Letters to the Editor

April 30, 2008


The Sydney Morning Herald's campaign against state government corruption is missing one notorious breeding ground of corruption — government fire sales of public services, known as privatisation.

The SMH's April 14 article "Privatise Sydney Ferries, department tells cabinet", in promoting the proposed sell-off of Sydney Ferries as part of the natural order, quotes at length the Tourism and Transport Forum without telling its readers that this is, in its own words, a "CEO-forum" that "advocates the public policy interests of the 200 most prestigious corporations". In other words, it supports the likes of those who will make a bundle out of a vital public service if it is privatised.

I catch a ferry almost every day, and whenever I am asked by friends around the world what is so great about Sydney, I invariably say the ferry service and the people who work in it. I have got to know many of them, if not by name — from the deck hands to the skippers, they are among the best of this city and of Australia: skilled, helpful, gracious people imbued with the idea of public service. I spotted two of them last Sunday having to hand out timetables to tourists at Circular Quay from a trolley — because the ferry information office had been summarily closed down on April 7, clearly in preparation for the sell-off.

This, together with propaganda that the public is "unfazed" by the prospect of privatisation, are old tricks that mark the coming destruction of a genuine public service — if voters allow it to happen. Living in Britain, I have seen how it works — first run down the service and manufacture a media outcry at its shortcomings, then deliver it into the hands of shareholders who under "public-private partnerships" continue to fleece the public purse for years.

This is how Britain's once superb railway system was decimated, both in terms of service and safety, while the profits rolled in to a few.

Beware Sydney: Don't be conned by the usual corporate spin. You have a treasure in Sydney Ferries and its work force. If all that is needed is $400 million to replace the fleet, it is a bargain.

John Pilger

Drummoyne, NSW

Nuclear power

David Walters (Write On, GLW #747) takes me to task for arguing against nuclear power as a climate-change abatement strategy. He disputes the calculation that doubling nuclear power by mid-century at the expense of coal will reduce greenhouse emissions by, at most, 5%. But they are simple calculations and are not disputed by the nuclear industry. The calculations can be found in briefing paper #3 at <http://www.energyscience.org.au>.

Walters would do well to find a better example than the US to illustrate his argument. That country has more nuclear power stations than any other, yet it also has one of the highest total levels and per capita rates of greenhouse emissions.

Walters is right that nuclear power is less greenhouse intensive than coal. But it is more greenhouse intensive than some renewable energy sources and vastly more greenhouse intensive than energy efficiency and conservation measures.

Contrary to Walters' assertion, a number of renewable energy sources can supply reliable, baseload power — geothermal, and, in some cases. hydro, bioenergy, solar with electricity storage, etc. Energy efficiency measures can significantly reduce demand for baseload, intermediate-load and peak-load power.

Jim Green

Friends of the Earth


Clothing and sexism

I agree with Mary Merkenich (Write On, GLW #747) that changing our fashion isn't going to end sexism and that women should be free to wear what they like. But like Anne Horan (Write On, GLW #747), I too would like to see more women choosing not to present themselves as sexual objects "in almost every context".

Part of the problem I see with this debate is that feminists are scared to say that women should stop presenting themselves in a highly sexualised way — for fear of inadvertently reinforcing the misogynist idea that a sexual assault victim was "asking for it" if she was wearing revealing clothing.

But I think we can both reject the reactionary idea that women should conceal their bodies to guard against an alleged inherently violent and uncontrollable male sexuality, and acknowledge that the struggle for gender equality requires both collective and individual action. The latter involves women making choices about the extent to which we are going to go along with, or resist, objectification.

The reality is that, when a woman presents herself in a highly sexualised way, she is more likely to be treated as a sexual object by a man. If we are going to ask men to stop treating us like sexual objects, then shouldn't we also stop presenting ourselves as such? This is not the same thing as blaming women's clothing choices for sexual harassment or assault (which are about power). It is simply recognition that wearing "sexy" clothing makes it more likely that men will respond to us on a sexual rather than intellectual level. While this might be the objective in certain contexts, when we present ourselves in this manner "in almost every context" it undermines our demand to be treated as human beings rather than simply objects of male sexual desire. The logical extension of this argument is not the burqa; it is something that doesn't require Hollywood tape.

Refusing to present yourself as a sexual object is not an act of "prudery"; rather, it is a recognition that the version of "sexiness" on offer by the market is puerile, sterile, violent and diminishing.

Every time a women chooses to honour and express her humanity, rather than perform this repressive commodified sexuality, she is creating a space for more egalitarian, expansive and enjoyable human relationships.

Belinda Selke

Blackheath, NSW

Tibet I

It saddens me to read that a progressive publication like GLW is calling for the partition of China along ethnic and religious lines. Is not clear to me whether GLW is calling for independence of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) or for cessation of all other provinces of China where ethnic Tibetans live. Either way, this call for the violation of China's legal sovereignty does not serve the interests of peace between the Tibetan, Han and Muslim population of the TAR and adjacent provinces that contain Tibetan minority populations. The Bush-neocon doctrine that the Westphalian concept of sovereignty should no longer apply to Kosova and Iraq has turned our planet into a far more dangerous place for humanity. If US imperialism is going to apply this neocon treatment to China over Tibet, we will end up with a much bloodier war than Iraq.

Uri Cohen

London, England

Tibet II

The attitude of most of the Australian media to the demonstrations over the Olympic torch is not only disgusting but totally unprincipled. For instance, the demonstrators are anti-Chinese, not pro-Tibet. Tibet is an integral part of China.

The call for the independence of Tibet implies the reinstatement of a feudal system of land ownership, of serfdom, of polyandry, of female infanticide with the consequent necessity for young men to join the monasteries.

How can anyone claiming to support human rights support the return of such a system? The Chinese referred to the Dalai clique but the media immediately converted that to the Dalai Lama, something entirely different. The Dalai Lama has consistently condemned violence but the clique has continued to use it.

The claim by one demonstrator that she was influenced by the outbreak of violence in Tibet is a bit pathetic given that the 40-odd people who were burnt to death by the rioters in Tibet were ethnic Chinese, not Tibetans.

Col Friel

Alawa, NT

Stolen wages

It is time for rank-and file workers and all union officials to tell Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin that the wages stolen from Aboriginal workers must be paid in full. The fight against the Queensland government and its continued refusal to pay the wages earned by Aboriginal workers must now be taken up by all rank-and-file workers.

The attempt by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and her Indigenous "partnership" minister, Lindy Nelson-Carr, to pinch some of Aboriginal workers stolen pay again by pretending to help educate Aboriginal children in general must be opposed as the cynical manoeuvre that it is.

While I would be delighted to see federal, state and local government funds made available to educate young Aborigines, I'd suggest this be funded properly and augmented by heavily taxing the top corporations and their CEOs.

If the stolen wages are not paid in full by Friday, May 2, all workers in Queensland should boycott the May Day marches.

Bernie Neville

Brisbane [Abridged]

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