Goodhew 'no' to extra leave

ALEXIA JOHNSTON AND FAIRFAX NZ
Last updated 05:00 13/04/2012

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Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew supports the Government's decision to halt Labour's paid parental leave extension.

Mrs Goodhew commented on the topic yesterday, after a push by Plunket to get the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill back through the parliamentary legislative process.

Sue Moroney's member's bill would have increased leave entitlements from the current 14 weeks to 26 by 2014.

It was pulled from the members' ballot last Thursday and looked likely to pass its first reading with support of all political parties, except National and ACT.

But on Wednesday, Acting Prime Minister Bill English said the Government would veto the legislation when it made it to Parliament.

Mrs Goodhew said although she supported parents being able to look after their children at home, the option of extending leave entitlements was not viable.

She said the Government currently spends $154 million a year on providing 14 weeks of paid parental leave.

"Labour had nine years in government with large surpluses, but did not move to extend this to 26 weeks. We are faced with a situation where an extension to 26 weeks is unaffordable if we are to return to surplus by 2014-2015."

Mr English's decision to kibosh the bill so early has also been criticised by NZ First leader Winston Peters; he says politicians should stop trying to score points and be given time to discuss the issues.

"We suggest the hysteria ends and we discuss this issue calmly as adults and see what we can work out."

Family First director Bob McCoskrie said the Government was scared of robust debate and families were being penalised as a result.

The bill should at least be given the "respect of debate".

Governments' ability to veto legislation if it would have a significant impact on the Crown accounts was introduced in 1996 and has been used about 44 times since then, according to information collated by parliamentary officials.

However, it has always been used to prevent amendments, never to stop an entire bill from passing. United Future leader and government support partner Peter Dunne said the decision to veto was disappointing and he believed the Government had been surprised by the strong support for the bill.

The veto cannot be enforced until the third reading of a bill, which meant debate on extending paid parental leave would continue for a while yet, he said.

"I suspect what they are trying to do is kill it off early, but it's a bit bull-at-the-gate to be talking about vetoes."

Employers and Manufacturers Association employment services manager David Lowe said most people took six to 12 months off when they had a baby.

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Those who did come back at 14 weeks usually did so because of financial constraints and were often "unsettled".

"If you have a look at the returning parent and the child, everyone is more settled if they take a little bit longer off."

A longer period of paid parental leave would be better for those parents and employers would generally not mind, he said. However he acknowledged the Government faced financial constraints.

- The Timaru Herald

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