Opinion: Labour dishonest on 'baby bonus'

The Labour Party has been putting voters wrong about its baby bonus.

Labour has been deliberately misleading, and in my view dishonest by omission.

On Monday night I told 3 News viewers that under Labour's $60 a week baby bonus policy, families would get $3120 a year for their baby's first year.

A simple calculation you might think, of $60 mutiplied by 52 weeks, given David Cunliffe announced in his State of the Nation speech: "That's why today, I am announcing that for 59,000 families with new-born babies, they will all receive a Best Start payment of $60 per week, for the first year of their child's life."

Now most normal people would think that means "all" those parents will get the payment "for the first year of their child's life".

But it wasn't true - not that you would know that from Cunliffe's speech, media stand-up, the MPs who were there to "help" and all the glossy material handed out to us.

Because buried in the material was a website link that takes you to a more detailed explanation policy.

And on page six of that policy document, in paragraph 3, it revealed the payment would commence at the "end of the household's time of using Paid Parental Leave, ie. after 26 weeks in most cases."

So translated, in most cases, the $60 a week payment is not for the first year, but for the second six months.

Most journalists, like our office, only had time to find this overnight on Monday.

Obviously 3 News had already broadcast that it was for most babies for a year and a total of $3120.

The truth is it was for most babies for the second six months and was $1560.

Now Cunliffe and Labour knew this $3120 for one year figure was wrong, but nobody rang to correct it.

Usually political parties and the taxpayer-funded spin doctors are screaming down the phone if there is an error (and rightfully so, I might add), but in this case Labour was dead quiet.

And I believe that's because Labour wanted the punters to think it was $60 for a year.

They were desperate to get cut-through and were happy to omit key information and let the wrong message get out there.

And I think that is deliberately misleading and dishonest from Labour.

At some point, I'm sure senior Labour people made a decision to omit key details on the day to maximise publicity - it was no mistake.

This is what politicians of all colours do; they don't care if they mislead the public, they are venal and desperate and just want to win. It is not just Labour, it's all of them. It's really sad.

And it goes on: Labour's Sue Moroney has just explained to me that there are 60,000 births in New Zealand each year, 59,000 of those families earn under $150,000, 26,000 are eligible for paid parental leave, meaning 33,000 will get the $60 for the full twelve months.

That means Cunliffe should have said 33,000 people will get the baby bonus for a year, which is not "most" of the 60,000 families that have babies each year.

Bearing in mind Labour's policy does not start until April 2016, with six months of paid parental leave the majority of $60 payments won't kick in until October 2016 - that would likely be almost two years after a 2014 Labour Government.

Cunliffe also struggled to explain yesterday whether families would be judged on their pre-baby double income (ie. two earners of $140,000 each, getting $280,000) or after-baby income $140,000.

This seems a pretty straightforward aspect to me, and I wonder if it was policy-on-the-hoof. He either didn't know the policy properly or was trying to avoid showing how generous the policy is.

For the record, it's judged on the after-baby, one income and Cunliffe says he misunderstood the questions from myself and Brent Edwards.

In my opinion, Labour's baby bonus policy is big and bold.

The bonus kicking in after six months is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a generous policy and has set the political agenda this week.

Labour didn't have to be dishonest - it could have just told voters the truth.

3 News

 

source: newshub archive