Speaker sup­ports baby-friendly Par­lia­ment

Marlborough Express - - NEWS - LAURA WALTERS

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.

Trevor Mal­lard

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