Verity Johnson: The only reason I want to vote is because Metiria Turei lied to WINZ

OPINION: So Metiria Turei didn't tell WINZ that she had flatmates. As a taxpayer, I don't feel at all ripped off by this. In fact it's the first time ever I've felt inspired to vote. 

Before this, I was approaching voting in the general election like I do my tax return. It's painful, dull and soul-crushingly uninspiring. But I'll do it because I need to and because my Mum will give me shit until I do. (Last time when I told her I wasn't going to vote, she spammed me emails about Kate Sheppard until I gave in.) 

I shouldn't hate voting. I'm 22, well-educated and starry-eyed enough to be filled with political fire. But I do because I've never felt inspired by politicians. 

I've never been impressed with their honesty, integrity, or the policies that are firmly designed to appeal to the middle-class, white, 55-year-old, house-owning male voter. And the recent Barclay/English debacle did nothing to change this opinion.  

But when Turei came forward and said, 1) she misled WINZ, 2) that she was scared about admitting it but felt she had a duty to do so, and 3) that the system was broken and she was the proof, it was the first time I'd properly respected a politician. 

It smacks of integrity. I know that is counterintuitive because she technically lied. But I still think this move is overwhelmingly honest. Her whole campaign is that the benefits aren't enough to live on. You know she believes this because she clearly has been there and experienced it. She's also prepared to fight for this moral principle by staking her political career on it. 

She admitted to scamming the Government. For a politician, that's like snorting lines off a stripper's arse during Question Time. It's not a sure-fire vote-winner - it could end her career.  But she's done it anyway because she wants to show exactly how important and real her policy is. 

A politician who's risked her career for her principles? My god, is this what the '80s felt like?

Lastly, it's relatable. You can't live on the sole parent benefit now, let alone in the welfare-slashed era Turei was living in. Everyone says it, and everyone knows it. The maximum you can receive weekly before your benefit is cut is $628 for a sole parent. Take out $350 for rent, at least $140 for weekly food bills. Then take out the cost of power, water, internet, miscellaneous health care costs and public transport (because you sure can't afford a car) and you're looking at about $20 a week left. 

Yes, it should be hard enough to be a stopgap, not a lifestyle choice. But no, not hard enough to make you lie about your situation. And not hard enough to suck all of the joy from your life so you're incapable of even buying emergency Maltesers for FML moments. 

So I don't care if people think this is a vote grab. Every politician right now is trying to grab my vote. Metiria Turei is the only one with enough balls to deserve it. 

Verity Johnson is a Newshub columnist and feature writer.

 

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