31 May 2019

Budget a win for absentee fathers, National says

6:13 pm on 31 May 2019

Deadbeat Dads are the only ones getting a tax cut this year, according to the National Party.

Simon Bridges delivers his speech

Simon Bridges delivers his Budget speech. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Parliament has been sitting under urgency to pass legislation needed to implement the government's first Wellbeing budget.

The first details of which leaked out three days ago after the National Party accessed them by typing a simple search on the Treasury website, sparking a police investigation.

But today it was absentee fathers and more petrol price rises that dominated the political debate.

While changes to the welfare system - described by the Opposition as a Budget win for absentee dads - have dominated the House today, it was petrol tax increases that came up first.

Legislation that would take money of Kiwis pockets... another $0.35 cents a litre from July.

The irony of that wasn't lost on National's transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith.

"This has been a botched Budget in many respects and so once more we've talked about wellbeing, there's been lots of glossy pictures and lots of hype, but the first bill they pass is an increase in tax for motorists,'' he said.

National has strongly opposed the Government's decision to scrap a sanction for sole parents who do not identify the liable parent of a child.

Its social development spokesperson Louise Upston said the coalition was hell bent on giving absentee fathers a free pass.

"What it means is Dads get to avoid being responsible financially for their children, and that for us is a bottom line. At the end of the day parents need to be responsible for their kids and the only tax cut this government has given this year is for deadbeat Dads,'' she said.

But the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern absolutely denies that.

"That is just absolutely wrong, it's hard to know where to start to unpick that because it's just wrong,'' she said.

"Ultimately what we have is removed a sanction that basically meant sole parents would have their benefit rate deducted and reduced down if they didn't name the father of their child and there might be many reasons why that is the case, so I don't know how they can say that represents a tax break for someone.''

The social welfare reforms being debated today also include indexing benefit increases to wage increases and lifing abatement thresholds to allow beneficiaries to work more hours before reductions kick in.

Ms Upston's colleague Joanne Hayes told the House the bill simply supports more people to stay on benefits.

Ms Hayes said as a single mother she named the father of her children when getting a benefit, even though she didn't want him in their lives.

"Because the father of my child needed to take responsibility and needed to pay the state,'' she said.

Ms Hayes said this bill is not about improving wellbeing.

"We will see a lift in the rates of those people that are going to young women, and it will be young women who end up being on that benefit, there will be sole parents sitting out there who are actually co-habitating with the father of their children, and he will pay nothing. And I can say that confidently because I know the areas where it happens, some of those I know them. And it's wrong and they should be naming that Dad.''

But the Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said this was an important first step in overhauling a broken welfare system.

And she accused National of beneficiary-bashing.

"You are not allowing people to live with dignity if you continue to stigmatise them. If you continue to shame people by setting them up against workers - that is not allowing them to live with dignity,'' Ms Davidson said.

A raft of legislation still needs to be debated in Parliament, including a new tourism levy and the first stages of an amendment to the Education bill that will scrap school donations for decile 1 to 7 schools - ensuring MPs will be stuck in Wellington until at least tomorrow.

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