• Tim Beveridge is a radio host on Newstalk ZB. His twitter handle is @timmie_bee
I'm struggling to digest the tidal wave of self-justification flowing from Metiria Turei's "confession". The hashtag #iamMetiria is now doing the rounds on Twitter, celebrating this prolonged, and unremorseful fraud.
Let's not kid ourselves. Turei is no Jean Valjean, stealing a loaf of bread to feed her child. She is someone who, while studying for a law degree no less, has admitted defrauding the taxpayer over a period of three years, by failing to tell social welfare officials of the flatmates helping her to pay the rent in three of the five flats she lived in.
It wasn't a case of lying to get through a couple of tough months. It spanned several years. Three different flats. As the Herald editorial wrote, it looks more "like a systematic attempt to rort the system".
There must have been many occasions when the fraud was renewed, when a declaration had to be made. One can only wonder how many times a false declaration was made, or how many opportunities Turei would have had to set the record straight. And yet the fraud was either repeated, or persisted.
Forget the disingenuous offer to pay the money back if investigated. A half-hearted offer if ever there was one. She is now attempting to cash in again on this dishonesty by turning it into political capital. It makes the Green's welfare policy, in removing sanctions and investigations, look almost like an attempt to excuse her poor behaviour.
But now some are seeing Turei as some sort of hero, and that her dishonesty is ok. That is, surely, an insult to all the honest people who don't set their standards at that level, and those beneficiaries who struggle through difficult times without breaking the law. Not to mention the hard-working New Zealanders of all political stripes, who struggle to pay their mortgage, their rent, their power bills, their tax, and support their families, without breaking the law.
Sure, no one is perfect. But a hardly-remorseful Turei is now asking for our vote. And her platform now is tainted by the message that it is okay to be a fraud. That dishonesty is okay. The ends justify the means. That the taxpayer is there to be ripped off if when it suits. That the law means nothing. Take what you think you need.
In my early career as a criminal lawyer, the first client I had sentenced to prison was guilty of benefit fraud. He got six months. His offending was, in my view, less sustained and serious than that which Metiria Turei has admitted to. But instead of paying a price, she is now asking for your vote.
Perhaps the question shouldn't be whether she deserves your vote, but whether there should be any place in our Parliament, either as a leader of a political party or humble MP, for someone whose attitude seems to be - take what you can from the system if you can get away with it.
But for now, it seems that for many, dishonesty is the new currency. Suit yourself if you can get away with it. It was just a wee fib.
Is that really the standard we aspire to? I guess we'll find out in September. But, for now, if the #iamMetiria twitterers are looking for a hero, surely, they can do better.