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Issue No. 331 03 November 2006  

From Green House to Glass House
History tells us that towards the end of most reigns of power the regime stops listening to the people, stops talking to them and reverts to crushes dissent. Events this week suggest this is where the Howard Government is now.


Interview: Common Ground
Nature Conservation Council director Cate Faehrmann on the fight against global warming and how unions and greens can learn from each other.

Industrial: A Low Act
The Low Paid. The Fair Pay Commission knows who pays them. We can do something about it as they will not.

Unions: The Number of the Least
Forget 666 - 457 is looming as the scariest number for Aussie workers and their families, Jim Marr writes.

Politics: The Smoking Gun
Hayek's henchman, Raplph Harris, goes to free market heaven, writes Evan Jones

Economics: Microcredit, Compulsory Superannuation and Inequality
They are supposed to ensure the wealth of well-being of individuals. Whats wrong with that? asks Neale Towart

Environment: Low Voltage
Nuclear Power and Prime Ministerial pronouncements are seriously short of a few volts, wrties Neal Towart

History: The Art of Social Justice
Tom Martin was a terrific cartoonist and part of a great tradition in labour movement history and culture, swrties Neale Towart.

Review: Work’s Unhealthy Appetite
It pays the bills – usually – but going to work should come with a warning, wrties Jackie Woods.

Culture: A Forgotten Poet
There is little information on the public record about the radical working class poet Ernest Antony, writes Rowan Cahill.


 Godfrey Hirst Carpets Workers

 Lies, Damned Lies and the Shirkin' Gherkin

 Guests Share Backpay Bonanza

 Win, Win for Filipinos

 Honey, They Shrunk Our Pay

 No Sex Thanks, We're Asian

 Green Jobs to Beat Climate Change

 They're Going Out The Door

 Medibank Staff Go Under Knife

 Thompson Slams Door on Delo

 Merchant Bankers Pull Entitlements Stroke

 Green the New Black

 Councils Fight Off Shoring

 Acitivists Notebook


The Soapbox
Robbo Goes Green
John Robertson's speech to the Walk Against Warming

The Westie Wing
Ian West takes a look at a former public institution and its contribution to NSW.

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Medibank Staff Go Under Knife

A secret plan to shed jobs at Medibank Private surfaced this week as former PM Malcolm Fraser joined calls opposing the Government's planned sell-off of the publicly-owned health insurer.

In a report released this week by Finance Minister Nick Minchin, accountancy firm CRA International claimed that the sale could result in 7% "increased efficiency" by cutting jobs across the workforce.

Specifically, the bean-counters focused on savings due to a "rationalisation of management, call centre and customer delivery mechanisms."

While the Government has indicated it will not proceed with the actual sale unless re-elected at the next federal poll, a bill that enables the eventual sell-off landed in Parliament this week.

The arrival of the legislation coincided with the release of another report from the Parliamentary Library questioning the legality of the privatisation plan, raising the possibility that policy holders might be eligible for compensation if the sale proceeded in its current form.

Having failed to consult Medibank Private members regarding its intentions to sell, the Government predictably dismissed the independent report, releasing instead a privately commissioned paper it had prepared earlier.

Responding to overwhelming criticism from doctors, academics and unions that privatisation of Medibank Private would drive up the cost of premiums, the Government's plan advocates slashing jobs from the workforce, supposedly reducing pressure on operating costs and thus keeping a lid on premiums.

According to the Save Medibank Alliance, Medibank Private's recently improved performance and climbing profits are a direct result of taking on more staff, not less.

CPSU's Stephen Jones told Workers Online that the improved results came as no surprise.

"By investing in the workforce, Medibank has increased its capacity to win new customers and deliver better services. It's not brain surgery," he said.

"The Government plan to cut jobs will only compromise operational capacities and reduce Medibank's ability to attract and retain new business. It's like prescribing a lobotomy for a headache," Jones said.

With public opposition to the latest Government fire sale growing, the man responsible for the creation of the private health insurer joined the fray.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, in a letter to CPSU's Jones, lent his support to the campaign, arguing that selling Medibank would lead to increased upward pressure on private health fees.

"When Medibank Private was introduced, we believed that, if the Government were actively involved in the business, we would have a better handle on costs and outcomes than if it were done by private enterprise," Fraser wrote.

"I believe it would be a great pity if Medibank Private were sold and that would lead to escalating fees."

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