Write on: Letters to the editor

April 20, 2005

Industrial relations

After nine years of the Coalition government, we know that reform for them means more benefits for big business attained by additional hardship for working people, pensioners and all those on small incomes. This is an incontestable fact.

When the Coalition has a majority in the Senate it will continue to do its best to carry out the wishes of the Business Council on employment by introducing legislation to weaken the role of the trade union movement and also to reduce the jurisdiction of the Industrial Relations Commission.

The labour movement should at the earliest opportunity initiate a campaign to combat those evil intentions. Your editorial in GLW #617 is a good lead for starting this important activity.

Bernie Rosen
Strathfield, NSW


As Zoe Kenny (GLW #622) suggests, the federal government's anti-student organisation legislation ("voluntary student unionism" — VSU) is principally an attack on democracy, a political voice of students and a potential opponent to the government. Therefore, defence of the right of students to campaign politically through organisations with universal membership is critical, even beyond the defence of the services provided by the student unions.

The issues raised by VSU extend beyond the defence of student political campaigning and student services, however. For example, the jobs of an estimated 6000 student union workers are threatened.

Each issue raised by VSU will be important in rousing sections of the community to join the campaign to oppose the proposed law and through that to gain a broader understanding of the law's effects. Arguments and publicity for the campaign should raise our concerns about political action, services and jobs as needed in order to maximise the campaign's mobilisation and unite the different groups of people supporting it.

The April 28 national day of action against VSU offers an important opportunity to take this campaign forward.

Our unions have particular responsibility to raise the jobs issue, of course. In the NTEU, VSU has featured in the union journal, but, although members have shown their willingness to campaign and prodded the union leadership to organise phone hook-ups of delegates, we still have no campaign materials from the union for members to use. The union's leadership has a responsibility here — not to do the on-the-ground campaigning — but to provide the decision-making structure and material resources for the 400 members spread across dozens of university campuses.

Jonathan Strauss
Marrickville, NSW

Vietnam I

The article "Dealing with addiction" by Allen Myers in GLW #621 outlines some of the complex issues involved in dealing with heroin dependence in Vietnam. What was missing was the fact that many of those who are given "instruction about the danger of HIV and injecting drug use" are in fact already HIV positive so for them education is too late. In a country where there are now over 90,000 people known to be infected with HIV (and 250,000 estimated to be living with HIV). In HCMC government statistics show that 80% of those who inject heroin already have HIV we need more than just four-year compulsory detention in so-called rehabilitation centres and almost 100% of them will return to heroin use when they are released back into the community.

The Vietnamese government must embrace the range of interventions which can help with drug dependency not just focus on provision of "social cultural" education, participation in sports and employment. Treatment for heroin dependency with methadone, the provision of extensive peer based education and clean needle syringe distribution programs must also be developed throughout the country. Until this happens heroin users have universally unsuccessful mandatory detention as the sole solution to their heroin dependence.

Nguyen Ha Tho
Kensington, Vic

Vietnam II

I refer to Allen Myers's article in GLW #622. This article is full of distortions. It falsely claims that the Hanoi regime has decent programs to help poor working families. Nothing could be further from the truth. The one and only significant thing the regime does to tackle poverty is to allow the poor to sell tickets in the state lottery! The income poor workers make from selling tickets is barely enough to provide food. Many of the ticket sellers are homeless and sleep wherever they can.

Parents must pay a fee to send their children to the state run schools. If the parents cannot afford the fee, their children can not get an education. The only exception I am aware of is children in state run orphanages. There are reliable reports of poor parents turning their children over to orphanages so they can be educated.

The poor in major centres like Saigon and Hanoi can sometimes access very basic health services. However, in rural and other urban areas, health care is strictly user-pays. There are countless documented cases of desperately ill people being turned away from state run health care centres once it is known they don't have any money. Accordingly, the Hanoi regime's "health care policy" has caused many unnecessary deaths.

The only significant providers of social welfare in Vietnam are the Buddhist and Catholic organisations.

Prostitution is a major source of income for poor women throughout Vietnam. Even the larger hotels in Hanoi and Saigon readily supply prostitutes to overseas tourists and businessmen. Corrupt communist apparatchiks allow prostitution to flourish, in return for kick-backs. Vietnam is becoming a major sex-tourist destination.

Throughout Vietnam, impoverished women and children desperately approach foreigners, offering postcards, chewing gum and cigarettes for sale. In some places, like downtown Saigon, these desperate people are arrested and sometimes imprisoned.

Why aren't these facts exposed in GLW's articles on Vietnam?

Pham Minh
via email


Some supporters of the late pope's views on contraception have pointed to a substantial reduction in HIV infections in Uganda. However, the Ugandan experience provides clear evidence against the pope's opposition to condoms.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute has reported that the HIV decline coincided with a dramatic increase in condom use. Fewer people had multiple sexual partners, but the overall rate of abstinence was virtually unchanged in Uganda between 1988 and 2000.

Brent Howard
Rydalmere, NSW


The announcement by the Italian government that it will start withdrawing its troops from Iraq in September demonstrates that the Iraqi resistance is having more success than the US lets on.

Prime Minister Berlusconi is increasingly worried of the growing backlash at home if his troops continue with this unpopular Iraqi occupation.

Italy's announcement that it will soon withdraw has sent a clear message to other invading countries that still have troops in Iraq — "cut and run" now before you cause even more harm to Iraq and its people.

The US continues to prattle on about the ongoing training of Iraqi security forces and how they will soon be able to provide protection to the puppet government that has been established. Nothing could be further from the truth. Iraq's police and military forces are in utter turmoil. A large proportion of them refuse to turn up for work because of growing fears that they will be targeted as collaborators.

The Iraqi resistance knows that if they are to be successful in both evicting the invaders and establishing an independent state, they will need to destroy the institutions set up under the US occupation. That means continuing to attack those who collaborate with the US and its puppet government in Iraq.

Adam Bonner
Meroo Meadow, NSW [Abridged]

From Green Left Weekly, April 20, 2005.
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