Metira Turei's legagcy may not be what she intended
When Metiria Turei told the public that she had – 20 years ago – tweaked the truth a bit to get a few more dollars out of WINZ to feed her daughter, she not only sealed her political career (less of an issue, there are plenty of aspiring politicians on the Green Party list), but she likely also got a lot of other people into trouble.
The reasons she stated for her resignation as co-leader of the Greens – that the media scrutiny on her family was becoming unbearable – is just one of the predictable effects of her admission. As a politician, she should have known that this was going to happen.
What is worse is that apparently she also didn’t think about the other people she effectively dobbed in by her stupid statements. It is highly likely that WINZ will now re-open the files of every one of her former flatmates and start investigating whether they had told them of the flatmate called Metiria. Her resignation won’t mean an end to the scrutiny put on their lives.
But her error in judgement didn’t end there. She said that “as a country we are ready to have a conversation about what life is really like for people on benefits.” A serious misjudgement. Far from there being a discussion about WINZ, the public debate is all about Metiria and whether someone who owes the state money is fit to be part of a government. It seems that not even the Greens themselves are ready to have that conversation, judging by the deafening silence from the party following Metiria’s admission. No Green MP has come out saying that of course, it is OK to put the needs of your children before loyalty to a government department. Not a single one.
This gives all those who love to hark on about beneficiary fraudsters an open invitation to come out of the woodwork and swing the election. Since last week, there is significant political gain to be had with the promise to “Crack down on dole bludgers!” And who would be better to lead that campaign than Paula Benett, who probably has been waiting for exactly this moment since December.
If a last minute change of leadership seemingly works for Labour, why would it not work for the Nats? Be prepared for PM Bennett and deputy Peters. Ironically, this would be the first government with Maori in the top two positions.