[Sitting date: 16 August 2012. Volume:682;Page:4474. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the
Prime Minister: Does he agree with the statement made by the Hon Bill English, in relation to the release of Natasha Fuller’s private details by his Social Development Minister, that, “People who enter into public debate are welcome to do so … and should provide their full information to the public”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the
Prime Minister: Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister agree with the director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings that Paula Bennett breached the Privacy Act when she released Natasha Fuller’s private details without her permission?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: In fact, there has not been a finding that the Minister Paula Bennett breached the complainant’s privacy.
Dr Russel Norman: Does that mean that he supports Paula Bennett’s decision to reserve the right to release other people’s private details without their consent in the future “depending on the circumstances”, and is this now Government policy?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the Prime Minister direct other Ministers to follow the Privacy Act and not release private information without the consent of the people concerned?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Ministers do, every day, follow the provisions of the Privacy Act and many others as well.
Dr Russel Norman: When
TaleniLafo entered the public debate about the state of Housing New Zealand Corporation homes, claiming hers was making her children sick, under what circumstances would he consider it appropriate for Ministers responsible for the Inland Revenue Department, social development, or housing to access her personal details about herself and her family and make them public?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The first expectation would be that the Minister investigated the circumstances and remedied the problem.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked about the circumstances under which it would be appropriate to release the information. The Minister talked about what they should do in the first instance. He did not address the question at all.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has got a reasonable point there. I invite him to repeat his question.
Dr Russel Norman: Thank you, Mr Speaker. When
TaleniLafo entered the public debate about the state of Housing New Zealand Corporation homes, under what circumstances would the Prime Minister consider it appropriate for Ministers to access her personal details and those of her family, and make these details public?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is a hypothetical question, and I am not answering a hypothetical question.
Dr Russel Norman: When sexual abuse survivors criticise Government plans to cut back ACC for sensitive claims, under what circumstances would the Prime Minister
support the Minister for ACC accessing the survivors’ personal files, and releasing their private, personal details to the media?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: This is once again a highly hypothetical question. The member can go on all afternoon trying to put forward these alarming situations in a hypothetical sense. They cannot and will not be answered.
Dr Russel Norman: Are there any circumstances in which it is acceptable for a Minister of the Crown to go to the Government files and access the personal, private details of a member of the public, and release those details without consent in order to make political gain?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have to say, once again, he is asking for the answer to a question that poses hypothetical situations. What I can say is that when it comes to people like Stewart Murray Wilson, the public expect those details to be in the domain. Therefore, it is a very difficult question to answer specifically.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked for, basically, a policy guideline. What is the Prime Minister’s policy for guiding Ministers on releasing this information?
Mr SPEAKER: The member actually asked, if I recollect correctly, whether there are any circumstances under which such information might be accessed and released. In answering it, it appeared the Minister indicated that perhaps there might be some, depending on the circumstances. That seemed to be the answer the Minister gave, because he seemed to cite a situation where that might be a desirable thing to do. It is totally the Minister’s right to answer how he sees fit, but it was certainly an answer. He indicated that there may be some circumstances.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister accept that having a Government that releases the private information of people who oppose Government policy—information that is available only to the State—is an approach that silences dissent, chills dissent in a democratic society, and is not acceptable in a democratic and free country?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, quite clearly, by the long list of examples the member has given this afternoon, that is not the case.