The Guardian 23 March, 2005

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Letters to the Editor

Surviving on a minimum wage

Elizabeth Wynhausen, a journalist with The Australian took a year off her job to experience how many people in Australia manage on a minimum wage. She's written a book and has been a guest at many talk shows and will be on many more. It's good that this issue is being discussed.

Ms Wynhausen is the first to admit that she would not have been able to survive on the wages she was getting.

She prepared well for her experiment making sure that she had no debts, her car registered and her teeth attended to.

What I'd like to hear more about is the experience of people who have to live all the time on the pathetic wages that the economists and the government deem adequate.

There is not enough time given by talk back hosts to listeners with their stories. One that I particularly remember was a comment for a woman employer who had to arrange something for a person with 13 abscesses in the mouth due to unaffordable costs of dental care.

People on minimum wages and without long-term job security do not have the luxury of knowing that after a year they'd go back to a secure middle-class life.

They have to find money for housing, health, education etc. while politicians argue that any increase in their wages would ruin the flourishing Australian economy. I don't call an economy when people can't afford to fix their teeth "flourishing".

Jean Hopkins
Brisbane, Qld


Serious problems
in Upper Hunter Valley


I wish to bring to your attention a serious problem that exists here in the Upper Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

This part of NSW is seeing rapid expansion of the coal industry, in particular close to the township of Muswellbrook. Within 10kms of the township there are four open-cut mines and one underground mine all contributing to the air-borne pollution falling on the township.

Within the next five to 10 years there will be one extra open-cut mine and three underground mines all adding to the already high levels of visible dust belching out of these pits on a windy day. Let's not forget that there are two coal fired power stations nearby doing their bit as well.

Being employed by a major mining company I see first hand the extent of dust created my the mining operation despite the mining company telling the local community that all measures are taken to control air-borne dust.

I can assure you readers that it is not everyone in the community perceives it. The local community consultative committees attached to the mine where I work aren't given a proper tour of the mining operations so the reps can see for themselves the obvious breaches to the consent orders regarding dust control.

Instead these people are given a guided tour of mostly rehabilitated mine workings miles from the active mining areas but still within the mining lease.

I live less than 10 minutes drive from my workplace, a large open cut mine and once a month I hose down the outside of my home. The amount of black soot that comes of the walls is a sight to be seen. Shame. Shame.

It is becoming painfully obvious that there are a lot of people suffering from lung/chest complaints here in the town of Muswellbrook. On my visits up town people with dry hacking coughs can be seen, sucking on inhalers, in most of the shopping arcades. Their children are suffering similarly.

My observations were confirmed at a recent visit to the local doctor's surgery.

One can only hope that the government department whose job it is to make sure that all rules and regulations handed to the mining companies prior to them being given permission to commence mining, i.e. consent orders, start to crack down on these mining companies by fining them heavily for not toeing the line

Name withheld by request


Heartfelt thanks to...

I could start this letter off with the words "'thank God" or "thank heavens" for to whom I wish to credit.

But would it be in line with my philosophy which does not acknowledge the supposed power of these two myths creations of long past paganism.

Instead I will express the reality of the situation and say my heartfelt thanks and gratitude are extended to the producers of The Guardian, to the editor and the contributors of the many excellent articles that give the paper the worth that is a rock of sanity in a torrent of madness that pours forth daily from the capitalist media.

But that is only the sign of a disintegrating system. The closer it gets to its end the more frantic it becomes. And it is becoming more and more frantic with every passing day.

And so it is that we NEED The Guardian more and more with every passing day.

Long may it continue.

Bert Appleton
Woy Woy, NSW

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