TRP Adviser 28 July 2017

This week we learned many things.

Boris Johnson is not a complete buffoon, the Greens may come to regret Metiria Turei’s confession and one man party Peter Dunne may be over and out in Ohariu.

The likely next leader of the UK Conservative party has been here for a brief visit. Boris Johnson managed to complete the trip without any major gaffes, though comparing a kiwi hongi to a Gorbals kiss might be considered offensive by some here and by some North of Hadrian’s wall.

The perceived wisdom in the UK is that Johnson is biding his time, waiting for the inevitable coup against Theresa May to begin and trusting that there will be a knock on the door as the hopeful party calls on him to lead at their time of need.

I’m not so sure.

Leading a Government that is going to limp along until the next election is an unenviable task. Whether that vote is called early or the Tory/DUP Government lasts the full term, whoever leads the Conservatives to the polls can expect to lose.

I think that if asked, Johnson will say ‘No, thanks’. It’s all too much like hard work and swanning around the world being witty with the locals is much more fun.

Metiria Turei’s confession to an easily understandable and perfectly forgivable benefit rort is still in the headlines, well past the usual news cycle of a day or two.

I reckon it marks the high tide in the Green’s polling. It’ll be all down hill from here.

It won’t affect their die hard voters, but it will have an impact on waverers in the middle who might have been tempted to go green. If there is one thing about the New Zealand middle class that really stands out, it’s a broad streak of sanctimony.

They’ll forgive the likes of Key and English for their many, many rorts because that was just business. But a beneficiary who bends the rules to survive? To the workhouse with her!

I hear from usually reliable sources that Peter Dunne is in big trouble in Ohariu.

Labour have a near perfect candidate for the seat in former police union boss Greg O’Connor. Ohariu is a fairly conservative, middle of the road electorate and both Dunne and O’Connor fit that mold.

O’Connor has the advantage of being brand spanking new and earnestly keen. Too keen, in fact, having been snapped putting up election signs way too early.

That was an embarrassing start for the Labour candidate, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt him in the electorate. I’m told he has built up a convincing polling lead over Dunne already.

And that’s why Bill English felt the need to publicly tout for Peter Dunne. No coy cup of tea, this time. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

National know they are going to need every scrap of support they can get if they are to form the next Government without having to grovel to grumpy old uncle Winston.

Ohariu could be the seat that decides the very nature of the next Government.

“Time to take a historic step for climate change”

From the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright.


Time to take a historic step for climate change, says Environment Commissioner

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, has issued a rallying call to MPs of all parties: it’s time to come together to tackle climate change.

“Climate change is the ultimate intergenerational issue,” said Dr Wright. “It’s a huge challenge. And not just for the current Government, but also for the Governments that succeed them into the future, be they blue, red, green, or any other colour,”

In a new report, the Commissioner acknowledges that the Government has made progress since the Paris agreement. And the cross-party working group on climate change has been a welcome development. But she says it’s now time to take the next step.

“There is an opportunity here for the next Parliament to build on recent developments and take a historic step forward that will be credited for generations to come,” said Dr Wright.

Dr Wright has recommended a new Act that is similar to the UK Climate Change Act. This is a law that was passed with overwhelming cross-party support in the House of Commons in 2008. At least nine other countries have since passed similar legislation, including Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

A similar law in New Zealand would put emissions targets into law, and require the setting of carbon budgets that would act as stepping stones towards the targets. It would also establish a high-powered independent expert group that would crunch the numbers and provide objective advice.

“There has been a lot of debate around what our targets should be,” said Dr Wright. “But I’m much more interested in how we are actually going to achieve them.”

The Commissioner says underlining her recommendations is the need for a long-term approach to climate change.

“When it comes to climate change, we need to get used to looking decades ahead,” said Dr Wright. “The world is going to be a very different place in the future.”

The report is subtitled Climate change, progress, and predictability. Dr Wright says businesses and investors are crying out for some predictability in New Zealand’s response to climate change.

“Many businesses are keen to take advantage of the opportunities of moving to a low-carbon economy, but they need more predictability before they invest.”

The Commissioner’s report, Stepping stones to Paris and beyond: Climate change, progress, and predictability, is available here. A set of frequently asked questions is available here.

Flood problems on Taieri flood plain

The Taieri is a flood plain, with much of it barely above sea level, separated from the Pacific Ocean by a range of hills bisected by the lower Taieri Gorge.

