Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Labour offers limited support to bill backing its election promise

Catherine Delahunty. Photo / APN
Catherine Delahunty. Photo / APN

Labour will vote for the initial stage of a Green Party bill to extend Working for Families' tax credits to beneficiaries, but will not commit to supporting it further or keeping the policy that was one of its main election pledges last year.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty's members' bill to provide tax credits to those on the benefit is on to Parliament's order paper after being drawn from the ballot of private members' bills yesterday.

It is unlikely to pass its first reading because National, Act and United Future are opposed to such a move. But it will put Labour in a tricky position as it is reviewing its policies and is expected to drop its support for extending the tax credits, which National has calculated at $1.7 billion over four years.

Labour's social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said it was one of last year's policies aimed at helping address child poverty.

"We are continuing to look at the range of options that do exist to achieve that goal, but that is a process that is still in play."

She said Labour would support Ms Delahunty's bill at first reading to allow a public debate about how to best help children living in poverty.

Ms Delahunty said one quarter of all children grew up in poverty, and three out of five of them were in beneficiary households which did not qualify for the tax credits.

Her bill would replace the credit with a targeted payment.

"The current rules are supposed to provide parents with an incentive to find work, but it doesn't work in times of high unemployment and simply punishes their children."

Working for Families was devised by Labour in 2004.

To encourage people into work the credits were only available to those on low to middle incomes who work part time or full time.

Other members' bills drawn yesterday included NZ First leader Winston Peters' bill to widen the criteria that the Reserve Bank must take into account when setting its official cash rate.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill would mean that rather than focusing on controlling inflation, it would also have to consider the rate of economic growth, including exports, the value of the dollar, and employment.

Labour MP Darien Fenton's bill would make publicly owned port companies subject to the Official Information and Local Government Official Information and Meetings acts.

That would reverse their exclusion from the two acts, that legislation specified under Labour's Local Government Act 2002.

The bill was prompted by difficulties obtaining information from the Ports of Auckland during the recent industrial dispute.

Private members' bills are considered every second Wednesday when Parliament is sitting.

- NZ Herald

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