Write On: Letters to the editor

July 11, 2009

Mr Ward and police brutality

Last year's death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward in the back of a prison van is the tip of a larger problem, which those who say "it must never happen again" actually avoid looking at.

The problem is exposed by a simple application of the Heinrich accident pyramid, a standard approach to analysing workplace safety, first published in Industrial Accident Prevention: A Scientific Approach in 1931. Heinrich said that for every 300 near misses there were 29 accidents and for every 29 accidents there was one fatality.

Frank Bird updated the ratio in 1980. He said that there are 600 near misses for each fatality.

Whichever statistician was right, it is clear that for one person tortured to death in a boiling hot prison van there must be hundreds of non fatal torture events hidden from view.

Early last year, there was such a near miss in Rockingham, south of Perth. A 15-year-old Aboriginal boy broke into a house and was stealing when the police arrived. He hid in the ceiling cavity and refused to come down for three hours, frustrating the police.

When he finally surrendered, he was hand cuffed, strip-searched and tasered three times until he fitted and fell unconscious. The police delivered him to Rockingham Hospital naked, wrapped in a blanket and drove away.

They never charged the boy, so his mother has had a hard time getting the story out in public.

Barry Healy
Perth, WA

Let's go for the banks!

I agree with Graham Matthews (GLW #799) that the way to go is merging all banks into a single publicly controlled bank with an appropriate charter based on community needs, not profits. As I am sure Graham intended, it smells like socialism to me and that's where we need to point our nose.

As a start for this transformation, Socialist Alliance and the Greens need to pick up on Xenophon's limited suggestions relating to the regulation of these corporate thieves, called banks.

On the positive side, the Federal Parliament has the constitutional power under Section 51 [xiii] to regulate every aspect of banking conducted nationally.

Section 51 [xiii] is remarkable in its scope, the only limitation being: "Other than State Banking". It is unreserved and total.

My reading of the Federal Banking Act 1959, which purports to exercise this constitutional power, indicates that a federal government has the power to do the sort of things Xenophon is proposing but the better informed are invited to correct that understanding.

Unfortunately, given the striking down of the Bank Nationalisation Bill of 1948 by the High Court as unconstitutional, Graham's "Nationalisation" solution lacks "reality".

Nevertheless, a people's government with determination could place such stringent regulations in return for the banking license they currently enjoy, such as to make banking much more amenable to meeting social need.

If you wanted to go further, maybe withdrawal of their banking licenses would obviate any need to pay compensation, "on just terms" since "licenses" are not property under our constitution.

The banking cartel is a vulnerable target for socialists to aim at and it will expose the hypocrisy and political irrelevance of the social democrats. Let's make this a major campaign.

Dave Bell
Orange, NSW [Abridged.]

'We Don't Give a Damn Commission'

Why do we have a "Fair Pay Commission" when the outcome is the lowest paid workers are paid poverty wages and pathetic hourly rates?

To start with we need a head of the commission that understands the plight of the working Australian. Currently the commission would be more aptly called "We Don't Give a Damn Commission".

Insulting and insensitive comments from the head of the commission (Harper) like "they got the stimulus" show the complete lack of understanding needed. At least one million of the lowest paid workers got nothing from the Rudd stimulus.

The so-called tax breaks he mentions are ridiculous in the extreme. Not to mention that the lowest weekly gross also ties in with the minimum hourly rate, currently $14.31 an hour. Which means the lowest paid workers on casual rates won't get any increase on their currently below-poverty-line wage.

It's a complete furphy to say inflation isn't rising, because the cost of the basics in life is rising dramatically.

We have right-wing governments such as the Blight we have in Queensland, a government who thinks more of infrastructure than its people.

When we have a state ruined by a regime like this, then we desperately need someone with a bit of nous and moral decency to run our federal wage commission.

Robert Wood
Nambour, Qld [Abridged.]

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