Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: August 17

National Party MP Paula Bennett had a Clayton's apology this week. Photo / Janna Dixon
National Party MP Paula Bennett had a Clayton's apology this week. Photo / Janna Dixon

If your income is courtesy of the taxpayer you had better be careful about what you say publicly or who you give information to - unless you are a Cabinet minister, apparently. In the wake of Paula Bennett's somewhat Clayton's apology and lack of repentance for releasing the personal details of a solo mum, both Gordon Campbell (Paula Bennett's problems with privacy) and Steven Cowan (Paula Bennett - Guilty as charged) point to the apparent hypocrisy that has seen ten WINZ staff sacked for breaching the privacy of beneficiaries.

The failure to extend the department's zero-tolerance policy on privacy to the top may be encouraging her colleagues. Education Minister Hekia Parata is accused of using private information about two teachers to make sure their principals and Boards of Trustees were aware of their political views - listen to Morning Report here, and see Chris Hipkins' Red Alert blog post Bullying tactics an abuse of power.

In contrast, no effort is spared when public servants are the leakers it seems. The investigation into the highly embarrassing Mfat leaks earlier in the year is reaching epic proportions, with the terms of reference being broadened and the two unions involved lawyering up. The inquiry, led by the omnipresent Paula Rebstock has similar powers to a court of law - see Vernon Small's Net spreads in MFAT leaks hunt. It has all the hallmarks of a Witch Hunt in the Public Sector, says Robert Winter, but may turn into 'a serious political embarrassment'.

Embarrassing leaks continue for the Government with Radio New Zealand 'obtaining' a Ministry of Health document that says drug testing for beneficiaries could cost twice as much as it will save and have a 'dubious' effect on health and welfare - see: Ministry worried about welfare policy. The Council of Trade Unions points out that while testing will catch recreational marijuana users, users of harder drugs such as methamphetamines are less likely to be caught - see Danya Levy's High cost for drug testing beneficiaries: Health ministry.

One sure way to stop embarrassing leaks is not to have the information in the first place. Despite undertaking a massive consultation process on how to improve the lives of vulnerable children, Paula Bennett says just measuring child poverty is too difficult. The Government is, apparently cutting to the chase by 'addressing poverty' rather than measuring it - see Kate Shuttleworth and Claire Trevett's Bennett slammed over child poverty claim. Bennett's behaviour while avoiding answering questions on the topic in Parliament yesterday earned her the wrath of one of her own National Party colleagues - see RNZ's Bennett's behaviour worse than 3-year-old: Speaker.

Other important or interesting political items today include:
* Private members bills are a two-edged sword for the Opposition. A Greens bill to extend a tax-credit to beneficiaries may have Labour squirming. It was Labour's election policy in 2011 but there have been clear signals that the party was looking to dump the policy very soon - see Claire Trevett and Adam Bennett's Labour offers limited support to bill backing its election promise.

* The reaction to Labour's perceived backdown has been furious from blogger No Right Turn - see: Labour betrays kiwi kids. Meanwhile, David Farrar explores the issues in his online Herald column, Should beneficiaries get the in-work tax credit?. And Gordon Campbell summarises Labour's recent troubles in Shaky Shearer puts a bob each way.

* There is much speculation about just how real David Shearer's roof painter is. Cameron Slater claims to have discovered proof that Rufus Paynter isn't real. But one blogger on a sickness benefit is happy to tell their real painting story at The Standard - see: To the Back Teeth. And Beyond.

* The next source of tension within Labour could be their response to the Governments industrial relations changes writes Corin Dann in MP's outburst exposes Labour in-fighting.

* Labour have missed the whole point of the regional tour idea says Mark Blackham. It's about listening, not slogans and speeches - see: Hijacking the Heartland.

* Find an unpopular target that your opposition has to defend, is Matthew Hooton's advice to Labour. Beneficiaries are obviously the wrong target when you are up against Paula Bennett - try big business - see David Farrar's Hooton on opposition strategy.

* Labour's promised resurgence in the Maori seats could be looking very shaky if Cameron Slater and iPredict are right - see: Is Shane Jones about to resign?

* Revelation's from TVNZ's Amy Kelley (see: Employers offering illegal wages exposed) about the exploitation of migrant workers have forced the hand of Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson who has launched an urgent investigation - see Kate Shuttleworth's Minister promises action on underpaid migrants.

* Opposition MPs are accusing Maggie Barry of abusing cross-party goodwill to attack a private members bill on euthanasia -see: Isaac Davison's Barry denies undercover bid to derail suicide bill.

* The Christchurch CBD plan will steal from many to enrich a few, writes Hugh Paveletich in Christchurch's Anti-Recovery Plan: Theft based on threadbare analysis.

* The share loyalty scheme will need parliamentary approval and, as it transfers millions from taxpayers to a wealthy few, that is the least we can expect writes Brian Easton in Economy: SOE bonus scheme the PM's priority?

* The Government is, understandably, trumpeting much improved figures for surgery waiting times - see: Bronwyn Torrie's Elective surgery wait 'no longer than four months'. They should perhaps give a nod to Labour for very helpfully culling many from the lists - 35,000 in 2007 - see: Hospitals cull waiting lists by thousands.

* In her latest Listener column Jane Clifton explains why the Government's Charter Schools project is 'madness', but so too is the overreaction of its opponents - see: Charter-schools policy debate.

* John Ansell and Louis Crimp won't pose too much of challenge to the bi-cultural consensus, but the Constitutional Advisory Panel report in 2013 is a different story writes Chris Trotter. It may play out nicely for National's 2014 election campaign - see: Treatygate and the subversion of biculturalism.

* Finally, Tahu Potiki writes that separate racial systems have a long history in our country - see: Maori: achievers and grievers?

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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