On a day dominated by the media attempting to beat up a story about NSW Premier Morris Iemma taking time off to spend the school holidays with his young children, another story got hardly any traction. Both stories tie into Guest Hoyden Helen’s post from last week on the “Real World” of time-management around school holidays not being perceived as a male i.e. “real” issue.
ALL fathers should receive two weeks’ paid paternity leave, and unsocial work hours should be restricted to preserve family life, a group of academics says.
Increased retention rates and lower absenteeism would be just two of the benefits to employers, while for employees it would mean more control over their work arrangements and being able to accommodate family and caring responsibilities, they said. The Benchmarks for Work and Family Policies report, taken from the latest Australian and international research, pushes against the trend towards excessive work hours.
Of course, it’s exactly those excessive work hours that Mr Iemma is being slammed for not performing, the accusation that “he lacks the commitment to lead NSW” being made most forcefully by Liberal leaders former ex-Premier of NSW Nick Greiner and ex-Federal Opposition Leader John Hewson, with fellow Liberal ex-Premier of Victoria Jeff Kennett reported as joining this criticism even though the only quotes from Kennett that I can find sound wistful about his own failure to spend the time with his own family that Iemma is insisting upon, noting that Kennett’s wife actually left him for six months because he was failing to share family duties, before getting onto the obligatory denunciation of NSW as a “basket case”.
Another Liberal ex-leader in NSW, former Opposition Leader Kerry Chikarovski, sounded reluctantly yet staunchly supportive of Iemma’s prioritisation of his family, noting that it would be hugely hypocritical of her to denounce him for ensuring a balanced work/life/family balance when this had been one of her own pet issues as a parliamentarian (you could tell she really wanted to seize the microphone to denounce him for his other perceived failings, but she restrained herself and stayed on topic, as shall I despite not being generally an Iemma fan).
Australians were increasingly working non-standard hours, the report noted, including very long hours, unsocial hours and very short or unpredictable hours.
“Persistent unsocial working time “¦ has negative effects on workers, especially those with dependents, and its negative effects can extend to children,” it said.
Some of the stories quoted unnamed “senior Labor MPs” as expressing doubts about Iemma’s leadership strength due to his perceived absence from a full roster of Premier’s duties. The continued soundbite was about how he makes special effort to be home by 6pm to put his children to bed, the implication being that afterwards he put his feet up for the night. As both Kerry Chikarovski and the current NSW Minister for Women and Minister for Science and Medical Research, Verity Firth, pointed out: today’s technology enables people working extended hours to easily go back to work from their home office once the children are asleep, so that assumptions that Iemma’s working day typically ends at 6pm just because he spends some time with his children then is asinine (my word, they were more diplomatic).
Other senior Labor figures went on the record to defend Iemma’s familial dedication, noting that not only did he work a full roster of duties around his family responsibilities but that he had ianyway been upfront about his priorities before the last election, so that NSW voters knew what Iemma stood for and voted for him with their eyes open. NSW certainly has a whole heap of problems with decaying infrastructure and a legacy of institutional corruption going back decades, but Iemma’s difficulties overcoming these problems surely have little to do with the amount of time he spends with his family instead of locked in more and more meetings booked just to fill the diary to some arbitrary level that allegedly shows sufficient “commitment”.
The cult of longer working hours cutting into family life is coming under the microscope in this Iemma story, and the results might not be to the liking of those who are trying to spin Iemma’s commitment to active fatherhood as somehow detrimental to his performance of his elected role. The various polls online at newspapers, radio stations and blogs seem to be strongly supportive of the Premier putting his children ahead of excessive work hours, results that could indicate an electorate reflecting on the pressures recent industrial legislation potentially place on family life.
A supportive industrial regime was also vital, and that was where the federal workplace laws fell short.
“Some of the early research on Work Choices identifies the potentially negative impact on workers at the lower end of the spectrum,” she said.
Despite recent evidence that more Australians were working excessive hours, Professor Pocock believes the overwhelmingly negative impact of this on family life has seen the tide turn.
“I think the electorate wants to see action on work and family policies,” she said.
N.B. The Iemma story didn’t make “Today’s Top 10 Stories” in the sidebar at the SMH, was towards the bottom of the sidebar on the Terrorgraph’s site despite at least 3 separate articles over the last few days. The Libs need to find some other mud to throw in the hope that it might stick.