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Shifting ground: PPL

Written By: - Date published: 11:55 am, October 24th, 2012 - 27 comments
Categories: babies, child welfare, employment, equality, families, feminism, national, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

The government is vulnerable around the Paid Parental Leave Bill.  They don’t want it to pass, but they risk losing support from women for not supporting it.  A financial veto of an entire Bill has never been done before, and it’s experimental for the government. There are certain clear rules around excercising the right of veto, but there also seems to be some uncertainty around specific procedures.

Last night I went to the public meeting in Auckland about Sue Moroney’s Extension of Paid Parental Leave bill. As I indicated in an earlier post an extension to PPL is good for children, parents, families, employees, employers, the community, society, education, health and crime prevention.

Michele A’Court, Sue Moroney, Prof Tim Hazeldine, Marama Davidson, Jan Logie, Jacquie Brown.

According to Sue Moroney nation-wide polling on voting intentions, conducted after her Bill was drawn from the ballot, showed a drop in women’s support for the National Party. The night the Bill had its first reading, government MP’s were viciously aggressive  in the parliamentary debate.  It was the night that the government lost a vote for the first time in 4 years. Some National Party women have privately expressed support for the Bill. It’s thought that some women in the government’s caucus are very uneasy about their party not supporting it.

The government’s threatened veto is by no means a foregone conclusion.  The day the Bill went to select committee, Bill English changed his argument against it. The committee is where the Bill and its costings get thoroughly scrutinised.  So once English’s dodgy figures were going to get shown up, he shifted the reason for opposing it from claiming it’s unaffordable, to “It’s not our top priority…”.  Now the challenge is to provide convincing arguments for extended PPL being a priority.

Tim Hazeldine is an economist after my own heart.  He said he didn’t need to do financial costings to decide that he supports the Bill.  He supports it because it’s the right thing to do. Women have babies, and that has natural consequences; large numbers of women now work in the paid employment.  When it’s right to do something, then a government needs to find a way of funding it.

Hazeldine also put forward some challenges that supporters of the Bill need to be prepared to counter. What will need to lose funding to make way for this Bill?  RONS?  What about unintended  consequences?  More people having babies in an already over-populated world?  However, it’s more likely that the Bill will result in lower birth rates due to it enabling better family planning? Should Boomers like Hazeldine pay for PPL through raising the super age? What about beneficiaries?  They also need financial support, but it doesn’t need to be at the expense of PPL. Supporters of the Bill should not allow themselves to be pitted against other high priority policies and people.

Moroney also said that the Bill has yet to be fully costed, including the benefits and trade-offs that will bring the costs down: e.g. women staying at home to look after their children, means they won’t be using tax payer funding for child care; when an unemployed person is employed to cover parental leave, that’s a little less money WINZ needs to pay out.  And then there’s the long term financial and economic benefits to society in having children growing up well-adjusted, healthy and well-cared for.

Business NZ’s submission comes before the committee today, and it should be worth watching for media reaction. After reading it, Moroney had to check the date on her phone to reassure herself she was not in an earlier century – it could have been written by Alisdair Thompson. (Interview on Breakfast TV One 18 October, with Business NZ CEO Phil O’Reilly).

Note: now it’s “not a top priority” due to current economic conditions, but the Nats opposed the original PPL Bill in 2002 in good economic times. Sue Moroney says she drafted the Bill in 2009, and that it reflects the fiscally-challenged times.

Update:  Reports of heated exchanges at the selct committee during Business NZ’s submission today. TV3, Voxy, Stuff, RNZ, TVNZ, and NewstalkZB.  And CTU’s submission, Labour Party Press Release, CTU ‘Reconsider the Veto’ Press Release.


27 comments on “Shifting ground: PPL”

  1. Bunji 1

    Great post Karol.

    I was disappointed to have not been able to make the meeting – so it’s great to get a report of it.

    Was the meeting as well supported as I hope it was?

    • karol 1.1

      Thanks, bunji.  It was fairly well supported.  I reckon 70-80 people.  I will do a more detailed report of what the speakers said, and some of the questions, on another day.  A lot of interesting and important ground was covered – sometimes with humour.

      • ianmac 1.1.1

        A fascinating read. Thanks karol. This Bill is essential progression in the rights and needs of society.
        Funny how the Government overstates costs for this Bill and for such things as the Christchurch Education rebuild or the rise in Minimum wage. Downside for Bill English is that the people would automatically doubt any figures he gives to justify a position.

  2. Lanthanide 2

    So if this bill gets kiboshed by the government, as it likely will, it seems relatively easy that the left could campaign on this at the election and resurrect the bill as it was after all the consultation was through and pass it fairly quickly, correct?

    • karol 2.1

      Yes, that is what Moroney said is an upside.  All the work that has been done, and is being done now in fine-tuning the Bill under select committee scrutiny, will be valuable for the future. Another upside is the potential damage to the Nats’ support amongst women.
      Moroney doesn’t think there is any certainty the government will use the veto.  They have a tightrope to walk to get there, and some unknown ground to traverse in order to use the veto. Also, the government’s resident hairpiece and revenue minister supports the Bill.

