Prime Minister John Key has defended the urgent passing of controversial legislation which restricted who could be paid for caring for disabled family members, saying that the Government faced further legal action if the law was not changed.
The legislation has been slammed as rushed, unconstitutional and lacking transparency after it was passed under urgency on Friday, a day after being introduced by Health Minister Tony Ryall.
While the bill allowed some carers to get paid for looking after adult disabled family members, it also prevented carers from taking legal action against the Government in future on the grounds that they were being discriminated against.
Mr Key said that the Government risked further legal challenges if it did not change the law. "There are lots of permutations and combinations which could pose a very significant liability on future governments." He also said the Minister of Health was looking at similar cases which could be taken against the Government.
The bill was introduced after the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling which said the Government was discriminating by not paying people who looked after their disabled family members. As a result of the ruling, some carers would begin getting paid in October at a cost to the Government of $23 million a year. The new policy did not extend to spouses of disabled people or parents of disabled children. It also only applied to those assessed as high or very high needs.