Monday 24 July 2017

Sins Of Admission: A Response To John Armstrong's Attack On Metiria Turei.

The Guilty Party: Metiria is guilty of a crime – but not the one John Armstrong rails against in his latest column. Her transgression was to break ranks with the socio-political formation that has kept Richardson’s and Shipley’s welfare cuts bleeding and raw for more than quarter-of-a-century.
JOHN ARMSTRONG rails against Metiria Turei’s admission that she lied to the welfare authorities. Like so many of the outbursts emanating from the Right on this subject, however, his words speak more eloquently of his own failings than Metiria’s.

Lacking the imagination for empathy, Armstrong and his ilk cling for comfort to the rules, all the rules, and nothing but the rules.
“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.”
Yes, John, that’s exactly what it implies. But, tell me, do you think that Mahatma Ghandi, Dr Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela would have any ethical difficulty dealing with those implications?
Metiria was required to raise her daughter in the years immediately following the Mother of All Budgets. You must remember that extraordinary act of social violence, John? When Ruth Richardson, with enthusiastic support from Jenny Shipley, slashed the already meagre incomes of New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens by 25 percent? When the National Government of Jim Bolger did exactly what Metiria told her party a Green government would never do: Use poverty as a weapon against its own people?
Do you really expect us to believe, John, that you would have accepted the National Government’s vicious policies without protest or subterfuge – and watched your child go hungry? If that really is your position, then why did you write: “There is sympathy for her past plight and respect for her efforts in pulling herself out of it.”
Clearly, you understand that falling into the clutches of Work & Income was, and is, a predicament – a “plight” – and that getting out of it isn’t easy. It requires a working knowledge of every trick in the book. Some of those tricks are legal. Others are not. But, for their children, people do what they have to do. If you would rather they didn’t “steal” from the Government, John, then why not insist that the Government gives them enough to live on?
But you don’t want to do that, do you, John? No, you would rather use the poor against the poor. Like when you write: “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.”
And how would you know what low-income families are thinking, John? Has it never occurred to you that those “welfare cheats” (what an odious gob of verbal spittle that is!) are the sons and daughters of the working poor? How many of them, do you suppose, have attempted to support their children at the local Work & Income office and experienced first-hand the icy condescension and bureaucratic cruelty of MSD employees?
No, John, you don’t anything about that world of hurt and anger. What you do know, however, is what they should be thinking - and you will not hesitate to tell them at every given opportunity. Because the Right is terrified – yes, terrified – that Metiria’s admission that she was willing to lie to keep food on her little family’s table might persuade a dangerously large number of those low-income families that at least some Green MPs know what their own children are going through. And that the prospect of MSD’s hated “sanctions” being abolished might even convince those families that, this time, it’s worth casting a vote.
Metiria is guilty of a crime – but not the one John Armstrong rails against. Her transgression was to break ranks with the socio-political formation that has kept Richardson’s and Shipley’s welfare cuts bleeding and raw for more than quarter-of-a-century.
When Metiria Turei told the Green AGM that: “We will not be a government that uses poverty as a weapon against its own people”,  she must have known that she was breaking the biggest rule of all.
And that the John Armstrongs of this world would never forgive her.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Saturday, 22 July 2017.


Kat said...

John Armstrong belongs to that era where if you were caught DIC then you just paid a lawyer to get you off. Same with employing an accountant to make sure you paid as little tax as possible while claiming the accountancy fees as well.

By the way Chris here is something else Winston Churchill said: "It is alarming to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well-known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal Palace while he is still organising and conducting a campaign of civil disobedience."

waterman said...

As a mature university student I recall being 'caught' as the student allowance bureaucrat called it by 'over earning' by a couple of hundred dollars in a month with a part time job.

Later that day after being 'caught' I was in the university book shop and bought essential reading (that's books if you were wondering) for about a couple of hundred dollars.

I know what your're thinking - it's tough to be a criminal...

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"And how would you know what low-income families are thinking, John? "

Good question, I bet he knows hundreds of poor families. He probably lives in South Auckland or Cannon's Creek./Sarc :)
I really should be over any surprise at the lack of empathy shown by conservatives by now. But they continue to amaze. I particularly love the ones who live on the benefit for a week, or say "I was poor once." – Yeah right.

Dave Kennedy said...

Hear hear!

Anonymous said...

Reality TV I would enjoy...John Armstrong with two kids under 5, put in a private rental in Aranui and a part time job as a cleaner in a rest home. Make him do it for a year. Give him $100 in a savings account and the sole parent benefit. Chronicle his journey.

Neil Miller said...

I grew up in much greater poverty than Metiria Turei has ever experienced. To use her fraud for political benefit is pretty out there. Your post plays the man not the ball. Not cool. Kinda nasty.

Nick J said...

I hope you read this Armstrong; your views are beneath contempt. Lower than shark s**t.

Hilary T said...

