Turei should have pledged to repay WINZ with interest

EDITORIAL

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei took a gamble in confessing yesterday that as a solo mum studying for a law degree in the 1990s, she lied to Work and Income NZ so she could continue to get her benefit while also earning money from flatmates.

Speaking at the party’s AGM yesterday, she made the admission to highlight what being on the benefit can do to people — “It made me poor and it made me lie” — before announcing the Greens’ Mending the Safety Net policy that would radically reform the nation’s welfare system.

In government, the Greens would push for a 20 percent rise in core benefits and the removal of all sanctions on beneficiaries who fail to comply with particular rules. Ms Turei pointed to penalties for women who fail to reveal the name of their child’s father, or sole parents who want to begin a long-term relationship, and the party also wants no sanctions for beneficiaries who fail to show up to job interviews.

She said the sanctions regime made our welfare system punitive, trapping people in poverty. It does, however, help incentivise getting off welfare and back into work. It also provides part of the check and balance on the small minority of beneficiaries who lie to stay on benefits or to receive more than they are entitled to.

Ms Turei said she wanted the Greens to be “defined by our truths” not by lies, but her confession would have been much more principled if she had also pledged to repay the money she defrauded all those years back with interest. After all, she earns about $200,000 a year now.

To say she will repay it “if WINZ asks her” is something of a cop-out, but the department should take her up on this — even though, and perhaps because, she could conceivably be the next Minister of Social Development.

The Greens also want to lift the minimum wage by $2 to $17.75 an hour in the first year (which unfortunately would trap more people on the benefit), to cut the bottom tax rate from 10.5 percent to 9 percent for the first $14,000 earned, and raise the top tax rate to 40 percent for people earning more than $150,000 a year.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei took a gamble in confessing yesterday that as a solo mum studying for a law degree in the 1990s, she lied to Work and Income NZ so she could continue to get her benefit while also earning money from flatmates.

Speaking at the party’s AGM yesterday, she made the admission to highlight what being on the benefit can do to people — “It made me poor and it made me lie” — before announcing the Greens’ Mending the Safety Net policy that would radically reform the nation’s welfare system.

In government, the Greens would push for a 20 percent rise in core benefits and the removal of all sanctions on beneficiaries who fail to comply with particular rules. Ms Turei pointed to penalties for women who fail to reveal the name of their child’s father, or sole parents who want to begin a long-term relationship, and the party also wants no sanctions for beneficiaries who fail to show up to job interviews.

She said the sanctions regime made our welfare system punitive, trapping people in poverty. It does, however, help incentivise getting off welfare and back into work. It also provides part of the check and balance on the small minority of beneficiaries who lie to stay on benefits or to receive more than they are entitled to.

Ms Turei said she wanted the Greens to be “defined by our truths” not by lies, but her confession would have been much more principled if she had also pledged to repay the money she defrauded all those years back with interest. After all, she earns about $200,000 a year now.

To say she will repay it “if WINZ asks her” is something of a cop-out, but the department should take her up on this — even though, and perhaps because, she could conceivably be the next Minister of Social Development.

The Greens also want to lift the minimum wage by $2 to $17.75 an hour in the first year (which unfortunately would trap more people on the benefit), to cut the bottom tax rate from 10.5 percent to 9 percent for the first $14,000 earned, and raise the top tax rate to 40 percent for people earning more than $150,000 a year.

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