The timing of Metiria Turei’s benefit fraud admission stinks – as does her handling of it

Metiria Turei

Don’t be hoodwinked by the humbug being uttered by those fool enough to be making excuses for Metiria Turei, the long-time Green MP and now it turns out an even longer-time-ago benefit cheat.

Those heaping praise on her for what they deem to be exceptional courage in confessing that she deliberately indulged in welfare fraud back in the 1990s are bestowing accolades she simply does not deserve.

Those who have rushed to her side in lemming-like solidarity have done so largely for two reasons.

First, they share Turei’s deep distaste of the welfare “reform” agenda pursued currently by National and previously by Labour.

Second, they feared that Turei’s admission to welfare fraud was to invite her being crushed under the weight of public opinion devoid of any sympathy for those on a benefit.

Those standing alongside the Greens’ co-leader might like to ponder another possible motive for her coming clean about her past — one which has little to do with the debate surrounding benefit policy and social deprivation.

Turei has made little secret of her ambition to be in charge of the Social Development portfolio in a Labour-Greens coalition government.

Were she to become Social Development minister following September’s election and had she not disclosed her misleading of Work and Income, the Social Development ministry’s operational arm, the prime minister (whoever that might yet turn out to be) would have no choice but to sack her were those indiscretions to have become public.

Her honesty would be refreshing were the timing not just a few weeks out from an election. That stinks – as does the manner in which she has handled the matter.

It is difficult to reach a fair conclusion when it comes to casting moral judgment on her behaviour.

The question of whether Work and Income should conduct an investigation into Turei’s history as a beneficiary would likely strike the same problem.

That problem is that there are many questions, but few answers. They have been swallowed by the passage of time.

Turei has volunteered little information.

She has said she and her child lived in five different flats with various people while she completed her law degree. In three of those flats, she had extra flatmates who paid rent. She did not inform Work and Income for fear of her benefit being cut.

Her obvious reluctance to provide more detail is nothing short of a disgrace. It is also very telling. Continue reading

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