Write on: letters to the editor

Issue 

Woodchipping

Federal Minister for Primary Resources David Beddall has delivered his Christmas gift to Australia. He has licensed the Nation's 840 woodchip workers to further annihilate our unique forests, our biodiversity, our endangered, rare and vulnerable wildlife.

How is it that one man elected by a 400 vote majority makes critical environmental decisions about the fate of the forests on this desert continent?

Opinion polls show that 80% of the population say NO to export woodchipping. Is this a democracy or a dictatorship when one man repeatedly ignores the will of the people?

Federal Minister for Environment Mr Faulkner advised Beddall to stay out of High Conservation Value forest and 46 members of Beddall's own government endorsed Faulkner, to no avail.

In my region Tourism creates more jobs and contributes up to 8 times more to the rural community than forest products. Economic rationalism demands the preservation of high conservation value forest.

Scientist Dr Harry Recher (UNE) says that only 3% of our original forest remains. What right do government and industry have to log all of an ecosystem that has taken millennia to create and less than 200 years to destroy?
Jennifer Sheed
Elands NSW

Sack Beddall

The woodchip furor continues. Can Mr Keating convince the public of Australia that Mr Beddall's decision is responsible? Can he persuade the 45 members of parliament who wrote to him demanding action on the issue, that he is at the limit of his power?

Beddall must be sacked and the woodchip licenses cancelled.

This is not a minority view. 85% of Australians are concerned at Mr Beddall's decision and if the Australian Government cannot overturn it then we have much to fear.

We must ask ourselves whose interests this decision benefits. We cannot believe that it was made for the public's good. To continue exports at the proposed rate, even if Mr Keating's 20% per year reduction were implemented, would still lead to both economic and environmental disaster.

The jobs versus environment issue is nonsense!

No one believes that the highly mechanised timber industry creates the number of jobs a truly sustainable forest industry, based on plantations would create. It appears that this decision was made more with 3 year election cycles in mind, rather than the 20 year timber yield cycle.

Most Australians have reached a limit to their tolerance at the reckless exploitation of our resources. I believe it is the duty of us all to express distaste, in any way possible, at this irresponsible decision.
David Julian
South Lismore NSW

ALP

As an ALP worker/member (albeit unfinancial) for 2 decades I want to clear up for GL what we are doing.

As Solzhenitsyn points out, Marx and Stalin sent millions of laissez faire socialists to the gulag killing fields. But PK was born in the right time and place, although just as well he failed musical entrepreneurialism. Turning to politics he globalized our banking; floated the A$ by letting it sink; liquidated assets nearing their use-by dates (airlines, communications, CSIRO, which bank — we still get the tax and lower infrastructural costs); plus made the elitist tory ABC/SBS earn its own keep.

Not that we are reverse snobs. All our ministers went to private schools, demonstrating the bravery of the HECs decisions — soon to be broadened to TAFE — to help keep taxes and inflation down. Fancy these uppity students wanting free eduction after their parents paying all their primary and high (state and private) school fees.

Microeconomic structural downsizing is culling the economically unfit, providing incentives and penalties for productivity enterprise bargains, amassing a veritable Reserve Army of post-graduates — job ready for the tourism/woodchip led recovery.

Nearing 50, I feel proud to be a floating decimal dole point keeping the (Prince?) Phillip inflation curve at OECD levels; reining in my import demands and not borrowing money from overseas relatives (PNG villagers). I feel confident one of my 3 adult kids will eventually find a job and urge GL readers to remain true believers like me.
Michael Widdup
North Rockhampton Qld

Mental health

Everybody claims to be an expert on mental health and those it afflicts. It is less respectable on the left, these days, to decide to write off a person due to their sex, race, ethnic background or their hetero/homo/bi sexuality. Ostracizing someone as a "nut" or "maddie" is, however, quite acceptable or amusing.

A "loonie" we have become, we are best not spoken to, and best ignored. She or he "has sadly gone down the gurgler", and hopefully, for all our sakes, takes their psychiatrically prescribed medication. Plainly, though, each of the oppressed groups in society surely suffers disorder and pain in his or her minds and his or her social relations and relationships. On the left, how many compound and support this through mute ignorance and compliance?
Rick Vickery
Woolloomooloo NSW

Patrick Pearse

Irish Times writer, Kevin Myers (quoted in the SMH 29/11/94), says — "Patrick Pearse, who shared the fate of the Mansergh dog, a British bullet". The use of "dog" is normal in Northern Ireland, where a Loyalist calls a Catholic, or Nationalist, "taig" or "tike", which means "dog".

