More on the welfare and privacy debate

July 30th, 2009 at 11:09 am by David Farrar

I have to say that I am gaining very very different impressions of the two women involved in the issue of the cutting of the TIA allowance and the release of their total income from taxpayers.

has really impressed me with her sincerity, attitude and arguments. The Herald reports:

Social Development Minister has asked her officials to look into setting up a loan to help solo parents cover their extra study costs.

The suggestion came during a phone call yesterday to Jennifer Johnston, one of two solo mothers whose details she released after they spoke out about her decision to cut the Training Incentive Allowance for tertiary level courses. …

She said she would take Ms Johnston up on an offer to join her for coffee when she was next in Invercargill.

Ms Johnston said she also apologised to Ms Bennett. “I was pretty angry yesterday. I don’t bear her any ill will.”

She said Ms Bennett had listened carefully to her case but also made it clear she could not promise anything.

“I run a family, she runs a department, but my family has a budget just like her department and at times I have to make financial decisions that are unpopular. Sometimes the people I’m responsible for, my children, will come to me and say, ‘Mum, how about we do it this way?’ Sometimes I can compromise and sometimes I can’t – that’s the reality of having a budget. I don’t know what will come out of our conversation but at the very least I know my minister heard my concerns.”

She brushed off concerns about privacy, saying it was not hard to find out what level of benefits a woman in her situation would be entitled to.

I made a similar point on radio yesterday. Most benefit information is a matter of public record. You just can’t calculate it to the exact dollor without knowing what someone’s rent is etc.

But as I said, kudos to Ms Johnston for her positive advocacy and constructive suggestion re expanding loans, rather than a grant.

I have to say that things are rather murkier with Ms Fuller. First of all is the fascinating revelation that she had her benefit information disclosed by Labour in 2007:

The single mother who is taking Paula Bennett to the Privacy Commission for releasing her income details has had her income disclosed publicly before – by in 2007 and by herself on a Trade Me message board last week. …

Ms Fuller listed some of her entitlements on a Trade Me message board under her user name thehappyhocker last week, before Ms Bennett provided the information to the Herald.

Good to see the media pick up on the Trade Me disclosures for they are very relevant.

Ms Fuller’s income had also been used by the Labour Party in 2007 as an example of the success of its policies. She said she had given permission for then social development minister David Benson-Pope to use the information after she set up a cleaning business with an enterprise allowance.

In his speech, Mr Benson-Pope lists her total support from the state as $180.50, including an accommodation supplement of $91, a family tax credit of $69.50, and another $20 a week from Working for Families.

What is especially interesting to me, is what links (if any) Ms Fuller has to Labour. Often people trumpeted by Labour as sucess stories are Labour Party members and activists. This may not be the case, but it often is. And it all comes down to whether there has been appropriate disclosure.

A thread started by Ms Fuller on the Trade Me message boards also has some alarming allegations in it. Also a huge amount of abuse (some from other people on the DPB) – enough to make a general debate thread on Kiwiblog look like a polite conversation.

Dave at blogs on some of the allegations. They include claims of boasting on Facebook of spending $200 on CDs in a month etc. If the claims are correct, Labour may once again be regretting their choice of champion.

And in another thread he blogs on posts by Fuller where she admits to living with her partner while getting the benefit, and knowing what she did was wrong.

And for those who think this is Big Brother, all Dave has done is catalogue posts made voluntarily by Fuller on the Internet.

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45 Responses to “More on the welfare and privacy debate”

  1. coventry (307 comments) says:

    The more I read about Ms Fuller, the more I think the welfare system needs an overhaul. She appears to need to be the centre of attention, has major issues keeping her story straight and was working the system illegally (if what she has written/boasted is correct).

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  2. nickb (3,629 comments) says:

    The sense of entitlement is astonishing, but not surprising after 9 years of Labour.

    If there’s one thing that makes me angrier more than anything, it is people who expect the state to pick up the bill for poor choices (philu..)

    People that have children when in precarious financial situations are idiots. There are far more deserving people out there

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  3. Bryan Spondre aka The Link Whore (225 comments) says:

    “Dave at Big News blogs on some of the allegations. They include claims of boasting on Facebook of spending $200 on CDs in a month etc. If the claims are correct, Labour may once again be regretting their choice of champion.”

