More on babies in Parliament

May 21st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Kate Chapman at Stuff reports:

Labour MP wants better provisions for breastfeeding mothers after she was forced to stay in with her young daughter until midnight on Friday.

The Business Committee, which oversees the running of Parliament, is set to consider the situation at its next meeting.

Parliament sat under urgency until midnight Friday and late on Saturday as the Government rushed through a raft of Budget-related legislation.

Mahuta was given leave on Thursday night and most of the day on Friday, but she was required to be in Parliament from 9pm until midnight on Friday.

Labour whip said Mahuta didn’t have to be in the debating chamber, just the parliamentary buildings.

That is a key revelation. Mahuta could have remained in her office with her baby. There was no requirement at all for her to be in the chamber. So the question has to be asked, did she go down in the chamber with her baby just as a publicity stunt to protest having to be in Parliament at all at that time?

I’m all for MPs being able to take babies into the House, but it is important to note that MPs are not required to be in the House for votes. They merely have to be in the parliamentary precinct.

But Mahuta said it was “silly” she had to take her five-month-old daughter Niua-Cybele to work that late just to make up numbers.

She had raised the matter with Speaker David Carter and Hipkins and expected something to be done.

“I was concerned that provisions weren’t made for nursing mums during urgency in terms of leave numbers … no child should be in the workplace from nine till midnight,” she said.

I understand (my source may be wrong) that Mahuta in fact offered to do the Friday shift. That she was originally rostered on for Thursday, and wanted to swap. So again I am not sure that Mahuta was forced to be there on Friday night.

Now don’t get me wrong. being a working mum is damn hard, and a working MP mum harder than most. I would expect that party whips would do everything possible to give one of their 25% proxies to an MP who is caring for an infant for late night sessions. But we do not know the full details of why Mahuta was rostered on for Friday night. As I said, I understand she was originally rostered on for Thursday, and did a swap.

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key does not believe Parliament’s hours should be reduced to make it more “family friendly”, saying having children while in Parliament was “challenging but do-able” and it was up to each party to ensure nursing mothers had the support and time out needed.

Unless there was a huge explosion in the number of MPs with infants, the 25% proxy allocation to each party should be more than adequate to allow parents with infants to have flexibility with their hours.

Speaker David Carter is considering introducing special leave provisions for nursing mothers after Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta was in Parliament with her baby until midnight on Friday because of urgency. She told the Speaker it was unfair to expect nursing mothers to be in Parliament late into the night.

Mr Key said it was up to the Speaker to decide on any new rules, but it was possible for parties to arrange leave to give priority to those who most needed it, such as nursing mothers. Parties can have one quarter of their MPs away at any time without losing votes in Parliament.

He said it was up to the Speaker to decide whether to formally allow women to take babies into the House.

It isn’t just up to the Speaker. He can not unilaterally change . The committee would need to recommend a change to to change the proxy rules, and the House would need to agree to it – probably by way of a sessional order.

In terms of whether infants are allowed in the House, the rules seem unclear. I can’t find a Speaker’s Ruling on this issue. The preferred approach would be to amend standing orders to make it clear this is allowed, but in the absence of an explicit change I think the Speaker can show some common sense discretion. However let’s be very clear – ultimately the rules of Parliament are not decided by the Speaker, but by the House. He is the House’s servant, not its master.

Labour whip Chris Hipkins said Ms Mahuta had been given significant amounts of leave but there was extra pressure on leave during urgency. Ms Mahuta had agreed to work on Friday night after she was given leave for Thursday.

Oh I should have read this article first. This backs up the point I was making above. Mahuta chose to work Friday night instead of Thursday.

He had taken her off the speaking roster after she told him she had to bring the baby to Parliament.

So again, her decision to go down to the House with her baby was a voluntary one – presumably to gain publicity.

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29 Responses to “More on babies in Parliament”

  1. dime (10,095 comments) says:

    *shakes head*

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  2. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    So she either (a) misunderstood the requirement to be in the house, or (b) was being a dick.

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  3. Peter (1,723 comments) says:

    We have enough babies in parliament.

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  4. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    I don’t think kids should be anywhere near parliament. Why should parliament be any different to another workplace? You don’t see many infants on construction sites or in private sector offices because their parents are too useless to arrange alternative care.

    Many large employers have a creche for the children of their workers, where the kids have to go during working hours. That should be where kids are kept in parliament, not in the offices or the debating chamber distracting people from doing their work. I think that there is no excuse for a kid to be around the office, or in the debating chamber. The kid should either be in the creche or at home. And if the mother can’t handle that requirement then she isn’t suitable to do the job. But I guess we knew that anyway.

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  5. mikemikemikemike (331 comments) says:

    “being a working mum is damn hard, and a working MP mum harder than most” – seriously?? I know plenty of women who do far more productive (and infintely ‘harder’) jobs for far less and still manage to do it without all the bullshit this pillock and others like her bring with them.

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  6. Ed Snack (1,925 comments) says:

    Perhaps the speaker should consider making sure that there are any adults in the place before worrying too much about babies.

