Government has used the financial veto to stop an extension to paid parental leave

Finance Minister Bill English says 26 weeks paid parental leave would be a significant "extra" and "unbudgeted'' cost.
CHRIS MCKEEN

Finance Minister Bill English says 26 weeks paid parental leave would be a significant "extra" and "unbudgeted'' cost.

The Government has put the final nail in the coffin for 26 weeks paid parental leave.

Finance Minister Bill English on Thursday vetoed proposed changes to extend paid parental leave after the bill passed its second reading with 61 votes to 60 a fortnight ago.

Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party, NZ First and UnitedFuture all supported the bill while National and ACT were opposed.

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The third reading is expected to take place later this month but there will be no vote now that English has lodged a certificate of financial veto.

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"Treasury estimates the cost of this legislation amounts to $278 million over the next four years, a significant extra - unbudgeted - cost," English said.

"That's on top of the $251 million a year (net of tax) taxpayers are expected to spend by 2020 under the existing paid parental leave framework.

"It's the will of Parliament that there's a financial veto, that's legislation, the point of that is to make sure you get an oversight of the Budget," he said.

Labour MP Sue Moroney, who introduced 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.

"The only people who are opposed to this are the National Party," she said.

Labour leader Andrew Little said it was "deeply disappointing". 

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"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".

United Future leader 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."

A 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.

On April 1, paid parental leave increased to 18 weeks under the Government. Since 2014 paid leave has been phased in through two-week increments, starting at 14 weeks.

English left the door open to further extensions saying, "there's plenty of people advocating for it so I'm sure it will remain part of the political discussion".

 - Stuff

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