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Issue No. 178 16 May 2003  

Shit Sandwich
It took a few well-chosen comments by the sole Howard Government minister with a grasp on reality - or at least a penchant for a bit of takeaway - to blow Peter Costello’s Federal Budget to pieces.


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.


 Costello Whacks Women

 Abbott Picks Fight with Nurses

 Simon Slams Big End

 Hands-Off Howard Loses Seamen

 Safety Net Slips Disabled

 Clerks Put Boot In

 Bank Hold-Ups Expose Compo Failings

 Low Paid Dirty on Lawyer

 WIN Tactics a Big Turn Off

 ABC Jobs On Line

 Della’s Dallying Could Cost Miners

 Ministers of Misinformation Scoop Orwells

 Death Squads Strike

 Currawong Cottages Waiting for You

 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.

 Ron The Tool
 In Defence of Tom
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Shit Sandwich

It took a few well-chosen comments by the sole Howard Government minister with a grasp on reality - or at least a penchant for a bit of takeaway - to blow Peter Costello’s Federal Budget to pieces.

In the real world, his $4 tax cut, wouldn't buy you a sandwich and milk shake - and even the Daily Tory-graph cut him to pieces for his 'piddling' offer to Australian workers.

But what the Human Smirk's latest fiscal effort did deliver was enough white noise to divert attention from the real issue - the attacks on the universality of health care and equitable access to higher education.

These twin policy assaults amount to a policy victory lap by Australia's most conservative of leaders, a man who now is recognised the leader of the international Right.

The 2003-04 budget will be remembered as the death knell of Medicare, the socialisation of Australian health pioneered by Whitlam and maintained for more than 30 years to deliver care to all Australians.

It will also mark the death knell of the Clever Country, with the sons and daughters of the rich now able to buy their way into universities, while academics are demoted to pawns in an ideological game to kill the award system.

And it does not stop there. Budget 2003-04 continues the conservative party's payback on public broadcasting, with programs and jobs within the ABC slated for closure within weeks.

And while it's Costello's baby, his comic side-kick Abbott's paw-prints are all over it, from a brazen grab for state unfair dismissal laws to another $17 million to prosecute his vendetta against the CFMEU.

Abbott's also emerged successful in his crusade to poison the water on paid maternity leave, with the money required to fund this initiative of Sex Discrimination commissioner Pru Goward now in the hands of the bosses through some deft corporate welfare.

But at the end of the day this is Howard's vision of Australia, a land where government is the problem not the solution and the role of politicians is to pare back services and balance the books. Nothing more and often less.

As the corporate giants like AMP are finding, being run by money men might help you manufacture a decent share price for as long as it takes to cash in the options, but long-term viability requires vision.

This budget has none of that, just an idea of community that belittles us all, a community built on wealth and status where you can buy your way to the front of queue; where your fellow citizens are competitors and where you're expected to be grateful and shut up for a couple of shekels.

We can only extend Amanda Vanstone's ham-fisted food analogy. For working Australians and their families, Budget 2003 is a shit sandwich - not enough bread and lots of crap in between.

Peter Lewis



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