More paid parental leave likely

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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Paid parental leave looks likely to increase as the National Party drafts proposals to go to select committee.

Prime Minister John Key signalled an extension to paid parental leave but ruled out support for the 26 weeks targeted by the bill's sponsor, Hamilton Labour list MP Sue Moroney.

Mr Key said the 26 weeks was unaffordable but a smaller increase was on the cards.

"It's a large financial cost and it's got to be seen against a whole range of other priorities," Mr Key said. "I'm not saying its not important and I'm not saying there couldn't be some modest expansion."

Ms Moroney's bill would increase paid parental leave from 14 to 18 weeks on July 1 this year, 22 weeks next year and 26 weeks in 2016. There was not a lot of wriggle room, she said.

"We're talking about four weeks more paid parental leave this year and so we've got four weeks to play with. Staying at 14 weeks is not a option for me this year," she said.

The bill was due to be reported back to Parliament at the end of next month and Ms Moroney said she had the numbers to take it to the third reading.

National threatened to defeat the bill with the Government's right to a financial veto if it went ahead as drafted.

"They [National] have a proposal to bring forward to select committee. If we don't get agreement at select committee then that's when they will still consider using their financial veto, which is a fair call."

"We're just at that point in time where they are clearly doing some work on it, they haven't presented it to me yet, so I don't really know if it is a runner or not."

Labour leader David Cunliffe reconfirmed his party's commitment to extending paid parental leave from 14 weeks to 26 in an announcement this week.

"What is absolutely crystal clear to people is that Labour has a commitment to bring in the 26 week paid parental leave," Ms Moroney said.

Her bill sat on the table for more than three years but was now "front and centre."

"We have been working on the issue that's trying to make sure families with young children are supported in those early years. If you invest well into those early years we are all going to benefit from that."

More policy announcements were in the wind for families with older children but she said the current focus was on newborns. "That's where you can make the biggest difference."

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- Waikato Times

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