourite codename is Kittyhawk for Queen Elizabeth II!

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