Letters to the Editor

Issue 

Global warming

A vexing problem before negotiators at the December 3-14 UN climate change conference in Bali is how to convince poor countries to invest in renewable energy to power their development, when most renewable sources are significantly more expensive than fossil fuels.

Allow me to make a modest suggestion — the developed world should pay for it. Let me add: This should not come at the expense of anything in the rich countries' budgets that adds to popular safety and well-being. But fortunately, all these budgets include a major item that is completely wasteful and destructive, and does nothing to improve the lives of ordinary people, either in the countries concerned or in the wider world.

Yes, folks, I'm referring to these countries' "defence" spending. To break the impasse at Bali, why not create a renewable energy development fund for poor countries, and levy contributions to it from the developed world? To make sure no-one suffers as a result, let's arrange to divert, say, half of the rich world's current military outlays.

The disruption caused would be surprisingly small. In the case of the US, for instance, cutting military spending by 50% would push it back little further than the level of the mid-1990s, even allowing for inflation. That would still leave more than enough to finance the odd invasion.

And the sums made available for saving the environment and improving the lives of the world's poor would be truly immense. In 2005, global military spending came to US$1118 billion, more than the entire GDPs of all but about a dozen states. The 15 biggest military spenders accounted for 83% of the total. In 2007, the US is to spend $626 billion.

Think how not spending a trillion dollars per year on guns, missiles and all the rest would improve the security of the planet's inhabitants! All those billions of people not threatened with famine, or compelled to migrate before rising seas and spreading deserts!

Mind you, this would presume that the rulers of the rich world really do want to save us from global warming rather than keeping absolutely intact their ability to kill us all.

Renfrey Clarke, Adelaide [Abridged]

Venezuela

The referendum victory in Venezuela is something to cheer. For this is definitely a victory. Despite all the positives that a Chavez governent has provided, there is only so far one can push the electorate. We've seen it with Howard's Work Choices. And now we see it in Venezuela. The
lesson: don't take the people's support for granted. Don't abuse their trust in you.

And the low voting turnout in slum areas of Caracas, Chavez's strong grounds, is testament to this.

Chavez has already politicised the armed forces. Instead of professional neutrality, they now salute with official chants of: "Homeland, Socialism or Death!" Chavez has already removed the autonomous nature of the Central Bank. The proposed constitutional amendments would have given Chavez the right to suspend civil liberties that we in the West cherish. Why should it be denied to our brothers and sisters in Venezuela?

The proposed amendments would not only have removed limits on presidential terms in power, a concept most frightening if we consider the possibility of President Bush applying for this change, but would also have granted Chavez the power to appoint select officials as local governors. The welcome defeat in the referendum means the people will elect their own governors. A democractic principle.

The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela has been protected by the citizens once more. We must applaud their choice.

Marie Jackson

Claremont, WA

Housing

If indeed the Rudd education and skills revolution does not provide enough workers for WA at least follow the lead of the Court governments and demand that any mining company that imports a worker from overseas also is responsible for building and supplying permanent accommodation for that worker close to the construction sites in towns like Karratha; Kununurra and Port Headland, where there is plenty of water. This will decrease the pressures on housing affordability and therefore extend downward pressure on interest rates. (China is skilled in producing affordable flat pack housing at a fraction of the construction costs of a classic double brick home.)

When they leave the housing can be used for homeless and Indigenous Australians. It will also address global warming by stopping the senseless fly-in, fly-out mentality burning millions of gallons of aviation fuel.

Colin Hughes

Swan View, WA

Iraq

Even before he was sworn in as PM, Kevin Rudd very laudably announced "measurement-based" and "evidence-based" policy and asked for "report cards" from his ministers. As a responsible scientist and citizen, on day #2 of the Rudd government I published a detailed and documented "Rudd Australia Report Card #1. Continued Australian and US coalition war crimes in occupied Iraq" (see: <www.http://open.newmatilda.com/crosswire/?p=142>).

In short, the coalition invasion and occupation of Iraq was illegal, was based on false evidence and has led to what some outstanding US, British and Australian writers call an "Iraqi holocaust" and "Iraqi genocide": 0.8-1.2 million post-invasion excess violent deaths (British ORB and US Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health); 0.7-0.8 million post-invasion non-violent excess deaths (UNICEF and UN Population Division); 1.5-2.0 million post-invasion excess deaths (summation of the foregoing data); 0.6 million post-invasion under-5 infant deaths (UNICEF and UN Population Division); over 1.1 million US-caused Iraqi deaths (the prestigious Just Foreign Policy organisation); and 4.5 million refugees (UNHCR and the BRussells Tribunal).

Yet this evidence of an Iraqi genocide (as defined by the UN Genocide Convention) is ignored by mainstream media, politicians, public servants and the Rudd Labor government which has so far only committed to partial withdrawal from occupied Iraq in mid-2008 with indefinite continued presence of hundreds of Australian military personnel and which has given no indication of investigation and prosecution of Australians for complicity in genocide commission or genocide denial.

Dr Gideon Polya

Melbourne

Education policy

The federal Coalition government has intentionally decimated and neglected public education over the past 11 years. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the percentage of federal funding for public schools has substantially decreased — from 42% of the total schools education budget to just 35%. If the current funding model is persisted with by federal Labor, then funding will be further reduced to 32% by 2010. This is despite the fact that public schools have to cater for a far larger percentage of students (70%), students with a disability (81%) and Indigenous students (87%).

Many public educators were cautiously optimistic when Mark Latham and the ALP announced their "hit list" prior to the 2004 federal election, which was aimed at taking funds from elite private schools and redistributing them to under-funded public schools. However, Kevin Rudd quickly renounced this plan when he became ALP leader. In the same way Rudd has gone "Lite" on Work Choices, he has also gone "Lite" on public education.

In 2006, Professor Barry McGaw, former director of education at the OECD, publicly argued the Australian "education system is consistently conferring privilege on those who already have it and denying it to those who do not". This funding structure, privileging elite private schools and their bourgeoisie clients was actively supported during the 11 years of Coalition electoral dominance.

Rudd however shows no signs of adopting a policy that provides more finances for our desperately under-funded public schools. This is despite the vast majority of Australian students attending these institutions.

Rudd has stated that his education policy will based upon "need and fairness". However, those with an acute eye will notice that the current system is not fair and supports the least needy.

If the current structure of education funding remains, our education system will continue to perpetuate inequality.

Tim Zammit

Via email [Abridged]