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Letters of 300-400 words are preferred.
Letters to the Editor:
Is the ACTU irrelevant?
Is the Australian Council of Trade Unions irrelevant? It is so bound up with the ALP that it had begun to sound like a public relations machine for Simon Crean and his parliamentary buddies. By relevant I mean, are they standing up for the people they are supposed to be representing? They make many high-sounding pronouncements but behind the words nothing is going on. I checked out two of their more recent press releases, one about the lock out of Geelong Wool Combing workers in Victoria, the other about higher education. The latter begins, "Working families would benefit from Labor's higher education policies announced today." ACTU President Sharan Burrow trumpeted the ALP's plan to fund 20,000 extra places at universities and to stop increases in HECS fees. Well, which party in government introduced HECS? The Labor Party! And the alternative they offer to the mob currently in the box seat in Canberra is that they'll stop increases in HECS! A truly alternative party would guarantee to dump the fees, no provisos, no strings attached. But Burrow goes on, "Families concerned about the educational futures of their children will have a real choice for more and cheaper university places under the ALP's policies." She also calls on the Howard Government to "re-examine its biased approach". Cheaper places! The ALP/ACTU's approach is to view higher education as a supermarket. As for the locked out textile workers in Geelong, they may as well invite the Workplace Relations Minister to bargain with boss for them according to the ACTU, which has invited the Minister Tony Abbott to visit the workers who have been locked out by the greedy bastards at Geelong Wool — who are aiming at cutting their wages and conditions — for more than 12 weeks. The ACTU statement bleats about how the "Howard Government refused to support Labor Party legislation . requiring employers to bargain in good faith"!!! Blind Freddy could see what's going on at the moment. In dispute after dispute the Government has got employers on side to use the Workplace Relations Act, the Government's union-bashing laws, to try and exclude the union, cut wages and conditions and have their workers go on individual non-union contracts. If the ACTU approach is a tactic what is it meant to achieve as far as benefiting workers are concerned? If it is part of some grand plan, apart from promoting the ALP, what is the plan? These are legitimate questions to ask and I don't think the ACTU has an answer that could effectively refute my claim that it has become irrelevant. Nathan Barnes
I refer to Julie Messenger's letter "Use of death penalty questioned" (The Guardian, July 23). The letter raises some very interesting questions, not least the use of the state as an apparatus for the rule and suppression of one class over another. Ms Messenger says that the vast majority of crime is a symptom of capitalist society and that, in line with the Communist Party of the USA's stance, "I will continue to campaign for its [death penalty] universal abolition." The issue arose from a CPA resolution supporting the position of the Cuban Government when it recently executed three people to "defend Cuba's sovereignty". The three were part of a gang which had hijacked a ferry and threatened to drown the passengers. The Party therefore, says Ms Messenger, appears to support capital punishment, which goes counter to an approach supporting the education and rehabilitation of those who commit crimes i.e. the approach that says it is the system that is at fault. In this regard, reading the letter I was reminded of an interview I heard on ABC radio on a program hosted by Terry Lane. The interviewee was a member of that feted crowd called refuseniks from the Soviet Union. This was just prior to the elevation of Gorbachev and his perestroika and glasnost and "universal human values". The man was a scientist who had spent some time in prison in the Soviet Union and who was travelling around the world calling for "more democracy and freedom" there. Mr Lane, then, had himself a walking, talking piece of anti-Soviet propaganda, and he approached the interview along those lines. After a while he began asking what it was like inside the dreaded "gulag", and assuming the place was packed with refuseniks, he commented that there must be a close network of contacts amongst those masses of artists, intellectuals and academics all locked up together. "Oh no", exclaimed the fellow. "The overwhelming majority of the prisoners are fascists and criminals!" He clearly didn't want them out roaming free. You could almost hear Lane's jaw hit the table. Well, of course soon after there was Gorbachev and all the democracy and freedom you could eat. But I never did hear what happened to all those freedom lovers locked away in the Soviet prison system. Marcus Browning
I was overjoyed by John Howard's projected economic cost to the Australian people, of the Solomons Expedition. It will cost "two to three hundred million a year", John Howard said. Isn't that a fine piece of economic costing and accounting? — How much Mr Prime Minister? — "Oh, two to three hundred million a year". Wouldn't it be great if Hospital, Health Care, University, Sports, etc administrators could say — "What are we spending? Oh, two to three hundred million a year!" Denis Kevans
Wentworth Falls, NSW
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