One of the odd aspects of contemporary New Zealand politics is that opposition policies are subject to extraordinary scrutiny – what are the details? how much will it cost? can we see the figures? where will that money come from? – while the actual government can toss up schemes like Paula Bennett’s plan to subject about a tenth of the adult population to a paedophile test and instantly sack anyone who fails it.
Teachers, doctors and any other government employees who fail Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s tough new child-abuse screening test will be instantly sacked.
The new child-protection laws will trump existing employment legislation, removing the need for bosses to go through a fair process of verbal and written warnings to dump anyone suspected of sexually preying on children.
Screening of all government employees working with children is one of the main planks of Bennett’s incoming child protection regime, unveiled last week.
All staff working with children in schools, hospitals, government agencies and organisations that get government funding must submit to security screening every three years. It is estimated to affect 376,000 people.
What test will the government use? ‘Yet to be revealed.’ What are the false negative and false positive rates? (ie, how many actual paedophiles will it fail to detect and how many non-paedophiles will it falsely identify? That’d be useful to know, right? If you’re screening 376,000 people using a test with a very high confidence interval – say, 99.9% – that means you’re incorrectly identifying 376 people. How long will the screening test take? A day per person? That works out at 376,000 days of police time. Sounds expensive. How invasive will it be? What happens if you refuse to take it? Will the government sack, say, a paediatrician who refuses to take the test because they consider it a breach of their privacy?