PM backs Bennett on solo mum's payout bid

BY MARTIN KAY
Last updated 05:00 28/05/2010

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Prime Minister John Key has backed Social Development Minister Paula Bennett's decision to reveal a request for $15,000 from a solo mother who has a taken privacy complaint against her.

Ms Bennett also defended her decision to make public the request from Natasha Fuller, saying she had told Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff she wanted the complaints process to be as open as possible.

Ms Bennett revealed on Wednesday that Ms Shroff had last week passed on a request from Ms Fuller for $15,000 to settle the complaint.

Ms Fuller would not comment last night.

Ms Bennett said Ms Fuller wanted the cash for "hurt and humiliation" after Ms Bennett made public details of state assistance to her and another beneficiary, Jennifer Johnston.

Ms Bennett says she issued the details to balance debate over cuts to training allowances for beneficiaries, which the two women had publicly criticised.

She said she had decided to confirm aspects of the case's progress after her integrity was questioned when she refused to respond to a claim by Ms Fuller last month that Ms Bennett had offered to pay her to drop the complaint.

Ms Fuller has since said that the claim – which was made on the social networking site Facebook – was intended as a joke and was not true.

Ms Bennett said she was surprised at the request for money from Ms Fuller, as she had said publicly that she did not want cash.

Ms Bennett wrote back to Ms Shroff last week saying she would not make any payment to resolve the complaint.

Mr Key said he supported Ms Bennett's decision to publicise Ms Fuller's request.

"The minister's acted honourably the whole way through, and I believe acted appropriately, and it's now got to go through a process."

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