Thursday, March 22, 2012

More information thuggery

Today in Parliament, Labour MP Lianne Dalziel asked some questions about the fairness of the government's bailout for red zone property-owners. Gerry Brownlee's response? To dump the details of her earthquake claim into the Parliamentary record.

Again, this is an appalling act of information thuggery, involving deeply personal information. This is purely operational information, which should never have been in the Minister's hands. And yet, when its needed for a political smear, its available to him. This suggests misconduct on the party of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, as well as a gross abuse of power by the Minister.

This isn't the first time a Minister of this government has behaved like this. Paula Bennett is off to the Human Rights Review Tribunal for breaching the privacy of beneficiaries who had stuck their heads up and complained about their treatment, in a case which looks to cost the government tens of thousands of dollars. Sadly, Brownlee's comments are covered by Parliamentary Privilege, so there seems to be no scope for holding him to account. The government department which gave him the information, OTOH, could be in a different boat. There is no reason for Ministers to know the private information of individuals dealing with CERA, it was not collected for the purpose of enabling bullying, and so passing it on to him was a violation of privacy principles. CERA needs to be held to account for that. And in future, government departments faced with such requests from Ministers should not only refuse them - but publicise the fact that the request was made, so the public can hold abusive Ministers to account.