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Sloppy political management behind parental leave mess


It took Bill English to cauterise the wounds.

For nearly a week, the Beehive spin machine cowered before an onslaught led by a hitherto unknown master strategist, Labour’s Sue Moroney.

Previously a Trade Union Education Authority educator and nurses’ and horse workers’ union organiser, the list MP has kept her talents to herself since being elected in 2005, allowing newer MPs to pass her in the rankings.

Her portfolios of early childhood education and women’s affairs are important but many MPs want bigger-spending portfolios after seven years in Parliament.

Despite the cards dealt to her, Ms Moroney has played a superlative hand.

First, she got the media to report that her bill to extend paid parental leave from 14 to 26 weeks was likely to win majority parliamentary support.

In fact, she had only a vague commitment from United Future leader Peter Dunne that, although he hadn’t read her 160-word bill, it was “a move in the right direction” and “the debate should be held.”

As of Tuesday morning, the Maori and NZ First parties –both of whose support Ms Moroney would need – hadn’t even discussed the issue.

Even more cannily, Ms Moroney neglected to mention that the government has a veto under Parliament’s standing orders over bills that have “more than a minor impact on the government’s fiscal aggregates.”

She shrewdly assessed that no one in the press gallery would have been cognisant of the veto option.

Most brilliantly, she correctly calculated that no one in the Beehive press corps would have heard of it either. A story whose apparent importance could have been downgraded quickly with a few calls to political editors was instead allowed to run for a week. Beehive negligence meant Ms Moroney was fêted on all major TV and radio shows as the new hero of the working parent.  Truly did she know her enemy.

Veto inevitable
It was always inevitable that the government would veto Ms Moroney’s bill.

The veto was introduced with MMP to stop National oppositions from cutting taxes by doing dodgy deals with centrist parties supposedly aligned with Labour governments and to stop Labour oppositions from doing dodgy deals with supposedly National-aligned centre parties to impose spending increases on National governments.  If the small centrist parties don’t like the veto being used, they can still call a confidence motion to bring down the government.

What’s more, if National was ever likely to acquiesce to a Labour spending initiative, paid parental leave would not be it.  After all, the scheme’s instigator was Alliance powerbroker Laila Harréduring the first term of Helen Clark’s government.

Ms Harré’s original vision was a 12-week scheme paid for by employers.  Ms Clark wanted just six weeks and wouldn’t hear of imposing the cost directly on employers, instead designing a taxpayer-funded scheme.

Ms Harréresisted.  She argued Ms Clark’s scheme would effectively use taxes paid by low-income workers to subsidise employers – just as would happen again with Working for Families.  At least from a left perspective, Ms Harré’s proposal was more coherent – reducing profits to increase the value of workers’ total remuneration.

The two compromised.  While she won on taxpayer funding, Ms Clark had to concede 12 weeks to Ms Harréand the scheme began in 2002 at a total cost of $41 million a year.  At a time Michael Cullen was boasting a budget surplus of $2.3 billion, or over 2% of GDP, that was all Ms Clark believed the government could afford.

Later Ms Clark agreed to extend the scheme fractionally to 14 weeks.  Par for the course, John Key has left the Alliance-inspired policy just as he found it.

Looking back on the week, Mr English should have been allowed to take charge the very day Ms Moroney’s bill first received publicity.

He could have immediately declared that, with an $11 billion deficit, he would use the veto to prevent another $150 million a year being borrowed to extend an Alliance Party scheme well beyond the scope supported even by Ms Clark.

Such an announcement would have been seen as unremarkable.

Instead, the vacuum created by the government’s sloppy political management meant that when he finally did go public he was seen as the bad guy dashing families’ hopes.  Just as with policy, the government might be better to opt for decentralisation of its political operations to achieve greater fleet-footedness.

Comments and questions

Strewth Matthew – your first two paragraphs might get you a shot at writing a storyline for some kind of evangelistic American daytime soap – but it fails dramatically on any resemblance to the actual truth.

“kept her talents to herself since being elected in 2005, allowing newer MPs to pass her in the rankings” More likely she’s about as useful as an ashtray in a wind tunnel and this is the “only” bit of social engineering she could come up with in 7 years. It differs greatly from Labour’s previously stated policies – so how do Labour explain the differences? How do you? Or does the inconvenient truth not fit with the leftist spin to your article, so just don’t mention it?

Credibility… out the window with the flying pigs…. Look there goes another one…

If Moroney / Labour really wanted to offer some value to NZ and gain some credibility around their social policies they should be advocating for wanna-be parents to take personal responsibility for their own actions and lifestyle they wish to lead – and fund their own family with their own money – or ask other family, or friends or neighbours or their union to fund their children – not the tax payer.

Of course – mention “personal responsibility” to anyone Labour and they cringe because personal and individual responsibility is against the great socialist philosophies… and if people actually think / act and take responsibility for themselves – there would be an ever increasing slide in relevance away from the unions and the Labour Party.

Surely there should be laws against wanna-be politicians promising riches to the uninformed, writing cheques that other people have to fund – all as a electioneering bribe / lollie scramble – in return for “golden handcuffs” of more WFF / student loan benefits / electioneering bribes to those many with their hands out and their snouts in the tax payer funded trough?

