Write on

June 21, 1995

Write on

French nuclear tests

What a quandary our mate Paul must be in, with our cane toad friends about to nuke the South Pacific just to show how much they appreciate our existence and him with all that expensive francophilia tickery dockery.

I suppose it'd be too much to expect our true blue Aussie republican mate to take a stick of gelly to them — but if he was fair dinkum he could flog them all off to some pawnbroker and make a large donation to Greenpeace. It's time Paul.
Robert Wood
Surry Hills NSW

Things to come

I have been an inmate of the NSW prisons system on and off for 15 of the past 26 years. I first arrived here late 1969 and even though this brutal and alienating world was incredibly frightening, there existed among the prisoners a camaraderie and common cause that is not evident today.

"Honour among thieves" was a reality then, but not now. The breakdown came with the influx of heroin into the community in the late '70s and the decline of moral and ethical standards everywhere.

The number of drug-related crimes increased in NSW at such a rate the government had to build five new gaols to house the new breed of offenders. Where drug addicts in gaol had previously been classed as oddities and spurned, eventually they became the norm and the majority. With the family unit crumbling around many people, with feelings of loneliness, unwontedness and despair becoming more frequent, drugs and alcohol offered a refuge. For many, that refuge often became a prison cell.

In 1989, to combat the recidivism and alarming crime rate, the NSW government in their ill-advised wisdom drafted the Truth in Sentencing legislation. This meant that prisoners were given longer sentences and that no remissions could be earned for academic or trade graduations, or good behaviour.

We are now faced with a system bursting at the seams with men and women whose problems that brought them to gaol are not being addressed. At the present rate, we will soon have maximum security gaols full of men serving eight, 10, 12 years, whose future behaviour could make the NSW prison riots of 1990 look like a minor disturbance. They already feel they have little to lose and with no "carrots" to strive for the future looks dim, not only for them but also NSW.
Terry McKinnon
Long Bay Gaol NSW

TWS campaigns for Tarkine

I write in response to your inaccurate (but hopefully well-intentioned!) article, "Faulkner refuses to save the Tarkine" (GLW #189).

The assertion that the Wilderness Society is not doing "much" with regard to the Tarkine is just a tad insulting. The Society first nominated the Tarkine Wilderness Rainforests for World Heritage status in September 1992. Since that time, the organisation, particularly Tasmanian activists, have worked tirelessly lobbying and educating national and international fora to promote the case.

TWS Tarkine Action Groups are operating in all major centres with activists desperately trying to raise awareness of the issue. Attempts to publicise it have often fallen upon deaf media ears although TWS efforts have resulted in the 7.30 Report plus features in a number of prominent newspapers.

We have taken legal action (at considerable cost!) to stop the road and we are constantly pressuring politicians in Canberra and beyond. Sporadic direct actions, as well as the National Day of Action have taken place around the country. Our activists are also involved in reach-out to community groups, schools and universities.

Whilst I understand the frustration of the Tarkine activist involved at the seeming lack of progress, I would like to emphasise that there is not a day that goes by where TWS is not thinking about or doing something to save the Tarkine. I enclose a copy of our latest Wilderness News for your information. Yes, that is a picture of the Tarkine on the front cover!
Kevin Parker
TWS national campaign coordinator

A man's religion

The validity of secret women's business which is delaying Hindmarsh Island bridge is questioned.

Does anyone ever question the validity of vehicle access and private profit as reasons for anything?

Don't be bloody silly. You can't interfere with a man's religion.
David Mathers
Lidcombe NSW

Bungling at Gallipoli

Auberon Waugh says that British bungling at Gallipoli is a myth, and that it was created by Australian republicans, and that no soldier died unnecessarily there. All this is based on the diary of his uncle, Aubrey Herbert, who was — wait for it — an intelligence officer.

