Brian Edwards Media

On Whited Sepulchres

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I’ve been trying to find a suitable term to describe the army of self-righteous Kiwis who have emerged from the swamp of primarily anonymous online and talkback comment to take aim at Metiria Turei. ‘Hypocrites’ came close but just didn’t seem adequate to fit the bill. Frankly I wanted something stronger, something that would convey my disgust at the lack of honesty, self-awareness and common humanity displayed by these writers and callers. And by some of her colleagues in Parliament. I needed something biblical.

And there it was: Matthew 23:27:

‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.’

‘Whited sepulchres’! It fitted the bill nicely.

Over the top? Well, maybe just a tad, but it’s the feeling that counts.

Yes, Metiria should have declared those extra flatmates; yes, she was wrong to give a false address to the Electoral Office. But how many of her critics, in similar circumstances – that is to say, on the bones of their arse – might not have done, may have done, much the same?

And how many would have fessed up later?

Here’s how I see it:

Registering on the wrong electoral roll to help a friend was an offence. But hey, nobody died.

And not telling the IRD about your rent-sharing flatmates?

Well, that’s more serious. But if the words ‘cash deal’ have ever crossed your lips, you’re in no position to judge.

51 Comments:

  1. MPs of all parties have been pretty silent though.
    Are their a few skeletons in their closets?
    So, for another biblical quote: John 8:7 (part),”He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

    I wonder how many of your commenters who condemn her will put their names to their comments.

  2. I have a large degree of sympathy about her revelations of not correctly reporting her living circumstances and how difficult it is to live on a benefit. That’s a worthwhile public debate, and one that needs to be discussed in the context of electoral policy.

    But Electoral Fraud is quite some other matter. Looking at the act, Metiria is in trouble here, specifically:

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1993/0087/latest/link.aspx?id=DLM309413

    To have a person standing for public office – in 1993 – actively making a False Statement is a terrible state of affairs.

    She needs to go in my opinion, because the valuable debate about Benefits and how we lift people out of poverty will now be lost in the storm around her behavior.

    • Agreed, Paul. If you put your name up for public office, you’d better be Persia white, because whilst half of the voters love you, the other half are after your blood. The electoral fraud issue is for me, the most serious, and she should be disqualified from holding office. If an MP can’t resist cooking the books, we’re all heading for the swamp.

  3. I’m not so sure—as someone who wasn’t on a benefit because he was turned down that time he really, really needed one.

    The electoral thing doesn’t smell right: There was no Epsom seat in 1993. Turei enrolled in “Epsom” to vote for a friend…when she herself was standing for the same party in New Lynny? Who does that? Sounds like a 25th hour grasp at straws. Especially since Epsom has only returned National or ACT MPs since the seat was established for the 1996 election. Remuera (the pre MMP seat) was owned by the Nats; Eden has been blue since the 1990 election. BTW Turei’s friends got 347 votes (Remuera) and 164 votes (Eden): Turei got 121. Does not make sense.

    As for the benefit issue, her initial story did pass the sniff test. But as someone making hundreds of thousands of dollars she should have done her homework, calculated the amount, included a reasonable rate of interest and offered to pay IRD the same day she made her disclosure—it took 10 days to get to that point.

    But the latest revelation makes it quite possible she was living with her partner. In Epsom. That’s just terrible. Terrible judgement on her part, most of all.

    • She could have been living with her partner but if it was before the baby was born or before she received the DPB then it doesn’t matter for the benefit matter. If she lived for a month in Epsom then she can give that as her residence for electoral purposes – she didn’t have to be living their at the time she made her declaration.

      As a women I can see why her friend might have wanted MT to vote for her – the friend didn’t want to be embarrassed by getting very few votes while MT probably didn’t care if she did or not.

  4. Ye who is without sin, cast the first stone.

    However, in the interests of the relationship with Labour and the potential for an election win, I think it would be politically astute of Metiria Turei to stand down as co-leader right now.

