Tracy Watkins on benefit fraudster Metiria Turei

Tracy Watkins provides an opinion piece on benefit fraudster Metiria Turei:

Everybody lies? Seems so. You don’t need a scientific survey to know that trust in politicians telling the truth is at an all-time low.

Yet the Green Party has always held itself apart from all that.

The party acts like it has a natural advantage in a place where the rest of the participants struggle to sell us on their honesty and integrity.

Metiria Turei has proved that Greens are just as big liars as the rest of the politicians, but they think it is alright to lie because they have a shield of sanctimony to hide behind.

They lie because they know what is best for us.

Maybe that’s why Metiria Turei’s admission that she lied to maximise her income from the DPB is so jarring.

“I was one of those women, who you hear people complain about on talkback radio,” she confessed.

Turei might as well have added: “Talkback was right.”

Because she admits that while she was on the DPB she failed to tell Work and Income about some extra flatmates. It meant she got more than she was entitled to.

In the scheme of things, the “crime” is not huge. Turei claims she did it to feed her child. But that hasn’t made it less polarising.

It is huge, it is fraud. It doesn’t need to have “benefit” tagged on the front. I hate how media minimise it. It is fraud; it is covered in section 240 of the Crimes Act. I’ll help out Tracy Watkins by posting that section in its entirety.

240 Obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception
(1) Every one is guilty of obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception who, by any deception and without claim of right,—
(a) obtains ownership or possession of, or control over, any property, or any privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration, directly or indirectly; or
(b) in incurring any debt or liability, obtains credit; or
(c) induces or causes any other person to deliver over, execute, make, accept, endorse, destroy, or alter any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage; or
(d) causes loss to any other person.

(1A) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, without reasonable excuse, sells, transfers, or otherwise makes available any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage knowing that, by deception and without claim of right, the document or thing was, or was caused to be, delivered, executed, made, accepted, endorsed, or altered.

(2) In this section, deception means
(a) a false representation, whether oral, documentary, or by conduct, where the person making the representation intends to deceive any other person and—
(i) knows that it is false in a material particular; or
(ii) is reckless as to whether it is false in a material particular; or
(b) an omission to disclose a material particular, with intent to deceive any person, in circumstances where there is a duty to disclose it; or
(c) a fraudulent device, trick, or stratagem used with intent to deceive any person.

Clear as day. This is a serious offence, one which, if she was convicted of it, would see her removed from parliament. That is how serious it is. It should not be explained away. I note that we haven’t heard from convicted blackmailer, tax fraudster and serial litigant Graeme McCready on this, yet he was willing to privately prosecute Todd Barclay.

On the one side there is anger – for every Turei, there are countless more women who managed to feed their children with less.

But on the political Left there is near euphoria.

That is because they are the parties of fraudsters, criminals and cheats.

After months in a state of torpor, Turei has galvanised the party’s base. The #Iammetiria hashtag is sweeping Twitter. Left-wing commentator Chris Trotter has even likened the lie to storming the Bastille.

It’s hard to imagine the same rapture greeting the darling of the American Left, Bernie Sanders, admitting to something equally shocking, like cheating on his taxes.

Bernie’s halo is bigger than Texas. That was – is – his appeal. There would probably be open-mouthed silence.

To be fair, the grassroots of the Green Party have an innate distrust of the system.

That makes her crime even worse. She used to be an anarchist, anti the state and all of its systems, yet here she was availing herself of the benefits of the same state she despises. That just adds hypocrisy to her list of ‘crimes’.

So Turei’s confession might be viewed as the politics of “sticking it to the establishment” – even if it doesn’t do other DPB mums any favours, given that it plays up to the stereotypes on talkback.

But at its most basic, Turei’s admission is also an acknowledgement that she’s no better than the rest of them.

She could have used her maiden speech to deliver a powerful message about poverty by revealing her “crime” 15 years ago, but didn’t. She could have used it to fill in the gaps on her “back story” when she was appointed leader – but didn’t.

In fact, she kept quiet about it a lot longer than Bill English stayed shtum over the affairs of his back-bench MP, Todd Barclay.

Precisely, and it was Turei who was calling for Police to charge Barclay. Funny, haven’t heard her calling for the Police to investigate this prima facie case of fraud.

So Turei has already failed the most basic political test – the hypocrisy one.

The shield of sanctimony trumps telling the truth.

But there will be collateral damage.

It’s usually said that nobody ever lost votes by beating up on Australians or beneficiaries. Turei’s speech will be a big turnoff to Labour’s target voter, the mythical “white van man” – the blue collar tradie who’s just getting by.

They were never going to vote for the Greens anyway. But it might drive them from Labour to NZ First.

That is very possible. Because if you vote Labour you get the Green benefit cheat.

The damage might be even closer to home for the Greens. A growing number of voters – the much derided urban liberal included – are concerned by the sight of children living in cars or substandard boarding houses.

They worry that some of the more punitive sanctions – like cutting benefits for women who won’t or can’t name their child’s father – only take food out of the mouths of children.

Turei’s speech might have appealed to those voters on one level. But her DP- bludging confession is a huge turnoff to many of them.

It’s also an in-your-face reminder that the Green Party and the hugely powerful Green “brand” are two very different things.

Facebook feeds suggest that’s the conclusion many have already reached.

And in an election that is shaping up as a fight over the haves and have-nots, it probably tips the scales on addressing inequality further than many of them would be comfortable with.

We know Metiria is regretting her grandstanding, because she has flip-flopped. That suggests their polling is showing that it was a mistake.

Too bad. She should still be charged. She committed and admitted to a crime.

 

-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.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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