Australia - Kelly O'Dwyer, Kate Ellis and Amanda Rishworth part of parliamentary baby boom

AGORA moderator's picture

The usual partisan playground politics will be put aside this year, at least for three of Parliament's rising female stars.

They have joined forces to help each other juggle the demands of being senior women in their parties as well as first-time mothers.

Labor frontbenchers Kate Ellis and Amanda Rishworth and the recently promoted Liberal MP Kelly O'Dwyer are all due to give birth this year in a mini baby boom at Parliament House.  

The dummy spits and tantrums may well be confined to their male colleagues.

All three women say they have been overwhelmed by their female colleagues' warm advice across the divide on how to cope with the demands of Parliament as well as a newborn.

South Australian MP Amanda Rishworth, who is due to give birth in March, says she is excited to be sharing the joys of becoming a mother with Ms Ellis and Ms O'Dwyer.

"It will give us the opportunity to share this wonderful experience, exchange advice and be a support to one another," she said.

Ms O'Dwyer also expressed her delight to be sharing with her traditional foes the experience of new motherhood as well as the challenges their work would bring.

The newly promoted parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer is due to give birth at the same time as the budget is released in May.

However, she joked the timing would work in her favour.

"Happily for me, Amanda and Kate are first up in the batting line-up and I know that they will be generous with their tips and advice," she said.

Women make up less than a third of the Parliament's 150 MPs. Labor contributes more than half that number: 21 female MPs compared with 18 women representing the Coalition.

Independent Cathy McGowan brings the total number in the lower house to 40.

The ratio is slightly better in the Senate where 29 of the 76 seats are held by women but the Coalition has half as many women senators compared with Labor's 14.

The Labor Party has quotas but the Coalition, which until December had just one woman in Cabinet, does not.

Ms Ellis, who is Labor's childcare spokeswoman, said she was grateful to be surrounded by "amazing women MPs", particularly on her own side, who had juggled Parliament and prams.

"But I also recognise that Kelly just doesn't have that on her side of the house," she said.

"I imagine that there will be much to learn as a first-time working mum with travel commitments that I'm really happy for us to be able to share any information or tips that may make things just a little bit smoother along the way," she said.

Childcare is set to be a major battleground on the political landscape this year after Prime Minister Tony Abbott ditched his unloved paid parental leave scheme and promised to redirect it into a more flexible childcare policy instead.

The government will have to table a major review into the childcare sector when Parliament resumes. It will provide an insight into ways funding and regulation could be improved to give working women more affordable and simpler options in order to raise a family and continue working.

SOURCE: The Sydney Morning Herald, February 10th, 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/kelly-odwyer-kate-...