Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Law is an Ass

Sometimes “The Law Is An Ass”

One of the most persistent cries this week – from even nice, well meaning people – has been, “the law is the law, you’ve got to obey the law.” But sometimes, to quote Charles Dickens, ”the law is an ass”.

The rule of law is important, but not an end in itself. Laws are supposed to serve the people. Not vice versa. Good law empowers everyone. Good law does not oppress anyone.
Laws are a product of society at a snapshot in time, more particularly the dominant sector of that society. There are plenty of laws that are or were designed to protect the interests of that dominant sector at the expense of other sectors of society.

Some laws are good laws. They aim to protect us all, such as the laws to prevent people from deliberately injuring one another. However, even those laws haven’t always protected everyone. It was legal for men to rape their wives in New Zealand until 1985.

There are laws that are probably good laws in some circumstances but which nobody obeys all of the time, such as jaywalking – crossing the road within 20 metres of a fixed crossing, or crossing at a red light. There is no qualifying statement in the legislation that says it is ok to cross if there is no traffic, but most of us do.

And there are some laws that are simply oppressive and unfair and reflect only the prejudices of the dominant sector of society at the time. Laws such as the law that restricted voting rights to Pakeha male property owners, and laws against homosexuality and abortion. Divorce law dictated originally that divorce was only available on the grounds of adultery by the wife, and adultery by the husband if accompanied by certain aggravating circumstances.

As social attitudes change, laws change and attitudes to people who broke past laws also change. In Gore, there is a museum funded by the district council that celebrates the people who broke the prohibition laws in force at the time by illegally brewing whiskey (Hokonui Moonshine); though many women supported prohibition at the time, as a means to control alcohol-fuelled family violence in the absence of laws to protect women and children in the home. This year the government rightly issued an apology to those convicted of homosexual activities, even though they were breaking the law at the time.

It is arguable that change only comes about when enough people break a particularly oppressive law. Witness the lowering of the drinking age and the voting age from 21yrs to 20 to 18yrs, and same-sex marriage. Medical marijuana is on its way to becoming legal because so many people were using it anyway. Decriminalizing cannabis is not far away either for the same reasons.

Not providing a liveable income is a violation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the nearest thing we have to a set of global laws, and to which New Zealand is a signatory. Yet in 1991 the government of the day violated the UN Declaration by slashing benefits to below a liveable income and introducing market rents to state houses.

This deliberate violation of a global agreement has yet to be rectified. And that is what Metiria Turei, former Green Party co-leader, was trying to do. We owe Metiria a debt of gratitude for exposing a law that is an ass, a law that dictates that solo parents must agree to live a life of solitary celibacy if they wish to receive even a modicum of support from the government. And for exposing the real lawbreakers – successive governments who refuse to adhere to the UN Declaration and restore benefits to a level that provides a liveable income for those who are not in a position to undertake paid work.

What Metiria did twenty years ago didn’t bother the Law Society. Why should it bother anyone else? If we are not prepared to raise benefits to a liveable level we should expect that people do what it takes to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. And we should refrain from judging them if they do not bare their souls when government officials pry into their private lives.

Most of us would steal food if it were the only way to feed our children. Most of us would lie if it were the only way to keep a roof over our children’s heads. The thing that should be illegal in this case is not what people do to survive, but people not having a liveable income in the first place.

Metiria Turei should be looking forward to taking the Social Development portfolio, not leaving parliament after the elections. It is a travesty that people see fit to ignore the important message she gave, using her own lived experience as an example – too many New Zealanders are living below the poverty line because our benefits are too low. And benefits need to be raised to a liveable level. Metiria would have fought to make it so.

Sadly there are still too many in New Zealand who would be more at home in Victorian England. People who are happy to ignore the UN Declaration of Human Rights. People who think that poverty is a lifestyle choice. People who think that beneficiaries should be grateful for whatever scraps the government of the day chooses to throw them with whatever draconian conditions are attached.

Metiria told us different, but unwilling to accept the message, we shot the messenger. This is New Zealand in 2017, not Victorian England. Metiria may have been hounded out of parliament, but there are others of us who think the way that she does. This conversation is not over.

