A plea to Ardern on Paid Parental Leave

Both Labour and National are playing politics on Paid Parental Leave.

Labour insisted legislation needed to be passed under urgency – with a plan to increase PPL by four weeks next July, and by another four weeks in 2020 (for a total of 26 weeks). That doesn’t sound very urgent.

Then National proposed an amendment – to give parents the choice how they shared that leave – one parent could take it all, or one could reduce theirs while the other could get some leave too.

This was opposed by Labour who said they wouldn’t allow leave for the mother to be reduced, even if she wanted to. That’s nuts.

A more solid argument is that it would require re-writing and more work, and that should be dealt with at another time. But given that there is no real urgency making a good bill better should be given some sort of priority.

Duncan Garner slams Labour:  Pathetic, petty and poor form, Labour. Dads matter too

So why is it just for mums? Why can’t families split the 26 weeks so mum and dad can share it, spend time together, bond with baby? Because Labour says it’s best for mum to have 26 weeks with baby. Bullkaka. Plunket says flexibility would be good. Stop while you’re well behind.

What is Labour to be telling us what’s best for our families? It has no right. No-one is asking for a dollar more. We just want flexibility for mum and dad to take the time together. I would have taken it – it would have been so very welcome.

No, this is a case of Labour throwing its toys out of the cot. Labour can’t see past its own nose on this one.

It doesn’t want to pick up the flexible approach because it’s National’s idea. Plain and simple. It can’t be seen to be accommodating the baby blues when the Nats saw red over paid parental leave in the first place.

This is truly pathetic from Labour on an overall policy that most support.

Nothing National is asking for will cost more, it’s a disgraceful, short-sighted, pathetic and petty decision by Labour to deny families the chance for mum and dad to share the early weeks together at home.

Of course National is grandstanding. Yes, their record on this issue is poor. But on the flexibility argument they are right.

All it takes now is for Labour to listen.

All this happened while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was out of the country.

But now she’s back she could fix it. The PM could say families are too important to get this wrong. As a father, Jacinda Ardern, I urge you to do it.

Are you really a positive new government that cares for people and doesn’t leave people behind?

If you are all that, then do the right thing. Allow families the right to decide their own future.

I know you’re planning to make it flexible later anyway, so do it now. Give families the right to choose, after all, it’s their life, their baby. Over to you now Jacinda. What will it be?

Will Ardern step in and do something about this? She was asked about it in Question Time on Thursday (edited transcript):

Hon Paula Bennett: Why is the Government opposed to parents having flexibility in how they use their paid parental leave?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I thank the Opposition for bringing forward their suggestion. I personally see merit in the amendment they’ve suggested; that’s why we’ve said we’ll look into it next year.

Hon Paula Bennett: Why doesn’t the Government then send the bill to select committee to consider the changes, given that they do not take effect until 1 July 2018?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The current legislation that’s been considered under urgency has gone through a select committee process twice. That’s why we’ve suggested—[Interruption] That’s why we’ve suggested that…

Hon Paula Bennett: I seek leave to move a motion to refer the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill back to the relevant select committee for further consideration.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that process? Yes, there is.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can the Prime Minister explain, then, why she would not allow this bill to go back to select committee, when there is plenty of time for that to be done? She’s often stated about their preference to have Parliament actually exploring things well. There’s plenty of time for it to go to select committee, and they could actually explore these changes there.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve actually said, I see merit in what the Opposition have put forward, which is why I’ve given an undertaking that we will look into this issue further and use further opportunities when we’re looking at other employment legislation—if it proves to have merit.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think that her intentions to look at this at a later date are good enough for those families who will suffer financial hardship because they won’t have the opportunity to simultaneously take paid parental leave when there may be causes where a woman is unwell or the baby is unwell and both parents need to be at home?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think parents will appreciate that unlike the last Government, we’re extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks. I think it’s disappointing, given the vehemence that the member’s showing, that she didn’t use the opportunity when in Government to pursue this issue.

