30 Jan 2018

PM 'saddened' at claims Nats not consulted on poverty Bill

6:25 pm on 30 January 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's "saddened" to hear the opposition leader claim he was denied the opportunity to help shape child poverty legislation.

Jacinda Ardern Bridge 30/01/18

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media at Parliament today. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Ms Ardern will unveil the legislation later this afternoon. It's a key part of Labour's election manifesto, and a part of the government's first 100 days commitment.

Reducing child poverty was a strong focus for both National and Labour during the election campaign, and the government promised a bi-partisan approach.

Ms Arden contacted National Party leader Bill English late last year about consulting on the draft bill.

In the letter dated 13 December, Ms Ardern included a "key summary of the proposed Bill".

It said there would be child poverty targets but they would not be included in legislation so as to not "bind future governments to any particular target".

Read the letter from Jacinda Ardern (bullet points detailing aspects of the bill have been removed at Prime Minister's request):

The letter sought feedback from Mr English, along with an offer for a briefing from officials.

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National Party leader Bill English Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

With the bill due to be introduced to Parliament tomorrow, Mr English told Morning Report this morning his party has had no opportunity to influence the shape of the bill.

Ms Ardern said she was "saddened" to hear this, as she had reached out last year.

"I hope we did provide that opportunity, again we have a select committee process to go through as well on top so I still hope we'll get support from all parties.

She said she would happy to still work with National outside of the select committee process as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

Mr English acknowledged there was contact in late December, to which he replied a week later.

In his letter he said he would be keen for a briefing in the New Year, including hearing how "the government intends to achieve results which will actually make a difference in reducing child poverty".

"The public expects us to do more than talk," it said.

But he said there was no further contact until today.

Read the letter from Bill English:

Mr English said the Better Public Service targets were a key component of this policy, which he raised in his response to Ms Ardern.

But there had been no chance to discuss the targets before they were scrapped, he said.

"The government's on its timetable, it wants to get the Bill introduced before the end of the 100 days, I don't think they ever seriously intended ... that there would be a serious bi-partisan effort on it."

It will also change the Public Finance Act so the Budget will now include progress reports on reducing child poverty.

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