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Daily Archives: April 14th, 2009

Mathew Murphy
April 14, 2009 – 11:06AM

Melbourne-based zinc and gold miner OZ Minerals has signed a binding agreement to sell many of its assets to China’s state-owned Minmetals for $US1.206 billion ($1.65 billion).

The deal, which excludes the Prominent Hill and Indonesia-based Martabe sites, was outlined after the Federal Government knocked back the initial $2.6 billion deal, citing national security issues.

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan last month rejected the bid from China Minmetals Non-ferrous Metals Co. for all of Oz Minerals because the Prominent Hill mine was deemed too close to the Woomera Prohibited Zone in South Australia.

OZ Minerals chief executive Andrew Michelmore described the new deal as a win for shareholders.

”We are pleased that we have now agreed binding terms with Minmetals,” he said. ”Once implemented, this transaction will provide a complete solution to our financing issues and see shareholders retain their OZ Minerals shares and therefore exposure to the Prominent Hill operation and its long-term growth profile.”

The Age

Speech given on Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Australia, indeed the world is facing the double crunch.

How to achieve a low carbon economy must be seen as both an imperative and an opportunity. As we rebuild our economy from the financial crisis, we can set Australia up for a sustainable future.

Australia must position itself to ensure that we have the knowledge and skills to capture at least a quarter of a trillion dollar share of what will be a global green products market of more than three trillion dollars.

The challenge is to re-skill workers in existing blue collar jobs to ensure they can manufacture, install and operate new technologies and to educate generations of students and young workers to take up new green jobs.

Industry, being business and unions, must drive demand for an intensity of skills effort like never before and governments must be a partner in this endeavour.

Phillip Bullock, our chair this morning, is, as you know the chair of Skills Australia, and Skills Australia is well placed to deepen workforce planning and frame the necessary priorities for skills development in partnership with the VET community.

These measures are essential for competitive advantage in a low carbon future.

Professor Garnaut’s report tells us that decisive and early action is needed if Australia is to enjoy sustained economic growth and prosperity.

We can and must grow jobs for our economy and reduce our environmental footprint at the same time.

Yet far too little attention has been paid so far in Australia to the skill requirements for a more sustainable economy.

The Challenge
To understand the green skills we need now and into the future, we need to have some idea of what employment in a sustainable Australia will look like.

People talk of a new ecological industrial revolution, and of the potential for extraordinary growth in new “green” markets.

This has been reinforced by China’s massive spend of more than one fifth of its six hundred billion dollar stimulus package on renewable energy and related construction, products and services.

And before President Obama declared a US spend of $115 billion, he stated the following:

“…everywhere we look there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift and we will act…We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories”.

If Australia is not to be left behind, to miss out on a solid share of these new economic and environmental imperatives, then we need the policy settings that:

drive increasing demand for the design and construction of energy and water efficient buildings, infrastructure and transport systems,

ensure jobs are created in new eco industries – solar, wind, hydro, biofuels and hybrid combinations of these, and

plan for additional jobs – in design, development, installation and operational pursuits.

Australia is well placed to benefit from increasing demand for clean technologies. ‘The Green Gold Rush’ is a study commissioned from Cambiar by the ACF and the ACTU. Based on the premise that by focusing on the segments with existing competitive advantages Australian policy makers and industry will maximise the chances of Australia succeeding in green markets, Cambiar assessed 30 potential green industries.

As a results Australia’s best bets are in six sectors:

renewable energy
energy efficiency
green buildings
waste and recycling

It is also our assessment that, based on Australia’s capacity, we can, with the right policy settings, achieve an extra 800,000 jobs within 15 years.

There are small but viable operations in all these sectors and they are set to expand.

Demand is also increasing for measures to make existing structures and processes more environmentally friendly.

This market for “retro-fitting” is enormous and government policy setting can drive this to new heights.

