30 Jan 2018

Watch: English on government's child poverty legislation

10:24 am on 30 January 2018

The government will spell out details of its child poverty reduction legislation today.

Lowering the number of children living in poverty - and setting targets to achieve this - was one of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's key election promises.

National Party leader Bill English told Morning Report the government had offered his party a briefing by officials today - the day the bill is being introduced - so the party has no ability to influence it.

Watch Bill English speaking to Morning Report's Susie Ferguson:

"That's not a good way to conduct bipartisan approach," he said.

"As I understand it - and we haven't seen the legislation - they're talking about legislating some high-level income targets for which no-one's particularly accountable."

Mr English said National would "have a look" at the legislation and wanted to ensure it was "more than symbolism".

The bill, part of Labour's first 100 days programme, would set targets for reducing child poverty and change the Public Finance Act so the Budget reports progress.

Mr English said whatever happened with the legislation today, the government had done most of what it could do given its moves to lift family incomes and provide the first year of tertiary education free had used up its spare cash.

Mr English said the government's scrapping of public service targets took the focus off real people locked in long-term deprivation "whether it's recidivist offending, family violence, low educational achievements".

"The targets they've just scrapped are the ones that were focusing the public service on working together to change lives of those people," he said.

One of the targets was to get 90 percent of women enrolled with their lead maternity carer in the first trimester of pregnancy.

"The government's got rid of that. Why would you get rid of it?"

National said it would use the Official Information Act to ask for target-related information from government departments.

Wellington City Missioner Tric Malcolm said raising people's incomes makes a difference, but it was only part of the solution to poverty.

For people in private rental accommodation, for example, a benefit increase could "disappear in a flash" as rents rise exponentially.

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