Explainer: parliamentary baby boom

Members of Parliament have occasionally brought their young children into the Senate and House of Representatives.

Mar 22, 2021

Aren’t there rules that say visitors aren’t allowed in the Senate and House of Representatives?

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have rules about visitors to the floor of their chambers. These rules outline who can is allowed into the chamber to observe the Senate or House of Representatives. Generally visitors are only allowed to watch proceedings from the public viewing galleries. Certain visitors are allowed to sit in approved seating on the floor of the Senate or House. However both the Senate and House of Representatives have made exceptions for the infants under the care of members of parliament.

What exceptions have the Senate and House of Representatives made for infants and young children?

The Senate rule excluding visitors ‘does not apply in respect of a senator breastfeeding an infant or, at the discretion of the President, a senator caring for an infant briefly, provided the business of the Senate is not disrupted.’ The House of Representatives rule says that ‘a visitor does not include an infant being cared for by a member.’

Do members of parliament often bring their infants to the Senate/House of Representatives?

It is not common for members of parliament to bring their infants to the Parliament. Recently the Member for Lilley, Ms Anika Wells MP, brought her twins into the House of Representatives when she was speaking about multiple births awareness week.

Was this always allowed in the Senate and House of Representatives?

No, the Senate changed its rules in May 2003 to allow breastfeeding infants on the floor of the Senate. The House of Representatives changed its rules in February 2016 to let members care for an infant on the floor of the House. The first person to breastfeed their child in the Australian Parliament was Senator Larissa Waters in 2016.