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$15,000 demand outrages Bennett

By Derek Cheng

Paula Bennett. Photo / Doug Sherring
Paula Bennett. Photo / Doug Sherring

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has attacked the integrity of a solo mother who is asking for $15,000 to settle a privacy complaint against the minister, after previously denying she wanted any money.

Natasha Fuller laid the complaint last year after her welfare details were made public by the minister, following Ms Fuller's criticism of Government cuts to the Training Incentive Allowance.

Ms Bennett yesterday said she received a letter from Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff's office last week, which had a request from Ms Fuller for $15,000 "to acknowledge her hurt and humiliation" and an apology for a breach of privacy.

She said she had no intention of paying and was surprised at the request, given that Ms Fuller had earlier said she would not seek money as a settlement.

"I ruled it out right at the beginning, there wouldn't be any cash settlement and I was incredibly surprised, particularly after her advocate [Labour MP] Charles Chauvel saying that she wasn't looking for a cash settlement, to then get a letter from the Privacy Commissioner a matter of days later saying categorically that she was."

Ms Fuller last night said she was "surprised" by Ms Bennett's remarks but declined to comment further, as the process was ongoing. Ms Shroff also declined to comment.

Ms Fuller and Ms Bennett met last month to discuss the issue, but Ms Bennett has always said money was never on the table.

After the meeting, Ms Fuller wrote about a cash settlement to a friend via online networking site Facebook, but later said she was joking and lying and the comments were not serious.

She then wrote to Ms Shroff, saying she wanted an apology from Ms Bennett - but no money - and an assurance the alleged breach of privacy would not happen again, to anyone.

Ms Bennett yesterday attacked Ms Fuller's integrity and accused her of being motivated by politics.

"Her integrity is obviously in question. She says one thing in one breath and then the next day seeks media attention, and then goes online and lies so it becomes very hard to believe anything she says.

"This used to be about privacy, I think it's now about politics ... driven by a Labour MP as her spokesman."

Mr Chauvel said he helped Ms Fuller draft the complaint and the letter sent a few weeks ago, but had since recommended another lawyer.

When asked how the issue could be resolved, Ms Bennett said: "I think it has been resolved. She has been trying to hold me responsible for what I think are political motivations and I'm not buying into it."

SOLO SAGA

July 2009

Solo mothers Natasha Fuller and Jennifer Johnston criticise Government cuts to training allowance for beneficiaries. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett makes public the benefit details of the women. Fuller lays a privacy complaint with the Privacy Commissioner.

April 2010

Bennett and Fuller meet and discuss the complaint. Fuller writes to a friend about a cash settlement, but later says she was just joking. Bennett vehemently denies money was ever on the table.

May 2010

Bennett says a letter from the Privacy Commissioner's office shows Fuller asking for $15,000 and an apology. The office declines to comment and says the process is ongoing.

- NZ Herald

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