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Context.co.nz:: That phone list in context

WWW.CONTEXT.CO.NZ Editorial

On Friday November 12th www.context.co.nz published a link to the PM's personal confidential staff phone list. The phone list was posted on a Geocities page and has since been deleted. In this editorial context.co.nz editor Phil Doherty explains why he posted the link.

See also... http://www.context.co.nz/

Editorial: Phone list in context

Consistent with the process of the context.co.nz web-site, the issue of the link to the phone list needs to be put in context.

The issue is not one of security as some official statements have labelled it, but rather it is an administrative headache and certainly an embarrassment.

The issue is that someone appears to be disgruntled enough to take a list and circulate it. I pointed to it on the reasonable assumption that it was in circulation already.

When was it in our recent history that the leaking of sensitive documents happened quite regularly. My impression is that it was during times of high conflict within our society and particularly when our government was belligerent towards some sectors of our community.

Neo-liberal philosophy has been the main influence on government policy since 1984 and I have spent the last 11 of those years living and working away from New Zealand. My perceptions of our country as a community has been shaped by what I have witnessed particularly in the last 6.5 years.

I have worked as an emergency public health co-ordinator in such countries as Somalia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and filled other roles in Bosnia, Chechnya, Rwanda and Zaire/Congo.

Most of my time was spent relating to the authorities which were in nature either stable states with restive minorities, dictatorships, military juntas or disintegrating states.

In all places it was the vulnerable who paid the price for policies and direct actions of its leadership. My head was always full of the causes behind such things as cholera, yellow fever, measles, malnutrition, neo-natal deaths, maternal deaths. Predominantly I have witnessed death and sickness from normally preventable causes if it not for the will of those in power. In the most cynical way, politicians and military leaders chose high levels of misery as at best unfortunate by-product of progress towards their ultimate goals.

So what do I see in my own country:

- Public health statistics among our lower socio-economic groups at levels common among severely under developed countries. Just ask South Auckland health.
- Imprisonment of asylum seekers while under processing. It is not at all surprising that they are desperate enough to go on hunger strike.
- Ideologically-driven Government that denies evidence that points to the negative consequences of their policies. This leads to monetary value being placed on public policy matters ahead of people values and their belief systems.
- New Zealand being lined up to be a virtual living laboratory for biotechnology corporations because we provide a second growing season to complement the northern hemisphere.

In my experience all these are the hallmarks of a government that uses its power for the minority interest and fudges the facts that point to the consequences.

Phil Doherty

16 November 1999.

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