Letters to the Editor


Prostitution I

I am a woman, former prostitute who read your article "Student poverty and prostitution" (GLW #743). I really liked your conclusions and thought it good you took a firm stand against prostitution. Until the end, when you all of a sudden said what's necessary is to take away all the laws that criminalise prostitutes, and make more "work safety"! That's just the same thing as the prostitution lobby says!

Why don't you propose to criminalise the ones who're really responsible, such as the johns and the pimps? Now that would really make a change.

Prostitution isn't work and therefore work safety is an oxymoron. There cannot be safety as long as there is prostitution, as it means you still have to have men inside of you or there is no money. I wish you would stop pretending it was work and start seeing it as the misery and rape it is.

Natalia Hernandez [via email]

Prostitution II

It's hard to see how Resistance reconciles its support for anti-workplace sexual harassment laws and its support for a legalised prostitution industry ("Student Poverty and Prostitution", GLW #743). It seems for Resistance, being forced to tolerate unwanted sexual acts at work is a crime that should be stopped, unless that is your work, in which case the harassment merely needs to be regulated.

What legalisation proponents often fail to mention is that legalisation does not eradicate the illegal industry, it feeds it. The mere fact that even basic regulations like compulsory condom use need to be regulated is proof that there's demand for unregulated prostitution. To whatever degree prostituted women are successful in demanding this regulations enforcement in the legal industry, they will merely create demand for an illegal industry. Returning to the illegal industry will be of no major inconvenience for johns because they have been patronising the illegal industry for centuries.

Meanwhile, the legal industry now gets to use all the tools of demand production used by legal corporations, such as cross promotions, advertising & share holder investment. This creates demand for both the legal and illegal industries. Added to this, the token regulations found in the legal industry will now help many men to use the excuse that "it's just like any other job" to justify their exploitation of women.

Surprisingly absent from the article was any mention of Sweden's ground-breaking prostitution policy. A quite logical response to the problems faced by criminalised prostitutes, the policy legalises being a prostitute but criminalises pimps and johns. This policy has worked at least
as well as the pro-corporate free-for-all facilitated by legalisation.

Benjamen Standing


Palestine I

I write in response to the Australian Jewish Democratic Society's response (Write On, GLW #742) to my letter in GLW #738. Whether I agree with a "genuine two state solution" is irrelevant, it's up to the Palestinians to decide what they want, not others to force a "solution" on them. Personally, I prefer a single democratic state for all of Palestine. This is unrealistic as long as Israel is to be designated a "Jewish" state.

A "Jewish" state is not a democratic state if you have not been born into the Jewish religion. Being an Arab Israeli is the same as being a black person in 1930s USA, i.e., there's not much chance of being treated as a "citizen". Don't take my word for it; ask the 1.3 million Palestinians in Israel whether or not they feel equal with Israel's Jewish citizens.

I take umbrage at the, albeit subtle, accusation the AJDS throw at me — that I believe the people of Sderot deserve what they get. I did not say that, so please do not put words into my mouth.

I am not saying that the Israeli government places its Mizrahi citizens in the line of fire. But could it not be said that the AJDS prove my point, when they say "the people of Sderot, who overwhelmingly hail from Morocco, are just as brown-skinned as the Palestinians? If their safety was paramount surely they could be moved to safer areas. Then, then when the "democratic Jewish" state has done what it wants to Gaza, they could be moved back?

Could it be that Israel needs some victims to "show how brutal" the Palestinians are — so that the Israeli government can then pretend that slaughtering civilians and cutting off their water supply is a defensive response to Palestinian 'aggression"?

I agree with the AJDS that calling for a ceasefire is step No. 1. Hamas held to a ceasefire for two years, but Israel continued murdering Palestinians.

It may be uncomfortable for the AJDS to acknowledge the comparison to Nazi Germany, but there is plenty of evidence to show that what some of the major Israeli politicians think of Palestinians — "dogs", "snakes", "not human" isn't much different from what the Nazis thought of Jews, Slavs, etc.

What do the AJDS think will happen in the "democratic Jewish" state when the percentage of Palestinians in Israel nears a majority over the next 20-40 years? Won't another al Nakba be needed?

Kryten Walia

Penrith, NSW [Abridged]

Palestine II

With respect to the AJDS' Steve Brook and David Rothfield, it is they who need to take a bit of care with facts — or rather, in the manner they respond to separate writers who have taken issue with them.

Their letter (Write On, GLW #738) on the Israeli siege of Gaza drew quite distinct responses from Kryten Walia and myself (Write On, GLW #740). Neither of us know each other and our responses contained quite separate perspectives and were distinct in all ways possible — save for our mutual strong support for Palestinians in the current situation in Gaza, but also in their long struggle against Israeli occupation. The two AJDS writers replied in turn (Write On, GLW #742), acknowledging the earlier separate letters initially, but then responded with a volley of conjecture, second guessing, speculating, advising about care with facts, accusing their critics of lecturing and making unfounded assumptions about our views — without distinguishing between whom they were attributing what views to. In any case, Brook and Rothfield carefully avoided dealing withe the principle points with the respective to either Walia's or my letters. They have tried to have an imagined debate of their own making. However interested readers with recent past issues of GLW at their disposal can make their own judgements on all this.

Nigel Rogers

Mt. Nelson, Tas


Matthew Davis (Write On, GLW #743) hits out so wildly about Kosova that it's hard to know exactly what his point is. If he is opposed to Kosova's independence because he doesn't like the style of dependent capitalist government that is in power then surely he would have to oppose independence for just about every Third World nation on the planet.

