Following the controversy in the Victorian Parliament over Labor MP Kirstie Marshall breast-feeding her baby in the chamber, the Australian Democrats have proposed changes to the Standing Orders in the Senate.
This is the text of a media release by Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, Australian Democrats spokesperson for Work and Family.
Standing Orders may allow breastfeeding in the Senate
Breastfeeding will be allowed in the Australian Senate if a Procedure Committee recommendation, initiated by the Australian Democrats, is adopted by the Senate when it returns this month.
The Procedure Committee considered this change after Senator Natasha Stott Despoja gave notice of a motion to change the Standing Orders.
Senator Stott Despoja’s motion was lodged on March 19 and the proposal to change Standing Order 175 subsequently referred to the President on March 24.
The Procedure Committee has recommended that an extra paragraph be added after Standing Order 175(2), which prohibits any person ‘other than a senator, a clerk at the table or an officer attending on the Senate’ from attending ‘a meeting of the Senate in private session’ or entering ‘any part of the Senate chamber reserved for senators while the Senate is sitting’.
The new paragraph, 175(3), would read ‘Paragraph (2) does not apply in respect of a senator breastfeeding an infant’.
“This change will update the Senate Standing Orders and bring them into line with many workplaces around Australia, including two State Parliaments,” said Senator Stott Despoja.
“Changes have recently been made in both the Victorian Parliament and the ACT Legislative Assembly to allow breastfeeding.
“It is time for the Australian Senate also to modernise its rules, and I look forward to Senators taking this opportunity when the Procedure Committee’s recommendation is voted on.
“For many years, I have advocated for the right of women to breastfeed in public places, including the workplace.
“It is disappointing that women still face discrimination and harassment for the simple, natural act of breastfeeding their baby,” concluded Senator Stott Despoja.
Breastfeeding is considered to protect babies from illness and infection, provide the perfect food for a growing baby, aid the development of the eyesight, speech and intelligence of babies, lower the risk of cot death, and reduce the likelihood of allergies (Source: Australian Breastfeeding Association).
Changes have recently been made in both the Victorian and ACT Parliaments to allow breastfeeding. While the Victorian Parliament changed its rules to allow breastfeeding in Parliament at the Speaker’s discretion, the ACT Legislative Assembly changed its Standing Orders to allow breastfeeding in the chamber, becoming the first state or territory to allow breastfeeding without permission from the Speaker.