Brian Edwards Media

On Metiria Turei and the Quality of Mercy


The quality of mercy, according to the Bard, ‘is not strained’. Though I got the gist of it, I’ve never actually known precisely what ‘strained’ meant in this context.

Enter Dr Google. ‘Strained’ means ‘not held back; freely given’.

I have journalist Barry Soper to thank for this enlightenment.

Like every other hack in the country Soper has taken the cudgels to Metiria Turei. In an online Herald editorial entitled ‘Now you can understand why Helen Clark never embraced the Greens’, he clinically dissects the former Green Co-Leader’s revelation of her criminal past and her subsequent behaviour.

Like most of the recent comment from the Fourth Estate on this topic it’s self-righteous and unkind.

Two photographs of Turei accompany the text. In one she looks relatively cheerful; in the other utterly despairing. I can’t say who chose the two pics, but they seem designed to illustrate the story of Turei’s downfall.

In a broadcasting career spanning more than half a century I have never called myself a journalist. In the first place I have no journalistic qualifications. In the second I’m a bit too sentimental, too easily moved.

So my reaction to Soper’s piece, no tougher than many of the editorials and comments about Turei written by his colleagues, is to ask: isn’t enough enough? We’ve got the message: Metiria Turei did a bad thing. Move on for god’s sake!



  1. Scratch a white New Zealand male journalist and you’ll likely find a racist (Metiria is Maori)
    Scratch a white New Zealand male journalist and you’ll likely find a misogynist (Metiria is female.)
    Scratch a white New Zealand male journalist and you’ll likely find a liar (Metiria was being honest.)

  2. “Metiria Turei did a bad thing”

    • It’s a deliberate simplification, mate, a literary device to convey the issue at its most fundamental. My advice: know a thing or two before you make an ass of yourself by putting pen to paper.

  3. It’s not enough that Metiria has resigned. Her reputation has to trashed so that a) her underlying point is squashed and b) as a warning to others. Plus further attacks on her are basically an attempt to crush the Green Party to the point where it no longer exists to offer an alternative to the status quo.

    • Er, no.

      As she was seeking high office and was using “her story” as a means of doing so, then “her story” invited scrutiny – and it was the media’s job to do so. When it didn’t stand up to that scrutiny, she chose to use “protecting her family from unreasonable intrusion” as one of the reasons – in other words, blaming the media. For that reason, Soper’s defense of his profession was warranted.

      If she had handled the matter with more political competence, i.e., fronting WINZ years ago to arrange for repayment, then she may have been able to make legitimate political hay out of it. Instead the legitimate suspicion remains that part of the reason she spoke up when she did was to avoid the matter coming to light after she became Minister of Social Development, this rendering her continuing in that role untenable.

      • Going after her with a source that did not want to be named is really, really dodgy. It could allow embittered members of an in-law’s family to make allegations without having to stand behind what they say.

        Interesting, you do realise that Paula Bennett was Minister of Social Development for 6 years. Whether the stories floating around are true or not, you’d expect the MSM to getting to the bottom of that one with all their resources they can muster.

        • If anonymous and unnamed sources were no longer used, investigative journalism would grind to a halt. I’m presuming you wouldn’t want that.

          And investigating Paula Bennett? Indeed, especially after Turei’s demise. So the premise of your question seems to assume there is a skeleton in Bennett’s cupboard. Got anything other than gossip and rumour, because that may be all there is…


            Of course I want anonymous and unnamed sources to be used but they have to be used with professional and ethical judgement.


          Perhaps those “stories floating around” are the reason she’s been silent over this affair. It’s so unlike her.


          mpledger: Ah…No…Had RNZ broadcast as fact what they had been told by who I suspect is the grandmother, THAT would have been “dodgy”..and also completely unfair.

          What they did was send Turei a set of questions arising from the information they had received from a person they judged to be a reliable source. Rather than answer the questions – they would have included “Did you receive around $80,000 from your wider family when on the DPB?” – Turei promptly resigned.

          That was quickly followed by a kids’ glove interview by Campbell, during which he almost burst into tears. Since she resigned, I have seen no broadcast media of her. After I resigned in September 2010, the bastards were camped outside my house for a week.

          Thank Christ they never tried to question the children when my wife walked them up the driveway to catch the school bus – she would have decked one of the bastards, probably more than one. (She walked them up rather than me because I didn’t trust myself to remain in control)

          THAT was media hounding. Ms Turei got off lightly.


            I don’t think it was the grandmother. I think it was someone further out in the family tree who felt the grandmother’s name and social status was being demeaned and wanted to get some glory about of being connected and paying it back.

