Metiria Turei's fraud admission could lead to chargesby Mei Heron
The Greens co-leader's moment of honesty may have repercussions.
Ms Turei told her story at the launch of the party's Families Package. The policy lowers the bottom tax rate to 9 percent, introduces a new top tax rate of 40 percent on income over $150,000 and increases all core benefits by 20 percent.
The Ministry of Social Development is not commenting on whether it will investigate Ms Turei's confession. Having been alerted, it has 12 months to decide whether to prosecute.
Ms Turei said life was such a struggle she decided not to tell Work and Income she had flatmates helping pay the rent, because her benefit would be cut.
"I'd go to the bank every fortnight on dole day. I'd withdraw all my money, in cash, then split it up into small amounts, wrapped up in rubber bands with little notes about what it was for.
"But whatever way I split it, I still didn't have enough to get by."
Ms Turei acknowledges there is a risk her revelation could damage her or her party's reputation.
She said she could still be charged with fraud, but felt she had a responsibility "to tell it how it is".
"Other people don't have the privileged position like I do. If I tell my story, then we can start talking about how to fix the welfare system so other people don't have to be in this position ever again."
Labour Party leader Andrew Little said he thought it was "pretty brave" of Ms Turei to say what she had done.
"As a politician doing that is a very honest thing to do.
"Certainly not something I would encourage is to act outside the rules, but I'm not unsympathetic to the fact that a lot of people on the benefit are doing it tough. No one ever got wealthy on a benefit."
Mr Little said it was up to Ms Turei to decide if she should pay the money back.
Finance Minister, Steven Joyce, was less sympathetic.
"Most New Zealanders whether they are on a benefit or paying their taxes would think people should follow the rules.
"I think there'll be a lot of disappointment that she's chosen to come out and say she hasn't followed the rules."
This article was originally published by RNZ.
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