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VIDEO ALERT: Paid maternity leave will increase the value our nation places on paid and unpaid work of mothers according to University of Melbourne researcher Amanda Cooklin.

Ms Cooklin says the inclusion in tomorrow’s budget of an 18-week paid parental leave scheme which will begin nationally from January 2011, is an “historic and important decision”.

“Australia is one of only two industrialised nations to not have a paid universal maternity leave scheme, so we are far behind comparable countries and this policy will bring us in line,” she says.

“Eighteen weeks is a good starting point for maternity leave, and above the minimum recommended by the International Labour Organisation”.

“This time allows women a good four months to negotiate the early tasks and demands of motherhood, to establish breast feeding and recuperate from giving birth. This scheme will also protect a mothers time at home while giving her an independent income and the security of knowing she has a job to return to in 18 weeks.”

Ms Cooklin says research shows that only one in three women currently have access to paid maternity leave in Australia; and that women who aren’t able to access such a scheme have poorer mental health.

Ms Cooklin’s own research paper Employee Entitlements during Pregnancy and Maternal Psychological Well-being, found that almost one-fifth of employed women reported that they had been discriminated against at work as a result of their pregnancy. Ms Cooklin says she hopes the universal policy will go a long way toward alleviating this problem

The Pakistani Government and global aid community can’t address the needs of these refugees; it could result in a large pool of people who could easily be recruited into the Taliban says Associate Professor Akbarzadeh.

“There is a big risk that public opinion could turn against the Pakistani Government because of its bad management of this war, these military advances have resulted into over a million refugees and the Pakistani Government and aid agencies are woefully under prepared for this,” he says.

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says there is a very big chance that the offensive will also be a long one, as Pakistan troops have been trained for conventional warfare and not guerrilla style tactics as is expected from the Taliban.

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says the Pakistani Government has had a difficult relationship with the Taliban ever since they began allowing them into Pakistani Territory for “their excursions into and eventual victory in Afghanistan in 1997”.

“The Pakistan Government allowed this because the Islamist have serviced a useful purpose for Pakistan foreign policy. Pakistan has wanted to expand its area of influence and the Islamists have served its purpose in this regard,” he says.

“So when the Taliban were pushed out of Afghanistan following US offensive and settled in the northern territory of Pakistan, this created a challenge to their sovereignty. For a time they were trying to appease the Taliban forces and allowed Sharia Law to be implemented as a way to appease the Taliban, but this was a major mistake.”

“In Pakistan public opinion was very uncomfortable that Islamic Law was being implemented, and there was a swell in public opinion against it as well as pressure from the US who were wary that the Taliban now had the territory to regroup, retrain and prepare for further excursions into Afghanistan.”

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says that while it was a combination of these factors which made Pakistan launch its offensive to eliminate Taliban forces, their short sighted approach could be counter-productive if the offensive drags out and refugees become disillusioned.

With the Federal Government set to resume debate today on proposed changes to taxes on alcopops, Professor Rob Moodie, Chair of Global Health at the University of Melbourne, discusses the benefits of such a tax.

Professor Moodie says there is independent evidence that the alcopop tax does work in reducing consumption, with independent studies revealing 165 million fewer spirit-based drinks were drunk by Australians when the tax was enforced between May 2008 and January 2009.

Professor Moodie says making the tax permanent is an important step in creating a much safer drinking culture in Australia, and ultimately saving lives as part of a concerted effort to reduce teenage binge drinking.

Ms Cooklin says the inclusion in tomorrow’s budget of an 18-week paid parental leave scheme to begin nationally from January 2011, is an “historic and important decision”.

“Australia is one of only two industrialised nations to not have a paid universal maternity leave scheme, so we are far behind comparable countries and this policy will bring us in line,” she says.

“Eighteen weeks is a good starting point for maternity leave, and above the minimum recommended by the International Labour Organisation."

“This time allows women a good four months to negotiate the early tasks and demands of motherhood, to establish breast feeding and recuperate from giving birth.”

“This scheme will also protect a mothers time at home while giving her an independent income and the security of knowing she has a job to return to in 18 weeks.”

Ms Cooklin says research shows that only one in three women currently have access to paid maternity leave in Australia; and that women who aren’t able to access such a scheme have poorer mental health.

Ms Cooklin’s own research paper Employee Entitlements during Pregnancy and Maternal Psychological Well-being, found that almost one-fifth of employed women reported that they had been discriminated against at work as a result of their pregnancy.

Ms Cooklin says she hopes the universal policy will go a long way toward alleviating this problem.

 

Professor Mark Wooden says governments should focus on job creation instead of job protection to halt rising unemployment.

Professor Wooden says state and federal government policies focused on saving jobs are “misplaced” and should be redirected toward job creation.

He says a number of declining industries are going to die out no matter how much funding is provided, and that the recession is “just the mechanism that accelerates the process”.