Hon Paula Bennett: So does the Prime Minister think she knows what is best for individual families, with all their uniqueness; and if not, why not simply, instead of having good intentions, do what is best and allow flexibility?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For clarity, again, I have already said I see merit in the idea, which is why we are undertaking now that our first priority is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks. We will then look at the idea that’s been brought forward by the previous Government. I have to again say that if this was an idea that they felt so passionately about, the last nine years would have been a good opportunity to do it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would she and her Cabinet and the Government be so much more wise and informed on this matter had the Opposition put in place this policy in the last nine years?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Deputy Prime Minister is absolutely right; this is an issue that could have been pursued in the last nine years. In fact, I do need to point out we reached out to the member who put up the Supplementary Order Paper and she’s refused to collaborate with us on her very suggestion.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can I simply say, what does she suggest then to these dads and same-sex partners—what does she suggest that they do if they want to support these new mums and their babies but can’t afford unpaid leave, and would benefit from paid parental leave with flexibility?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I will say again, we are going to look into this issue because, as I’ve already said, we see merit in it—we see merit in it. Our first step, however, is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, which is a milestone we should all be proud of.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she accept that she’s actually the Prime Minister that could take action and do something—instead of just talking about intentions and whether something has merit, she could actually do something about this?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Taking action means, within our first 100 days, pursuing 26 weeks’ paid parental leave, which was an issue the previous Government not only voted against; they vetoed.

Is it too late to change the bill?

Or will the pragmatic Prime Minister add a worthwhile amendment?

 

 

Paid Parental leave differences and confusion

One of the new Government’s priority policies, being advanced under urgency in Parliament, is an increase in the length of time Paid parental leave will be paid for.

National has said they will vote for the bill, but have suggested a change.

The bill allows both parents to share the allowed number of weeks paid parental leave, but not at the same time. National wants to give parents the choice of taking leave at the same time if they want to, so for the first few weeks both can be on paid leave.

There are confused responses from Labour. Newshub – Confusion in Labour as National pushes for shared parental leave:

The National Party will support Labour’s legislation to provide 26-weeks of Paid Parental Leave (PPL), but wants it tweaked so both parents can take leave at the same time.

Labour’s response to the demand has been confused. While Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says the policy could be considered, Acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis appeared to rule it out.

Labour’s policy allows parents to split 26 weeks of PPL between them but not take it at the same time.

Their policy is to increase PPL to 22 weeks next year, and to 26 weeks in 2020.

Amy Adams, National’s spokesperson for workplace relations, says that’s inflexible and “going back to the nanny state of telling families how to arrange their lives”.

Making ‘nanny state’ accusations is unlikely to help get cross-party agreement.

“The proposal we’re talking about would simply allow families to choose whether to take some or all of the leave together,” she said on Tuesday morning.

Ms Adams said the option of taking PPL together would be particularly helpful for parents of twins, premature babies and babies with older siblings. She said it wouldn’t add any additional cost.

National campaigned on the policy to increase PPL to 22 weeks and to allow parents to take some of those 22 weeks off at the same time.

Acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis…

…appeared to cold-shoulder National’s idea, saying Labour is happy with the bill as is.

“We’re really excited by the fact that by 2020, parents will be able to take 26 weeks’ paid parental leave.”

“We’re happy with the bill that we’ve put forward.”

Willow-Jean Prime…

…said she knows how difficult being a new mother can be and would be talking to Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway about adopting National’s amendment.

“That is one of the most challenging times – as soon as Mum has given birth – and I know in our own situation, that was a time I really appreciated having my husband there. Being a school teacher he only had about a week and that was difficult.”

Mr Lees-Galloway…

…is leaving the option open.

But he said the way it’s being explained by National at the moment goes against the spirit of the bill because it would reduce the overall amount of time parents could spend with babies.

An odd response. Labour’s stance would eliminate the possibility of the second parent from taking paid parental leave at the same time as the other parent, for example immediately after the baby was born.

It looks like Labour is lacking leadership (Jacinda Ardern is away in Asia) and lacking coordination, and Adams is lacking a conciliatory approach. Attack and criticism is not a good way to work together, as they should be on this bill.

National criticise urgency but support Paid Parental Leave bill

The first bill to be considered by the new Parliament was debated under urgency, a move criticised as hypocritical, but National also voted for the bill, saying they shared policy to increase paid parental leave.

RNZ: Govt puts Parliament into urgency to start 100-day plan

The new government made a swift start on its 100-day plan, putting the house into urgency within hours of Parliament’s state opening.

