People will be losers if privacy not protected

November 19, 2011

In respect for my blood pressure I don’t often listen to talkback but every now and then I tune in to hear what people are thinking.

This week the storm in a teapot story was a popular topic but I was pleasantly surprised that a majority of callers were saying it had all been blown out of proportion and were backing the Prime Minister’s stand on the principle of privacy.

This has been confirmed by a Fairfax Media poll:

Voters overwhelmingly think the “tea party tape” of the conversation of John Key and John Banks was a breach of privacy and should have been wiped without being made public. . . .

The Fairfax Media-Research International poll asked if the recording was a breach of privacy and should have been destroyed immediately.

A net 58 per cent agreed, with a net 29 disagreeing.

But respondents were equally divided when asked if the event was all about publicity, so all aspects should be available for reporting.

By a narrow margin – 45 to 41 per cent – voters polled said there was no such thing as a private conversation in public.

But 63 per cent felt politicians should be able to talk about controversial ideas without fear of those discussions being made public, with only 22 per cent disagreeing.

The poll of 507 people had a margin of error of 4.2 per cent.

The issue of whether or not the conversation was private is to be considered by the High Court on Tuesday.

If it decides that it wasn’t, we will all be the losers.

In New Zealand we have remarkably free access to politicians. If they know that anything they say in a conversation in a public place could be regarded as public they will be far less willing to engage with people and politics will become even more stage managed than it already is.

It could also hamper the media because politicians will be even more carful about off-record conversations and backgrounders.

Perhaps that’s why we’re now seeing what Keeping Stock calls mea culpe season.


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