4 Nov 2018

Child poverty targets come one step closer

12:22 pm on 4 November 2018

A proposed law to measure child poverty in New Zealand is a step closer to fruition, passing its penultimate reading in Parliament with near-unanimous support.

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Photo: 123RF

The Child Poverty Reduction Bill, once law, would require governments to set three and 10-year targets to reduce poverty and hardship over a range of measures.

The legislation passed its second reading in Parliament on this morning with the support of all parties except ACT's sole MP David Seymour.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has personally spearheaded the change, told MPs she was "extremely pleased" with the progress.

"Reducing child poverty... is one of the reasons I entered politics and this Bill has been one of the highest priorities of this government," she said.

The law would also herald in "a huge step change" in the annual Budget Day, requiring the finance minister to report on child poverty rates every year.

Ms Ardern acknowledged the opposition National Party's backing which threw its support behind the legislation last month after securing several changes.

"There are some things we can take the politics out of some of the time and I think this is one of those occasions.

She also thanked her government partners New Zealand First and the Greens for their "unwavering support".

"We are committed to continuing our ambition to make the kind of change that you see in a generation that will allow us to stand proudly and say New Zealand is the best place in the world to be a child."

National spokesperson for children Alfred Ngaro acknowledged the Prime Minister for her leadership in lifting the issue of poverty "above the politics".

"This is our Bill. This is our intent. I hope that when we talk about this Bill, this is Parliament's Bill, not just a government Bill."

But Mr Ngaro also issued a challenge to New Zealand First which has opposed the Whānau Ora health initiative.

"If we are saying that we're going to lift poverty above the politics... then why is it that we are playing politics with Whānau Ora?

"Let's allow Whānau Ora to do its work for Māori in particular."

In concluding his speech, Mr Ngaro crooned a few lines of Redemption Song by Bob Marley.

The sole MP to oppose the Bill David Seymour, from ACT, said the legislation distracted from the very problem it purported to solve.

"What this Bill does, is make it very clear to any future government - or this one, for that matter - what has to be done to make poverty go away.

"Underneath this definition, all governments have to do is tax one group of people and bring their incomes down and give to another group of people and bring their incomes up.

"That's how you make sure that there are fewer household with less than 40 or 50 or 60 percent of income."

Mr Seymour said it was a "sad day" for Parliament and a "real disappointment" to see National throw its support behind the Bill.

The legislation still has one more reading before becoming law.