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Benefit fraud crackdown 'unfair'

Opposition parties say the government's new crackdown on the partners of benefit fraudsters should be extended to the partners of white-collar fraudsters - otherwise it looks like beneficiary bashing.

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows has a new bill to help prevent, detect and catch welfare fraud, including a measure to prosecute the partners of beneficiaries who are convicted of fraud, such as the partner of a woman claiming a domestic purposes benefit who fails to declare she is in a relationship.

However, the Greens and Maori Party say it's an unfair move, and the government should extend the same idea to the partners of fraudsters who rip off company investors, or those who fail to pay tax.

"I don't believe [benefit fraud] should be happening, but what I also don't believe [is] that beneficiaries should be put into the situation of having insufficient to live on," Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said.

"I do think it's unfair when we don't give people enough to live on. That's when they begin to break the rules."

Mrs Turia says the same rules should apply to other fraudsters.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei agrees.

"It's not fair that it doesn't cover other forms of fraud, other forms of tax evasion, the so-called `legitimate tax avoidance' that (Revenue Minister) Peter Dunne talks about. This is a crackdown on beneficiaries because they are beneficiaries, and we consider that to be unfair."

The Greens are yet to decide whether to support the bill, while Mrs Turia says her party will not - despite Mr Borrows earlier claiming he had the Maori Party's support.

The legislation will also bring in more robust checks of beneficiaries who have previously been dishonest with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), and amend the ministry's code of conduct so beneficiaries are no longer informed as soon as an investigation is launched into them.

It also sets up greater information-sharing between MSD and police, ACC, Inland Revenue and Housing New Zealand.