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Category Archives: SME

May 11, 2009 12:00am

BUDGET 09: AUSTRALIA will finally join the rest of the Western world in introducing a paid parental leave scheme, but not till 2011.

And the scheme will not be universal. Around 140,000 stay-at-home mums – and the rich – will miss out.

But tens of thousands of women who work part-time or casually could end up getting more than their working wage.

Eligible parents will collect at least the minimum wage of $544 a week while on 18 weeks’ leave to look after newborns.

Treasurer Wayne Swan used Mother’s Day yesterday to announce the scheme, as final touches were applied to a Budget billed as the toughest in living memory.

An attack on middle-class welfare – including means-testing of the private health insurance rebate and elimination of lucrative superannuation concessions – will allow for tax cuts and an increase in age pensions.

But the Budget is still expected to plunge to a record deficit of around $60 billion, while borrowings will blow out to as much as $300 billion.

Consequently, the parental scheme is unlikely to begin until January 1, 2011 – possibly after the next election.

Mr Swan said that start-up date was necessary because the global economic crisis had ripped a $200 billion black hole in revenue over four years.

But shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said this was “putting promises on the never-never”.

Mr Swan said: “We are one of only two countries in the Western world that doesn’t have paid parental leave.

“We have got to get that balance between work and family right, and paid parental leave is an essential reform,” he told the Nine Network.

Families in which the main breadwinner earns $150,000 or more will be ineligible.

And to qualify, a prospective mum would have to have worked only 330 hours, or one day a week for 10 months in the 13 months before the birth.

The $5000 baby bonus will be bundled into the new payment.

But stay-at-home mums will get only the baby bonus, plus family tax benefits, halving the overall cost of the scheme to around $260 million a year.

“Stay-at-home mothers are being dudded once again,” Australian Family Association president John Morrisey said.

“And 18 weeks is not long enough anyway. A child needs two or three years of one-on-one with their mother, instead of becoming aggressive graduates of long day care.”

But working mum Sarah Horton wishes the scheme had been available sooner.

“It would have been fantastic to have had financial help with our first child. In all probability, we would have started a family earlier,” she said.

Mrs Horton, who gave birth to Ned Robert yesterday, said the scheme would be fantastic news for her next child.

“It means we can go ahead without the worry and concern about financial stability.”

Parents can share the 18 weeks’ leave, or one parent can take it all. And workers can still use parental leave provided by employers, either at the same time or back-to-back.

Employers will not contribute to the government scheme or cover superannuation on leave entitlements.

But Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Peter Anderson warned the Government not to force businesses to pay administration costs, which could leave them out of pocket.

Though welcoming the announcement, Council of Small Businesses of Australia chief Jaye Radisich said its impact on small businesses would be greater.

“But if you want to encourage women to have babies, maternity leave is good for society,” she said.,21985,25458575-662,00.html

By Megan Byrne
The Sydney Morning Herald

Jobs in the sustainable economy are booming and there are plenty of ways to plant yourself in the middle of it.

We walk through it every day and yet many of us barely give it a moment’s thought. It is the air we breathe, the water we drink, the ground we stand on and the weather at our backs. It is our environment and it determines our very livelihood – but not just physically. An increasing number of Australians are forging environment-focused – or “green-collar” – careers for themselves, boosting their financial subsistence and job satisfaction while playing a part in securing our planet’s future.

While some people feel that the green revolution is recent – a response to the effects of droughts, floods and fires, and films such as An Inconvenient Truth – Mark Lister, the group manager of corporate affairs at sustainable business solutions organisation Szencorp, says his company has promoted environmentally sustainable business and economic practices since 1983.

“There are several cost-saving and productivity benefits of changing the way we do things so they reduce the impact on the environment,” he says. “We work on the theory that sustainable practices can’t be adjunct to business. They should be a fundamental part of the business model. Leaders are now recognising that the model we have can’t continue.”

The profile of sustainability has taken off in the past two or three years, Lister says. Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2007 boosted green practices and businesses in Australia, and in February,

US President Barack Obama said his $US787billion ($1.08trillion) economic stimulus package was “laying the groundwork for a new, green energy economy that can create countless well-paying jobs”.

The Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions agree that the rapidly growing green economy has the potential to expand employment opportunities but say there is a significant skills shortage. However, the wide range of courses and training programs available means that anyone – regardless of age, profession or experience – can take advantage of the booming green economy.

Completing an environmental degree can provide the necessary skills for a green career. Monash University graduate Genevieve Ackland began a job as a carbon research assistant at Greening Australia just months after completing honours in environmental science. Ackland, whose honours project investigated carbon stocks in South-East Asian tropical forests, says she wouldn’t have got the job without honours.

“Completing my thesis gave me the experience I needed for this job,” she says. “I thought I’d end up in environmental consulting – I didn’t even know there were jobs in this area, or that you could earn a good living working for a not-for-profit organisation.” She says she finds her work – which involves data collection and modelling from various forests and plantations around the country – extremely fulfilling.

“My job substantiates my work and financial requirements but it also meets my own personal conservation goals working for an organisation that has made a difference and has got clients interested in investing in the future has boosted my morale.”

But you don’t need a degree for green-collar careers – there is room for apprentices and trainees. WPC Group brings together employers and people interested in jobs in renewable energy, energy and water efficiency and water management, through its Greenskills apprenticeship and traineeship program. Its chief executive, Nick Wyman, says green has gone mainstream.

“We’ve received a lot of interest from employers and prospective employees and have set up panels of employers in Victoria and NSW who are getting people into jobs within the green economy,” Wyman says. “We have everything from building and construction companies that are retrofitting office buildings to large multinational corporates with in-house sustainability programs.”

Wyman says the demographic applying for the program is quite different from what was originally expected. “When you think of apprentices, you think of 17- to 24-year-olds. But we’ve been overrun with people from all different backgrounds and age groups looking for an opportunity, like people in their 30s looking for a career change,” he says.

Even tradies are making their presence felt in the green economy. The Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia has been running a green plumbers’ program since 2001, teaching them about solar hot-water systems, water-efficient technology and natural wastewater treatment systems.

More than 10,000 plumbers worldwide have now completed the program. One of them, Tim Dickinson, says more people are asking whether plumbers are green.

“There’s real opportunities when you can promote yourself as being environmentally aware,” Dickinson says. “I get a lot of satisfaction from advising my clients on sustainable options that meet their needs.”

It is clear that jobs in the green economy are sustainable for both the environment and the employees – making a difference. And the awareness of it leaves people with a deep satisfaction that boosts morale and work ethic. Perhaps communing with nature is not such a hippie notion after all.


Published: 18 April 2009

The Advertiser
April 08, 2009 12:00am

A third of SMEs don’t understand IR laws
48pc concerned about changes

MORE than a third of small business owners have no understanding of new industrial relations laws being phased in on July 1, according to a survey.

The Telstra Business Industrial Relations survey of 282 Australian business owners found three-quarters were aware the system was changing, but 37 per cent had poor or no understanding of their obligations.

Just over half of respondents feel they are “partly prepared” for the changes and close to a third feel they are not prepared.

Harmers Workplace Lawyers partner Shana Schreier-Joffe said business owners needed to familiarise themselves with the laws before they came into effect. Some changes will become law on July 1, while new Modern Awards that cover a large proportion of the Australian workforce will begin on January 1, 2010.

“Employers are very much in the dark over award modernisation, especially sectors that have traditionally not been subject to award coverage, which will now be covered by modern awards,” Ms Schreier-Joffe said.

Related Coverage
Small businesses under pressure
Adelaide Now, 8 Apr 2009
Bosses claim awards victory
The Australian, 7 Apr 2009
SA needs workplace flexibility to deliver jobs and wages growth
Adelaide Now, 31 Mar 2009
Something’s got to give on award ‘modernisation’
The Australian, 19 Mar 2009
Gillard’s pizza diplomacy on IR laws
The Australian, 13 Mar 2009 Employers needing to adapt to changes include those with staff working after-hours and on weekends. Ms Schreier-Joffe said sectors that traditionally used above-award contractual arrangements might no longer be able to do so and would face increased labour costs as a result.

“Modern Awards may also result in an increase in costs for employers, particularly in industries that employ a large number of casuals, such as retail and hospitality,” she said.

“For instance, many modern awards will provide for loadings for part-time employees, and the casual loading for a number of industries will be increased to 25 per cent.”

The Telstra survey found 48 per cent of company owners were concerned the changes would increase their business expenses.

