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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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Rebates Thorn in Medicare Side

No amount of argy-bargy over co-payments will save Medicare while the Government continues to pour billions of health dollars into the coffers of insurance companies.

That’s the view of frustrated Canterbury GP, Con Costa, who is challenging political parties to face up to the threat posed by the Federal Government’s Health Insurance Rebate.

"The problem is simple," he says. "This Government has given away $10 billion over the last five years. If we keep doing that we will bury the public health system, it won't survive.

"At the moment, the issue is not about money, the money exists, we have got to the point where we have to decide whether we use it to save public health or prop up private insurance companies because, currently, that $10 billion is not even going into the private health system."

The Doctors Reform Society spokesman says that the only way any form of health will survive future cost surges is if a greater percentage is dedicated to primary care. A fact, that he says, is known to the Government and supported by OECD forecasts.

Proposed changes to bulk billing, he argues, will wreck that strategy, leaving the poorest and, often most ill, with "second class" access to primary care because doctors will not service the poor, on $25 from Medicare, to the extent they will service patients paying double that amount.

Costa calls proposals to lift chargeing restrictions on bulk billing doctors a "free hit" that will lead to a dual system of health care.

Costa was one of a number of speakers at Sydney's first Save Medicare rally last week, designed to build opposition to proposals that will be formalised in Peter Costello's budget.

The rest of the movement is not as adamant as Costa about the centrality of private health care rebates which totalled $2.3 billion in the last financial year.

Spokesman Shane O'Brien said it was Save Medicare's role to make the point that the money existed to maintain the system, rather than deal with the specifics of how it should be spent.

All speakers at the Save Medicare rally, though, were adamant that Prime Minister John Howard is taking Australia towards a privately-funded American-style system.

OECD statistics point out graphic differences, in costs and results, between health systems that are predominantly private or state.

It's figures for the year 2000 showed that the Australian health system, 72.4 percent publicly funded, out-performed the US system which derived only 44.3 percent of its income from the state.

Australia had 30 percent more acute beds available, per capita, a 36.6 percent lower infant mortality rate and life expectancy more than two years higher than the US. On the other hand, health cost the US 13 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) against 8.3 percent in Australia.

For that, more than 40 million Americans, including six million children, had no health care cover at all.

Some of the indicators were even more dramatic for other developed countries where the state contributed a greater share of the total cost than Australia. France, 76 percent, had the lowest infant mortality rate and, Germany 75.1 percent offered 6.4 acute care beds. Britain, where the public share of health care stood at 81 percent, contributed the lowest percentage of GDP, 7.3 percent.

Life expectancy in all four state-dominant countries was higher than in the US.


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