Why don't TV interviewers ask interesting questions, especially when they have the luxury of time on those weekend political programmes sponsored by NZ on Air?

Last Sunday Q+A asked Metiria Turei if she thought she could be a minister of social welfare after what she had done. Yes, she replied, because she would be in a government that would change the system so that poor beneficiaries like her with a tiny baby would not need to lie to Winz to have enough to live on.

So they asked her the same question again. And she gave the same answer at greater length. So they asked it again ...

They (the interviewer and the producer in her ear) had obviously decided this was the hard question they would pin her on. She of course answered it as easily as a competent politician always handles these pre-conceived, predictable, "tough" questions on New Zealand television.


Perhaps they didn't want to give her the satisfaction of explaining exactly how the Greens would change social welfare, which was her purpose in confessing to fraud.

She knew her party would pay a political price and, deservedly, it will. But its policy deserves the attention she has purchased. It's online, as is her confession speech. Both are worth reading.

An honest personal account of living on social welfare has far more informational value for voters, I think, than all the statistics studied by sociologists. "I have talked to you before about my time on the DPB," Turei began in her speech to the Greens' conference. "I was a single mum, raising my beautiful girl Piupiu while doing my law degree, and I was on the benefit.

"I had a great case worker at what we now call Winz who treated me with respect. I had the training incentive allowance to help me pay my fees and childcare. I had great support from my family and my baby's dad, and his family too ..."

What's that again? "I had great support from my family and my baby's dad, and his family too." That is the bit always missing from those statistics on child poverty, inequality and in all the polemic of those who accept the statistics without question.

Not all solo parents have families able to support them but many do. It is the reason those figures suggesting as many as one in four New Zealand children are in "poverty" does not gel with the kids we see around. Probably every family has, or has had, a beneficiary or two in the clan, and most will have helped them out.

It was good of Turei to mention the family support because, like sociologists, her side of politics believes social welfare is the responsibility of the state alone. And that it is an entitlement that should come with few questions asked.

Turei managed to tell Q+A her party would not only abolish the sort of benefit rules she had broken but would remove punitive and financial sanctions on those who lie like she did. I watched in hope they would proceed to press her hard on how that would work. But no, they never do.


Under the Greens' election policy beneficiaries will not have to attend as many Winz appointments as they do now, including for budgeting advice. It appears they will not have to look for work or take it if it is offered, they will not need to provide repeated proof of sickness or disability and they will not face "intrusive" relationship investigations.

Turei sounded determined in her speech to abolish, "the sexist, punitive section 70A which cuts women's benefits if they can't or won't name the father of their child". Sexist? That section is designed to make fathers face their responsibilities.

Turei wouldn't name the father of her child because she did want him to be "harassed". She says he was giving her support. She won't say whether he was one of the rent-paying tenants she did not declare.

The Greens propose to allow sole parents to live with an income earner without losing any of their benefit until they marry or have lived together for three years. The only requirement would be that the beneficiary informs Winz when they enter such a relationship. They would have no reason to hide it if they stood to lose no benefit.

But how is that fair to two-parent families living on one earned income? Shouldn't the non-earning parent get the same benefit? These are among the questions Q+A could have asked.

The Greens co-leader has owned up to a deception to attract attention to "a broken safety net" but neither the deception nor the safety net sounds so bad.