Political Showdown: Labour's Tamati Coffey v National's Sarah Dowie

Political Showdown puts politicians from different sides of the House together, getting them to ask each other the big questions of the week.

Political Showdown puts politicians from different sides of the House together, getting them to ask each other the big questions of the week. Source: 1 NEWS

In Round Two, National's Sarah Dowie of Invercargill took on Labour's Tamati Coffey of Waiariki. 

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More than $200 million in welfare fraud committed, including $614k by one person

More than $200 million of the $1.5 billion debt beneficiaries owe the Ministry of Social Development is down to fraud, raising questions about the ministry's oversight.

1 NEWS has been leaked details of the 10 largest welfare frauds as at the end of last year.

The largest individual amount stolen from the ministry that's yet to be paid back is $614,000.

ACT party leader David Seymour is not surprised.

"I'm not surprised one person's done $600,000 of fraud in a culture when the taxpayer has unlimited responsibility and beneficiaries have no ultimate consequences," he told 1 NEWS.

Former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei became the face of benefit fraud when she admitted claiming payments she wasn't entitled to.

She wasn't prosecuted - but that's not usually the case.

Nine of the ten people with the highest debt have been convicted and sentenced to prison or home detention for benefit fraud as at the end of last year.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said, "We don't want to be in the game of prosecuting people. But the reality is we have legal obligations, and where people have done wrong, where they've claimed money where they shouldn't have knowingly then it leads down the prosecution track."

Half a million people now owe the ministry $1.5 billion.

But it's not just fraud, as $729 million is for overpayments and $486 million for 'recoverable assistance'.

National's Social Development spokesperson, Louise Upston, says National "would want to see that MSD are working closely with them".

Ricardo Menendez March of Auckland Action Against Poverty said, "If benefits weren't so low people wouldn't be needing so much additional supplementary assistance to begin with."

The welfare system is now under review and the minister in charge admits it needs work.

"We've got the technology now to try to make things a lot more tighter than what they've been in the past. And we've got to work towards doing that. As a Government we're focused on a fairer welfare system," Ms Sepuloni said.

Mr Seymour says there's only one way to tackle welfare debt and fraud.

"The only way to do this is to have cashless welfare. Give people a card that can be used for select purposes only. Otherwise all you can do is hand out more and more money," he said.

The Government has promised a more compassionate approach, though beneficiaries will have to wait to find out exactly what that means.

The largest individual amount stolen from the Ministry of Social Development that’s yet to be paid back is $614,000. Source: 1 NEWS


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Mobile laundry and shower service launched for rough sleepers in Auckland

A mobile laundry and shower service for rough sleepers has been launched in Auckland, providing the facilities for free out of a van. 

Orange Sky, an Australian charity organisation, made the jump across the ditch and would be partly funded by Ministry of Housing. 

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said the mobile services could bring rough sleepers "one of the simple things we take for granted". 

"While superficially the service is about clean clothes and showers, the main benefits are the social interactions, the conversations and the opportunity for social services to reach out to rough sleepers.

"It continues to build our picture of homelessness and helps us shape the support systems we need on the ground," he said. 

Orange Sky would work with Housing First in Auckland, and would be introducing other services around New Zealand. It currently has 27 van across Australia. 



Kiwis fined by Israeli courts over cancelled Lorde concert raising money for Gaza mental health

The Kiwis behind an open letter urging Lorde not to perform in Israel are raising money for mental health in Gaza after they were ordered by the Israeli courts to pay a NZ$19,000 fine.

Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab must pay three Israeli teenagers thousands in damages for harming their "artistic welfare" over the cancelled concert, which was to to be performed in Tel Aviv. 

The concert, scheduled for June 2018, was cancelled by the Kiwi singer last December, after the women wrote an open letter to the star asking her to reconsider. 

Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab say they won’t pay, and are fundraising for mental health services in Gaza instead. Source: 1 NEWS

"We will not be paying the court ordered amount. Instead, we would like to redirect the support extended to us back to Palestinians in need of mental health support," the pair said on their givealittle page.

Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab said the crowdfounding campaign was launched in the hopes of raising USD$12,000 for the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, which helps provide financial support for mental health support organisations.

As of 4.44pm, the pair raised $1,651.36 in donations from 40 donors.

To donate to the givealittle page, click here.


Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab. Source: Givealittle / Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab