Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good news on paid parental leave

Last week Sue Moroney's Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months Paid Leave) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot. Now, it looks like the bill will pass its first reading, despite government opposition:

A Labour proposal to extend paid parental leave from 14 to 26 weeks looks set to pass its first hurdle in Parliament after initial backing by United Future.


However, the Government's support partner United Future campaigned in last year's election on extending paid parental leave to 13 months and could give Labour the numbers it needs to send the bill to a select committee for consideration.

Leader and sole MP Peter Dunne said today Labour's bill was a "step in the right direction".

"I haven't read bill and only had brief discussion with Labour but my inclination is to support its introduction."

Dunne is on the right side on this. The Families Commission recommended an increase way back in 2007, and while Moroney's bill falls short of their recommendation, it is a positive step. And by spreading the cost out, its also affordable.

Unfortunately, while the bill will go to Select Committee, it is highly unlikely to become law. Even if National fails to gather a majority to defeat it, Parliament's Standing orders allow a government to veto on financial grounds any law which would have "more than a minor impact" on the government's books. What constitutes "more than a minor impact" is entirely up to the government, and in the past (particularly in the 93 - 96 term) National has shown a willingness to veto any bill which didn't come from them (often on the spurious grounds of administrative costs). They'll be even more willing to do so when it costs real money which could instead be given to their cronies as tax cuts. So we may very well see a bill with majority Parliamentary backing vetoed by Ministerial fiat. People might want to start thinking about whether that is really appropriate - or democratic.