There has been a flurry of commentators and even the Minister for the ACC Judith Collins lining up to blame Bronwyn Pullar for her her actions, and suggest that she has not behaved responsibly.
Whistleblowers usually have to go through hell and back. We even have laws in this country to protect them. And don’t doubt for one moment that power will play dirty to protect power. It didn’t take the spin machine of ACC and the National Government long to start suggesting that Ms. Pullar had behaved badly. This despite the fact that hers was far from an isolated case, she claims (and we have no reason to doubt her) that she showed the full document to no-one, and removed and/ or covered all names before handing over to the media. Sounds pretty responsible to me.
In politics I would guess they would consider it a “strategy” to turn the tables like this. Psychologically I would call it “blaming the victim.” Psychological injuries are very prone to this kind of invalidating and compassion-less response, the wound is invisible, and the person looks “fine”.
Anyone who has ever been through, or supported someone through, legal proceedings for rape or sexual abuse will know what I mean; the abuser blames the child for breaking up the family; the rapist blames the victim for leading him on and not being clear; society blames the woman for wearing too short a skirt or for acting irresponsibly (see Off the Couch: “Feminist sympathiser”)
It is irrelevant who Ms. Pullar’s friends are and what payouts she may or may not have received in the past. If it appeared that this privacy breach was a one off mistake then her critics may have a case. But what is already painfully clear is that it is not. Today’s story from the Sunday Star Times calls privacy breaches within ACC “endemic:”
“The Sunday Star-Times found the privacy commissioner received 61 privacy complaints about ACC in the last year. Of those, 15 were found to have substance and were subsequently settled. One has been referred to the director of Human Rights Proceedings, who will decide if it will go to a tribunal hearing. The figures show ACC privacy concerns are endemic. There were 57 complaints to the commissioner in 2009/10 and 43 in 2008-09.
“I think this kind of thing happens a lot more than we know,” said counsellor and ACC advocate Ian Brown, whose clients include Garth Paul.”
I’m sure Ian Brown is right. That’s why I think we should support Ms Pullar, and help ACC out at the same time. Clearly their systems are in such a state they don’t even know how many privacy breaches may have occurred. If you, or anyone you know has had their privacy breached at any point by the ACC, then I suggest you make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner, it will help them with the investigation.
It’s easy to do, the form is available here: http://privacy.org.nz/how-to-complain/
Given how much of a personal risk Bronwyn Pullar is taking, on all our behalf, it’s the least you can do.