Because it has been enriched by flood sediment for a long time it is fertile and therefore has been good for farming, when it isn’t waterlogged.

Because it is flat it has been popular for housing. Some of the biggest growth in the Dunedin area has been in Mosgiel and on other parts of the Taieri. It seems to have been easier to get consent to convert arable flat land into subdivisions than much more marginal land that is well above flood risk.

ODT: Flooded residents lash out

Taieri residents sick of their homes and properties being flooded are fed up with being ignored by local politicians.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and other local government representatives at a flood recovery meeting in Coronation Hall last night acknowledged more could be done to protect residents in some areas and promised to try to address the list of issues raised.

However, solutions could come at a significant cost to the Dunedin City Council, Otago Regional Council and the city’s residents.

Earlier, residents of the flood-hit area pointed the finger at both the DCC and ORC for failing to properly invest in enough infrastructure despite repeated calls for more work to be done.

They said the DCC in particular had failed to keep pace with out-of-control growth as subdivision after subdivision in Mosgiel and Outram was approved.

The ORC was criticised for failing to properly maintain its flood protection schemes and for not coming up with an achievable solution to how flood-prone Henley could be protected.

Residents spoke of the frustration of dealing with flooding on a regular basis, with one Henley resident saying he was so fed up he and his wife planned to abandon their property.

Carlyle Rd, Mosgiel, resident Murray Hamilton said he had lived in the same house for 44 years and believed he had had sewage inundate his property 20 or 30 times.

He said the council was at fault for issuing consents for developments but failing to invest in infrastructure.

It’s not a lack of investment in infrastructure that’s the main issue, it’s why so much housing was allowed on a flood plain.

Developers have been allowed to make big bucks, and now residents are demanding all Dunedin ratepayers should now fork out for remedial work and flood protection.

Henley resident Kerrie Hooper, who was chest-deep in water when he left his property, questioned whether anything could be done to prevent serious flooding happening again in the flood-prone community.

After the meeting, he said he did not believe a solution was possible and he and his wife would likely abandon their property.

Another Henley resident accused the ORC of presenting Henley residents with a solution far too expensive for them to afford while ignoring cheaper solutions.

Henley has always been at risk of flooding.It is barely above sea level at the best of times, situated at the entrance to the lower Taieri Gorge, so when the flooding Taieri River hits the bottleneck the area floods, especially at high tide.

State Highway 1 used to go through Henley, but it was bypassed by what is known as the ‘flood-free highway’, a raised road specifically designed to keep out of the frequent floods.

It’s going to be very difficult to prevent flooding of residential areas across the lowest parts of the Taieri Plain, unless flood banks are built or bolstered.

It’s tough on residents, but they should have been aware of flood risks.

What shouldn’t be tough is the council figuring out where it’s a bad idea to allow subdivisions – a new subdivision at Outram was flooded last week.

RNZ:  Dunedin City Council to review zoning after Otago flooding

Flooding in new Otago housing developments is worrying and the council will look at all areas zoned for subdivision, Dunedin’s mayor says.

In Outram, on the Taieri Plain, the water pooled around houses in the new Anzac Court subdivision. Resident Craig Miller estimated it reached 20cm up the side of his house.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull told Morning Report it was concerning to see some flooding in new subdivisions.

“I flew over the area on Saturday with [Minister for Civil Defence Nathan] Guy, and it did worry me that an area that is flooded now should have only partially-built homes on.”

How the fuck the possibility of this situation couldn’t have been foreseen escapes me.

Serious questions should be asked of city planners and resource consenters.

Synthetic ‘cannabis’ crisis

I don’t think that what is referred to as ‘synthetic cannabis’ is cannabis, as I understand it it is plant material laced with a wide variety of drugs.

One of the problems is that users often have no idea what drugs they are taking. Another is not doing how potent any drugs are.

There has been an outbreak of deaths and admissions to hospital due to the use and abuse of synthetic concoctions.

RNZ: Synthetic cannabis crisis: ‘We need to be working together on this’

Police are being accused of failing to pass on crucial information about synthetic cannabis to those who are dealing with the drug at the coal face.

The death toll has risen to eight after a 24-year-old man suspected of taking the drug died at Middlemore Hospital last night.

