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Issue No. 204 21 November 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

Holes in the Net
The Medicare debate may be clouded by the minutae of the health delivery system, but it really boils down to an old-fashioned ideological battle between user-pays and state responsibility.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
The Welfare Rights Centre's Michael Raper on 20 years of activism, the politics of punishment and how to make Australia egalitarian again.

Unions: Joel's Law
Building Workers have overcome powerful forces to push workplace safety back up the national agenda. But, Jim Marr writes, their "success" has come at an unacceptable cost.

National Focus: Spring Carnival
It must be spring: punting in Victoria, singing in South Australia, fighting in America. It’s all there in the national wrap from Noel Hester plus an Australian union movement rugby world cup class consciousness poll.

Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
They sacked the job delegate, reinstated him after an IRC hearing, and sacked him again two weeks later. But that was just the beginning.

Industrial: The Price of War
Mass industrial action is brewing in Israel as the policies of the right-wing Sharon Government come home to roost, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Who's Got What
Frank Stilwell pours over the latest BRW Rich List to build a picture of the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

History: Containing Discontent
Racism against minorities has always been a stock in trade of politicans, writes Phil Griffiths

Review: An Honourable Wally
Most Australians probably look at our politicians and feel they could do a better job but when redundant meatworker Wally Norman gets the chance to find out he realises getting elected is a major hurdle, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
A thousand blossoms bloomed during the US President's spring-time colonial visit last month.

N E W S

 US Giant Attacks Aussies

 Exposed – OEA in Kids Scandal

 Left-Right Flattens Abigroup

 ANZ Cops Fine Over Robbers

 Classroom Stoush Gets Personal

 Seven Workers Pass "Intelligence" Test

 Stop Press: Coal Strike

 Nurses: MedicarePlus Points to America

 ‘Joel’s Law’ Gathers Momentum

 Skilled Picketers Confront Patrick’s

 Yahoo Censors Union Ad

 Labor’s Cotter Court ‘Faking’ It

 TAFE Puts Best Foot Forward

 Wharfies, Actors, Seafarers Unite

 Debus Gives Up On Lawyers Picnic

 Nelson Backdown Not Enough

 Online Pay Check

 Activists

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Bush's Faith-Filled Life
The President's conversion, 'sense of divine calling' and struggle with sobriety are subjects of a forthcoming book, writes Bill Berkowitz

Sport
The Not So Smart Money
Phil Doyle is sick of big money ruining grass roots sport, and he’s taking his bat and going home.

Politics
The Westie Wing
The ongoing challenge for Labor members of parliament is to make what the Premier calls the ‘creative partnership’ between the Government and the union movement a reality, writes our favourite MP Ian West.

Postcard
Behind the Junta
Saw Min Lwin, Secretary for Trade Union Rights/ Human Rights for the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), outlines the struggle for workers in his country.

L E T T E R S
 Jack Lives Here
 Saving Jobs
 Public Transport A Bit Rich
 The Smirker
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Nurses: MedicarePlus Points to America


Australia’s health system is at the crossroads with MedicarePlus pointing towards an Americanised future, nurses say.

Delegates representing NSW nurses from public hospitals, private hospitals, health care services and aged care facilites came to that conclusion after studying the details of MedicarePlus in Sydney this week.

Central to their argument is the threat posed by the Howard blueprint to the cornerstones of the original Medicare concept - universality.

"John Howard will have achieved his political goal of destroying Medicare as a universal, taxpayer-funded health care system if the Federal Parliament agrees to key features of his MedicarePlus changes," the nurses warned in a statement.

The nurses condemned the introduction of means testing for certain benefits and the idea of linking Medicare with a safety net.

They said Medicare was not established as a safety net but as a taxpayer-funded health system in which people are cared for on the basis or clinical need, irrespective of income or assets.

NSW Nurses Association secretary, Brett Holmes, said MedicarePlus attempted to camouflage the real intention of Government's policy.

"The step-by-step process being followed by Federal Government to dismantle Medicare is clear to nurses," Holmes said.

He said the steps were:

- building up the idea that a universal, taxpayer-funded health system was unsustainable and using that to devert billions to private insurance

- holding down the Medicare rebate so bulk-billing levels would fall

- accepting the decline in bulk-billing as inevitable and introducing a means-tested safety net in response.

"Once this is accepted," Holmes said, "Government can continue to hold down the Medicare rebate, wind back the so-called safety net and expand private health insurance so you end up with an American-style, two-tier system."

He warned the concepts of means testing and safety net would then be more easily applied to the hospital system.

Holmes said that, in a sense, the detail of the Medicare package was irrelevant.

"It is nothing but an appeal to sectional interests in an attempt to overturn a larger idea. It is that larger idea that is now well and truly the real issue."

The nurses' analysis reflected criticisms from the ACTU and Health Services Union.

"The Howard Government, for ideological reasons, has failed to tackle the problem of declining rates of bulk-billing," HSU secretary, Craig Thomson, said.

Research, he warned, showed that 1.2 million Australians said they would go to hospital accident and emergency departments rather than paying higher general practitioner costs.


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