The residential initiatives for insulation and solar in the recent stimulus package …the pink bat strategy…for more than 2 million houses is a great boost to our effort in energy efficiency to lowering utilities costs for vulnerable households and for the demand for skills.

Likewise the green screen for schools will drive demand for renewed skills from more and more workers in construction and related manufacturing and services.

Then consider the potential for retro-fitting existing commercial buildings.

Buildings account for around 23 percent of Australia’s green house gas emissions. Ninety-eight percent of Australia’s office blocks are regarded as energy inefficient.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, retrofitting and replacing equipment in buildings has the largest potential within the building sector for reducing greenhouse gases by 2030.

Even with the continued growth of the building sector, most of the structures that will be built in 2030 have already been built. Retrofitting will play a critical role in reducing emissions.

The industry argues that “accellerated depreciation” or a “green depreciation” incentive for a transition period will kick-start a major effort. We urge government to consider this as a matter of some urgency.

The skills challenge
Sustainability will become central to business strategy. Integrating sustainability into all aspects of their business – into the products they make, into their operations and processes, and into their accounting practices, they will increasingly demand green skills and knowledge.

Are we up to it? As an education and training community can we do it.

As I said earlier, in preparing for a greener economy today and into the future, we face two major skills challenges.

The first is to green existing jobs. This is crucial to meet current demand for retrofitting and the re-tooling of industry so vital to ensure our existing industries continue to grow.

The second is to train new workers in the appropriate skills, so we can meet the demand for employees with the right skills in renewable industries and new green technology as they develop.

Greening old jobs
A greener, more sustainable economy doesn’t mean that we just train up some new workers in green skills and they clean up after the rest of us.

Greening existing jobs is critical to reducing greenhouse emissions.

It is particularly important in sectors with a high environmental impact – including building and construction, energy, transport and agriculture. Activities in these high-impact areas account for around 70-80% of overall resource use and emissions. They employ around 3 million workers.

A recent report by the CSIRO suggests that, even with major environmental reforms, employment in these industries will continue to grow strongly.

As these industries respond to the demands of a greener economy and policy environment, jobs will require new skills.

Workers in these industries need training and up-skilling so that they can adapt to new technology and new ways of working.

And it has already been said that we need to up-skill existing workers so that we can respond to the present and ever-growing demand for retrofitting.

Demand for energy efficient alternatives is already outstripping the number of workers who can do this kind of work.

A good example was the government subsidy to encourage the conversion of cars from petrol to LPG. People who were keen to take up this opportunity found themselves waiting in a long line, because there simply weren’t enough mechanics with the skills to do this work.

There is a similar story on the take-up of solar energy. And, as we have noted, we don’t have nearly enough skilled workers in the range of occupations needed to retrofit buildings.

New green jobs
Our second skills challenge will be in anticipating the future demands for green skills in emerging industries.

We need to prepare new workers for the skill requirements inherent in green jobs. We also need to ensure that our transition to a greener more sustainable economy is not stymied by a shortage of adequately trained workers.

A recent report by the CSIRO for the Dusseldorp Skills Forum found that our current approaches to green skills are grossly inadequate. No-one collects systematic data on the skills and knowledge base of the workforce necessary to sustain the shift to a low carbon economy. Yet a good understanding of green skill requirements in a range of industries is a precondition to taking action.

We also need much better data on consumer demand for green products and services. We need this so we can anticipate future demand and ensure we train an adequate number of workers in green skills.
Unlike nations like Germany or the UK, we do not have a green skills jobs target. We must rectify this to drive ambition, investment, planning and skills demand.

Our response
The massive mobilization of skills and training required will require commitment and efforts by everyone – by governments, businesses, unions, the community sector, environmental organisations and VET institutions. We all need to do our bit.

And we need to deepen our efforts now.

There are already a lot of good initiatives and efforts out there. Industry Skills Councils have begun to respond to the growing need for VET to accommodate green skills and knowledge. There are now specific, industry-based competency standards for sustainability and guideline competency standards that can be taken up in any industry sector. Green apprenticeships exist in a range of industries, including in construction and manufacturing.

