For obvious reasons I cannot get excited about the NZ elections but there is some disgusting manipulation of public opinion by the most right-wing part of the media.
The hounding of Metiria Turei and her family for her role in uncovering the shadow of New Zealand society is a disgrace.
The headline below is spot-on.
Neoliberal hate of the poor wins – Metiria resigns
…Metiria’s real crime was to challenge neoliberal cultural mythology and promise hope to beneficiaries that someone who shared their experience would force change for them.
Rich, white, male broadcasters have had their witch hunt and we have lost a civil rights hero. NZ is a poorer political landscape for it.
Beneficiary fraud is a uniquely class-based problem. The only people who are in the position of having to make difficult choices about whether to ‘play by the rules’ and by doing so risk not having the means to support their family are those who are in the poorest group of New Zealanders.
The fact Turei lied to the authorities demonstrates the very difficult position many beneficiaries find themselves in. Whether or not Turei made the morally or legally correct decision is not relevant to the issue I am raising (although there are undoubtedly important questions it raises about the beneficiary system).
What is important, however, is that by dint of her experience of this specifically class-based conundrum, she is no longer considered fit for high office.
Some might argue that it is not the beneficiary claim that has resulted in Turei stepping back from ministerial claims but the electoral fraud issue. This has certainly complicated the situation, although there are compelling substantive reasons to dismiss it – in particular that this is not a unique occurrence and, as Professor Andrew Geddis, from the University of Otago’s Faculty of Law, has noted, no other New Zealander would be ‘hanged’ for the same offence.
In fact, I would argue Turei’s intention “to vote for a friend” is less morally problematic than many students’ intentions, who may remain enrolled in their parents’ electorate with the aim of influencing the electorate outcome. However, the relevance of the electoral fraud claim to my argument about representation is that it has been brought to public attention as a result of Turei’s beneficiary fraud.
In other words, it is intimately linked to class politics – to my knowledge there has been no detailed scrutiny of any other MPs to see if they may have participated in electoral fraud at some point in their lives.
Critics might argue Turei’s actions are less problematic than the fact she ‘lied’ about them. Only Turei knows why she did not disclose this information when she first ran for or became an MP, although it’s quite possible that either she didn’t see it as significant or she felt caught in the ‘double bind’ where through disclosure she would exclude herself from politics (in which case the argument about class-based representation still stands). In either case, neither explanation seems to justify excluding her from a potential ministerial position.
Turei’s treatment highlights a lie in our claim to be representative. Censure on the basis of such experiences means valuable perspectives are sidelined in the halls of power. Further, her treatment acts as a disincentive for any current or past beneficiaries who have exploited the system (whether in direct violation of the law or not), by asserting that they have no place in our government.
In other words, the response to Turei is not simply damaging to her own political ambitions, but also to future generations of Kiwis – both those who might otherwise seek political office and those who would benefit from legislation crafted by those who have been at the receiving end of such policies.
If I vote for somebody it may be for the Internet Party who are powerless to make changes but do speak truth to Power and reveal hypocrisy ad double standards