Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Information thuggery

Last week, Jennifer Johnston and Natasha Fuller, two ordinary solo parents, publicly criticised the government's plans to cut the training incentive allowance, which allows solo parents like them to gain qualifications and escape the DPB. Their cases were later used in Parliament to illustrate the effect of National's cuts. Today, Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett retaliated by releasing details of the benefits they were receiving.

This is an appalling abuse of the Minister's powers, and aimed purely at political intimidation. The message is clear: shut up and don't criticise us, or we will publicise your private details. Ugly, ugly stuff, reminiscent of Muldoon at his worst.

But in addition to being ugly, it is also illegal. The Minister and her department have almost certainly violated the Privacy Act by using and disclosing personal information without permission and other than for the purpose for which it was collected. In addition, WINZ have likely violated legislation regarding the secrecy of benefit and income information. This bullying behaviour has exposed the government to legal action, and the taxpayer to financial penalties. But hey, the Minister got her headline, so I'm sure it was worth it.