Baby Esther does her bit for rule change

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 19/10/2013
Holly Walker with baby Esther
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
NEW MEMBER IN THE HOUSE: MP Holly Walker with baby Esther – "The first week after she was born was pretty challenging but we are kind of emerging out of that haze."

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She might be just two weeks old, but Esther Lucy Haines has already brought about political change.

The daughter of Green MP Holly Walker and civil union partner Dave Haines was born early on October 7.

Her mum is now on parental leave until Parliament resumes from the summer break, thanks to a change in Standing Orders, Parliament's rules.

While pregnant, Walker, 30, and Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta, a new mum, successfully lobbied Speaker David Carter to allow for compassionate leave for MPs that would not affect their party's vote.

The leave would be granted for family matters, bereavement, or to care for a new baby.

Although the rule change is temporary, Walker hopes it will be adopted with a review of Standing Orders under way.

Out of the parliamentary fray for a few weeks, the first-term list MP is getting used to being a mother at home in Petone.

Esther was born at home - weighing 9lb 10oz - two weeks and one day overdue.

"She left it to the last possible, possible moment," Walker said.

"The first week after she was born was pretty challenging but we are kind of emerging out of that haze a bit this week. It's all going pretty well."

The new 'sessional order' allows an MP to be absent from the parliamentary precincts on compassionate grounds, but to be regarded as present for the purposes of casting party votes.

Walker is the first MP to be granted the leave.

The Greens have also asked the Standing Orders committee to consider provisions to extend compassionate leave to breastfeeding mothers for the evening sessions of Parliament.

Hauraki-Waikato MP Ms Mahuta, 42, was forced to attend a debate with her five-month-old baby in May as Parliament sat under urgency close to midnight.

When her daughter began to cry she had to leave the chamber, missing the vote.

Rules dictate that parties must have 75 per cent of their MPs within Parliament's precincts for all their votes to count.

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