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Category Archives: work/life balance

 April 19, 2012 1:45PM 

A WOMAN who was injured while having sex in her hotel room during a work trip is entitled to compensation. In the Federal Court today Justice John Nicholas ruled that the woman was injured during her “course of employment”.

The woman’s barrister argued that sex was an “ordinary incident of life” in a hotel room, much like showering and sleeping.

The Judge ruled that “if the applicant had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room she would be entitled to compensation” and the fact that the woman was engaged in sexual activity rather than some other lawful recreational activity while in her hotel room does not lead to any different result. The woman, who cannot be named, challenged the rejection of her workers’ compensation claim for facial and psychological injuries suffered when a glass light fitting came away from the wall above the bed as she was having sex in November 2007.

The woman in her late thirties was required to travel to a country town by her employer, the Human Relations Section of the Commonwealth Government agency. She arranged to meet a male friend there who lived in the town. They went to a restaurant for dinner and at about 10pm or 11pm went back to the woman’s motel room where they had sex that resulted in her injury.

 The male friend said in his statement at the time that they were “going hard” and he did not know if they bumped the light or it just fell off. “I think she was on her back when it happened but I was not paying attention because we are rolling around.”

 Read more: http://www.news.com.au/business/worker-injured-during-sex-gets-compo/story-e6frfm1i-1226333292525#ixzz1saRk4ixg

By Stephen Lunn
The Courier-Mail
June 05, 2009 08:32am

MEN in jobs with long hours are no more likely to divorce than anyone else.

And if the extra hours are bringing in more money, it may be helping to keep the marriage together.

A new study co-authored by Melbourne Institute economist Mark Wooden finds men are less likely to split up with their partner if they are working between 40 and 50 hours a week, The Australian reports.

“The optimal work arrangement appears to be where the man works a 41- to 49-hour week,” Professor Wooden said.

“Beyond this, the risk of separation does rise, but it is still lower than for couples where the male works a 35- to 40-hour work week.”

Professor Wooden used data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, which tracked families between 2002 and 2006, to conclude that long work hours do no harm in terms of divorce rates.

His article was published yesterday in HILDA’s annual statistical report, titled Families, Income and Jobs, alongside other research that confirmed 2002-2006 as a golden period for household wealth creation, which surged 35 per cent over the five years.

In his study of work hours, Professor Wooden noted the current debate over the effect of long working hours on family life. About one in five workers report putting in 50 hours or more a week.

“While surveys have consistently found people believe long hours are detrimental for personal relationships, there are few, if any, studies providing evidence of clear causal links between long work weeks, especially when worked by the husband, and subsequent marital separation or divorce,” his paper notes.

“Indeed, recent studies conducted in both the US and The Netherlands suggests that, if anything, the probability of divorce falls with the number of hours worked by the husband.”

Professor Wooden said income played a part in the chances of divorce, with the probability of separation falling the higher the income level of the male.

But Barbara Pocock, from the Centre for Work and Life at the University of South Australia, said it was hard to unpick the complex reasons behind divorce.

“People separate and divorce for a nest of reasons, and I think it’s difficult to try to isolate single causes,” Professor Pocock said.

“Qualitative research shows long hours can be a significant factor when examining the quality of a relationship, but an important component is whether those hours are voluntarily worked.

“Also the nature of the work may be a factor, for instance how intense it is. That can be a real relationship killer.”

Read more on the HILDA report at The Australian

http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,27753,25590399-5012426,00.html

By Michael Edwards for AM

Big ask: Unions say telling manual workers to toil past the age of 65 is not on (ABC News: Giulio Saggin, file photo)

The Federal Government is facing a protest from two of the country’s biggest blue-collar unions against its plans to raise the pension age to 67 by 2023.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) say it is unpalatable to expect people in arduous jobs to work to that age.

The pension age increase was announced in the Federal Budget and unions say they will fight the decision.

They say it is not only bad for workers but it also represents a false economy, as the age increase will only lead to more compensation claims from older workers.

John Byrnes, a 62-year-old Sydney construction worker, says his line of work is tough at that age.

“The last five years of my life, five to seven years, I’ve had more things go wrong with me,” he said.