    Dave aka @caffeine_addict has done some excellent posts on this issue. On the basis Fuller, Burgess & Choudary it would be inadviseable for Phil Goff to seek employment as a bomb disposal soldier when ghe gets the sack as Leader of the Opposition.

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  4. tvb (3,941 comments) says:

    Just why am I not surprised Ms Fuller has connections to the Labour Party. It makes Lianne Dalziel’s denials in Parliament yesterday look very wobbly indeed. You just KNOW that when the Labour Party use some member of the public to make a political point there is a rat in there somewhere. Ordinary members of the public simply do not want themselves being used as political fodder by the Labour Party.

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  5. Grant Michael McKenna (1,152 comments) says:

    Petard…. hoist!

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  6. ovation (239 comments) says:

    I’ve never understood the idea of a training INCENTIVE allowance. Surely a rational person would see the incentive of further training in the result of being more employable, and having higher earning power.

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  7. toad (3,654 comments) says:

    DPF said: And for those who think this is Big Brother, all Dave has done is catalogue posts made voluntarily by Fuller on the Internet.

    And made completely unsubstantiable (and very likely mostly wrong) conclusions from them.

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  8. nickb (3,629 comments) says:

    Looks like more Labour plants…
    Choudary, Burgess, Fuller…

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  9. gingercrush (153 comments) says:

    Oh haven’t you got the memo DPF. Johnson was threatened or bribed to come to the opinion she now has.

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  10. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,049 comments) says:

    What is especially interesting to me, is what links (if any) Ms Fuller has to Labour. Often people trumpeted by Labour as sucess stories are Labour Party members and activists. This may not be the case, but it often is.

    So anyone who is a member of a political party waives their protection under the privacy act? You better pray the Privacy Commissioner tears Bennett a new asshole, because when Labour get back in they’re going to use the fascinating precendent set by Bennett and passionately supported by yourself to fuck over anyone and everyone who speaks out against them. In general I’ll oppose that – because it’s the right thing to do – but if they decide to hand any confidential materal relating to yourself over the media it’s going to be awfully hard not to bite my tongue.

    [DPF: God you have twisted my words. I have never ever said what you alluded to. Inno way do I suggest that the decision to release info should have any connection to political party membership. What I am saying is that Governments (or Oppositions) who hold up success stories or failure stories to the media, should be open about whether the person is politically aligned. I recall seeing in the Dom Post a young Jules going on about how great WFF was for him, and not mentioning he was or had been a Young Labour member.

    Again you have totally distorted what I said, and reached a conclusion that is wrong in every way. Read what I actually said.]

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  11. senzafine (454 comments) says:

    Good Lord. That votemenot thread is GOLD.

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  12. Bryan Spondre aka The Link Whore (225 comments) says:

    “And made completely unsubstantiable (and very likely mostly wrong) conclusions from them.” – perhaps or perhaps not. I certainly found the Karaoke with $400 hair extensions and police-woman outfit video … enlightening.

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  13. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    The two women seem to be complete opposites. It is a shame for Johnston that she got mixed up in this affair with Fuller. She’s been tainted by the association and I only hope there is a happy outcome for her.

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  14. george (398 comments) says:

    “And in another thread he blogs on posts by Fuller where she admits to living with her partner while getting the benefit, and knowing what she did was wrong.”

    That must be wrong. That would be fraud – a criminal offence. Fuller wouldn’t have admitted that on a blog, and the Labour researchers and the media would have found out about it before publishing her allegations.

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  15. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    Danyl, Labour has never been backwards about coming forward with personal information when it suited them. The difference is they sneaked about to do it, unlike Bennett who has been open and honest about it.
    As per the dom-post editorial today, think about Lianne Dalziel leaking information about a Sri Lankan teenager seeking asylum (and the Lie in Unison memo) and Helen Clark – Peter Doone.

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  16. nickb (3,629 comments) says:

    WTF is votemenot all about? “safe haven for trademe bullied threads”???

