Letters to the Editor

May 11, 2007

Depleted uranium

While there are some beneficial uses of radiation such as for X-rays and anti-cancer therapy, expanding the uranium industry to cater to a world greedy for electricity is fraught with great danger.

Most people are not aware that enriched uranium creams off only 3% of the uranium from uranium ore for power generation. The rest (97%) is radioactive waste and is called depleted uranium (DU). This is a misnomer. Depleted uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years and any form of life exposed to this waste is facing a catastrophic future. Human beings develop the most horrific illnesses, tumours, chromosome damage, birth deformities and ultimately death.

The producers of enriched uranium have found a convenient way of disposing of the "waste" (DU) by giving it to armaments manufacturers! It is now being used for armour plating in tanks and as a replacement for lead in bullets, missiles and warheads.

US military forces have been using DU weapons extensively in Iraq since the 1ast Gulf War. Over 300,000 US service personnel are on permanent disability pensions having developed "Gulf War Syndrome" after being exposed to their own uranium dust on the battlefield. Eleven thousand of those service personnel have since died from this "syndrome", not to mention the thousands of innocent Iraqis who have been contaminated by this weapon of mass destruction declared illegal by the UN.

The Australian Defence Forces purchased and used 43,000 rounds of DU ammunition over a period of 10 years in training exercises. How many Australian defence personnel and civilians have been exposed to this radioactive poison? Is this Agent Orange all over again? These are serious questions only capable of being answered by a judicial commission of inquiry.

Greedy, short-sighted armaments manufacturers cannot be trusted to deal with DU. Say "no" to uranium mining — leave it in the ground.

Keith Jaffray

Byfield, Qld {Abridged]

Smart investment

The recent threats by some businesses to reduce investment and employment if they don't get the industrial relations system they want demonstrate a key problem with capitalism — the fate of vulnerable workers and jobless people is dependent upon keeping major private investors, who overwhelmingly come from the wealthiest 10% of society, happy.

The equitable solution is greater and smarter public investment. First, to expand the skills and broader work capacity of the population, thereby making more people more attractive to business; and, second, to directly employ those individuals whom the private sector won't make job offers to.

As well as being able to lift employment, public enterprises have the egalitarian advantages that their start-up capital can be raised from progressive taxation, while any profits they generate can be distributed fairly across the community rather than going disproportionately to the better-off. Australian governments should reconsider the potential of public investment.

Brent Howard

Rydalmere, NSW

Balibo Five

I think all of us who are interested in the murder by the Indonesian military attacking from Indonesian West Timor of the Balibo Five journalists in mid-October 1974, must be asking why Richard Woolcott has not been asked to give evidence at the inquest into cameraman for Channel 7, Brian Peters' killing.

Woolcott, Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, was having regular updates from the top brass of the TNI (or ABRI as it was then called). How come that deputy state coroner Dorelle Pinch has not called Woolcott to give evidence?

Stephen Langford

secretary, Australia East Timor Association, NSW


I put a challenge to all my fellow lefties and anti-Howard people. Can someone come up with a formal term that refers to a government and its leader who have been voted in, but if an election were held now, they would lose. Something like, lame duck. We really need a term to taunt the lying little rodent with in the lead up to the election, as he is on the nose with more people now than ever before and I don't really think the majority of people are behind him now. This is one of the problems with democratic systems.

As well we also need a derogatory descriptive term that refer to the Howard years. Something similar to Third Reich. Something we can use to refer back to this horrid political period. A term that can't be mistakenly seen as a possibly glorified reference such as the "Howard years".

If nothing else, he deserves to be branded with a catchcry that recognises his contribution as Australia's worst prime minister.

George Mercier

Rose Bay, NSW [Abridged]

Election bribery

A broken election promise annoyed me so much that I wrote to the electoral commission. My claim was that I had been bribed; that the promise had swayed my opinion and gained my vote for that candidate.

After the election, two things were made clear: one, that the promise would never be kept, and secondly, that it had never been legally possible in the first place.

The electoral commission wrote back and sent a copy of Section 326(3) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It deals with bribery. It describes election promises as declarations of public policy or promises of public action, and states that any candidate who fails to honour one of these, cannot be prosecuted.

In other words, our law-makers bothered to pass and to use a law which permits them to promise the earth and deliver nothing. Decent law-makers would have done the reverse.

I arranged a meeting with a Democrat senator so that I could explain my anger about this deceitful tactic, used by others in that election. After very few words from me, he tapped his computer, displayed 326(3) on the screen, and suggested I read it. He then said, "That's how it works, mate, tough luck. Now, if you don't mind, I'm busy."

Bruce Downey

Alderley, Old

Tamil struggle

I kindly thank you for supporting the Tamil people from Sri Lankan in Australia! However support is not enough as assistance is needed to help address the plight of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka! Public awareness campaigns are needed to inform the Australian public regarding the untold hardship of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

The Sri Lankan government has created the crisis it faces and is guilty of unleashing state terrorism on the innocent Tamils in the north and east of the Indian Ocean island.

The Sri Lankan government is now seeking to settle this conflict through military means and is asking foreign governments to assist its blocking of humanitarian aid to the Tamil population by portraying the Tamil diaspora as "terrorists".

The worst of the story is that the Sri Lankan government is implementing an embargo in the north and east that is a grave violation of humanitarian law. I urge Australians to act before the "intended" educational and economic genocides are realised through the current policies of the Sri Lankan government.

Ignoring the Tamil resistance will lead to further hardship for the whole population on the island and will force the Tamils to go for full separation, something that can only be halted if the Buddhist chauvinistic Sinhalese government halts its current policies which aim to make the whole island a Buddhist country by a colonization programs in the east of the Tamil homeland.

I trust in your support to ensure this beautiful Indian Ocean island will achieve a durable peace by answering the legitimate grievances of the Tamil-speaking people from the north and east of the island.

Paul Willms

via email [Abridged]

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