Following on from Senator Heffernan’s comments, Crikey sent out 230 emails to all MPs and Senators with this question:

Dear Member or Senator

In the wake of Senator Heffernan’s much reported comment “If you’re a leader, you’ve got to understand your community… one of the great understandings in a community is family, and the relationship between mum, dad and a bucket of nappies”, we would like to ask you two questions:

Do you have children;

Does their presence in your life – or otherwise – impair your understanding of the world?

We received an overwhelming five responses. Well seven, if you include the out of office replies from Julie Bishop and Mitch Fifield.

Minister for Workforce Participation Dr Sharman Stone was refreshingly thoughtful:

I have three children and certainly they’ve given me a significant set of insights into life that I didn’t have before. But on the other hand, I have not personally had a whole range of other experiences. For example, I’m not a war veteran, indigenous or disabled and yet I believe I can make a valuable contribution formulating policy and working in the best interest of different groups without sharing their life experiences.

Kay Elson MP, Federal Member for Forde, wrote:

I have 8 children and 15 grandchildren. Their presence greatly enriches, illuminates and strengthens my understanding of the world and motivates me to help make it a better place.

Senator Ursula Stephens wrote:

1. Yes, I have four children and am now the proud grandmother of a beautiful boy (1 week old) and;
2. Their presence in my life keeps me grounded — thankfully.

Senator Dana Wortley wrote:

Do you have children: Yes
Does their presence in your life – or otherwise – impair your understanding of the world? Absolutely not!

And our lone male respondent Labor MP Laurie Ferguson wrote:

I have four adult step children it possibly gives more direct emphasis to their experiences but does nothing on other youth issues etc.