Minister of Social Development has attacked freedom of speech

UPDATED: see TV interview here

The Maritime Union of New Zealand says that actions of Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and her office in releasing private information of New Zealand citizens is an attack of freedom of speech.

Maritime Union spokesperson Victor Billot says the deliberate release of the incomes of two solo mothers to the media was a sinister attempt to bully people into submission.

The two women had criticized cuts to training allowances that would make it more difficult for them to study and improve their qualifications.

“The actions of the Minister and her office are not about providing information for reasoned debate, it is clearly a tactic to frighten and bully anyone who stands up and has an opinion.”

Mr Billot says the Maritime Union was comprised of the former Waterfront Workers Union and Seafarers Union, both of which had stood alongside unemployed workers and beneficiaries when they were attacked in the 1990s by the National Government.

He says that it is unacceptable for politicians to use State agencies to gather specific personal information such as income of any citizens, whether they were privately employed, publicly employed, business owners or beneficiaries, for use in calculated media attacks.

“This action shows the contempt in which the National Party holds the working people of New Zealand and the unfitness of the Minister to hold this job.”

Mr Billot says the women involved were right to raise the issue of how cuts to training allowances was a bad idea.

He says the Government is making it harder for working class New Zealanders to get an education or improve their lot.

“The Government can’t defend its policies by rational debate, so it uses the age old tactic of attacking individuals.”

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