We didn’t even need to know what we already did.

Kia Ora. So, Paula Bennett scratched an itch people in the executive always want to scratch: She came out swinging with official data on “her side of the story” about beneficiaries.

While I have sympathy for the executive in that they need people’s permission to even argue their side of the story, I still think it’s wrong to reveal public information for political cases, especially on as flimsy a grounds as that engaging in political debate is implied consent to drop your anonymity. It was bad enough that Paula Bennett seemed determined to pull the ladder up behind her, but now we have her openly attacking women who are just wanting the same level of support she had to get into employment- and that sort of inflation of the skilled workforce is exactly the kind of thing that will help us stabilise our economy again. (at least, in the short term.)

As people have said elsewhere, what Paula has done is not made better by the fact that she’s doing it openly and others do it on the sly through leaks to the media- she was just stupid enough to do it directly. That is in no way admirable, and is like praising someone for swindling money out of someone using their own identity instead of engaging in a more detailed fraud.

But what really gets my goat is the people calling for Paula to reveal more information on her own benefit payments. Firstly- people’s personal experiences may be important, but it is their views on governing that largely effect1 their political style. Secondly, we do not even have a right to know Paula Bennett was a beneficiary in the first place. She decided to tell us because she thought it would make her look like a different kind of National MP. Fair enough. But she took an entitlement, not a loan. Any imagined or personal philosophical obligation to the state ended when she stopped taking her entitlement. We are not entitled to dredge that back up, even to find out if someone was actually a beneficiary at all, and the criticism of the member for Waitakere should be limited to her dangerous precedent, the fact she admitted to doing something that was demonstrably wrong without checking on it, and the precedent she set for the government engaging in a chilling effect on free speech far worse than the EFA ever engendered.

Now, as much as I can understand the anger of people who work hard at those who don’t work and are not actively trying to work, these women are demonstrably trying to get into employment. We should be encouraging and supporting them, not attacking them for taking entitlements we as a society have elected to make available. If we’re tired of the entitlements, we should attack them directly, but not through two innocent bystanders who got caught in the crossfire because a novice minister embarrassed her ministry2 by scratching an itch she isn’t entitled to.

1No, that’s not an error. I mean MPs views about government build up their political style from the ground, not that they affect it. The affecting is what their personal experiences do, and while it can have relevance, it does not entitle us to every detail of an MP’s life. Even if those details might make them look like hypocrites in your opinion. Most of the inconsistencies in MPs political actions come from a particularly strong personal experience causing an anomaly. This action is entirely consistent with the Honourable Paula Bennett’s style.

2You can expect that there will now be a major investigation into who gave her this information, as she would not have had direct access. This might cost someone their job for doing what their minister asked in good faith that she had taken expert advice, rather than just winged it after checking a public service website so briefly she can’t even recite the section she looked at. MSD is the most important ministry in the current economic environment, and it has more than enough to do without its Minister putting whole departments of it under suspicion.

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