“Honestly, six weeks ago I just had both my knees operated on; I got a crook back and bad shoulder, arthritis. These are age things but a lot of it is work-related. Just doing heavy work for a long period of time. You just break down, the body breaks down.”

Mr Byrnes says while he is looking forward to his retirement in a few years’ time, the increase in the pension age range has alarmed many of his younger colleagues.

He says the Government is taking a free kick at vulnerable people.

“I was scandalised, honestly,” he said.

“I didn’t like it at all. I was in the smoker’s shed at work. There’s about 30 of us sort of sitting in the same shed at smoko and it was a big subject. It was me and a couple of guys around about the same age as me and it was a bit of black humour. We said, ‘Oh well, we’re lucky, we’re escaping that’.

“But the guys running about in their early-50s, mid-50s, well it sort of sunk in. They weren’t happy, you know? And I don’t blame them. I don’t blame them at all.”

Mr Byrnes says blue-collar jobs such as construction are hard enough at the best of times and he says it is ridiculous to think someone over the age of 65 could manage them.

It is an issue which the CFMEU and AMWU intend to fight the Government about.

The unions have written to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd relating their concerns about raising the retirement age.

The national secretary of the CFMEU, John Sutton, says he is astonished by the policy.

“Many of our members of course left school at age 15 or 16,” he said.

“They’ve been working with their bodies in heavy industry of one sort or another for many years. By the time you reach 65 you’ve basically done about 50 years in hard physical labour.

“To be turning around and saying to people that ‘I’m sorry, they’re not going to be getting the aged pension, they’ve got to work on to age 67′, is a pretty big ask.

“A lot of our building workers’ bodies are not in very good shape by the age of 50, let alone 67, so we think that this decision needs a serious rethink in relation to workers doing heavy manual work.”

Mr Sutton says if the change is about saving money then it is a false economy.

“If they really are going to be telling people at 65 and 66 they’ve got to work on in manual industries then I anticipate a hell of a lot of injuries and a hell of a lot of downtime,” he said.

“And I don’t see where that would actually make money for employers or the Commonwealth.”

The Federal Government says increasing the pension age is a responsible reform to meet the challenge of an ageing population and the economic impact it will have for all Australians.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister says Australia’s shift in pension age is in line with what is happening in other countries such as the USA, Germany and Denmark.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/05/25/2579583.htm?section=justin

May 19, 2009

Facebook is blurring the boundaries between work and private life and sometimes the consequences are at the employee’s expense, writes Michelle Wilding.

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Maria’s nightmare began after a long weekend when she logged on to check her emails only to find: “The boss added you as a friend on Facebook” staring at her through her inbox screen.

Above this was a message notification sent via Facebook candidly asking why she denied accepting her boss as a friend. Maria had not even been online for almost 36 hours. Having no choice, she bit the bullet and accepted her boss as a Facebook friend.

Facebook now boasts 108.3 million users, reports Nielsen Online. As the world’s most popular social networking site, it’s not too comforting to know online bullying tactics from your boss are enough to knock down your safeguarded Facebook page that was once locked by private settings.

Unfortunately, former service operator Maria was cornered: she was vulnerable to her “unscrupulous service manager” at one of Australia’s leading supermarket chains. Maria says she was fearful, vexed and defenceless when her boss began using her online information to manipulate her work life.

It started with inappropriate innuendos regarding Facebook photos. More seriously, Maria’s work hours were exploited and she received abusive confrontations and phone calls questioning her availability and every move.

“My boss was a gossiping, domineering, contriving megalomaniac and her behaviour dramatically intensified when she used Facebook to pry,” Maria says.

“I’m a student, so it’s very rare to have a night out. If plans came up, she would purposely make me work. If I needed money, she’d take advantage of that need and cancel my shifts, stripping me of my dignity.

“I don’t know where she got off. She was worse than Stephanie from The Bold And The Beautiful. She played with employee lives like we were her toys. It upset me so much I finally stood up for myself and quit. I feel like I got my freedom back and can breathe again.”

Maria notes one occasion when she RSVPed on Facebook to attend the Future Music Festival with workmates. Unexpectedly she was rostered on the early morning shift the next day, something she believes was calculated.

“As a senior, I was told I wasn’t allowed to work weekends … Then, all of a sudden, the weekend Future is on I was put on first thing the next morning. I found it interesting that my boss could bend the ‘no seniors on weekends’ rule when it suited her,” she says.