Police had known about a very strong kind of synthetic cannabis being used, called AMB-FUBINACA, for over a year now but only recently shared information about it with other organisations, Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell said.

READ MORE:Synthetic Cannabis: The killer high

The cannabinoid was more than 75 times more potent that THC, the active ingredient in natural cannabis, and over the past year had become the most commonly detected type of cannabinoid in its lab, ESR Forensic Chemistry Manager Kevan Walsh said.

“It’s gained some notoriety overseas… some have referred to it as a zombie drug,” he said.

The results of ESR’s testing were passed to the police, who were its clients, and it was up to them to share the information, Mr Walsh said.

However, police said they could not always share information if it related to coronial investigations or if it was before the court.

Mr Bell said that needed to change, especially in times of a public health crisis.

“There does need to be a clear protocol or process in place where that very important information is made more widely available to people like us, or drug treatment agencies, when the police make these discoveries, rather than sitting on the information,” he said.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne agreed information between police and other authorities -including himself – needed to improve.

He said an emergency response unit was being set up between Auckland health authorities and police to try and and get a handle on the situation.

“There’s certainly been a problem in getting the information from police. I was a little surprised to get less than a couple of hours notice of their announcement last Friday. There’s been no contact with my office at all on this.”

“We need to be working together on this,” he said.

A special incident response unit is being set up at the Auckland District Health Board in conjunction with police, to try and get a handle on what synthetic cannabis products are being used and how it can be stopped, Mr Dunne said.

Auckland Police said they still had no idea where the drug was coming from and were asking for the public’s help.

Acting Detective Inspector Peter Florence said it was “a big worry” that people were taking synthetic cannabis.

NZ Herald:  Synthetic cannabis ‘worse than meth’ according to addiction specialist

A drug counsellor says the effects of synthetic cannabis can be worse than meth, with users kept up for days and sometimes being driven into psychosis.

Clinical director of Alcohol & Drug Assessment & Counselling (ADAC) Roger Brooking said the drug was far stronger than most users realised.

“It tends to keep them awake for days on end, much like methamphetamine does.

“My experience would be that it drives people psychotic, or at least in that direction, more quickly than methamphetamine.

“It’s a lot more addictive than the plant cannabis, it has no business being called cannabis.

“Normal cannabis, it’s kind of psychologically addictive, but not physically addictive.

“But the synthetic chemicals being used seem to be a lot more addictive, and once people start they find it very hard to stop.”

This has become a major and dangerous issue, and again raises the question of why natural cannabis is still illegal. It has it’s own risks but it is far better known and far l;ess a risk than many other drugs.

Brooking believed there needed to be big changes to stop the problem getting any worse, including decriminalising cannabis.

“I mean, if I was in charge of this I’d decriminalise all illicit drugs, as they have in Portugal.

“Because these drugs are illegal, when people use them and get caught they get steered into the justice system instead of getting steered into the health system.

“For the average user, these cause health problems rather than legal problems.

“If cannabis was decriminalised, people wouldn’t have to go looking for some of these other substances.”

But the National led government has been strongly against relaxing laws on cannabis.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne agreed that a “significant part” of problem was that synthetic cannabis was banned, and then driven underground.

He said he had spoken to Prime Minister Bill English about the idea of regulating the drug, and would “keep the discussion going”.

“Had we had a regulated market in place, this stuff would have had to be submitted for testing before being sold.

“Because its been driven underground we don’t know what it is, it’s not being tested, and we’re dealing with consequences. We’re playing catch-up all over again.

“There are so many new psychoactive substances coming down the pipeline, whether this is a blip or the start of a flood, we just don’t know.”

We will forever be reacting to the adverse effects of illegal drug use unless we take a different approach to cannabis.

Modern living impacts on mental health and suicide

Peter Gluckman, from the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, has released a discussion document on youth suicide.

It says that complex issues are involved but the pressures of modern living are a major stress factor.

An edited version of the report:


Youth Suicide in New Zealand: a Discussion Paper

Not all suicide is the same and youth suicide often has different drivers to suicide at later ages. Further while much is spoken and argued about its prevention, it remains a complex and contentious area with much advocacy for unproven interventions.

In particular this paper makes the point that youth suicide is more than simply a mental health issue and that, with what we know at present, the focus must also include an emphasis on primary prevention starting from very early in life. This means promoting resilience to the inevitable exposure to emotional stresses and building self-control skills in early childhood and primary school years, by using approaches that we already know about.

