ACC behaved disgracefully

Last updated 05:00 16/04/2014

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OPINION: Editorial: The ACC wants you to understand that a recent district court ruling does not mean it has been using an illegal privacy waver form.

At best this is trivially true.

What matters is sheer menace - the illegal menace - with which the corporation was using the form.

It is entitled to cut off your compensation if you don't give access to specified "medical and other records" relevant to your claim.

But Judge Grant Powell has found that the form that was put in front of claimants effectively authorised "fishing expeditions" that went much deeper into people's private lives than the law empowered.

[It doesn't sound as though he found this assessment one of finely judged legal nuances either. He indicated the lack of complexity here by saying that even a "casual glance" at the consent form revealed its overreaching nature.]

The corporation, which had initially defended the blanket form as a matter of "administrative efficiency" is now reminding anyone who will listen that that the form itself is not illegal.

Fine. The corporation may be able to ask what it likes. It's the meanness and illegality of the accompanying standover tactics that should exercise our minds.

The spurious but darkly scary threat of having the benefit cut held sway. Some people who did sign the form were even acting on advice from their own lawyer that to stand up for their rights was simply beyond their means.

It gets dirtier still, because in some cases people didn't sign. Just how many people have been wrongly denied cover, and what might be done to rectify this, become a burning questions.

Thank goodness the matter has finally been hauled in front of the courts. But where, now, is the accountability?

If, as Dunedin lawyer Peter Sara says, there are huge ramifications for the corporation, then that's as it should be. It's not as though they're doing OK letting their consciences be their guide.

Even now, the frankly unapologetic corporation figures it is entitled to retain the information it obtained through this climate of illegitimate intimidation. Once again, administrative efficiency trumps niceties of privacy and justice.

And for its part the Government appears to see no great problem. This at least creates a happy opportunity for the public to have a crack at disturbing the robust sense of official and legislative equanimity that has been on display since the court decision.

Moving right along, a second Government agency has lately embarrassment itself. The Qualifications Authority sent other students' exam booklets to no fewer than 455 who had asked to get their own back to check the marking.

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Sloppy. By way of reassurance, the authority insists these forms did not contain information that could identify anyone.

But in any case it's the cover-up that really matters. The authority told Education Minister Hekia Parata about the processing in January. She accepted assurances of rectification, and neither of them went public. Not even the schools were told. Tell us more about the need for open government, honest dealings with the public, and confronting problems in an upfront way.

Parata says the authority made a regrettable mistake. No acknowledgment that she has too, however.

The coverup was also stupidly pointless. Some 455 kids knew about it. It was always going to get into the public arena.

 

- The Southland Times

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