Letters to the editor

January 22, 2011

Time for People's Bank

The very modest proposals to introduce more competition among banks by Treasurer Wayne Swan are generally judged as inadequate.

We need to have a bank that introduces real competition, modest fees for its customers and pays its executives salaries that befit an egalitarian society, not the outrageous packages the CEOs of the four pillar banks extract from society.

A true fifth pillar would be a new Peoples' Bank. Show us what you are made of Wayne Swan.

Klaas Woldring,
Pearl Beach, NSW

NCCA & boycotts

I am disappointed by the misleading way the National Council of Churches in Australia has been represented in Green Left Online in the article “Local council to boycott Israel”. The last paragraph says:

"In Australia the movement has been supported by the National Council of Churches and a number of trade union bodies including the Victorian Trades Hall Council, the South Coast Labour Council, the Australian Services Union (NSW and ACT branches), the Council of the Queensland Teachers' Union, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union (Queensland branch), the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (NSW branch) and the Maritime Workers of Australia (WA Branch)."

This implies that we are among the groups that have boycotted Israel. This is not a true reflection of the NCCA.

The NCCA asked its member churches to consider a particular action related to goods made in the occupied territories. The NCCA, in asking the member churches to consider a particular action, was equally asking them to consider to act or even not act on a particular issue.

The NCCA has made several statements relating to the Palestinian and Jewish peoples and they are meant to be held together in their entirety with no portion reproduced in isolation of the other.

As such I ask that the references you have made to a small portion of an NCCA Minute in isolation and out of context of the whole position of the NCCA be removed. I appreciate that we used particular wording and that others may interpret this in a different way to our intent.

Reverend Tara Curlewis
General Secretary,
National Council of Churches in Australia

Gov't leaks and privacy

In an appalling twist of logic, a letter writer in the January 11 Age suggests we should not quibble if government is done in secret because individuals are accorded privacy with their telephone deals.

Private individuals are not publicly elected policy-makers!

Democratic governments are supposed to be transparent but our government blithely sends us to kill and be killed in Iraq and Afghanistan to appease American war-mongering ambition.

Soldiers hold guns in their hands. They may not be the best people to set up infrastructure and repair bomb damage, but it is what they end up doing to assuage our conscience. Let us weep for the innocent lives so squandered; the lies we have been told and most of all our pathetic gullibility.

Yvonne Francis,
Apollo Bay, VIC

Make Assange Australian of the Year

I support Julian Assange for the Australian of the Year because he has shown courage in letting the truth be known. Also, the injustice he is suffering brings in to question what democracy means in Australia in the 21st Century.

To me the best definition by an Australian about democracy is by three times Miles Franklin winner David Ireland in his 1971 novel The Glass Canoe.

"Democracy is not for people who just want to be left alone, so long as they do what their told and don’t answer back. The key people in the democratic process are the critics, dissenters, reformers. If they're sealed off from the political process, the system grows tired and sick, and turns into something else."

And also, witness what Assange himself told the British Guardian in December:

"I am an Australian citizen and I miss my country a great deal. However, during the last weeks the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, and the attorney general, Robert McClelland, have made it clear that not only is my return impossible but that they are actively working to assist the United States government in its attacks on myself and our people.

"This brings into question what does it mean to be an Australian citizen — does that mean anything at all? Or are we all to be treated like David Hicks at the first possible opportunity merely so that Australian politicians and diplomats can be invited to the best US embassy cocktail parties."

John Tognolini,
Wellington, NSW. [Abridged]

Socialists must welcome all family types

In the interests of building the broadest possible anti-capitalist alliance it is most important that all people in all family types feel equally well understood and welcome within our movement.

Sadly, this is not always portrayed in socialist publications and statements. Some socialist statements and publications contain sectarian sentiments which signify non-acceptance of family lifestyles.

This undermines our attempts to build an alliance along the lines of what comrade Phil Golby from Gladstone has articulated: a party which is "worker and family friendly".