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  17. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,049 comments) says:

    The difference is they sneaked about to do it, unlike Bennett who has been open and honest about it.
    As per the dom-post editorial today, think about Lianne Dalziel leaking information about a Sri Lankan teenager seeking asylum

    When Dalziel leaked the memo there was a huge public outcry, she desperately lied about leaking it to save face, got caught out and was sacked. It doesn’t matter how ‘open and honest’ Bennett was about breaking the law – she broke the law.

    [DPF: Dalziel got sacked for the lie, not the deed incidentially. If Bennet broke the law there will be political consequences. But I prefer to wait for the Privacy Commissioner to rule, rather than rely on your assertion]

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  18. Bryan Spondre aka The Link Whore (225 comments) says:

    Danyl – “It doesn’t matter how ‘open and honest’ Bennett was about breaking the law – she broke the law.” isn’t that for the Privacy Commissioner to decide ?

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  19. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    It is your opinion that she broke the law Danyl, and although the opinion is probably shared by a lot of people it is up to the privacy commissioner to decide. Based on the website guidelines it seems Bennett could have reasonable expectation that she was acting within the law.
    Perhaps if she’s found guilty National should follow the precedent of Labour and retrospectively change the law? Since you’re advocating Labour should copy what National do will you be consistent?

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  20. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    “When Dalziel leaked the memo there was a huge public outcry, she desperately lied about leaking it to save face”

    And there is the big big difference, and is why even though I don’t think National are that hot I’d much rather have them in than Labour.

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  21. burt (7,085 comments) says:

    george

    That must be wrong. That would be fraud – a criminal offence. Fuller wouldn’t have admitted that on a blog, and the Labour researchers and the media would have found out about it before publishing her allegations.

    I think every single one of us knows (or knows of) somebody who has worked the system like this. Additionally to assert that Fuller would not admit it on a blog if she knew it was wrong makes a large assumption about Fuller’s attitude to welfare abuse. I know a woman who was very proud of the fact her 4 kids were from different fathers each paying separate (private) maintenance arrangements while she collected welfare as well. The guy she was living with (unofficially) pissed of a neighbour who dobbed her in and she was gutted….

    I was amused that she, having talked about her fraud regularly at the pub, couldn’t believe that someone dobbed her in because it was only the gummit she was ripping off – not her neighbour. Guess she forgot her neighbour paid tax and like many other people get pissed off with welfare fraud.

    Disclosure: I was banging her as well, but I wasn’t living with her and none of the children were mine.

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  22. burt (7,085 comments) says:

    So if Fuller broke the law re: welfare fraud and Bennett broke the law re: disclosure how about we don’t do the Labour party thing and just move on because a minister was involved. How about we take both cases into court and let each face the charges that are applicable under the law. Funny mad thing to do after 9 years of ‘not in the public interest’ but it would be a change of approach worth investigating to see if it can work.

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  23. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,668 comments) says:

    Consecutively or simultaneously?

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  24. Chris_C (224 comments) says:

    Fuller is a strange one. Just looking at her level of grammar and spelling, even if we’re just talking ad hoc online discussions, I don’t think she’s particularly suited to be a teacher. I could be wrong, of course, because the online world is much different from the professional world, but her behaviour doesn’t seem to have been appropriate.

    It was Fuller’s behaviour that made me doubt that Labour had anything to do with it, except raising the matter in Parliament, mainly because someone at Labour would have have the good sense to tell her to shut up.

    I’ll stand by my argument about Bennett’s behaviour though – when you speak of their standing, you couldn’t expect much more from Fuller on an internet board, but you’d expect a higher standard of behaviour, thought and common sense from a minister with a list ranking of 16.

    When you combine Bennett’s behaviour with the things Garrett said to the prison officers at the select committee, you have to start wondering about the standards of behaviour across the board.

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  25. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    ROFL at your disclosure burt. Reminds of the Neil Young song – welfare mothers make better lovers
    Now for toad to come and call us misogynists…

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  26. burt (7,085 comments) says:

    Adolf

    If you are asking about the woman I mention…. Ummm, errr – both actually. If you are talkign about the court cases – separately.

