Metiria Turei to meet with WINZ investigator next week

  • 26/07/2017

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has spoken to a fraud investigator from the Ministry of Social Development, and said she will meet with them to discuss her case next week.

The conversation came after she sent a letter to MSD on Monday, that said she would "co-operate fully with an investigation into the period of time I received a benefit during the 1990s".

"During our phone call, I made myself available to be interviewed about my case," Ms Turei said.

"We are in the process of confirming the details of that meeting, but it will take place next week.

"Once they determine what I owe, then I will know and I will pay it," she said.

Ms Turei recently admitted she lied to WINZ in the early 1990s, when she was a single mother studying for a law degree. She didn't tell WINZ she had flatmates out of fear her benefit would be cut.

Earlier on Tuesday Ms Turei said she campaigned for a satirical political party while at university and living on a benefit, but said she did not seek paid work at the time. 

She told RNZ she was standing for political parties at university while receiving the benefit, and said "I also had fun, like other people do". She said she was focusing on being a good mother and completing her law degree and so wasn't looking for work.

She campaigned for the satirical McGillicuddy Serious Party in 1993 and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 1996.

The McGillicuddy Serious Party, a registered political party, was created to encourage people not to take politics too seriously. Its logo was a jester, and it had joke policies intended to stir outrage including:

  • Free "dung"
  • The abolition of money, replacing it with chocolate fish or sand
  • Restricting the vote to minors (only those under 18 could vote)
  • Mandatory homosexuality for 33 percent of the population
  • Abandoning male suffrage (because New Zealand made a big deal of the centenary of women's suffrage in 1993)
  • Standing a dog in a Northland electorate seat

Ms Turei told RNZ that for those who say she should have been looking for work instead of campaigning: "They're entitled to their views. They're entitled to make their judgement". She said beneficiaries are entitled to a decent life and a decent amount of money.

On Tuesday Ms Turei called for a penalty free amnesty for beneficiaries, so they could be upfront about their costs without the fear of sanctions.

She also said she'd never condemn anyone who misled WINZ about their living situation.

Prime Minister Bill English commented on Ms Turei's statements on Wednesday morning. "I disagree with politicians essentially advocating with breaking the law," he said.

"Ms Turei just seems to be getting a bit disconnected from the normal assumptions we make that people should keep the law and if they don't like the law they set out to change it."

Turei told Law Society about benefit fraud before admission 

The New Zealand Law Society has apparently known for close to two decades that Greens' co-leader Metiria Turei is a self-confessed benefits cheat.

It's a condition of admission that lawyers pass a "fit and proper person" test, including disclosing criminal convictions and other relevant matters.

Ms Turei said she had been frank with the society in that interview, but they saw fit to admit her anyway.

"I had worked hard for four years to get my law degree. I had made sure I didn't fail a single paper because I needed to get off the benefit as quickly as possible and I needed to work with the Law Society as closely as possible because of my personal circumstances," she said.

"At the time we had a long discussion and they felt that I was suitable for admission. That's their decision."

The Law Society would not comment specifically on Ms Turei's matter but regulatory general manager Mary Ollivier told NZ Newswire a decision would be based on the candidate's attitude, reparations and steps to address the matter.

Newshub/ NZN