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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 37

Mrs MAY (11:19 AM) —On behalf of the Standing Committee on Procedure I present the committee’s report entitled Options for nursing mothers, together with the minutes of proceedings.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

Mrs MAY —by leave—I am pleased to present this report on behalf of the Procedure Committee. I am conscious this morning that time is limited, so I will keep my remarks brief.

On 15 February 2007 the Standing Committee on Procedure was asked to consider a proposal to allow nursing mothers a proxy vote. While the committee spent considerable time discussing this proposal, it could not reach a unanimous decision either in support of or against proxy voting. A significant obstacle for a number of committee members was the concern that a somewhat dangerous precedent could be established by introducing proxy voting, even on a limited basis, for nursing mothers in the House of Representatives.

Given the level of dissent, the committee resolved to present a report detailing the arguments for and against the proposal. Perhaps more importantly, this report represents an acknowledgement that women in the House of Representatives face a level of difficulty when nursing newborn infants. While women themselves are not necessarily calling for any special attention, it is important that the House appreciates women’s dual roles in the early months of their children’s lives and that some accommodating measures be implemented. This could be in the form of a blanket allowance of three months maternity leave or the provision of adequate child care in the House. The committee sincerely hopes this report will encourage greater awareness and discussion of the issue.

On a personal note, as chairman of the Procedure Committee I would like to extend thanks to all the women of the House who gave me the time to talk through their concerns with this proposal. In fact, the women of the House were not seeking any changes. They recognise the difficulty they have with newborn infants, but I think all of them were also very much aware of their commitment to the parliament and to the job that they have undertaken. That is not to say that we cannot in the future look at some ways in which we can assist nursing mothers who return to the parliament with young children—but that is for a later date and for further discussion.

I would like to acknowledge Madam Deputy Speaker Bishop, who is a member of my committee and took part in the deliberations undertaken by the committee. I would also like to thank my deputy chair, the member for Banks, for his support during this inquiry, and I thank the committee secretariat for their help in putting the report together. I commend the report to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BK Bishop)—Does the member for McPherson wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?

Mrs MAY —I move:

That the House take note of the report.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —In accordance with standing order 39(c), the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.