Speaker supports baby-friendly Parliament
The new Speaker of the House is making good on his promise to make Parliament more family friendly.
Trevor Mallard shared his seat with Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime’s three-month-old baby Heeni on Wednesday evening.
Mallard looked after the baby while members debated a bill to extend paid parental leave from 18 weeks to 22 weeks in July, and to 26 weeks by July 2020.
Heeni sat calmly, while Mallard rocked the baby on his lap.
The display came a day after Mallard said some aspects of Parliament needed to be modernised and to become more family friendly.
And earlier, Prime breastfed her baby girl in the debating chamber.
Prime is one of the first MPs to breastfeed in the chamber.
Former National MP Katherine Rich said she breastfed her baby Georgia in the House in 2002.
A special room near the chamber was established in the 1983 to allow women to breastfeed, thanks to former National MP Ruth Richardson. And in the 1990s Parliament established a childcare centre.
Australian Senator Larissa Waters made history earlier this year when she breastfed her infant inside Australian Parliament.
At the time, Stuff asked the Office of the Clark whether the same could happen in New Zealand. While there was no standing order on the subject of breastfeeding, MPs usually left the chamber to breastfeed.
And recently the committee amended the standing orders to allow Heeni, and other MPs’ babies to come into the House.
Labour’s Jenny Salesa spoke on the bill before the House while Mallard was holding Heeni.
‘‘The Paid Parental Leave and Employment bill is about recognising the importance of bonding between infants and their parents, between Speakers of the House and infants,’’ Salesa said. ‘‘It is about recognising our children have the best possible start in life, it is about doing what is right.’’
She finished by saying she hoped Mallard was as patient with the members as he was with the baby.