The first bill to be debated under the new government enacts the extension to paid parental leave announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.

Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway told Parliament the bill was a straight-forward one.

“It provides for a an increase in the duration of paid parental leave from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks.

“This is achieved in two stages, first an increase to 22 weeks in 1 July 2018, with a further increase to 26 weeks on 1 July 2020.”

Despite National’s objections to the bill, it voted in support – saying it was in fact its policy as well to extend paid parental leave.

ACT voted against it.

The bill has to pass further readings before becoming law.

The bill is being pushed through under urgency, meaning it will skip the committee (and public submission) stage.

That led to accusations of hypocrisy from the Opposition, arguing Labour had castigated the National-led goverment for using urgency.

The legislation was being pushed through without being sent to a select committee, as the government argued it had already been through that process twice under the previous National government.

The first time it was voted down at third reading and the second time it got there it was vetoed by National.

It was vetoed on fiscal grounds, with the National led government saying they had no funds available.

Senior National MP Amy Adams told the House she was witnessing an incredible turnaround of principles by the parties now on the government benches.

“From parties who until now have derided, castigated, abused, got outraged over the use of urgency.

“When the National-led government took urgency it was very clear as the the need and the reasons for doing so.”

Ms Adams said the rushed, hurried, seat-of-the-pants process by the Labour-led coalition meant the bill was very light on detail.

New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin, the Minister for Children, said the bill had twice been through select committee with more than 6000 submissions, 99 percent of which were in support.

She said the bill was going through under urgency, because it was urgent.

“Because our families need it, our babies need it, our mothers and fathers need it – they need the security to know that as soon as possible they can plan for this.

I think this bill was probably chosen to push through under urgency because it had been debated last term in Parliament as a Member’s Bill, and it was a safe one to start with, uncontroversial and assured of passing.

But it is highly debatable whether it can be called ‘urgent’.

And the planned implementation doesn’t seem urgent – an increase in four weeks next July, and an increase of another four weeks in 2020.

The first bill to be considered by the new Government may signal the approach by National – a mix of apposition, criticism and cooperation.

 

 

 

National’s ‘Parents and Newborns Package’

Another day, another policy announcement from National, and another u-turn after recently blocking a private members’ bill to increase paid parental leave.

A growing economy under National means more support for thousands of young families

Today we announced our Parents and Newborns Package which gives more support to young New Zealand families – in addition to the extra $26 per week on average we’re putting into 1.3m working families’ pockets.

So what are we doing?

First, we’re progressively extending Paid Parental Leave to 22 weeks over two years. From 1 July next year, Paid Parental Leave will extend to 20 weeks giving new parents more precious time at home with their little one.

Second, we’re adding flexibility to the system so both parents can take some of the 22 weeks off at the same time, and enjoy time at home together with their baby.

We know how important that time together is for both parents of new and growing families. Our policy will ensure both parents can spend more time supporting each other and bonding with their babies in those special (but stressful!) early months.

Third, we know that a mother’s health is vital not just for herself, but for her baby and her family.

That’s why we’re supporting pregnant women and new mothers to take care of their own health by offering them one free dental course during pregnancy and up to their baby’s first birthday.

Fourth, National believes all New Zealanders deserve the chance to have a family. That’s why a new National government will give more New Zealand families a chance to have a baby by providing a third free IVF cycle, and speeding up access to fertility treatment for eligible couples. I’m proud to be part of a strong National team led by Bill English that is backing New Zealand families.

Delivering more to Kiwi families is only possible because of National’s strong plan to keep growing our economy.

National are clearly targeting working families, on top of their general appeal to wage earners through their tax cut policy.

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.

Hard hearted Bill vetos parental leave bill vetoed

Bill English has followed through with threats to veto the Paid Parental Leave Bill that would have increased paid parental leave from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks.

The bill was supported by a majority in Parliament, the Bill was not.

I’m disappointed by this. The Paid Parental Leave Bill was introduced to Parliament via the Members’ ballot and passed through all it’s stages under our democratic process, but was discarded by English under his power of ‘certificate of financial veto’.

There would have been a cost with a fiscal impact but not a significant one in the whole scheme of things.

