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February 6, 2010

Optimistic about Cuba

Cuba is supposed to be a dangerous communist country. I spent January in this Caribbean island about the size of Victoria and suffering a trade embargo. My mobile phone stopped working at the US border. What about climate change already smashing waves into Havana's sea wall?

Our huge tourist bus slowed down to overtake horses and bike riders throughout the highways and rough roads to Los Tunas in the centre. Cuba is struggling to feed a population close to Australia's and is trying to replace their export sugar industry.

Workers at a huge sugar mill said not one person died in the hurricane that blasted them in 2008. After the 1959 revolution, Fidel Castro said, "Do not believe, read, read and read". Some of the young people who took up lamps to bring literacy to the countryside were murdered.

They take tourism seriously. We were feted with dancing, parties and musical performances at every city, suburb and country town. Their humble hospitals and polyclinics claim a zero deathrate from operations and bureaucrats at every institution we inspected begged us to treat it as our home and come back again.

I am optimistic because Cuba believes in people. The Howard government was trying to steal East Timor's oil when Cuba sent 260 doctors. We are the ones with a lot of explaining to do.

Yvonne Francis
Apollo Bay, Victoria

Population concerns are not 'bigotry'

Describing everyone opposed to Australia's record high immigration as an "anti-immigration bigot" does nothing to contribute to intelligent debate on the topic.
Australia's population growth (fuelled entirely by immigration, as we have a negative birth rate) is over 2% That's a doubling of the population in less than 50 years, with a large proportion of new migrants settling in the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.

This high immigration has nothing to do with a philanthropic desire to help poorer people enjoy a better quality of life. Our governments (Labor and Liberal alike) actively seek out skilled workers from other countries, whilst simultaneously keeping our borders closed to most refugees.

This policy saves our privatised utility companies and other big businesses from the expense of having to train people here.

Most Australians (unless they happen to be property developers) are opposed to high immigration because of the impact on rent, land prices, traffic congestion and general quality of life.

To describe such people as "anti-immigration bigots" isolates the left from the majority, and leaves the door wide open for right-wing organisations to tap into their discontent.

Alex Milne

Ideology before science on population

People who claim that immigration should not be regulated because people do not cause pollution have put ideology before science ("People are not pollution", GLW #824).

Immigration is an integral part of any population in any country today. Population growth has been one of the principal drivers of growth in emissions and greenhouse gases (see Overloading Australia by Mark O'Connor, 2008).

Also, pursuing population growth is arguably the single biggest impediment to Australia in reaching its Kyoto targets, and thus its primary cause for needing concessions.

Put another way, Kyoto questions the philosophies underpinning societies such as America and Australia, which cling to the myth of limitless growth (see Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers, 2005).

Like economic growth, population growth is not without costs: pollution, crowding, rising prices, and pressure on resources. An economy based on unregulated population growth is not compatible with the limits of our natural environment, land, water, vegetation and energy.

John Glazebrook
Endeavour Hills, Victoria

Shut racism down — online and on the streets

Edmund Parker's article criticising Steve Hodder's attempts to get an ultra-racist site removed from Google ("Can you fight racism with censorship?" GLW #823) was bizarre and mistaken.

The article counterposes Hodder's actions to the movement against the NT Intervention. But Hodder plays a crucial role in this movement — consistently reporting on the atrocities of the NTER and providing a strong voice at protests in Central Australia.

His challenge to the race-hate site is the cyber equivalent of actions which pressure big "real world" institutions not to display offensive material — such as the successful stand taken by Sam Watson to get "Creole Creams" removed from Coles Supermarkets last October.

Just like a similar fight by Indian students to get racist groups shut down on Facebook, Steve deserves our full support. The more we allow race-hate material to circulate, the more confident bigots will be to commit violence against marginalised groups.

The recent death of an Aboriginal man at the hands of white racists in Alice Springs coincided both with government demonisation of town camp residents (to
justify compulsory acquisition of the camps) and with the public display of "White Power" paraphernalia in the town.

Edmund seems blind to the important distinction between censorship exercised by the ruling class to enforce its interests and pressure from below that forces change from powerful institutions and pushes back the racists.

Paddy Gibson
Intervention Rollback Action Group (Alice Springs) and Solidarity

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