Posted by: Chasy | 20/06/2009

SHOCK: Senator Hanson-Young Does Something Plenty of Us Do

… but there seems to be far more controversy here.

The blogosphere and talk back radio is full of people aghast at the thought of someone taking their child into the workplace, especially the Senate Chambers. The commenters at Larvatus Prodeo are a perfect example.

For those who don’t know, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, member of the Australian Greens, took her two year old daughter into the Senate Chambers after she was called in to cast a vote. As the story is told, she was saying goodbye to her daughter before she was due to fly to back to Adelaide with their babysitter. The bells to alert senators to a division (or vote) rang, and her presence was required immediately. According to the article above, Senator Hanson-Young says she did not have the time to bring the child back to the babysitter. She brought the child into the chambers, something she had done once before, where she was promptly told by the Senate President, John Hogg, to remove the child.

So, what’s the big deal? The child was quiet until she was removed from her mother. She was only going to be there for a short period of time, and, according to most commenters who actually have experience in the senate, a division is not a time for debate – in fact, most sit and chat to each other while their vote gets taken. Kora, Senator Hanson-Young’s daughter, really had no impact on the senate, or the workplace, yet it’s caused such a stir.

If you listen to the critics and nay-sayers, apparently no one, ever, anywhere in the world, has brought their child into a place of work, and certainly never into the Senate Chambers.

What a load of twaddle. Every single workplace I’ve been in had someone bring in their child for one reason or another. Former senator Andrew Bartlett has noted that Senator Hanson-Young is not the first senator to bring their child into the senate, including one Liberal Senator in particular who, while giving his final speech in 2005, had his young daughter jumping around on the seat beside him.

Former senator Natasha Stott-Despoja took her children into the chambers when necessary and was astounded by the ruling by the Senate President. Making this a ‘children in the workplace’ issue seems a little ridiculous, given these and similar anecdotes that have been put forward since Wednesday. If anything, it shows that the decision to remove the child was an overreaction, of which even Senate President John Hogg has said he could have handled it better.

Regardless, Senator Barnaby Joyce has labelled it a stunt. If anything, Barnaby is the one who is guilty of pulling a stunt, by publicly denouncing Hanson-Young’s actions in an effort to get his head on the telly. Idiot.

So, why the kerfuffle? Let there be no mistake – the only reason this has caused such a fuss is because she is a Greens senator and a woman.

That’s not to say that she was asked to remove her child because of that same reason, but I have no doubt that there would be less emotive language and cries for her to stay at home and look after her children if she was a male and Liberal member. Do you think anyone would tell Malcolm Turnbull (to use him as an example only) he shouldn’t be bringing his child into parliament for five minutes and should stay at home instead? Not bloody likely.

Something that people also fail to realise is that she’s not just a senator, she’s a working mother. It’s hard enough to give up your time with your ever changing and fast growing toddler, let alone be instructed to abandon her for seemingly no good reason. I have no doubt that Senator Hanson-Young was only trying to do the best by her child by showing her that she was important enough to go everywhere with her. At that age, that sort of communication is vital, especially if the mother has to spend extended periods of time away from her little one.

Hopefully this will die down soon and the nay-sayers and Greens-haters will stop quibbling over this overblown piece of non-news.



  1. Excellent post – thanks for that. It’s a good summary of the facts (which a lot of Hanson-Young’s detractors have ignored) and some of the

    A minor correction: Barnaby Joyce is a member of the Nationals.

    Steven Fielding, who is the Family First senator, was more supportive, saying that the incident could have been handled better.

  2. Sorry, hit the submit button before I finished the first paragraph! I would have added ” … and some of the more reasoned analyses of the situation”. 🙂

    • Heheheh. My bad. Will fix shortly.

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