Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Muldoonism at its worst

While I was away over the weekend, a new political scandal broke, with Winston Peters apparently being overpaid his pension for some years and paying it back. WINZ regards the matter as resolved, which tells us that it is probably one of their innumerable fuckups (otherwise they'd be prosecuting, right?). But there are serious questions to answer about how an MP's private welfare information was systematically leaked to the media to smear them. And on that front, the evidence seems to point squarely at the government:

The Beehive was told about Winston Peters' private meeting over his superannuation payments a fortnight ago and before it was leaked to media, the Herald can reveal.

The Ministry of Social Development's chief executive Brendan Boyle told minister Anne Tolley on 31 July under the 'no surprises' policy that MSD had met with Peters about his superannuation payments. She was updated on 15 August that MSD were satisfied with the outcome of the meeting with Peters.

Tolley's office originally said 15 August was the first briefing, but have clarified that after checking the dates.

The Prime Minister's office has also confirmed English's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson was told by Tolley. A spokesperson said Eagleson did not tell English or others in the office.

Eagleson, in case you've forgotten, was up to his arse in dirty politics a few elections ago - and note that he carefully doesn't rule out having told people outside the PM's office. Meanwhile, other stories are saying that Steven Joyce (National's campaign manager) and Paula Bennett (who likes to leak welfare information to the media) were also briefed.

This is pretty obviously a gross abuse of the "no surprises" policy. "No surprises" is meant to ensure that Ministers aren't blindsided by their own department's cockups, not that their departments effectively spy on the opposition and leak their private personal information so Ministers can smear them in the media. But its also a gross abuse of power by the government to use the information in this way, reminiscent of Muldoon at his worst. It shows an utter lack of ethics on the part of the National party to do this, or to permit a political atmosphere among their hacks that this was seen as an acceptable tactic. And those responsible don't just need to be sacked - they need to be prosecuted if at all possible for their gross abuse of privacy. Corrupt use of official information is a crime, and this seems like a case where prosecution is more than justified. Politicians and flacks need to be sent a message that this sort of shit is not acceptable. And the best way to send that message is to stick the fuckers in jail.

Meanwhile, the government is trying to build "social licence" for greater and more intrusive use and sharing of our personal private information. I think we've just been handed a perfect example of why we shouldn't do that. The government already collects too much, and it clearly can't be trusted with what it has. If anything, they need to be invading our privacy less, not more.