A number of the states have provided funding to industry associations to develop green plumbing initiatives, which assist plumbers to become trained and accredited in household water and energy efficiency. There is also great demand for ‘eco-smart’ electricians.

In July this year, the ACTU issued a Joint Statement with the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Council of Social Services and the Climate Institute. This statement called for a fair and effective response to climate change. It recommended the following for greening Australian jobs:

Skills Australia should lead a national program to identify and stimulate the green skills, knowledge and work needed for a low-carbon economy;

By the end of 2010, at least 40,000 training opportunities in the Productivity Places Program should be allocated to the development of green skills in priority areas. This includes building and construction, energy, agriculture, and green finance, auditing and accounting;
Australia’s universities, TAFE and training sectors should create ‘green collar partnerships’ to advance the workplace and industry skills, knowledge and innovations required for the transition to a low-carbon economy;

Funds should be allocated immediately for sustainability training, skills and workplace programs. This should be boosted from 2010 with a proportion of revenues from the proposed Emission Trading Scheme.

As we propose in the Green Gold Rush, we need to:

Expand green education in executive, strategy and finance roles, to meet needs from increases in corporate responsibility for environmental management and risk, and enable integration into business strategy and planning.

Assist in the penetration of skills and tools to comprehend environmental impacts and mitigation measures with model ‘organisational environmental management systems’.

Support the funding needed for professional development training to address environmental challenges and their solutions – for example, skills shortages in environmental impact and cost benefit analysis was brought to our attention in roundtables.

Integrate environmental education across all curricula. Greater awareness of environmental issues and their solutions helps drive regulatory, consumer and business responses, and

Share best practice across sectors. Government can help ensure the many examples of best practice are shared across the diverse group that provides environmental education and skills training. An important part of this process is ensuring the transfer of best practice across the interface between education, training and industry.

Climate change and the environment is the challenge of this era. The ACTU rejects the notion that climate change solutions are a growth deficit. If we’re smart about it, responding to climate change can mean massive opportunities for the creation of sustainable, quality jobs.

We now stand at the beginning of a major structural transition towards a greener, more sustainable Australia. We need to intensify our efforts to ensure that we have the right policies in place.

The right policies are fair ones – ones that ensure that working Australians and their families are not put at risk and that assist low-income households with the costs associated with transition.

The right policies are also ones that make the most of the opportunities that the transition to a low carbon economy will bring for working Australians and for the Australian economy.

Green skills shortages already exist. The pace of green job creation will only accelerate in the years to come.

As we intensify effort and investment in skills we need to strike the right balance between re-training and up-skilling existing workers and investing in skills for new green jobs.

Because in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly Australia, all jobs must be varying shades of green.

Thank You

Further reading
Green Gold Rush report: almost a million green jobs for Australia by 2030

Published: 14/04/2009

Nanotech poses possible health and safety risk to workers and needs regulation

The rapidly growing nanotechnology market in Australia requires urgent regulation to protect the health and safety of workers and consumers, say unions.

Nanotechnology is hailed as a having enormous potential in the creation of new products and devices and is now used in over 800 everyday items including some sunscreens, cosmetics, bed sheets, building materials and paints.

Unions are concerned that there is mounting evidence showing some nanomaterials are potentially hazardous yet the industry is growing without adequate worker protections.

The nanotechnology industry is projected to grow from US$32 billion to US$2.6 trillion over the next decade.

Currently there is no mandatory register in Australia of who is importing, manufacturing, supplying or selling nanomaterials and no obligation to label products. But there are moves afoot internationally to introduce regulations (see factsheet).

Nanotechnology involves using materials at the nanoscale (one billionth of a metre), which poses challenges for occupational health and safety regulators.

Research has shown that some nanomaterials may act in similar ways to asbestos.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Geoff Fary said:

“With animal tests showing some nanomaterials share the same characteristics and reactions as asbestos fibres, governments and business must not repeat the painful lessons of the past and allow another tragedy to occur again.