It means promoting mental health awareness and ensuring that there are competent and adequate adult and peer support systems in secondary schools. This must be backed up by a capacity to find and rapidly support those children and young adults who are in mental distress and ensuring that the needed interventions and therapy are early and effective.

The changing context of a young person

The way that young people live their lives has changed greatly over recent decades and this has created a range of poorly understood but probably critical pressures that affect their psyche and behaviour.

Family structure has changed; childrearing practices have changed; for many, the level of parental engagement has changed. Technology has changed the nature of their social networks and communication; media, celebrities and other social factors can create unrealistic expectations and pressures on young people.

Compared to previous generations, youth face many more choices at an earlier age, but at the same time may have less clarity as to their path ahead. The role of traditional community supports such as sports, church and other youth groups has declined. Youth now have more access to credit cards and money that gives them greater freedoms.

The pace of these sociological and technological changes is unprecedented and it is not surprising that for many young people, particularly those with less psychological resilience, it can leave them with a growing sense of dislocation.

The many factors that impinge on the risk of youth suicide

Youth suicide cannot be considered as just a mental disorder. A number of factors interplay. Studies in the US5 and elsewhere4,6 show that the likelihood of a suicide attempt is associated with a number of factors including:

  • socio-demographic factors and restricted educational achievement;
  • family discord and poor family relationships;
  • the tendency to being impulsive;
  • what is termed externalising behaviour (anti-social behaviours, and alcohol
    problems);
  • what is termed internalising behaviour (e.g., depression);
  • low self-esteem, hopelessness, loneliness;
  • drug and alcohol misuse;
  • a history of suicidal behaviour among family and friends; and
  • partner- or family-violence exposure in adolescence.

Impulsive-aggressive behaviours are commonly associated with suicide in young
people and decline as a factor with age. Youth who demonstrate antisocial or
delinquent behaviours are 10 times more likely to have attempted suicide.

The key conclusion from these studies is that youth suicide needs to be regarded as much more complex than simply outward evidence of mental disorder. Rather, it needs to be seen as the result of a state of stressed, impaired or underdeveloped self-control in which mental health, emotional and brain development, alcohol, sociological, economic, and other factors interact to put some young people at greater risk.

Adolescence as a vulnerable period – brain, biology, and behaviour

There is now compelling evidence that children who enter puberty at a younger age
are at far greater risk of behavioural, psychological, and emotional disorder. There
are probably multiple reasons for this but most relate to:

  • a longer period before those counterbalancing inhibitory brain pathways
    fully mature;
  • greater sociological and sexual pressures related to the mismatch between
    the earlier onset of physical signs of maturity and psychosexual ideation and
    chronological age: and
  • socialising with older peers who may be engaged in or express anti-social
    behaviours.

There is unequivocal evidence that children who enter puberty relatively early:

  • are more likely to indulge in alcohol and drug abuse;
  • often demonstrate more impulsive behaviours; and
  • boys show greater impairment in the quality of their relationships.

Variation in suicide rates across population groups

Many factors appear to contribute to explaining the different prevalence of youth
suicide across different population groups. They include:

  • living in environments where low self-esteem within the peer group is
    common;
  • poverty, inequality, and social fragmentation;
  • having a high rate of engagement with the justice sector and a greater
    presence of gangs;
  • higher use of drugs and alcohol2; and
  • suicidal behaviour becoming a means of demonstrating worth to the peer
    group

Deficits in self-control

Adolescence is a period of relatively poorly developed self-control and heightened impulsive behaviour. This is why some stressors that do not lead to troubled emotional responses in more mature individuals can do so in some in this age group.

So, rather than resilience, which might be expected – and needed – we see severe and harmful (including self-harm) responses. These stressors can include aspects of engagement with peers (e.g., bullying, including cyber-bullying) and emotional situations (e.g., break up of relationships).

A further possible factor is a substantial change in the way we raise children: they now tend to be under tight control in the pre-pubertal period but less control postpuberty (as reflected in: school subject choice; parental controls on time, place and behaviour; access to credit cards; access to internet, etc.).