“Government policy has to think not only about saving jobs but also creating jobs and creating conditions under which employers feel a little less cautious about hiring people,” he says.

“I think this idea gets a little lost when we are too focused on job preservation”.

Professor Wooden agreed that the inclusion of an $8 billion investment toward major projects in the new Victorian State Government budget - with the intention of creating 35,000 jobs - was a good one.

Professor Mark Wooden is Deputy Director of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.

Professor Lyn Yates says funding for school buildings and facilities will help improve student morale and retention rates.

In today’s state budget, the Victorian Government has allocated $402 million toward the rebuilding and renovation of 113 state government schools across the state. These funds will be combined with the Federal government’s allocation of $686 million for Victorian schools’ infrastructure projects.

Professor Yates said receiving such a large amount of funding from the Federal government in such dire financial times was an encouraging sign that the Government was taking investment in education seriously and that the funding will do a lot more than simply make things look “shiny and new.”

“Teachers, students and parents really get a sense of whether or not they are valued in an institution if it is shiny and new, we should never underestimate the morale and valuing aspect of improvements of infrastructure,” she says. 

Professor Yates predicted these improvements could increase retention rates, with students actually enjoying their surroundings and deciding to stay on till year 12. Professor Yates also said she hoped this funding will begin to close the disparity between rich and poor schools by “at least making the base level something people will feel happy about.”

Professor Lyn Yates is Professor of Curriculum in the Graduate School of Education.

Ned Kelly’s remains should be returned to his family and he should be given a decent burial says former Pentridge Prison chaplain, Fr Peter Norden, AO.

Fr Norden, who has been appointed a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne, says that in the 12 years since the former Pentridge Prison closed and moved into the hands of private commercial developers, nothing has been done to recognise the grave sites of those buried in the prison grounds.

Ned Kelly’s remains were moved from the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1929, after they were disturbed by building works for the Melbourne Working Men’s College (now RMIT University), along with more than 30 other persons executed in the city gaol. They joined the remains of the 10 executed and buried at Pentridge Prison.

“Forensic Services are now assessing the human remains buried at Pentridge Prison. These are not unknown persons, but the remains of those the Victorian Government executed,” Father Norden says.

Because of the lack of recognition of the Pentridge gravesites, Fr Norden, arranged for the exhumation of Ronald Ryan 40 years after his execution. His remains were returned to his family last year, and Fr Norden is now calling for the same treatment for Ned Kelly’s remains.

“Female descendants of Ned Kelly’s family have expressed to me an interest in providing assistance for DNA testing and I believe they should decide where Ned gets buried, certainly not back in the former Pentridge Prison site.

“Ned Kelly’s family’s descendents should have the same rights as Ronald Ryan’s,” insists Fr Norden. “It would be fitting to conduct a private memorial service for the family, as his remains should not be controlled by private commercial interests.

“Let’s give Ned Kelly a final resting place with his deceased family members and insist that the Victorian Government recognises the human remains of those who cannot be identified, by providing a memorial at the gravesites at Pentridge.”

Father Norden AO will be available for interviews at the Melbourne Law School today.

Increasing Melbourne’s housing density along its major tram lines would help achieve the planning goals of Melbourne 2030 according to Dr Carolyn Whitzman at the University of Melbourne. 

“The plan would add a lot of certainty, because right now decisions are being made council by council about what maximum heights are going to be, while this plan is talking about a maximum height of 8 stories. Studies in Europe and North America show that if you increase density, you also increase services."

"So building along tram lines can lead to more trams more often, better shopping, more taxes to get better parks and recreation centres and so on.”

 

Dr Sam Wylie says that IMF predictions of a growth phase in the world economy in 2010 are off the mark, and says Australia should expect a long but shallow recession. 

"The financial crisis is going to take between $40-$60 billion out of Government revenues.  We should expect to see big defecits in Australia, with total government debt around $200 billion at the end of 2012, where at the moment its about $50 billion."

Australia well prepared to face swine flu outbreak, says Director of the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne, Professor Graham Brown

Professor Brown says he is not surprised that the World Health Organisation has called the recent outbreak of swine flu a public health emergency of international concern.

This has been noted as an epidemic of potential concern as the World Health organisation want to act early; because the flu has traveled outside Mexico, there is a risk of it becoming a pandemic, he says.

Professor Brown says there is no current vaccine for swine flu but that it would be possible - now that the genetic sequence is known - for scientists to begin preparing the seed lots and make a vaccine for the future. Yet Professor Brown says this could take a few months.

We do not have immunity to swine flu and we do not expect current influenza vaccines to protect humans against this new strain, but anti-viral drugs should be effective, he says.

Professor Brown says this outbreak will provide Australia with a good opportunity to prepare itself for a pandemic. He says that at times like this, it is more important than ever to remember the simple measures - like washing your hands - needed to prevent the spread of any form of influenza spread.

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