There is overwhelming evidence that the first months and years of a child’s life are of fundamental importance to their well being, so if any stage of their lives deserves Government support it is the first six months.

It is also important that mothers in particular (and fathers as well) are supported during the most difficult, the most time consuming and the most important stage of parenthood.

Yes there would have been an added cost but the benefits are likely to have paid this back.

This makes English look petty, penny pinching and mean. Ditto the National Party.

Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party, NZ First and UnitedFuture all supported the bill.

Labour MP Sue Moroney introduced and strongly promoted the bill:

…said she was “frustrated and disappointed” by the veto.

“It’s a difficult thing to command parliamentary majority from opposition…and it’s the right thing to do.

Peter Dunne…

… said the veto was “unfortunate”, given the Government’s previous claims about its focus on children.

“I think it’s a delicious irony in that yesterday [the] Government was saying that putting children at the centre of policy was a priority – today they ban a bill on paid parental leave.”

Labour leader Andrew Little…

…said it was “deeply disappointing”.

Parliament clearly supports it … the Government does have the right of veto and in the end they’ll be accountable to New Zealander’s for that”.

Spokeswoman for the coalition 26 for Babies…

…said the “unaffordability” argument didn’t stack up.

“This decision is about this Governments priorities,” Rebecca Matthews-Heron said.

It is hard work to get a sensible Opposition bill with majority support for it. It is hard work being a parent, particularly in the first 6 months of a child’s life.

It was easy for English to veto this bill, but it was hard nosed, hard hearted and contrary to Government claims about putting a priority on early childhood.

Paid Parental Bill praised but opposed by National

Sue Moroney and her second Paid Parental Leave bill were praised but opposed by National and ACT MPs, but it still passed it’s first reading last night by 61-60. UnitedFuture support paid parental leave so voted for this bill, along with Labour, Greens, NZ First and the Maori Party.

Most interesting was praise from National MPs and David Seymour, even though they opposed the bill.

SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill)

Although I do rise in opposition to this bill I am not ungracious to not acknowledge the work of Ms Sue Moroney in championing this topic. It is a very valid topic to bring to the House and I think it is a worthwhile debate.

 There are several published and documented outcomes on the benefits of paid parental leave. Of course, some of those include increased breastfeeding opportunities and all the health benefits that are associated with that.

As we are aware, breastmilk is a perfect food source for baby. It is made up of a correct compound of vitamins and proteins, and because of that extra time bonding it is easily digestible for baby and it helps prevent infections from bacteria and viruses.

That is one of the benefits of paid parental leave. I touched on it before—this time gives parents and mums that valued quality time to bond with baby.

Dowie goes on to praise other aspects of Paid Parental Leave, and concludes:

The intent of this bill and the spirit of this bill are good—I acknowledge that.

But she voted against it.

BRETT HUDSON (National):

 I rise in opposition to this bill, but before I might canvass the reasons why we will oppose the bill I would like to reiterate some comments that my colleague Sarah Dowie made. I would like to acknowledge what I think is a very, very clear, absolutely honest, and fundamentally based in integrity the position the member sponsoring this bill Sue Moroney has.

He concludes:

We will oppose this bill but I do commend Ms Moroney for her obviously deeply held views on this matter.

Anti-bill but not wanting to sound anti-mother and anti-baby perhaps.

The bill has passed it’s first reading and stands a good chance of successfully passing, but National have said they will use their power of veto based on cost.

Moroney had her first Paid Parental Leave Bill failed to pass but succeeded in pressuring National into increasing Parental Leave to a lesser extent, from 14 to 18 weeks.

ACT MP David Seymour has also played in negotiating increased paid leave for parents with high need babies, for example premature babies, but opposed this bill

All InTheHouse videos: Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave and Work Contact Hours) Amendment

Paid parental leave bill drawn again

Sue Moroney has been twice lucky with her Paid Parental leave Bill being drawn from yesterday’s Member’s Bill ballot.

A similar bill was drawn, debated and voted on last term as well – it also sought six months paid parental leave. The Government opposed it and put forward a watered down version, with incremental increases from fourteen to sixteen weeks, and a further increase to eighteen weeks is due next year.

Last term’s bill extended into this term and was finally voted down this February by National and Act. Since then National have lost a vote due to their loss in Northland, so unless there are further changes to MPs this bill could go against their wishes.

