Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Bennett might release more details

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett. Photo / Michael Craig
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett. Photo / Michael Craig

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is unrepentant about releasing the personal details of a solo mother who criticised her, suggesting she might to do it again if faced with the same circumstances.

The Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, Robert Hesketh, has told the minister she breached mother Natasha Fuller's privacy when she released details of Ms Fuller's benefit in July 2009.

Mr Hesketh said this morning he was closing the file because the matter had been resolved "to the satisfaction of all parties".

He also released a letter from Ms Bennett, in which she wrote: "I acknowledge that you consider that I was wrong to do so and that this resulted in a breach of Ms Fuller's privacy.

"As you also know, I do not accept that view."

Mrs Bennett said this afternoon that she had not made a privacy breach, and stressed that the Human Rights Commission had not taken proceedings against her.

Asked whether she would release private information again if faced with the same circumstances, Mrs Bennett said:

"Well, depending on the circumstances, yeah, I'd make a call on what I did at the time. I'm four years in the job now, I'd make another look at it and make a decision based on what the recommendations are and the rules are around privacy."

She added: "I do not believe that I breached privacy, and I said that in the letter and I think it's quite clear..."

Mrs Bennett said the Prime Minister remained supportive of her as a Minister.

Mr Hesketh said the letter spoke for itself, and the commission would be making no further comment on the complaint.

Green Party leader Metiria Turei said Mrs Bennett's refusal to admit wrong-doing or apologise to Ms Fuller was a "very serious concern".

"She had no right to go into that woman's files and expose her private information to the country.

"By exposing that private information she drew to Ms Fuller and her children a great deal of abuse from the public."

Ms Turei said beneficiaries deserved to be represented by a minister who respected their private information.

"She has not assured New Zealand that she will never do it again, and that puts all New Zealand beneficiaries at risk that if they speak out, Paula Bennett will go into your files and use that personal information to attack you in public."

- NZ Herald

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