Her original 'sin' was a righteous what you're saying.And I could swallow that..except the facts seem to suggest otherwise. I weigh up the facts of her circumstances and see a young woman who has chosen a subsidised route to child-rearing and educational attainment. It was on offer, after all. That I can live with. She's now framing this as the 'I was forced to be poor on a benefit and lie to feed my child', to suit her party's welfare planks. uh,uh..not really how it went down. That's deceptive and she's lost me.

Bushbaptist said...

Poverty is subjective and what one regards as poverty some-one else would say it is adequate to live on. It all depends on the circumstances which one is living in.

I have only been on a benefit once in my life, more years ago than I want to remember and I was single at the time. If I had children in those circumstances I would do what ever it takes for them to survive and thrive.

Armstrong is another rightwing loudmouth.

greywarbler said...

Heard a replay of Hooton and Mills. Hooton was incredulous and banged on about how others could manage and why shouldn't she and counted up all the advantages she had. Now this is the way that RWs look at social welfare - as handouts to help individuals they disown and disdain who have defects,
'all the D/s - Bingo'. You make do and don't ask for more, and don't try to be socially mobile you creeps, we are not paying you to aspire to expensive tertiary study, that's out of your strata. So Meteria gets no kudos for aiming for a good job, she should make do, that's her karma or something. No wishing well for your fellow citizen and encouragement to bring up good children with an aspirational parent as role model.

The fact is that RWs enjoy having the beneficiary 'slugs' to moan about and kick. When people can get away with having a go at some 'other' group some just go to excess, and funnel all their shitty feelings over to that person or group. No wonder NZ is in such a terrible condition socially - it's full of despising and irritation at others who just 'can't manager like 'I' can'.

greywarbler said...

Kat thank you for that delicious quote re Ghandi and Winston Churchill.

KjT said...


Putting 300 thousand children into unnecessary poverty is "Legal".

Costing every man, woman and child in New Zealand several thousand dollars, by playing with the NZ currency, to make ones fortune larger, is "legal".

Harassing welfare claimants, until they give up trying,or become insane, is "legal".

Selling assets against the express wishes of the owners, is "legal".

Taking a job in the industry you have looked after while a politician, is "legal".

Having several million dollars in wealth, and paying taxes on less than 70k a year, is "legal".

I'll support the person, who wants to make sure no one else is caught in the difficult position she was in, again, thanks!

Charles E said...

Hillary T has it bang on.
It's not the milking of the system that is the big issue, it's the idea she had poverty imposed on her by our welfare state and effectively by those who were paying for her choices. Yes choices. And where was the father btw? What was his responsibility for his 'starving' child? She has put this out there so we are entitled to ask.
I just don't believe she had to cheat.
And why did she not go and sort this out when she got her large MP's salary long ago which we are all still paying her, for nothing in return. Yes nothing. The Greens have never done anything for us whatsoever. They are useless. So Turei has lived off us her entire life it seems.

sumsuch said...

Communication channel to the poor non-voters is the most important point. Either a mass door-knocking force or some very canny computer chappy. In my state house area much, much better, Maori, of which Greens short , turning up at the door, rather than my pale, misanthropic face. It will turn on communication, Mike Williams. As opposed to him, I don't know if the Greens understand this.

sumsuch said...

Dispicable how over the last 33 years the welfare dept has taken on the tone of the often slighting govt of the day. Like a rebirth of Victorian practices. Meanness. Smallness. Vileness. Isn't prison the punishment? Isn't poverty the punishment? Those public servants who bent to non-public service.

Making commentators squeal is always good in my NZ experience.

You wonder about the mortgage-paying NZers' reaction, Chris. I don't know, but I know where society ends without fairness--look over to our Appalachian 2nd cousins.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"And why did she not go and sort this out when she got her large MP's salary long ago which we are all still paying her,"
Why don't you pay back all that tax money you have "avoided at the margins"? Now that you're well off and all. Assuming you didn't do it when you were well off which most well off people do. The simple fact is that people who cheat the system and gain huge amounts of money almost always never pay it back. The IRD won't pursue them, and are usually satisfied with 5 or 10%. Whereas people who cheat the system for small amounts of money are hammered by the IRD until they pay. Largely because they don't have the resources to fight back I suspect. One law for the rich one for the poor.

Charles E said...

Actually I understand that Winz have amnesties regularly and collect very little of the type of fraud MT got up too. And I support that. She could have fesses up in an amnesty but I doubt she thought of that for a second. She does now though!
So yes I do support IRD doing deals with people instead of bankrupting them.
And for the record I have not committed tax fraud ever but I have managed some things to avoid more tax legally which is arguable a moral offence I agree. Moral and legal are of course completely different things.
I don't bother for years now as it actually costs you in accountants fees and hassle and for years now we do not have a punitive tax system. Paying a top rate of one third is ok by me.
As with welfare, NZ is a fair country where the vast majority would agree, when not being political that they do get a 'fair go' from the gov..

Guerilla Surgeon said...

A moral offence? And yet the reason you stopped doing it is the cost? Those PAYE people you are so fond of can't do it at all.

sumsuch said...

The fight between the equal NZ forces of sympathy and suspicion must be joined if we are to recover the former as our governing code.