Letters to the Editor


Israel's wars

If Philip Mendes (Write On, GLW #730) is accurate with his estimation that only about 1% of Australian voters think that Israel´s wars on Lebanon and Palestine are a significant issue, then I am very happy to be included in this percentage and I congratulate the Socialist Alliance lead Victorian Senate candidate he criticises, whose policy platform put foreign policy matters even above social justice issues at home.

When Kevin Rudd ("a terrible piece of work" among Mark Latham's assessments of him as described in his Diaries ) made his appalling statement on October 3 that if Labor won the federal election he'd urge the UN Security Council to force Iran's President Ahmadinejad before the International Court of Justice for alleged crimes against humanity on charges of inciting genocide, one could be forgiven for thinking that we lived in a topsy-turvy world. Ahmadinejad to be brought before an international court before war criminals the likes of Bush, Blair and Howard?

The absurd utterance by Rudd filled a moderate-sized news space for one day and then all the focus returned to the usual cajoling of the population with domestic promises based on an innate awareness that people are essentially self-interested and greedy.

Latham's recent article in the Financial Review, in which he lashed out at a greed-driven election campaign by the major parties, is a reminder of Labor's sorry loss on the leadership front.

Whatever Latham's political flaws may have been, it's a crying shame that he's not still there as Labor's leader. An attentive read of his recent article and not forgetful of his legacy of speeches and thoughtful books he wrote during his political years (the weighty Civilising Global Capital, and From the Suburbs for example), remind us that he was the thinking powerhouse of Labor during his time, who on the foreign and domestic policy fronts, aimed to set Labor'a course distinguishing and defining it against Howard's conservative establishment-based model.

In contrast, Rudd has been doing his best to emulate and even exceed Howard's conservative model.

Nigel Rogers

Mt Nelson, Tas {Abridged]

Balibo Five

One of the first real tests of the Rudd Labor government will be how it deals with the recommendations of Magistrate Dorelle Pinch from the inquest into the deaths of the Balibo Five journalists. How will Rudd's Labor attorney-general deal with the matter of this war crime? How will the attorney-general get the remains of the murdered journalists back to the five families? A new struggle has just begun.

While many of us were happy when Pinch read the executive summary to the packed court in Glebe, Sydney, on November 16, it seemed soon after that Pinch had left the complicity of the Australian governments in 1975 and since, off the hook. We can say that the "official version" of the cold blooded killings now matches reality, and that is a big step.

We congratulate the many people who made it possible, and Green Left Weekly for always following and reporting the years of cover-up and denial.

There will need to be pressure on the new attorney-general to make more than "feel good" statements on this crime of the Indonesian military in East Timor, and the complicity of Australian officials and politicians since before 1975.

Stephen Langford, Toni Pollard, Brendan Doyle, John Bell, Jeff Lee, Wolf Hoflrucker, Jean Lopez, A. Mandelson

Sydney, NSW

Howard's legacy

Lest we forget John Howard, we should put his legacy into perspective. For 11 years his own party never saw this insignificant, boring little man as a trusted and admired leader, but rather, a winner of elections.

He achieved this by displaying powers of manipulative deceit and divisiveness, hitherto unseen or unheard of from any previous PM. His personal insecurity and desperation to stay in power at all costs were reflected in blatant displays of self aggrandisement and opportunistic posing on the world stage, while maintaining a seemingly bottomless bag of dirty tricks.

The integrity of government has been seriously weakened by his serial lying, hiding behind staffers and lack of accountability.

For 11 long years a gullible electorate returned his odious government, cowered by his manufactured fear of economic mismanagement or terrorist attack should he leave the stage.

But no more — the people finally came to their senses and delivered him the eviction notice he so richly deserved.

We can only hope that his dehumanising and degrading influence will be forever enshrined in our psyche, as a reminder of how a country can be betrayed and abandoned by a power seeking little man with phony leadership skills, using lying wedge politics to instill fear and apathy into the community.

