Stacey Kirk: Metiria Turei makes a risky admission, politically and legally video


Launching the Green Party's Families Package at the annual conference - which would tax the rich more and the poor less, scrap drug testing and other rules for beneficiaries as well as giving them a 20 percent pay increase - Metiria Turei revealed she lied to the government when she was a solo mother on a benefit.

OPINION: That's a risky admission from self-confirmed benefit fraudster Metiria Turei. 

She's revealed that while she was a solo mother on the DPB, studying law and looking after a baby, she was also lying to her WINZ case worker about how many people she was flatting with, and so, what her accommodation costs actually were. 

Turei says she has no idea how much she could be liable for, and whether or not the Ministry of Social Development could still launch an investigation, more than 20 years later. 

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The Greens co-leader's story is one of determination and hard work, however. It would be a mean-spirited person who accused her of intentionally setting out to rip off taxpayers. 

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And now she, with the backing of her party, is seeking to pay it forward with a policy that would raise all core benefit payments by 20 per cent, and remove all obligations on a person or parent to receive it.


The Greens co-leader has admitted that she lied to WINZ about her living arrangements 20 years ago so that her benefits would not be cut.

That's where the controversy will lie, because there's a major section of society who would think, actually, she should be paying it back.  

Turei said she believes benefit dependency doesn't exist, and very few set out to defraud the system - their circumstances, constructed by the state, give them little option. 

So why reveal this now after 15 years of being in Parliament? 

Because it boosts the policy, because the Greens are in a unique position where they're perhaps the closest to Government they've ever been and it's time to make a bold play, and because they see a time to lay some stakes in the ground. 

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It's also likely that the Greens have seen the success of the campaign for medicinal cannabis from late union stalwart Helen Kelly, who also vocally admitted her criminal culpability by openly smoking marijuana in the late stages of an aggressive form of cancer.

She received little but sympathy for her plight, and if Turei can be held as an example of a beneficiary who broke the law to make life better for her child, it could help shut down inevitable criticisms that others will intentionally seek to rip off a system that carries virtually no consequences.

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei admits she lied to Work and Income NZ so that her benefit would not be cut.

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei admits she lied to Work and Income NZ so that her benefit would not be cut.

As far as the party is concerned, this speaks to their core base. Where the Greens have tried for years to downplay their most left of leanings, play up their economic credentials, some core Greenies may have been getting concerned at just what the modern Green caucus was prepared to give up to get into Government. 

The danger, however, will be whether this does work to scare some Labour voters - cautious of an alliance that could alienate most of middle New Zealand. 

Of course, if they're in a position to negotiate after the September election, the policy will unlikely make it through with Labour and/or NZ First unchanged. 

Turei's admission is a big gamble but it's one that could pay off for her party.

Turei's admission is a big gamble but it's one that could pay off for her party.

People like to say they vote on policy, but voting is often every bit an emotional experience. And three issues - the economy, law and order and welfare - strike to the core of a person's identity and sociological make-up more than a number of others. 

In Turei's startling admission and vow, to significantly bolster the role of the welfare state, she's counting on New Zealanders to not only voice concern over inequality, but to collectively do something about it that may go against the nature of their very core.

She's effectively drawing an ideological line in the sand and asking New Zealanders: "Which side are you on?"

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 - Stuff


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