The executive director of UNSW’s Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, David Vaile, says Maria’s case is a useful example of how personal information stored on a Facebook page can be abused, noting the consequences of posting personal information online aren’t necessarily clear because it’s relatively new technology.

“Privacy law has a gaping black hole that does not protect employee privacy and Facebook is outside of that,” Vaile says.

“I think it’s an abuse of the boss’s prerogative to threaten and use their power over their employee’s contract to require access to their Facebook page. On the other hand, there is no idea that Facebook is safe for anyone. Maybe Facebook is required by law to let police have access to a person’s page.”

A range of legal and business reputation risks attached to Facebook concerns Vaile. He says the risks are serious and users should think twice before signing up or sharing private information on Facebook.

“Cyber stalking, harassment, defamation, breach of duty, damage to reputation of workplace: the inherent reliability of that, in the same way that it’s sort of a dangerous and cheap temptation for individuals and also businesses, employers and universities, is a data mine for tragedy,” Vaile says.

Maria’s isn’t the only case of employer Facebook abuse. Former discount retail employee Grace Leasa, 19, was shocked when her then boss made a derogatory remark on her page. After a quarrel with a friend, she updated her Facebook status to: “Grace just can’t do it any more.” To which her boss commented: “You Pussy.”

“I was just surprised because at work he’d act like a friend to the other employees but he’d never been like that with me before,” Leasa says.

“It was sort of degrading because I don’t even talk to this guy.”

Another element through which businesses can intimidate and keep track of their employees is on Facebook groups. Cosmetic retail representative Lucy (not her real name) received two requests to join her work group before she “reluctantly” accepted. The 20-year-old says she was pressured to attend optional work meetings via the group’s listing and experienced online bullying.

“I received updates on meetings and events,” she says.

“I felt the need to put ‘maybe attending’ due to university commitments. If I put ‘not attending’ I would be encouraged by phone to attend. It was pretty much like they were looking into my personal life. But now that I’ve left the group, I feel liberated.

“I also didn’t want to be a part of the group so Facebook users could check up on where I work. That’s another invasion of privacy.”

Not all Facebook employer-employee relationships are troublesome. Doughnut shop worker Kimberley Driver, 20, says she never thinks twice about writing on her Facebook page because she gets along with her boss.

“It would suck if my boss was different,” Driver says.

“It’s your profile to express what you’re feeling and what you want to say. You shouldn’t have to be restricted or toned down by anyone.”

One major problem many users are oblivious of is that their profile is automatically set to be on public view.

Media arts production student Chris Noble, 21, found that out the hard way. He signed up to Facebook 10 months ago and couldn’t figure out why random people were contacting him.

“I couldn’t believe that. I thought [my Facebook profile] was set to private mode. I felt vulnerable and annoyed that anyone, complete strangers, could view my page and information and I had no idea that it was my duty to change the default settings from public viewing to private. It’s ridiculous,” Noble says.

At the end of the day, if you’re going to use Facebook, make sure your profile settings are appropriate. Take advantage of friend category lists such as family, colleagues, friends and acquaintances to filter your relationships and content.

And if your boss does decide to add you on Facebook, it’s not career suicide if you place them on limited profile, where certain parts of your profile content become restricted to them.

After all, do you really want them seeing a photo of you in a bikini or Speedos roaming freely on the beach?

Let’s face it: Facebook was designed as a personal platform for social communication – and for some people, that means leaving work relationships at the office.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/is-your-boss-your-friend-or-foe/2009/05/18/1242498694440.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap2

Michelle Grattan
May 17, 2009

The Coalition has slashed Labor’s lead and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s popularity has fallen 10 points in an Age/Nielsen poll that also finds people don’t like the budget plan to raise the pension age.

Although most people believe the budget is fair and economically responsible, fewer are happy than with last year’s budget. Significantly more (38 per cent) say they personally will be worse off.

Labor’s two-party vote has fallen five points since March to 53 per cent, while the Opposition has risen five points to 47.

The poll is a reality check for the Government, and should scotch speculation about an early election.

Although they will hearten Opposition ranks, the figures still only take the Coalition back to its 2007 election position.

