Write on: Letters to the editor


Technology access

I found Sean Healy's "No technofix for Third World poor" (GLW #460) a valuable description of the relationship between technology and society, but in error in its discussion of the internet. The internet is the first globally distributed publicly accessible data network, but its main effect is as a communications medium. The only constant and irreplaceable aspect of its technology is the free and open development of the technical standards it is based on.

Figures on access are misleading. Wandering through Soweto in South Africa or an impoverished industrial city in the former Soviet Union I am not more than a few minutes walk from the nearest internet caf‚. Home internet users are still a small and relatively rich minority of the world (a bit over 5%). But its potential was illustrated in the same GLW issue by the TriStar worker who decided to investigate the company's industrial record on the internet. This possibility represents a significant shift in information opportunity, if not regular access.

There is also a problem with focusing on the numerical imbalance between First and Third World technology access. Just half a century after the first emergence of a mass TV market in the US, two thirds of the world's population has access to this technology/medium. Capitalism is becoming increasingly successful in using technology to make profits from impoverished populations.

The internet, an accidental (and currently unprofitable) communication development, is under attack from many capitalist quarters. I suggest that it is these attacks that are demonstrating the lack of "technological potential of late monopoly capitalism", not inadequacies of the internet itself.

Greg Harris
Edinburgh, Scotland

Detention centre guards

I appreciate Sarina Kilham's concern about asylum seekers (Write on, GLW #460). I have been in detention for three years. It be might disappointing for her but from my experience, better trained and qualified guards do not make any difference or change our circumstances. We are still incarcerated, we still have to live with fear, stress and uncertainty. If you provided someone with every kind of facilities (including professional psychologists) and informed him, "After a few days you will be killed", what do you think he would do?

My personal opinion is that the Australian Workers Union campaign originates from its misconception of "boat people" — who they actually are, why they fled their own native lands, how they are being treated in detention and what the future holds for them. Perhaps the AWU has fallen into Philip Ruddock's trap, i.e., scapegoating refugees. In this election year, the minister is demonising refugees. We are the minister's "soft targets".

Being detained without any crime is a very awful hardship. Stress is the main problem in detention, you become uncertain about your future, and you start to lack energy. This then enables chronic depression to appear along with low self-esteem, you begin to feel undesirable and unworthy. The worst that can happen is that you start to have suicidal feelings.

One thing which would reduce our stress is if we had direct communication with our case officers, we would be aware what is happening with our case or how long its going to take to finalise the case.

I think if the government put detainees on a plan to occupy themselves such as education, learning different types of skills and activities, it would be a positive step. When we are released into the Australian community, we will be of great benefit to Australia.

Stephen Khan
Perth immigration detention centre

Aston by-election

Rose McCann is correct (Write on, GLW #460) in asserting that Natasha Stott-Despoja voted against the GST on the floor of the Senate, after supporting an unsucessful amendment to remove the GST on books.

However, Despoja did not campaign against the GST and the Greens did. The Democrats do not oppose the GST, and have even confirmed what aspects of it they would support "rolling-back".

Perhaps McCann would like to explain why she believes the anti-GST vote was picked up by a party which does not oppose the GST instead of by the Greens, who do.

Alison Dellit
Harris Park NSW


After admitting that unemployment is the chief cause of poverty, employment minister Tony Abbott claims those who are poor have only themselves to blame. Apparently, the solutions are to be found in quit smoking programs, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and counselling for gamblers. Perhaps this is where Abbott intends to spend the billions which the Howard government has slashed from training and employment programs.

What sort of example have Abbott and his colleagues set? We have a prime minister who expects taxpayers to pay $20,000 to upgrade his cold room and $15,000 to have a wine consultant recommend the best drops, of which 46 dozen bottles have "disappeared". The Philip Morris company has sponsored Liberal Party national conferences and also makes political donations. For years, state governments have encouraged, even promoted gambling to the extend where some states secure 15% of their total revenue from gambling taxes.

So if the unemployment is the key cause, and the government — well the Howard government at least — cannot address poverty issues, Abbott is not required as employment minister and the Coalition is unfit to govern. How about some really radical solutions to poverty, including job opportunities, adequate wages and social security, a fair tax system, affordable housing, access to education and health services, isn't that what governments are supposed to provide?

Clearly the Howard government is not up to the job and needs to learn more about unemployment first hand.

Ron Baker
South Brisbane

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