Write On: letters from Green Left Weekly readers

Issue 

'Non-thinkers'

Referring to his decision not to dismiss Dr Hollingworth, the PM has expressed the belief that "thinking people understand that I have reached a correct judgment".

To write-off around 55% of the population as "non-thinkers" is absurd and offensive. Where is the evidence that the thinking of people who support dismissal is inferior?

The Howard government has unfairly denigrated intellectuals. Yet now it is implying that "thinking people" are the ones we should respect!

This administration seems willing to praise majority opinion irrespective of its ethical merits when this is politically or ideologically convenient, whilst denigrating majority opinion as something more akin to the clamouring of an unthinking and unjust mob when this is more convenient.

Instead of these unprincipled and inconsistent contortions, we need a government which knows what's right and has the courage to implement it, except when doing so will probably lead to the election of a worse government.

Furthermore, when what is right conflicts with majority opinion, the government should carefully and patiently explain its case to increase popular support — not alienate people by suggesting they can't think straight.

Brent Howard
Rydalmere NSW

Population debate

I'm so glad that Friends of the Earth Australia have acted to broaden the debate on the issue of Australia's population. For too long the Greens' constituency has been educated that xenophobia is acceptable as long as it is justified with "ecological" arguments and not racist bigotry.

Australia was lucky that the last great right-wing demagogue we had, Pauline Hanson, was an empty-headed egotist. The next one to arise may not be so dumb.

A well organised right-wing, anti-immigrant campaign that clothes itself in "ecological" arguments could split the Greens' base right down the middle.

I believe that the British National Front some years ago put on a "green" turn and recruited straight out of the leadership of the Greens.

Barry Healy
Perth

Refugees and the unemployed

There are direct parallels between the Howard government's asylum seekers rhetoric and its punitive attitude towards more than a million unemployed Australians. Both positions are totally lacking in honesty and integrity.

Cynical propaganda portrays asylum seekers as illegals, queue jumpers, criminals and potential terrorists, yet the vast majority are eventually granted refugee status to settle in Australia. Just as the photographic evidence disproves the "children thrown overboard" claims, the government's own reports destroy the negative stereotypes of the dole bludger and the welfare cheat.

During the last two years, just 0.04% of 6.3 million social security recipients have been proven to have wrongly claimed benefits, and only a handful of these cases were prosecuted for deliberate fraud. Howard's first term saw nine ministers forced to resign over travel rorts or conflicts of interest. That represents 8% of the Coalition's seats in both houses, or 200 times the rate of wrongful claims through the social security system.

A government which has lied its way to re-election now expects the Australian public to trust it to introduce draconian new security measures and legislation to prosecute anyone who blows the whistle on government incompetence or corruption. Events of the past few weeks show that the Coalition has no credibility or legitimate mandate to govern for all Australians.

Rob Baker
vice-president, Unemployed Persons Advocacy
South Brisbane Qld

Conspiracy-mongers

Most people have probably by now heard some version of the conspiracy theories claiming that the CIA knew of, or was even involved in, the September 11 attacks.

True or not, what use is this speculation? We already know sufficient for the US government to stand condemned for their role. Green Left Weekly has admirably exposed the responsibility of the US government in creating the Osama bin Laden gang, the Taliban and their like.

Whatever their direct involvement on September 11, the CIA and Pentagon are still responsible. GLW has also exposed the US war plans and the interests they serve, which predate September 11 by months, if not years.

The conspiracy-mongers, even the left-wing ones, do more than waste time. If imperialism was only a conspiracy, we could just remove the evil conspirators (the CIA, Freemasons, Martians or whoever). In reality, the ruling elite in capitalist societies — conspiratorial or not — are created by the capitalist system, not the other way around.

Capitalism is self-perpetuating and self-preserving. Getting rid of it needs a popular struggle for a new social system, not an expose to stun and shock the establishment into amending their ways.

Conspiracy theories are a diversion which only promote reforming the system (and thus prolonging it). Fans of conspiracy should stick to the X-files or John le Carre.

Ben Courtice
Footscray Vic

Slower trains

Commuters are in for a shock when City Rail's new, "improved" timetable starts in April. Trains on all lines, at all times of day, seven days per week, will be dramatically slower.

For example, most trains from Penrith to North Sydney will now be 10 minutes slower, a 14% increase in travel time. This is a poor return on the millions of taxpayers' money invested in track upgrading and new trains. Meanwhile, the Roads and Traffic Authority is building more motorways to make car travel faster!

City Rail claims the extra time is needed to load more passengers, but my observations indicate that at most stations, trains already have ample loading time.

The real reasons for late running include signalling and scheduling inefficiencies, freight train delays and other managerial issues, none of which will go away under the slower timetable, but the impact of such delays will become hidden from the late running statistics.

So where will commuters waste this extraordinary amount of unnecessary time in the new timetable? Train drivers will need to crawl between stations and guards will have to delay trains at platforms so as not to run early.

There is still time for NSW transport minister Carl Scully to postpone the new timetable (until it can be independently reviewed) but I'd suggest he needs to hear from the commuters now who agree with me, that in the 21st century, trains should be faster rather than slower. It is too late to complain, when you are stuck on a dawdling train, after April 21.

Glen E. Hunter
Northmead NSW

From Green Left Weekly, March 13, 2002.
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