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Best blog on Metiria Turei so far.

When I started out to write a blog, two subjects crossed my mind, Donald Trump and his mad behaviour over North Korea, but I thought we've heard enough about the mad pussey grabber, so he was removed from my list.

The second was Metiria Turei, now here was a non-pussy grabber, a non pony tail snatcher, a non-bugger of phones. Here was a woman who had walked the walk.

While having a coffee at the Cafe Royale in Palmerston North with members of a community group I belong to Metiria's name came up and her supposed crime, there wasn't one person sitting at that table who had not 'adjusted' the facts relating to their incone-tax to ensure a benefit to them at a cost to the tax-payers. This information led me to do some added research on the subject of Metiria.

I read the blog on the Daily Blog site... and I thought simply share this with my readers, it says it all...and if it does not convince you to give your party vote to the Greens, then somewhere in the past you've lost your heart or soul to a drug called neoliberalism. Please read this blog and decide if I'm right or wrong.

If I wasn't one hundred percent Green before I am now!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Best blog of the week


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Class and Metiria

Over on Newsroom, Claire Timperley points out the not-so hidden subtext in the public lynching of Metiria Turei: class:
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.

And its all the more apparent when you compare it with Bill English's housing allowance rort: there, a rich man lied about where he lived and paid lawyers to order his affairs to scam the taxpayer of tens of thousands of dollars. But it was "within the rules" - rules he helped write - so its all OK. But as Simon Wilson points out on The Spinoff, beneficiaries don't have lawyers to order their affairs like this, and don't get to write their own loopholes, so they have to steal bread rather than being able to pay people to make it look like they're not stealing it. And again, that comes down to class.

The overwhelming message from the political status quo has been that poor people have no place in our Parliament and no place in government. That's been their message since the 18th century (hell, its been their message since fucking Plato). But if they want to overturn 150 years of democracy and go back to the C19th, then they are inviting the C19th response: pitchforks and guillotines. 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Guest Blogger Peter Grove makes a point.

 This blog is a response to a Wheeler's Corner weekly email news letter. If you would like to receive the news letter each week just contact me at: and I will put you on the mailing list.
The author is Peter Grove: He is a guest blogger on W/C from time to to time,  
In response to your; 27 6th August 2017.
Here is a copy of a letter I submitted to the troglodytes of Grey Power with my views on inequality as applied to pensioners among other things.

For Grey Power's contribution to the coming election, wouldn't it be a good idea to introduce the idea to the various candidates a change in the wider plan of things, that would see Super Gold Card Holders receiving exemptions from GST by the simple expedient of producing their Gold Cards to cashiers at the time they front up to pay for their purchases. Every receipt issued shows a separate amount for GST levied on purchases. How easy would it be to institute a system whereby this amount was shown as a deduction rather than an addition on the final account?

There has been universal disappointment among our people to find GST is still being levied on Rates payments, in spite of the claim in the days of the introduction of GST there was to be NO TAX ON A TAX. If this were to be the case and was observed on a universal basis it would have to be applied to the 63% tax levied on all motor fuel purchases. It just goes to show how much official greed there is in the make up of our successive governments.

It is quite clear the present government and preceding governments, begrudge the miserable pittance they have the hide to call NZ Superannuation. On top of that they have all authorised the IRD to get its greedy fingers into the mix with the tax levied on NZS at source. Haven't our elderly contributed more than enough by way of tax during their lifetimes?

We saw the sale of our electricity generation plants bought, paid for, and owned, by earlier generations of taxpayers sold off to 'mum and dad investors'(?) to offset the utter profligacy of successive governments. At the time GST was introduced Sir Roger Douglas was famous for his claim that a levy of 10% should be more than enough to run the affairs of government. If that was the case then, why isn't it the case still?

We all watched the scandalous introduction of fresh water bottling plants springing up in our country. We heard the continuing cries that nobody owns water. If that is the case why is it our coal, and oil, are being exported for profit? Those are completely natural resources just as is water. Why isn't the same profit motive being applied to all of them?

