Labour promises $60 a week for babies

David Cunliffe
David Cunliffe
Labour leader David Cunliffe has set out a policy to give most parents of new born babies a payment of $60 a week until that baby turns 1, while those on middle and lower incomes will continue to receive the payment until the child turns 3.

In his State of the Nation address in Auckland this afternoon, Mr Cunliffe also set out a raft of other measures for parents of young children, including free antenatal classes for all first time mothers, and extending early childhood education subsidies from 20 free hours a week to 25 hours.

Paid parental leave will also be extended from 14 to 26 weeks - a feature which was already Labour Party policy.

The total package is expected to cost $147 million in its first year, 2015-2016, rising to $528 million by 2018/19. The child payments have been costed at $151 million in the first full year they apply of 2016/17, rising to $272 million by 2018/19.

Dubbed Best Start, the first year payments will apply for those with household incomes of less than $150,000 a year, which Labour estimates will be about 59,000 households or 95 per cent of children aged under one. The longer term payments for those on lower incomes would cover about 56 per cent of one and two year olds. It will apply to children born after April1 2016, if Labour forms the next Government.

Mr Cunliffe said the Childrens' Commissioner's expert panel report on Solutions to Child Poverty made it clear it was important to provide support to those with young children to help reduce poverty.

"Sixty dollars will make a real difference to the lives of struggling parents. For example, it will pay for a weekly supply of nappies and baby food."

The Children's Commissioner report had recommended a universal child payment until the child turned six with ongoing support for lower income families.

The payments replace the party's 2011 policy to extend the Working for Families in-work tax credit to beneficiary families.

Labour last week ditched its policies for GST-free fruit and vegetables and an income tax free threshold, which it said freed up about $1.5 billion in its policy platform.

Mr Cunliffe spoke to a packed house of about 400 at the Kelston Girls' College hall today.

He spoke about his desire to build an economy that delivered for all New Zealanders.

"They are told things are getting better, but in their own lives they see prices going up while wages stay still. Too many people feel nervous about the monthly rates, power and insurance bills. Too many families are struggling even to cover the basics."

He said any Government had to put its resources where they would do most good, and confirmed Labour would "unashamedly" tax the wealthiest more to help pay for it.

"It's not good enough for a quarter of out kids to be growing up in poverty, or for many to lack access to support and education in their early years. We will fix this."

He said Labour would set out its wider programme of reforms in economic and social areas as the election year carried on.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce reacted swiftly on Twitter.

"Labour advises their spend-a-thon would resume immediately. Labour & Greens already an extra 3/4 a billion a year & it's not even end of Jan."

National-aligned blogger and pollster David Farrar quickly posted that the polices amounted to "turning families on $140,000 into beneficiaries".

"Welfare should be targeted at those most in need. A family on $140,000 with one child do not need our taxes. At the other end of the scale, this is a huge incentive to have more children if you are already on welfare."

He also said it appeared that backbench MPs would be eligible for the new payment.

"Yep, if a backbench MP gets pregnant (or their wife gets pregnant), then taxpayers will be paying them $60 a week welfare because they're in such dire need. Sickening."

But the policies met with approval from the Greens.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said, like her party's schools policies announced yesterday, Labour's Best Start plan drew from the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty report prepared for the Childrens' Commissioner in late 2012, and " show a real commitment to children".

"The Greens are fully behind them," said Mrs Turei.

"If we give our kids the best start in life, they will grow up happier and healthier, they will learn more, and contribute more to our communities and our economy."

By ignoring the report to the Children's Commissioner in its own policies, "John Key's Government has ignored the evidence and failed to address the issues that are holding our kids back".

United Future Leader Peter Dunne was lukewarm, saying the Best Start policy was "good in some parts, but not others".

He supported the extension of Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks which went some way toward his own policy to extend it to 12 months.

Mr Dunne also said the plan to provide free antenatal services, was " a positive step towards ensuring children get the best start in life".

However, he described the $60 a week "baby bonus" as "just a crass bribe".

"Using the funding committed to this policy could have been better used to cut tax rates, or to fund the further extension of Paid Parental Leave," he said.

 


Labour's 'Best Start' package

* $60 a week payment for the first year of a child's life, if parents earn less than $150,000. Will apply from April 2016.

* Ongoing $60 weekly payments for middle/lower income earners until the child turns three.

