The latest revelations about Metiria Turei have fatally compromised her position as a political leader and potential Deputy Prime Minister. If she is not removed before the election, I suspect she will be challenged at their next AGM.
Let us look at what we now know in terms of her fraud. First it is important to reflect on what the DPB is for. It is for parents of children with no partner and no significant income for the upbringing of the child or children.
It covers situations where your partner dies, or you split up or you were never in a commited relationship and the father doesn’t want to contribute etc.
In many situations such as a split, the custodial parent doesn’t go on the DPB. You work out a support arrangement. In our society the primary responsibility for paying for children is the family or families. The Government has a secondary role where they provide the DPB as a backstop and also WFF to boost incomes of parents etc.
So the DPB is for when you are having to look after the child fulltime and hence unable to work and not receiving any money from the other parent. If the other parent is not contributing to their child’s upbringing, then they are legally obliged to pay child support to the IRD to partially offset the cost of the DPB.
Here’s what we now know about Metiria’s case:
- Lied over a period of at least three years covering at least three different houses about how much rent she was paying
- Was either living with the father of the baby for at least two years (which was welfare fraud as ineligible for DPB) or lied to the Registrar of Electors about where she lived in order to illegally vote in an electorate (electoral fraud which had a maximum penalty of three months jail under the 1956 Electoral Act)
- Refused to name the father of the baby, making it impossible for MSD to detect whether or not she was living with him at the time
- The father not only lived with Metiria (according to the electoral roll) but had a mortgage on the property, which almost certainly means he owned it. So are we to believe that despite being wealthy enough to own a house, he was contributing nothing to the upkeep of his child? He certainly wasn’t paying child support to the IRD as Turei refused to name him.
- The father’s mother was at the time the Mayor of North Shore City. Are we to believe that the Hartley’s were not contributing to their grandchild’s expenses at all? If so, this should be disclosed to MSD. The DPB is an income tested benefit.
- Metiria was living with her mother for at least two years but claims they were financially independent. So again we are meant to believe Metiria was receiving no support from either set of grandparents, despite living with them.
- Metiria never sought employment during this period, but did find time to twice stand for Parliament despite claiming to be so poor that she had to lie to MSD in order to get more money from taxpayers
- Was believed to be living with her new partner for some of the time she was on the DPB, which also could invalidate her eligibility or mean his income should be included
Now you can have a view, as Metiria does, that taxcpayer support should be unconditional. That if you want the DPB you should get it as of right. That you should never ever have to look for a job. That you can be in a relationship with someone of extreme wealth but still get the DPB. They are all legitimate views, albeit ones I strongly disagree with.
But what you can’t do is unilaterally decide that your view of what the welfare system should be trumps what Parliament has decided, and simply lie in order to get more money.
What is astonishing is that at the time Turei was lying to MSD and lying to the Registrar of Electors, she was studying to be a lawyer. She obviously missed the classes on legal ethics.