Targeting 'absurdly long nights': The family friendly Parliament push

Targeting ‘absurdly long nights’: Parliament’s push to be more family friendly

In its first order of business on the first day of the Albanese Government, Labor pushed through changes to the House of Representative’s rulebook to help end “absurdly long nights”, and make the place safer and more family-friendly.

The changes are subtle and seem entirely reasonable, but could significantly help to support members, their staff, and others who work at Parliament House, especially those with caring responsibilities outside of work. The changes include earlier start times to help avoid the late nights, a 6:30pm cutoff on divisions as well a ban on parliament sitting during holidays.

The changes follow recommendations from the review into parliamentary culture, by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. Leader of the House Tony Burke said the new government was committed to addressing these recommendations, including “absurdly late nights” that he described as “neither healthy nor safe”.  The changes come also as Burke promised the crossbench would be “guaranteed respect” under the new rules of engagement – although his government looks set to continue with the MP staffing cuts that will see their allocation drop from eight to five.

It comes as the Albanese Government has promised to “create a kinder Australia for all” on the first day of the new parliament. “Parliament will be different. More respectful debate, more diversity, more family friendly.”

However, during the first Question Time, it took around five minutes before newly minted Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was taking on the new prime minister. And the Coalition rejected the changes to the standing orders that included the earlier start times, which Labor and the crossbench supported.  

Still, there have been active demonstrations of a kinder and more inclusive culture during the first couple of days, including with the largest number of First Nations people ever included, as well as the swearing-in of a large group of female independents.

There was Senator Jana Stewart sharing a photo of herself “at 35 weeks pregnant” and “casually taking my seat in the senate”. There was new MP Sam Lim (pictured above) sharing a photograph of himself outside of his new workplace, with the packed lunchbox that his son had prepared to support him in arriving at the “unfamiliar place”.

And there was the moment during Question Time when new National leader David Littleproud crossed the chamber to greet the Prime Minister’s partner Jodie Haydon and his son Nathan Albanese. The Prime Minister described his son as his ‘greatest achievement” during his victory speech and has previously said that he has a “way of making sure that I talk to my son every day.”

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