Lest we forget the ACC claimants

There is a parallel story to the ACC scandal that has already cost Nick Smith his Ministerial career, and may well cost other Ministers or senior public servants theirs.  It is a story that no-one apart from Kevin Hague appears to be telling.

That is the story of how ACC claimants are being treated (or mistreated) by ACC. I am not necessarily convinced Bronwyn Pullar’s motivations are honourable, and they may well have much  to do with personal gain, rather than a genuine attempt to address how the system fails ACC claimants.

But as someone who has for many years assisted ACC claimants, including taking cases to review and appeal, I can verify that many of the concerns Pullar expresses in her list (published in the frogblog post from Kevin Hague I have linked to above) are genuine concerns about ACC practices and culture that require investigation.

A good number of them were raised in a report from an inquiry completed by Judge Peter Trapski as far back as 1994. But nothing has ever been done by successive Labour and National led Governments to address them, and the issues, as far as ACC claimants are concerned, fester on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for hounding out the National Party corruption and cronyism going on here, and for addressing what appears to be appalling information privacy practices by ACC.

But just as important is ensuring the very serious concerns about the way claimants are treated by ACC are addressed. Good on Kevin for focusing on that. I hope some MPs from other parties will follow his lead.

 

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.
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