Wednesday, July 24, 1996 - 10:00

Write on: letters to the editor

Anti-social restructuring

The cold-blooded planned closure of 26 CES offices (to begin with, that is) by the dominant elites within the Liberal Party and our senior public servants must surely serve as a final indicator to the one-and-a-half million or so unemployed and marginalised Australians ... we are now completely on our own.

Long abandoned by the leaders of both the union movement and the Labor Party, our ranks are about to be swollen by more public sector workers who are being forced to accept "voluntary" departure packages.

At the same time, corporate executive incomes are now running in the millions of dollars per year, with their sycophantic subordinates rewarded with "packages" in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

This anti-social and undemocratic outcome of a "restructured" Australian economy (society) will remain in place and worsen until enough fair-minded Australians join the struggle to change or overthrow the iniquitous politico-economic system under which most of us are forced to labour and, increasingly, languish.

The $8 billion black hole is a lie. So is the final victory or "success" of capitalism, with every "advanced" capitalist country in the world beset by a growing range of deepening economic, environmental, political and social crises.

Welcome back to the brave new world of nineteenth century laissez-faire capitalism.
John Foster
Traralgon Vic

@letterhead = Lesbian and gay rights

It was refreshing to see the interview with Rodney Croome (GLW #237). Rodney's comments on the impact of pressure from large groups of people in forcing the recent vote in the lower house in Tasmania were encouraging.

Rodney is right in saying that in a homophobic society (and in the absence of a visible and active lesbian and gay rights movement), a referendum would be very divisive and not the best strategy to pursue at this point in time.

However I would disagree that it is wrong in all cases to determine human rights by popular vote. I think it is dangerous to argue that "people" shouldn't decide on issues that affect everyone and, by implication, that institutions such as governments and the judicial system are any less homophobic or more willing to act in favour of the rights of oppressed minorities.

Rodney makes the correct point that only public opinion will force governments to change policies and laws. Our experience in Tasmania in 1994, following the UN decision on Tasmania's anti-gay laws, with public rallies and meetings meant that many more people did decide to support the rights of consenting gay men to have sex without the threat of criminal sanction.

It is this strategy of organising and mobilising people around lesbian and gay rights issues that will not only help achieve real gay law reform, but will be crucial in our ability to educate people and to actively combat homophobia.
Rebecca Meckelburg
Dulwich Hill NSW
[Edited for length.]

@letterhead = Unemployed blamed

The reported closure of 7 local CES centres by the Federal Government is another body blow to the job seeker.

These shut-downs go hand in glove with the funding cuts between 33-88% taxing of Skillshare programs to train the unemployed with wider opportunities with new skills.

Along with the above, the Howard Government has an agenda to take unemployed people off the dole after 12 months.

These proposals show a callous disregard for people unable to find work, and the thousands made redundant despite the advance of modern technology.

Despite a lot of claptrap, the majority of unemployed are not unwilling to work. Indeed, they are desperate to find employment. They are the scapegoats of an economic system which has outlived its usefulness.

The gap between the rich and poor becomes greater, as the dole queues grow longer and longer.

It would be poetic justice if the unemployed had a say in parliamentary wages, politicians pensions and the axing of lurks and perks on the razor gang who sit so comfortably in Canberra and enjoy far too many privileges, overseas trips, long holidays and little or no regard for the misery and distress their actions cause.
Phyllis Johnson
Padstow NSW

@letterhead = Strange bedfellows

George Negus recently showed a TV program about tragic homeless children in Bucharest, blaming Ceaucescu for their large numbers, as his government did not permit contraception or abortion. Thus many parents who could not afford the upkeep of the many children they had produced handed them over to state orphanages.

Ceaucescu was therefore branded as a wicked and irresponsible communist. The Pope holds identical views about contraception and abortion. Truly politics makes strange bedfellows!
Rosemary Evans
St Kilda Vic

Gun laws

Tim Fischer's assertion on ABC Radio National on June 24 that all bolt action low-, medium- and high-powered rifles would not be affected by the new gun laws is absolutely incorrect and he knows it. The .303, for instance, is a centre-fire high-powered bolt-action rifle that will be impossible for the vast majority of people to obtain.

The arrogance of these police ministers, and the Prime Minister, in declaring that 99.9 per cent of the Australian population is unfit or too irresponsible to own a firearm — and that is achieved by requiring a valid reason certified by the police — is unbelievable.

How do they think Australia was defended in the second world war? With shanghais? Those are already banned — in the great macho Northern Territory!

As for Tim Fischer's threat of a referendum to legitimise what he intends to do anyway, let him include questions on halting immigration, privatisation of Telstra, voluntary euthanasia and proportional representation in the House of Representatives, just to save the expense of multiple referenda.
Col Friel
Alawa NT

Human rights

Asian despots and their Australian apologists like Richard Woolcott are fond of claiming that notions of universal human rights are peculiarly Western and have no basis in Asian culture. Freedom, they assure us, is anathema to the Asian collective mind. In the name of Pancasila, the indisputable greater good, 200,000 East Timorese can be slaughtered, Acehnese murdered and PDI democracy activists clubbed, jailed and tortured.

But, we must not emulate Amnesty International or Asia Watch and condemn these acts as atrocities because this would simply be evidence of our Western cultural imperialism. In any case, such criticism may prevent a Miles Kupa being an ambassador acceptable to Indonesia, Transfield may lose a PNG order for patrol craft and Australian Defence Industries may find it difficult to strut their stuff around Asian Arms bazaars.

One important question that remains unexamined in this debate, is how have Asian ruling families managed to extricate themselves from their slave mentality and adapt so successfully to millionaire Western lifestyles? A clue to this conundrum lies in the very existence of a repressive military dedicated to the ruthless protection of the elite. The military is necessary because Asians, like the rest of us want freedom to determine their own lives, freedom to choose their political representatives and freedom from hunger, homelessness, squalor and exploitation.

So far Australia has sided with the sweatshop bosses but with the rising clamour for democracy and justice, we will soon find ourselves pilloried alongside the Suhartos and Habibies and judged by history as being equally morally bankrupt!
Gareth W R Smith
O'Connor ACT

Nuclear self-defence

It is official! The International Court of Justice just ruled that the use of nuclear weapons would "generally" be unlawful! But it could not be decided whether nuclear weapons could be used in self-defence!

In short ... a door is left open to trigger off a future nuclear holocaust!

And when it comes to self-defence, history shows that any war always starts with grand declarations about national interests, security and self-defence is it n't?

So in theory, now, any small nation is entitled to drop an atomic bomb on big cities like Paris, London or New York, in self-defence, mind you! And countries like Australia are now fully justified to mine and export uranium to any nation large or small!
Henk Hout
Sydney

From GLW issue 239