Christchurch Press Editorial 28 July 2015
For the second time Labour MP Sue Moroney has had a bill to extend paid parental leave to six months drawn from the ballot of private member’s bills. The bill was defeated as recently as last February, when it was last before the House, on the votes of National and Act. Finance Minister Bill English said then that even if the bill had made it through all stages, he would have vetoed it, as he was entitled to do, on the ground that it would if passed make a material difference to the Government’s finances.
This time, after the election of Winston Peters in the Northland by-election, Moroney should be able to muster enough votes to win a majority for it. English has not said whether he would veto it again. He said he had not considered the matter again and did not want to get ahead of the process. In any event, he cannot exercise the veto until the bill has been through committee stages and had its third (and final) reading in the House.
English and the Government should give the matter more thought. If they do not wish to pick up a Labour bill, they should consider one of their own providing for more generous leave.
The matter is not, after all, one of principle. Parental leave has been available for more than 20 years now and paid parental for more than 10. In the last Budget, the Government itself increased provision from 14 weeks to 16 weeks as from April 1 of this year. It will go up for another two weeks from April 1 next year.
The Government has also proposed other changes to come into effect in April next year to make leave more flexible. These include extending it to casual and seasonal employees and those with more than one employer. It also wants to extend entitlements beyond parents to other “primary carers’ such as whangai, parents and others with permanent care arrangements.