Ms Schreier-Joffe said employers worried about rising wage costs should consider mechanisms to protect themselves from modern awards, such as a collective agreement.

“The traditional use of common law contracts which provide for above-award payments may no longer insulate employers from award obligations to pay penalty, overtime and loadings,” she said.

Increased union power was a concern for 42 per cent of business owners and 38 per cent were worried about changes to the unfair dismissal laws.,23636,25307308-5017672,00.html?from=public_rss

Mark Davis, Political Correspondent
March 20, 2009

SENIOR Federal Government ministers plan an intense election-style campaign designed to direct worker anxiety over job losses against the Coalition and to put Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership under pressure if the Senate rejects Labor’s industrial relations legislation.

With the Government heading for a confrontation with the Senate, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, yesterday accused the Opposition of frustrating the electorate’s will on industrial relations and exposing workers to having entitlements such as redundancy pay ripped away as the economy slowed.

The Workplace Relations Minister, Julia Gillard, said 700,000 workers would lose protections against unfair sacking under Opposition-backed amendments to the Fair Work Bill.

The Government plans to use the Parliamentary recess to re-run the 2007 election debate on industrial relations if the Senate waters down Labor’s unfair dismissal protections.

Mr Rudd made it clear yesterday that the Government would not accept amendments increasing the number of small businesses exempt from the bill’s full suite of unfair dismissal rules.

Under the bill, businesses with less than 15 employees would be allowed to sack a worker within 12 months of hiring the employee without any redress under unfair dismissal rules.

The Opposition, Family First Senator Steve Fielding and South Australian independent Senator Nick Xenophon were last night expected to amend the bill to extend these special rules to all businesses with less than 20 employees on a full-time equivalent basis.

The Government plans to keep Parliament sitting on the weekend if necessary so it can use its numbers in the House of Representatives to reject these amendments and send the bill back to the Senate. If the Senate then insists on the amendments the legislation will be defeated.

That would mean Labor’s reforms – new national employment entitlements, minimum wage-fixing arrangements and stronger legal backing for unions and collective bargaining – would be stymied and the former Howard government’s Work Choices legislation would continue regulating workplaces.

Mr Turnbull has said the Opposition would insist on its amendments. If the Government can persuade either Senator Fielding or Senator Xenophon not to insist on the unfair dismissal amendment, the legislation will get through.

If the legislation is blocked, Labor will bring the bill back when Parliament resumes in winter, setting up a potential trigger for a double dissolution election if the Senate fails to pass the bill a second time.

Mr Rudd said the Liberal Party was split into two factions: purists, led by the former Treasurer Peter Costello, who wanted to deregulate the labour market and pretenders, led by Mr Turnbull, who wanted to avoid a backlash from voters on industrial relations.

He predicted that Mr Costello would take over the Liberal leadership from Mr Turnbull. “It will be like Frankenstein having the electrodes reconnected as far as Work Choices is concerned.”

Posted Fri Mar 20, 2009 2:45am AEDT
Updated Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:16am AEDT

The Senate changed the Bill to expand the number of businesses that would have special unfair dismissal rules.

The Senate has passed the Government’s Fair Work Bill in an amended form after debating it into the early hours of this morning.

But the amended bill is likely to be rejected when it returns to the Lower House and that is already prompting talk of another election.

The Senate changed the Bill to expand the number of businesses that would have special unfair dismissal rules.

The Government wants it limited to firms with less than 15 staff, the Senate says it should be any business with the equivalent of 20 full-time staff.

Human services Minister Joe Ludwig says the Government has a mandate for 15.

“We put the detail of what we would actually do and I am here now doing just that,” Mr Ludwig said.

“It was crystal clear what we were going to do when we got to office.”

Family First’s Steve Fielding has questioned if the Government would dare use it as a trigger for another election.

“Tell this chamber how you’re going to go to the public with a double dissolution around 15,” Senator Fielding said.

Greens Leader Bob Brown has warned the Opposition, Family First and independent senator Nick Xenophon that if they insist on their change, they risk the Government calling another election.

“Accept the judgement of the people in 2007 or face the ire of the people in 2009,” Senator Brown said.

The Bill goes back to the House of Representatives later this morning where the Government is likely to reject the Senate’s changes.