Dowie scores twin suc­cesses

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In­ver­cargill MP Sarah Dowie has picked up a sig­nif­i­cant par­lia­men­tary chair­man­ship just hours af­ter the Gov­ern­ment ac­cepted a change she pro­posed to new parental leave law.

The se­cond-term MP was yes­ter­day elected un­op­posed to chair the ed­u­ca­tion and work­force se­lect com­mit­tee.

This rep­re­sents a nod from the Gov­ern­ment as well as her Op­po­si­tion col­leagues for a po­si­tion that car­ries an ex­pec­ta­tion of pro­ce­dural fair­ness.

And it came af­ter a late-night suc­cess in the House af­ter she had iden­ti­fied an in­con­sis­tency in the bill, passed un­der ur­gency, to ex­tend parental leave.

The bill had ne­glected to match the in­crease in parental leave days with a pro­por­tional boost to ‘‘keep­ing-in-touch’’ days.

These are the num­ber of hours par­ents on parental leave can re­turn to work with­out for­feit­ing their en­ti­tle­ment.

Her pro­posed through the House.

Dowie said this had been a case of ex­tend­ing the olive branch to the Gov­ern­ment.

‘‘Ex­tend­ing the num­ber of keep­ing-in­touch days is great for par­ents and means they can main­tain the bal­ance be­tween time off to care for baby and the con­nec­tion with their work­place, with­out wor­ry­ing about los­ing their leave en­ti­tle­ments,’’ she said.

A par­ent will not be treated as hav­ing re­turned to work if they per­form 52 (up from 40) hours or fewer of paid work dur­ing their leave.

This kicks in when the leave in­creases from 18 to 22 weeks next July.

It will ex­tend to 64 hours when the leave in­creases again, to 26 weeks, in July 2020.

The keep­ing-in-touch hours, agreed be­tween the em­ployee and em­ployer, were not only use­ful for short, spe­cific han­dover tasks and train­ing ses­sions to keep skills up to date, she said.

It was also im­por­tant for the new par­ents not to find them­selves dis­con­nected from peer ca­ma­raderie at work. cor­rec­tion sailed

‘‘This amend­ment is a straight­for­ward tidy-up which the Gov­ern­ment should have done through a Cabi­net com­mit­tee be­fore rush­ing the bill through Par­lia­ment,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m glad that in this case the Gov­ern­ment has seen sense and adopted my change to the bill, al­though it is dis­ap­point­ing and sur­pris­ing that they have not taken up Na­tional’s other pro­posed change, which would have al­lowed both par­ents to take paid parental leave at the same time.’’

She felt hon­oured to be ac­cepted as a se­lect com­mit­tee chair­man.

In Fe­bru­ary, un­der the Na­tional ad­min­is­tra­tion, she had been pro­moted to chair the jus­tice and elec­torate com- mit­tee. She hoped her new po­si­tion re­flected a view that she had per­formed that role well.

‘‘I did have a very good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Labour, Greens and NZ First [MPs] and al­ways gave them a fair hear­ing.’’

The com­mit­tee’s in­box al­ready con­tains con­tentious ma­te­rial in planned re­place­ment of NCEA and the Gov­ern­ment’s free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion plans. Dowie said there was con­fu­sion around both.

‘‘I think [the sub­ject of] ed­u­ca­tion can be very ad­ver­sar­ial, but also there are op­por­tu­ni­ties to be col­lab­o­ra­tive and that’s the way I will look at it, if we can,’’ she said.


In­ver­cargill MP Sarah Dowie

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