In Parliament today, Paula Bennett further showed her woeful inconsistency when it comes to New Zealander’s right to have their private information remain private. In response to my question in Parliament to her, Bennett stated that she was “very concerned about people’s personal information being available through the kiosks.”
It seems that the same level of concern does not apply to people who embarrass her, however, as she also said she had “zero interest” in an investigation into whether a member of her staff or her Ministry leaked the details of the person who originally discovered the kiosk privacy breach to the media. Bennett added that this person “did not ask that his information be kept confidential”, showing that in her view, information provided to her Ministry should be public unless explicitly stated otherwise!
This is an unacceptable opinion from the Minister in charge of a Ministry that holds information on some of our most marginalised and vulnerable citizens, including children in the care of Child, Youth and Family; sickness and invalids beneficiaries and people who have taken legal action against the Ministry.
Meanwhile, Bennett still denies leaking private information about individuals, despite the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings Robert Hesketh stating that he believed that Bennett breached the privacy of two solo mums who had criticised her decision to remove the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) for degree level courses. We have consistently opposed this decision, and called for the TIA to be reinstated to allow approximately 10,000 people to upskill and improve their employment prospects.
As I said in my speech in the Urgent Debate on this issue in Parliament today, the massive breach of privacy at the Ministry of Social Development is a complete failure of leadership from Minister Bennett. At this point, the only lesson she is providing to her Ministry is that it’s fine to release confidential information about New Zealanders, as long as you can pass the buck when you get called out on it.
Perhaps Paula Bennett might like to request a briefing from the Privacy Commissioner about how the Privacy Act works. She clearly needs it.