Why working families are struggling to find balance

Last weekend I spent some time thinking about families and mothers in particular. They have a big job to do and they often need a second job to do it.
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My mother was no different. She had four children in war years and simply had to find paid work to supplement my father’s saw miller’s wage in order that we had basic housing and food.

But it was rarer in those days that mothers would have an additional paid job.

Now of course the majority of mums return to the workforce. I got chatting to a couple of them last weekend and I came to the conclusion that a lot of senior people in business and public service don’t realise how difficult it is to manage the competing demands of a young family and the requirements of the workplace.

Women who find themselves back in a paying job are, more often than not, very highly motivated people with relentlessly busy lives and I don’t think we are making it easy for them.

I thought my conversation with these two successful middle-class women would have been dominated by the effects of the budget, negative gearing, superannuation and all the other big financial policy issues that have been in and out of the headlines for the last month or so.

But they weren’t their concerns at all. They were worried about managing a tight schedule of childcare with their paid job and trying to balance a budget that includes a complex bureaucratic array of rebates and benefits. They also had real fears about their mortgage payments, level of debt, job security, the rising cost of food and no wage increase for more than half a dozen years.

Their concerns boil down to a deeply worrying feeling that their family’s future is not secure in the way it once seemed to be.

Any wonder therefore that Treasurer Scott Morrison’s best go at economic wisdom didn’t give him much of a bounce when it landed. He’s just not talking about what a huge section of our society is worried about.

We have an economy that has been through a decade-and-a-half of boom time like nothing we’ve seen since the gold rush of the 19th century. It’s been a time of plenty without any hard landing because money has been freely available. You could borrow with low interest and it wasn’t too hard to pay back.

But those days are over and working people, especially women, know that. They also know that our leaders don’t really understand them especially when they try to convince the community they have moved to the middle of the road. As one famous Texan politician said, “The only things in the middle of the road is a white line and dead armadillos”.

“Or rabbits in our land of plenty,” pipes up Louise.

We’re crushing the confidence out of our own people with a combination of bureaucracy, weak political leadership steeped in spin and irrelevant gobbledegook. It was Woody Allen who said: “I believe there is something out there watching over us. Unfortunately, it’s the government.”

We are over-governed and under-led at every level – national, state and local ??? with some exceptions!

The feeling of an insecure future really kicked off with the GFC and we have never recovered. And nothing any leader has said has created confidence that our institutions can handle what confronts us.

Families know that the very structure of day-to-day life has changed. Grandparents, aunties, uncles and brothers and sisters don’t live around the corner anymore and with half of all marriages ending in divorce, mothers and fathers can end up living in different cities. As a result, childcare has been corporatised and almost forced out of the reach of ordinary people. One example I just discovered is a family that is paying $1000 a week to keep their two kids full-time in childcare so they can hold down their jobs. And they need to be very well paid ones to have something worthwhile left over.

Our regular working families know that we all face in our own lives a big structural problem of lengthening lifespan, shrinking workforce, high debt, low wage growth and a threatened environment.

They also know that we are in gridlock trying to fix the situation.

Louise is keen that we learn from the gallant emperor penguin. You can do your own research, but basically mum lays the egg then leaves for holiday while dad spends four months in the freezing Antarctic winter hatching the new offspring. Mum returns in the spring with a job of being mum all done by dad, while losing 45 per cent of his body weight keeping out the cold. The emperor of course, had no clothes.

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At what time of the day are you working optimally? It depends on your chronotype

SMH News story by, Anna Patty. Story on workers Bio clocks. Photo shows, Marie Mulherin and Jeffrey Buckle are father and daughter. Marie is an evening person and works with NAB while Jeff is a morning person and works with CBA. Photo by, Peter Rae Thursday 18 May 2018 Photo: Peter RaeDifferences in body clocks that determine whether people perform better in the morning or evening can affect how well they work together in a team.
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Research from the University of Sydney shows that emergency workers and surgical teams perform best when individual members peak at the same time of the day. Surgical teams, emergency service workers, orchestras and executives in long board meetings would benefit from having people with similar biological clocks.

But long-haul flight crews including teams of pilots, nurses on long shifts, and police on surveillance can work better if they include a mix of “morning” and “night” people so that at least one crew member is working at their peak at different times of the day.

Findings of the study published in the international journal Academy of Management Review suggest employers wanting peak performance and productivity from workers should account for their circadian rhythms.

Stefan Volk, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney Business School, said the research demonstrated how workplaces could capitalise on people with different chronotypes – or body clocks.

“These physiological differences matter a lot in the work context and we have to understand how it affects teams,” he said.