In contrast, 50 years ago, western child rearing practice followed a loose–tight pattern in which pre-pubertal children had more freedoms, especially to undertake risky play, but adolescence was much more constrained. This reversal may have resulted in a reduction in the capacity to self-assess risk in adolescence.

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol intoxication or a history of alcohol abuse are often associated with youth suicide30. Alcohol misuse is often associated with triggering events (conflicts in peer and intimate relationships) and, in relation to suicidal behaviours, is probably underestimated and under-reported. Furthermore, alcohol reduces self-control, can increase despair and depression and, among those with mental disorders, exacerbates symptoms.

New Zealand data show that considerably more than half of youth suicides involve alcohol or illicit drug exposure.

Peer influences, bullying and cyber-bullying

Adolescence is a stage of life when there is a “trading of dependency on parents for dependency on peers”: it is therefore not surprising that peer relationships affect mood and behaviour, including possible suicidal behaviour.

Peer influences may be particularly evident in the growing evidence for online bullying leading to self-harm. Bullying in schools occurs in many countries to varying degrees but the reported rates are high in New Zealand.

Implications for reducing the incidence of youth suicide

Suicide prevention is complicated because we do not understand the causes well enough at the individual level. Completed suicide is a rare event so it is difficult to study in the way we can study influenza or diabetes. It is really hard to predict at an individual level, with perhaps the best indicator being a previous suicide attempt/self-harm even though most who commit self-harm (which may or may not be an attempted suicide) do not go on to commit suicide.

Nevertheless, the 8–9% of all youth who are suicide attempters – with their high subsequent life-course costs (as they often have long-term psychological morbidity) to themselves, family, whānau, and society – are an important risk-group to target.

There is no definitive solution but there is a growing consensus on the following.

Primary prevention: This must start in the pre-pubertal period and is aimed at  developing resilience to the inevitable stressors of growing up, and promoting development of impulse control. The broader benefits of this approach49 include major spillover benefits to educational achievement and, later, in employment, family stability, and quality-of-life measures.

Such approaches must start early in life – and early childhood is an important opportunity for enhancing these skills and should be an evaluable focus of all early childhood education. There needs to be intense engagement with the most vulnerable families in the first years of their children’s life.

There is clear and strong evidence that a primary prevention strategy using welldefined
and structured activities (e.g., Good Behaviour Game) focused on behaviour in primary school children as young as 6 and 7 contributes to reducing later adolescent suicidality as well as other unwanted behaviours, and we would strongly suggest the introduction of this into all primary schools.

Secondary prevention: This refers to programmes that focus on the adolescent period and seek to identify those at risk and make referrals when necessary. Such programmes include activities that seek to increase understandings and change attitudes about youth suicide and to enhance the capacity to intervene and prevent.

The role of teachers, trained counselors and peer leaders is seen as key. There is some evidence to support the importance of adults actively engaging with distressed students, but outside those situations where close counseling relationships have been developed, these programmes tend to be distressingly ineffective. Better results are claimed when secondary prevention is combined with primary prevention and engaging peer leaders (that is well-trained youth leaders).

Tertiary prevention: This focuses on those who are identified as being at particular risk, for example having attempted suicide. It generally involves CBT or medication or both; as noted above, the effect on suicidality, as opposed to other aspects of mental health, is relatively small. Although investing in youth mental health is a critical priority for the reduction of adolescent and adult mental health disorders, it cannot be the only strategy for reducing youth suicide.

Summary and conclusions

Youth suicide remains a complex, multifaceted challenge. A focus on adolescent mental health, although important, is not sufficient. Rather, we conclude that the high-priority need is to introduce and reinforce programmes focused on primary prevention starting early in life and developing secondary prevention strategiesinvolving well-trained and engaged mentors including peer mentors. Understanding and co-design with our communities and particularly with Māori perspectives will be crucial at each stage as we develop, test and take to scale approaches shown to make a difference.

The primary prevention approach involves strategies to improve impulse control and executive function from early childhood and this has broad spillover benefits. It involves combining these critical interventions in early childhood and primary education with secondary prevention approaches in adolescents and it requires a social investment approach particularly focusing on those communities with low resilience and self-esteem.

http://www.pmcsa.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/17-07-26-Youth-suicide-in-New-Zealand-a-Discussion-Paper.pdf

Difficult situation for Labour over Turei campaign

Metiria Turei has dominated political discussions over the last week with her revelations about committing benefit fraud and her ongoing campaign on social welfare.

