New NSW premier Morris Iemma’s views on
the importance of family has come in for a bit of stick. This arrived
in my inbox from a Crikey subscriber:

Iemma is daily seeming to transmorph into a Latham clone –
his temper outbursts with the media, his family first routine, his
excuses for sick leave, his 9-5 job routine and his utter arrogance in
not realising that he cannot expect to carry on in this manner as
premier. Hopefully he will also complete the act by resigning in the
near future! We should expect a lot better than this mediocrity.

Iemma, of course, was bagged in The Sydney Morning Herald
yesterday by an anonymous colleague for spending time with his family.
But isn’t the work/life mix a serious issue? Alex Sanchez, former
Latham staffer and close friend of the former leader, has seen what a
delicate balancing act it can be for the bruvvers. He says:

Sometimes you just can’t believe how little progress we
make. For all the reports and for all the speeches on family friendly
workplaces, nothing beats action. When it comes to family friendly
reform, simple deeds and simple choices achieve more than all the
woolly rhetoric spun in the media.

That’s why the criticism of
the NSW Premier Morris Iemma’s family leave is just so deflating. And
coming from the Labor Party as it campaigns against the federal
government’s IR reforms it is unbelievable.

In the argy bargy
that takes place in leadership ballots, some insider decides, off the
record of course, (these things are always done this way) that Mr Iemma
takes too much time off. According to these critics, Mr Iemma is absent
due to sick and family leave, and that this will impact on his capacity
to do the job of premier.

So what if Mr Iemma takes leave to attend to his ill family? And more
importantly, so what if he does this as a minister, or indeed premier?
The family friendly workplace isn’t a slogan, it’s a project. It
beholds us all to do something about it – from CEOs to ministers,
professionals and skilled and unskilled workers alike. Mr Iemma did the
right thing – and far from being a subject of criticism, the critic
should have been subjected to his/her own cross examination. They
should hang their head in shame.

The
same double standards applied to Mark Latham when he retired from
politics. The Labor family “women and men” rounded up on him for being
a recluse, for ignoring them and wanting to spend time with his family.
Outrageous.

There’s something inherently wrong with Labor when
it talks values. It simply can’t be believed because the party is
riddled with double standards and relativism. Here we have the Labor
Party campaigning against the Howard IR reforms on the basis that it
will erode family life and remove such hard won conditions like family
leave, parental leave, workfree weekends, etc. And yet we have a Labor
insider turning on a Labor figure because he decides to exercise this
same leave. Either you back family friendly workplaces and congratulate
the men or women who support them, or you don’t. Get rid of the
relativism.

And finally. More and more we hear that Labor should
reflect the community and be more in touch. Get rid of the hacks,
factional tossers, union geezers, etc, and get us some real people.
Well, real people do real things – like take leave, take their kids to
the doctor, take the pressure off their spouses and partner, coach and
volunteer in sporting teams, and phone their bosses to tell them they
won’t be in because they have sick kids.

Good on you Morris for sticking with your family. All the more reason why you should be premier – you’re one of us.

PS Antony Green tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the
task ahead for the NSW Coalition at the 2007 election and the failure
rate of succession premiers, here.

Peter Fray

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