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  27. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    @Chris_C
    Firstly, you’ve raised a good point about her suitability as a teacher. I believe it was early childhood she was wanting to get into, and I have to confess I looked at her trademe buying history and the trademe boards. A lot of it was flashcards for kids learning, and gate things to childproof the house. It left me in no doubt that she genuinely cares about her kids, but contrast it with a comment on the trademe boards about her needing an ambulance after a drinking session that described her as ’2 drinks away from death’ and I kind of got a feeling that she’s not the best role model.
    With regard to Fuller’s behaviour making you doubt Labour had anything to do with it, that’s not a logical conclusion in light of the Choudary business. Labour simply don’t have good sense in these matters.
    On the position of Bennett’s behaviour I respect your stance even though mine is different.
    Finally, Garrett isn’t suited to politics full stop (apart from them being from different parties under different leaders) and I don’t think you should taint Bennett with that association.

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  28. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    I am not concerned about the privacy issue. I am more concerned about the ‘How a Govt Minister Should Treat NZ Citizens’ issue. I think a lot more people than just a few die-hard labour voters see this as a warning to the general public not to criticise the Government’s programme, or else there will be consequences.

    I would go as far as calling it “Chillingly anti-democratic” in fact.

    As for those who insist the public “has a right to know” what a beneficiaries’ income is, I must ask whether true charity is it’s own reward, or whether it is done with an expectation of praise and admiration?

    Yes anyone can look up what benefits a generalised solo mum can apply for. To say that is the same thing as Paula Bennett naming these women and the dollar value of their benefits in the media and all but branding them as “filthy bludgers” requires a very callous nature indeed IMHO.

    If you accept Bennett’s actions, doesn’t it then follow that all beneficiaries should be made to wear a badge giving their name, the type of benefit(s) they are on, and their weekly value? You and I have a right to know don’t forget.

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  29. Patrick Starr (3,675 comments) says:

    thanks for the link DPF.
    OMG – when you read about Fuller you realise what a deceptive and conniving piece of work she really is. Why dont the MSM start reading this history – the woman clearly wants to be famous – go ahead, make her day

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  30. Chris_C (224 comments) says:

    @ RightNow

    Well, as far as Labour’s involvement goes, there’s no proof except suspicion. The suspicion is, I think, founded on behaviour in the past, but it assumes that people can’t set up their own campaigns or speak out on their own. That either assumes a very controlling mind in Labour, or a lack of independence in the public. Considering Fuller’s behaviour, I think she’s perfectly able to speak out on her own.

    I don’t think Bennett is suited to politics, either, to be honest. At least, she’s inexperienced, and this example shows it. She has an entire ministry to consult over these matters and she doesn’t use it. According to a friend I have working over in that direction, she regularly fails to consult her own department over matters and is arrogant and bullying in her M.O. This example – getting legal advice from a website when you have to deal with the media and things are going to be very very public – shows up a serious lack of experience that affects her credibility to swing voters. Added to which, although some thought her performance in Parliament was good – DPF, I’m talking to you – I thought that again, she showed strains of arrogance and her failure to respond to repeated questions showed that she hadn’t done the research required and she hadn’t made all the information available to her, or pre-empted the possible negative outcomes of her actions.

    I would have loved to see the comms department in the MSD when this story broke. They must hate her guts right now.

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  31. Mlec (11 comments) says:

    Ive been banned from the standard for making posts disagreeing with them on this issue.
    So much for upholding the rights of the individual and a full and free discussion. They comment so much about bullying at present over there I guess its all they Know, The Labour Jackboot.
    Can I have sanctuary here

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  32. getstaffed (9,188 comments) says:

    I must ask whether true charity is it’s own reward, or whether it is done with an expectation of praise and admiration?

    No, I think it’s done with an expectation that the recipient will work their hardest to get into a place there the no further need to live off that welfare. The average NZ taxpayer will make their own judgement about how well these women suceeded in that regard.