There were up to 120,000 "allied" casualties in the Dardanelles campaign. They stayed seven months, never once seriously threatened the Turks, and then left. Every offensive from the landing on was either bungled, or a massacre. The only successful action was the withdrawal, planned and carried out by the AIF because the AIF was in control of their section of the plan.

All of these facts, and even more haunting ones, are contained in the Dardanelles Commission Report (1917) printed under Royal logo, by the Royal London Government Printing Service. The Dardanelles Commission and the Royal Print cannot in the wildest imagination be described as hot-beds of republicanism, Australian or otherwise.
Denis Kevans
Wentworth Falls NSW

Protest executions

I'm the coordinator of Australians Against Executions and I'm looking for people to write to prisoners on Death Row in the USA. I'm also interested in anyone who would like to join in a rally I would like to hold sometime in early August. Anyway, keep up the great work — your magazine is an excellent source. Thanks.
Jenny Wood
c/- Union Spot, Macquarie University
North Ryde NSW

Timorese boat people

The Australian government is faced with a difficult situation with the arrival on our shores of Timorese boat people. Difficult, that is, if it hopes not to damage its "mutually rewarding" relationship with Indonesia. Dr Glen St J. Barclay of the University of Qld correctly described the dilemma in the Courier Mail on June 1. The main point made in his article however was that, "No democratically elected government has a mandate to sacrifice the interests of the people whom it represents to those of people whom it does not represent".

The only interests at stake here are those of the corporate giants. If it is in the interests of the Australian public to send innocent people from our shores back to certain death and to rigorously support the brutal extermination of the Timorese, then what kind of a people have we become?

Barclay even had the gall to suggest that the arrival of the boat people "was deliberately timed so as to cause the maximum embarrassment to the Australian government" (referring to the concurrent visit of Indonesian Minister Dr B.J. Habibie).

These people have fled a brutal regime at risk to their lives and those of their families. I don't think they were concerned with embarrassing the government to whom they have come to plead for their lives.

The truth of the situation in East Timor has been well concealed from the Australian public and if only they could see the true extent of the massacre, rape and torture being committed, supposedly in their interest according to Dr Barclay, their shock and indignation would be tremendous. I think there is that much humanity among the people of Australia, and the Australian government has absolutely no option but to provide political asylum for these people, whatever the cost to big business.
Alicia Whisson
Brisbane Qld

Draconian new law

Public trust and confidence in our politicians is facing a crisis. In the Canberra Times of 2/6/95 was an account of the proposed new amendments to the Crimes Act to severely punish anyone who disclosed "sensitive material" about the Australian Security Intelligence Service. The law will apply not only to any relevant official, but also to "secondary" disclosures. This would apply to the media and to anyone who reports what the official disclosed.

The government has over reacted in a way that is ominous with regard to people's rights and freedoms. Some embarrassing public disclosures seem to have motivated the government. An earlier one was the unbelievable ASIS anti-terrorist exercise which caused damage and fear in the Sheraton Hotel. The most recent was the disclosure that we had placed bugs in the new Chinese embassy. The media disclosures were said to have damaged Australia's international relations.

Where is the damage in this incident to cause the Attorney General to propose laws that will severely punish anyone making or repeating disclosures about the service? He rejected the judge's recommendation that the government hold off the introduction of penalties for secondary disclosures to allow the voluntary system to work, of D notices spelling out what are the sensitive areas. In the same breath he talks of "consultation" with the media; about what? Senator Evans has already said that the government will revamp the D notice system as recommended, since he acknowledges apparently that it has been allowed to fall into disarray. Why not give it a trial? Laws already exist to punish relevant officers. Why draconian new ones?

Then we come to the really worrying parts of the proposed amendments to the Crimes Act. Public interest will no longer be a defence, despite the Commission's recommendation. Let the government get on with the positive job of implementing the Inquiry's recommendations to upgrade the Service's administration as they intend and to make the appeals system for officers workable and fair, but not walk roughshod over public interest and freedoms.
[Edited for length.]
Rev. Jim Downing
Darwin NT

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