Friday, August 06, 2004

Smears and retractions

The Amokura Panoho saga just gets worse. The government's initial response to the storm was to resort to smear tactics, with Trevor Mallard alleging that Panoho misused Labour Departmnent equipment and tried to recruit staff. He was forced to swiftly retract. And now this morning, John Tamihere has likewise retracted his claim that Ms Panoho campaigned for the party on government time, after the Secretary of Labour went on the record as saying that he accepted Ms Panoho's word that that was not the case.

Unfortunately, despite the government's retraction of its attempted smears, Ms Panoho is still out of a job, and apparently considering legal action.

I'm not sure if she'd be able to make a case for constructive dismissal, and because she resigned there's little chance of her getting her job back, but she has a strong moral case. The government has acted like the mafia, using public service neutrality as the instrument of a vendetta to intimidate and punish those who "betray" it. That stinks.

Public servants should not be treated like this. The flip side of public service neutrality is that the government is supposed to do its utmost to protect public servants from politically inspired claims. And yet here it is government ministers that are making them.

The Secretary of Labour is right - Ms Panoho has acted honourably throught this whole affair. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the government.

Update: Those coming from Hard News may want to check out my two previous posts on this issue: Tony Soprano would be proud and political neutrality.