The parliamentarians have no qualms about their excessive salaries. An ordinary back bencher sits on a salary of around $170,000, ten times the miserable pittance they begrudge the superannuitants. On top of that they have the tremendous hide to canvass their supporters to donate to their party expenses. Don't we already donate enough by way of our taxes, to the parliamentary circus as it is? Our taxes pay for the entire parliamentary system, the exorbitant salaries, free travel and all the rest of the perks they enjoy.

I proposed to one of the parties back in February. In response to a call to an electorate committee to do its utmost with fund raising to assist that party's election expenses. I wrote to the instigator of the request it would be a better idea to institute a system of tithing for all parliamentary personnel, on a varying scale according to salaries received. Lead Balloons had nothing on that suggestion!

Churches have tithing as a time honoured principle not withstanding they pay no taxes. What's so different with a parliament?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Metiria Turei and Aine Kelly Costello stirs up a rats nest

Oh and in passing did they both declare the income earned and the fares paid for them by Israel to the IRD?
I rarely bother to look at right-wing hate sites like Whale Oil [picture, Slater in Israel] or Kiwi Blog; I know that both bloggers have visited Israel and then returned to NZ and spilled their hate filled crap on their blog sites.
But their reaction to Metiria Turei is really over the top and they didn’t have to be brought off by a paid visit to Israel to turn their nasty little pens in to hate creating activities.
Just reading the comments made by their fans proves how low some New Zealander can go in expressing their twisted and hate filled minds.
Yet it would appear that thousands of caring New Zealanders if not hundreds of thousands consider Metiria extremely brave and HONEST, not for her the wriggle words of Paula Bennett.
I think she has won the hearts and minds of thousands of NZ women in particular, they may say something different to their husbands, but I’ve a feeling that they may well be ticking Green this election…
A young woman Aine Kelly Costello [pictured] who has a wealth of empathy wrote a blog on the subject Metiria and she discusses how she used the system to achieve a desired goal. Her reasons as she explains were different but compelling for her. Have a read: 

My story, on a factual level, has something in common with Metiria’s. We both asked an authority to help us, to alleviate a problem we had no power to lessen on our own, owing to circumstances outside our control. But I suspect our stories, on the inside, share even more. It’s reasonable to suppose that Metiria felt a measure of guilt, however unjustified, for not being able to provide for her child without a benefit. She must have been frustrated that the deck of socioeconomic standing was stacked against her. I’ll bet she hated the fact that she was obliged to spend some time raising her little girl on the welfare system.
That is where the similarities between our stories end.
What Aine displays here with her words clearly indicates a understanding of what Metiria was confronting, yet still conceding that their circumstances differed.
In my story, I told a truth to a system that functioned well enough to remedy the problem to the general satisfaction of all involved. Disability Services were satisfied, my lecturer was satisfied, and I was basically satisfied. I felt relieved, exonerated almost.
In Metiria’s story, she had no choice but to lie to the system in order to get the system to cooperate. She had to avoid her legal obligation to disclose her living arrangements to Work and Income in order to feed herself and her little one. So on top of the guilt, frustration and hate, no doubt there developed resentment at the heartlessness of the system, and above all, fear. There could be no solution for Metiria within the existing Work and Income framework because if the system did tried to fix itself, it would attempt to balance itself out by asking the legally culpable party, Metiria, to provide more of exactly what Metiria did not have.
The above paragraphs show the compassion that Aine obviously feels and it is mixed with a comprehensive element of adult reasoning. This gives me great faith in the humanity of thousands of our young people and I hope it does the same for you. She went on to say:
But from the inside, there was no solution because the system had Metiria’s pent up emotions held captive. That is a road to breaking people, to destroying their spirit. As Metiria notes, the Work and Income system contributed substantially to breaking at least one woman entirely. She committed suicide after Work and Income accused her of fraud, and while being chased for debt.
Thanks to my socioeconomic privilege, it is unlikely (not to say impossible) that I will ever end up as dependent on our corrupt welfare system as Metiria once was. And I don’t pretend to know exactly how that dependency felt for Metiria, because I can’t know. Maybe I can’t know, but I can guess. Because I can guess, I can empathise with her.
In many respects the above two paragraphs show Aine to be as equally has brave as Metiria was at the Greens successful conference, for I think it must be really difficult to bare ones history publicly. Her last couple of paragraphs give her reasons for deciding her reactions they too tell it like it is.
To me, the greatest indignity in Metiria’s story is the facts that, in the very moment when she was brave enough and vulnerable enough to tell us the truth, many New Zealanders attacked her personal integrity. They showed her, and the rest of us, that the societal roots of Work and Income’s ruthlessness may lie considerably deeper in our country’s culture than we expected or would like to believe. I will keep hoping that we can collectively show Metiria that empathy can rule the day. It must, if we are to give the Greens a chance to fix Work and Income and mend the safety net.
Those posting hate filled responses to Whale-Oil and Kiwi Blog proves my underlining of Aine Kelly’s above was and is necessary, it is our culture that needs alteration in the direction of empathy rather than blame and hate. Cameron Slater [Whale-Oil] and David Farrar [Kiwi Blog pictured 5th from the left in Israel] should go back to Israel and live there…for good. Oh and in passing did they both declare the income earned and the fares paid for them by Israel to the IRD?

