Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fraud is fraud

A story in the Manawatu Standard just caught my eye: a woman has been sentenced to three months home detention for $10,000 of benefit fraud. Normally, I wouldn't pay any attention to such a story (I hate crime news, and I hate beneficiary-bashing crime news even more). But $10,000 is about the amount Pansy Wong defrauded from the taxpayer through her latest business trip.

In both cases, we're talking about people who abused the rules to line their own pockets. In both cases the value defrauded is similar. So, if you think it is appropriate for benefit fraudsters to be prosecuted and (if convicted) sentenced to three months home detention for this scale of offending, then you should think the same thing about Pansy Wong. Conversely, if you don't think Wong should be prosecuted and (if convicted) given such a sentence, you can't consistently think that about benefit fraudsters. Not unless you're willing to forgo the principle of equality under the law, that is.

Fraud is fraud. If we are equal under the law, then it should be treated the same way. But if Wong is found to have deliberately violated the rules (and having been an MP for 14 years, she can hardly claim to be ignorant of them), but gets to simply repay the money and walk away, then I think we'll all be entitled to ask some serious questions about class and justice in this country.