This has shut Labour out of the political spotlight, but there are bigger problems for Labour, who will probably need the Greens if they are to be able to form the next Government.

If the Green beneficiary campaign is successful they are likely to take votes off Labour. This may strengthen the Green hand but it is also likely to strengthen Winston Peters’ hand.

And despite this if Labour do manage to form a government with the Greens that could be awkward for Andrew Little, who has said he can’t condone Turei’s stance on justifying benefit fraud.

One News: ‘We can never condone breaking the rules’ – Andrew Little won’t support Metiria Turei’s stance of not condemning benefit fraudsters

Talking to 1 NEWS political journalist Katie Bradford, Mr Little said despite the reason many politicians aspire to govern is to change current laws, “we can never condone breaking the rules”.

“In the end, as lawmakers, as politicians, we are here because we want to set the rules.

“Whether or not we like the rules of the benefit system, they are the rules at the moment,” he said.

“You get to change the rules when you’re in government. I think we’ve got to be focused on what we can do.”

“Metiria is a good leader, she’s struck a nerve,” Mr Little said.

“But once the rules are set, that is what we’ve got and we cannot be seen to be condoning breaking the rules because that gets us down a very slippery slope that will create all sorts of problems.”

Turei and the Greens either didn’t see the slippery slope, or discounted it as an issue, but it could become a big issue for them.

And an issue for Labour. Little said he wouldn’t rule out a Cabinet position for Turei.

RNZ:  Greens co-leader Metiria Turei’s benefit history investigated

Labour leader Andrew Little was not ruling out Metiria Turei as a cabinet minister in any government.

“There are people who have done things before they have come into parliament that have been disclosed… it hasn’t disqualified them from being in parliament.

“I’m not ruling anybody in or out of a cabinet.”

But I think that Turei must have effectively ruled out any possibility of her becoming Minister of Social Development.

It also raises questions about any Cabinet or Government leadership role.

If MSD decide that Turei’s fraud admission justifies a police complaint that will take time, and could be unresolved when the next government is formed and roles are allocated. A prosecution could rule Turei out of Parliament.

But if the Green campaign fails none of this will be an issue for Labour, unless they can form a government with NZ First without the Greens being involved.

The Turei show continues

Metiria Turei and media have ensured her confession about benefit fraud and her campaign for beneficiaries stayed as one of the biggest political stories.

Turei has advised that the Ministry of Social Development has been in touch with her after she wrote to them, and she will be interviewed next week.

She continued with her focus on beneficiaries in Parliament yesterday.

And media have widened the scope of their questions, including whether her daughter’s father was a flatmate, and what part if any the  father had in her support – Turei said this was a private matter.

As a press release from the Green Party:  Statement from Metiria Turei on MSD

“Today, I have spoken over the phone with an investigator from the Ministry of Social Development.

“I was phoned by this person after their office received a letter from me (attached), which I sent on Monday.

“The letter asserted my willingness to co-operate fully with an investigation into the period of time I received a benefit during the 1990s, and I confirmed that over the phone today.

“During our phone call, I made myself available to be interviewed about my case.

“We are in the process of confirming the details of that meeting, but it will take place next week.”

http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1707/LettertoMSD.pdf

Patrick Gower: Conviction for fraud could see Metiria Turei quit Parliament

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei could be forced to quit Parliament if she is convicted of benefit fraud.

“While benefit fraud is legislated under the Social Security Act, we generally prosecute under the Crimes Act,” a spokeswoman for Ministry of Social Development told Newshub.

The charges usually used are:

  • Obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception (punishable by up to three years imprisonment)
  • Dishonestly taking or using document (punishable by up to seven years imprisonment)

Under the Electoral Act, if an MP is convicted of a crime punishable with a sentence of more than two years, they have to leave Parliament.

Ms Turei lied to get more money, and it goes back to when her daughter Piupiu was born. She says she had no other option, although she did have time to campaign for the McGillicuddy Serious Party in 1993 and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 1996.

Ms Turei was on the Domestic Purposes Benefit from 1993 until 1998. In three flats during that time, she lied about how many flatmates she had to get extra money.

My guess is that she will pay any money deemed to have been overpaid to her back but she won’t be prosecuted.

