Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Fight for paid parental leave continues despite veto

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Plunket and the early childhood teacher union NZEI are backing a bill that would extend paid parental leave from 14 weeks to six months despite the Government's intention to kill the bill because of financial constraints.

Finance Minister Bill English said unequivocally yesterday that the Government would exercise its right to veto the private member's bill in the name of Labour MP Sue Moroney at its third reading, if it gets there.

Labour's own election policy released last year estimates the extension of leave, phased in two stages from next year, would cost an extra $700 million in its first six years.

NZEI national executive member Hayley Whitaker said the bill was long overdue and it suggested that the cost of extending the leave could be offset by the resulting reduction in subsidies to early childhood education services.

"We know that the current limit of 14 weeks paid leave means that many families suffer financial stress, and feel they have no choice but to return to the workforce before they are ready to."

She echoed Sue Moroney in accusing the Government of being "undemocratic" in its response.

A Plunket spokeswoman said the organisation believed that the bill, the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months' Paid Leave) Amendment Bill, deserved to be debated.

"Babies need the chance to bond with their mum without pressure on her to return to work or manage on a suddenly reduced income."

Mr English said the Government was still $10 billion off clearing its overdraft and if the bill passed it would have to be funded through borrowing.

He believed the public would have a similarly ''pragmatic'' approach.

Sue Moroney accused Mr English of being the "Minister of Arrogance."

"To say the country can't afford it is a bit rich coming from the same person who can find $2 billion a year for tax cuts for the top 10 per cent of income earners, $100 million in fees to investment banks to prepare the sell-down of our state-owned assets, and $50 million to 'progress' a cycle-way that, from all accounts, is going nowhere," she said.

She said his suggestion that it was a project designed to win votes showed "a blatant disregard for the will of Parliament but smacks of arrogance."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said his party had not discussed the bill, which was drawn out of the private members ballot last week, and neither National nor the bill's sponsor had discussed it with him.

"What is happening is government through media columns. It actually does not work in practice."

- NZ Herald

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