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Issue 

Election funding

In the April 12 issue of Green Left Weekly, Lisa Macdonald echoed the line of the mainstream media by trying to portray the recent increase in public funding for election campaigns as some sort of money grab by Australia's political parties.

It is strange seeing a writer in the Green Left Weekly join the capitalist press in promoting an increase in the influence of the corporate sector on our national political system. Presumably the writer would also like to see a reduction in government outlays in other areas such as education and health to allow a greater role for the private sector in them as well.

Public funding of elections has been around for over 10 years at national level, so it is not exactly a new idea which "the public has not even had the chance to debate". In many respects, it is similar to public funding in other areas — it reduces (although certainly doesn't eliminate) the imbalance between those who have stacks of money and those who don't. Independents and smaller parties such as the Democrats do not appeal to those people and corporations who give big bucks to those who will promote their interests. Public funding provides a limited ability for these candidates to compete with those who are bankrolled by corporate capital.
Andrew Bartlett
South Brisbane

Live sheep trade

We are outraged by the government's consideration of a proposal to move the live sheep export trade away from Fremantle, due to "high public visibility and the consequential risk of focused opposition from animal welfare lobbies" (from Live Sheep Exports: Specifications for a Consultancy Report on Alternatives to the Port of Fremantle, WA Department of Agriculture). The government is well aware that it is far less likely to face such opposition in the less populated regional ports.

The live sheep trade results in the terrible suffering and death of around 5 million Australian sheep each year. This proposal is a cynical attempt by the Court government to sweep the cruelties under the carpet and keep them out of the public eye. Instead the government should be facing up to its responsibilities and dealing with the issues involved.

Besides being inhumane in the extreme, the live sheep trade is also environmentally harmful, a contributing factor to unemployment within Australia and economically unsound. The Senate Select Committee an Animal Welfare recommended in its report in 1985 that the trade be replaced with the frozen carcass trade because the trade was, and still is, so inhumane. The live sheep trade must be immediately banned and replaced with the frozen carcass trade.
Andrew Connard
People Against Cruelty in Animal Transport

South Fremantle WA

Unknown chemicals

The billionaire press said "unknown chemicals" spilled from a truck at Harden, NSW. The report said the chemicals "melted the bitumen". I worked in a chemical plant at Botany, NSW. There was a shed full of drums of "unknown chemicals". (The plant's metal intestines finished with a waste pipe into Botany Bay.)

The Coode Island fire in Victoria burnt for two weeks. Reports said the depot contained "unknown chemicals", which were, it said, owned by Kerry Packer. The commissioner who enquired into the fire said he could not find a cause for the ignition and found that the two week long fire had been caused by "Saint Elmo's fire", or balls of lightning.

A big fire at Diversey's, Abbott Road, Seven Hills, Sydney, was described by Liberal minister for the environment, Moore, as "an environmental catastrophe". The chemicals were "known" and "unknown". The investigation found no cause for the fire could be established.

I saw a film on SBS about the Colbert Bros, USA, who export toxic and hazardous waste, which is banned in the USA, to over 100 countries. Does the muck stop here? Is this stuff imported into Australia so it can be burnt in fires that "have no cause", and "no explanation"?
Denis Kevans
Wentworth Falls NSW

Unfair dismissal law

As independent candidate for Port Jackson, I was the object of much lobbying from the industrial Left of the ALP for my preferences to be given to Sandra Nori, the ALP sitting member. I explained to them that I believed that a Carr Labor government would betray their interests after the election. Now with Carr's statement on "unfair dismissal", my prediction unfortunately has come true.

Despite my being a committed unionist and a faithful participant at May Day rallies for years, it did not prevent elements of the union movement covering up my election posters with Labor Council and May Day rally posters. The Labor Council's poster read "What price a worker's life?" Another question to ask now, after Carr's performance this week on unfair dismissal, "What price a worker's job?"

Time and time again the ALP in power stab the workers in the back and the unions just scream and keep donating workers' money to ALP campaigns.

According to media reports today (19/4) the only left ALP MP who did not sign the Left petition about unfair job dismissal was Sandra Nori. It must make all those unionists who worked so hard for her re-election feel cheated.

It is about time union affiliation with the ALP stopped. It is time that any donation from a union to a political campaign was more discerning not just based on false hopes and justified by "we have always voted Labor". There are other parties and independents whose policies are more consistently pro-union and pro-worker than those of the ALP. Why is the union movement so stuck in the groove of always supporting the ALP despite their frequent betrayals of the workers and their rights?

Thanks to all who supported my campaign for a better deal for the people of Port Jackson not big business. Premier Carr and MP Sandra Nori are not so clear about where they stand.
Denis Doherty
Glebe NSW
[Edited for length.]

Anarchist bookshop

Since the International Bookshop closed in Melbourne, one has had little chance of finding good, cheap lefty book bargains. Whether it be a feminist, green, gay, communist or an animal liberation bargain; the hope of finding one, when the International Bookshop closed, was reduced to looking in the Resistance Bookshop and in every second-hand bookshop's "Politics" section. (And we know what little luck there is in these departments).

Hence, the addition of the anarchist bookshop, Barricade Books (as they call themselves) in Brunswick, was, you would think, a positive one for the left.

Unfortunately, I will never shop there. Nope, I won't even

window-shop.

I will never shop there, because a Green Left Weekly

activist was abused when asking if Green Left could be placed on shelves. "No way are we going to help you sell Green Left, you fucking cunts" — was the response Barricade Bookshops gave.

Is this going to benefit the left? Is this going to help us unite against this barbaric system? As well, I feel this isn't the kind of language that will make women feel comfortable about getting involved in left politics. Are Barricade Bookshops part of the anti-feminist backlash?

The Wilderness Society, Community Aid Abroad and other left groups place Green Left on their shelves; why can't anarchists?
Rae Evans
East Brunswick Vic
[Edited for length.]

Berlin conference

From the point of view of achieving a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions the recent Berlin conference has been a total failure.

That conference refused to recognise that such a reduction is a problem for the whole of humanity, not just for the people in industrialised countries.

For countries like China and India to adopt the attitude that because their per capita greenhouse gas emissions are much smaller than those for Australia and Canada, for instance, they should be exempted from taking action is to callously ignore the fact that the atmosphere is global, not national, and that the effects of atmospheric warming are also global, not national.

Obviously Australia is not the only country where economic interests have eliminated any pretence of concern for the environment, with one exception.

That exception is the insurance industry, already suffering from massive pay outs directly linked to unusual climatic events and faced with worse in the future as weather variations become more extreme.

The major cause of increasing greenhouse gas emissions is the world-wide infatuation with industrial growth, and the most effective method of reducing those emissions is to halt, and in some countries, reverse, that growth.
C.M. Friel
Alawa NT