  3. kousei 3

    Phil O’Reilly’s biggest ‘disconnect’ is between his brain and his heart and probably from reality. I wonder when he would consider it a good time to become family and children focused? The neo-libs always predict a pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow for us all as long as we are ‘pragmatic’ and quietly take some more of their medicine.

  4. Lanthanide 4

    The PR machine is starting now: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/7857404/Job-warning-for-potential-parents

    “Potential parents” could find it harder to find a job if paid parental leave is extended, says an employers’ lobby group.

    Business New Zealand today appeared before the government administration select committee which is considering a member’s bill by Labour MP Sue Moroney to extend paid parental leave from 14 to 26 weeks.

    Its employment relations manager, Paul Mackay, said international research showed extending paid parental leave could discourage employers from hiring potential parents.

    He said potential parents could include women aged anywhere from 15 to 45 and men of any age.

    Since women aged 15-45 and “men of any age” make up a good 80%+ of the workforce, this isn’t much of a threat.

    • karol 4.1

      And I’m just catching up on Question Time today.  The first question from Nat Bennett is to get Blinglish to parade his latest figures around PPL.

    • QoT 4.2

      Well, he said it “could” include men. I think we can all take a good guess at who they’ll actually try to use this against, i.e. the people this argument has always been used against.

      • karol 4.2.1

        Well, he said it “could” include men.
        I thought that, too, until I saw the TV3 video, as linked at the bottom of my post .  At about 1 minute there’s an image of a page in the Business NZ submission that says employers “may well think hard before again employing a woman of child bearing age”.

  5. tc 5

    This gov’t is vulnerable on any issue where morality and money clash as money always wins in their world.

    Morals cost extra so it’s a hard place for them to go unless the lure of swing voters is strong.

    • fatty 5.1

      The problem with the current vulnerability of National in regards to morality is that the loss of National votes could go to the conservatives. The swing voters need to be drawn to Labour…being turned off National is not enough, particularly if they are conservative in nature.
      Conservatism has not really existed in NZ politics for a while until Colin Craig popped up. Ironically, if John Key and National continue to be framed unethical/immoral, it could end up getting them back into power at the next election.

      • McFlock 5.1.1

        I disagree. Part of the problem Labour has (and still) faced is that it dropped its left identity to get these mythical swing voters. What happened is that they lost the left and failed to get much traction on the right. 
        What happened is that a very significant chunk of the electorate has become disengaged. Basic marketing says “look for the gap in supply, and that will give you an indication of how to pick up non-customers”. We are not short of middle-right (where the right wing of Labour is “middle right” just as an arbitrary measure), social hard right, or fiscal hard right parties.
        We are short of a general left wing party. The personalities and chosen issues of the Greens and Mana alienate as well as provide a firm  base for their electoral existence. There is a yawning gap for a broad base left wing  party, and coincidentally there’s also something like 25% of the population who see nothing they want in a current party. Filling that gap would also provide a unique selling point for voters, rather than just playing “tweedle dum and tweedle dumber” with National pretending to be Labour-lite and Labour becoming National-lite.

        • fatty

          I agree with what you have said…but my post was about social rather than economic issues – perhaps that wasn’t clear.
          I do think the same as you on economic issues, the economically immoral actions of Nats (selling assets, tax cuts for the rich, etc) will result in swing voters going to Labour more than anything else.
          I was referring to those with socially conservative tendencies, admittedly this may not appear as large as the number of people that vote on economic issues, but those who do vote on socially conservative issues have had nobody to vote for lately until the conservatives arrived. Most of those conservatives have voted National (despite National being almost as socially liberal as Labour – both neoliberal). I think that Colin Craig has found that ‘gap in the supply’.
          So socially unethical behavior such as treating gays as humans (many see this as unethical), pokies for a convention centre, brain-fades etc, may end up bleeding votes to the Conservatives and end up strengthening Nat’s coalition.
          We live in a socially liberal society, in comparison to a few decades back, but there are many people who hold conservative values. These people have been silenced throughout our society, but they do exist and I feel they are waking up to the fact that National is no longer a conservative party.
          We are not talking about 15-20%, but more like 5%…which could have a big impact on the next election. Maybe I’m way off, but I do know people who are National voters and have become disillusioned with their social ideals, and like the policies of the Conservatives

          • McFlock

            ye-es but I think that moral conservatives make uneasy bedfellows – those who are concerned by gay marriage might not be okay with the concept of beating children. That’s why most parties avoid explicit policy on changes to things like abortion and prostitution and are happy to leave it to conscience votes – any position (one way or another) is likely to alienate as many people as it aligns with.
            For a while National’s ethical amorality was hidden by its economic conservatism and eagerness to stomp on poor people (sorry, “crime”). But from what I’ve gathered of the Conservatives’ statements, their natural level is around 2% which is actually good for the “left” proportionality-wise. And it’s enough that parachuting him into epsom won’t do them any electoral good in the greater scheme of things. And then being aligned with him might be embarrassing if he feels empowered to speak on moral issues (and who knows, possibly Darwinism and the age of the Earth), although not as embarrassing as Banks. 
            But then again, people wrote off Hitler in the early 1920s, so who am I to judge?