For example, a statement by a NSW Socialist Alliance candidate at last year's federal election said: “To insist that marriage is a heterosexual institution in practice also reinforces the function of the family as a vehicle for oppressing women and keeping them tied to their traditional role as housewives and mothers."

Another example is a Resistance link on the GLW website which says "the economic role of women's oppression and the nuclear family must be wiped out.

Regardless of the intentions of these authors, an underlying disdain of family lifestyle choices is plainly being conveyed by what Paul Benedek describes as an "Inner City Left Ghetto" culture. These statements seem unwelcoming to many members and potential members.

These authors need to display the same level of acceptance towards our lifestyles choices that they would have us display towards theirs. I regularly bring other mothers to Socialist Alliance functions but I hesitate to refer these women to party literature that may reflect an "Inner City Left Ghetto" disdain for our lifestyles.

Helen Said,
Via email, [Abridged]

Wikileaks coverage one-sided

My only disagreement with articles like Jay Fletcher's "Wikileaks cables expose secrets and lies" (GLW #864) is that Wikileaks is one-sided.

Where are the secrets being made public from the Taliban, Pakistani intelligence, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Hezbolla [sic], Hamas and so forth?

The West may have a lot of blame for doing stupid things, but who in the West is willing to give up their lives in the West and go live in Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, etc., under such regimes?

America may have ordered many stupid military actions, but America is also home to some of the most famous freedom fighters and human rights activists ever.

And in Australia, our government may support things they shouldn't, but it's only because the freedom we have here that we can openly criticise them for it.

Most free societies actually have the situation where their people are at odds with the government.

Iran, North Korea and other places are probably similar, the main difference being people can do nothing to safely protest their government's actions, nor assert their rights. If Wikileaks is so altruistic, why don't they concentrate on the areas that need it most?

Sam Smith
Bankstown, NSW

Protect Alum Mountain

In the Worimi Nation, about one hour north of Newcastle, is Boolah Dillah: better known to most people as Bulahdelah or The Alum Mountain. This mountain is a hugely significant Aboriginal sacred place that also has many significant sites.

In 2000, the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) announced plans to build a new section of highway which would blast up to 25 metres deep through this sacred mountain. This would desecrate this sacred place and destroy its significant sites.

Despite Aboriginal opposition, and the fact that there are other cheaper, safer and non-culturally destructive options available, the RTA have continued to pursue this route for the Bulahdelah Pacific Highway upgrade. Work started on the upgrade less than a year ago.

In August 2009, an application was made under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 for protection of the mountain.

Now the public notice for the application has finally been released by the government, people can submit in support of or against this application.

We hope that when environment minister Tony Burke makes his decision he will succeed where Peter Garrett failed. If not then yet another hugely significant Aboriginal sacred place will be gone forever.

For help with writing submissions, visit Indigenouspeoplesissues.com. Submissions close on January 28.

Estelle Carrall and Cynthia Dungay Dates,
Via email,

Qld Floods linked to climate

Greens leader Bob Brown is essentially correct in alleging coal industry complicity in current flood disasters.

We know that breathing in pollutants from the burning of coal, gas, oil and cigarettes is associated with lung disease (carbon fuel pollutants and smoking kill about 13,000 and 18,000 Australians, respectively, each year) but we cannot prove that a specific case of lung cancer is due to any of these causes.

Similarly, while human-made global warming has been associated with a huge increase in extreme flood events throughout the world, because the weather is variable one cannot attribute a particular event such as the La Nina-linked Queensland floods to climate change.

However, the scientific message is that to minimise both deadly lung disease and extreme weather events such as the disastrous current floods we must stop burning coal, gas and oil and remove the resultant atmospheric pollution. Top climate scientists instruct that atmospheric CO2 must be urgently reduced to about 300 parts per million from the current dangerous 392 ppm for a safe planet for all people and all species.

Dr Gideon Polya
Macleod, Vic [Abridged]