Shock! Horror! Agreeing With Family First!

I wrote my column this past Saturday in support of Labour MP Sue Moroney’s bill to expand paid parental leave from the current 14 weeks to 26 weeks. The bill barely squeaked through its first reading, with the National caucus and John Banks voting No, and it’s now before a select committee. One thing that I hope will come out of that are some costings on the financial benefits of expanded PPL, since the social benefits are pretty obvious.

Well, I think so anyway. But if you want more on that, check out the 26 For Babies campaign page. A few, um, “interesting” comments have already emerged from the Select Committee hearings, including this gem from Paul Clark, owner of the New Zealand Ammunition Company, who opposes the bill and was reported by the DomPost as saying that “Having a family is a choice – almost like buying a luxury car.” A dubious analogy on so many levels…

In researching the column, I asked for a bit more comment from Tauranga’s MP Simon Bridges as well as Family First’s director Bob McCoskrie. As so often happens somewhere in between gathering far too much information and trying to squeeze it into 600 words, I didn’t fit the quotes in, but appreciated that they responded to my query, so I thought I’d put their comments up here. As you can tell if you read the column, I don’t think this is a matter of affordability but of priorities. And, well, also as per the column, I’m a bit weirded out by finding myself on the same side of an issue as Bob, but there you go!

Simon Bridges, Nat.-Tauranga:

This Government is focused on responsibly managing the country’s finances.  It’s important that we get back to surplus and get debt under control, which is why we can’t have Parliament deciding to go off and spend money which we simply don’t have.  I am concerned at the financial implications of nearly doubling the amount of parental leave – Labour’s proposals would cost about $450 million over the first four years and this is money we simply don’t have.

The Government supports parents being able to look after their children, and we spent $157 million on providing the current 14 weeks of paid parental leave in the 2011/12 financial year.  We have increased the maximum paid parental leave payment by $67 a week since taking office.  We have worked hard through a large recession to preserve income support entitlements for families.

Bob McCoskrie, National Director, Family First

(Family First’s submission in support of the bill is available, along with all the other submissions, here.)

Families are being penalised for having children. Successive governments have undervalued mothers – and it continues with the threat of vetoing this bill. The political and policy focus has been on the needs of the economy, rather than on the welfare of children and the vital role of parents. In reality, this policy would represent about 0.2% of the total government spending, yet research shows that the role of mothers and the early bonding between mums and babies is vital for healthy child development. And there is also a similar argument for the involvement and role of dads. Ironically, the spending on early childhood education has almost tripled in the past ten years – yet there was no suggestion of a veto by the government then.

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