  5. under your argument, Brian, and on the basis that all humans are flawed in some ways, we can all ignore the rule of law because,with all certainty someone else has done the same and is equally guilty even if never caught…she broke the law….there have been many welfare beneficiaries dragged before the court and imprisoned for rorting less than she did so why should she get dispensation?….even closer to home, Todd Barclay was howled out of court as a sitting MP for making a tape recording which is mildly illegal under human resource employment law…it’s also about character….we expect those elected folk to be human but also law abiding but not above the law ..she’s toast either way, except amongst her cohort ‘cos most surveys seem to show that around 75% of NZ’ers view her with distaste and now think she should step down..it’s all academic really because after the election when Labour don’t quite make it ( this time) Mety will be dog tucker anyway…

    • I think everyone agrees that it was wrong to lie to WINZ – the difference is that some people have sympathy for her predicament – the money was for the benefit of her child – and some people don’t. Even MT says that it wasn’t the right thing to do.

      Todd Barclay recorded someone in order to use it for his own ends. He had fallen out with his office manager because he was behaving badly and when caught out responded like a school boy.

      Both were illegal acts but the ends were at different ends of the good vs evil spectrum.

  6. I just love Mateiria Turei for standing up for solo mums. I think she has given the wider world a glimpse of our hunter-gatherer, hand to mouth lives.
    Its easy to forget that in some societies, men are expected to support the children that they father.

    • Its been reported that she refused to name the father to WINZ at the time, so he didn’t have to pay child support.

      • It shouldn’t be her job to name him. It should be his job to stand up and take responsibility. He could have gone and got the birth certificate changed at any time.

  7. ACT leader David Seymour has put out another press release reacting to the day’s events, saying Ardern has failed her first test of leadership.
    “Today Jacinda Ardern faced her first real test of leadership, and she failed,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

    “Jacinda could have made Metiria Turei’s resignation a requirement for Labour to work with the Greens.

    “Instead, she accepted a cop-out: Metiria will stay out of Cabinet, but continue as an MP, participating in a Labour-led government.

    “By taking this compromise, Jacinda is the first person in New Zealand history to run for Prime Minister saying “fraud is only a little bit wrong”.

    “She’s refused to truly penalise Metiria for defrauding and deceiving the public. Being made to give up a position she never had is not a penalty.

    “Labour and the Greens call for resignations every second week. National MP Aaron Gilmore was hounded out of Parliament just for being a dickhead.

    “More recently, there was Todd Barclay’s resignation. Is what he did really any worse than Metiria Turei’s fraud and lies?

    “Clearly, the Left has a lower standard for behaviour.”

  8. Had Meteria come out and said”Yes I did it, it was wrong, a mistake of youth, and I am going to make it right”, I personally would have said, yep thats great, move on nothing to see here.

    She didn’t. She paraded it for political gain, implicitly suggested everyone should do the same, and showed not the slightest recognition she had done anything wrong.

    Besides subsequent reporting is showing a more complex situation that she made out.

    So for me, she is not what I want in a leader.

    • 8.1

      I refer to the last sentence of my post above and ask, “Old Tony who?”

      Congratulations to all the rest.

    • “Had Meteria come out and said”Yes I did it, it was wrong, a mistake of youth, and I am going to make it right”, I personally would have said, yep thats great, move on nothing to see here.”

      That is exactly what she said and is doing. Are you one of those who only hear what they want to hear. And btw, its Metiria not Meteria.

      Of course you and your fellow anti-Metiria whiners on this site have never payed anyone in cash in order to get a job done cheaper. Oh no of course not. You’re so squeaky clean… pure has the driven snow.

      I note the names of those who condemn Metiria indicate they are almost certainly white males – probably middle aged or older and no doubt sexist to boot. As you say Brian:

      “…if the words ‘cash deal’ have ever crossed your lips, you’re in no position to judge.”

      • Is it not fascinating that someone so keen to dissuade others from rushing to judgement then does exactly that based only on her own imaginings as to who she is talking to and what they think?

        But Anne, to the extent you are worth responding to seriously, I agree that caution is required in posing human perfection as a prerequisite for leaders of any stripe. We all have our skeletons, we were all young once and made mistakes and regularly still do. Ultimately its the voters judgement as to whether the weaknesses we see are so significant they are likely to be expressed in a way that does not reflect the kind of leadership we are seeking.

        In this case you are wrong. Metiria was not fessing up to a mistake. She was using her personal experience to position Green policy and clearly considered her values on the subject were fine and dandy.

        I don’t. In exactly the same way I have no trouble with overlooking a parliamentarian’s drink driving conviction but may think their view that everyone should be entitled to drink and drive, was a bridge too far.

