Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: March 14

JUstice Minister Judith Collins. Photo / File
JUstice Minister Judith Collins. Photo / File

Accidental privacy leaks are causing ACC headaches at the moment, but accusations of deliberate leaks of employee information by the Ports of Auckland are adding to the already bitter dispute. Danya Levy reports that detailed leave records about port worker and union member Cecil Walker have appeared on Cameron Slater's Whaleoil blog - see: Leak accusation further sours ports stoush. Walker was given substantial leave during his wife's terminal illness and eventual death in 2007/08 and recently spoke out publicly criticising the new conditions union members are being asked to accept. Slater has used the information to criticise Walker for being ungrateful and the Ports management are now being asked how the information - which looks to have been sourced from the employer's human resource records - found its way to Slater.

Lawyer John Edwards, interviewed on Radio New Zealand this morning (listen here) says the breach is potentially serious and employers do not have any legal right to release personal information just because a worker speaks publicly about their employment.

During this dispute the ports company has been quick to point to any physical or verbal intimidation by striking workers on the picket line, but if they are found to be deliberately leaking private employment information about employers who dare criticise them, then their accusations of bullying and intimidation will ring hollow.

ACC is in full damage control mode, claiming that knowledge of the accidental leak of client information was limited to a senior manager, Philip Murch, who apparently won't be losing his job - see: Amelia Romanos and Adam Bennett's ACC manager 'failed to do enough' about breach. The scale of the leak means ACC has a lot of apologising to do, reports Phil Kitchin, with 6,748 individuals involved - see: ACC to send mountain of apologies.

It appears that for three months the only action taken was to ask for the information back. When the recipient wanted a written guarantee that all the clients involved would be informed, ACC refused and she heard no more until the story broke - see: ACC apologises over privacy breach.

In a remarkably frank admission John Key has publicly slated interest free student loans but said he is politically unable to reverse the policy: 'it's not politically sustainable to put interest back on student loans. It may not be great economics, but it's great politics' - see: Adam Bennett and Derek Cheng's Govt ready to rein in student loans 'in big way': Key. While this might enhance Key's image as a down-to-earth commonsense type of politician, it severely undermines the argument that cuts to welfare and the state sector are essential to bring government borrowing under control. The difference, of course, is that beneficiaries and public servants are not traditionally big National party supporters but means-tested students and their families are a huge constituency that he cannot ignore. Matthew Hooton is unimpressed by Key's pragmatism, asking on Facebook 'Is this the most appalling thing you have ever heard a national leader in a democracy say on an important policy matter? While charging interest has been ruled out, it looks like there will be further restrictions on which courses will qualify for loan funding and loan repayment obligations will be tightened.

Wayne Mapp's appointment to the Law Commission has been in No Right Turn's sites for some time (see: Judith Collins' brazen cronyism. Appointments of ex-political colleagues are actually pretty standard practice for governments. It makes sense, after all, to have people in positions who you are confident will implement government policy. However, the people appointed need to be qualified for the position, not have personal conflicts of interest and there should be a transparent process. The process is the problem according to No Right Turn, who claims Justice Minister Judith Collins has not followed State Sector Commission guidelines. Collins denies this and John Key has told the Herald that he is happy with the process and the appointment - see: Derek Cheng's Collins job offer bypassed ministry.

In other articles of interest, Tim Hunter reviews the sad history of Government and fishing industry promises to fix the slave labour problem on charter fishing boats going back 15 years (see: Foreign charter vessel mess needs fix), the ODT editorial adds its voice to the media chorus raising alarm over proposals to regulate the ability of journalists to protect their sources (see: Silencing the sources), Bryan Gould backgrounds the Oceania Group rest home dispute, particularly the way it represents private Australian companies trying to squeeze profit from what was previously a public sector service (see: Our workers being squeezed by the bottom line) and Jon Morgan thinks there may just be too many cows and it could be time to accept that farmers as a group are not going to admit this to themselves (see: Time to cut cow numbers, for future generations).

Finally, Steve Braunias tries to get inside Len Brown's non-interventionist head space in his must-read: Secret Diary Of ... Len Brown.

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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