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May 2003   

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.


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.


Solidarity Forever
Another May Day, another year gone, another year to look back on our history and celebrate the past and talk about how we can make our movement strong again.


 Mystery Men Behind Pan Bungle

 Charities Brace for Medicare Backlash

 Court Throws Out Cole Prosecutions

 Child Actor Dodges Broken Voice

 Rio Tinto: $40 Million for Boss, Eviction for Workers

 Child Care for Oldies Too

 Winning Poster Shouts at Freeloaders

 May Day Tragedy Claims Union Lives

 Westfield Cleaners to Down Mops

 Question Marks Over Nursing Home

 Burn Payout Highlights Compo Fears

 Costa Blows Whistle on Canberra Raid

 Hoops Bet on National Body

 Tear Us Down, Buttercup

 Activist Notebook

 Is Labor History?
 Bob Gould Sprays Gerard Henderson
 War and Peace
 A Strange Light
 A Little History
 Does It Have To Be?
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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.


For more than a quarter century Shane MacGowan has been the skinny, gap-toothed, iconic face of Irish punk, casting an extended middle finger at the world and its conventions. But this world is wont to find a way of slapping down its rebels and physically, at least, it has given MacGowan a bigger touch up than most.

Those of us long intoxicated by his lean, irreverence were taken aback as a bloated, middle-aged man hobbled into our midst with the aid of a walking stick. Slowly, and apparently painfully, he edged himself onto a high stool in the middle of the stage where the tools of his trade - the microphone, the schooner and the packet of fags - awaited.

Backed by the tight, driving support of the Popes, he kicked off with his classic If I Should Fall From Grace with God and, truth was, it wasn't too bad at all. Good enough to get the punters roaring, that's for sure.

Short of breath he sensibly flicked the pages of his songbook that required most vocal dexterity - Fairytale of New York, Rainy Night in Soho and the like - for a high octane set of footstomping, singalong classics such as Dirty Old Town, Paddy Public Enemy Number One, Donegal Express, Streams of Whisky, The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn, Greenland Whale Fishery, The Irish Rover and South Australia where, on the few occasions it was required, back-up men could guide him over the humps.

Sadly, it cost us a string of quality Popes numbers, including Victoria, St John of Gods and the deeply-revealing Church of the Holy Spook, that match anything from his Pogues era.

Severely limited of movement, perched in centre stage he could still react to encouragement and there was no shorgage of that. A genuine relationship unfolded, MacGowan getting bolder and stronger with every roar of approval and the appreciative, pogoing mass screaming louder for each gut-busting effort he was prepared to make.

Suddenly, without warning, the man got up and hobbled away, stage right. The Popes thundered on for three ... four ... five ... maybe six tension filled minutes until MacGowan returned, mounted the stool and picked up where he'd left off.

No conversation. No explanation. No need.

Finally, when the man was done and wet with sweat, the crowd screamed and stamped their demand for an encore, exploding with enthusiasm when the band returned and MacGowan shuffled back into the spotlight.

He did one number then stood tall, centre stage. The years fell away to reveal the real Shane MacGowan, leaning on the bar of some country pub, perving with intent at the charms of sweet Sally MacLennane.

Half of you hoped to hell he'd do another. The other half prayed to Christ he wouldn't be stupid enough to try.

For one reason or another, MacGowan has had his obituary penned more often this past 25 years than any 10 men but, if spirit has anything to do with it, he will be around for a while yet.

Yes, things have changed. The sharp-witted, coarse-tongued genius has dealt with his reality by becoming a workman, craftsman yes but a workman nevertheless, to show the world he's not beat yet.

MacGowan's taken us on an emotional roller coaster, from dark trepidation to triumph. And he's done it in barely 65 minutes, underlining the fact that quality beats quantity, any night of the week.

Anyone who missed that point must have been, in the words of the poet - a miserable bollocks and a bitch's bastard's whore.


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