        • Thank-you for proving my point.

          • I think he actually demolished your point. Different people see things differently. But of course my name indicates I am a middle aged or older white guy, no doubt sexist to boot, and hence unworthy of having an opinion.

        • ‘A bridge too far’? Metiria has NOT suggested that others should now do as she did. (Unless you can prove to me that she did so – verbatim.) Tendentious twaddle – to the extent that you are worth responding to seriously.

      • I’ve had a few cash jobs done in the past, but I’m not a priest, tax man nor MP. And is there something about being an older white male, that inherently renders their opinion irrelevant? In the (I presume) absence of young, ethnic females contributing to this fine blog – or any other that I’m aware of – we, and the other 50% of contributors who aren’t OWMs, are about all you have to share your opinions with.

        • Just to clarify, Zinc: are you saying that all current MPs who had “cash jobs done” in the 1990’s should now resign? If not, why not?

          No, you are not an MP. Nor was she. The question therefore is: does all law-breaking (drug taking? drink driving? expenses inflating? the list is long …) in the past automatically disqualify anyone from being an MP? You want them all chucked out, right? Regardless of party? Regardless of time lapsed?

          If “yes”, then Parliament is now half-empty. And their replacements will be too sanctimonious to bear.

  9. I used to be an enthusiastic supporter of Greenpeace. And then, one day, in the wake of a false information campaign against redundant drilling platforms in the North Sea, Paul Watson, one of Greenpeace’s founders, said: ‘It doesn’t matter what is true; it only matters what people believe is true.’ And, for me, that was the end of Greenpeace.

    Ms Turei has, similarly, cut the legs from under the Greens.

  10. Whenever a politician is found to have behaved improperly, to not be saintly in the conduct of their personal or commercial life, the media gets the sniff of blood and pursues it mercilessly and relentlessly. Sometimes the poli can tough it out, maybe they get a lucky break and something bigger hits the news cycle. Other times they get run to ground and devoured. Personally I dislike the spectacle and could never join the braying pack desperate for resignation – desperate to effectively derail someone’s life and career over an often transient misjudgement.

    Having said all that, in this case Turei’s behaviour has been very unsaintly indeed. Dishonest and apparently proud of it. Surpremely entitled. She was a law student. Her and her friends were playing politics with the McGillicuddy Serious Party. She had plenty of family support. She would not name the father of her child even though it now emerges he was a homeowner and presumably had the means to reduce the burden from hard working NZers (the taxpayers). Was her choice really to lie or let her child go hungry? If it was, I’d support her choice every time. But to me it looks more like she just felt that it was okay to take as much taxpayer money as she could get, by fair means or foul.

    I would prefer that she learns something from this and gets a second and third chance. I felt the same way about Todd Barclay as it happens. I hope BE is okay with me thinking a little less of her (and him) though, and that he doesn’t feel this makes me a terrible hypocrite.

  11. 11

    In hindsight however, she may have been naive. Someone of her talent and experience could have been an asset in a future cabinet. I had thought it might have been a strategy to target and compare Paula Bennett but time is passing by.

    Will it effect votes for Greens and Labour? Was it a great move for the wider extended team? There must be doubt.

  12. It amazes me that the self-righteous all pontificate as if Metiria had been caught doing all this just yesterday. It was 23 years ago when she was far younger, and so rebellious as to campaign for a ‘political’ party that was essentially an amusing spoof on the whole system. She is obviously a different person now. Those who allow no forgiveness or redemption from trivial offences over time deserve no forgiveness or redemption themselves. Some people seem to be engaged in a competition to see who can be the most punctiliously pettifogging hypocritical hyper-moraliser.

    • The problem with your argument is that she doesn’t seek forgiveness or redemption, she wants her actions made legal because she doesn’t believe they’re wrong.

      • But she doesn’t at all. She said it was the wrong thing to do at the time but the point was that benificiaries should be paid at a level that doesn’t put them in such a position.

    • 12.2

      In vino: There wasn’t much forgiveness on offer in 2010 for my thoughtless actions in obtaining a false passport in a dead child’s name 27 years earlier…

      While I myself never made any excuses for my shameful wrongdoing, others have observed that there was no victim of my crime – or at least there wasn’t until the police informed the boy’s family of what I had done. Her victim impact statement – written in the spidery hand of a very old lady – will always haunt me.

