Parental leave bill deserves to be passed

Today’s NZ Herald editorial says that the Parental leave bill supported by a majority in Parliament deserves to be passed.

It is not often a complete bill put up by an Opposition MP gains the support of a majority in Parliament only to be vetoed by the minister responsible for the public accounts. But that is what happened last week to Labour MP Sue Moroney’s bill to extend paid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks. All parties except National and Act supported it, giving it 61 votes out of 120.

But Finance Minister Bill English used a provision in Parliament’s standing orders allowing the Government to overrule a measure which “in its view would have more than a minor impact on the Government’s fiscal aggregates if it became law”.

Supporters of the bill are understandably aggrieved. An additional eight weeks of paid parental leave would hardly have sunk the Budget.

The Treasury estimated it would cost an additional $278 million over four years, or about $70 million a year. This in a Budget that will spend $77 billion in the coming year and $1.6 billion of that is new spending.

John key has just been asked whether vetoing this bill makes the Government look mean. He quoted the cost at $278 million but didn’t say that was spread over four years, nor that it was only about $70 million a year.

A good case can be made for extending paid parental leave. New Zealand’s welfare state is relatively generous to its senior citizens by international comparison. It is less generous to its young families.

Many comparable countries provide longer paid parental leave than we do. If the Government is unwilling to add $70 million a year to its spending overall, it could surely find savings of that amount elsewhere in the Budget.

As the Herald also says, perhaps Labour should have suggested where the money could have been re-allocated from. Social housing? Health? Refugee settlement?

When a private member’s bill attracts sufficient support to proceed in its own right, as this one has, governments will usually respond with a bill of their own that goes at least some way to the same end.

National has been remarkably conciliatory so far for a party so long in power. It made concessions and compromises on environmental and labour issues. An extension of paid parental leave deserves its consideration too.

This is a rare case of an Opposition bill surviving and gaining the majority support of Parliament.

Simply vetoing it does look mean of Bill English and Key.

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12 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  20th June 2016

    Presumably that is simply the direct cost to the Government. There are also the direct costs to employers and the indirect costs and consequences of disrupted employment to both employers and employees.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  20th June 2016

      Here’s who pays currently, so they will be quoting the costs of the government paying employee’s entitlements under legislation.

      http://www.ird.govt.nz/yoursituation-ind/parents/parents-paid-parental-leave.html
      http://employment.govt.nz/infozone/businessessentials/basics/leave/parental-leave.asp

      Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  20th June 2016

      Then there are the other workers who are childless and who will, I suspect, be covering for the one on leave as well as doing their own work. I fail to see why these people should be discriminated against-which they are being. The idea of making everyone pay for people to bond with their babies is unacceptable to me. Would some single person be given leave to look after their new puppy ? Yet to singles, a pet is like their child.

      What is really annoying is when we are told what a privilege it is to pay people to have children as these will one day be great citizens and an asset to the country. I have heard people saying this in so many words. It’s hard to believe that anyone has children for this reason.

      The proposed extra money would be a nice bonus for those living on $210 a week and for whom heating is no longer something that happens in their houses. Better that than paying it to someone on a really high income who should be paying for their babies themselves

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  20th June 2016

        Generally I think employers wind up taking on someone else to fill the slot rather than other employees picking up their jobs as well as their own—I might be wrong in some cases. It can be disruptive though, when someone else has to be trained to fill the temporary vacancy—and it can be disappointing for the temporary replacement when they have to leave the job at the time the person on parental leave returns.

        Please note Kitty that I have used em dashes & not hyphens to separate my connected statements. The hyphens you always use are typographical errors.

        Reply
  2. Iceberg

     /  20th June 2016

    National did respond, years ago, by increasing PPL. Labour have kept it alive as a political stunt. When National pass legislation by one vote it’s “without mandate” and the end of civilisation as we know it. For minor parties to side with emotion on this is just virtue signaling in a way that they know has no consequence. Move on.

    Reply
  3. IF Labour want it – then get the Treasury seats by winning an election. Make it a policy commitment , though as we know with Labour that is no guarantee of anything – see flag referendums.

    English has set the budget and has the authority via the ballot box to execute on that budget.

    Nice stunt from Labour though its interesting that such a middle class welfare policy is so big on their radar as opposed to policies more likely to benefit their supposed key constituency of low paid workers – say policies like raising the tax threshold for the first 2 tiers of taxation

    Reply
    • Peter Kane

       /  20th June 2016

      “One question will be how will Hone muster enough folding to undertake a campaign?”
      Not entirely unreasonable when I think about it. G’s contribution with some ‘numbers’ certainly adds to the value our discussion. BTW Dave I replied to your reply on the weekend’s Hone story today. Actually save you the trouble. “Fair cop Dave 24. Pete’s got an article in today, which is the interesting part of the equation, I think, Labour. Although I also believe Winton’s influence may again play a large role in Hone’s fortunes. Esp. so now, given his Northland seat.”

      Reply
      • Peter Kane

         /  20th June 2016

        Sorry Dave, wrong quote “IF Labour want it – then get the Treasury seats by winning an election.” (something crazy with the copy/paisteing.)

        Reply
      • Hone is not my fav as you make have sussed Pete – I love his passion but his rhetoric and inability to see a big a picture beyond historical guilt leaves me cold. And yes I think Labour will move heaven and earth to keep him out… after all in Labours view the Maori seats are their natural possession..

        Reply
        • Peter Kane

           /  20th June 2016

          Fair points. Have a look at Pete’s story (and comments) if you get a chance Dave.

          Reply
  4. spanish_tudor

     /  20th June 2016

    The financial veto is one of the consequences of MMP parliaments: if you don’t like the use of former, then be prepared to get rid of the latter.

    Reply
  5. Zedd

     /  21st June 2016

    Again.. “it costs too much !” 😦 😦

    my 10c worth.. IF a members bill passes all stages, the Govt. need to find the money, to enact it.
    esp. when ‘Team key’ are suggesting, possible $3bil tax-cuts in 2017 ?? even if its a hollow comments :/

    Reply

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