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Catherine Delahunty speaks on the Paid Parental Leave Bill

Many people outside this House, no matter what happens to this bill, will remember that Sue Moroney, her party, and others of us have consistently supported the importance of paid parental leave at a reasonable and evidence-based level. Good on Sue and good on all who are supporting the bill tonight.
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He mihi nui ki a koutou katoa. Thank you very much for allowing me to speak on this bill.

As a grandmother, it is very close to my heart.

I know there are many parents, uncles, aunties, and others in the House tonight who understand the importance of what we are doing. Just as important as talking about war is talking about babies—just as important.

I would like to start by just acknowledging in clause 4 that the measure of a civilised society is how it treats its mothers and children, and so tonight should be the greatest opportunity we have had in a long time.

I would like to thank Sue Moroney for her commitment to this bill. It has been a difficult and arduous journey championing the member's bill, but I think many of us have appreciated it. What is more, many people outside this House, no matter what happens to this bill, will remember that Sue Moroney, her party, and others of us have consistently supported the importance of paid parental leave at a reasonable and evidence-based level. Good on Sue and good on all who are supporting the bill tonight.

I know that some of us have looked, in their contributions, to logic. They have wondered what the logic of the National Party position is. Well, I would not want to waste time on that. There is not any logic to the position, because basically there is no way to refute the evidence that has been presented to the select committee. There is no way to refute the economic investment argument, to refute the health argument, or to refute the common civilisation argument. There just is not. So basically, do not look for logic. You will be disappointed.

National knows that this bill is a good idea; it is just too mean to do it. Sometimes meanness overwhelms everything, and tonight, unfortunately—including the Supplementary Order Paper, which is a big compromise on behalf of the promoter of the bill—there is just too much meanness on one side of the House to be able to see it through.

And it will be remembered. It will be recalled that people in this country will see this as an opportunity, as we have taken opportunities in this House in my time of being here, that we have been proud of—all of us. Marriage equality was a great moment in this House, but this could be of equal importance—a great moment for our children, which some of us are prepared to support and others not. So it is pretty disappointing.

I would just like to talk briefly about the Supplementary Order Paper, because I can understand why the promoter of the bill has supported it. It is kind of difficult, though, to pick the most vulnerable in this situation, and I think the promoter of the bill, Sue Moroney, has done a good job of that, but actually sometimes it is the first baby that is the hardest. I am not saying twins or multiple births would ever be easy. I would never say that having a child with a disability was easy. I have family members who have that experience.

I would always support the idea that money, when you have got newborn children and little babies, makes a difference. We can romanticise it all we like, but the reality is we need money when we have got little children, because we need somebody to commit to those children and we need somebody to be able to afford to, in the whānau and in the family.

We have great literature and art around the world about the Madonna and child—great romanticism. Every Mother's Day there are cards full of saccharine lyrics about the wonders of motherhood, but what we really need is paid parental leave so that mothers or fathers—but particularly mothers at the beginning—can do the job. The job is to be there to feed that baby and to give that baby an opportunity to get the best start in life.

So it is really ironic that the mean-spirited Government will not support this, because we do not need the cards so much on Mother's Day. We do not need motherhood and apple pie. We need paid parental leave.

If this Parliament was prepared to support that and if the Government would support the rest of us, we would be demonstrating the respect that parents are due and that children are due.

Culturally it is interesting because historically around the world many societies regard the time when the child is born and is little as a sacred time. Having been through that myself, I understand what this is like. It is a unique time in the life of a family. It is the precious time that you want to give time to and you need to give time to. It is also a fragile time.

I really want to acknowledge Metiria Turei for pointing out that even with this bill we would not be meeting the needs of the poorest people on benefits because they would not be recipients of paid parental leave, and to remember the consequences for all of us when we do not look after everybody, every whānau, at this most fragile time.

In some cultures, the woman does not leave the House for 40 days. Wise women come to the House with food. The woman is regarded as being in a sacred space where she is leaning to bond with her child. In other cultures, there are only certain foods that she is allowed to eat.

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