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Does empathy actually exist in NZ

Those working in the area of helping such as WINZ and their government masters need to display behaviours that indicate caring rather than trying to run their organisation as a business.

I’ve been thinking…It’s a full time job being homeless. It’s a full time job being poor. Those who bitch about the underprivileged not going out and finding work fail to understand the dilemma the homeless and poor find themselves in.
I’m no investigative journalist and I wanted to meet up with those who were struggling to survive on the streets. What is written below is combination from such meetings. Street dwellers and the poor are workers of a sort, but more importantly they are human beings.
You see the homeless and the poor already have a job and that job is surviving.
You have to get in line for food, for a place to sleep and you have to be early because if you are late you can miss out on a meal or someplace warm and dry to sleep.
You have to carry your few possessions on your back or in a supermarket trolley. You only have so much energy to expend, because without food you lose what energy you do have.
Most of the time you are cold and sore and if the Police find you sleeping on the street they move you on. If you are lucky the police may help you find shelter and maybe a meal.
Each time this happens you lose a little more of your self-respect.
Sometimes you remember who you were, you were a kid who played with other kids, you had a Mother and Father and you dreamed of being a Fireman or a soldier or an engineer. Maybe you once had a wife, you were loved and you could never have imagined that you’d end up on the street.
Yet many of us who have never been homeless, never had to beg for food are simply so highly critical and instantly play the blame game without the full realisation and understanding that but for the hand of fate we too could find ourselves homeless and poor. And many elderly are falling into that category.
It’s so easy to blame the individual for his or her situation when maybe we should stop being so individualistic and search for the causes of the circumstances that individuals find themselves locked into.
Many of those trapped on the streets simply curl up in the darkness after covering themselves with newspapers or cardboard or if they are lucky a stinking blanket and hope that they may die before the morning frost arrives.
While some actually help them as best they can others [not many] scorn and humiliate.
They live not by the week or the year but by the minute or the hour.
The poor and the homeless won’t just disappear; they will be with us forever unless we collectively do something about it. Getting rid poverty is difficult but it is connected to society’s greed, not the greed of the poor and homeless. Obviously they are not greedy because they’ve got nothing.
We need to control our greed and think collectively at the ways and means of sharing our wealth on a national basis.
A Universal Basic Income could and would be a huge step forward in lessoning poverty. Other more enlightened societies are recognising that fact. We should too. Universality is the key because it introduces a sense of community.
Those working in the area of helping such as WINZ and their government masters need to display behaviours that indicate caring rather than trying to run their organisation as a business.

Wheeler's Corner NZ also produces a weekly news letter by email covering various aspects of the NZ scene if you would like to read it rather than by blog please just send an email to: and I will included you on the mailing list.

Peter J Wheeler