Western Australian MPs will soon be allowed to breastfeed their children on the floor of state parliament after a fiery debate on the issue – but bottle feeding will still be banned.
Politicians voted to change the state parliament’s standing orders to allow breastfeeding as part of a new trial.
Bottle feeding ban labelled ‘discriminatory’
An amendment put forward by WA Nationals leader Mia Davies, that would also allow bottle-feeding on the floor of the Parliament, was voted down.
“There are actually mothers that cannot or don’t choose to breastfeed,” Ms Davies told Parliament.
“It is not only fathers … there are women that have to, or choose to, bottle-feed their babies and they should not be excluded.”
Liberal MP Liza Harvey said that to allow breastfeeding but not bottle-feeding was discriminatory.
“This [amendment to allow bottle-feeding] is not anti-women, it is not anti-breastfeeding, it is actually providing an opportunity for mothers and fathers to nurture their dependent children free of any discrimination in this chamber,” Ms Harvey said.
“Our party room were unanimous in supporting both the ability to allow babies to be breastfed in this chamber, and the inclusion of bottle-fed babies for women who can’t breastfeed or indeed for single dads or same-sex dads.”
Breastfeeding discrimination unlawful
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Discrimination Claims, said he was surprised that breastfeeding was still an issue in state and federal parliaments.
“It is unlawful to discriminate against a woman who is breastfeeding or expressing milk, whether they be at work, or in a cafe or restaurant, or on a bus or train,” he said.
“Breastfeeding is a natural and normal thing to do – so I don’t understand why our state and federal parliaments have had so much difficulty in accommodating new mums.
“Surely our politicians have got far more important things to be discussing in parliament than whether an MP or Senator takes five or ten minutes to feed their hungry bub.”
Trailblazers who have breastfed in parliament
In 2017, Greens MP Larissa Waters made history by becoming the first politician to breastfeed her baby in federal parliament.
She put forward a motion in the Senate while breastfeeding her baby daughter Alia Joy.
Ms Waters was praised on social media for her multi-tasking abilities and for helping pave the way for more women to be allowed to breastfeed at work.
Also during 2017, Greens MP Ellen Sandell breastfed her baby Ada in the Victorian Parliament – the first to do so since Kirstie Marshall was famously ejected in 2003.
Ms Marshall, an Olympic skier-turned-Labor MP, was removed from the chamber after breastfeeding her 11-day-old daughter.
And last year, Labor MP Brittany Lauga became the first woman to breastfeed her baby in the Queensland State Parliament.
Ms Lauga sat with three-and-a-half-month-old Odette on her lap during the first sitting of parliament.
Reads more about breastfeeding discrimination
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