Labour Party has met with another round of bewilderment, if not a jolt; from the National Party in the 52nd Parliament, this time on the paid parental leave.

There are already more than a couple of instances in this new parliament where the Labour Party had to experience bewilderment over the jigs popped up by the National Party, seemingly almost at their will.

The latest instance is of jostling over the paid parental leave, where the National Party had chosen to bring an amendment seeking to allow both parents, instead of one as in the current bill, to be eligible for state-sponsored parental leave at the time of birth of the child.

While parents would be relishing this opportunity of getting some extra help to support them through the pain of childbearing, regardless of where this help would come from, Labour Party is struggling to cope with this seemingly deceptive encroachment by National Party into the territory of social-welfare, which the Labour Party so earnestly treats as its own.

The bill originally introduced in the last parliament seeking to extend paid parental leave from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks had the support of major parties, barring the National Party which vetoed the bill citing financial reasons.

Since then Labour has thrown a lot of dirt on the National Party and pledged to include the extension of paid parental leave period as an integral part of its first 100 days program, if in government.

Earlier this month on November 6, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the government would be re-introducing in the parliament as a matter of urgency

New parents will be entitled to an extra four weeks of Paid Parental Leave (PPL) by July 2018 under changes promised by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The initial change will take entitlements to 22 weeks and a further extension to 26 weeks will take place by 2020.

National proposes amendment

On Tuesday, November 14, the National Party announced the intention of bringing an amendment to the bill that would let both parents take their paid leave together.

Amy Adams, the Party spokesperson for Workplace Relations and Safety, said: “There are many instances where families would prefer both parents to be able to take leave at the same time, because of their particular circumstances.”

“For example, if they have had twins, a caesarean, or a sick child,” Ms Adams further added.

Labour adamant to vote down the amendment

However, the Labour Party had declared its intentions to not accept National’s suggestion of including eligibility for both parents for the paid parental leave, in the process falling into the trap of “state telling its people what is best for their children.”

"Our concern with that is the likelihood it would reduce the amount of time that baby has to bond with their primary caregiver," said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

National has been quick to use this opportunity to allege that the Labour party has been “dogmatic” in its refusal as their amendment will only provide parents with more options and flexibility.

The age-old war of narratives

Evidently, this is the age-old war of narratives where National often traps Labour Party for “telling its people what’s best for them” and Labour Party often claims sole ownership over social-welfare schemes.

In this case, the trap being of rejecting an idea that seemingly appears good and ticks all boxes for any social welfare policy – the genuine intention of helping those who desperately need it.

Given, both the National and the Labour Party would be trying to advocate ideas and policies what they believe are good for New Zealanders in the new parliament; a contest is imminent. 

However, the age-old war of narratives, based on each Party’s respective ideological position was not expected so soon in the new parliament.

In this regard, Labour Party would need to demonstrate a little bit more political ingenuity in not falling into the old trap and find ways of sidestepping the pop-ups laid by the National Party.