What a great letter. Thank you

Heard of irony? You may want to read the column again - all the way through.

Laila Harréduring
Ms Harréresisted

Labour seems not to have learned from their past mistakes. You can only wonder, if it's part of their plan to hunker down in the Trenches of Opposition for an indefinite time. These feel-good handouts can't be sustained, and are inflicting further burden on the taxpayer.

Tax and Spend, all over again.

As with another comment I wrote on this same issue, this was a necessary veto.
It's not an arguement about sabotaging democracy, political correctness, or talking down the importance of children being our future. It's about whether we can afford it in this countries current fiscal position.
What exists is reasonable, extending limits money in other areas for government spending ( Govt. Kiwisaver contributions)
If you can't financially plan and afford to have kids then don't have any.
My kids were attending daycare at 3 months allowing the parent to go back to work part time. After 3 years your daycare becomes subsidized again by the government anyway.
If this wasnt veto'ed, don't complain about the cuts to your superannuation or pension plans or even GST increases,, you can't have everything.
Remember that America is a good example of government debt. If we don't reduce the debt then we the taxpayer start paying interest on that debt.
America defaulted on a large part of theirs and had their credit rating cut by Standard + Poors.
We've had our credit rating downgraded as well which means we pay higher interest on borrowed money. Therefore tax + interest on debt + credit downgrade= even higher taxes. Therefore everything's goes up to pay for it, Income tax, GST, price at the pump, groceries, you get the drift so everyone loses out including those who benefit from this bill.
We need to reduce the government debt and get out of the red. Then you might get it re-addressed as funding is loosened up.
This is why Labour lost the last election with their old policies of beneficial spending. It wasn't doing us any good as a country.
If you want to be angry at someone, take a look at local government, ie City Councils and check out the spending and the debt they are accumulating, they're having a field day. Same applies as above except we pay for it not through taxes but through rates increases. This is an area that requires alot more public attention, and an introduction of financial oversite or regulation, similar to that imposed on the U.S financial scene, to stop them spending ratepayers money that we don't have but are fiscally responsible for. Council debt collectively in NZ is now in the billions.
Worried about it, damn right I am. But I digress.

P.S above short story was written by Freindly skies, wouldn't let me punch in my user name.

Could NZ potentially save $40 BILLION at central government level by CUTTING OUT THE CONTRACTORS?

(In the USA recent research by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has uncovered that 'contracting out' of USA Federal Government services has proven to be twice as expensive. )

If this National/ACT government 'shrank the contactocracy' and helped stop long-term dependency on 'corporate welfare' - would there then be enough public monies for SOCIAL welfare?

ie: for the public 'needy' as opposed to the corporate 'greedy'?

Exactly how much public money is being spent on 'corporate welfare' paid to 'the contractocracy'?

Where can members of the public find out the NAMES of the contractors/consultants; the SCOPE, TERM and VALUE of the thousands of private sectors contracts for 'goods, services and people' which have replaced former (cheaper?) 'in-house service provision by those directly employed by central and local government?

Where is the 'TRANSPARENCY' here in New Zealand 'perceived' to be 'the least corrup country in the world'?

Who else is even asking these questions?

Penny Bright
'Anti-corruption campaigner'

Matthew Hooton, written like a PR person rather than as a dispassionate observer. I think you should give up one of your mutually conflicting careers - better choose either PR or columnist. Oh wait, this article is just an extension of your PR bad!

Honestly, what Labour MP Sue Moroney is promulgating, the last two letters of her surname are redundant.

The Government veto on money bills has been in standing orders for at least 50 years. Without it, the Government of the day would be unable to introduce or manage an annual budget.

It didn't come in with MMP, Matthew. It's astounding that professional political reporters are unaware of the basic rules.

Check again. Until 1996 the veto was held by the Speaker.

Labour are out to win votes so that they can go back to the corrupt days of old, I am not saying that national is any better but I have concrete evidence that labour allowed their own people to write and advise on bills which would provide them with personal income from the public coffers.

We have no way of questioning corruption in new Zealand and the motives behind new legislation is seldom exposed .

To write legislation for your own business plan is state capture and public office for private gain. both seemingly condoned and concealed by Both national and labour.

Please support my petition for an independent commission against corruption .The evidence is clear why is it being ignored? is it because we are scared to expose the tip of the iceberg.

We can start with our rotten legal system.

Meredith Connell Prosecutor + Shoplifting Charge = Discharge Without Conviction.

And we aren't talking about a couple of items that were filched; it was $200 worth of "guilt food"

The law is not applied equally in the end when you are facing the judge it is all about who you know and who you are associated with .

I personally believe that those who are supposed to uphold and respect the law have a higher responsibility to the law than the ordinary citizen and if they break the law then the repercussion should be significantly higher than what an ordinary person is subjected to and there should never be room for name suppression.

Instead we exonerate lawyers and cops because we don't want any one to see our corruption.... its all about preserving the illusion .

Dear oh dear. What a bunch of grumpy old men. Why not try being a house father for a challenge and a change?

Despite the cards dealt to her, Ms Moroney has played a superlative hand.Snapback Hats