“Existing laws and regulations were not designed with the unique properties of nanoscale materials in mind. A recent report from the NSW Parliament recommended this be addressed and we believe it should be done nationally too.

“Until we know more about nano materials, we should regulate as if it is dangerous to human health. It is the only safe option.

“Workers in manufacturing, retail, health, laboratories, textiles, and outdoor workers are potentially exposed to nanomaterials, and the list will grow as the industry grows.”

Mr Fary said that introducing regulations by the end of 2009 was a sufficient timeframe given the pace of industry development and would coincide with the introduction of Australia’s new nationally harmonised health and safety laws that are scheduled in under a year.

More information
Read the fact sheet by downloading the file below

View the article here

Article From:

Gillian Kelly of Career Edge says personal branding is key to job success.

Even intelligent people struggle with self-marketing but success in the ‘new job’ market means finding what you do best.

Sounds simple but according to career marketing specialist Gillian Kelly personal branding is the key to getting the job you want in a “fiercely competitive” market.

Ms Kelly says you need to manage your own career path by promoting your personal brand instead of relying on your employer or anyone else.

According to Ms Kelly a personal brand is what makes you distinctive.

“It should be a sentence or a statement and will vary from person to person. For some it could be their analytical skills or project management ability, for others it’s their framework of accountability or organisational skills,” said Ms Kelly.

“The biggest mistake people make is thinking personal branding is hype and bragging but it’s completely the opposite. Personal branding is about finding what you are authentically good at and using that to build your career,” Ms Kelly said.

“Once you’ve worked it out use it consistently on the first line of your resume and your blog or social networking site. Become a ‘go to person’ for a particular skill and an employer can find you in an instant,” she said.

Finding your personal brand

Finding your distinctive trait can be daunting so Ms Kelly recommends calling on the resources of an external party for “clarity” and “momentum”.

“Your family, friends and colleagues are the best place to start because they know you. Spend some time asking them what they think your best attributes are and what they ‘see’ you do well. This can take the hard work out of it,” she said.

Career coaching is also an option according to Ms Kelly for their well-spring of resources and direction.

“Not being able to see what your strengths are is a very Australian trait, career coaches can often help you see what you may be taking for granted.”

Gillian Kelly is career marketing specialist for Career Edge and she will be speaking at the CDAA National Career Conference at the Grand Hyatt, Melbourne 15-17 April, 2009. Tickets are available from

14 April 2009 8:59am

Employers can quickly nip difficult and negative employee behaviour in the bud – while maintaining workplace harmony – by being “hard on the behaviour, but soft on the person”, says New Zealand workplace consultant and psychologist, Dr Steven Saunders.

“A stitch in time saves nine,” Saunders told HR Daily.

Far too many employers, he says, let negative behaviour get out of control because they are too laid back or prefer to shy away from dealing with the issue.

But confronting workers who are failing to live up to the organisation’s code of conduct doesn’t have to be emotional, tense or difficult, Saunders says. Managers must be prepared to have “a straight-up chat” with difficult workers and specifically address their positive and negative behaviours.

Employers should also spell out the code of conduct applying to workers – from the outset of their tenure – and the kind of behaviour that’s expected of them, he says.

Every documented job description, he says, should include a clause requiring the employee “to be a positive, willing, contributing and adaptable member of the team at all times”.

“Well poisoners”
Difficult or negative employees usually fall into one of two camps, Saunders says.

The employee with a “bad attitude” tends to be excessively grumpy, pessimistic and sarcastic, has negative body language and is generally a low performer.

The “well poisoner”, on the other hand, can be intimidating, devious, self-serving and self-centred – and, quite often, a high performer.

Their behaviour often goes undetected, or is ignored, he says, and they can rapidly work their way up through the ranks, disrupting the function of the team and alienating talent in the process.