  6. One Tāne Huna 6

    Question: what is an appropriate response to a minority group that attempts to blackmail the country?

    “Potential parents” could find it harder to find a job if paid parental leave is extended, says an employers’ lobby group.

    These bludgers need to be taught a lesson.

    • karol 6.1

      Answer, OTH:  So Paul Mackay is encouraging employers to discriminate against people of child bearing age who are parts of a couple?  Or, indeed any employee capable of parenting a child? 
      But the real clanger from Paul Mackay is that he compares time off work for parenting duties to a rugby taking a “break” from rugby.  He is obviously pretty clueless that parenting is demanding work and of what it involves.  He talks about “depreciation of skills” while on parental leave. 
      But actually, the parents are developing a whole range of, often new, skills that will be useful in many workplaces.  Many employers encourage sabbaticals, whereby the employee takes time to do something different, thereby gaining a fresh outlook.  They can return to work refreshed, possibly with some innovative ideas.

  7. QoT 7

    Awesome post, karol!

    • karol 7.1

      Thanks, QOT.  But I don’t think it gets close enough to representing the excellent work by all the people working on the Bill and its campaign.
      And also, in one post there wasn’t space to include what was said about the trials and tribulations of being a mother and parent, especially of a newborn child – and the experiences of going back to work after child birth.

  8. Rich 8

    If Dunne (and the other parties) were really behind this bill, they could vote to suspend or amend standing orders, I think? That would override the veto.

  9. captain hook 9

    who saw the drongo on the teevee tonight use a stupid sports metaphor.
    If a person has only one week off then it is still going to take time to get up to speed again but if the firm values its female employees then it should be willing to give more than the paltry emolument it considers sufficient at the moment.
    A well rested refreshed employee is always going to be more value to an employee than someone browbeaten with stupid fucking sports metaphors.
    where do these people come from?
    He was overweight and had a big nose and he didnt ekshually look like he did much sports to me.

  10. OneTrack 10

    Let me get this right – Ms Moroney drafted the current bill in 2009, but she hasn’t costed it yet. Ok, that builds my confidence. The obvious question is “why not”? I assume it is because when you do, you get the “wrong” answer. And if you haven’t costed it yet, how can you possibly say English’s numbers are wrong?

    Is this going to be another job for the QE printing press?

    • fatty 10.1

      The problem with costing paid parental leave is that is is done over a short term and the cost is related to employers.
      If you want to know the real cost, you need to consider the cost over a 20-30 year period by factoring in the benefits from supporting parents when they have newborns. That requires a move away from quantitative analysis, and towards qualitative analysis.
      Cost needs to be considered against the benefits over a very long time, but it won’t be

      • OneTrack 10.1.1

        But the post strongly implies that Ms Moroney has not even attempted to do either costing exercise. English is wrong. Ok, but what are the right estimates then?

        Also, the two cost/benefits are spread unevenly between the employer and society as a whole. The employer takes the immediate hit of a lost employee for an extended period of time. Bigger companies can handle it, smaller companies, not so much.

        Society gets the benefit, we hope, at some indeterminate time in the future, with little cost to itself.

        • fatty

          My point is that the estimate of the cost will be shortsighted so its pointless, if they do not factor in the long-term benefits.

          “Society gets the benefit, we hope, at some indeterminate time in the future, with little cost to itself.”

          Not really, just a little more tax to cover it so the businesses are covered by the govt. Therefore, society is paying, and the businesses are not.
          Society will get the benefit, there is no hope about it. Well established psychological theories which are more robust and have been around for much longer that our current economic theories. These include attachment theory, and the work of development theorists.

        • karol

          I don’t have a verbatim record of what was said at the meeting, so it could be my perception that is incorrect.  As I recall, Moroney said the Bill hadn’t been fully costed yet, with respect to trade-ffs.  I got the impression that she was saying the select committee process is where such things are intensely scrutinised. 
          So my understanding was that it had been costed, Moroney had clearly read the submissions that contain alternative costings. So the select committee would be scrutinising all that and making a final decision on how much it would all cost.
          There seems to be different costings, depending on the factors taken into account.  On the one hand there’s English’s figures. Some of the submissions yesterday included costings, such as the CTU submission.

          The Council of Trade Unions believes extending paid parental leave would cost far less than the government claims, producing its own figures showing a cost of about $160 million over three years.

          In a submission supporting the bill, CTU economist Bill Rosenberg said he estimates the cost of parents taking the full 26 weeks leave would be about $160m over three years, with an ongoing cost of $80m a year beyond that.
          That cost is based on the assumption the workers will not be replaced by temporary staff during their leave.
          However, Mr Rosenberg says if more temporary workers were taken on during parental leave periods, the cost would be reduced because of tax adjustments, including the effects of GST and Working for Families.

          Even greater savings would be made if the person taking on the job came off a benefit.

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