Backlash follows veto on parental leave

A Government veto will quash plans to increase paid parental leave to six months, despite the majority of MPs supporting the rise.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English confirmed yesterday the Government would stop Labour MP Sue Moroney's member's bill, which would have increased the allowance from 14 weeks to 26 by 2014.

The bill seemed likely to pass after most political parties, except ACT and National, had indicated they would vote for it, at least until select committee stages.

The public consultation process seems all but pointless now, with Mr English saying the Government planned to veto the bill at the third reading. Governments are able to veto bills they think will have significant implications on the Crown finances.

The Government had worked hard over the past three or four years to maintain paid parental leave during tough economic times, Mr English said.

"We think it's a bit soon to be trying to expand entitlements when our big challenge has been to maintain them as they are."

The leave provisions cost $150 million a year and Government would need to borrow about $500m over four years to increase it to six months, he said.

"Labour specialises in trying to get the political benefit straight up without showing the real cost.

"The Labour Party don't appear to have learnt anything, they think that handing out lollies is how you get political favours."

Mr English did not believe there would be political fallout from the Government's decision to veto the bill.

No-one was arguing about the benefit of paid parental leave, but it was "getting ahead of ourselves" to promise increases.

New Zealand's paid parental leave entitlements are among the lowest in the OECD and several studies, including by the prime minister's chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, have shown the benefits of mothers spending extended time with their babies.

Ms Moroney said the decision to veto was arrogant and "desperate stuff". "It not only highlights National's disdain for working parents, but also its fragile majority."

Most New Zealanders could see the value of the bill, and the benefits of having babies bond with their parents were immeasurable, she said.

"Trying to shut the debate down shows National is not thinking ahead, and has no real interest in taking New Zealand forward."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the Government's veto plans were a clear message that it did not care about mothers and their children.

"This is just following their now well-established pattern of attacking mothers and vulnerable children."

The Dominion Post