Write on: Letters to the editor

Issue 

Write on: Letters to the editor

Unemployment

The never-ending chant that social security recipients should not receive "something for nothing" is astonishing.

Payments to disabled and unemployed people constitute compensation for their exclusion from the work force. The unfairness lies in the fact that most such people are not able to access what they want — full-time work and a full-time wage.

The relevant question is not, "Why should non-working disabled and unemployed people be paid?", but, "Why should people involuntarily without full-time employment be paid less, often much less, than even the minimum full-time wage?".

If unearned investment and inheritance income, plus income given by one adult to another, were distributed equally, rather than going overwhelmingly to members of high-income families, every adult Australian could receive $150 net a week, no strings attached.

If a single unemployed person received $300 a week it might be reasonable to expect part-time work or extensive job search in return. But given payments under $200, forced work-for-the-dole, etc., simply amounts to discrimination against those who lack private unearned income.

Brent Howard
Rydalmere NSW

East Timor

Jakarta's glove puppet Alexander Downer is at it again, whitewashing the Indonesian government of any responsibility for the murder of New Zealand soldier Private Leonard Manning.

Those of us who were in East Timor last year were horrified to hear Mr Downer repeatedly claiming that the militias and the Indonesian military, TNI, were not in cahoots.

We supplied a welter of contrary evidence to UNAMET HQ which was supported by the many Australian and international military and police eyewitnesses. In fact, one Australian CIVPOL [civilian police] was so upset by the gap between Mr Downer's assertions and reality that he tried to pass intelligence reports directly to him at a reception in Dili. AusAid worker, Lansell Taudevin, was sacked because he told the truth about TNI/militia collusion.

Brigadier Duncan Lewis is clear that the militias who ambushed Private Manning's patrol bore the hallmarks of military training. If Mr Downer is correct then it means TNI is too powerful for Mr Wahid to rein in.

In spite of this, Australia and the US want to strengthen military ties with TNI. Will Mr Downer change his tune when Australians begin to die? I can see the Balibo 5 all shaking their heads.

Gareth W.R. Smith
Byron Friends of East Timor
Byron Bay NSW

Freedom of speech

I was appalled to hear that the Darwin City Council now requires that people pay for the opportunity to distribute politically opinionated material anywhere within its municipal boundaries.

Such a move is abhorrent to all who support genuine democracy. It abolishes one of our most basic democratic rights — the right of free speech.

The individuals and groups that hand out flyers as part of their campaigns on various issues nearly always have only meagre resources and most often pay for such things as photocopying out of their own pockets. For the Darwin City Council to tax these activities with a prohibitive fee — this is a form of reactionary censorship which must be overturned.

Having lived in Darwin for three years I am familiar with the "one-party state" situation which exists there. Perhaps the Darwin City Council has contracted Country Liberal Party government envy and now wants its own jack boots. That way it can trample over any aspects of democracy that have somehow survived the many years of CLP rule.

Rohan Gaiswinkler
North Hobart

Palestine

The Camp David "meeting" was a forced execution of US-Zionist policies and interests disguised as "US proposals" for Israel and Palestinians to share sovereignty over parts of Arab East Jerusalem.

Palestinians insist that Israel fulfills obligations it undertook under the interim peace agreements. These include the unconditional Israeli withdrawal from more than 90% of the occupied territories.

By signing the Oslo Accord, the Palestinians conceded outright, making no attempt to re-bargain their historic right to all of Palestine. Any further concessions or "sovereignty sharing" by the Palestinians will legalise the continued seizure of land. Seizure enforced by brutal force.

The attitude and language used by the Israeli PM, Mr Ehud Barak, are biased. He insists on what is in his interests but represents himself as the "good cop" who, out of generosity is giving away land, for which the Palestinians should be grateful.

But, Israel still is the occupier, establishing settlement and confiscating land. US President Clinton and Barak want two separate entities in Arab East Jerusalem, two judicial systems, two administrations, a kind of apartheid. This will legitimise what Israel has established illegally.

Camp David summit is a baseless summit also because it is a counterfeited democracy. Three bourgeois individuals deciding by themselves the fate of millions.

The solution is full Palestinian sovereignty over Arab East Jerusalem as the Capital city of the independent state of Palestine.

Vic Savoulian
Mt Druitt NSW
[Abridged.]

Keating

Paul Keating just can't seem to help himself. He has imposed his arrogance upon the majority of us yet again, declaring that retrenched workers shouldn't be complaining; they can get one of the 2.5 million new jobs created since the 1980s.

He boasts that the ALP government under his leadership did workers a favour (!) and poses a strange and clearly out of touch question: "Did we ever hurt anyone liberating them from the car assembly line?" He thinks the "knowledge nation" offers better jobs and a more liberating experience.

The thousands of car workers retrenched over the past 15 years probably don't feel that liberated being forced into much more tenuous job security.

How superior is the job of the call centre worker who has quotas to meet, timed calls, deadlines on so-called customer service, is listened into by an overbearing supervisor, needs to ask to take a toilet break and must "hot desk" so they never have a personalised space?

A high proportion of young people are now in service and retail, like McDonald's. This world is just as Taylorised as any car assembly plant. Much of the "new" work is casual, unpredictable, un-unionised and doesn't have an award base for pay and conditions.

The only freedom offered is to be increasingly exploited: to have flexible working hours, but not under your control; to wait by the phone until the company deigns to roster you; to wonder if you can survive another week; in short, to sell your time and energy for the benefit of corporate profit. While the venue may appear a little neater, the intensity of work and the conditions are actually worse.

Melanie Sjoberg
Sydney
[Abridged.]