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Privacy issues stir Bennett welfare debate

Published: 7:19AM Wednesday July 29, 2009 Source: ONE News/NZPA

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett's decision to release the welfare details of two solo mums who criticised the government's decision to scrap the Training Initiative Allowance (TIA) is causing a stir in parliament and on our messageboard with opinion split over whether the minister went too far.

In the latest development, Natasha Fuller, one of the solo mothers involved, has revealed that she will now be laying a formal complaint against the minister with the privacy commissioner.

Fuller told Breakfast the women feel bullied and Bennett has taken the spotlight away from what they are fighting.

Fuller also says they are quite prepared to meet with Bennett who says she's ready to talk to them but isn't going to apologise for releasing their welfare details.

But Fuller says the women have had a "giggle in our corner" because they have emailed Bennett numerous times and never had a response.

Bennett revealed that Natasha Fuller was receiving $715 a week and Jennifer Johnston $554 a week.

Fuller says that without the TIA's $28 a week she won't be able to finish courses and get a job.

Labour has already complained to Privacy Commissioner Marie Schroff about Bennett's action, which was in response to the women publicly criticising the Government's decision to scrap the (TIA).

Among the contributors to our messageboard, Kilkenny says "I think her actions were vindictive. Not a good path to go down. Since so many people on the airwaves are disgusted by how much the DPB is, let's hear what their weekly expenses are before crucifying the two solo mums. Raising kids is the most important job in the world."

Whilst thekiwi is more concerned about the ethical issue behind the decision to release the women's details saying "Paula Bennett you are in a position of trust, how dare you break that trust".

A sentiment echoed by Cecilia who worries that "As a past government employee you sign a confidentiality agreement when you work for a government department. I would have been fired on the spot for divulging private income details of any client. I think the same should apply to Miss Bennett. Is she prepared to enlighten us on her personal income details and what about Mr Key? Is he prepared to do the same? I am sorry but this is a HUGE breach of privacy law."

Not everyone thinks Bennett was wrong though. Workingmum says that "As a working solo mum, earning $700 pw, supporting two children and a mortgage, I have no sympathy for those putting their hands out for benefits paid for by NZ taxpayers, and then complaining about privacy issues. Good for you Paula Bennett, stick to your principles."

Ministers rarely comment on individual cases and Bennett's decision to reveal their payments caused a storm in Parliament on Tuesday.

Labour's deputy leader Annette King accused her of using bullying, Muldoon-style tactics to silence welfare critics.

Labour MP Charles Chauvel said he was taking a complaint to Schroff.

"The minister's decision was clearly not taken in good faith and I believe it breaches several principles in the Privacy Act," he said.

Asked on Close Up whether should felt she owed them an apology, Bennett replied: "I don't think so. I suppose it's a bit of a lesson about what happens when you put your story out there."

A view shared on our messageboard by Westridge, who says "It's not bully tactics. It's fair enough. If you're going to complain about not getting another benefit because you're 'hard up' it's only fair that people know what you DO already get in benefits so they can weigh the pros and cons of the debate up."

Taxpayer also agrees with Bennett's decision to go public with the solo mum's welfare records saying "Good on you Paula Bennett! As taxpayers we have no problem supporting those who are genuinely in need. Looking at the amount of money those two women bring home, I think Ms Bennett was justified in showing BOTH sides of the story. We're sick of hearing sob stories from people who are not prepared to make the most of their situation as we taxpayers have to."

A view echoed by ctama  who says "Go Paula. Those ladies have a cheek, we all have to pay for our education via student loan then why can't they? They should be thankful for the handout they have received so far and not whining about not getting any more freebies. I pay $24,000 in tax a year so they can have free education? I think NOT!"

Alphacrusis begs to differ stating that "People's incomes are confidential. Paula Bennett has shown that absolute power corrupts absolutely and this is how to get away with it."

Annie Fannie Guinea Nannie worries that, by releasing only the financial details of the two women, Bennett has failed to reveal the full story herself.

"How many kids do the women have? Do they receive a disability allowance for their children? Paula, by telling everyone the weekly amounts these women receive is not giving people enough info for the public to make a judgement and you know it . How dare you bully these women? I thought New Zealanders had a right to their opinion and to voice it. What a bully!"

Caitlyno123 thinks Bennett went too far and worries about the implications for future debate. "I think it is just mean of her - I just watched her on Close Up. She missed the point, victimising people when it is about the TIA. She shot the messenger big time. I wonder how much she got when she was on the DPB etc. She talks about 'in the past' blah blah blah, 'Apples with apples.' We are in a totally different time. She has abused her power - it is political debate and their personal info is not relevant. So what happens if I speak up on a certain topic?"

Intraining is also a solo mum and is concerned about the decision to scrap the TIA.

"I am in training, full-time, am a solo parent and I receive TIA. I would not be able to do my training if I didn't receive this allowance. The student allowance IS NOT ENOUGH to cover all the extras involved in full-time study. Shame on the government for scrapping this allowance and keeping quiet about it"

Finally, Delphiguy thinks Bennett may be displaying double-standards in her treatment of Fuller and Johnston.

"That's a bit rich Paula! There you are receiving 4 or 5 times her income courtesy of the support you had from the DPB and TIA and attempting to embarrass someone who is trying to emulate you. People in our society are allowed to protest against what they believe to be unfair treatment and don't deserve intimidation from those in high office."

Have your say on the debate and post your thoughts on the messageboard below.

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  • Merca said on 2009-08-19 @ 21:38 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I think you are wrong, allot of women on the DPB want to get into work, and yes it's a shame that the TIA is cut to help them out.

  • Merca said on 2009-08-19 @ 21:36 NZDT: Report abusive post

    You would find that most people would of been financially stable before they broke up. I have never meet a DPB receiver that decides to have kids when they are not financially stable. You should try to stop assuming things and accidents do happen too, after all we are all human are we not?

  • ManuJ said on 2009-08-17 @ 22:17 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I think the majority of people believe that the DPB is a carrer choice and milk the system for all its worth without any thought of a career. Many actually lose their ambitions to create an independant future for themselves and have more babies while receiving the DPB. The govt should put a clause into the policy for those who want the Training Allowance. Agree to pay all the expenses and if the applicant agrees to this, they forefit their right to the DPB in the future.

  • santa0007 said on 2009-08-17 @ 17:00 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Privacy is not possible in New Zealand,The current MP,s are not qualified to even view any info relating to any subject unless they are "qualified",we all vote for.......strangers based on how well they look/dance/rich/poor but not on there qualifications. There CV and position dictates authority and expectations of many things but postulation of harm to others by an MP is not correct behaviour.How many people have been turned away from a food parcel or access to water & housing.

  • tofel1 said on 2009-08-01 @ 11:13 NZDT: Report abusive post

    It is unfair for people who is working to pay for other people's mistake. I am working hard and do extra hours to save money for my child's expense. If these solo mother can't pay for their living and the children's living costs, they should not have children at the first place. It is unfair the the children and tax payers. They are the parasites in the society.