Letters to the editor

Howes doesn't speak for me

I am an Australian Workers Union member and totally disagree with Howes' article "Give workers a voice in climate change solutions" in the July 24 Age, where he advocates free emissions trading permits for individual workers and companies in emission-intensive and polluting industries.

Howes is unwilling and unable to look reality in the face: without moving rapidly from a carbon intensive to a carbon neutral economy, we will lose the battle to save the planet for future generations. I don't want a special right to pollute by getting free emissions permits - I want to have a job and a future for my children.

Unfortunately my national secretary is too busy being an apologist for polluting big businesses to advocate for a real policy that will benefit workers and our environment. Howes never mentions the billions of dollars in profits these companies are making out of the labor of ordinary workers. As a good unionist he should be calling for a redistribution of wealth for the benefit of all and the environment.

The real enemy of a job-rich, sustainable future for Australian workers - including current AWU members - are not the Greens, as Howes claims, but Howes' unprincipled alliance with large polluting corporations that not only attack workers' rights but are also hell-bent on putting their financial interests before the survival of the planet.

Garry Holliday

Frankston Pines, Vic (Abridged.)

Let's call a spade a spade

In GLW #760, Margarita Windisch claims "Labor won the November, 2007 federal election on the promise to 'tear-up' Work Choices, abolish the hated Australian Workplace Agreements ... and overhaul the entire industrial relations system".

But Labor entered the election with no such promise - its "Forward with Fairness" policy was always a blueprint for a Work Choices Lite.

In a speech on July 3, 2007 (nearly five months before the election), ALP workplace relations spokesperson Julia Gillard stated: "We will have tough rules to prevent unlawful industrial action." Gillard announced union right of entry would require "permits and notifications, and no disruption at work".

It was not the ALP that "deliberately created the impression in people's minds that they would restore workers' rights" but rather the unions' peak body, the ACTU. Windisch continues with GLW's attempts to paint the ACTU's Your Rights at Work campaign as "effective because it mobilised the community and raised the profile of the issues".

But, as Windisch herself admits, the YRaW campaign "hasn't been effective in overturning Work Choices". Windisch - and GLW - should call a spade a spade and acknowledge that the YRaW campaign was always a re-elect Labor campaign.

A campaign against Labor's anti-worker laws can't be waged by union leaderships that remain wedded to Labor. Such a campaign will require militant class-struggle union leaderships willing to break politically with the ALP.

Nick Everett

Bassendean, WA (Abridged.)

Uniting for Aboriginal rights

Mark Goudkamp and three other members of Solidarity wrote a response (GLW #758) to a criticism (GLW #757) of their organisation's role in the split in the Sydney Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC). They avoid the key issue: the split was unnecessary and destructive, yet their organisation is burdened with the major responsibility for this development.

They write: "to claim that Solidarity led the split is both untrue and patronising". What I wrote, however, was that the Solidarity members were "among the key people leading the split in the ARC". This is undoubtedly true. I also wrote that "there would be no basis for a rival committee if Solidarity as an organisation did not support the split". This also is true, as acknowledged by Solidarity leader Ian Rintoul at the time.

Secondly, they write that I "ignore[d] the divisions in the ARC over the questions of transparency and accountability". This accusation is a bit rich coming from people who held at least one secret meeting prior to their departure but who presented the split as a fait accompli to the ARC without allowing the ARC as a whole the chance to discuss the way forward.

They imply that the Socialist Alliance flip-flopped between different positions on a black steering committee. SA has consistently supported the right of Aboriginal people to form and lead their own Aboriginal-only organisations and also consistently supported democratic and inclusive organisation of the ARC.

Finally, they list some of the activities of the new split group. The ARC also has continued to organise. The July 14 Centrelink rally organised by the ARC was the biggest action in this campaign since the split.

The real travesty is that fewer activists in Sydney are now involved than before the split. How hard is it to understand that we are "stronger together"!

Alex Bainbridge

Socialist Alliance, Sydney (Abridged.)