17 Jun 2016

MP gives up on paid parental leave bill

10:12 am on 17 June 2016

The Labour MP who had her legislation to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks rejected twice now says she will not try again.

Sue Moroney during caucus run 1.03.16

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Finance Minister Bill English has used his power of financial veto to stop Sue Moroney's bill in its tracks, saying it was too costly.

But Mr English is not ruling out a future extension to the payment.

Last year, Ms Moroney's first bill to extend paid parental leave from 18 to 26 weeks failed at the last minute when ACT's David Seymour voted with the government at the final reading - the votes were tied at 60 to 60 so the bill did not pass.

She was lucky enough to have the bill drawn from the ballot a second time, but despite having the numbers to get it into law, the Finance Minister foiled her plan.

Mr English said he did so because it was simply too expensive.

"In the context of the budget, the government made some decisions about extending paid parental leave and this would be significant extra cost which doesn't fit within the budget."

Campaigners said the cost of extending paid parental leave would have been $278 million over four years.

14062016 Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King. Bill English, caucus run.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King;

Ms Moroney said she was gutted.

"It's a real slap in the face for families who are needing this sort of support and I think it shows how out of touch the government has become over the pressures that families face."

New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin said the government's decision to use the financial veto "sucked".

"We have to extend the paid parental leave period, not just for babies, not just for mothers, but for fathers to be able to take that last four weeks and be able to bond with their families," he said.

"It's not necessary to veto it - $20 billion for Defence, come on, they can find [the money], it's rubbish."

United Future leader Peter Dunne said there was a cruel irony to the government's veto.

"I think it's unfortunate, but they are able to [use the veto]. I think the irony of the action being the day after they said children were at the centre of policy won't be lost on New Zealanders."

Mr English said there were plenty of people advocating for it, so he was sure it would remain part of the political discussion.

"The point of that is you get an oversight of the budget, so in this case there's an opposition MP been advocating with the legislation, they don't have to take account of all the other needs that the wider community has, whereas the government of the day does."

He said while some detractors may say the government was overruling the will of Parliament - it was also the will of Parliament that a financial veto existed.

Ms Moroney said she would keep campaigning for an extension, but would not resubmit her bill a third time.

She said it was now up to voters to exercise their right of veto on the government at next year's election.

Campaigners refuse to give up

Paid parental leave campaigners are refusing to give up.

A spokeswoman for the 26 for Babies Coalition, Fleur Fitzsimons, said the veto was disappointing considering the moderate amount of money involved.

"We know there's huge public support for this issue, it's not going to go away, it's too important to babies and families and we're going to keep seeking it.

"And we know that governments will deliver it in the future because it s needed and important."

Ms Moroney said the only way the bill will pass now is if a Labour-led government is elected.