Patrick Pearse, who was one of the sixteen Irish revolutionary leaders, executed in Kilmainham Gaol after Easter 1916, is, in fact, one of the great cultural figures of this century.

Patrick Pearse wrote in two languages, English and Gaeilige. He wrote plays, poetry, essays and legends. His school, St Enda's, was considered an advanced school of creative teaching and learning. His two poems "The Rebel" and "The Fool', rank with the work of Nazim Hikmet, Pablo Neruda, Roque Dalton, and To Hu, among revolutionary poets of the 20th century.
Denis Kevans
Wentworth Falls NSW

NOWSA

A recent meeting of the NOWSA (Network of Women Students Australia) 94 collective made the decision to give $18,000 of the $25,000 made out of the NOWSA conference away to a legal service in NSW. This decision was made by six people at the meeting, with three voting against and two abstaining. In all 11 people were involved in the decision making process (in contrast with the 400 women who participated in the conference).

This decision sets an unfortunate precedent. NOWSA only made so much money because registration fees of up to $100 were charged for the conference (many, including the authors of this letter, argued for less prohibitive fees).

This money does not really belong to a few individuals in the NSW collective but to the NOWSA network as a whole. Giving the money away to one particular service in NSW denies women in other states any say over how that money should be spent.

The only principled and democratic way to decide how the money should have been spent would have been to pass it on to the next NOWSA organising collective (based in Melbourne) and allow the next NOWSA conference to decide.

This year's NOWSA conference will now be denied the option of discussing what campaigns and activities we could finance with that sum of money.

Hopefully this decision will provoke a discussion at this year's NOWSA about how we avoid such problems in the future. NOWSA will only continue to grow if involving the majority of women in its activities remains a central aim of the network.
Zanny Begg and Wendy Robertson
Sydney
[Edited for length.]

CAFE

In Mr Smith's comment of 30 Nov 94 he makes a number of unsubstantiated claims about Campaign Against Freeway Extension that may mislead your readers. CAFE is co-ordinating the campaign against the Eastern Freeway upgrade along Alexandra Parade. We have organised 21 protests to obstruct the roadworks and bring attention to the government's destruction of our suburbs. I urge people to come along on Saturday at 10 am to find out what it feels like to sit in front of a bulldozer.

CAFE is a broadbased campaign. Participants at weekly meetings include local residents and members of environmental groups (including Friends of the Earth), transport groups (including the Public Transport Users' Association), socialist groups (including the DSP) and opposition parties (ALP, Democrats and Greens). Should we be embarrassed that members of the ALP are involved? CAFE argues against the very "exclusive nature" that Mr Smith claims we are guilty of. Indeed, by saying we should avoid links with the ALP, he is guilty of being exclusive.

CAFE has no official position holders and rotates its meeting facilitators in order to avoid the "clique nature of leading activists". We welcome new members at our meetings which occur on Tuesdays at 7pm, FOE, 312 Smith St, Collingwood.

Far from being confined to "local concerns and local communities", CAFE is very aware of the importance of seeing the current campaign in a broader framework that includes more freeways and subjugation of ordinary people's transport needs to those of private industry. We have strong links with the Koonung Mullum Forestway Association (the "other end"). Mr Smith simply has his facts wrong.

Finally, CAFE is aware that "mobilising the largest number of people" is a useful tactic in achieving our aims. We welcome Mr Smith's participation in achieving this.

We do not know if Mr Smith's claims about Save Albert Park and Save the Fitzroy Pool are accurate, but those about CAFE are completely inaccurate.
Karl Charikar
on behalf of CAFE
Melbourne

CPA

About ten years ago, I wrote the article in the CPA's Prospects debate which Phil Shannon quotes in the opening to his review of Bernie Taft's autobiography (GLW #169). Since he was also writing in Praxis at the time, I gather he too was a CPA member in the early 1980's.

I don't have much argument with his analysis of Taft. The only thing you can really say in his favour is that he was a product of the Melbourne labour movement, and tried to reflect the way it saw things. It's different history from Sydney, where the movement was dominated by the Labour Right, made Left Labour seem a genuine ally, when allies were few and far between. Even today, Sydney couldn't produce a Phil Cleary, so in that sense he was right.

It alarms me, though, that Shannon seems to have missed the main point of my contribution to the Prospects debate. It was that neither Sydney nor Melbourne is the repository of all revolutionary wisdom in this continent, despite the urban marxists' illusions. I chose the mining metaphor because mining on Aboriginal land was at that time the sharp end of Australian capitalism, yet most of the urban left still couldn't get its collective head around the Federation of Land Councils' demand for recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty. The point was, we are all settlers, in a colonialist settler state and the Australian urban working class may well be among the last workers in the region to wake up to this fact. Unless, I dared to hope, the left stopped its sectarian silliness — a European import if ever there was one — and started basing its analysis and theory on the concrete situation in this part of the world.

