Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Make our Parliament accessible to parents

In addition to the Prime Minister, several other MPs have already become parents this term. And one of them is highlighting that Parliament's new travel rules pose a big barrier for new parents:

One of Parliament's new parents, Kiri Allen, has argued for a cap on taxpayer-funded travel for MPs' partners to be lifted for those with young babies.

While MPs' partners used to be allowed unlimited travel to be with the MP, the so-called "perk" was cut back in 2014 after excessive use by some.

The cap does not apply to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's partner Clarke Gayford, who will be primary caregiver for baby Neve, because the Prime Minister's partner gets unlimited travel.

However, the partners of ordinary MPs get 20 trips a year maximum while ministers' partners get 30 trips a year. The caps are set by the Remuneration Authority and can only be used to accompany MPs on work-related travel.

As Allen highlights, 20 trips a year isn't enough for new parents, and apparently works out to a visit every six weeks. Raising it would allow far better work-life balance, and allow these MP's to better participate in our democracy without unduly burdening their families. And she's absolutely right: it is an unreasonable burden - but one that is so easily fixed. And if we want our Parliament to look like New Zealand, and to include MP's at all stages of life, we need to raise that cap for them.