Provides a commentary on the New Zealand criminal justice system's treatment of tax evasion and debt compared with welfare fraud and debt - in the context of recations to Metiria Turei's admission of welfare fraud.
The author, Professor of Taxation at Victoria University's Business School, has spent six years looking at the unequal treatment of people who commit welfare fraud compared to those who commit tax fraud. Her research shows that beneficiaries are treated more harshly at every turn
She concludes that we seem to have created a situation where some people who have no other funding options, such as family support, have little choice about committing welfare fraud if they want themselves and their families to survive. This was not the intended aim of the welfare system when it began in the 1930s.
Detected welfare fraud was $24 million last year. This is fraud. But, to put that in perspective, the total amount spent on benefits last year (including New Zealand Superannuation) was $19 billion. Welfare fraud was around one-tenth of one percent of the total spent on benefits.
Perhaps we should try to move the narrative away from the focus on welfare fraud and those who commit it.
A productive discussion would focus on how society can support participation and belonging for everyone. An even more productive discussion would include how we can treat people equally in New Zealand.