The Coalition’s primary vote has jumped six points in the past two months, with Labor falling three points. The ALP is now only one point ahead on primaries — 44 to 43 per cent.

This is the highest primary vote the Coalition has had since the election, although last September, with a lower vote, it led Labor on primaries.

In Victoria, the Coalition is five points ahead of Labor on primary votes — from being 20 points behind in March.

Mr Rudd’s approval is down sharply from his peak of 74 per cent but remains at a high 64 per cent; his disapproval has risen 10 points to 32 per cent. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull is steady on 43 per cent approval and 47 per cent disapproval.

Mr Rudd has fallen five points to 64 per cent as preferred PM and Mr Turnbull is up four points to 28 per cent.

The national opinion poll of 1400 was taken from Thursday to Saturday.

Pollster John Stirton said that while Mr Rudd’s approval had dropped significantly, John Howard’s approval during his years as prime minister was 64 or better only four times.

Only 40 per cent backed the big budget surprise of a rise — phased in between 2017 and 2023 — from 65 to 67 in the eligibility age for the pension. This is designed to help finance the higher pension rate, boosted in the budget, for an ageing population. The increase was opposed by 56 per cent.

The budget was seen as fair by 56 per cent (down one point compared with the response after last year’s budget); 62 per cent were satisfied with it (down four points), while 52 per cent thought it economically responsible, and 38 per cent said it was not.

People feel notably more disadvantaged by this year’s budget than they did by the first Swan budget. There has been an eight-point fall on a year ago in those who say they will be better off (23 per cent), and an eight-point rise in those believing they will be worse off (38 per cent).

Mr Turnbull confirmed yesterday that the Opposition is set to let through the Government’s $1.3 billion alcopops legislation from last year’s budget, rejected earlier this year, which comes back into Parliament next month. It had been expected to become “trigger” legislation if the Government decided to have a double dissolution.

“We’ve got to take into account the budgetary environment has changed,” Mr Turnbull told Channel Nine. “Last year the budget was solidly in surplus, this year we have a record deficit.”

But the Coalition will vote against the means test on the health insurance rebate, which is worth $1.9 billion over the budget period.

Mr Turnbull said the means test was “an ideological political move to attack private health insurance and had nothing to do with budgetary or financial necessity”.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said he had always had private health insurance, “but I don’t expect to be subsidised by taxpayers on low and middle incomes, many of whom can’t afford private health insurance themselves”.

http://www.watoday.com.au/national/rudds-popularity-dives-over-new-pension-age-20090517-b7d2.html?page=-1

Adele Horin
May 14, 2009

“I’m jack of it “…sewer repairer Richard Bishop wants to retire but the later eligibility for the age pension will affect his plans. Photo: James Brickwood

RICHARD BISHOP began working at 14 and after decades of hard manual labour he is keen to retire as soon as possible.

“I’m jack of it,” said the 57-year old who repairs sewers for a living. “I’ve just had a knee reconstruction and by the time I’m 60 I don’t think I’m going to be getting any better. I want to enjoy what I’ve got left.”

Mr Bishop’s plans to put his feet up have been derailed by the Federal Government’s plan progressively to raise the pension eligibility age to 67 from 2017.

He admits the plan will hurt him and he is not alone – most Australian workers will not applaud the initiative, according to social researcher Julia Perry.

“Employers don’t want older workers, and a lot of mature-age workers want out, too,” said Ms Perry, who produced the Too Young To Go report on older workers for the NSW Government.

To prefer to work beyond 60 has always been a minority taste. At most, 25 per cent of mature-age workers enjoy their jobs so much they want to keep going beyond the usual retirement age, research consistently shows. “Only a minority of workers have the kind of job that is exciting or fulfilling,” said Sol Encel, emeritus professor at the University of NSW who is an expert on the ageing population. “Work is a chore for most people, especially as they age.”

Yet most experts agree the decision to lift the pension age is a necessity in the absence of higher tax rates to fund burgeoning health and aged care services, as well as pensions and superannuation concessions for a greying population. Australia is following a trend set by the US, Germany, Iceland, Norway and Denmark. In Britain 68 is the age for pension eligibility.

Australia’s plan will affect workers now aged 57 or younger. Those aged 55.5 to 57 will not be eligible for a pension until they are 65.5 and those aged 52.5 or younger not until 67.