Can't socialists be sophisticated enough to discern the right to national independence from the machinations imposed by imperialism? The Swiss left-wing newspaper Solidarite reports in its February 27 edition that Kosova refugees in Switzerland filled the streets celebrating the independence declaration, a reflection of the depth of Kosova national yearnings, from which Davis averts his eyes.

Catherine Samary, a left-wing Balkans expert, interviewed in the same edition of the paper, says that smuggling and mafias in Kosova were "initially promoted by the social and political dismantling of the old system, the 'warrior transition' and the sanctions against Serbia". But, as important, she says, are "the conflict with Belgrade on privatisation of mineral resources (that independence will not fix any time soon), the lack of public funding and the [imposition of the] euro [which have] dramatically reduced productive activities".

In his final 62 words, Davis tries to stick together NATO, Israel, the DSP, Fidel Castro and Lenin. Unfortunately, the glue of his "logic" can't support whatever structure he was trying to build.

Barry Healy

Perth, WA

Train protest

Since the anti-APEC protest in Sydney, now some six months ago, I have been trying to obtain information from RailCorp about the circumstances surrounding the summary cancellation of the Blue Mountains (Lithgow-Penrith) train service on the day of the demonstration, Saturday 8 September 2007. I was planning to go to this demonstration by train, and just by chance, through meeting up with a friend two days before, I found out that the service had been cut on Saturday. Had I not met with this friend, I would have turned up at Blackheath station for the 7:12am train to find no train and no train service at all that day. Of course, in such cases, RailCorp puts on a bus service from the Mountains to Penrith, but these buses are much slower, more disorganised and overcrowded than the trains, so in such cases, if you want to get to your destination on time, you really have to go by car. I therefore had to hurriedly make alternative arrangements.

No information had been provided in the local newspaper, 'The Blue Mountains Gazette' (BMG), at the time to warn potential RailCorp customers of this cut in train services, though such information had appeared in the BMG before, when the reason for the cancellation was usually trackwork. In a phone call enquiring as to the reason for the cancellation on this occasion, RailCorp stated that it was again trackwork; they also said it was thought that few people would be using the trains on that day. This second reason suggests that the trackwork was not of the urgent type which had to be done immediately. Clearly plans had been made as to when the trackwork would be done. RailCorp surely was aware – it certainly anyway should have been aware, given the extensive coverage in the media – that a big demonstration was to be held on the Saturday, and that at least some people from the Blue Mountains might have wished to attend, so that, excepting emergencies, all train services should have been up and running on that day.

One wonders then why RailCorp decided to do the trackwork on that particular day. It is a decision which suggests either just plain incompetence or, more worryingly, possible intervention from the NSW Government. I therefore wrote to RailCorp asking them to provide answers to the following questions:

1. Why was it decided to carry out the trackwork on that day of all days, Saturday 8 September? Could it not have been done the week before or the week after (especially too as rain had been forecast for that day)?
2. Why did RailCorp not give consideration to the possibility that Blue Mountains residents might have wished to attend this very big demonstration?
3. Why did RailCorp not provide advance information, for example, in the BMG, about the shutting down of this service on 8 September?
4. Was the cancellation of Blue Mountains train services on 8 September requested/required by authorities in the NSW Government? If so, who?

I knew that no admissions would be made in respect to question four, but this question still had to be asked, had to be placed on the public record. It was of course ignored by RailCorp, but then effectively so were all the others. In the case of question three, a comment was made that a media release was 'produced', but this does not mean it was actually sent, and when I checked with the BMG, they could not provide an answer to whether they had received such a media release; further they said that, in any event, such notices should be presented in the form of an advertisement rather than a news release. This suggests that, in this instance at least, RailCorp's interest was less with 'customer service' than with attempting to do things on the cheap. RailCorp correspondence made much of its website, but people should not, prior to travelling, have to check out whether or not a service of this minor type is or isn't in operation. Suggesting that they do need to do this merely underscores the fact that RailCorp itself accepts that it is running a second-rate service. The Blue Mountains these days is virtually an outer suburb of Sydney: people commute to work from Katoomba, etc., every day. In the case of other major world cities I have either lived in or visited, London, for example, or Paris or Berlin, having to go to the computer to confirm an outer suburb-to-city train service before travelling of a morning (e.g., the RER in Paris) would be seen as ridiculous. Why then should one have to do this in Sydney, the largest city in Australia, and certainly the most well-known overseas, furthermore the one through which, year-long, almost every overseas tourist passes? In the 21st century, Sydney and its surrounds should have train services which are not subject to summary cancellation without even any advance notice (excluding of course accidents).

George Orwell – and our own Don Watson too – would have had a field day with RailCorp's correspondence on this matter: while, as set out above, RailCorp avoided or, at best, skirted around the questions asked, in three verbose letters it repeatedly apologised for the inconvenience I had experienced, it 're-iterated' (a much-loved word in bureaucratic circles) its earlier advice on the need for trackwork, it stated that it endeavoured to minimise the impact across the network on the majority of rail service users, etc., etc.

But at a crucial time in respect to environmental matters, the most important issue in all this is what it says about the state of public transport serving Australia's busiest city. With climate change in particular an urgent concern, all relevant organisations should be doing their utmost to attract people away from car travel, and the obvious way to do this is to provide efficient and reliable forms of public transport, especially train services. Another issue is that, when complaints are made about public transport, it is not acceptable merely to palm off the public with weasel words of the type described in the paragraph above. Such complaints should be addressed with honesty, sincerity, and above all, action which fixes the problem cited, because this provides an opportunity for the organisation to improve and enhance the service in question.

Anne Horan

Blackheath, NSW