Hooten taken apart over Bennett beneficiary leak

by Jake Quinn

My attention has been drawn to this interview by Radio NZ’s Katherine Ryan. If you can only be bothered exposing yourself to one piece of commentary over the Paula Bennett beneficiary-details-leaking saga, do make it this one. Hell, just listen to the last 30 odd seconds of the interview. It’s a damn shame you can’t actually see the look on Matthew Hooten’s face as Trotter and Ryan double teamed his argument so effectively.

They cover the usual “excuses” for Bennett’s actions such as, that ‘this type of thing has happened in the past’, that ‘if you go public and attack the government you can expect some flack’ (!) and that Labour should have warned these women about what was likely to happen.

All weak excuses for wildly different reasons: That this type of thing has happened before does not make it OK and if there was anything that got the last government off side with the public it was a sense of their arrogance, that they new best, and that you shouldn’t question their sound judgement. Does National wish to go down that road?

Going public = an expectation of getting some flak. This one is the worst of the lot. A terrible chilling effect, as Trotter notes, comes about when ordinary people are afraid to execute their right (or even obligation) to challenge the state when they believe they’ve been wronged.

The third one, that Labour has an obligation here to look after these women and shower them in legal advice is just simple politicking on Matthew’s part. Pushing the blame onto a wounded opposition recently burned, in this very domain, over the Burgess case. Assuming that the media will think “oh yeh it probably is Labour’s fault because most things have been this week”.

Ryan concludes the interview saying Matthew would be very unlikely to agree that if a private businessman criticised the government over a failure to receive one tax credit or another,  it would then be appropriate for government ministers (following his logic) to make said businessman’s personal financial details public.

The point being made by Ryan and Trotter is that because these women were state dependants it is OK to beat up on them. This has been shown to be the case by the massive inflow of support the Herald “your views” section has received in support of the Minister’s actions.

[Update: Cartoon in today’s Herald by Rob Emmerson]