Well poisoners, therefore, must be identified during the recruitment process, Saunders says. He recommends that employers:
contact verbal referees and ask them frankly if the candidate was disruptive or problematic, and have them outline in detail the reasons the candidate left the job; and

include at least one woman on the interview panel. Women have a “sixth sense” for well poisoners, Saunders says.
When dealing with well poisoners in the workplace, managers should “do the research and stick to their guns”.

“Well poisoners can be cunning to the point of being treacherous,” he warns.

Six key trigger points
Successfully stamping out negative employee behaviour or attitude in the workplace hinges on identifying and acting on the cause, Saunders says. Negative behaviour can usually be traced to at least one of six root causes, or “trigger points”.

These are:
Leadership – employers should examine themselves and their leadership team. Strong leaders are highly visible, lead by example on company values and are excellent and proactive communicators.

Poor leaders are less visible, “shadowy figures” with low emotional intelligence, and can be identified “through the people” – or by a higher-than-expected number of poor performances.

“The buck’s got to stop with the leader.”

Fit – a high proportion of difficult employees don’t belong in their job or environment; their personality clashes with the nature of their tasks. A person with “high drive” but “low compliance”, for example, would most likely prove unsuitable for a position in a “high compliance” field, such as banking or accounting.

“It is well worth profiling candidates for their fit to the job and culture.”

Energy levels – “There are a lot of people at the moment who are tired, unfit and spend too much time on computers.”

Managers should have a “frank and open discussion” with workers suffering from lethargy to identify the cause and come up with solutions, such as an exercise program or designated breaks away from the desk.

Heart – at the end of the day, lots of people would rather be doing something else, Saunders says. Referring to US research, he says that 70 per cent of company executives would prefer to be in a different job providing they maintained their income.

However, if a worker’s heart is not in the job – to the extent that they are counter-productive – then it is time for all parties to make a “frank” decision about the employee’s future in the role.

Psychological issues – many employees are stressed and distressed, and “stagger from one crisis to another” in their personal lives.

Employers should carefully consider the workplace factors that can contribute to stress, such as understaffing, and bear in mind their legal responsibility to “lighten up a little”.

Tools and training – “You can hardly blame an employee for being grumpy and difficult when they’re set up for failure through lack of training or resources.”

Employees can feel they’re in a no-win situation, giving rise to negative behaviour.

Andrew Colley and Mitchell Bingemann
April 14, 2009
Article from: The Australian

IN a move that would make even the most miserly budget airline operator wince, IBM has cut tea and coffee from the office budget worldwide to cut costs.

IBM Australia sent an email to staff last week telling them it would stop subsidising employees’ home internet connections from May. But workers were gobsmacked to learn that having a cuppa on the company’s tab had also become an unaffordable luxury.

Instead, they were told, they would have to buy drinks from vending machines to be installed at “selected” company sites.

Employees who put in long hours of unpaid overtime to help push the tech giant’s profits up 12 per cent to $US4.4billion during its final quarter of last year have received the news as a slap in the face.

“You would have thought that basic amenities like tea and coffee were not a lot to ask for after working long hours and neglecting private life; obviously, we were wrong,” one employee said.

“They’d put a coin slot in the toilet door if they could.”

IBM Australia declined to reveal how much money it expected to save from the new cost-cutting initiatives.

Morale among staff is already under pressure. Since December, IBM has flagged its intention to cut 10,000 jobs from its global workforce, including 2500 from its Asia-Pacific operations.

Other global IT companies have announced plans to undertake sweeping cost-cutting initiatives, but none have been at the level of IBM’s coffee cuts.

Human resources specialist Drake International’s Matt Tukaki described IBM’s decision to make employees pay for tea and coffee as ludicrous.

“What you really want to do is make sure that you’re keeping your staff happy,” he said.

“There’s already enough nervousness out there at the moment with people in fear of losing their jobs. What good is it taking away people’s tea and coffee? I see no point.”

