Opinions split over Turei’s confession

Praise has been heaped and a social media campaign has roared into life in support of Metiria Turei’s confession that she fiddled the system (taxpayer) when on a sole parent benefit.

Many people have experienced the difficulties of dealing with a complex welfare system, and the simplicity of fiddling it a bit.

Most people who do crib some financial advantage just do it for a short time when in transition between work, family or relationship situations. Anecdotally WINZ has turned a blind eye to temporary ‘flexibility’.

But there has been some strong criticism as well. Turei appears to have rorted the system for several years.

NZ Herald editorial:  Greens co-leader Metiria Turei’s big mistake

Metiria Turei must have known she was taking a risk when she confessed to benefit fraud at the Green Party conference last weekend. She appears to have underestimated just how great that risk was.

In releasing the Greens’ family policy, Turei told a sympathetic audience of party members that she lied to Work and Income about her living circumstances in the early 1990s, when she was a solo mother doing her law degree and raising her young daughter while on the Domestic Purposes Benefit. She had flatmates to help her pay the rent in three of the five flats she lived in over a three-year period but did not tell Winz officials because they would have cut her benefit.

Turei told the story to illustrate, as she put it, that “being on the benefit… made me poor and it made me lie”. She wanted to draw attention to the Greens’ policy pledge to increase all benefits by 20 per cent and remove penalties for beneficiaries who fail drug tests or do not look for jobs.

As a media strategy, it has failed dismally. Public attention immediately zeroed in on Turei’s personal ethics and critics demanded she should pay the money back.

In the Green bubble I suspect they think it has been a movement inspiring success, so far. Check out #IAmMetiria on Twitter.

Supporters have argued that this is relatively minor offending, comparable to paying a tradesperson for a cash job or being economical with the truth on an insurance claim. Many of us have done it, which doesn’t make it right but as – Deputy Prime Minister and former beneficiary Paula Bennett surprisingly suggested – perhaps we should pause before casting the first stone.

A fair call – but Bennett has been slammed by some on the left while they praise Turei.

Spread over three years however, Turei’s lie of omission starts to look less like a one-off act of dishonesty and more like a systematic attempt to rort the system. Letter writers and talkback callers have voiced their anger over what they see as her sense of entitlement to public money – not helped by the fact that taxpayers are providing her with a huge salary today.

The difference between Turei’s style of life and that of those she campaigns for has been obvious for years.

There is also considerable public anger over her selective and self-serving morality.

Turei and the Greens have been seen as being selective with self-serving morality for yonks.

Turei has effectively argued that she had a moral right to rip off the system because she had to feed her baby. She is wrong because hardship doesn’t give anyone the right to break the law. Her example encourages others to do the same and is unfair on those who struggle through legally. It is a particularly bad look coming from a party leader on a base salary of $173,000 a year.

I think that it’s a good thing to highlight the difficulties with relying on a complex and not very generous welfare system. It is long overdue a major rethink and overhaul.

But a politician promoting ‘if you think you deserve it then breaking the law is fine’, especially a party leader, is highly questionable.

Would it be acceptable or justified to shop lift or burgle to feed a baby or feed yourself? Would selling drugs to earn a bit of extra cash be ok? Would it matter if it was cannabis or P?

When you start to justify selective morality you can end up on a very slippery slope.

Perhaps Turei can clarify how far one should be able to go in breaking the law before she would frown on it.

38 Comments

  1. sorethumb

     /  July 19, 2017

    Is it true she refused to say who Pop was?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  July 19, 2017

      From the sound of it; she says that she didn’t want WINZ to ‘hassle’ him.

  2. Patzcuaro

     /  July 19, 2017

    Fran O’Sullivan’s thoughts on rorting the system

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11892317

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  July 19, 2017

      You don’t hide business profits through family trusts. They are just as taxable as in any other form.

      • High Flying Duck

         /  July 19, 2017

        Even the old loopholes of hiding income to obtain WFF or Student Allowances are long gone, so you are right – all a trust does is ensure the top tax rate applies on all trust income.
        And it should be noted it was this National Government that has closed many of the loopholes investors and Trust users used.

  3. sorethumb

     /  July 19, 2017

    Gareth Morgan is streets ahead in terms of theorising and formulating while not being compromised by vested interests.