“When people are different, it can be positive or negative depending on the specific task they are performing.

“If members of a surgical team are different chronotypes, that is not ideal.”

Bosses who were morning types were also prone to discriminating against employees who were evening types because they were not in the office as early as them.

Evening people who were forced to show up early in the morning were often less productive for the first two or three hours of their shift. It was better for them to start and finish later to be more productive.

Dr Volk’s fiancee, Marie Mulherin, 31, and her stepfather, Jeffrey Buckle, both work for banks in Sydney, but their performance peaks at different times of the day. Ms Mulherin is a night person and her father is a morning person.

“I am on the road a lot and lucky to have flexible work hours, which means I can schedule my own appointments. It means I can start a little later and work into the evening,” Ms Mulherin, a business consultant, said.

“I am working optimally from midday.”

Mr Buckle, a bank manager, typically gets up at 5.30am and is at work by 7.15am.

“I’m one of the first people in and you get a lot more done because no one else is around. You are awake and able to get on with it,” he said.

“But you do slow down in the afternoon. On the weekend, I generally have an afternoon snooze and am refreshed for the rest of the day.”

Dr Volk said employers had not considered that people could peak at different times of the day and how this could affect how they worked together in teams.

Professor Shantha Rajaratnam from Monash University, who researches circadian rhythms, has found that they impact on performance, mood and general functioning at different times of the day.

“The University of Sydney researchers have extended these findings to show how they can impact on team dynamics and performance … and structuring teamwork accordingly,” he said.

“There is good evidence these differences in chronotype are hard-wired in biology.”

Professor Leon Lack from the Flinders University school of psychology said it made sense to have a mix of evening and morning types on a long-haul flight.

Professor Lack, who has led research into therapies for people with insomnia and jet lag, said people’s behavioural patterns were influenced by the time of day they were most alert.

“The alertness of evening people increases at a slower rate and they may feel their best two or three hours before their bedtime,” he said.

“This can develop into a behavioural tendency to delay going to bed.”

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Discussions for child sex abuse compensation scheme to begin

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Social Services Minister Christian Porter has begun the delicate job of convincing the states and other groups to join a Commonwealth scheme designed to compensate survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

Mr Porter will sit down with attorneys-general from across the nation in Melbourne on Friday to discuss the scheme in the first step towards convincing the states and territories to join it.

Separate meetings will be held with leaders of churches, charities and other non-government institutions as part of the same mission, with the government hoping for a “nationally consistent approach” to compensating about 60,000 survivors, which has been estimated to cost about $4 billion.

The child abuse royal commission, which identified more than 4000 institutions where abuse took place, recommended any redress scheme be as simple as possible for survivors to access.

Mr Porter has been tasked with making that happen, with $33 million set aside in the budget to set up the bones of the scheme, which would see survivors entitled to up to $150,000 in compensation, as well as counselling and direct acknowledgement of the wrong done to them.

The federal government is thought to be responsible for at least 5 per cent of the claims, with the scheme established under a ‘responsible entity pays’ basis.

But it needs the states, territories and non-government organisations to opt-in in order to work.

Mr Porter said the meetings were an important step in getting those involved on the same page.

“The most important thing is that governments and institutions do right by those who suffered whilst in our care or responsibility,” he said in a statement.

“???There can be no doubt that each jurisdiction and individual institutions must make amends and take responsibility for their own wrongdoings.

“Friday’s discussions will be an important step in allowing states/territories and institutions to make informed and, I would hope, positive decisions about joining the scheme. This is the only way to ensure simple and effective access to redress for survivors, which must be the highest consideration of all governments and institutions.”

The royal commission into institutional child sex abuse will hand down its final report in December.

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Beauty queen used as unwitting bait by alleged tax scammers

It was a meet and greet with a glamorous former Miss World contestant as unwitting bait.
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The upmarket event at the Hilton Hotel was to lure clients to a payroll company now at the centre of one of the biggest white collar fraud investigations in Australian history.

It was February 2015 and St Aloysius’ College old boy Simon Anquetil was offering guests the chance to “join me for a selfie” with the “stunning” Erin Holland, who took out the Miss World Australia title in 2013.

The then 31-year-old businessman was one of the brains behind Plutus Payroll, a company touted as “Australia’s First Zero-Fee Payroll Service”.

Guests at the glitzy event were told they could “earn money simply by switching to a free payroll service”.

Mr Anquetil, 34, has now been named as one of seven alleged co-conspirators behind a $165 million tax fraud syndicate involving Plutus Payroll, the company he once chaired. The alleged scam started in June 2016, according to court documents.

