27 Jul 2017

Greens' potential partners keep distance from Turei controversy

7:06 am on 27 July 2017

The Green Party's potential coalition partners are trying to distance themselves from the controversy surrounding co-leader Metiria Turei.

Left to right: James Shaw and Metiria Turei, Andrew Little and Winston Peters

Left to right: James Shaw and Metiria Turei, Andrew Little and Winston Peters Photo: RNZ

Mrs Turei is being investigated by the Ministry of Social Development, after revealing she lied as a young solo mother in the early 1990s in order to get more benefits.

Labour leader Andrew Little yesterday stressed Labour was a separate party from the Greens.

"We have our own campaigns. I know what our priorities are... people having a roof over their head, the hospitals working, the schools working."

He did not condone Mrs Turei's past actions and could not account for them. "It's not right for MPs to condone breaking the rules, breaking the law. She said what she said. She's talking to WINZ - or about to - about making good what she has done. She's got to reconcile that with her own standards."

Mr Little wouldn't go so far as to rule out Mrs Turei as a minister in a Labour-led government.

"I'm not making any decisions about a Cabinet that is yet to be formed and that is dependent on the outcome of the election."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters also wouldn't be drawn on whether he'd work in a Cabinet with Mrs Turei.

"I leave moral and ethical judgements to the most powerful group in this country, who are the epitome of morals and ethics - the New Zealand media."

For her part, Mrs Turei said she had no regrets over her decision to go public.

"We need to have a national conversation about how to end poverty in this country. And that's been started."

Her co-leader, James Shaw, said he fully backed her, saying it was "extraordinary" what she'd done.

"I am frankly very proud of her for making that move.

"Because if she hadn't, we would not be able to have the kind of conversation about the nature of poverty in New Zealand that we have been having for the past 10 days or so."

Mrs Turei is to meet with a fraud investigator from the ministry next week.

She said she had not sought legal advice about what consequences she could face, but would co-operate fully.

"I haven't taken any legal advice about this. It wouldn't have made any difference to my decision to go public."

Mrs Turei was on the Domestic Purposes Benefit (since renamed Sole Parent Support) from 1993 to 1998.

While raising her daughter and attending law school between 1995 and 1998, she kept secret how many flatmates were living with her from Work and Income, because she did not want her benefit cut.

That situation occurred in three different flats, she has said.

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