NZ Herald reports: Labour’s paid parental leave bill back on the agenda

Ms Moroney said she did believe she had enough support.

Her bill would lift leave to 26 weeks and allow them to work for up to 156 hours during that period without losing leave payments.

Last term, Finance Minister Bill English said the Government would use its financial veto to overrule any such measure if it passed because of the cost to the Government. On July 1 the Government increased paid parental leave from 14 to 16 weeks. A further lift to 18 weeks is due next year.

So the Government could threat to veto again if the bill passes this term. Financial conditions may be a factor in justification.

Per haps the Government will respond by incrementing it up another few weeks.

National versus Paid Parental Leave bill

Parliament Today highlights an interesting situation in Parliament yesterday.

Filibuster Raises Potential Standing Order Issues

The House rose at 10pm after making slow progress on Members’ Day, raising issues about how a Government could in theory bring Members’ Day to a complete stand still if they wished.

In effect tonight’s proceedings showed the Government’s majority in the House on procedural matters means it is possible to stop a closure motion being put, potentially bringing progress to a total halt. An eventuality which does not seem to be envisaged by Standing Orders.

National MPs stretched out the committee stage of National MP Paul Goldsmith’s Electronic Transactions (Contract Formation) Amendment Bill in order to delay debate on parental leave legislation, which is still some way down the Order Paper.

Much of the debate was reminiscent of Labour filibustering one of its member’s own private bill on the Royal Society in the previous Parliament, in order to prevent a vote on voluntary student union membership. This was ultimately unsuccessful because the Government eventually closed the debate by forcing the House in Committee to report progress and move on to the next bill.

However tonight the power of the Government’s majority in the House meant it was able to block motions to end debate. In theory it could mean an endless debate, though politically the use of this unusual tactic would be likely to bring a backlash.

A lesson of MMP parliamentary history has been progress in the House is reliant on the Government respecting the Opposition’s ability to oppose and the Opposition respecting the Government’s ability to advance its programme. This is because when co-operation over procedure breaks down both sides of the House can make life difficult for each other.

Public tolerance for Parliament being brought to a standstill would also be a risk for a Government which attempted such a tactic.

The Government did not push its ability to block debate to the limit and allowed progress to be made on the bill with the House eventually completing debate on the five clause bill and reporting it without amendment minutes before the House was due to rise.

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It is claimed that National wants to delay the Paid Parental Leave bill to avoid the awkward and potentially embarrassing situation of having to veto a bill that looks set to win a majority vote, with the Maori Party and UnitedFuture supporting it along with all the opposition parties and Brendon Horan.

And it’s thought they want to put it off until the budget when it’s predicted they will put forward a watered down version of extended paid parental leave.

Paid Parental Leave could be extended

Labour MP Sue Moroney’s bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks had been threatened with a Government veto despite looking like having the numbers to pass with the help of Peter Dunne crucial.

Bill English has previously said that while it was interested in the bill that it wasn’t affordable. There have been claims that English overstated the cost.

NZ Herald reports

The Government appears to have softened its stance on Labour MP Sue Moroney’s members bill to extend paid parental leave to six months.

Ms Moroney said National had approached Labour “after the weight of public opinion convinced them to rethink its threat of using a financial veto to scupper the bill”.

The Government Administration select committee has now delayed its report on the bill until February 28.

English now says “The bill now looks substantially different and may be worth looking at.”

Mr English said the select committee had now done detailed work on it to come up with a version that wouldn’t be vetoed.

“We just haven’t had the opportunity to look at the detail of where they’ve got to.”

Delaying the date at from which the extension would apply was a possible concession that may persuade National to support the bill he said.

“The original bill just cost too much too soon to be acceptable or workable. Costings would be one issue where the Government would want to see where the committee’s got to.”

Changes may relate to timing – it would be difficult for National to keep claiming the bill is unaffordable while they promote their success at improving the economy and Government finances.

National won’t want the bill to prevent them from balancing the books as that has been one of their prime focuses.

But if the timing of the bill taking effect can ensure it is affordable without a deficit then it may get through – especially considering an election is coming up.

I personally think that targeted support of parents during the first six months of a baby’s life should be a priority.