Australians appeared to be resigned to their fate, Professor Encel said.

In the past decade, workers have reversed the trend to early retirement. Since 1998, the proportion of men aged 60-64 in the workforce has risen from 43 per cent to 52 per cent, and the proportion aged 65-69 has jumped from 19 per cent to 27 per cent, with most working part-time. For women the proportion of those aged 60-64 in work has almost doubled to 36 per cent.

But most, Professor Encel said, were economic conscripts. “The boomers have come to realise they don’t have the money to retire at 60. They’ve got responsibilities upscale and downscale – ageing parents and dependent children,” he said. “And they know if they have to rely on the pension, they’ll suffer a dramatic drop in lifestyle.”

Ms Perry said it was regrettable to compel low-skilled and low-paid workers, many with health problems, to work longer for the pension if highly skilled workers continued to be able to retire early by accessing superannuation at 55 or getting it tax free at 60.

The Henry review of the tax system recommended the preservation age for super be aligned with the age pension age.

If employees are expected to work longer, employer attitudes will need to change, experts say. “It’s a good idea to encourage people to work longer but you have to encourage employers to employ them longer,” Ms Perry said.

David Murray, 57, a company director, said though he was unlikely to be affected by the change in the eligibility age, he had lost retirement savings in the downturn. “Most people have lost 25 to 30 per cent of their retirement funds, so it’s going to take them another four to eight years before they can start to recoup some of that. Most retirements have been pushed out anyway.”

with Jonathan Dart

http://www.smh.com.au/national/too-young-to-retire-and-too-old-to-work-20090513-b3dt.html?page=-1

Maybe it was just me, but I was amazed pre-GFC at how many employers were complaining about skill shortage and their struggles to find candidates, talking about their employer branding and employer of choice strategies, but who were still using the approaches and technologies they used when labour was plentiful…and not noticing the contradiction….

________________________________________________________________________
12 May 2009 8:17am

Corporate career sites should be customised to their target audience and manage candidates’ job expectations, according to technology and HR expert Gerry Crispin.

Too often, they fail to engage candidates in ways that influence their career decisions and only very rarely do they let candidates know what to expect during the recruitment process, he says.

Crispin told last week’s Australasian Talent Conference that career sites should:
be customised to your target audience – know who you want to hire and tailor your content and design to those people. To engage people, they should recognise “people like me”;

cross-link to other platforms – have a Facebook page, for example, that scrolls your hot jobs;

demonstrate a sense of urgency – have a chat room where potential candidates can ask live questions;

omit static information and diagrams of ‘career ladders’ – “it gives the wrong message”;

offer a user guide – “If you’re interested in doing this, go here, or if you just want more information about us, go here”;

increase the transparency of the application process – offer “clear data about how you hire people and what the process is”. Explain how frequently you have jobs open and what they are;

detail your community involvement – “what are you dealing with in terms of sustainability? People make decisions based on that”;

manage job expectations – “ask key questions of employees that get deep into core values of your company, such as how they excel in terms of performance, and how they innovate in terms of products”, and post videos of their answers. The messages on the site must be aligned with the reality or people won’t stay;

tie in self assessments – more employers are doing this, but the next step is to share the data with applicants. “Both the organisation and [the applicant] should know whether [they] should go forward; and

respect candidates – “acknowledge every action”. Disclose what comes next in the process; promise to protect applicants’ data; offer them status updates and explain why they weren’t selected.
“Most companies are not here yet,” Crispin says, “but you see pieces of it being built in the most competitive organisations”.

By Europe correspondent Emma Alberici

Posted 6 hours 3 minutes ago

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has welcomed Australia’s plan to introduce a parental leave scheme but says it is less generous than what is offered by other countries.

Of all the advanced economies, Australia and the United States are the only countries that do not offer statutory paid-maternity leave.

Economist Willem Adema of the OECD’s Social Policy Division welcomes the announcement of an Australian scheme to begin in 2011 but says the amount allocated to it is low when judged against similar schemes around the world.

While Australia’s proposal is means tested, the paid leave offered in the other 38 other OECD countries is open to all parents, regardless of income.

The OECD reports that in many European countries parents are given between 75 and 100 per cent of their wages for up to 18 months.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/05/12/2567467.htm?section=justin

Michelle Grattan and Tim Colebatch
May 12, 2009

The second Rudd Government budget will predict a huge $58 billion deficit.