* Extend free early childhood education from 20 hours to 25 hours a week for over-3s.

* Extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks.

* free antenatal classes for all first time mothers.

Total cost: $147 million in 2015/16 rising to $528 million in $2018/19


- By Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald

Thread closed

This thread is now closed. Ed

Plan for our future

Jackie: I think"I've got mine" is a bad look, but it's a large part of National's neoliberal world view, it's also plain short sighted. I'm planning on retiring in New Zealand, and that means we have to have a functioning, vibrant economy - those kids you want to leave in poverty are our future, if we want to live out our lives comfortably we need to be able to invest our retirement savings and get a livable return on them, if the next generation ends up on the dole that wont help.

So it is in our interests for each and every child out there to get the best education possible, and that means making sure they escape the poverty trap, giving the rich neighbours a tax break and raising GST does not do that.

Irresponsible breeders

Te Jackle: Those children that are the product of so-called irresponsible breeding will be supporting the aging population, which will be a far higher percentage of the population in the future. It sounds that you have no children to support you in old age, which indicates that you have accumulated enough wealth to support yourself until your death. Since you don't want any state-assistance, I assume you won't be collecting a state pension.

That aside, unless you also never intend to retire, those offspring will be paying tax to fund your medical costs (unless of course you intend to pay for that privately), and for general things like road maintenance, police force, fire department and so on.

You may argue that the tax you paid over your working life was in order to pay for those things in your retirement, but if that's the case, it really does then negates your argument that your tax was paying for "irresponsible breeders".

I disagree with you Mike

On the point of tax cuts to JK's rich mates, I have made a responsible lifestyle choice and chose not to breed as I didn't want to be burdoned with a lifte time of costs, yet nine years of labour had seen me continually taxed in order to pay the child rearing costs of thousands of irresponsible parents who have chosen to breed and expect everyone else to raise their kids for them or at least assist, Labour also cunningly placed even more people on the welfare teat for nothing more than to secure votes, I chose to support myself and don't want anything to do with state assistance so JK's minimal tax cut actually went to the middle class sector who had been bled dry by clark and cullen, hardly rich mates but hard working responsible tax payers.

Oooops!

My mistake - this time! Apologies all round.

Not quite

Trev: to be fair the GST increase came later, it was instead created to pay for John Key's tax cuts for his 1% rich mates. If Labour and the greens got rid of National's tax cuts for the rich and used them to pay for education and child welfare I'd be quite happy (and for the record I've done quite well from National's misguided tax cut and my kids are way over 3).

Vote buying

Fungus Pudding: Do you also feel like complaining about the $15,000,000 that National threw to the Carisbrook Stadium Trust as a vote-catcher? Oh - I forgot. They then kindly raised GST up to 15% to compensate! 

Gee David, you're so kind

Very nice of you to throw everyone else's money around. If you didn't bother to take it in the first place, you wouldn't have to bother handing it out.

You have no idea where that money will end up. Pure, blatant vote buying, and I for one hope you never gain the treasury benches. 

Three-nil

I also agree with Lily. If you cannot afford something you don't buy it - and that includes children.

Why are successive governments hell bent on making us all pay for the lifestyle choices of others? $150k and you need a handout? No wonder this country is going broke.

And beneficiaries should not be aloud to breed. How selfish can you get, expecting others to raise your kids.

If you are on a taxpayer handout and get pregnant you should not receive any additional funding - any subsequent support should be in food or clothing etc. This lifestyle choice has got to stop.

Everyone's a beneficiary

All families receiving working for families are already beneficiaries so this just makes that situation even worse.I agree with Lily's comments on this. You can't just throw money at these problems - that's already being done and it's not working, apparently.

More terrible policy

I support and vote for Labour, but this is more terrible policy. This will be perceived by many as a reward for those who are irresponsible in how many children they have, and it provides excellent fodder for the Right to (falsely) claim that low-income families will have more children in order to earn more government income.
This money could have been more targeted - eliminating doctor and nurses fees for children under the age of 18, for example. Providing funding to schools to provide school lunches, school uniforms or school bus transport. If infant children were to be the focus, parental leave could be better funded by the government instead of leaving the burden with employers.
Other options include, education/work programmes that are targeted to help busy parents to gain better employment, better treatment and support for women with postnatal depression, or a revamped and properly-funded Plunket programme.
There are better options than rewarding people for having children they can't really afford.

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