New Zealand parliament speaker soothes baby as debate rages
Trevor Mallard helped out after a parliamentary colleague brought his child to the chamber in Wellington.
The man who presides over New Zealand’s parliament has been called a baby whisperer after helping to soothe a colleague’s infant in the chamber during a debate.
Speaker Trevor Mallard rocked, bottle fed and burped the baby while an MP ranted about fuel prices at the legislature in Wellington.
Mr Mallard held baby Tutanekai for about 15 minutes during a fiery general debate on Wednesday after spotting MP Tamati Coffey with his six-week-old son.
Mr Mallard said he has been trying to make parliament a more family-friendly place by adding baby chairs, family rooms and, soon, a slide.
He has also increased the flexibility around family leave for MPs.
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
Mr Mallard, who has six grandchildren, said he has worked hard to help out his colleagues.
And he has been in plenty of demand – there are currently seven MPs with babies, and he reckons there have been a dozen since he began his role nearly two years ago.
“I enjoy cuddling them and seem to have some ability to settle them,” he said of the babies.
The most famous parliamentary infant is Neve, the daughter of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who in June 2018 became just the second elected world leader in modern history to give birth while holding office.
Mr Coffey said he had just gotten back to work after he and husband Tim Smith had their baby via a surrogate mother last month.
He said he does not usually plan to bring his son to parliament, but thought it would be good to let his colleagues meet and cuddle the boy and get some selfies with him.
The MP said he has been receiving plenty of messages after the images of Mr Mallard spread far and wide.
“People talk about things going viral, but I’ve never experienced it before,” he said. “It’s also highlighted a case in Kenya.”
In that case from earlier this month, Zuleikha Hassan and her five-month-old baby were ejected from the floor of the Kenyan national assembly.
Ms Hassan said she had to bring the baby to parliament because she was not able to make other arrangements, but temporary speaker Christopher Omulele said: “As much as she might want to take care of her child, this is not the place for it.”
That is not how Mr Mallard sees it – even if the role does get a little messy sometimes.
He said that when he was burping Tutanekai, a little milk came up, which later required him to clean his official robes.