Key attacks Cunliffe over child benefit plan

Prime Minister John Key has launched a scathing attack on Labour leader David Cunliffe's credibility, calling him "tricky" and questioning whether he's been telling the public the truth.

Speaking on TV3's Firstline this morning about Labour's $60-a-week child payment scheme, Mr Key accepted that some elements of the new policy have "merit".

But he went on to say it was unfunded and not well targeted, before accusing Mr Cunliffe of "misleading New Zealanders" over the scheme.

He said Mr Cunliffe claimed the benefit would be paid out for the first year of the baby's life, as long as you earn under $150,000.

But the money starts being paid only once paid parental leave ends.

"David Cunliffe's developing a reputation around Parliament for being very tricky," Mr Key said.

"He [Cunliffe] just needs to learn to be up front with the public so they can actually trust his word.

"I read his speeches and now after a number of examples of this, I really question whether the guy is telling me the truth ..."

Yesterday (Tue), Mr Key said the Government will "have a look" at extending paid parental leave to beyond 14 weeks as early as the middle of this year.

On Firstline this morning Mr Key denied imitating Labour's policies.

"Paid parental leave is one of those things where we've always said, under the right conditions, when we can afford it, of course there's a case to extend that a bit. At the moment we pay 14 weeks; could that go out a bit more? My view is probably yes."

Given the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes, coupled with the global financial crisis, and "racking up massive debts" to pay for existing programmes, Mr Key said there was no credible argument to increase paid parental leave before now.

He said it came down to a matter of priorities.

"You can go to 26 weeks of paid parental leave, but are you going to have as much money to spend on new cancer drugs that come? Or maybe more police officers, or maybe other support for other people?

"I think you've got to get your balance right, and in my view we will get that balance right, and the Labour Party is not."


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