A photo of the House Speaker of New Zealand Parliament feeding a baby from his official chair while presiding over a debate has gone viral online.
The image of Trevor Mallard caring for the baby of fellow parliamentarian, Tāmati Coffey, was taken on the politician’s first day back at work after taking paternity leave.
“Normally the Speaker’s chair is only used by Presiding Officers but today a VIP took the chair with me,” Mr Mallard said in tweet where he shared the cute photos of baby Tūtānekai Smith-Coffey.
“Congratulations [Tāmati Coffey] and Tim on the newest member of your family.”
Mr Coffey, a Labour MP for the New Zealand seat of Waiariki and Smith, welcomed his son into the world just last month — making him and his husband one of only a handful of gay couples in the country to have found a surrogate and gained access to IVF.
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
The images quickly went viral all over the world, with many applauding both the speaker and the Kiwi parliament for supporting a new parent.
"Thank you for normalising the family unit," one person tweeted in response to the speaker’s photo.
"We need to see more of this. Workplaces need to adapt to enable this behaviour."
NZ Parliamentarians were similarly supportive of their colleague, with two Greens MPs sharing a photo of the proud new dad with his son.
"Lovely to have a baby in the House, and what a beautiful one," Gareth Hughes tweeted.
Another person tweeted: “New Zealand ... you might be a small country, but you have a huge lesson to teach the world!”
“Just saw this in the UK and never wanted a foreign Speaker so much!” someone else said.
“Trevor mate, I am speechless. That is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in years. I wish you and your family and your little one absolute joy,” another tweeted.
The response of Mr Coffey’s colleagues on his return to work with a baby in tow once again marked New Zealand as a trendsetter when it came to bringing babies into corridors of power.
Following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s birth of her own baby last year, she made headlines by taking her daughter into the United Nations General Assembly.
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
Nor is it the first time the New Zealand House Speaker — a father to three himself — has shared his chair with a newborn.
In November 2017, the three-month-old baby of Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime got cuddled and nursed in the big chair while Mr Mallard oversaw debate.
New Zealand’s attitude to babies in parliament is a stark contrast to those seen in recent months in other countries’ governing houses.
Earlier this month, Kenyan MP Zuleika Hassan was ordered to leave the parliament after she brought her five-month-old baby into the chamber.
Her forced ejection prompted several female colleagues to walk out with her in solidarity.
In early March a Danish politician was chided for bringing her baby into parliament in a country usually noted for its progressive attitude towards women’s rights.
“You are not welcome with your baby in the parliament’s chamber,” the House Speaker allegedly told MP Mette Abildgaard.
In late April, Mahjabeen Sheran, a member of the Provincial Assembly of Balochistan in Pakistan, was criticised for bringing her sick seven-month-old son into the chamber and told to leave the session.
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