Letters to the editor

Saturday, July 5, 2008 - 10:00

Against the split in the Aboriginal rights campaign

I am writing to protest the actions of those who walked out of the Sydney Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC) on June 23 to set up a rival group. This split is damaging to the movement against the Northern Territory intervention and is unnecessary.

Those who walked out held at least one secret meeting prior to their departure but never raised their concerns openly at a meeting of the ARC. Instead, the ARC was presented with a fait accompli: a rival campaign committee meeting at exactly the same time campaigning around exactly the same issues.

The Sydney ARC has organised a number of successful rallies and played the major role in organising the national Aboriginal Rights Conference in June. The 2000-strong February 12 national convergence in Canberra against the NT intervention was also largely organised by the Sydney committee. That convergence would not have been anywhere near so successful if the Sydney ARC had not then been a united group.

The socialist organisation Solidarity (formerly known as the International Socialist Organisation) is the political group primarily responsible for the split. Solidarity members including Paddy Gibson, Mark Goudkamp and Ian Rintoul have played influential roles in this campaign and are among the key people leading the split in the ARC.

Rintoul — a key leader of Solidarity — told me that the split is a "step backwards" for the movement. However, when I put to him that there would be no basis for a rival committee if Solidarity as an organisation did not support the split, he acknowledged that that was indeed the case.

Their excuse is that some individual activists were planning to walk out anyway. However, this does not in any way justify their decision to split.

The "intervention" is a monstrous crime against the Aboriginal people of the NT that was begun by Howard and continued by Rudd. It required the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act and puts NT Aboriginal welfare recipients in proscribed communities on rations. This racist, heavy-handed and misdirected policy will never be able to solve whatever problems of child abuse exist in the NT.

However, despite early successes, the campaign against the intervention is still young. To stab the campaign in the back now by splitting in this way will only help the Rudd government get away with its racist agenda. Those who left should return to the ARC to work in a united, constructive way for Aboriginal rights.

Alex BainbridgeSydney, NSW

Electric cars, hurry up Australia

The search for alternative ways to fuel vehicles is in full swing. $500 million has been set aside for this in the 2008 budget. In Australia, just one company (Elroy) has promoted electric transport for the last 35 years. Other countries are in a race to change, e.g. hybrid cars in Japan and hydro-powered cars in the US and Sweden, perhaps a transitional solution.

Solar-powered cars are still far removed from practical use. This situation favours the all-electric car, particularly if more efficient and lighter batteries can be mass-produced. Battery farms and public wall plugs are needed. The North Sydney Council has announced one shining example just a few days ago. It is "on-track" to be the first in Australia to install plug-in stations, to meet the expected uptake of hybrid cars.

Toyota and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co (Panasonic) are now building a nickel-metal hydride battery plant. Toyota is also building a lithium-ion battery plant for future electric cars. Lithium-ion batteries are smaller and more powerful than nickel-metal hydrides. Nissan, who plans to release an affordable electric vehicle in 2012, will be using lithium-ion batteries. US presidential candidate John McCain has just promised US$300 million for the invention of a suitable battery.

General Motors, the company that initially killed the all-electric car, is planning an all-electric car, the Chevrolet Volt. However it still will need a petrol-powered generator, which extends the range from 64 km to 400 km. New industries for Australia? Act now!

Klaas WoldringPearl Beach, NSW[Abridged.]

Mugabe

In answer to Stephen O'Brien's attack on president Mugabe (GLW #756): How did his government turn into a dictatorship? Answer: it hasn't. If it had there'd be no two-party system, there'd be no MDC in parliament, and there'd be no elections. But Mugabe understands better than GLW that the MDC is using its foreign backing to turn back the very liberation that GLW says it's defending.

What we've seen for years now is the left like GLW actually making common cause with Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC.

The real worry is that the GLW has been sucked in by the sustained mainstream media assault on Zimbabwe's government, and has ignored alternative commentators like Stephen Gowans, Greg Elich, Caesar Zvahi, Reason Wafawarova and Lloyd Butler Jr. None of these have seen the light of day on GLW.

Why?

Brian SouterQueanbeyan, NSW[Abridged.]

From GLW issue 757