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  7. Bob R (1,387 comments) says:

    Agree, I’m all in favour of family friendly policies to avoid the coming Idiocracy*, but this does seem a bit of a publicity stunt.

    * http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10450313

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  8. Dennis Horne (2,403 comments) says:

    When I was at Otago there was, I think, one professor of law, Guest, father of the chap who dobbed in Bain. Now there’s probably 10.

    More and more law and lawyers and fewer and fewer people knowing how to behave.

    A decent society depends on decent people not a plethora of rules and regulations … that can never keep up with the smart arses. We’re turning ourselves into prisoners.

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  9. Keeping Stock (10,406 comments) says:

    @ RRM – neither of the options you lay out reflect well on Ms Mahuta.

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  10. mara (794 comments) says:

    Either a political stunt or she is too disorganised, too poor to hire a minder, hasn’t heard of ebm via bottle or doesn’t have any friends or family. Stupid, transparent woman! To be ignored.

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  11. Kleva Kiwi (289 comments) says:

    Where was the father in this whole episode…

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  12. dubya (243 comments) says:

    Bloody hell, did she actually get her tits out? No wonder poor Chris Finlayson couldn’t get any sleep Friday night, scarred for life I imagine…

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  13. alloytoo (571 comments) says:

    Can’t she afford childcare, or as others have asked, where is the father or extended family?

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  14. Kea (13,352 comments) says:

    Yet more crying out for special rights & priveledge for women. Just what we need !

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  15. kowtow (8,733 comments) says:

    She should get whatever she wants.

    This is about equality and love.

    If parliament can legislate homo marriage in the name of equality and love then it can do anything.

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  16. Warren Murray (313 comments) says:

    Its a stunt. She wants special rules when it appears from Chris Hipkins comments, none are needed. Points to inflated sense of entitlement.

    Im appalled that she has chosen to make her infant a prop for a totally unworthy stunt. it’s shameful.

    This also shows the tension in Labour, as Chris isnt giving a ringing endorsement for what she is asking for. She’s gone over his head.

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  17. Monique Angel (295 comments) says:

    You can’t have babies in meetings. It’s far too distracting. Oh the horror: Nipple meet baby captured for all time on Parliament TV. And if it’s not covered off in the the comprehensive handbook Roberts Rules of Order then it probably is a matter that doesn’t need to be addressed.
    What a Circus.

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  18. tvb (4,494 comments) says:

    There was a fuss in the Australian Parliament about a woman MP being denied a pair to attend to a sick child. And by sheer coincidence Ms Mahuta makes her own fuss at the same time.

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  19. Morgy (172 comments) says:

    Babies should not be allowed in the house. Simple. FFS when this type of conversation becomes serious, it says a lot about perspective in this country.

    Mothers/fathers with kids whilst at work in Parliament sure, but in the house? No.

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  20. david (2,561 comments) says:

    Pure, unadulterated grandstanding.

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  21. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    The last time I looked opera singers, coal miners, bus drivers and TV news readers don’t have their little babies with them while they are working.

    Not because of any hegemony of oppression by misogynist male bastards.

    Because it is simply not practical to do those things with a dependant baby in your arm.

    I am all for the normalisation of breastfeeding in public (because you wouldn’t want to eat your lunch hiding in a public toilet, so why should my baby?) but this kind of circus is just stupid.

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  22. campit (467 comments) says:

    As an aside, why did Parliament have to sit under urgency on Friday and Saturday, then have no sitting days at all this week? Presumably the “urgent” legislation has been in the pipeline for a while. Who determines the sitting days? Can’t they be changed at short notice?

    [DPF: The House sitting calendar is set at the end of the previous year and changing it is basically never done outside emergencies. Many official trips and the like are planned for recesses.]

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  23. dime (10,095 comments) says:

    is this the beginnings of some new private members bill? something that will lead to more osts placed on business and make it harder for mums/ women under 40 to get jobs..

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  24. Kea (13,352 comments) says:

    Like all right minded people I consider it a grave mistake to allow women the vote. I did however consider it ok for them to be elected representatives. I have reflected on that view and now consider women should have no formal involvement in the political process. The damage they cause is just too great.

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  25. dime (10,095 comments) says:

    Kea – amen!

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  26. Kea (13,352 comments) says:

    dime, don’t get too excited. They will still run the country (when I am supreme dictator) by controlling the men in power, like they always have. ;)

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  27. Flyingkiwi9 (54 comments) says:

    She is effectively complaining that as an MP, she has too work late and thinks its silly because she has a child.

    I can’t believe people like her are one maybe two elections away from running an entire country.

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  28. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    But Kea, surely you don’t want the country run by impulsive and emotional beings? ;-)

    >> Kea (4,276) Says:
    May 16th, 2013 at 11:52 am
    Guys react on impulse and emotion, while women plan & scheme.

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  29. Mike78 (80 comments) says:

    Niua-Cybele. #facepalm. What sort of name is that….

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