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Anger over parental leave extension veto

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Latest Political News | Thursday April 12 2012 5:32

Anger over parental leave extension veto


There's anger from Labour MP Sue Moroney at the Government's decision to shoot down her bill that would extend paid parental leave.

The bill was pulled out of the member's ballot last week but it could be months before it gets its first reading.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English says the estimated $150 million extra cost of doubling the leave is too expensive.

If necessary, the Government will veto it at its third and final reading.

Ms Moroney says that's premature, given the exact cost isn't even known.

She thinks the Government is trying to scare the minor parties off.

"I think that the political parties will have to think about what it is they've campaigned on in the past and make sure that they stay true to their policy platform."

Ms Moroney says the veto is meant to be used in extreme situations only.

"It's far too early for the Government to make that call, my Bill hasn't even had a first reading yet and it hasn't gone to select committee so that we can all get our heads around and agree on what the actual costings of the Bill are."

But Mr English is refusing to even consider changing the Government's mind once the books are back in the black.

"We wouldn't make that commitment, that would be very premature and when government gets to surplus there'll be a whole lot of things it has to do then to make sure it's maintaining public services that have been under pressure."

Mr English says it's irresponsible for people to be spending a surplus that's still at least two years away.

"We are in favour of supporting our mothers and children and we have protected all the entitlements on the way through a big recession and large deficits."

Meanwhile, Otago law professor Andrew Geddis says in a sense the use of the veto is undemocratic.

"Certainly stopping the majority of MPs getting a bit of law in place that they want. The reason the veto was being waved now is because it looks like there would be majority would vote for this policy."

He says under the constitution, the plan to veto is perfectly acceptable because this is how it works.

"And the Government is not the same thing as Parliament. The Government gets its power to rule from Parliament, but once it's recognised as the Government then it's the body that's in charge of the money and that's why everyone wants to be in government.

"When you're in government you get to spend money on the things you like."

Otago University politics lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards says a government can veto any legislation or amendments that may have an impact on its fiscal situation.

"In the first National Government when MMP came in we saw it a few times used, but then again with the Labour led government between 1999 and 2008 it was used quite often."

Dr Edwards says Labour's in danger of being seeing as hypocritical as a result.

He estimates Labour used the veto power at least 10 to 20 times while in power between 1999 and 2008.

"With Labour saying it's anti-democratic they're really in danger of being seen as hypocritical or perhaps not understanding the system when they make those allegations."

He says Labour could have designed the Bill so it didn't have significant fiscal impact on the Government, by making the extension paid for by employers.

Dr Edwards says given the cost of the scheme, the party should have known the Government would veto it at some stage.

Photo: Getty Images

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