The speaker of New Zealand’s parliament, Trevor Mallard, cradled and fed a bottle to a Member of Parliament's baby boy during a general debate.
Tweeting a photo of himself feeding MP Tamati Coffey's son in the speaker's seat, Mallard said: “Normally the Speaker’s chair is only used by Presiding Officers but today a VIP took the chair with me.”
He then congratulated the boy’s parents, Member of Parliament Tamati Coffey and his partner Tim Smith, "on the newest member of [their] family."
Normally the Speaker’s chair is only used by Presiding Officers but today a VIP took the chair with me. Congratulations @tamaticoffey and Tim on the newest member of your family. pic.twitter.com/47ViKHsKkA— Trevor Mallard (@SpeakerTrevor) August 21, 2019
Mallard told ABC News that inclusivity is something that he's been focused on since becoming speaker. “When I became speaker I made it clear that I wanted the parliament to be much more family-friendly than it had been," he said. "And a big part of that was to encourage a bigger range of MPs over time to join the parliament – in particular younger women. It’s my view that parliaments are better when they’re a reflection of society. And to do that they have to be family-friendly, otherwise you exclude groups.”
Coffey announced the birth of his son, Tutanekai, in July, saying in a tweet that he and his husband were "overwhelmed at the miracle of life."
🌈👶🏻 He’s here. and he came into this world surrounded by his village. #modernfamilies 👬Mum doing awesome. Dads overwhelmed at the miracle of life.— Tāmati Coffey (@tamaticoffey) July 9, 2019
📺 @SundayTVNZ will tell our story this Sunday night at 730pm. Give it a watch. pic.twitter.com/nRm2YNoBug
As he attended a parliamentary debate with his baby for the first time after returning from paternity leave, the new father told New Zealand media outlet Newshub, "I've felt really supported by my colleagues from across the House. Babies have a way of calming down the intense environment of Parliament and I think we need more of them around to remind us of the real reason we are all here."
The parliament speaker said his approach to lawmakers' leave requests has reinforced the push to make the workplace more family-friendly. "I have an ability to grant compassionate leave and I’ve been very liberal with leave for fathers and mothers of newborns," Mallard told ABC News.
Colleagues in parliament shared photos of the delighted dad with his newborn in the House of Representatives, before the speaker took on the role of babysitter.
"Lovely to have a baby in the House, and what a beautiful one," MP Gareth Hughes tweeted, while MP Golriz Ghahraman said, "Who needs to see this today? Every single last one of us, that’s who," alongside a crying with joy and love heart emoji.
Who needs to see this today? Every single last one of us, that’s who. Here’s a brand new papa holding his new born in our House of Representatives right now 😭❤️ pic.twitter.com/NU00SHfKFT— Golriz Ghahraman (@golrizghahraman) August 21, 2019
This wasn't the first time that Mallard has stepped up to the plate into a temporary childcare role, having also previously cradled a baby during a 2017 parliamentary debate on paid parental leave.
In September last year New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made history by becoming the first world leader at the United Nations to bring a baby into a general assembly meeting, delivering a speech to the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit in New York while her daughter, Neve, sat with her partner Clarke Gayford.
In terms of the response to his on-the-job babysitting, Mallard said matter-of-factly that there had been "no backlash, almost none. In our society it’s quite hard to argue against valuing babies."