  4. No doubt which camp I’m in.

    I’m a moral absolutist over stealing. I see “crib” and “fiddle” as theft. Stealing is always immoral even when one claims to have done for the greater good. This, as I’ve said previously was not a life v death experience, it was about lifestyle enhancement and personal enrichment. Dressing it up as martyrdom offends me.

    • Brown

       /  July 19, 2017

      Me to. We all mess about on the fringes of honesty but at the end of the day there is right and wrong. This was wrong, deliberate and sustained. She should be charged.

    • MaureenW

       /  July 19, 2017

      I find the whole “confession” thing clumsy, tacky and likely to backfire on Madame Larp. Why didn’t she just go to WINZ and pay the money back? Why the need for a public confession with the follow-up mealy-mouthed dribble that she would repay the money if investigated?
      She is a worthy recipient of the derision she deserves.

      • High Flying Duck

         /  July 19, 2017

        Not sure how accurate it is, but I read elsewhere that she was being pre-emptive to avoid being outed.
        Altruistically pre-emptive of course, and all to further the Green cause…nothing to see here move along.

  5. Corky

     /  July 19, 2017

    While it seems Metira will come through this crisis, what she has done is stifle any extra support she may have received from undecided voters. Many of those voters will have relatives charged with various offences, and will not look kindly on the kid glove treatment they know they wouldn’t receive in a similar situation.

    National is in a bit of a bind too. Do they let it slide, or take action? Taking action against Metiria may push the sympathy vote towards her. On the other hand, charging her would tarnish her reputation and gain National much kudos.

    If I was Metiria, I would be down to my local Winz office to make a deal, and preempt any action National may take.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  July 19, 2017

      For National to move against Turei they would have to be certain that there were no skeletons hidden amongst the leopard print in Bennett’s closet.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  July 19, 2017

        Even if there aren’t they would be foolish to attack her personally. Best to just let the law take its course and state their principles.

      • You saying all benes are thieves ?

        • Patzcuaro

           /  July 19, 2017

          No, but if you live in a glasshouse you won’t want to start throwing stones.

  6. Tipene

     /  July 19, 2017

    An officer of the Court, who breached the rule of law, and an elected representative who has just coughed to fraud, for which there is no statute of limitations – sorry, where is the grey area on this one?

    • Gezza

       /  July 19, 2017

      Agreed. Action should be being taken right now about the benefit fraud. Why isn’t it?

  7. Ray

     /  July 19, 2017

    The thing I see with this that it kills forever the Greens ability to take the moral high ground.
    Since Rob Donald’s death this has been getting ever lower but this is the end!
    You can’t call for yet another Royal Commission with this hanging round your neck.
    As for being a vote winner, so ok the other fraudsters might vote for you but only the ones who haven’t been caught, most tax payers will be a bit pissed off about this.
    Fail.

    • Corky

       /  July 19, 2017

      Rob Donald…great guy, even hard bitten Tories liked him. When they did his autopsy they found his arteries were clean and healthy. Not only was he Green, he lived the Green way as his body showed.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  July 19, 2017

        Rod, not Rob. Yep, straight up and lived the Green principles he advocated. Never played dirty politics either. Knew what it was to run an ethical small business and had good senses of humour and proportion. Sad the way the Greens have slid downhill in every respect except votes since. Dirty Lefty politics is unfortunately more popular.

      • Gezza

         /  July 19, 2017

        How do ya know about his arteries Corks? Were ya shopping for a bypass, or you saw the autopsy report, or something? 😳

        • Corky

           /  July 19, 2017

          The initial reports ( news) stated no sign of heart or arterial disease was present. But further tests would be carried out. For a 48 year old man nowadays, that is phenomenal.

  8. Turei’s confession is direct result of (Greens) potsmoking – longterm leads to brain mush!

  9. alloytoo

     /  July 19, 2017

    If rorting the government is OK on the beneficiary side, then surely it should be OK on the taxpayer side? I mean taxpayers work long hours and struggle to feed their families, taxes often push them into poverty.

  10. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  July 19, 2017

    It is easy to state that many people have fiddled the system, but that statement does a terrible disservice to people like my best friend, an aunty, my step-mother and my step-mother-in law who raised their children while in receipt of welfare payments.

