More than 100 prominent Australian women gathered in Canberra this morning for a Women’s Forum Breakfast to step up the campaign for a government-funded paid maternity leave scheme in the Federal Budget, and other measures to improve the working lives of Australian women.
“We’ve seen decisive government action with the economic stimulus package. Let’s follow up with a paid maternity leave scheme,” said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.
“This would help thousands of families experiencing financial uncertainty at a time of greatest need.”
Ms Burrow said an 18-week scheme proposed by the Productivity Commission would produce a highly positive social and economic return for a relatively small net investment of $450 million, just 2% more than existing family assistance measures.
At the Forum, the ACTU President launched a Paid Maternity Leave video petition supported by more than 8000 Australians calling on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to include the scheme in the May Budget.
The six minute video is available at or at
“2009 is going to be a very tough year for many people,” Ms Burrow said.
“It is more important than ever to invest in the future strength of the Australian workforce.
“Paid maternity leave will provide a solid foundation for economic growth by ensuring women retain a secure connection to the workforce while being able to take time out to have a baby.”
The Forum at Parliament House also mapped out a fairer agenda for women at work in 2009, on the issues of pay equity, climate change and green jobs, childcare and the new workplace laws.

Women’s Breakfast Forum
Date: Tuesday 24 February, 2009
Time: 7.30am-10.30am
Venue: The Mural Room, Parliament House, Canberra

Keynote speakers include:
Tanya Plibersek (Minister for the Status of Women) 
Dr Anne Summers (Author and academic)
Liz Broderick (Sex Discrimination Commissioner)
Don Henry (Executive Director, Australian Conservation Foundation)
Louise Tarrant (National Secretary of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union)
Cath Bowtell (ACTU Senior Industrial Officer)

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