Last year before the election, I was chatting to a guy in my electorate who had just got home from work. In the middle of the conversation, he stopped and pointed across the road to his neighbour.
He said: “see that guy over there, he’s on a sickness benefit, yet he’s up there painting the roof of his house. That’s not bloody fair. Do you guys support him?”
Yet in 2011 he said:
[T]here’s a number of people I meet in the streets and they’ll say, and we’ll talk about inequality of the tax system, and they’ll say “Yeah mate, but I’ll tell you what, that guy down the road he’s a sickness beneficiary and I saw him up there cleaning his roof the other day and you’ve got to go nail him.
Now it is fine to use an anecdote, but it is not fine to portray an anecdote as an actual specific conversation, with a specific date it happened.
Now maybe it is true that David Shearer meets so many people complaining about sickness beneficiaries to him that he both used it as an anecdote and had a further specific conversation in 2011. Both by coincidence about a sickness beneficiary working on his roof. One of them cleaning it, and one of them painting it.
It is possible, but unlikely.
So which journalists will be first to get an answer to the question “Is the 2011 conversation fictitious or real. Does the neighbour exist?” and “Was he painting or cleaning the rood?”