NZ Herald: Metiria Turei explains silence on flatmates in fraud case

In a sit-down interview with the Herald, Turei said she couldn’t condemn people who were faced with hard choices because of financial hardship.

“We have a system that leaves people with too few choices. That the only choices are bad ones. Not to pay the rent, not to pay the power bill, not to have enough food for your kids. Or, lie to WINZ and keep a secret.”

There is also the choice to work to supplement your income, or to live in a relationship with someone who contributes to your costs of living.

Metiria Turei won’t say whether one of the flatmates she failed to tell Work and Income about was a boyfriend – saying the state has no right to investigate a woman’s intimate personal life.

Actually the state does have a right under law to question whether someone claiming a sole parent benefit is living with a partner or not, and whether they are being supported by a partner. This is fundamental to how benefits are calculated and paid.

Asked if living with a partner without disclosing that to WINZ was more serious than failing to tell the agency about flatmates, Turei said it was treated differently by the agency.

“And one of the things that I will do if I get the chance is to fix that system so a woman’s personal life is not subject to questions by WINZ, by MSD. We have seen a lot of that directed at solo mums.

Currently a person stops being eligible for sole parent support if they are in a relationship.

Like it or not, that’s the rules now and it was when Turei was a beneficiary.

She said that the need to care for her baby and not her political beliefs led her to lie to Work and Income. Turei campaigned for the McGillicuddy Serious Party while receiving her benefit, and was a part of a theatre group.

“None of us had any money. I think that’s the thing – people on benefits are entitled to a life as well. They need the financial resources so they can pay the rent and put food on the table, they need a pathway out of welfare.

“But they also need to engage in the world, to be able to be with family, to have friends, to do other things, be politically engaged if that is what they choose. We shouldn’t have a benefit system that locks people out of their community.”

Some like Turei think that the state should fund a choice of lifestyle.

Others cut back on some of their social life when they have children, and when they are on a benefit.

Audrey Young:  Metiria Turei turns spotlight on her own failures

MSD investigators would not be doing their job if they did not ask whether one of the flatmates was a boyfriend living in a de facto relationship and whether they could talk to some of the flatmates.

That would elevate the issue from an overpayment to a more serious breach of the law. It is a simple question Turei has repeatedly failed to answer because she believes that the state is intruding on private lives.

On the other hand, she might discover that any offending is considered at the lowest level or that there was no offending at all because she was within the flatmate allowance.

But the actual offending and any debt has been of less concern to many of Turei’s critics than her attitude which has remained one of unswerving entitlement to break the law.

This is where Turei has got herself and her party into a quagmire from which it will be difficult to extricate itself.

Her sense of entitlement to break the law has invited a host of examples moral equivalents – hypothetical offending by other types of people, including say farmers, and other types of offending, including say tax fraud, in order to justify getting more money to feed the kids.

Many people starting small businesses suffer from financial hardship for some time, and it’s not uncommon to not pay taxes because there is a choice between that and feeding their families and paying basic bills.

But taxes shouldn’t be just waived for anyone who claims to be in financial hardship.

In the meantime, the focus is finally starting to turn away from Turei and towards the Greens’ new social welfare policy which is to remove sanctions and obligations from welfare recipients.

That includes women receiving sole parent support (the old Dpb) living with their boyfriends.

Under the Green Party policy, a man and woman can be living in a de facto relationship for three years with one of them working and earning and the other getting a benefit without losing the benefit.

There are not too many people who would see that as the fair application of a safety net.

Under that policy the state would need the right to investigate someone’s private circumstances, unless the Greens want it to operate on a trust system, where it’s leader says that breaking the law to get more benefit is justifiable.

Turei’s actions were designed to turn a spotlight on the failures of the system. They have instead turned the spotlight on her own failures as a politician.

This could become a quagmire for Turei and the Greens. I don’t know how well they thought this through before making an issue of it – I suspect some idealistic tunnel vision may have missed the possible jeopardy.

Media watch – Thursday

27 July 2017

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Open Forum – Thursday

27 July 2017

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria.

Free speech is an important principle here but some people who might pose a risk to the site will have to keep going through moderation due to abuses by a small number of malicious people.

A wide variety of topics and views are encouraged and welcomed, but some topics and some extremes may not be appropriate nor allowed.

World watch – Thursday

Wednesday GMT

WorldWatch

For events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.