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  33. Patrick Starr (3,675 comments) says:

    Christ – reading Trade Me message board on Fuller makes you realise how lightly Philu gets off and how tame kiwiblog really is

    http://www.votemenot.co.nz/thread/37548900/come-and-attack-me/?page=1

    [DPF: Yeah I thought they would have far less abuse, but wow they go for it there]

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  34. david (2,482 comments) says:

    RRM – This debate has been hijacked from where it started. It is not about privacy, nor is it about bullying, it is about the public’s right to know the truth when accusations are levelled and complaints of hardship are made. The information released by Bennett was quite properly information in rebuttal of the claim that the person involved was suffering hardship to the extent that they could no longer study once a subsidy was removed. The public of New Zealand are not stupid and resent being treated as such, hence the overwhelming support for Bennett.

    Much has also been made of precedent and scaremongering claims about the floodgates being opened. Someone even went so far as to suggest that David Farrar’s tax information should be made public because he critisised the previous government’s tax policy. IMNSVHO it would be valid if David had so organised his affairs that he paid no tax in spite of an obviously significant income and then complained publicly about the introduction of a new top tax rate on the basis that it would jeopardise his living standard (quite apart from the fact that tax privacy is subject to its own legislated protection).

    The exposure of hypocracy is a laudible act and should be encouraged.
    and thats about all I have to say about that!

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  35. coventry (307 comments) says:

    Time for a reverse time line.

    2009 – July: Has a big cry about TIA, gets a lot of press time and then the questions surface.
    2008 – Dec: Kicked (or left) partner of 4 years, father of #3
    2007 – Q4 ? : Birth of #3 Child
    2007 – Business folded for ‘medical reasons’ – no shit sherlock, she got knocked up.
    2007 – Jun : Pimps naughty lingerie business in TAC
    2007 – Mar : Pimps business in Te Awamutu Courier
    2006 – November: She started her own business called Versatile Home Services with a Grant from DSW
    2005 – Jan (?) : Got with partner of 4 years, father of #3 child

    So my questions are, how did she get a) the DPB and b) a grant from DSW in that time frame, when she was clearly by her own admission with the sperm donor for #3 child ? Let’s hope DSW/IRD do an audit on this sponge-bod.

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  36. NeillR (345 comments) says:

    She appears to need to be the centre of attention

    Indeed, she comes across as the Lisa Lewis of the DPB set.

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  37. coventry (307 comments) says:

    Thanks NeillR – must be something in that Waikato water. Oh christ we drink it too !

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  38. Brian Smaller (3,915 comments) says:

    That must be wrong. That would be fraud – a criminal offence. Fuller wouldn’t have admitted that on a blog, and the Labour researchers and the media would have found out about it before publishing her allegations.

    Ripping off the DPB is so common that people hardly hide the fact any more. I suggest you try renting out a house in Wainui or similar suburb in any town in NZ and you will see how blatant it is.

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  39. Chris2 (704 comments) says:

    Here’s a third solo mother stepping up to the crease with her tale of woe, and I feel sorry for the boy having being named Dontae …..

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/news/2704028/Solo-mums-training-quashed/

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  40. burt (7,085 comments) says:

    NeillR

    Indeed, she comes across as the Lisa Lewis of the DPB set.

    There ya go, public vs private enterprise exposed. Lisa Lewis – $10,000/weekend vs Fuller $700/week. Never let it be said that public provision costs more for the consumer in the long run… mind you – I’m not necessarily comparing apples with apples here – although both do what they do to support their children.

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  41. david (2,482 comments) says:

    coventry (172) Vote: 2 0 Says:

    July 30th, 2009 at 2:41 pm
    Thanks NeillR – must be something in that Waikato water. Oh christ we drink it too !

    What you are getting has probably passed through her kidneys first. Talk about a double whammy LOL

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  42. Murray M (455 comments) says:

    I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. If they want to study they can take out an interest free student loan like most other people have to do. This is what Paula Bennett should have stated. Just because they got knocked up and the relationship(s) didn’t work out does not make them special. Junkies have the same attitude, because A&D services feed them full of bullshit, they end up thinking they are special. It seems to me most solo mothers are just welfare junkies. Jesus wept NZ is a basket case.

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  43. John Ansell (861 comments) says:

    Paula guessed right that she would get much more support than criticism from this.

    I remember watching National Party focus groups in 2005 and being amazed just how vehemently ordinary working Kiwis (floating voters) got stuck into beneficiaries.

