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Putting people ahead of politics

In the coming weeks, John Key will decide whether or not to use a financial veto against families with new babies having 26 weeks paid parental leave.

Our Parliament has been debating this measure since 2012, when my Bill was first pulled from the ballot. For almost all of that time, a majority of MPs have supported this measure.

After the 2014 election, the proposal was lost at the third and final reading by 60-60. When National lost the Northland by-election I re-submitted my Bill.

As fate would have it, within three weeks it was again pulled from the ballot. It has now passed a first and second reading 61-60. Some say it was the luck of the Irish – I prefer to believe that this is a proposal that is just meant to be.

All the research about creating healthy, resilient, productive people supports it; the majority of New Zealanders support it, as does the majority of Parliament. In a progressive democracy, that means it should be implemented.

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National argues that the measure is unaffordable. Their argument doesn’t stack up.

To ensure it is affordable my Bill staggers the implementation - moving to 22 weeks PPL in 2017 (from the current 18 weeks) and reaching 26 weeks in 2018. By then National says the surplus will be $2.5b

Official costing show this would be just 0.8% of the additional funding put into budget 2016/17 and 2.6% of the additional spending planned for budget 2017/18.

And that doesn’t take account of the $30m in immediate cost savings that officials have identified, let alone the much larger long-term cost savings on reduced hospital admissions, less spending on remedial education and other social services.

Supporting bonding and attachment between parent and baby in those early months pays big dividends later on and that is in the interests of all taxpayers.

So why would the National Party deny families this support?

Either they are completely unaware of the enormous pressures on families - struggling with increasing housing and living costs while paying off students loans - OR they are throwing their toys out of the cot because this is Labour’s initiative.

I think it is a measure of both. And that amounts to playing politics at the expense of doing what is right.

Using a financial veto would be an extreme measure – it has not been used on an entire Bill since the provision was made available to Governments under MMP.

This particular Bill has been subjected to more scrutiny than most having been through a select committee process twice.

National should remember that families get the final right of veto when they vote in next year’s general election.