Losing an election is always a difficult thing. But the pain becomes acute when you are confronted with the first defeat of a measure that in a more perfect would would succeed.
If you need an example the almost inevitable defeat of Sue Moroney’s paid parental leave bill is one. Before the election she had the numbers in Parliament to get paid parental leave for 26 weeks passed despite intense National pressure on the Maori Party and National were going to be forced to use the financial veto to stop it. Now the numbers are no longer there, although only just.
Facing reality she proposed changes that would have significantly lessened her bill’s effect. Instead of leave being initially for 26 weeks for everyone it would be 22 weeks for parents of babies born prematurely or with a disability, and families who have a multiple birth.
It is hard to imagine a more benign proposal or a more minimalist. Obviously Moroney wanted to make a statement showing that National for political purposes was going to defeat her bill no matter what.
The changed policy would have cost $6 million in the first year as opposed to the original policy’s cost of $150 million per year. This is less than one quarter of the cost of the flag referendum, presuming that original estimates are correct.
Last night in the committee stages these changes were voted down by the National Act majority. It seems almost inevitable that when the third reading of the bill is held National will vote it down.
Moroney should be credited with forcing National to at least increase the provision of paid parental leave to 18 weeks in the last budget. National has shown itself to be adept at assimilating well presented opposition policies to minimise the adverse political effect it would suffer by opposing them.
Kudos to Sue Moroney however for raising this as an issue and putting an extraordinary amount of work and passion into the measure. She has shown what an effective opposition Member of Parliament can achieve in an MMP environment.