24 Jul 2015

Labour's paid parental bill back on table

6:39 am on 24 July 2015

The MP who has a paid parental leave bill back on the table for a second time, believes she now has the numbers to get it passed into law.

Sue Moroney

Sue Moroney Photo: Supplied

Labour's Sue Moroney has had her member's bill - extending paid parental leave from 14 weeks to six months for all parents - drawn from the ballot once again.

The Government had threatened to use its financial veto, but in February the bill was narrowly defeated in the House before that happened.

Some MPs have been waiting decades for their own bill to be drawn in what could be described as a parliamentarian's version of the lottery.

Ms Moroney said the "ballot goddess" was definitely looking down on the children of New Zealand.

"It's great to have this pulled out again because we have the numbers back again in Parliament to see it through this time," she said.

The bill failed the first time round after both the National and ACT parties opposed the legislation- even though it was watered down by Labour to only apply to parents of premature and disabled babies, and those of multiple births.

The Government can veto legislation it believes will have a significant impact on its books, and was prepared to use it on Ms Moroney's previous bill.

A veto can only be used on a bill after it has been through committee stages and before its third reading.

Ms Moroney acknowledged the threat of veto still loomed but she remained optimistic.

"When I did try to get what I thought were very reasonable compromises with the Government last time round - they just played politics over those issues.

"I will be a lot more hard-nosed about it this time round."

But Finance Minister Bill English said his Government had already increased parental leave.

"We made some policy changes over the last 12 months, paid parental leave just increased on the first of April. I doubt that our policy position's changed but I haven't looked at the bill yet."

Mr English would not be drawn on whether he would be prepared to use the financial veto.

"Well, look, you know, I wouldn't want to jump ahead of actually considering the issue but as I said our policy position won't be changed by the fact that the bill's been drawn."

One thing has changed since the last time the bill was considered and that is the Winston Peters factor.

After winning the Northland by-election in March, Mr Peters' party, New Zealand First, has another MP in the House and one more vote, and the National Party one fewer.

New Zealand First MP, Tracey Martin, who supports the bill, said the Government had not gone far enough to make any real difference to parental leave policy.

"They demand that the New Zealand public be grateful for the crumbs that they're given rather than actually address a long-term sustainable solution to these issues."

Four members bills in total were drawn from the ballot yesterday - all sponsored by Labour MPs.