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Lawmakers allowed to breastfeed in Australian Parliament

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2016 | 2:00 AM
In this September 15, 2015 file photo, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (bottom right) makes an address in Parliament after he was sworn in as prime minister in Canberra, Australia.

CANBERRA (AP):

Lawmakers can now breastfeed in the Australian Parliament after the government changed the rules yesterday to make politics more family-friendly. But none of the nursing mothers appeared keen to take up the opportunity.

The rule change in the House of Representatives, where 40 of the 150 members are women, on the first sitting day of the year means that lawmakers can now bring their babies into the chamber. Previously, children were confined to the public galleries or offices.

"No member, male or female, will ever be prevented from participating fully in the operation of the Parliament by reason of having the care of a baby," government minister Christopher Pyne said after moving a motion for change.

A parliamentary committee decided to examine rules for nursing mothers in the chamber after three representatives gave birth within a span of three months last year.

Opposition lawmaker Kate Ellis, whose son will have his first birthday in April, welcomed the change.

"While I support maximum flexibility for parents in the workplace, I have absolutely no plans to take my child into the chamber if I can avoid it," Ellis said in a statement.

Nursing mothers tending to their babies in their offices have been allowed to vote on legislation by proxy since 2008. This means that their votes are counted even though they are not in the chamber.