Written By: - Date published: 7:27 am, September 26th, 2017 - 126 comments
Categories: benefits, bill english, class war, journalism, Metiria Turei, poverty, welfare - Tags: #IamMetiria, MSM, stephanie rodgers
Metiria Turei explains this week why she has no regrets about her admission of benefit fraud from 25 years ago,
It means that no-one in this country claim ignorance of what poverty looks like. Or can claim ignorance about how the system drives people into such despair.
A whole lot of shit went down after her admission, but in the past few months I’ve seen more real stories of people’s struggle with poverty and welfare being told in the MSM and on social media than I’ve ever seen before. The importance of this cannot be overestimated, because the kinds of stories being told about welfare determine what we do.
It’s not stopping. Here’s Catriona MacLennan at Newsroom writing yesterday about the importance of Turei’s act and putting it up against Bill English’s reputation and responsibility for poverty in NZ,
2017 was the year in which the first tremors of a povertyquake started in Aotearoa, but fake news based on fearmongering and selfishness saw them speedily suppressed.
Former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei’s admission of benefit fraud electrified the country and – finally – started a real debate about poverty and our awful treatment of beneficiaries.
In the wake of her confession the Greens soared to 15 per cent in the 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll, their highest-ever result.
Small wonder, then, that Turei had to be brought down.
Turei has spent 20 years campaigning against poverty. She said she had made submissions, given speeches and promoted members’ bills, but the result had been no improvement.
In fact, things had got worse.
All she had left was her story and her baby’s story.
She was right. Without her admission, the Greens’ ‘Mending the Safety Net’ welfare policy would have been a sidebar in journalists’ stories.
Political journalists have serious reflection to do on their takedown of Turei.
They decided their job was to dig into who Turei flatted with 25 years ago.
Our country would be a very different – and much better – place if they had instead seen their role as challenging the Minister of Social Development on why benefits are deliberately kept at unliveable levels.
MacLennan on Bill English,
The other key feature of the election was the ripping aside of Prime Minister Bill English’s mask as an honest, compassionate conservative.
This was never an accurate image, given that one of English’s first acts on being elected to Parliament in 1990 was to vote in favour of the benefit cuts which have wrecked the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders and continue to cause poverty to this day.
It was not former Prime Minister John Key who for eight years drove the policies which have resulted in homelessness, low wages, a mental health crisis and other despair.
Key was the popular face, but it was English who was the policy initiator.
And about what happened when Labour overtook National in the polls. Another take down.
In the final televised leaders’ debate English stared into the camera and said Labour’s fiscal plan had an $11.7 billion hole, Labour would increase income tax, and the party with the largest number of votes had the right to form a government.
All of those things were untrue.
I really just do think that this election represents a lost opportunity to have a really honest, significant conversation about the welfare state, poverty, inequality and just how broken things are.
One of the other commentators trotted out the middle class lines about Turei not having apologised. Rodgers again,
I just don’t know what she had to apologise for to be honest… she was making an incredibly important point, this is what many, many families have to do…
Wallace Chapman interrupts in a rather agitated manner to talk about Turei not paying the money back, and Rodgers continues,
You know who else didn’t pay things back, until they got caught? Bill English with his housing allowance. And he didn’t need that. She needed that to feed her child. And that to me is a point that really got missed in amongst what became a very mucky story about ‘where was she living?’ and ‘was she really in a relationship?’, and all kinds of insinuations we didn’t need.
These are the voices we need to hear. People speaking up and pushing back against the dominant narrative that says the behavioural standards of the ruling classes should reign supreme and everyone else should be judged by them. I don’t mind that there are people in NZ who think badly of Turei. I do mind that too many in the MSM couldn’t tell the story straight.
Stephanie Rodgers is getting a few radio gigs now as a left wing commentator, long may that continue and here’s hoping it heralds a shift in the MSM taking both left wing and welfare politics seriously (someone needs to have a word with Wallace Chapman about talking over the end of his commentators’ sentences though).
MacLennan’s article finishes with this,
Let 2020 be the election of the povertyquake, when New Zealanders come together in shared concern for all parts of the community and vote to lift everyone up, rather than only the favoured.
Whatever happens in the next three weeks with the formation of the next government, we have work to do. There is still a lot of processing of the outcome on Saturday night and the campaign that ran before it. We need time to take in the complexities of the last two months, so much happened in that time. We also need to keep the momentum going of the things that changed for the better.
Turei’s legacy is one of them and may end up being the most important event of the election. The Greens sacrificed institutional power to break the 3 decades long anti-welfare spell that neoliberalism had placed on the country. It was the right thing to do, and it’s up to all of us now to pick up the baton in whatever ways we can and make the best of that.