Another workplace relations consultant who asked not to be named said the decision was likely to have a dehumanising effect on employees.,25197,25330942-5013404,00.html

April 14, 2009 – 9:32AM

Qantas will scrap up to 1750 jobs, including 500 management positions and has forecast a massive drop in its profit expectations, the airline revealed this morning.

Qantas also said it would sell about 10 aircraft and will cut freight capacity both internationally and domestically.

“Unfortunately, responding rapidly to declining economic conditions is going to have a direct impact on our staff. We employ over 34,000 people and we are striving to protect as many of their jobs as possible, but the capacity reductions to protect the long-term viability of the overall Qantas Group mean that up to 1250 equivalent full-time positions will be affected in addition to the management reductions being made,” said the airline’s chief executive, Alan Joyce.

Qantas also slashed its full year pre-tax profit outlook to between $100 million and $200 million, down from its previous forecast of $500 million.

“Qantas today announced that, due to a rapid and significant deterioration of trading conditions in the past few weeks, it is revising its 2008-2009 full year profit before tax outlook downwards from around $500 million to between $100 million and $200 million,” Qantas said in a statement.

The carrier said the profit forecast range is subject to no further changes in market conditions, fuel prices, and volatility in hedge accounting results.

The company will also reduce “flying capacity” by 5% after the company said it had experienced a sharp fall in trade conditions in the past few weeks.

BusinessDay, with AAP

American Airlines adds new Boeing jet

David Koenig
April 14, 2009 – 8:09AM

American Airlines will add the first of 76 new Boeing jets to its fleet this week in a move that the carrier hopes will cut fuel and maintenance costs.

The Boeing 737-800 aircraft will replace about one-fourth of American’s current aging fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series jets, which have been the subject of several maintenance problems in the past year.

American took delivery of the first two planes late last month, held a media open house Monday, and planned to put them into service carrying passengers Tuesday in Chicago.

The planes are the newest generation of Boeing’s workhorse 737 series. American already has 77 Boeing 737-800s it bought nearly a decade ago. They list for $US72.5 million ($A102.37 million) to $US81 million ($A114.37 million). American officials said they paid less than sticker price, but wouldn’t say how much.

“This is a strategic investment for our future,” said pilot Jim Kaiser as he stood in the aisle of a jet that still had that new-plane smell of leather, plastic and carpeting.

The jets get 28 percent better mileage than the MD-80s they will replace – 35 percent more on a per-seat basis, when you consider they have 160 seats instead of the 140 on an MD-80, even though MD-80s are 18 feet (5.5 meters) longer.

The 737-800s have three seats on each side of the aisle in coach instead of the 2-3 layout of the MD-80s. American squeezed in two more rows in coach by placing rows closer together, using thinner seat padding and removing rear galleys.

© 2009 AP

Scott Rochfort
April 14, 2009

HIGH-END recruitment firm Hamilton James & Bruce has offered another illustration of the dire state of the white-collar employment market, after reporting a $5.9 million half-year loss.

The Sydney firm, which has been suspended from trading since early last month for failing to file its half-year accounts on time, released its results to the ASX late on Thursday showing it had been hit badly by the economic slowdown.

“HJB has been affected by the well-publicised decline in trading within the recruitment sector and in particular this has impacted permanent revenues which were down 54.5 per cent on the corresponding period in 2007,” the company said in a statement.

HJB’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said there “is a significant uncertainty whether the company will continue as a going concern”.

HJB, considered one of the conservative recruitment firms in Sydney, is primarily exposed to the banking, accounting and finance sectors. So white collar is the recruiter that it has a policy of forbidding its staff from wearing non-white shirts.

The company failed to explain why its accounts were released six weeks late. Nor did it say when it expected to resume trading.

However, HJB said it had secured “alternative financing” after losing the support of ANZ, with whom it had breached its debt covenants. The company has $3.4 million of borrowings.

HJB management were unavailable for comment. It failed to indicate who the unnamed “potential strategic” partner could be, which it said “would provide a platform for growth and benefits for all stakeholders”.

