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Issue No. 180 30 May 2003  

Headless Nation
So the Governor-General has voted himself out of the Big House, recognising that his capacity to discharge his duties as Head of State had been fatally compromised by the skeletons in his Yarralumla closet.


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.


 Sanitarium Casts Democracy into Hell’s Fire

 Mouse that Roared

 Abbott: Look After Number One

 Entitlements Revamp – Acid on States

 Strong Stuff – Commission Star in Court

 Think Before You Drink

 Maritime Hero Takes Final Journey

 All Ding but No Gong

 Aged Care in Terminal Condition

 Strathfield Joins War on Shonks

 AMWU Returns to the Fold

 Green Jobs In Offing

 Register for Action

 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.

 Language Most Foul
 Unions Deserve Reputation
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Think Before You Drink

Coffee drinkers are being asked to think about where their daily caffeine hit comes from as a global meltdown in the coffee market devastates producers in developing countries.

It's part of a push by Oxfam-Community Aid Abroad to promote consumption of 'Fair Trade' coffee sourced from worker cooperatives that ensure a decent return to the farmer, rather than the mass-produced poor-quality coffee that appears on most supermarket shelves.

In Sydney this weekend to promote the Oxfam campaign, Ethiopian coffee farmer Tadesse Meskela said the situation for more than a million coffee farmers in his country is desperate.

"The current drought has had an awful effect on the coffee trade in Ethiopia with production down 30 per cent," Tadesse says. "On top of this, the downturn in world prices has reduced the price by 72 per cent, meaning most farmers in my country are now losing money to produce coffee beans. Children are being pulled out of schools, health care is no longer affordable and hunger is a reality for many."

Tadesse is the general manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative, representing farmers and giving them a stake in the production chain of fair trade coffee.

More than 38,000 farmers are members of 35 cooperatives that make up the union, which aims to plough profits back into the farming communities. On average, members of the cooperatives receive two and half times the price

that the 1.2 million small holder farmers who do not belong to co-ops receive for their produce.

"Our values are the right to work, the right to participate in democratic structures, and invest profits back in the community through higher prices for farmers and designated development funds."

Oxfam Australia has been campaigning for retail outlets beyond Oxfam CAA shops to stock fairly traded coffee as well as working towards a transparent and accepted accreditation process.

"Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and coffee is a part of our culture and day to day life," Tadesse says. "We want people in first world nations to look at their cup and understand the story behind it and choose fair trade."

APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad is to liaise with Oxfam to look at how unions can get behind the campaign.

For more details go to:


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