Dom Post on babies in Parliament

May 22nd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom post editorial:

Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta has fired a broadside at Parliament’s rules after she found herself stuck in the debating chamber late at night with her 5-month-old baby.

She was aiming at the wrong target.

Instead of having Parliament’s standing orders in her sights, she should have trained them on her party colleagues.

Labour talks the talk on family-friendly workplaces, but it appears it is not so good at walking the walk when it comes to helping a breastfeeding colleague, even one as senior and respected as Ms Mahuta.

Exactly. They have 9 proxies they can use every day. They have only one MP with an infant. Plus as they are not in Government, they can even vote with reduced numbers without consequence.

If Ms Mahuta felt she should be among those whose presence was not required, then the correct place for her to have directed her complaint was chief whip Chris Hipkins, who organises the roster and should have been alert to the high likelihood of Parliament going into urgency after Thursday’s Budget, and her Labour colleagues.

All it would have taken for her to have the night off would have been for Mr Hipkins to give her priority or for just one of those Labour MPs who was excused to have offered to step in and take her place. Surely, Ms Mahuta would have returned the favour when her circumstances allowed?

To be fair to Hipkins, it has been reported she originally had leave for Friday, but asked to swap it. I’m not sure all the blame is with the Whips. To some degree what we are seeing is a continuation of Labour’s internal warring – it is no coincidence that Mahuta is part of the marginalised Cunliffe faction and she has no love for the party leadership and whips after her demotion.

After Ms Mahuta’s complaint, Speaker David Carter is examining whether even more can be done. In the meantime, Labour, the champion of family-friendly workplaces, can help Ms Mahuta no end by practising what it preaches.

A fair point.


October 27th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins has backed a woman ordered out of court for breastfeeding, saying she “could not think of anywhere” it would be considered offensive.

Neither can I. Arguably it could be thought a bit inappropriate at a funeral, but wouldn’t bother me (especially if ti was my funeral!). At a recent funeral, there were a couple of babies there and I thought it was actually quite nice to be reminded of new life, as we celebrated someone’s life and mourned their death.

Ms Collins was responding to the decision by Judge Kevin Phillips to eject Wanaka woman Catherine Owen from Queenstown District Court on Wednesday.

The minister said that as a mother who had breastfed, “it’s better to feed a child than let a child cry”.

“I obviously can’t comment on what judges do in their courts … [they] are the masters and mistresses of their courts.

“But I would have thought that most people are not offended at the sight of a mother breastfeeding a little baby and I can’t think of anywhere this is considered to be offensive.

“There is nothing … unusual about it; they should be congratulated.”

Judge Phillips questioned why there was “a woman breastfeeding in my courtroom”. Ms Owen rose to take her daughter to the public waiting area as she was being approached by the bailiff.

A good answer would have been “As I wish to observe the trial, as members of the public have the right to do, and my baby is hungry”.

Breast v Bottle

February 8th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A mother who bottle-feeds her son says she has been repeatedly harassed by other mothers in public – and is now embarrassed to go to the supermarket for his formula.

Kate Rhodes, 24, of Manukau, says she has been told off, harassed and accused of being a bad mother while bottle-feeding her 6-month-old son, Dylan.

“It’s ridiculous how much grief people get just for having a bottle. Two weeks ago I was at the mall in the food court and my son started to cry.

“I gave him a bottle and a lady came up to me and said it’s a really bad look and it’s not a good way to represent New Zealand parents.

“I was just like, ‘are you serious?’. I told her to eff off.”

Well done Kate Rhodes.

My views on this issue are probably about as valid as on home birthing, but Eleanor Black at Pundit has summed it up very well:

Good grief. Piri Weepu is shown bottle-feeding his six-month-old daughter Taylor on an anti-smoking ad, and somehow this image of nurturing and positive fathering is construed as an attack on breastfeeding. As my nearly-three-year-old would say, “What?!”

Black sumarises how the anti-smoking ad was altered after complaints to remove the two seconds of Weepu bottle-feeding his daughter, and then notes:

First the obvious problems with the argument that this two seconds of bottle-feeding is an attack on breastfeeding. How do we know by simply looking at the image that Weepu is not giving his baby expressed mother’s milk? How do we know that his partner — like many women — didn’t try very hard to make breastfeeding work but found she couldn’t? Why would anyone see the image of a father helping with the baby care, feeding his child and nurturing her, and not think, “How lovely” instead of “How outrageous”?

98% of people did think how lovely.

And why do we parents have to put up with another scolding from well-meaning bossyboots in the health sector? Come on — give us some credit for being able to distinguish between something we see on TV and the practices we choose to employ in our own homes, for being able to assess the available information and make an informed decision that works for us and our families. We are not imbeciles, despite what you all seem to think. This coddling gets tiresome.


Is there a problem?

March 24th, 2008 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

Like many, I have absolutely no problem with the proposition that employees working a full eight hours should have a meal break and a couple of (paid) rest breaks.  And the same goes for allowing breastfeeding at work.

What I am not sure about is whether there is enough of a problem, that legislation is needed, as announced by the Government.

I can’t recall an employment contract for FT staff which does not include meal breaks and rest breaks. Whether employees take them is another matter. At Wellington Newspapers the “tea lady” literally would come around and everyone would have a break. At Red Cross we actually gathered in the staff room and our ten minute breaks sometimes stretched on to half an hour as the conversation was always so good.

At Parliament though, there was no communal tea breaks, and even the meal breaks would often end up as 10 minutes at your desk with sandwiches as you continued to work.  However that was by choice, and generally you were treated as an adult to manage your own time so if one disappeared for a two hour lunch or a 45 minute coffee at Astoria, no one complained so long as you got the job done.

I’d be interested in knowing how many complaints have employment authorities had over an employer not allowing meal or tea breaks? Also is there any case law so to speak from employment tribunals that such breaks must be provided even if not in an employment contract?

Like I said, I have no problem with making it explicit in law, but is this a problem that needs solving?

As for breast feeding at work, I ask the same question? Has there ever been a complaint filed with an employment authority that an employer told an employee she can’t take a few minutes off to express, or to feed their babies if they are brought into work?

The employers I know tend to be like most people in society, and go ga-ga when someone has their babies in at work, and they’ll happily queue up for the right to hold the baby, and talk baby talk to it.

So again I just ask is there a problem which needs solving.  Certainly not all employers are good employers, but has there been reported problems in this area?

The one area I have some concern over the announced requirement to set aside breastfeeding facilities. Big corporates will have no problems doing this, and probably already are. But what about the dairy owner or the small business owner with just four staff. The cost of putting in place a facility that may never be used could be considerable. Will all 100,000+ employers in NZ be audited over the adequacy of their breast feeding facilities by a new inspection unit?

The proposed law should certainly be sent through to select committee for scrutiny. But it would be worth MPs asking for proof of the extent of the problem that this law is “solving”, and most of all with regard to the breast feeding facilities, a caution that a legislated requirement doesn’t end up with costs well in excess of any benefits.

I have a suspicion that if there was a widespread problem with employees not getting meal breaks and being banned from breast feeding, we would have seen action before Labour’s ninth year of office, hence this may be about a sound good solution looking for a problem. Having said that, that doesn’t mean the legislation is necessarily without merit.