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Crying toddler prompts Australia parliament re-think
June 19, 2009 / 5:21 PM / 8 years ago

Crying toddler prompts Australia parliament re-think

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian senator whose crying toddler was ejected from parliament during a political vote has prompted a review of chamber rules and sparked a heated debate over child-friendly work practices.

Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she was “humiliated” when Senate President John Hogg ordered her teary 2-year-old daughter removed from the parliamentary chamber before a vote, in accordance with parliamentary rules.

“It shows that parliament is still based on a very male model and I just think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Women’s Electoral Lobby Chairwoman Eva Cox.

Hogg said he was responsible for “proper conduct” in the upper house, but supported a review of rules which bar children and other outsiders from the Senate during votes.

The Senate leader of the conservative Nationals party Barnaby Joyce said Hanson-Young had staged a stunt and could have avoided being caught out during a locked-door vote, with bells alerting all lawmakers beforehand.

“Within that Senate are votes for things that might send people to war, that might get people killed. This requires certain sacrifices,” Joyce said. “The child is a prop and the Senate has become a stage.”

Greens Leader Bob Brown said he would push for the Senate’s procedures to be changed to give parents more flexibility.

Hanson-Young said the four minutes apart from her daughter Kora, who was placed in the care of a staffer, were “longest few minutes I’ve ever had.”

She won backing from a lawmaker in Victoria state who was ejected from parliament several years ago for breastfeeding a child in parliamentary chamber.

“I think it’s just ludicrous. She was required in her capacity in her job as a senator to vote, therefore she was being denied that opportunity based on the fact she had some responsibilities as a parent,” Kirstie Marshall said.

But a television poll of public opinion found most people had little sympathy, with 88 percent of respondents backing Hogg’s exclusion order.

Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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