16 Nov 2017

Fumbles on both sides of House

6:28 pm on 16 November 2017

GST on online goods caused the government further embarrassment in Parliament this afternoon, but that was balanced out by National's own goal on paid parental leave.

The 52nd Parliament in session.

The 52nd Parliament in session. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy Winston Peters were back in question time after a week at APEC and the East Asia Summit, where new ministers were put through their paces.

The Labour-led government is pushing a bill through Parliament to extend paid parental leave up to 26 weeks by 2020 - the first piece of legislation it intends to pass.

On Monday, National signalled it wanted support for an amendment allowing both parents be allowed to take leave together - a suggestion rejected by the government.

Ms Ardern told the House it was something she would look at in the future.

An indignant Paula Bennett, National's deputy leader, asked Ms Ardern whether that was good enough for New Zealand families.

"[They] will suffer financial hardship because they won't have the opportunity to simultaneously take paid parental leave when there may be causes when the woman is unwell or the baby is unwell and both parents need to be at home."

However, Ms Ardern shot that question down.

"I think parents will appreciate that, unlike the last government, we're extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks and I think it's disappointing given the vehemence the member's showing that she didn't use the opportunity when in government to pursue this issue."

Things went downhill for the government when it came to a question about GST however.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash has been nowhere to be seen after making a solid promise the government would 'absolutely' be pushing ahead with GST on online goods bought from overseas, on morning radio yesterday.

Once again the Finance Minister Grant Robertson was left to clarify the government's position. He said he stood by the commitment to consider extending GST, but that would be done by the tax working group.

He admitted Mr Nash had jumped the gun.

"In my ambition to get on with this work I may have got a little ahead of myself," he said on Mr Nash's behalf.

National's Judith Collins rose to her feet, keen to press the point.

"If the public can't believe him when he says 'absolutely', when can they?"

Mr Robertson said the public could believe Mr Nash when he said the government was committed to going ahead with this policy.

A spokesperson for Mr Nash said he was not in the House today because he was delayed in Auckland after attending a chartered accountants conference, and would be back in Parliament this afternoon, just after question time finished.

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