Ten years later, more far-sighted capitalists in Australia see Aboriginal Reconciliation as an essential element of their credentials in the Asia Pacific. Keating's Redfern speech rings loud through school assembly halls, drowning out the clamour of indigenous people in Bougainville, East Timor and West Papua, whom he continues to sell down the river. He isn't fooling anyone, but the left has no idea how to fight him. Nor will it, while it confines its own debates in terms of who thinks whose long dead heroes were the greatest. Trotskyists, Stalinists, even (Asian) Maoists, who cares? The revolution in this part of the world will be won, or lost, on the resistance and analysis of the colonised peoples who make up its overwhelming majority. The job of the left is to unite to back them, and forget its fantasies of European-style party leadership.
Bob Boughton
Alice Springs

Third runway

Like thousands around me, I am angry about the third runway. I'm angry over the intolerable noise and risk of death by fire should one of those monsters fall. I'm also angry at the way the airport is killing my beloved neighbourhood and city.

The Federal Government boasts about improving Sydney through the Building Better Cities program while at the same time destroying an area much larger than Pyrmont and Eveleigh by noise. Much more has been lost than gained.

I live in Newtown because I enjoy its proximity to all those things that make city living worthwhile — cafes, music venues, public transport, the CBD etc. I love the diverse social fabric and townscape that has evolved from nearly two hundred years of settlement. I enjoy the fact that I can live in an environmentally responsible way without need for a car or large living space. This is just the kind of lifestyle the Building Better Cities program is promoting, yet thousands like me are being driven out by the noise.

Where can I go next? My only choice may be to flee to one of those sprawling car cities that are eating up the coastline. As for my beloved city, I was going to say "rest in peace", but there is no peace any more.

The Federal Government should put its money where its mouth is. Building Better Cities means moving the airport out.
Kendall Banfield
Newtown NSW

Speciesism

My, my, Dave Riley (Write on, GLW 170) it would seem your attention is grabbed but your comprehension not.

Let me quote you from GLW 126: "Dare I,say it: I'm a speciesist and proud of it."

In your critique of How are we to live by Peter Singer, not only does that prejudice come through loud and clear but you go out of your way, grabbing at any straw, in support of that stance ie. the Hitler fantasy.

The intellectual arguments giving rise to equal consideration for our fellow creatures are very sound and are made even more so with the addition of compassion. Our ability be selectively compassionate is how we as humans are cajoled into every kind of nastiness. If not interfered with, our compassionate and intellectual cups have no limit in capacity.

Why then is it that your compassionate umbrella has room under it for racism, sexism, etc. (none of which require a change of lifestyle.) but no room for speciesism (which does however limit what you eat, wear, etc., etc.) Are you just an armchair mouth whose stomach has received a restrictive fright.

You may rave Dave about revolution but have you ever considered how rapid social evolution is being far more effective right now. People choosing personal ethics over rules is the reason.

Considering the power and the strength of childhood inculcation somewhat excuses you from changing. It does not however, justify you proselytizing "knowledge" that is based only on that indurated education without criticism.
David Nicholls
Weetulta SA

Banks

The proposal by the Australian Bankers Association that the Federal Government subsidise banks for keening accounts of customers whose monthly balance drops to some hundred dollars, is audacious.

But this proposition comes as no surprise, as the Banking hierarchy is part of the incumbent power which maintains the system, and keeps it in control.

These forces endeavour to suppress all movements for changes in the system. Their role is clearly definable.

The machinery in the hands of the power brokers includes the banking and all financial institutions, the millionaire media conglomerate, the judiciary (including the Arbitration and Conciliation Courts) religion, Parliaments, the police force and the standing army.

Church dignitaries, Judges, politicians and the newspapers use the power they command to stem the tide of opposition, and go to great lengths to make what they say, write, or organise seem to be "fair and just."

However, when movements threaten their power base, physical violence by the police and the standing army become part of the aggressive State machine, as events over many years have demonstrated.

These are the structures on which capitalism depends to maintain the exploitation and the sacred profit icon for the very rich in a class society.

This is the State Machine, to ensure that political power, economic and social jurisdiction remains beyond the law of the land and unchangeable.

Recommended reading Lenin on the State and Revolution.
Phyllis Johnson
Padstow NSW