On page 43 of Dirty Politics is a potent paragraph:
‘Other minister’s offices began feeding information to Slater, such as Gillon Carruthers, press secretary for Education Minister Anne Tolley. ”I got those stats out of Tolley’s office, seems Gillon has worked out that feeding the whale might help,” wrote Slater in early 2011. “Yes, they should have all worked it out now, “Lusk replied.’
With this one example, Anne Tolley cannot flatly deny that no collusion with Whale Oil occurred. How much is the question.
Eventually there will need to be a Royal Commission to look into the full picture of ministerial illegal behaviour with Whale Oil and the editorial offices of newspapers: also the full picture of illegal behaviour within the bureaucracy itself (ministry and education review office). My view is that John Key will now trade away anything with NZ First so that whatever inquiry action is taken post-election, even if a Royal Commission, he is in a position to circumscribe that inquiry and blunt the findings.
In 2010 Tolley was intent on getting Frances Nelson and Ernie Buutveld entrapped into supporting national standards – something Frances and Ernie avoided. Collusion between the ministry and Whale Oil in 2010, to whatever degree that it occurred, was somewhat restrained in comparison with subsequent events.
In early 2011, the NZPF, which successive National governments have generally regarded as a potential soft touch, deeply angered Tolley. At an April moot, NZPF, under Peter Simpson, had passed a vote of no-confidence in national standards. Tolley’s office, in response, drew up a flow chart of schools that were standing out from national standards – and from the larger group of schools listed, a smaller group of principals were selected for special attention. Warnings from both NZPF and NZEI executives went out to those principals that given Tolley’s demeanour they should be very much on guard.
Some of those principals were Pat Newman, Brent Godfrey, Marlene Campbell, Allan Alach, Keri Milne-Ihimaera, Kerry Hawkins and Perry Rush. One of these principals is awaiting the outcome of a court case, so I will not be saying too much about the position of that principal. I also need to say that I have no extensive evidence, at this stage, of the ministry feeding information to Whale Oil about selected principals, my case at the moment is mainly circumstantial – confirmation that it did or did not occur, and the extent to which it did, will be delayed until communications from and to Whale Oil are available.
What is incontrovertible is that unpleasant things happened, indeed, are still happening to certain principals, seeming to involve Whale Oil, editorial offices of newspapers, the ministry, and the education review office. The connection between these groups is supported by some evidence but more is needed for definite conclusions to be made.
A number of the principals on the ‘hit list’ (my designation) to whom I spoke said, that given the speed with which some emails hit Whale Oil’s site, they were certain their computers had been broken into. In 2011, for instance, Pat Newman set a trap to confirm his suspicions, sending an email to six people he knew, who would under no circumstances pass information on to Whale Oil – and Whale Oil was on to it in a flash. As well, readers will be aware that Whale Oil (who else would it have been?), sent a false email with a false IP, under the name of Marlene Campbell, to the Comments section of my site. I suspect, to later send a comment that would cause her damage.
As for the ministry and Whale Oil, there was an interesting convergence between Whale Oil and the ministry to do with Brent Godfery and Pembroke School, August, 2011. A fono on the education of Samoan children was taken away from Brent’s school (would you believe?) because of the school’s opposition to national standards. Whale Oil was on to it immediately in brutal fashion; but so was an ominous follow-up from the ministry. A pattern was about to unfold.
Pembroke had a commissioner landed on it. Brent and the board of trustees had already confirmed that with their protest stand against national standards made, they would now unreservedly comply with the regulations. But to no avail, years of unrelenting ministerial vindictiveness, financial cost, and disruption to the education of children followed. Even when the commissioner concerned said that all was good, it always had been, of course, the ministry refused to move.
The purpose of such state bullying was to cast a pall of fear over New Zealand primary schools.
The link was now established – get criticised by Whale Oil, and constructive dismissal, resignation would follow, or commissioners called in.
Some of Whale Oil’s attacks on principals were prefaced with the disclosure that the information that formed the basis for the attacks came from the tipline – the tipline was a euphemism on Whale Oil’s site, a bit of an in-joke, for information provided by the government. An example was a posting on 27 September, 2011, about Neil Batten at Takaka School.
So we had Marlene Campbell with 147 Whale Oil results, threatened in one instance in association with Perry Rush (122) by a soon only too familiar ministerial pattern: ‘If there was any case for the sacking of a principal it is in her case, and I would put a commissioner into the school, along with Perry Rush’s school.’ This is what happened to Marlene shortly after and, as for Perry, he was continually threatened with a commissioner by Slater (even though Perry has been on two five-year ERO periods). Perry was tagged on many occasions with being ‘a left-wing loser’; Marlene with being ‘a thoroughly unpleasant Invercargill principal’. There was Pat Newman (108) who, on this occasion, had reached ‘a new low for being obnoxious’; Allan Alach (22) ‘ a Tolley-slagging principal’ (in reality, like all the principals referred to, he was a star performer – creme de la creme); and Brent Godfrey ‘failing children’.
(I have proof of ministry approaches to editorial offices providing information to destabilise principals – but I am withholding that pending events still en train.)
In late 2010 Tolley acted to get the State Services Commission to warn principals about speaking out against government policies and to make such speaking out unlawful. But Tolley suddenly changed position saying she had never intended any of that; clearly other ways were in the offing, and they were – under EDUCANZ principals will lose their right to speak out, reinforced by the bureaucratic hold over schools to be exerted by the IES.
This posting is just a brief introduction to something that, for the fabric of our democracy and the successful functioning of our school system, needs to be out in the open. Only some things can be confirmed in this posting – the degree of collusion between the education ministry and Whale Oil has yet to be established and the level of insidiousness.
I call on the incoming government (if it is National and NZ First – then NZ First as part of that government) to declare the ministry of education a potential crime scene, and warn that potential evidence is not to be tampered with or destroyed. And if deep collusion has occurred and basic human rights have, indeed, been transgressed, I look forward to the day when a test case for damages to individuals is undertaken, substantial damages awarded – and with that done, a process of truth and reconciliation following.