Labour could get its way on $450m parental leave bill

Labour could get its way on the private member's bill to extend paid parental leave from 14 weeks to 26 weeks. 

The legislation has been limbo since Finance Minister Bill English said he would use his power to veto unaffordable legislation to sideline it. The government costed the move at $450 million over the first four years.

Now Mr English says he will take a second look at the legislation, and has extended the select committee's report-back time - signalling the bill could be put before the House next year.

"When the bill came in, it was too expensive and too soon. We already spend about $150 million a year on paid parental leave and when the bill came in we had something like a $7  or $9 billion deficit. Extending paid parental leave might be possible but we couldn’t do it then," Mr English said this morning.

Now, Mr English says he's willing to look at work on the legislation carried out by the multi-party select committee, but he also offered no guarantees his government would come around to support it.

"We will get to surplus but it will be a very small surplus," he said.

"NZ has a large pile of debt it’s built up - $50 to $60 billion over the last four or five years. There isn’t an opportunity to go on a lolly scramble

"We’ll have a list of choices and this could be one of our choices, but I don’t want to commit to a number without having a look."

It's possible a compromise on costs would see payments of up to $475 a week would be phased in by four weeks a year over three years.

But the Finance Minister also indicated the improving financial situation was not the only reason for his change of heart.

"There has also been a lot of work [done by the select committe] on the impact on young children and bonding with mothers and so forth," he said.

Ms Moroney's private member's bill passed its first reading 61-60 in June last year before Mr English's veto threat saw it sidelined.

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