      However Tony Simpson and others like to spin it, at the very least Turei embezzled money from hardworking taxpayers…in the words of the late great Frank Haden, “the gummint has no money…they use ours”. I suspect it was very much worse than claiming more than she was entitled to – it is more likely than not that she was living with her child’s father, who was supporting her and the child, and not just “enrolled there so I could support a mate” Yeah right.

      Does anyone really believe this man – and the child’s grandmother, then also an MP – would have let the child go hungry?

      • David, “embezzled” is defamatory, so I’d suggest rethinking that one. By that definition, anyone who has ever dodged a fare on public transport or failed to return a library book has “embezzled”: they didn’t pay, the taxpayer had to.

        It’s the extraordinary amnesia that makes this ‘outrage’ so absurd. I am of a similar generation to you, and know perfectly well (as I suspect you do) that every student “embezzled” at least once, if that word now means “taking or using something that was publicly funded, but to which they were not entitled.” Yes, I do mean every student – including nice, middle-class, prosperous ones.

        That horse you’re riding is so high it’s lost contact with earth.

        • 12.2.1.1

          I would be delighted if Ms Turei sued me! There’s about as much chance of that as her being selected as a sprinter for the next Olympics…

          And I don’t agree with your claim that “every student ‘embezzled’ at least once”…I certainly didn’t and I very much doubt I am unique.

          And what “high horse” is that I am supposed to be riding? Did you conveniently overlook my reference to my own “shameful wrongdoing” ten years before Ms Turei committed the frauds (is that better?) to which she has already confessed?

          there is however one fairly significant difference between my crime and hers…when I obtained the false passport in 1984 I was a roughneck on Taranaki oil rigs..if anyone had told me then that being a lawyer – let alone an MP – lay in my future, I would have said that person was on drugs.

          When Ms Turei ripped off the taxpayer she was a law student…Other than in Greenland, those are somewhat different positions I would have thought..

  13. Just a point or three.

    Firstly, Todd Barclay has not “resigned” as people keep saying. He’s still there and taking the money without apparently a guilty thought in his head over not turning up in Parliament until shamed into doing so. By being there he is, in fact, keeping the government in power until the election.

    Secondly, I do wish people would stop referring to something called “the taxpayer’s money”. By definition it is not the taxpayers money; it’s the government’s money. If people don’t like what the government do with it once they’ve collected it as taxes they can throw the government out at the next election (it’s called parliamentary democracy), but they have no residual rights in its use once it’s been handed over.

    And finally: where were all these self righteous and moralistic people shouting “Resign! Resign!” at Metiria when Bill English committed what looked like an expenses rort when he claimed that his usual place of residence was in Southland when his family had not lived there for many years, presumably so he could pretend that he lived in his electorate

  14. Hand on heart, Brian: Would you have been so forgiving if she were a National MP?

    • But would people be so relentlessly against her if she was a National MP?

      From example there doesn’t seem to be such relentlessness attacks on Paula Bennett (whether the stories ones hears are true or not) and is that because she is a National MP rather than a Green MP?

  15. 15

    Meteria has scratched people’s judgemental misogyny.

  16. 16

    VERY well said Brian. I believe Christ said something about taking the log out your own eye first too.

    GOOD GRIEF _ I was going to vote Green before twe ‘disgusted’ greenies dropped themselves off the party list. I was thinking marginally more sympathetically about Labour with Adern – until the later wasted the opprotunity to speak sympathetically about the plight of young beneficiaries 20 years ago, a plight not alleviated since, and indulged in her own moral high ground.

    Ah well –

    WOuld YOU like to stand Brian?

  17. Hmm. Seems Kennedy Graham and David Clendon disagree.

    One presumes as they have put their names forward, John Northcott’s desire for scrutiny will be satisfied. Ah, but then they are just white men on a high income…oh, no, wait, they were. Which makes it a bit hard to argue they have no principles for which they are prepared to undergo material sacrifice and they are “hypocrites”…but no doubt some will try anyway.