    Of course the resentment was deepest among those who worked full days for little more than a welfare payment.

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  44. dave strings (608 comments) says:

    Getting $715 net per week on the benefit amounts to an annual income of just over $50,000 once deductions (tax, ACC, etc.,) are added back in. That’s a lot more than MOST of the population of New Zealand ($38,500 was the average gross wage in the last quarter of 2008) . What is this woman complaining about? She should get a job in a cafe , earn $12.50 per hour (plus tips – ha) and pay her tax like everyone else! That would save us taxpayers about $42,380 per year!

    (-_-) ^i^

    ,

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  45. jameschawthorne (3 comments) says:

    I’d like to see these facts raised/ publicised and then acted on:

    The recent legalization of prostitution (which does not affect me at all and so do not have a strong opinion on) and the boom of the internet has led to the following situation:

    The leading (near monopoly) website for online escort advertising is called newzealandgirls.co.nz. They have around 350 girls across the Country advertising at any one time- most of them like to pay cash for the service (anywhere between $70 and $220/week- usually in the higher range). That is revenue of $52,500 by estimate. I would suggest that given the cash nature of the industry and the desire of many of the girls to keep their business unrecorded- that around 50% of this revenue is not declared to IRD (I could be wrong of course)- a huge loss to tax payers.

    Now tax a solo mum who advertises on that site like “escort Inka” (in the Auckland section) – one of the Countries highest earning and prolific sex workers (she charges $300/hour and $2,500 overnight). On the occasions I have met with Inka, she is usually booked up for the present day and is quiet willing to boast that she is busy as hell and being flown around the Country and doing at least 4-5 bookings per day, if not flying to Aussie to spend 7 nights with wealthy businessmen and being paid $2,500 for each night she is there (flying business class). This women finds the this industry glamorous and does not hesitate to tell one how much money she makes.

    Inka is also drawing a solo mum’s benefit from WINZ for over $300 week and has done since she was around 20 years old (she is also happy to tell customers her daughter is currently 7 years old.

    The first time I met her she was staying at the 5 Star Hyatt Hotel in Auckland City in a luxury, 180 degree harbour view 9th floor room with spa bath etc which she was happy to declare was costing her $300/night (if she paid 10 nights at a time. The room was equipped with a safe for her to store her hordes of cash and she was happy to skite that she was making an easy $1,500 before businessmen etc finished work for the day and went back to their families.

    One can also discover that she has her own website link on her ad on the NZG website, and on that website she declares she is making a porn film soon and will be flying around the world making more porn films soon. Glamorous indeed if you are into that sort of thing.

    This particular solo mum- who is funded by us tax payers to the tune of $300 plus per week, is not registered as self employed and does not declare one cent of her $5,000 plus weekly cash income to IRD and instead draws the DPB from the Government.

    She is only one of the highest earners in this industry- there are many more and a few that earn even more.
    Few would argue that the internet is great for online services and many argue that legalization of the sex trade is a good thing also- but the blind attitude towards this now booming and very publically viewable tax fraud going on in this industry is quite simply revolting.

    I estimate around 80% of the girls advertising on newzealandgirls.co.nz are also receiving WINZ benefits (many of them are receiving solo mum benefits)- the other 20% of girls on that website are simply not allowed to receive one because they are overseas visitors and students not allowed to work here anyway.

    The loss in fraudulently received WINZ benefits as well as the loss in tax revenue from undeclared income I would estimate would be enough to enable this Government to reverse their GST hike for most of Auckland and keep the income tax cuts on income.

    What a great place to live NZ is- if you are a business person who can afford to drop $2,500 per night on some company and entertainment, or if you are a hooker on the DPB who has been gifted of late with the rise of the internet, legalization of your chosen trade and the pathetically blind eye of our social welfare and IRD departments who it seems have never noticed the huge amount of gold jewellery on her hands when she visits her case manager to ask for more money, or the passport records showing extensive overseas travel on her own, or the secondary bank account with a visa debit card detailing flights and 5 star hotels all over the Country.

    For the rest of us- everything is now 2.5% more expensive -so hunker down.

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