Baby bonus divides voters

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Last updated 05:00 15/02/2014

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Voters are sharply divided over Labour’s $60 a week baby bonus and the keynote policy from  leader David Cunliffe’s state of the nation speech has failed to lift the party’s fortunes, according to a new Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll.

See the poll here

Children’s advocacy groups broadly welcomed the taxpayer-funded payment when it was announced last month, but the public is evenly split about the election year sweetener.

The survey found 48.4 per cent supported the $60 a week payment while 48.1 per cent were opposed.

Opinion divided along party lines with the strongest support coming from young, Maori and Pasifika voters.

Under Labour’s plan households earning up to $150,000 a year would get $60 a week for the first year of a baby’s life for all, although not while they were on paid parental leave.

For those with income under $50,000 the full bonus would continue until their child turned three, with reduced amounts up to annual income of $77,000.

Deborah Morris-Travers of Every Child Counts said there was real merit in the policy, but in isolation it would not address all the problems of child poverty.

‘‘Obviously income is a significant issue for many New Zealanders with so many children living in poverty.’’

For a long time Kiwis have been used to government targeting support ‘‘quite hard’’, but universal provision was more effective, she said.

If assistance was targeted some could still miss out and there could be a stigma attached to accessing the support.

‘‘In conversations I’ve had with parents there’s been a high level of support for this idea and particularly people are keen to see a focus on children in the first year of life.’’

Even for parents who were earning $150,000 a year there were challenges in parenting in the first year of a baby’s life.

A straw poll of parents at an Island Bay playcentre yesterday showed unanimous support for the $60 a week payment.

But there was an even split over whether it should be a universal payment or means tested. 

Speaking for the parents, Kelly McDonald said some felt setting an income threshold would add costs and complications while excluding few parents. But others felt it would be fair to means tested the bonus in a similar way to other family assistance.

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- Fairfax Media

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