  18. I agree with Brian’s assessment that Metiria’s original offences were hardly hanging offences and there is much misplaced moral outrage abroad in the country currently. But as a leader of a major(ish) party seeking government benches, Metiria Turei has now put her party in a highly vulnerable position through staggering naïveté, on-going sense of entitlement, and lack of political judgement, the combination being demonstrably good enough reason to stand down as leader. And frankly, does the electorate not deserve better decision-making from their (potential) leaders? From her maiden speech through to 2016 Metiria had countless opportunities, and the salary to do so, to quietly sort out her situation with WINZ and IRD and then use her personal story as a lens to shine brightly on the truly outrageous issue of child poverty in this country, with its complex matrix of causes. She didn’t, and now that lens, employed for electioneering purposes, instead of being keenly focused on child poverty and the government’s hand in that, is focused on her – a squandered opportunity if ever there was one. And I write as a sole parent who has endured many years of struggling and juggling to raise 3 children on my own, all of whom are now well settled, one as a research scientist, one in the Air Force and one still studying – and no fraudulent government assistance along the way.

    • 18.1

      Trish: Well said.. and I am reliably informed that talkback land – which I never listen to – is full of solo parents like yourself, doing it hard, but staying within the rules. Turei seems to have no idea how pissed off she has made those people, most of them women.

  19. nice one Brian, “white sepulchres”, priceless

    can’t quite get my head round the critics point of view about Met being somehow ‘caught out’ doing wrong – she fessed up and otherwise they wouldn’t have known about it

    and BTW I know you aren’t a god fearing man Brian so how on earth did you come across Matthew 23:27

  20. Turei’s “crimes” if they are such don’t seem that large in the grand scheme of things, but they could be, depending on the full truth which is yet to come out.

    Isn’t it usual that a political leader retires to the back benches until cleared?

  21. We shall all see after the election wehter this action galvinises the underpaid and beneficiaries to the voting station.
    Great post Brian
    To err is human to forgive is divine !

  22. PS Im not sure Donald Trump qualifies as a human.

  23. 23

    Many commenters consider lying to a government department should disqualify an MP from office. How is it we have a PM who when Minister of Finance signed a document to say he was living in Dipton, so he would qualify for a housing allowance of $32,000, when he had actually lived in Wellington for years? His only motive was greed. Why are the media and moralists not calling for his resignation? Likewise John Key registered as a voter in an electorate he had never lived in. Now he’s a knight. Double standards?

  24. You assume she was on the bones of her arse.
    I do not.
    She clearly had plenty of family support – and access to more.
    This is not an attack on poverty, just a reminder (from a different angle) of the majestic equality of the law, which forbids rich and poor alike to … steal loaves of bread.
    Like Geoff Braybrooke and his mate’s bow and arrow, Tony Blair and his pre-natal soccer watching, and Hilary Clinton dodging sniper fire, Ms Turei is just another politician who can’t resist gilding the lily to make a political statement.
    Unfortunately, in doing so she mocks those whose struggle is genuine.

  25. And now it turns out that her breaking the law by lying to WINZ may not have been breaking the law after all.

    Apparently it’s perfectly legal for her to have no more than two flatmates without affecting her WINZ entitlements if they are paying money towards food. Then they are “boarders”.

    https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/map/income-support/core-policy/income/types-of-income/profit-from-boarders.html

    • 25.1

      Gareth: Yes…That will be why she told her party conference that she had “lied to feed her child” and the uncaring gummint had “forced her to lie”…

      Owning up to one’s crimes is one thing; pretending to have offended when you haven’t broken any rules is quite another.

      • WINZ purposefully keep their clients in the dark about the rules and what they are entitled to. They purposefully make people fill in lots of forms and hunt out irrelevant information to make the process as onerous as possible.

        Their job has changed from making sure people have enough to making sure the govt keeps as much out of beneficiries hands as possible.

  26. I like the biblical quote Brian. I had visions of Jesus carrying a cross when I heard her tell her story I thought right away, oh dear you have just handed the Romans the whips and lashes. It was a given that if you admit lying about anything there are more lies waiting to be uncovered. Unfortunately it has cost her party and any Labour Greens coalition government is highly unlikely with both parties changing leaders less than two months before the election. Which means that we are going to get another term with National and the punitive practices of MSD will continue. I am furious that she pulled an election stunt so close to the elections and has most probably derailed any chances they had to get voters. As someone above has said the beneficiaries are hardly going to rush off to the polls now as they have just witnessed their ‘saviour’ being crucified.

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