9 Mar 2010

PM defends Bennett's US fellowship

6:51 pm on 9 March 2010

Prime Minister John Key is defending the Social Development Minister's acceptance of a scholarship that will take her out of the country for six weeks.

Paula Bennett is to take up an Eisenhower Fellowship for women leaders in the United States, starting in October.

Mr Key says she will be on full pay while she is away, but her expenses will be paid for by the Eisenhower organisation.

He says it is value for taxpayers because it will provide Ms Bennett with professional development, as well as a first hand look at welfare programmes in the United States.

Ms Bennett says she will look at examples of business working with the community and government.

"It was a big decision to take that sort of time out and I'd be wanting to see real benefits that I can bring back for it, but sometimes an opportunity comes along that's a bit too good to miss," she said.

Ms Bennett says New Zealand has a lot to learn from the way the United States harnesses the innovations of corporate leaders to create gains for the social sector.

She plans to introduce legislation on welfare reform in the next few weeks and expects that to be passed before she leaves.

Labour's Social Development spokesperson Annette King says many New Zealanders will wonder if there are not more pressing issues at home the minister should be concentrating on.