            Also, I don’t see a grandmother with any sense (and she apparently had some political sense) would tear up her family in that way.

            The $80k is just more unsubstantiated rumour which is impossible to do anything with.
            Was it even that amount?
            Was it given sometime after MT’s issues with WINZ?
            Was it given in kind e.g. paid the private school fees of the daughter/was MT given a $20,000 car that the family no longer needed? And were these things that MT actually wanted?

            I’m sorry that you had a traumatic experience with the media. But all it seems to have taught you is to hunt with them.

            • Yes, lots of speculation and questions, mpledger, which Turei, having made herself the “illustration/example” of the alleged paucity of our welfare system…declined to answer.


                If MT is telling the truth and other people are lying then nothing good can come to her family of setting out the details in the public arena. And also the converse.

                And the same is true if people are mistaken or misremember.

                She got herself into a no-win situation – either it was going to cost her family or her political career. She chose her family.

      • 3.1.2

        Oh, deary me!
        The Rabid Right just can’t believe that someone would act other than in such a way than to further their own ends.
        She risked her political career to bring attention to the cruel welfare system we have in this country. She did it for the good of others, not for herself. I know this hard to comprehend but do give it a try.
        Life isn’t all “Up ladder, Jack. I’m inboard!”
        Anyway, matters coming to light doesn’t necessary blight a political career. Witness the Dipton Double Dipper et al.

        • Indeed, she did John…and was seeking the role of Minister of Social development to do so. What I am questioning – as too did the media in general, and Soper in particular – is her competence. Her competence of judgement and action, not so much then, but now. If she had front-footed the matter and paid back the money before going public, her political stock would have been even greater.

          And lack of competence is the same reason Bill English and the National government are currently still under the pump for not taking all steps to rid themselves of Todd Barclay as soon as it was known he refused to cooperate fully with a police investigation.

          “Anyway, matters coming to light doesn’t necessary blight a political career. Witness the Dipton Double Dipper et al.”. No, not necessarily. Colin Moyle. Shane Jones. But academic now in the case of Turei, as, she chose to resign in the face of a media investigation that was entirely predictable once she revealed her version of her past. So why, after 15 years in parliament, was she so incompetent of judgement to not see how it was going to pan out?

          Oh, yes, and just out of interest, do Kennedy Graham and Dave Clendon also count as “Rabid Right”?


            Not incompetent. She underestimated just how self-righteous and vindictive some people can be. She didn’t think ill enough of them.
            As for Graham and Clendon, I don’t see how they could possibly be classed as “Rabid Right”. What they have done was not selfish and has probably ended their political careers. They did it based on misguided principles.


              J Northcott: Do you have any idea just how Orwellian your comment is? It is Animal Farm in the 21st century.

              Meteria Turei, in a brave and highly principled stand, reveals her benefit fraud of 23 years ago – well, some of it at least – and is rewarded by the adulation and sympathy of the sheep like Green and left wing masses. When rather too much detail emerged of her shady benefit history – and electoral fraud – she finally resigned rather than answer some highly pertinent questions put to her by, ironies of ironies, the saintly John Campbell.

              Meanwhile, Messrs Clendon and Graham decided that THEIR principles didn’t permit them to remain in a party led by a serial benefit fraudster, and a person who had committed an offence under the Electoral Act, one of the few statutory parts of our otherwise unwritten constitution.

              While the exercise of Ms Turei’s principles now attract your ongoing sympathy and adoration, Clendon and Graham’s principles were “misguided”. Are you familiar with aphorism “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others?” If not, I suggest you borrow 1984, by George Orwell, available at your nearest public library.


                Ah, but why would John Northcott take self-interested advice from a “far right” politician?! ;)

                Seems to me the debate here, as elsewhere the last 4 weeks has polarised between the two positions, “the welfare system does not keep vulnerable Kiwis, especially children out of poverty”, and “for some the welfare system can be abused and acts as a poverty trap”.

                Not surprising when, in seeking to initiate a “public debate”, Turei herself presented the matter – and Green Party policy – in stark black and white. I’d suggest the New Zealand public are able to walk and chew gum at the same time, rather than sign up to the solutions of the noisy ideologues at either end of the political spectrum. Hence, in the main, Turei’s one-size-fits-all solution was rejected.


                I have reread my comment and I don’t see why you think it Orwellian. I possess and have read most of Orwell’s work.
                You, however, seem to think you and your ilk are more equal than others.
                I suggest you read “The Spirit Level” by Wilkinson and Pickett.


