Damien Grant: Sorry seems to be the hardest word for Metiria Turei
OPINION: So it appears I have something in common with Green co-leader Metiria Turei; we've both committed fraud. To be fair, my own efforts were the literal gold standard, involving purloined bullion, a boat and a long stay in Turangi.
Turei's efforts were low rent by comparison but I applaud her honesty in coming clean. So, I have two pieces of advice for the Green leader now that she has joined that select group of individuals with a dodgy past who seek to have a life in the public square.
The first is to acknowledge what you did was wrong and the second is to establish, by conduct, your integrity.
Turei may claim to have succeeded in the second but she abjectly fails on the first. Her revelation wasn't a mea culpa. Like my 4-year-old, she justifies her thieving by pointing to her own needs and fails to appreciate that stealing is wrong.
* Turei: I'll pay back what I owe
* Turei: If MSD investigates, 'of course I'll pay the money back
* Stacey Kirk: Metiria Turei makes a risky admission
* Solo mothers say they understand reasons for benefit fraud
She was, at the time, receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit and enjoying a state-funded legal education when she decided to scam the system for some extra cash. I, of all people, am not going to take the high moral ground, but it does highlight a flaw in the thinking of the Green's co-leader and one that runs straight through the economic illiterates of all parties who sit, parasitically, in the cloisters of Wellington.
Turei implicitly justifies her actions by referencing "grinding poverty", while Gareth Morgan wants to give every young person $200 a week. National insists on paying retired millionaires a pension, Labour wants to expand Working for Families to the middle class. NZ First has some grievance against the Maori seats, but that isn't relevant – I just didn't want to leave Winston out.
We have had a welfare state in this country for 80 years, with free education, health care, billions spent on transfer payments and over 4 per cent of the population in state housing. Yet it isn't enough.
We now accept that government should tax other people to satisfy our desires. Turei needed that cash, so she felt entitled to steal it. She has not said sorry because she does not understand that she did something wrong.
Once you see state money as being a right and not a privilege then taking as much of it as you need makes sense. People no longer feel grateful for the assistance, but resentment that it isn't enough. This isn't a shock. Our political leaders have been telling us we have a right to consume the fruits of other people's labour since most of us were born.
Having a future minister justify scamming the welfare system seems perfectly apt.
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- Sunday Star Times