TONIGHT’S second Rudd Government budget will predict a huge $58 billion deficit in the new financial year — a record 4.9 per cent of GDP, higher than in any post-war recession.

It will also estimate almost a million people will be unemployed, with the unemployment rate rising from 5.4 per cent to 8.5 per cent.

Costello: Swan ‘desperate’
Peter Costello accuses Wayne Swan of desperation over the looming budget deficit but fails to answer whether he would run a deficit himself.

The budget will cut into so-called middle-class welfare, and slice spending in other areas, but the collapse of revenue and the cost of the earlier stimulus packages will bring a string of red numbers.

The deficit is an $80 billion turnaround since the forecasts in last year’s budget.

The leak of the figure last night prompted the Opposition to declare that “the Australian Labor Party has lost control of the nation’s finances”.

The Government will today seek to rush through a bill to allow it to keep $365 million in revenue collected from its defeated alcopop tax. It has also signalled that it will try again to get the tax hike through the Senate.

Its fate will depend on a change of heart by Family First senator Steve Fielding, who voted against it last time. There is agreement to validate the $365 million already collected.

Treasury now forecasts that the economy’s collapse will lift unemployment to record levels. While the unemployment rate is expected to peak at 8.5 per cent, well below its 10.9 per cent peak in the last recession, the total numbers out of work would rise even above the 933,000 unemployed in December 1992.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, preparing to justify the unprecedented deficit, said Treasury advice to be published in the budget was that if the Government had not brought in its earlier stimulus measures, unemployment would have reached 10 per cent.

The budget would “support the jobs of today by investing in the infrastructure we need for tomorrow”, Mr Rudd said yesterday.

Treasury’s advice was “the final nail in the coffin for those who argue that governments should do nothing to support jobs during a global recession”.

“We are in the worst recession, the worst global recession since the Great Depression,” Mr Rudd said.

Meanwhile former NSW Labor treasurer Michael Costa launched a sharp attack on the Government, saying he had always taken the view “the Prime Minister and his Treasurer don’t know what they are doing”. The stimulus had been a “disaster”, Mr Costa said.

“The issue comes down to how many jobs did you actually save for that level of spending and the cost-benefit of the stimulus becomes an issue.”

A pension rise of about $30 a week, a go-ahead for major infrastructure programs and the promised parental leave scheme will be among the budget’s good news, but many people will be hit in the hip pocket by losing their private health insurance rebate and superannuation concessions.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said the Rudd Government was “a reckless spender”. “Every man, every woman and every child will have a burden of $2600 just for next year’s budget.”

But he refused to say what would be an appropriate level of debt. Mr Hockey said it was “inconceivable that we could have such a deterioration of unemployment in such a short time. We left the Labor Party with unemployment levels at 4 per cent, with a $22 billion surplus, with no debt.”

Mr Rudd said every government worldwide was “engaged in temporary borrowing”.

The Government has the added problem of a hostile Senate, which puts at risk some of its savings measures.

The Opposition is reserving its positions on measures such as the means test on the private health insurance rebate, which has been criticised by Senator Fielding and independent senator Nick Xenophon.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said this was “unquestionably a broken election promise. “There was no election promise that was made more repeatedly or more emphatically by Mr Rudd than that there would be no change to the private health insurance rebate.”

Attempting to apply heat to the Coalition, Treasurer Wayne Swan said: “The Opposition on the one hand can’t be out there saying they’ll support a pension increase, then knock back the savings that make that pension increase sustainable for the long term. They can’t have it both ways.”

Mr Swan said the budget was complex. “We have to stimulate the economy now to support employment. We have to make room for vital investments and also for pensions.

“But also, we’ve got to make those longer-term savings that bring the budget back to sustainability over time given the new global circumstances.”

Business confidence has picked up — the NAB confidence index held on to most of its gains in April to come in at a near six-month high of minus 14 points, well above the minus 32 points recorded in January.

With BRENDAN NICHOLSON, SARAH-JANE COLLINS and PETER MARTIN

http://www.theage.com.au/national/get-ready-for-58bn-deficit-and-million-jobless-20090511-b0mb.html?page=-1

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.

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25458575-662,00.html