Martin van Beynen on Turei’s damage

Haha, suckers

Martin van Beynen explores self-confessed benefit fraudster Metiria Turei’s middle class hand-wringing:

 I wonder how much damage Metiria Turei has done to the Green Party by admitting she defrauded what is now WINZ.

Probably not much given she was preaching to the converted.

Just to recap, at the Green Party AGM last weekend, Turei confessed that for several years she received a higher benefit than she was entitled to because she didn’t disclose she had flatmates who helped pay her rent. I assume she signed statutory declarations that were untrue.

I can’t get too outraged over the actual fraud itself. It’s probably not much money and not worth a lot of drama.

Did 15 children die because Metiria Turei denied the money from those who really needed it?

However people would have been happier if Turei had paid the money back many years ago rather than when she thought she could make political capital out of it.

Since I’m certainly no paragon of virtue and have been fortunate enough never to need a benefit (although I’ve had plenty of free education and health care from the state and so have my family), I don’t feel comfortable slamming Turei for diddling the system although that is not the same as condoning it.

You’ve always been a bit soft though Martin…if you care to admit it. Fraud is fraud.

What does worry me though is the message her speech on the issue sends and whether her disclosure was a cynical, strategic move to get attention for the party’s welfare policy.

You couldn’t argue the disclosure was politically ruinous. Not in the sense of losing the Green Party a lot of votes. Most Green Party voters see the poor and struggling as victims of circumstances and are happy to see more taxpayer money going on benefits and welfare support.

They will be heartened that someone is speaking for beneficiaries although beneficiary bashing has definitely gone underground, except in this column of course.

Some beneficiaries might wonder how they would have fared with Turei’s advantages.

“I had the training incentive allowance as a grant to help me pay my fees and childcare. I had great support from my family and my baby’s dad, and his family too,” she said in her speech.

She was also clever, artistic, motivated and had a great case worker.

Very few beneficiaries have those sort of advantages and most don’t cheat the system.

Some Green supporters will have been disgruntled that Turei’s admissions drowned out anything else about the Green Party AGM, especially the momentum building up around some key environmental issues, but that won’t stop them voting for the Greens.

If the move won’t lose the Greens many votes, it won’t win many new ones either.

Labour and the Greens just shuffle the hard left votes between them. I disagree that it won’t have cost the Greens support. The female Green voters of the leafy suburbs in Auckland won’t be at all happy about this.

The Greens might not worry too much about that but it will worry Labourites.

They are hitched to the Greens and will be concerned Turei has just scared off a whole lot of ordinary, innately conservative working and small business people who still believe welfare is a hand-up rather than a hand-out.

People who don’t share Turei’s warmth and  generosity towards beneficiaries for perfectly valid reasons will now feel they are objects of disapproval. Voters prefer to think the politicians they support like them and Turei has made her feelings clear.

These voters might agree more money should be going to tackle poverty but just disagree with the way to do it and about the attitude to adopt when doling out the state’s largesse.

Not everyone inclined to vote for the left has the same unquestioning sympathy for people asking for Government help.

Exactly. The wife and mother living in Pt Chev just decided to vote for a party other than one led by a benefit cheat.

To me, Turei’s speech seems like a lot of middle-class, leftie hand-wringing that treats beneficiaries (at last count about 280,000 people) as though they are all well intentioned victims of a harsh punitive state.

Her speech is full of emotional propaganda that shows she is just as divorced from the beneficiary class as many of the hard hearts she loathes.

“This is what being on the benefit did to me – it made me poor and it made me lie,” she said.

Of course, she made no contribution to her plight at all.

She chose, for five years to lie and cheat, she had money from her parents, money from the baby daddy’s family, money from the state, but she wanted more. So she lied, she cheated and she diddled taxpayers out of money. To cap it all off she was an anarchist, who had devoted her life at that point to destroying the state, and here she was availing herself of the fruits of the very state she hated.

“We know at least one woman committed suicide after being accused of fraud and chased by WINZ for a debt,” she said.

A simplified outlier used to support the cause.

“It drives people to violence against others and themselves. It keeps children in filthy camp ground cabins until they sicken, it tortures and harasses women grieving for their lost babies.”

Yes, more money will fix it.

“Right now, if you’re on a benefit but you can work a few hours a week, you’re actually punished financially for it,” she said.

Actually a sole parent on a job seeker benefit can earn up to $100 a week before tax, before their benefit is affected, and more if childcare is required. (I think they should be allowed to earn more.)

“The Green Party in government will immediately remove all financial sanctions and obligations that treat beneficiaries as criminals and second-class citizens,” she said.

So no accountability or responsibility for bad decisions then.

None whatsoever.

The average New Zealander, especially those who don’t have a nice office job and are not thoroughly fulfilled by their work, can see the danger of making the benefit lifestyle too comfortable.

Lots of parents have older teenagers who are wondering what they are going to do with their lives. Parents try to instil values around earning a livelihood, paying your way and making a contribution.

The last thing they want to hear is a politician making the beneficiary lifestyle seem like a perfectly acceptable career choice and a pretty well paid one too. 

And that last line is what will hurt the Greens and their bludger friendly policies, and that will in turn hurt Labour even more.

 

-Fairfax


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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