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.
Can you imagine it – a welfare fraudster in charge of welfare. It would be like putting a tax evader in charge of the IRD.
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.
In the absence of more detail — most crucially how much money she received to which she was not entitled — it is incumbent on her as an MP to put things right — at least as much as can be done so.
She should have fessed up a lot earlier, apologised and paid back her best estimate of how much she owed to Work and Income.
If upon being made a candidate for Parliament she had gone to WINZ and paid back what she stole, and disclosed then when first standing, then there would be little fuss. Few people have led a blameless life.
But what grates is she has never paid the money back, and uses her own fraud as a political weapon to support their policy to make welfare a lifetime entitlement.
Blaming the system for her cheating of the system enables her to absolve herself of all responsibility for her misleading the system.
One can only conclude she doesn’t think she did anything wrong.
Saying that she will only pay the money back if Work and Income demands it hardly fulfils that obligation.
She is in line to become Welfare Minister if Labour-Greens for a Government. It is awfully unfair on WINZ to say they have to investigate her before she pays any money back. Which civil servant wants to start an investigation into their potential future Minister?
She endeavoured to turn her breach of the law into a launching pad for her party’s welfare policy. That is audacious. It is also the height of arrogance. It is also to enter very dangerous territory. It implies you are above the law. It says it is okay to break the law in order to try and change it.
In that light, the politics almost fade into insignificance. But not quite.
First, the exposure of Turei’s flouting of the law will further alienate low-income families in which both parents work long hours and who consequently cannot abide welfare cheats.
Those voters are already deserting the centre-left. Turei’s holier-than-thou disposition is hardly going to attract them back.
Well paid urban liberals on Twitter form an echo chamber for Turei and some (not all) in the media. If they get outside their bubble they would be staggered by how much anager is out there about what Turei has done – from low income working parents.
Secondly, the huge emphasis Turei is giving to the Greens’ social justice priorities is not only pitting her party in direct competition with Labour. It is also pushing her party’s essential point of difference — its promotion of environmental matters — into the shadows.
It is hard to imagine how someone with Turei’s political experience could be employing an election strategy as flawed as the one she is running.
It is becoming even harder to understand why her colleagues are still giving her such free rein to keep doing so.
Great news for TOP. The Greens are now running primarily on making welfare a lifetime entitlement, rather than environmental issues.