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Issue No. 176 02 May 2003  

Solidarity Forever
Another May Day, another year gone, another year to look back on our history and celebrate the past and talk about how we can make our movement strong again.


Interview: Staying Alive
CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell talks about the fight to keep the public service - and the union movement - alive.

Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Wollongong workers on poverty-level wages are losing up to $5000 for taking toilet breaks, according to the union representing staff at a Stellar call centre.

Industrial: Last Drinks
Jim Marr looks at the human cost of the decision to close Sydney’s Carlton United Brewery

National Focus: Around the States
If Tampa told us that John Howard circa 2003 is the same spotted rabid dog from 1987, this week’s assault on Medicare confirms it reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Politics: Radical Surgery
Workers are vitally interested in Medicare, not least because they traded away wage rises to get it. Now, Jim Marr writes, the Coalition Government is tearing apart the 20-year-old social contract on which it was founded.

Education: The Price of Missing Out
University students and their families will pay more for their education following the May Budget, writes Tony Brown.

Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
Love is wonderful the second time around, goes the famous torch song. But is the same true for legislation? Asks Ashley Crossland

History: Massive Attack
Labour historian Dr Lucy Taksa remembers the general strike of 1917 to put the recent anti-war marches into perspective

Culture: What's Right
Neale Towart looks at a new book that looks at the failings of the Left, while reasserting the liberal project

Review: If He Should Fall
Jim Marr caught Irish folk-rock-punk legend Shane MacGowan at Sydney’s Metro Theatre. He was surprised but not disappointed.

Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to monitor the Iraqi economy to ensure that the reintroduction of looting into the economy conforms with free-market theory.


 Mystery Men Behind Pan Bungle

 Charities Brace for Medicare Backlash

 Court Throws Out Cole Prosecutions

 Child Actor Dodges Broken Voice

 Rio Tinto: $40 Million for Boss, Eviction for Workers

 Child Care for Oldies Too

 Winning Poster Shouts at Freeloaders

 May Day Tragedy Claims Union Lives

 Westfield Cleaners to Down Mops

 Question Marks Over Nursing Home

 Burn Payout Highlights Compo Fears

 Costa Blows Whistle on Canberra Raid

 Hoops Bet on National Body

 Tear Us Down, Buttercup

 Activist Notebook


The Soapbox
What May Day Means to Me
Reader Marlene McAlear penned this tribue to May Day and worker solidarity.

The Toast
Labor Council secretary John Robertson's toast to the annual May Day dinner in Sydney.

The Locker Room
The Numbers Game
In life there is lies, damned lies and sporting statistics, says Phil Doyle - but who’s counting.

Brukman Evicted
ZNet's Marie Trigona reports from the streets of Argentina in the rundown to last week's presidential election.

The Costs of Excess
Some tall business poppies had their heads lopped this week as the laws of economic gravity applied their always chaotic theory.

 Is Labor History?
 Bob Gould Sprays Gerard Henderson
 War and Peace
 A Strange Light
 A Little History
 Does It Have To Be?
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Charities Brace for Medicare Backlash

Australian charities are bracing themselves for requests to meet medical bills for the first time in living memory.

That was the stark warning from St Vincent de Paul spokesman, Peter Rigg, as unions, community groups, health professionals, churches and political parties met in Melbourne to organise resistance to John Howard’s latest assault on Medicare.

Rigg said budget measures undermining bulk billing would see charities funding medical costs, on top of food, furniture, and clothing "for the first time in 30 years".

Labor leader Simon Crean set the agenda. His promise to resist the attacks on Medicare was endorsed by spokespersons for the Greens and Democrats.

Greens Senator, Kerry Nettle, went furthest calling for an end to private health care rebates which cost the public purse billions of dollars and have been identified as a key threat to the public system .

Health care unions laid out a fightback plan that will target Members of Parliament in 26 marginal Federal electorates. The MPs, predominantly Coalition representatives, will be subject to a concerted information campaign and asked to take public stands in support of Medicare.

NSW with 10 seats - Richmond, Page, Hunter, Paterson, Dobell, Parramatta, Macarthur, Lindsay, Cunningham and Eden Monaro - has most on the target list.

Speakers at last Friday's ACTU-organised Medicare Summit referred to OECD data which showed public health systems stacking up favourably against the private-dominated US system on a range of measures, including cost, efficiency and results in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality.

"The Australian community will not let Liberal Party vandals destroy Medicare and privatise the health system," ACTU president Sharan Burrow said in her keynote address.

"Australians already pay for their health insurance through general taxes and the Medicare levy. The Howard Government's plan would force people to pay a third time through GP co-payments or private health insurance.

"Rising health costs are already putting many working people under financial pressure, especially where a family member has a chronic condition. John Howard's changes will send some families to the wall."

Ms Burrow said that the inflationary impact of the Government's Medicare changes would lead to higher wage claims against employers. Health costs rose by 7.2 percent in the last 12 months - faster than any other CPI group, according to Bureau of Statistics data released last week.


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