Breast might be best, but Liberal MP and new mum Kelly O’Dwyer has been told to express milk for her baby instead so her feeding doesn’t interfere with her parliamentary duties.
The advice came from the office of Chief Whip Scott Buchholz after Ms O’Dwyer missed two appearances in the parliamentary chamber because she was breastfeeding her baby. Fairfax Media reports the Member for Higgins, in Victoria, was furious at being told to consider expressing more milk rather than breastfeed her daughter, Olivia.
The standing orders – rules which govern behaviour of MPs in the chamber – are that new mothers who are breastfeeding are given a proxy vote in the Parliament so that they can vote without having to be present. Mr Buchholz apparently did not know about the exemption, which was introduced seven years ago after lobbying from Labour frontbencher and then-new mum Catherine King.
“You think you would have checked. This proxy vote has been in for seven years and I’m just sorry that Kelly’s come under some pressure about it and hopefully they’ve learnt what the rule is,” Ms King told ABC.
Ms O’Dwyer returned to Parliament in August after giving birth to Olivia in May 2015 and is one of three new mothers in the Parliament this year. She was twice unable to attend a division and a speaking obligation in the parliamentary chamber because she had just begun breastfeeding. Her office was asked whether she had considered expressing her breast milk instead.
MPs are permitted to breastfeed in the Senate, but not in the House of Representatives, where they are instead allowed to use a proxy vote.
This contrasts with Argentina, where politician Victoria Donda Perez was photographed breastfeeding during a parliamentary session recently. The picture went viral after it was published in a newspaper in Peru.
It also sets the Australian Parliament apart from other workplaces where employers are keen to do all they can to make the transition back to work as smooth as possible for working mums