Paid parental leave bill passes first hurdle 25 July 2012 
A bill extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks has overcome staunch Government opposition to pass its first hurdle in Parliament. Huge cheers went up from Labour’s ranks after the bill got 61 votes to 60 to proceed. The Labour-sponsored bill has been sent to a select committee for public hearings but appears doomed to fail after the Government warned it would use its power of financial veto to kill the legislation. It said the cost of extending the scheme from 14 weeks to 26 weeks was $150 million a year and there was no money to pay for it. In a noisy debate tonight, government MPs accused Labour of wanting to push the country into debt and said the cost of extra paid parental leave would be a bigger deficit and more debt. But Labour MP Darien Fenton said the bill would relieve pressure on working parents ‘‘and boy do they need it at the moment’’. “Parents are returning back to work early because of economic pressures.” The bill was supported by United Future and the Maori Party, which gave Labour the slender majority required to see the bill reach its next stage. National MP Maggie Barry said the Government had spent $157 million on paid parental leave last financial year and payments had increased by $67-a-week to $475-a-week. But Labour MP Sue Moroney said clawing back tax cuts to people earning over $150,000 would help pay for extending the scheme.