'Sharing her story was pretty much the last thing that we had left' – James Shaw defends Metiria Turei's welfare fraud admission

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1 NEWS | NZN

After 15 years of the Green Party trying to start the conversation about poverty in New Zealand, co-leader James Shaw says Metiria Turei's welfare fraud admission "was pretty much the last thing that we had left."

The Green Party co-leader says it's taken 15 years to start a conversation about poverty, and Metiria Turei's story was the last thing they had left.
Source: Q+A

On Friday, Ms Turei said, despite having her heart set on the social development portfolio, she would not be a member of a Labour-Green cabinet if one was formed after September's general election.

It's the price she's paying for admitting three weeks ago that she committed benefit fraud in the 1990s by lying about having flatmates while she was an unemployed solo mum and law student.

New revelations came on Thursday night with an admission her mother was one of those flatmates.

Ms Turei also admitted enrolling at a false address to vote for a friend in the 1993 election - an offence with a penalty of up to three months in jail.

Her Greens co-leader James Shaw told TVNZ's Q + A he felt sorry for the political fallout Ms Turei was enduring.

However, he said her admissions had generated as much discussion about poverty in New Zealand as anything the party had done in the last 15 years, he said.

"I knew it was a big risk for her to take and that she was going to take some hits and that’s played out but it was really her choice," Mr Shaw said.

"We've tried everything, we've tried Member's bills, we've tried policies and campaigns, we've done virtually everything that we could," he said.

"Sharing her story was pretty much the last thing that we had left, and if we had just released a policy it would have been over and done with within 48 hours."

Speaking about her admission, Mr Shaw said that he has been surprised at the "level of hatred directed towards poor people in this country."

"It’s been quite extraordinary. On the flip side, for every person that’s directed their vitriol towards Metiria, we are getting 10 people who are coming out of the woodwork saying thank you, thank you for raising these issues, your story is my story."

Mr Shaw said the phone call from Labour before Metiria announced she wasn't going to step down did not influence her decision. 

The Green Party co-leader's move comes after she admitted breaking electoral law in 1993.
Source: 1 NEWS

Today, Metiria Turei is back on the campaign trail as she fronts the launch of the party's national Maori campaign at a function on Wellington's waterfront this afternoon.

Mr Turei said the Greens were campaigning hard for the party vote from Maori voters.

The party had more Maori candidates in both general and Maori electorates than ever before in this election campaign and its strongest ever presence in Maori politics, she said.

Actor Rawiri Paratene will MC the launch, and local musician Matiu Te Huki will perform.

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