Nobody wants to be defined by a lie, as Metiria Turei wrote in The Guardian last week. Well, much depends on the kind of lie, and its purpose.

Some lies are understandable, some sinister, and some - like Turei's eventual admission of fraud - are foolish.

No matter how many sympathetic hugs she gets from her Green colleagues, or how much she's praised by fellow welfare cheats, she will be judged on moral grounds. That's an uncomfortable place to be as an election approaches, what with being a leader of a party that leaps onto the moral high ground every chance it gets.

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It's not that I object to that when it's the environment they're talking about, but do they really need a policy on welfare? And would she be the right person to promote it?

Turei revealed her deception, she says, shocked at news that a woman mistakenly accused of welfare fraud had taken her own life - then been exonerated too late.

My guess is Turei was after exoneration herself. It can't be comfortable keeping a secret like that in public life, even if she got away with it, though she revealed the news as if it was a good thing.

We now know that Turei, as a 22-year-old solo mother, received the DPB and a grant to study for a law degree - which sounds pretty generous to me - while not admitting she lived with people who were sharing the rent, which means she conceivably got an accommodation allowance on top of her basic benefit.

There seems also to have been a mysterious male in the picture whose status is unclear, and she was helped by her own family as well as her child's father's family, she admits, but says she couldn't get by on that.

So Turei took money from working people, through their taxes, who were probably no better off than she was. I can't detect heroism in that.

Fellow welfare recipients may have mixed feelings, and those who've been penalised for telling similar lies have a right to expect her to face the same consequences as they did.

But Turei won't. Count on that. She'll pay the money back, she says, and carry on advocating a more generous welfare system while receiving her generous salary. Also in The Guardian she wrote, "The best thing we can do to lift people out of poverty is simply to give them more money." Whose money? One thing's for sure, the largesse wouldn't cost her anything.

I don't know if Turei named the father of her child, but many women on welfare don't, and have their benefit cut accordingly.

This month an Auckland woman (whose name was withheld) claimed she had $110 deducted each week because she can't prove paternity of her 10 children. Ten children. But more money would solve her problem. I don't think.

Where are the fathers of the many such children living in poverty, who are they, and why do we continue to act as if they are the least important part of the problem when they are so often its cause?

This country is seemingly peopled by magical males who arrive under cover of darkness, climb into innocent women's beds, and leave at the crack of dawn like characters in fairytales, only none of them turn out to be handsome princes. When will these women wake up?

Annoying as welfare cheats are, they are pathetic, and being poor ennobles no one. I save more indignation for people like Joanne Harrison, the former Ministry of Transport boss who threw pixie dust into the eyes of her chief executive while stealing $725,000, and disposing of whistleblowers who guessed she was bent.

The "caravan of love" she set up to make employees blissful in their work was comedy gold. "A group of staff volunteered to encourage conversations among their peers on what they loved about working at the ministry," says chief executive Peter Mersi. Oh, and we can picture them. We've watched Ricky Gervaise in The Office.

For her crime Harrison got three years and 7 months' jail, and will serve half of that because she'll be a model prisoner. We are gentle with middle-class fraudsters who steal public money. Well, they are middle class.

A current reappraisal of the Bain case, which baffled the legal system for so long, reminds me that the .22 rifle used to kill five members of the family will have been returned to its owner, David Bain, by now via his supporter, Joe Karam. I guess you'd call it a decorator's item.

Rosemary McLeod is a journalist and author.