          Northcott: “The cruel welfare system”..You must be joking!

          when ever any desperately hard up beneficiary appears in some sob story on TV watch for these things: the large flat screen TV in the background; the tattoos on the arms or other parts of the body; the high end cell phone. If the set dresser has been a bit careless, there will also be a packet of cigarettes, or at least an ashtray, on the table. Those things are all luxuries the genuinely poor would never indulge in.

          Have a look at some old photos from the depression: women in jerseys full of holes; men wearing what used to be called “tennis shoes” at a time when you only wore those to play tennis (they were Japanese made, and the cheapest footwear); skinny kids in ill fitting hand-me-down clothing. THAT was poverty.

          And you are of course aware that in the last budget the Nats increased benefits in real terms for the first time in 30 years?


            I don’t know what kind of TV reports you watch. Must be something specially produced in your mind.
            I’ve seen a woman sitting on the kerb outside a WINZ office, sobbing. Upon going inside to report it, I was told, “We are aware of it.”
            I’m not joking about a “cruel welfare system.” You must be one of the few who find it funny.
            Typical beneficiary bashing from a failed ACT politician.


              I suggest you dare go into enemy territory – as I just have – and look at some of the comments from “Northland Wahine” on Kiwiblog.

              Wahine is a case manage in a WINZ office in South Auckland. She is also a good friend of mine. Every single day she encounters those trying to rort the system: a classic is getting a voucher for a new washing machine – after selling the last one they got six months ago. One fool tried to pull the same stunt three times – got away with it twice before he had the bad luck to have the canny Wahine inherit his file on his third attempt.

              Yes, I am aware that the plural of anecdote is not evidence, but my friend – a proud Maori woman from the north – sees this every single day. I suggest she just might be in a better position than you to judge just how much genuine poverty there is out there.

              Certainly she sends many away, and some of them may well turn out to be the one(s) sobbing on the doorstep. There are many manipulative people out there – including your hero, the long time fraudster Ms Turei. In Turei’s case the manipulation failed – eventually.


                Going into enemy territory by reading a blog and talking to someone? Oh, brave you! Go and look at the real thing as I have.
                Many WINZ case managers are sarcastic, hard-hearted beneficiary bashers. How do you know your friend isn’t. After all, like attracts like.


              And where, pray, did I say I find the benefit system “funny”??


                I quote, “You must be joking!”


                  Yep, fair call, I did say that…But it was clearly an expression of incredulity rather than amusement at the plight of beneficiaries, many of whom I am quite sure are genuine people fallen on hard times.

                  Let’s accept for arguments sake that some WINZ case managers are “hard hearted beneficiary bashers” – I don’t know, the only time I received the dole was 33 years ago…(I was on it for two days before I found a job)

                  Do you think it just might that some of them get a little cynical when they hear bullshit stories every day of the week? I could write an entire op-ed on the stories my friend tells me – but I very much doubt Dr Edwards would be interested in publishing it.


                  JN: Yes, I did say that…but the context clearly shows it was an expression of incredulity rather than amusement at the plight of beneficiaries, most of whom I have little doubt are decent people fallen on hard times.

                  but can you blame case managers for getting a bit cynical when they are forced to listen to bullshit stories day in day out every week?

                  I could write an entire op-ed on war stories my friend tells me, but I very much doubt Dr Edwards would publish it.

    • 3.2

      She’s no fallen heroine or martyr. The historical disclosure had the purpose of mining for political capital but what she unearthed and took to the assayers, blew up in her face.

      Politicians, with nous, would be able to predict what sort of reaction/response they would expect from such a disclosure. She was either blissfully oblivious to potential consequences or supremely optimistic, that revealing her benefit fraud would elevate her standing with the voters. Whatever it was, her judgement was poor. Unless, of course, an interloper was about to kick down the door of her closet.

      “According” to Mark Twain, telling the truth may be good for the soul but it’s bad for the reputation.
      No need to feel sorry for Meteria; had she disclosed this 15 years ago she would never had made it into Parliament and earned the salary, she has.
      She might want to consider repaying it all back as well as settling-up with WINZ. Now, that would be Redemption and Contrition

      • It’s possible that if her circumstances had been revealed back then, then it may not have effected her benefit anyway – it seems to revolve around highly technical definitions of boarders and flatmates.

        But if it had I suspect she would have made it in to parliament anyway. It might just have taken longer. There’s a drive you need to enter politics and it’s hard to switch off.

