Like a lot of folk, I’ve had the allegations of youthful criminal behaviour by current Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett pop up in my facebook feed. They’re not entirely new and they do seem to confirm what many feel is her character (or, rather, lack of character).
As we know, Bennett bought property and gained an education as a solo mother. As a minister, she swiftly took away the rights of other beneficiaries to do the same. She is also a proven bully, perfectly willing to use the force of the state to cower the powerless.
In many ways, Paula Bennett is an awful person.
However, I have some sympathy for any beneficiary who broke the law in order to survive. NZ has enjoyed only around a decade where solo parents were shown any dignity or empathy. That period was from 1973, when the Domestic Purposes Benefit was enacted, to the mid-eighties, when the first faux ACT government was elected.
Since then, beneficiaries have again been reduced to social pariahs for whom we are supposed to have nothing but contempt. From mothers to others.
The allegations against Bennett come from someone whose social media output suggests is a confused, angry person with a tendency to right wing paranoia and misanthrope. That doesn’t mean the allegations are false, of course. But it does mean we should tread with caution before believing them.
Just because he believes them and we might want them to be true because it confirms our low opinion of Paula Bennett doesn’t mean they should be aired publicly, let alone be the subject of criminal prosecution.
If Bennett did break the law while struggling to hold her family together, I think that’s entirely forgivable. That she has learned nothing from her experience isn’t.