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Issue No. 177 09 May 2003  

Joining The Dots
ACTU secretary Greg Combet’s call for unions to develop a clear set of values to organise around on a broader social canvass is an important next step in the process of renewal.


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.


 Combet Calls On Unions to Muscle Up

 HR Honours Death List Author

 Hotel Workers Trump Living Wage

 Abbott Brushes Security Concerns

 Rebates Thorn in Medicare Side

 Bosses Infected With SARS Hysteria

 Entitlements: Bargaining Chip Ploy Fails

 Nelson Plan Faces Higher Hurdle

 Public To Pay For Patrick Closure

 Airline Ratbags Bigger Than Texas

 Credibility Crisis for World Bank

 Acid on Billion Dollar Banks

 CSIRO Budget Fears

 Activists 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.

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Letters to the Editor

Massive Attack

Dear friends,

I am planning the biggest global May Day event in history. My goal is to mobilise public opinion so our 'leaders' change their priorities to fight war on hunger and poverty.

The world's 1st petition to end starvation will be held 1st May 2004. Votes will be counted according to the extra emails, SMS & MMS messages sent that day. The more messages of love, peace & goodwill sent around the world by union members, (and others!) the more seriously world leaders will act to end hunger & poverty.

The UN has estimated the cost of providing universal access to basic social services and transfers to alleviate income poverty is $80 billion. If you say it quickly, it doesn't sound that much. And you know what? It's a drop in the ocean; less than 0.5 per cent of global income!

Now I'm not going to enter into a debate on the merits of the recent war with Iraq. However I will use this event to get you to really believe that ending hunger and poverty is possible. Experts, including Senator Joseph Biden, Chair of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, indicate that the Iraq war may have cost as much as US$80-$100 billion. The 1990-91 Gulf War cost US$61 billion, according to the Department of Defense. That's almost US$80 billion in today's dollars. However this year, the US objective was for a change of regime, suggesting the possibility of a longer, more involved and more costly war. We all knew a fair few more bombs were dropped this time, than in 1990-91.

Different experts have weighed in on reconstruction efforts during the recent US Senate hearings on Iraq. According to Samuel Berger, Senior Foreign Policy Advisor during the Clinton Administration, estimates for re-building the Iraqi economy range from US$50-$150 billion.

I believe in simplicity, so let's say US$90 billion to fight the war and US$100 billion to fight the peace (ie. reconstruct Iraq). So the Iraq war cost around US$190 billion, which according to the UN estimate, is more than twice what it would cost to end starvation.

I'll make the point again - I'm sitting on the fence on the issue of whether or not this war should have been fought. I abhor terrorism as you do. (You see I want EVERYONE to cast a vote for my petition!) My point is that if the US has spare change of such magnitude, then surely the world can find US$80 billion to end starvation! So why hasn't it happened? Why in this age of 'cloning around' does a person starve to death every 3.6 seconds?

It all gets down to belief! You see, starvation has been around for so long, we expect it will continue forever. But hold on a minute! Twenty years ago, 45,000 starved to death every day. Now 'only' 24,000 die every day. Progress is slowly being made due to the efforts of NGO's (charities) governments and bodies such as the UN.

Importantly, mobile phone companies will be invited to donate proceeds from the extra SMS and MMS messages sent next May Day, so I anticipate raising $10 million plus for an NGO such as UNICEF, World Vision or the Red Cross / Red Crescent Societies.

To create a focal point for activities, I have created a world 1st 'poortal' to promote the event. However on my own this project will never have a chance of succeeding.

So I would be very grateful if you (the reader reading this letter) would visit my online poortal at If you like what you read, please help publicise this event so it starts being mentioned in various union calendars of events.

500 million votes is my goal. The biggest voter turn-out in history, all demonstrating worker solidarity and an end to wars, hunger and poverty.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Crabtree


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