Write on

April 24, 1991

National green party

(From A. Garton, Melbourne) The following is from a letter in the Melbourne Age on April 4, written by David Ball of Balaclava:

Senator Powell may well support a Democrat merger with the greens. However, the Democrats' lacklustre performance at the last Federal election should cause the green movement to stop and think. For example:

  • The party lost its charismatic leader, Janine Haines.

  • No extra seats were gained in the Senate.

  • Former Senator Norm Sanders left his constituents in Tasmania and moved to Canberra. He trivialised the launch of Democrat environment policies by sailboarding across Lake Burley Griffin with the policies stuck in his pocket.

  • The candidate for Aston went on holidays in the middle of the campaign.

  • The candidate for the "priority" seat of Goldstein was absent for campaign, turning up only three days before the ballot.

The green movement must surely wonder whether the Democrats are serious. With a groundswell of support for green issues, a merger with the Democrats could be a tragedy.

Melbourne docklands

Having just attended a community consultation session on economic aspects of the Melbourne docklands plan, I am horrified at the lack of information and airiness of the scheme.

The panel of presenters were undoubtedly qualified in their respective fields. Most represented the Docklands Consultation Steering Group, except Harry Van Moorst, who had the minority viewpoint.

The "experts" could not define which industries would be likely to set up here, nor even give a rough estimate of the nature and number of jobs that might eventuate. My concerns in relation to nuclear and/or armaments development as the most likely profit driven industry were not adequately answered.

Other questions were raised about the impact on public transport. The heavy traffic would have a flow-on impact on surrounding southern bay suburbs. The assurance that this "would be taken on board" was hardly an adequate response.

The proposal seems based on assumptions that other projects still on the drawing board will be proceeding, such as the Western Bypass, Spencer St rail interchange and the Casino. It is also assuming that if the infrastructure is established and attractive incentives are provided then business will flock to the area. Given Victorian government on planning and economic incompetence, things do not bode well for this latest venture. It is another exercise is trying to help manage capitalism.

The consultation process was tokenistic and inadequate. The chairperson was extremely patronising towards Harry Van Moorst, in an attempt to belittle the serious nature of the concerns about social justice, effective planning and democratic processes.
Melanie Sjoberg
[Edited for length.]

IMF and World Bank

I found the article by Laszlo Andor and Peter Annear, "Hungarians meet the new boss" (April 10), to be hearteningly relevant and thought-provoking. At long last someone in the media is beginning to see somewhat deeper into international politics.

Although GLW has occasionally mentioned the great power which resides in institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, it has not pursued the issue to any great depth. I would very much like to see an article illuminating the history of these organisations and their current role in international affairs. As the aforementioned article illustrated, these institutions can virtually do what they will with a country's economy (Australia's included), and as a result have almost unlimited control over that nation's administration.

Naturally any report on these institutions must look behind the scenes at the controlling figures (an astonishingly small group of people), so as to be able to understand the motives behind these organisations' policies.
M.C. Hanemann

Greens and lefts

To me the close relationship now growing between the "left" political movement and the green movement has rather an unsettling feeling to it.

Green politics is a relatively new and still emerging philosophy. Some ecophilosophers have come a long way in refining their arguments. But ecophilosophy is a relatively unknown field amongst the larger population. On the other hand, "left" philosophy has been evolving over a longer period and has many people who are accustomed to putting forward its arguments. I see a danger in that this older widely understood philosophy may engulf this newer misunderstood philosophy. Therefore ecophilosophy may not continue to develop its logical conclusions.

Also there is a basic fundamental difference between the two. "Left" philosophy comes from an anthropocentric belief though ecofeminists may say it comes from an androcentric (male centred) belief, while ecophilosophy, I feel, comes from an earth centred (which includes the biological earth) belief.

The issues of "grassroots democracy" and the decision making process are an area where there are differences. I feel a consensus decision making process is the only way to achieve grassroots democracy. Not a modified consensus model where when the decisions are too hard a vote is used. This is merely a majority rule process and part of the dominant social paradigm. If some of the critics of consensus were to fully understand how it works, they would only true democratic method of decision making. Without consensus there is no green politics.

Another difference is related to violence. Left politics has at times justified violence as a means to an end. Causes and participants in non violent action should be supported and those who use violence condemned. Also the use of violent language should be avoided.

Though this may seem overly critical of the left I am scared that the newly emerging green movement will be unable to fully develop. That would be a loss to Gaia and therefore to humanity which depends for its survival on Gaia.
Ian Murrell
Arana Hills Qld
[Edited for length.]

Margaret Thatcher

I was impressed by the interview with Arthur Scargill, the UK mineworkers' leader (March 27).

Particularly, I like Steve Painter's reference to Mrs Margaret Thatcher, the "Iron Lady," rusting "on the scrap heap of the Westminster back benches." A good turn of phrase.

Nevertheless, I would argue, at the risk of being torn apart by some people on the Left, that Margaret Thatcher, for all her faults, can nevertheless be said, in historical retrospect, to have shown that a member of the female sex (of the human species) can exhibit remarkable, and indeed commendable, leadership capacities.

Only if the Left can produce leaders (of both sexes) with these qualities can our side in the class struggle succeed.
Graham Milner
Dalkeith WA

Military and media conference

The equivalence of the preferred models of politicians, public servants and the military for their relations with the media were only too evident in the international conference on the media and defence held in Brisbane.

The Chief of Australia's Defence Force General Peter Gration's use of this "academic conference" to make a broad "swipe at the (Australian) media" during the Gulf War, stopped just short of denouncing them as "unpatriotic".

And the Federal Attorney General's Security head, Allan Behm's conference paper boasted that it was the secrecy of "our" security forces' operations that had "foiled 6 terrorist plots in Australia during the war."

For me as a participant the conference's recurring focus was not upon its alleged — but in fact merely hypothetical(?) — problem of how long would western liberal democratic nations, in times of war, accept any limitations upon the media's duty to inform the public, and upon the public's right to know.

Rather the conference's dominant focus was upon the controlling and censoring of information via the news media, as a means of selling the public on wars that otherwise may be hard to justify. Evidence of this focus was two-fold:

(1) Attempts to gag/limit discussion: military chairmen twice refused to allow speakers from the floor — Brian Toohey, journalist, and Richard Moore, political adviser to a Labor MP — to put their questions.

Toohey's question constituted a substantive challenge to the validity of Behm's position. Was the Bulletin's January 22 story on "potentially the greatest terrorist threat ever faced by this country" merely a xenophobic, anti-Muslim fraud?

(2) The preferred military model: inaccurately invoking the Vietnam War media experience for their own interests, to the effect that a media that wasn't tightly censored had undermined the war effort. Military spokespeople repeatedly called for military "interventions" to be allowed with only the most minimal and/or tokenistic media access/participation.

The degeneration of CNN to "PNN" (Pentagon News Network) was not dissimilar to the degeneration of a "university" conference (shame on you, Queensland University of Technology) — both were merely public relations exercises in social engineering.
Peter McGregor
Lecturer, Humanities
University of Western Sydney, Nepean
[Edited for length.]

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