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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (13 March) . . Page.. 1003 ..



Administration and Procedure Committee, this is one of those times. I urge fellow members to embrace the simplicity of this amendment and not strangle this reform. In my view, it is not "appropriate"that the committee inquire into this reform this time.

I am led to believe that if we pass this motion, it will be the first time that such a motion has occurred in any parliament in the world. On this day, a number of days after International Women's Day, it is an important reform and an important message that we send, not only to the community of Canberra but also to the rest of the nation and the rest of the world. That message is that mothers and babies are never to be discriminated against for the reason that they are breastfeeding.

I dedicate this motion not only to the mothers of Canberra but also to the wonderful work of the women of the Australian Breastfeeding Association. I commend the motion to the house.


(10.55): I am very supportive of the intent of this motion. I agree that the application of the strangers rule is not appropriate for a woman who is breastfeeding. I agree that it is a bizarre situation for our parliament to pass laws to protect breastfeeding women against discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere but not allow breastfeeding in our own workplace.

Having said that, I have moved an amendment, which I have circulated. I think it is important that we take the time to look at this in the Administration and Procedure Committee. There is no urgency for this. There is no woman at the moment with a baby in the Legislative Assembly who wants to breastfeed and, as I understand it, the Speaker would not call it a problem anyway, so we do not have to worry about that.

Mrs Cross has put it that somehow opposition would be trying to ferret this away and that we have some kind of motivation-I cannot imagine what she thinks the motivation would be. But I need to explain why I think it is appropriate for this to go to the Administration and Procedure Committee at the same time as I am absolutely supportive of the basic concept of women with an infant being able to breastfeed in the Legislative Assembly.

The reason is that I have already consulted, as much as I could in the couple of days I have had, with the Australian Breastfeeding Association, who have said themselves that it would be useful for this to go to Administration and Procedure. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has said that it may be useful to take the World Health Organisation definition of what an infant is. The WHO says that it is absolutely critical that a woman is able to breastfeed her baby up to six months. In fact, they are one. That is the notion behind the World Health Organisation definition.

I breastfed my children until they were over two years old, so I am not saying this is about breastfeeding for only six months. What I am saying is that Mrs Cross is proposing to change the standing order at this point in time in a way that leaves it very open. It is quite possible that everyone is happy for a two-year-old to be breastfed in the chamber, but I think we need the time to have that discussion.

And as I said, there is no urgency about this. It is good process when we change standing orders to at least have a discussion, and I am sorry Mrs Cross thinks that is unacceptable.

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