One likely partner could be the recruitment industry veteran Victor Plummer, who has now built a 56 per cent stake in HJB. Mr Plummer, who funded the bulk of a HJB $2 million capital raising in December, also owns a 17 per cent stake in the white and blue collar recruiter Chandler Macleod.

Mr Plummer also has a 14.5 per cent stake in the struggling recruiter Ambition Group, which reported a $24 million full-year loss in February. It is not clear if he is interested in broking a possible merger between HJB and Ambition or Chandler Macleod.

HJB shares last traded at 3.1c, well down from their $1 listing price in 2000. The company’s loss included a $2.9 million impairment from an “onerous contract” related to its leasing of two floors of office space in the ASX building on Bridge Street, Sydney. The company said it hoped to sub-let part of the office space. HJB declined to say how many jobs it had cut as a result of its “cost reduction strategies”. Despite the dire state of its finances, the intangible assets on HJB’s balance sheet remain largely intact.

HJB has been hit particularly hard due to its exposure to the financial sector. However, other listed recruiters such as Ross Human Directions, Skilled and Talent2 have all suffered large share price falls.

HJB’s troubles could be a worry for the owner of the ASX building in Sydney, the former Allco-aligned Record Realty. Record has already withdrawn the building for sale due to a lack of buyer interest.

Natasha Bita | April 09, 2009

Article from: The Australian

PAID maternity leave remains affordable despite the global financial crisis, according to secret costings being weighed by the Rudd Government ahead of next month’s budget.

Productivity Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald said yesterday there was “no question” the community could deliver 18 weeks’ paid leave for parents to care for their babies, despite the economic problems.

“The commission is acutely aware of the difficulties for government and business,” he told The Australian. “We certainly put a scheme to the Government we think is implementable. The proposals we put couldn’t possibly harm business too much.”

Mr Fitzgerald’s remarks ahead of the budget deliberations next week will breathe new life into the campaign for parental pay, which lost political momentum as the economy slowed.

The commission recommended working mothers be paid 18 weeks’ leave, based on the adult minimum wage of $544 a week, in a draft report to the Government last September.

Women who were not in the workforce would continue to be paid the $5000 baby bonus.

Small business groups opposed the scheme, calculated to cost taxpayers $450 million a year in paid leave, and business $75million in superannuation payments and administrative costs.

The commission delivered a more “robust analysis” to the Government in February, but the costings remain secret.

Mr Fitzgerald refused to discuss the final report yesterday but said compliance costs were minimal and business would have to spend less than $100 million a year in superannuation payments to parents on baby leave.

“Our view is that the investment … would pay dividends,” he said. “If you can support parents being home with a child for at least the first six months, there are benefits to the children and the parents. It allows a mother to breastfeed her child. It allows greater bonding between the parents and the child in a more stable environment.”

The collapse of the ABC Learning childcare company, and the Government’s planned reforms to the childcare industry, are adding to pressure to implement paid parental leave.

State and territory children’s commissioners have told the Government it would ease pressure on the childcare system.

“To have the best possible outcomes for children’s wellbeing and development, we believe parents need to be supported to spend time at home with their babies through a universal paid parental leave scheme of at least 12 months,” the commissioners of NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT told the Government in its review of childcare services.

NSW Commissioner for Children Gillian Calvert said the next-best option would be to employ one childcare worker for every two infants. “You can’t provide the sort of interactions infants need in a childcare centre,” she said.

“To do that, there are high staff costs, because you would need a ratio of one carer for two children.”

New mother Kim Futcher, a Brisbane doctor, saved throughout her pregnancy so she could enjoy nine months with daughter Ava, now four months. She plans to return to work part-time in September, but regards the period of bonding with baby as crucial.

“It’s important developmentally because babies need the stimulus and nurturing mum can give,” she said. “I really do feel for women who don’t have the choice to spend time with their little one.”,25197,25311750-2702,00.html