The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction

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.

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19 Responses to The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction

  1. John Carrodus says:

    If even some of these things are true Kelvin, I feel sick to the core. Some things have become crystal clear to me now. It will be fascinating to see what emerges next. This is turning into a four dimensional mind game.

  2. Pat Newman says:

    I must say, having experienced the rants of Whaleoil, I do harbour some unchristian thoughts of just retribution at this point in time!!!!! What is worse, is the number of people, including his father, that encouraged a mentally ill (as according to his own sources about why he set up the blog) to vent his spleen. In other words they used a person who they knew had little control over his emotions to do their dirty work!!!
    If Key didnt know what was going on, then he was incompetent. However I can not believe that he didn’t have at least an idea, especially as Whale Oil had Key’s cell phone number on Speed dial!!!!!! Is this the NZ we want? A NZ, lead by a government, that sets out to vilify and destroy any person who disagrees with them? I ask all readers, even the most ardent National supporters, if this is right? If the answer is no, then there is only one way of putting a halt to it.

    Kelvin’s reference to Educanz and the requirement to develop a Code of Conduct (against all advice that A code of Ethics, which we have, was far better) in line with the State Services Code of Behaviour is spot on. It will allow any teacher/principal who stands up for their beliefs, to be persecuted and open to losing their Registration.

    Further concern is the simple fact that the current government refuses to allow teachers and principals a say in who will make up the new EDUCANZ body. They will all be appointed by the Minister…. Why? In light of what we now know has been common practice by this current practice, it is fairly clear why!!!
    Over to you, but think about what is right when you enter the Polling Booth on Election Day. Some things in a democracy are more important than party affiliations!

    To make sure you are aware, yes I was a Labour Candidate last election, however my record is clear over the years. I have equally stood up as a principal to both Labour and National Ministers when I believed them wrong!

  3. Shirley Knuckey says:

    Things are ominous as we speak Kelvin. The way the public (Kay devotees) seems generally unperturbed by the possibility of awful stuff going on in government (and Ministries) and are still airiliy dumping all of the brouhaha onto the ubiquitous throw-away Key-line, it’s just another rabid left-wing conspiracy … and/or they all do it anyhow. I’m almost hoping that Whaleoil will reveal more of his nastiness if only to implicate those dodgy political leaders and would-be movers and shakers who might find their Teflon coating finally gives way. Imagine a Smirk-less post-election time!

  4. Cnr Joe says:

    you might be interested in this
    http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/opinion/letters/article/?id=38331
    followed by
    Last week I wrote in reply to Anne Tolley’s “Yes, of course, we give publicly available statistics to anyone who asks — media, unions, bloggers and individuals who contact us. I didn’t realise that was sinister!” — with:

    “Crikey Minister. So defensive? ‘Publicly available statistics’ were they? So you know exactly when and what Slater asked for? While you are so forthcoming — please tell us, what were these ‘publicly available statistics’ and how were they used by Whale Oil Beef Hooked?”
    http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/opinion/letters/article/?id=38382

  5. Kerry says:

    You know Kelvin, the truth might just get out into the mainstream yet. Thanks for putting this out there – a lot of very capable and honest colleagues have been used as little more than game-sport by these cynical, treacherous clowns.

  6. Judy Johannessen says:

    Just thought I should add my bit here. After I wrote an article on Stuff, about trying to keep politics out of education,one of the comments I received was that I had been paid to write this article by the Labour party, as I was a member ! I now realise who that person was. Whale blog had obtained a list of all the people who had donated to Labour last election.
    I replied that I had never received payment for any of my writing nor was I a Labour party member.
    Last election I donated to 3 different parties, the ones who supported abolishing National Standards .

  7. Thanks for your writing Kelvin. It makes me sick to think that an ‘impartial’ government department could ever allow themselves to be used in this way. Where is their morality? Surely any suggestion of this type of targeting would normally be referred to the ombudsmen, State Services etc?
    The final disturbing thought I have is that right now Teflon John will be drafting terms of reference which will effectively circumvent the effectiveness of any inquiry – royal or not.
    Surely the fact that he will be allowed to write the terms of reference is corrupt in itself, given that his office and indeed he are potentially the source of the corruption!!

    • John Carrodus says:

      The ministry, ( and other powerful agencies ) as in life, is full of people who are not what they seem. Some will morph and waiver due to fear and pressure of some kind. Others are predisposed to power and influence addiction at any level. I used to beleive there were on balance more Luke Skywalkers than Darth Vaders. But now I realise my maths was never my strong point.

    • Skeezyfish says:

      I don’t disagree with the substance of the post, but I think a distinction has to be made between the Office of the Minister of Education, which is mostly staffed by political appointments, and the Ministry of Education, which is exclusively staffed by public servants.

      My experience of the public service is that there can a bit of morphing and wavering in the face of intense Ministerial pressure at the senior levels, but that they wouldn’t engage in an outright smear/revenge campaign against principals.

      And if there was some smear/revenge campaign, the politicians wouldn’t tell the public servants. The public service has a tendency to leak to the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

      What the Office of the Minister of Education would get up to, however, is another matter…

  8. Ovicula says:

    I’m involved in education as a university researcher. My father was a primary school teacher. I know that schools function best without the heavy hand of the Ministry. I know Slater hates teachers, he’s stated it many times. I know most Tories are intellectually mediocre compared to the people I interact with. I know they lack empathy, but I never realised just how ethically and morally bankrupt they were at the highest levels. Government ministers are acting like brutal and dishonest cops. I am absolutely disgusted by this.
    We need a wide ranging Royal Commission into the activities of the Key regime. This will require that NActional not be on the government benches after the election. We need to reclaim our country.

  9. Steve Horne says:

    I am staggered ( or should I be ? ) by the depths that people in power will stoop to, to maintain and keep power in government/education. Where is leadership ? Where is integrity ? Where is truth ? Where is honesty ? I’m reminded of the quote’ “let them eat cake…” Well, this peasant/teacher is revolting. In the upcoming elections, I’m voting for people and party that have answers to the above questions.
    Steve Horne

  10. Philgwellington Wellington says:

    wow
    Thank you for your efforts. The MSM has become irrelevant if you want to be informed. Sad but probably true… We have to communicate and stick together.
    Best wishes
    Philip

  11. Keri Milne-Ihimaera says:

    Thank you Kelvin. Your post highlights what many of us have been saying for a long time – under the watchful eye of two successive Ministers of Education. This information does need to be made public – however my lack of faith in the ‘system’ we are up against doesn’t give me confidence that any of this will be admitted, or more importantly – that anything will actually change in the future…Nga mihi.

  12. Kelvin says:

    Great to hear from you Keri. Could we have a chat some time? Congratulations on your appointment. Welcome to the Waikato. So much has happened since that turning point meeting at Kawakawa. There will be developments. Take my word for it. You were caught in the same pattern, but there was one difference: not one mention of you on Whale Oil (I have theory on that).

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