Keith Mobbs

Lane Cove, NSW

Howard and Bruce

The defeat of PM John Howard in his own seat is a delightful repetition of the Stanley Melbourne Bruce defeat in 1929. In that year, because of worsening unemployment and consequent action by trade unions to protect workers' living standards, Bruce introduced legislation to abolish the Arbitration Commission. He was opposed by people in his own party, including Billy Hughes, and the legislation did not go through. A couple of months later at the general election of October 1929, Bruce lost his seat of Flinders.

At the time, Flinders ranged from the Mentone-Mordialloc area right through all the suburbs and small towns down the Mornington Peninsula. The population then was spread more thinly.

Bruce's defeat was caused by a massive campaign launched by activists in the Mentone-Parkdale ALP. A Mentone man, Bernie Mulvogue, galvanised supporters and travelled widely through the electorate, building opposition to the p
prime minister and his attack on workers. Mulvogue and his team drove daily to meetings and any venue where an audience could be found. It was the time of electioneering at Town Hall meetings where rowdy interjectors from both sides confronted one another with police in attendance to prevent physical violence. Radio was in its infancy, TV was only a dream, computers were half a century away, so elections had to be fought by actually putting policies in front of people face-to-face.

Mulvogue and his ALP team from Mentone and elsewhere did this effectively enough to unseat a Prime Minister, one who had great personal charm and financial backing. The Labor candidate, Holloway, won the seat even though Bruce came back in the next election.

Maxine McKew has achieved another such win in an era of different media and different tactics. But she seems to have done much the same thing as our earlier activist. She got out and door-knocked thousands of voters putting her case face to face.

The big message out of all this seems to be that prime ministers who personally lead an attack on basic fairness in the workplace can expect a fierce backlash from the electorate.

Leo Gamble

Mentone, Vic

IR fight

The fight is not over. The new round of battle just begins. The struggle for workers' rights did not end with Howard's concession blather nor with Rudd's victory waffle. Workers should be under no illusion that the federal ALP will deliver a reversal of Howard's industrial legislation. Labor will find excuses for not repealing all the laws as they come under pressure from the Business Council of Australia (the architects of Work Choices) — the first organisation/lobby group to request to meet with Rudd the morning after the election result.

Already on ABC TV's 7.30 Report, Rudd has hinted that there will be obstacles to repealing the laws, blaming the Liberals in the Senate.

Therefore, we must be as vigilant and active as during the Work Choices campaign. We must initiate and build events that keep Rudd reminded of the number one issue of concern for "working families" — the right to decent conditions and salaries.

The Rudd government is faced with conflicting policy objectives. Pressure from big business and its allies to keep down labour costs in order to increase profits for the bosses and shareholders is at variance with the interests of the "working families" who have shown clearly that they will not stand for the kind of agenda that erodes their living standards.

We must keep up the pressure on the ALP federally and at state levels and galvanise the political consciousness that activated hundreds of thousands of people to turn out for the demonstrations across the country. The public have been inspired and motivated. It is important to maintain the momentum by preparing for the next mass event that must happen in the near future.

The trade union movement must observe diligently the ALP's treatment of the CFMEU and Labor's failure to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission that polices and punishes the activities of the building unions. This should send alarm bells to all unions and "working families".

The very least the union movement should do is to organise for May Day 2008 which will send a strong message to the Rudd government that it is notice and that we, the people, will not be betrayed anymore.

Noreen Navin

Sydney, NSW [Abridged]

'Education revolution'

I suggest that as the first act of Rudd's "education revolution" should be to confront intransigent NSW planning minister Frank Sartor and insist he call a halt to the planned 500 unit redevelopment of UTS Ku-ring-gai which he regards as "state significant" under part 3A of the NSW planning act.

Sartor's own metropolitan strategy says that there is need for 8000 new dwellings in Ku-ring-gai by 2031. His department's negotiations with Ku-ring-gai Council over its local environment plan with a pledge of an additional $200,000 funding convinced council to plan for 25,000 new dwellings, the majority of which will be built in the next five years.

With the glut of new units planned for the area, the need for these 500 dwellings is insignificant, whereas the permanent loss of such an educational facility and its sporting fields is of great significance.

Similarly, in Quakers Hill, the pending closure of the University of Western Sydney's Nerimba campus needs urgent reconsideration. Expanding areas such as this require development of its educational facilities not cuts.

Tony Backhouse

Dee Why, NSW