Bill English won't rule out parental leave boost in Budget


A boost for paid parental leave could be on the cards in Thursday's Budget.

Labour's Sue Moroney has been campaigning on the issue for years and says she's been told to expect extra money to extend the time off work.

"I have heard that they are looking to extend paid parental leave and I really hope that they don't short-change families," she says.

So Newshub put that to Finance Minister Bill English. His lips were sealed, but his body language spoke volumes.

"I wouldn't want to speculate, you'll have to wait and see," he says.

The scene is certainly set.

On the eve of Thursday's Budget, Ms Moroney's private member's Bill will have its second reading in Parliament.

She has the numbers to support it.

"What the Bill proposes is that we would have 22 weeks paid parental leave from April 1 next year, and then finally 26 weeks paid parental leave from April 1 2017," Ms Moroney says.

So the Government has just two cards: a financial veto to block the Bill, or a trump card -- a new policy.

"A financial veto would be a really extreme measure because it's never been used for an entire Bill before," Ms Moroney says.

So another appeasement could be dealt on Thursday.

"What they've done over the last two financial years in response to public pressure has been to increase it by two weeks each of those years," Ms Moroney says.

"And that could be something the Government wants to continue to do until it gets to 26 weeks paid parental leave."

It wouldn't be the first time.

Off the back of Ms Moroney's first Bill two years ago, which saw a 60-60 stalemate in the House, the Government extended paid parental leave from 14 weeks with a maximum weekly payment of just over $500 to 16 weeks in 2015 with payments rising to $516.

And this year paid parental leave extends to 18 weeks, with maximum payments to be finalised.

New Zealand has long ranked poorly among developed countries with paid parental leave, but it's the poll of public opinion the Government's really worried about -- especially when Ms Moroney has the numbers to deliver 26 weeks for new parents.