Danya Levy at Stuff reports:
Labour’s proposal to extend paid parental leave looks likely to have enough support to pass Parliament’s first hurdle – but the Government could still block it by using its power to veto costly policies it does not support.
A bill by Labour’s early childhood education spokeswoman, Sue Moroney, drawn from the members’ ballot last week, aims to extend the paid leave from 14 weeks to 26.
The Government’s support partner UnitedFuture, which campaigned during last year’s election campaign on extending paid parental leave to 13 months, could give Labour the numbers it needs to send the bill to a select committee for consideration.
UnitedFuture leader and sole MP Peter Dunne called the bill a “step in the right direction” and said he was inclined to support it.
However, there could be enormous moral pressure from both inside and outside Parliament for National not to veto the family friendly bill.
The Government can issue a financial veto certificate under Standing Order 321 if a bill, in its opinion, “would have more than a minor impact on the Government’s fiscal aggregates”.
However Standing Order 323 states a a certificate relating to a bill “may be given only when the bill is awaiting its third reading”.
What this means is that if Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori, Mana and United all vote for the bill it will have its first reading. It would then go to a select committee for six months, and return to the House for a second reading. If still supported by those parties it would then go to the committee of the house stage, and if reported back from there, then and only then can the Government veto it as it awaits third reading.
So any potential use of the veto is likely to be in 2013, not even this year.
UPDATE: It is worth giving some background to the veto. It was formalised in 1996 in response to MMP, specifically to allow minority governments to govern. If a Government can’t control its own finances, then it isn’t the Government as we know it – we would have a US style Government where the Executive has limited financial powers (and we’ve see how well that system works with earmarks and the lpletoike).
The veto has been used often in the past. From 2000 to 2008 Labour used it on at least a dozen occasions to veto amendments to bills. Also the minority National Government from 1997 to 1999 used it on several occasions, including (I believe) on a bill, not just amendments.
Interestingly even before 1996 there was an effective veto. The Speaker could refuse amendments which had a fiscal impact. The decision was made that it was more appropriate for the Government rather than the Speaker to decide, as they have to manage the consequences.
UPDATE2: The Government has said they will veto the bill, but as I explained above they can not actually do this until after it has completed committee of the house stage and is set for third reading.