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Issue No. 175 24 April 2003  

Domestic Relations
As the fog of war lifts and attention returns to the domestic phase we find a Federal Opposition imploding as the Prime Minister prepares for the final putsch toward what he sees as his historical mission.


Interview: Picking Up The Peaces
Walk Against the War Coalition convenor Bruce Childs outlines the challenge for the peace movement in the lead up to Palm Sunday.

Unions: The Royal Con
Jim Marr argues the Cole Commission can only be taken seriously by people kept ignorant of the way it actually operated.

National Focus: Around the Grounds
Unions maintain the pressure for peace as the upcoming organising conference takes on added significance, reports Noel Hester.

Economics: The Secret War on Trade
Overseas-based multi-nationals are coming after our film industry, electricity, water, pharmaceutical benefits and even childcare. Or are they? Nobody knows, as Jim Marr reports.

International: United Front
Workers and their unions around the world have possibly never been as united in their commitment to campaign together against the War in Iraq, writes Andrew Casey

History: Confessions of a Badge Collector
Bill Pirie has one of the largest collections of trade union badges in the world. After 20 years the collection now numbers some 6,000 badges.

Politics: Stalin’s Legacy
Fifty years ago last month Josef Stalin died. How could it be that a democratic and socialist revolution produced one of the monsters of the twentieth century, asks Leonie Bronstein.

Review: Such Was Not Ned’s Life
The life of Ned Kelly is what we in the world of journalism term a “ball tearing yarn” so why have writers of the movie adaptation felt so impelled to dress it up with fiction, asks Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Osama's Top Recruiter
Through our extensive intelligence networks, we have managed to track down the top recruiter for the global terror network of Osama bin Laden.

Satire: Woolworths CEO Denied Bonus After Company Posts Profit
Woolworths chief executive Roger Corbett was devastated today to report an 18.3% rise in profit under his management over the last year.


 Medicare Bombshell – Bosses To Pay

 Another Cole Man Bites The Dust

 Cheap Indian on Telstra Menu

 Legal Tussle Looms Over Email Laws

 Recycled Training Stitch-Up Exposed

 Contractors Code Fires a Blank

 Sweet Talk – Big Business Style

 Bosses, Workers Unite on Grey Threat

 ANZ Workers Want Cut of Billion Dollar Profit

 Time for Death Penalties

 Union Exhibition for Wollongong

 Nurses in Staffing Stand-off

 North Coast Jobs Saved

 Super Success in Pilbara

 Howard Attacks Education - Again

 May Day Festivities


The Soapbox
Factional Free-For-All
Chris Christodoulou looks at the fallout from the selection of the new Carr Ministry and what it means to the factional warlords.

The Locker Room
The Best Season Since Last Year
Phil Doyle goes trudging through the mud in search of the heart of the matter beneath the corporate biffo

Books on Bombs
In times like these, reading inevitably turns to America and war. Chris White wades through Pilger, Chomsky, Eco, Moore and Vidal.

Postcard from Harvard
Labor Council's Michael Gadiel was elected to give the valedictory speech to this year's Harvard Trade Union Program.

 Tom's Cunning Plan
 Robert's Conquest?
 Success Breeds Contempt
 Join the Dots
 Still Walking
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Medicare Bombshell – Bosses To Pay

Employers have been put on notice that labour costs will skyrocket if John Howard takes Australia further down the private health track.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said Australian unions were “loathe” to write health costs into employment contracts but would be under pressure to do so if the Prime Minister restricted free bulk billing under Medicare.

"Howard's attack on Medicare will Americanise our health system," Burrow said.

"The cost of medical insurance in the US accounts for up to 20 percent of the wages bill. No Australian employer will want to see unions bargaining for medical cover, US style, but if we go down the American track, we will be forced to look at an American response."

The ACTU estimates average working families could be forced to pay between $300 and $500 extra per year for previously bulk billed GP visit and pathology tests under Federal Government plans.

Burrow said Australian unions were committed to Medicare as a universal insurance scheme.

"Our members have a significant investment in Medicare and free bulk billing as critical elements of the social wage for which, historically, pay claims have been moderated. If Medicare is to be undermined, however, we will have no alternative but to look to wage negotiations to cover the extra costs."

Burrow was responding to reports that next month's budget will introduce a co-payment of as much as $20 for doctor's visits, allowing general practitioners to receive the Medicare subsidy while, for the first time, billing patients on top.

Howard will make his proposal conditional on doctors ensuring visits by pensioner card holders and low income earners remain free.

Critics say that would effectively scupper the universality of Medicare and make it a safety net for the poor.

Unions have pledged to resist that scenario with the ACTU organsing a Medicare Summit to unite unions, politicians, health, church and community groups against the Government agenda.

The summit will be held in Melbourne on May 2. Labor Party leader Simon Crean has already confirmed his attendance, as have representatives of the Democrats and Greens, ACCOSS and health sector unions.

Medicare has always sat awkwardly with a Coalition Government strongly opposed to any social control of the market.

In fact, as Leader of the Opposition, Howard was a vigorous and outspoken critic of the scheme. He labelled Medicare an "unmitigated disaster" and promised "changes to Medicare which amount to its de facto dismantling...we'll pull it right apart."

Feds Fail Public Hospitals Test

The Federal Government has failed to meet the demands of the states for significant extra health funding, the Health Services Union of Australia said today.

HSUA national secretary Craig Thomson was reacting to the Commonwealth's first proposal for new healthcare agreements which fund public hospitals. He said the offer also failed to commit to necessary reforms of the health system.

"Healthworkers want to know not only that enough extra money is being put in the system but that areas of serious concerns are being addressed such as helping the thousands of people waiting in hospitals because there is not enough nursing home beds," he said.

"Ifmore and more families are not able to find a bulk billing doctor they will head to emergency departments in increasing numbers for treatment. We don't want the federal government to be giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

''The integration between the public and private health systems also needs to be better. Private hospitals should be able to offer more services which would help reduce the strain on public hospitals such as their own emergency departments."

Mr Thomson said that the Federal Government needed to address the concerns of the different states about shortfalls in the funding offered by the Commonwealth.

But it was also up to the states to commit to putting in enough money to ensure that the health system in Australia remains among the best in the world.


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