The Guardian July 30, 2003

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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 

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 

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
Brisbane, Qld

The knotty question of "freedom"
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 

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
Sydney, NSW

Just two or three million
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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