    I don’t think times were easy for any of these 4 women. They economised; went without luxuries; took part-time employment; fed their kids healthy meals; raised intelligent, well-rounded citizens, and didn’t rip off the tax-payer.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  July 19, 2017

      I found the statement that WINZ made MT poor and made her a thief (slight paraphrase) really annoying. They didn’t make her either of these; she did. A friend was on the DPB. She managed to live quite well without swindling the taxpayer. She and her son were not in the grinding poverty presented by Ms T, nor did they live the life of luxury fondly imagined by some people. Good management and commonsense prevailed. I can’t remember what happened with p/t working, but they ate healthily and didn’t go without essentials.

      If these 5 women could do it honestly, so could Ms Turei.

  11. PDB

     /  July 19, 2017

    The big problem for Turei is that her reason for stealing taxpayer money because she was ‘forced to’ in order to survive doesn’t stack up.

    *She could have told the govt who the father was in order for him to pay his fair share of the child’s upbringing – she choose not to and generally in this situation a mother does this in order to claim the full benefit whilst the father pays the mother under the table (but not as much as he is required if going through the govt). Turei is a proud benefit fraudster so this scenario is hardly a stretch for her when she admitted she had already not declared income to the govt whilst drawing a full benefit for a number of years.

    *She could have put off her law studies (no doubt paid/heavily subsidised by the taxpayer) to instead use that time to work and provide a decent income. She could have still had declared money from the renters coming in & if she declared who the father was that money as well. On top of that she could have probably got extra govt assistance – though for a single mum she would have been getting a good whack already under this scenario.

    No doubt far easier to draw a full benefit, get undeclared cash from renters, possibly undeclared cash from the father if she wanted to, bum around home and study with cash to burn.

  12. Kevin

     /  July 19, 2017

    People who say “everyone does it” are missing the point.

    Would you trust a convicted thief to look after your shop?

    Would you trust a regular recreational drug user to operate dangerous machinery?

    And would you trust someone who has played fast and loose with the law to be a member of parliament lest a leader of a political party?

    Of course you wouldn’t. Turei must resign.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  July 19, 2017

      Double jeopardy is unfair, but it’s a fact of life.

      I can’t say that I have never paid a tradie cash for a small (say $30) job, but wouldn’t for a large one, not only because it’s not right but because I would, I think, have no comeback. For a very small amount, the paperwork etc wouldn’t justify the amount of potential tax recovered,

      There is a massive difference between a one-off transaction and five years of someone deliberately committing fraud and signing declarations that they knew to be false.. The worrying thing is that she seems to have no sense of guilt-it’s as if she was entitled to this money-the system OWED her a nice living because she had a baby.

      The taxpayer does not. I feel myself very fortunate to have an adequate income thanks to the taxpayer. In many places someone like me would be left to starve.

  13. Zedd

     /  July 19, 2017

    Im pretty sure Metiria knows she will have to bare the consequences of her words/actions.. regardless of all the media/commentators screaming “FOUL”

    interesting that some MPs are keeping stum on it.. maybe others are in the same boat ?

    • Corky

       /  July 19, 2017

      stum = mum?

      ”Maybe others are in the same boat ?”

      Would you like to name them, Zedd%

      • Zedd

         /  July 19, 2017

        no.. i said ‘maybe’… easy mam

      • Gezza

         /  July 19, 2017

        stum
        stʌm/
        noun
        1.
        unfermented grape juice.
        verb
        1.
        prevent or stop the fermentation of (wine) by fumigating a cask with burning sulphur.
        2.
        renew the fermentation of (wine) by adding stum.

        • Gezza

           /  July 19, 2017

          shtum
          ʃtʊm/
          informal

          adjective
          1. silent; non-communicative.
          “he kept shtum about the fact that he was sent down for fraud”

          verb
          1.be or become quiet and non-communicative.
          “you start to say something and then just when it’s getting interesting you shtum up”

          • Corky

             /  July 19, 2017

            1.be or become quiet and non-communicative.
            “you start to say something and then just when it’s getting interesting you shtum up”

            So Polllies who are keeping quiet should have aspersions cast their way.

            Like I said, Zedd% should name them. Or those alleged to have committed similar offences so therefore may be keeping quiet. That’s a lot of pollies under suspicion.

            • Gezza

               /  July 19, 2017

              Yeah, I dunno. Just gonna wait it out. See if anything happens to come to light with any more pollies.

        • Corky

           /  July 19, 2017

          Why not Sauerkraut if he wants to be a foodie while talking about politics?