The Guardian 25 May, 2005

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Myth makers

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer must have smoked the entire contents of the notorious boogie board bag before launching his opening salvo in the "History Wars" with the ALP last week. At the very least, he must have convinced himself that Australians have lost their long-term memory when it comes to the record of the conservative side of politics on the international stage at times of war.

Mr Downer reckons that it is the conservatives that have proudest tradition of resistance to tyranny and that the only reason people donít think so is because history is always written by Labor rats in academia. Sure, we believe you Lex ó even if thousands wouldnít.

We can leave the ALP to defend the record of Curtin and co. against that of Ming (which they should be able to do with one arm tied behind their backs). Without taxing the memory too much, I can remember the major features of RG Menziesí strong stance for King (then Queen) and Empire.

At the very outbreak of WWI, he resigned as an officer in the Australian army to put on the lawyerís cloth ó "a brilliant military career cut short by war", as people used to quip. Of course, this didnít curb the future PMís enthusiasm for sending workers to pointless deaths in "defence" of British imperial interests.

Menzies thought very highly of Mr Hitler and his efficient regime ó even visited the country for high level talks on occasion. He and Oz ambassador in London, Stanley Bruce were NOT supporters of Churchillís demand for an end to the appeasement of Hitler; quite the opposite. He thought the Nazis would carve through the Soviet Union "like a hot knife through butter" in around six weeks. He even sounded enthusiastic about it!

Even though Ming knew we didnít have enough iron for our own defence needs, he insisted, over the resistance of workers, to send pig iron to militarist Japan. Alex, how sheltered was your upbringing? Donít you know your idol is known to this day as "Pig Iron Bob" for selling war material to the butchering occupiers of China? A rumour that wonít go away is that Ming was ready to cede the north of Australia above the "Brisbane Line" so that he and his ilk could cling to power in the remainder.

He backed the Dutch in their suppression of the Indonesian independence movement. In Vietnam it turns out he begged for an invitation from the puppet regime in the South so he could join the US in that shameful war. The US invited itself to invade with the fabricated Gulf of Tonkin "incident".

Alex, Iím running out of space here but Iíd like to finish by noting that you lot invited yourselves into Iraq on the myth of WMD and terror links ó once more hanging onto the USí apron strings. Seems to me itís the Libs who are the real myth makers in Australian history.

Gary Masterton
Canberra, ACT

Alchemists who make gold

Try as they might the alchemists of the days gone by failed to make one speck of gold. Endless studies and experiments proved futile. Today there is a new breed of alchemists who are having much more luck. They are converting modern plastic into to gold ó buckets of the stuff.

They are no longer called alchemists. They go by another name: banks. These banks amassed a golden $9 billion in fees from ordinary customers and businesses last year. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, that is equivalent to one percent of the economy!!!

In the main the gold flows from little pieces of plastic. The ones called "credit cards" spin gold the fastest. There are about 12 million of these bits of plastic in use. Fees on credit cards for ordinary people surged by 12 per cent in 2004 to $3.44 billion. The average annual fee on a standard credit card has risen from $38 in 2000 to $85 last year according to a Reserve Bank report.

Fees on transactions using other pieces of plastic (debit cards, etc) have also proved to be powerful gold makers.

According to the same media source, banks are planning to make even more gold by adding fees to any remaining services, transactions or products that are fee-free or have relatively low fees. Internet transactions are high on their list of targets.

It seems the more they charge, the more they rake in, the poorer their treatment of staff and customers.

David Winter
Sydney, NSW

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