Parental leave bill resurrected

STACEY KIRK & ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 17:23 29/05/2014
Sue Moroney
SUE MORONEY: "The National Party have played politics with this bill ever since it was drawn out of the ballot two years ago".

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Te Ururoa Flavell
Fairfax NZ
TE URUROA FLAVELL: "Suffice to say that it was a mistake and we're going to look to rectify it."

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Maori party MP Pita Sharples was ''bullied'' into not correcting a paid parental leave bill blunder, Labour claims.

Labour MP Sue Moroney's bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks failed at the second reading last night in shambolic scenes. National Party Whip Louise Upston incorrectly cast three votes on behalf of the Maori Party, after a paperwork gaffe. 

The error was corrected this afternoon, with co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell confirming an  "administrative error.'' 

However, Labour's shadow leader of the House Grant Robertson says Maori Affairs minister Sharples came down to the debating chamber to fix the record after 9pm last night.

But after a meeting with National ministers Tony Ryall, Anne Tolley and junior whip Jami-Lee Ross, he failed to do so.  

Robertson says it is ''one of the worst examples of bullying I have seen in Parliament.''

Tolley rejects this.

''There was certainly no bullying from our side,'' she said.

''The Maori Party has said it was their stuff up. They've apologised to the National whips and good on them for that.''

But Robertson is adamant National used underhand tactics.

''Pita Sharples went down to make a point of order and correct the vote. The Maori Party emailed us to say that he was doing that. 

''[But] he was ushered into the Government lobby where two ministers and one of the National party whips gathered around him. This was clearly visible from the debating chamber and seen by other MPs.

''I caught up with him later...and he said that after talking to the ministers he couldn't change his vote because they had told him it was a budget matter. That's plainly not true. I thought it was just disgraceful that he was bullied into it.''

A confidence and supply deal between the two parties means the Maori party must always support Budget legislation. This government announced in this month's Budget it will boost paid parental leave to 16 weeks. 

But last night's bill was a private member's bill and not subject to that deal. Coalition partner Peter Dunne supported the legislation last night.

An email from a senior Maori Party official, sent at 9.16pm, confirms Sharples intention was to correct the record.

It says:  ''The Maori Party is seeking under Standing Order 149 to correct the vote to three votes in support. Dr Sharples is coming to the House to call for a point of order.''

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Green Party co-leader also appeared to witness the meeting, tweeting about a ''curious little huddle'' of ministers. ''Apparently Pita Sharples was in the middle of that little Nat huddle. I sincerely hope Maori Party correct their vote tomorrow.''

Comment has been sought from the Maori party. 

- Stuff

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