New National Party candidate Christopher Luxon has appeared to endorse cutting Working for Families payments of parents who don't vaccinate their children.
But National Party leader Simon Bridges is already jumping to his defence, saying that Luxon's comments were in response to questions from Radio NZ's Morning Report host Susie Ferguson.
"He got Susie'd on Morning Report. I know the feeling ... I get Susie'd every other fortnight." Bridges told reporters this morning.
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National released its social services discussion document last week and floated the idea of penalising sole parents who don't vaccinate their children.
"If you don't want to immunise your child, don't take taxpayers' money," Bridges said last week.
Asked about the idea on RNZ this morning, Luxon said he supported cutting benefits to solo parents who didn't vaccinate their children.
"It's about a notion of rights and responsibilities. If you want to be part of New Zealand and civil society, you have certain inalienable rights, but you also have responsibilities actually in helping the collective of New Zealand."
Asked if a cut should also apply to parents' Working for Families payments, Luxon said it was about a principle of personal responsibility.
He then said the principle should apply across all social and public policy.
Asked again if the policy should be extended to those on Working for Families, he said: "Yes. Yes it should."
Bridges said he had not listened to the interview, but Luxon did not "necessarily" make a mistake.
He said National wanted to hear feedback about the idea, but there was a "very strong case" to use penalties on welfare recipients to get them to immunise their children.
"I'm getting a huge number of emails that are asking me whether it would apply to Working for Families and these other things.
"We want to hear from people through our discussion document process and that will inform whether we do firstly the "no jab-no pay" in relation to certain classes of beneficiary, and whether we would consider widening it.
"Immunisation is a no-brainer. There are no good arguments not to do it."
Luxon was selected as the party's candidate for Botany last night, and will take on the incumbent MP Jami-Lee Ross, who is confident he will win the seat again in 2020.
New Zealand First MP and Cabinet Minister Shane Jones, who has verbally sparred with Luxon over Air NZ's services to the regions, said that Luxon's selection had started him on a journey to the National Party leadership.
"The National Party will learn that he is no John Key."
Labour MP and Cabinet Minister Chris Hipkins said that Luxon was a talented person.
"He's probably got a lot to learn about politics. I suspect he's going to find out relatively rapidly.
"A little bit like Don Brash, he's effectively come in over the top of his leader already. He's already making policy pronouncements that are not necessarily consistent with what Simon Bridges is saying."
Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis said parents needed to be educated about vaccination instead of being penalised.