Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (13 March) . . Page.. 1007 ..
Parliamentary procedures-here, as elsewhere-are all a matter of convention and rely on precedent. From time to time we move slowly, but there is a reason for that. I think that, by supporting Mrs Cross's motion as it currently stands, we would be throwing out-dare I say it?-the baby with the bath water. No, that is probably tasteless.
We are not going about this the right way. There needs to be consultation with members of the community who have views about the way breastfeeding should be conducted. The Clerk and his staff have some views about how we might address this in a simple and streamlined fashion. I think that the Administration and Procedure Committee is the appropriate forum in which to have that debate, not the floor of the chamber.
MS MacDONALD(11.07): I rise to support Mrs Cross and to commend her for bringing this matter to the floor of the chamber. I disagree with what Mrs Dunne has just concluded: that it is not appropriate for this matter to be discussed in this place. The final authority rests with the Assembly and, while it may be argued that there is the broader issue to be considered of strangers on the floor, it is quite appropriate for the Administration and Procedure Committee to consider that broader issue and report back. But the mother nursing a child issue, where a mother can be ejected, is so obviously a matter of discrimination that it can be rectified immediately. There is no problem. There is no major issue for Administration and Procedure to actually deliberate on.
There is a substantial body of scientific research to show that breastfeeding provides important health benefits to both mother and child. For children, the benefits of breastfeeding last a lifetime. Medical authorities all agree on this. By choosing to breastfeed, a mother is choosing to give her baby the food that provides the child with the perfect blend of nutrients for optimal growth and development.
Other research has shown that community attitudes to breastfeeding play a large part in determining whether a mother decides to breastfeed. I repeat: community attitudes. We recognise that mothers today have many pressures on them, and we often talk of family friendly workplaces. So, this Assembly should provide a lead to the community to support mothers who make the choice to breastfeed.
When a woman is returning to work while her baby is young, the attitude of colleagues at work is particularly important. That is where we can be leaders. We can say there is no issue here to send off to Administration and Procedure to discuss whether or not it is appropriate. To those members who might be concerned about babies being breastfed causing disruption to this place, I suggest that would only cause disruption for those people who wished it to be disruptive, and it would cause less disruption than a lot of members cause in this place from time to time, might I suggest.
In short, I commend Mrs Cross for having brought it here to the floor. I do not see that there is a problem in passing this motion today. We can resolve the issue today. Of course, there is the stranger on the floor issue, which will need to be resolved, and I do not think resolving this issue here and now creates such a bad precedent.
MR CORNWELL(11.11): I am a little concerned that the original motion here is so dogmatic. It refers something to the Administration and Procedure Committee simply to rubber stamp. It refers for consideration and report: