''Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.'' So go the lyrics
of the Fleetwood Mac classic song Little Lies, and judging by
the variety of news reports last week, New Zealanders are
doing just that - in droves. But it also appears the lies may
not be quite so ''sweet'' or ''little''.
A survey by market research company Colmar Brunton cast the
country's adults as liars, cheats and thieves, raising
questions about our morals - and the examples we are setting
for our youth. The survey found 36% of adult respondents had
been unfaithful in a relationship, 81% admitted cheating of
some kind - including 22% in the workplace - almost 25% had
lied to their partner, and 60% had stolen something. Despite
admitting the bad behaviour, 91% were satisfied with their
personal ethics and character, while acknowledging lying,
cheating and stealing were character faults.
Last week, a Balclutha couple admitted in court benefit fraud
of more than $179,000 over a 23-year period. The summary of
facts stated the couple were aware of each other's status as
a beneficiary, but failed to inform the Ministry of Social
Development they had been living together as a couple since
1989. They had also been in employment. Leslie Patricia
Tataurangi (50) apologised for her selfishness, saying she
was aware of her obligations but needed more money to pay her
bills. Perry Hill (57) said the Government was taking tax off
him and giving it to the unemployed.
Also last week, Mosgiel man Murray John Galt (53) appeared in
the Alexandra District Court.
He had been employed by his sister and brother-in-law to
manage their Omakau farm and used the farm credit card to buy
more than $76,000 worth of goods for himself over three
years. Judge Roy Wade said the offending was a ''gross breach
of trust'' and the family were ''devastated'' by the level of
betrayal and the lack of remorse.
And earlier in the month, the Sunday Star-Times reported how
83-year-old benefit fraudster Eileen Farquer had become a
''hero'' to some people for ''ripping off the Government''.
She is serving a year's home detention in a rented bach in
Little Waihi, after pleading guilty late last year to five
counts of benefit fraud totalling $215,000. The money had
been gained under an alias since 1987 and she is paying back
at $10.50 a week. She admitted her actions were wrong and the
payback rate was an ''insult ... to the people I've ripped
off. We all know I'm never gonna pay it, I won't live that
Part of her explanation for the offending was ''if somebody
is going to keep giving me money, I'm going to keep taking
While such incidents are certainly at the higher end of the
dishonesty scale, it appears from the survey results that New
Zealanders have more than a casual relationship with the
truth. And if 91% of survey respondents were satisfied with
their ethics and character, we clearly have a great ability
to justify our actions to ourselves - or delude ourselves.
The tangled webs we weave to convince ourselves our actions
are justified and we are good people may stem from
unhappiness, a sense of injustice or jealousy. Certainly, as
the survey results show, we are all capable of dishonesty in
various forms - and that behaviour is of course by no means
specific to New Zealanders.
Last week the world watched the confessions of disgraced
cyclist Lance Armstrong, who admitted he had cheated in all
seven of his Tour de France wins by using
performance-enhancing drugs - and lied continuously about it.
The high-profile fall from grace mirrored that of disgraced
golfer Tiger Woods, who admitted previously to numerous
extra-marital affairs. Woods' redemption is well under way
while Armstrong's future is less certain. Whether those in
the New Zealand dishonesty cases will be forgiven remains to
In the case of the Mosgiel man, it seems he has lost the
trust, respect and support of his family. But perhaps the
greatest irony in the case of the 83-year-old woman who was
admired by others for ''ripping off the Government'', is that
of course the Government is the taxpayer. So even when we
think we are being clever by pulling the wool over someone
else's eyes, or justifying our actions in relation to other
dishonesty, in reality we are only cheating ourselves.