Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Winston is right

Winston Peters is in court today, suing a bunch of former Minister and civil servants over their pre-election leak of his superannuation repayment. He's characterised the leak as malicious, and said that it is repugnant that his information was passed on to Ministers to use for political advantage. And he's absolutely right. WINZ had a legal duty to protect his privacy. And instead of doing that, they handed private data about a past issue which had been resolved to their satisfaction and which they had decided was not worthy of prosecution or further action to Ministers to be used for a shoddy political smear. They absolutely deserve to be taken to the cleaners over this, and the one disappointment is that the government is protecting those involved, rather than letting them carry the can personally for their bad-faith actions.

As for former ministers Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett, by leaking the information (and even by not immediately sacking the "public service" crawlers provided it to them) they demonstrated that they are unethical shitbags. They deserve to be taken to the cleaners too - and personally, rather than being protected by the government. which just smacks of a cosy establishment pact to protect each other from the consequences of wrongdoing. And that's the point where I disagree with Matthew Hooton: yes, Bennett and Tolley clearly can't help themselves. But that doesn't mean we should excuse their shitbaggery. To the contrary, it signifies their need for punishment, to deter other would-be shitbags. But it also demonstrates their absolute unfitness for public office: because someone who would abuse people's private data in this way is absolutely unfit to have access to anything.

Meanwhile, WINZ seems to be in full-on victim-blaming mode, which is just irrelevant. Because the issue here isn't how the error happened in the first place - they've previously accepted it was not Winston's fault when they decided to deal with it with a simple repayment - but that they decided to leak it to Ministers. Their choice of "defence" strategy shows that they still suffer from a sick culture of hating the people they are meant to be assisting. The current government has promised to change that culture, and "bring kindness back". Clearly, they still have a lot of work to do on that front.