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Govt defends domestic violence legislation u-turn

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 7/03/2017

© RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King The government is defending making a last-minute flip-flop to support legislation to give victims of domestic violence paid leave from work.

The member's bill - which gives victims 10 days' paid leave - was already set to pass its first reading today with support from all the other parties.

National's change of heart means the bill will now have unanimous support.

The government had previously argued the bill would impose significant extra costs on businesses.

Minister of Justice Amy Adams said "nothing's changed" in that regard.

"We still have concerns about the bill as it's drafted."

But she said the government had decided to support the bill at its first reading after having a look at it in the "wider context" of its work to support victims of family violence.

"And as a part of that, we think it's worthwhile having a good, constructive debate at select committee."

The government's about-face came just hours after New Zealand First announced its support for the legislation, giving the bill the numbers to pass without National.

NZ First's labour spokesperson, Clayton Mitchell, said he thought the government was waiting to see how it would vote.

He said the government changed their position after realising they were on the losing side.

"Timing is everything ... they don't want to be the only lonely person on the cross benches."

But Ms Adams denied that had anything to do with the government's decision, saying she "wasn't aware" of New Zealand First's position.

She rejected claims the government was afraid it could look out of touch if it was the only party to oppose the bill.

"This government's got an incredibly good track record on family violence, actually. I've made it my number one priority as justice minister."

The bill's promoter, Green MP Jan Logie, said it was fantastic National had changed its mind. She hoped the legislation would be given a fair hearing in select committee.

"We can make a real difference," she said.

"It's not hyperbole to say that we can actually save lives if we get this right."

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