  4. Brian – are you aware of the “the Dreyfus affair” which this reminds me of?

    “The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal that divided the Third French Republic from 1894 until its resolution in 1906. The affair is often seen as a modern and universal symbol of injustice, and it remains one of the most notable examples of a complex miscarriage of justice. The major role played by the press and public opinion proved influential in the lasting social conflict.
    The scandal began in December 1894, with the treason conviction of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian and Jewish descent. Sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Dreyfus was imprisoned on Devil’s Island in French Guiana, where he spent nearly five years.
    The affair from 1894 to 1906 divided France deeply and lastingly into two opposing camps: the pro-Army, mostly Catholic “anti-Dreyfusards” and the anticlerical, pro-republican Dreyfusards. It embittered French politics and encouraged radicalization.

  5. The blackmail and witch hunts, of anyone who puts their head above the parapet, about the right wings evil and punitive treatment of the poor, is obviously becoming a feature of the right wing narrative.

    The only thing the Greens are guilty of, is underrating the amount of bad faith, misogyny, racism, unjustified vilification of the poor, creepy interest in condemning young mothers and lack of compassion, in the right wing media and New Zealand establishment.
    Meanwhile. Blighting the lives of 300 thousand children, by keeping them in poverty, is legal!

  6. Pledger: You make some good points – but Ms Turei had the opportunity to respond to the allegations by answering the questions RNZ put to her. She chose instead to resign. What does that tell you?

    Me, hunt with the media? You have to be joking! To this day, there are some stupid journos who still fantasise about discovering “the real reason” I foolishly and thoughtlessly obtained a false passport more than 30 years ago.

    Last year Andrea Vance – formerly of Murdoch’s scandal sheet the News of the World – gleefully singled me out for her waspish attention when I took part in a march to present a petition arguing against crown initiated plea bargaining deals. The issue arose after the Moko case, in which it was revealed that after a sleazy plea bargain, the well deserved charges of murder against little Moko’s killers were reduced to manslaughter – a decision which ought to have been left to a jury.

    I can assure you the media is no friend of mine…And my distrust of them is such that if I am unable to be interviewed live – I still get requests due to three strikes and my involvement with SST – I record the interview myself so as to counter misquotes later.

    • “Ms Turei had the opportunity to respond to the allegations by answering the questions RNZ put to her. She chose instead to resign. What does that tell you?”

      A convenient misinterpretation of events David Garrett. An art in which you and your ilk are well practiced.

      James Shaw made it clear in at least one interview that Metiria made the decision to resign BEFORE she knew about the RNZ story. I would believe him over you any day.

      I went through a similar experience to Metiria and let me assure you it is not at all uncommon for a relative/relatives in the heat of a dispute to re-write history according to their so-called ‘recollections’. Interestingly a fictitious sum of $80,000 was bandied about in my case too. It must be an amount that has a plausible ring about it.

  7. Im still waiting for Winz to prosecute her .Its the only fair way to judge this matter.Although fairness and Winz may be a contradiction.Once found guilty is a more appropriate time to allow a sword to fall upon her career.

  8. Phew! can we move on now.

    • Kat: Oh you want to move on, a mere few days after Ms Turei resigned? As I have said above, there are journos who still want to stick the knife into me SEVEN YEARS after my resignation.

      Is it that, as we on the right say, “It’s different when the left do it”??

      • 8.1.1

        I think most people, including the media, had forgotten about you until you dredged it up.
        Have you a career move in the offing?


          Really Johnny?

          Just yesterday I was at the top of a list of “disgraced politicians from the past”…Five places ahead of the disgusting Graeme Capill, molestor of little girls, and Taito Philip Field, who went to jail for exploiting migrant workers.

          I can assure you that the jackals have far from forgotten me.


            After a bit of a struggle, Google managed to find “disgraced politicians from the past” on Newshub. The list isn’t in any particular order, you just happen to be at the top.
            Do you enjoy notoriety?
            Do you enjoy being hounded?
            Do you search the media for mentions of your name?
            Why are you publicising yourself if not for some impending career move?
            And why are you calling me “Johnny” after beginning with “Northcott”?
            It’s all a little odd.

    • Kat, meet David Garrett. David Garrett, meet Kat.

      I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship! ;)

  9. I happened to be listening to talkback (Jap import car radio – little station choice) before Metiria Turei resigned and was surprised it wasn’t the expected right wing critics – but almost exclusively fellow beneficiaries who were the most vocal in their contempt.

    On the same day an interview came out with Jeanette Fitzsimons bashing the two Green MP’s who left. It was an amazing display of how arrogant and blind a group can get – resulting a few days later in a well deserved 11% drop in the polls.