Bennett: debate got 'ugly'

04:32, Aug 04 2009
Paula Bennett
PAULA BENNETT: 'It has been an absolutely horrific debate'.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has spoken to one of the solo mums at the centre of a row over training allowances says she regrets the ugly turn that public debate has taken.

The pair had agreed to coffee the next time Ms Bennett was in Invercargill.

Ms Bennett said she did not regret releasing the information but did not condone the abuse that had been directed at the women.

"The only regret I have is that in some quarters it's been an absolutely horrific debate which has been very personalised and ugly and I don't support that at all," Ms Bennett said.

A row has broken out over Ms Bennett's release of income details of two women who questioned the impact of government policy on their ability to continue their studies.

Natasha Fuller and Jennifer Johnston say cutting the training incentive allowance jeopardised both their chances of getting off the DPB and back into work.

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But since the release of their personal details by Ms Bennett they have been vilified on talk back radio and elsewhere.

Ms Bennett said she did not regret releasing the women's details and it was done so "in the nature of having a full debate".

She revealed that Ms Fuller was receiving $715 a week and Ms Johnston $554. Both have three children.

Labour has laid a complaint with the privacy commissioner.

Ms Bennett confirmed that she had phoned Ms Johnston today and they had "a long discussion".

"She put her view point forward on how hard it would be for her to study next year.....and that she would like to be able to borrow more money so she could do that.

"She's not angry with me. She felt the information [on her income] was readily available and she didn't feel that it was a privacy issue. She's invited me round for coffee next time I'm in Invercargill and I said I'd take the coffee."

Meanwhile in Parliament, Labour MP Lianne Dalziel made a personal statement denying any political motivation behind the women coming forward.

 

-By TRACY WATKINS, Dominion Post