Graham Adams at Noted has written an interesting piece:
Why Paula Bennett is trouble for the National Party
Bennett barely rates in the preferred prime minister polls, and her record since she became Deputy PM has been lacklustre. When she makes the news, it’s often for distractions such as recommending tipping, or joking about her $950 shoes at the National Party conference, much like a modern-day Marie Antoinette. And, of course, for her ham-fisted attempts to justify the government’s failure to house the homeless.
But now her public profile is being dominated by speculation about her former life as a young beneficiary and whether she lied about her circumstances to welfare officials. It didn’t help when she told Duncan Garner on The AM Show that she had never “deliberately” misled the department.
Bennett is not keen to talk about that chapter in her life but the questions keep on coming. Journalist Tony Wall reported on the Stuff website on Sunday that Bennett declined to be interviewed “about what she had told Social Welfare officials when she was on the benefit”.
When he asked if she had claimed the DPB while in a relationship, or while living with her then-boyfriend (now husband), Alan Philps, Bennett replied through a spokeswoman: “I was on and off a benefit during my teens and early twenties but I did not receive support that I wasn’t entitled to.”
Wall also noted that “some people we approached said they’d been asked not to talk to the media”.
Nevertheless, these questions are not going to go away and what is certain is that Bill English can not afford to have Bennett share billboard space with him until they are answered satisfactorily.
When it was pointed out later that month that the government was on track to spend $30 million a year on housing the homeless in motels (rather than the $2 million budgeted), she expressed surprise at the scale of the problem: “We just didn’t know!”
How could she not know? The news reports about people living in cars and garages and on the streets have been relentless since The Nation exposed the problem in May 2016.
This month, Bennett was still expressing surprise about the homeless when it was revealed that the cost of motels and other emergency housing for the homeless was going to blow out to $50 million a year.
“We had no idea how much it was going to cost,” Bennett told Duncan Garner on The AM Show.
Bennett may survive the questions about her past, whether the fog of suspicion lifts or not. After all, Bill English is now the Prime Minister even after he was entangled in a messy accommodation allowance affair in 2009 that saw him eventually — and reluctantly — pay back $32,000 of taxpayers’ money. He is still occasionally called The Double Dipper from Dipton, but, as Bennett has noted, New Zealanders often give people second chances.
If she does survive, however, the least she could do to earn her $326,697 salary is to start mastering the details of her portfolios and stop telling us so often that her career is a modern-day miracle.
Plenty more in the full piece on Noted.