But it is another high-profile member of the alleged syndicate whose family connections have made him the face of Operation Elbrus, the eight-month Australian Federal Police investigation into the alleged racket.

Adam Cranston, one of the alleged masterminds of the scam, is the big-spending son of ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston.

The 30-year-old was granted bail on Thursday after being charged with conspiring to cause loss.

His younger sister Lauren, 24, was also charged over the scheme.

Allegedly working alongside the Cranston siblings was Jason “Jay” Onley, a Scots College old boy and former Nine Network sports commentator who lists one of his career highlights as calling the Olympic gold medal-winning performance of Australian snowboarder Torah Bright in 2010.

The Sydney-based Plutus Payroll was contracted by businesses to manage their employees’ wages and salaries, including making PAYG contributions to the Tax Office.

But the AFP alleges the company was skimming off a percentage of the funds that should have been paid to the ATO.

The proceeds were allegedly used by members of the syndicate to fund their lavish lifestyles, including luxury cars, 18 residential properties, two aircraft, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine and artworks.

It now appears a bitter falling-out between the participants may have brought the scheme undone.

Adding to the drama is the alleged involvement of veteran Sydney journalist Steve Barrett, a former 60 Minutes producer, in an attempt to blackmail the syndicate along with a disaffected member of the group, Daniel Rostankovski.

Mr Rostankovski allegedly demanded $5 million or Mr Barrett would expose the group in the media. Mr Barrett has not been charged with any offence.

Colourful Sydney property developer and former publican Daniel Hausman has been charged alongside Rostankovski with blackmail offences.

Only hours before he was murdered in 2009, loan shark Michael McGurk met with Mr Hausman in the Lord Dudley hotel in Woollahra to talk about a Kings Cross hotel deal.

The alleged blackmail attempt is said to have taken place at a meeting at the Martin Place offices of Clamenz Lawyers on February 1.

One of the partners of the firm, 33-year-old Dev Menon, allegedly gave advice about how the scheme should be managed and was charged on Thursday as one of the seven key players.

As part of their bail conditions, those charged were ordered not to associate or contact a group of people including Sevag Chalabian.

Mr Chalabian, a former partner at Phillips Fox, gave evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that he aided the family of now jailed former minister Eddie Obeid to create an elaborate series of trusts and front companies to disguise a $60 million payment. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframeATO’);

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Businesses, households paid to use less power next summer

Victorian businesses and households will be able to volunteer to get paid to use less electricity at times of stress on the national grid under a program to be trialled next summer.
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Incentive payments will be offered to energy users who agree to be on standby to cut use during emergencies or on days of high electricity demand. They will get a further compensation payment if they are called on to actually cut use.

The $22.5 million demand response pilot program, to be jointly run by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and also taking in South Australia, is pitched as an important step in integrating renewable energy into the grid.

AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said it would help the electricity system deal with high demand as it unfolds without the need to build expensive fossil fuel plants – gas-fired generators – that are only called on occasionally.

The agencies aim to have the equivalent of 100 megawatts of demand, roughly 2 per cent of average Victorian electricity use, signed up by next summer.

Ms Zibelman said it was a common approach in other countries. “From Texas to Taiwan, demand response has been proven to be a cost-effective way to manage demand at peak times and acts as a contingency to avoid disruptive power outages,” she said.

The method and amount of payment is yet to be determined, but is likely to be a competitive process where interested parties apply for funding.

ARENA expects applicants may include both individual businesses – manufacturers, for example – and groups of smaller energy users, possibly including households that rely on air conditioners or have battery systems.

It is likely the smaller users would apply through a company that aggregates their claims – probably their energy retailer. The compensation could be paid as a discount or a cash rebate.

Energy industry analysts have long called for a greater emphasis on demand management to soften the extraordinary peaks in electricity use on hot days when air conditioners are humming along the Australian east coast. Last summer there were instances of forced load shedding – effectively blackouts in targeted areas – at times of high demand.

Electricity demand in Victoria at peak times is about 80 per cent higher than average. It means households and businesses pay for hugely expensive electricity from power plants used only a fraction of the time.

Demand management can also make a difference at non-peak times. As Fairfax Media revealed on Thursday, wholesale electricity prices in Victoria have risen more than 25 per cent since the Hazelwood power station closed, in part due to a greater reliance on expensive gas-fired plants designed for only occasional use.

Nationally, wholesale electricity prices have risen nearly 50 per cent in a year due to high gas prices and uncertainty over what plants will be favoured by future policy settings stalling investment.

The Victorian government said on Thursday it was providing funding for more than 3300 homes to become more energy efficient, and upgrading more than 11,000 public housing homes.

Adam Morton is on Facebook and Twitter

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