The Guardian 8 June, 2005

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Letters to the Editor

The war that never went away

A feature article in The Australian newspaper last week claimed that "A new breed of Chinese agent is intent on stealing our military secrets". This was followed soon after by the defection of one of the diplomats from the Chinese consulate, with the Petrov defection from the Soviet embassy in 1954 being brought out of the archives on all free-to-air television networks.

The coverage was as ham-fisted and ludicrous as pretty much any beat-up during the red-baiting years of the Cold War. The Australian listed the "threats" from China under the heading "On Guard", including that "China has 40 registered diplomats in Australia", "Beijing is interested in military technology and political secrets", "Possible targets for Chinese spies include Pine Gap", and it informs us that "Australian spies have kept a close eye on China for more than a decade".

Also, that in 1995 it was revealed the Chinese embassy in Canberra had been bugged in a joint operation between Australia and the US.

The fastest growing economic power in the world, China, will hardly need to steal military secrets off Australia. They certainly would be interested in Pine Gap, for their own security as the spy base there is a link in the USA's war strategy which includes China.

The fact is, the Cold War never ended. It merely took a back seat publicity-wise to the new excuses for imperialist wars, including the phoney war on terrorism. China, as your editorial of June 1 noted, is a prime target.

This is not only because socialist states cannot be tolerated by imperialism, but because of the great contradiction in China being the biggest market for goods in the world. The communist government is keeping a tight rein on the economy through control of the currency and limits on the operations of transnational corporations.

This is the real "threat" emanating from China the major capitalist economies can't win in a contest against the planned economy of a socialist state.

Jo Dunleavy
Wodonga, Vic

It's all about
profits from uranium mining

So, we're going to have a "debate" about the use of nuclear energy. If it is anything like past debates involving the Howard government it's already a done deal. In the past we've had debates, about Indigenous rights, for example. While the debate was going on (the government's contribution was to slander Indigenous leaders and Indigenous organisations) the government introduced legislation to take away Aboriginal rights. Some debate!

In fact, the push for the use of nuclear energy is not unconnected to Indigenous land rights. At the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu the traditional owners, the Mirrar people, have been fighting an ongoing battle to protect the land from pollution and to have the rogue mining company, ERA, shut its operations down.

It will be open slather and an environmental disaster in the making if more licences are handed out to mine uranium. It will be a profit bonanza for the newly merged BHP Billiton and Western Mining Corporation.

It will also require the Federal government to do a u-turn and admit that there is a big problem from greenhouse gas emissions. PM John Howard, who refuses to sign up to the Kyoto agreement to reduce emissions, will have to acknowledge that something needs to be done because the argument for nuclear energy is based on the claims of its cleanliness as a power source.

Howard is actually going to a summit of world leaders in September at the UN to argue the case for nuclear energy.

For me, the problems are the waste and the danger of an accident. Remember Three Mile Island in the USA and Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union?

Advocates include NSW Premier Bob Carr and the Labor MP Peter Garrett, the former head of the Conservation Foundation, once touted as a great environmental and Indigenous rights campaigner who has done so many backflips since his election that he mustn't even know which direction he's facing.

Carr's call for the use of nuclear power would, if implemented, violate NSW law, the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Act 1986, which says "no authority of the State" can "construct or operate, or approve or permit the construction of a nuclear reactor "

The fact is most of those lobbying so hard for nuclear energy are long time environmental vandals. Howard has overseen increases in logging in old growth forests, for example. They're not about saving the environment and pursuing alternatives to coal fired generators. They're about creating more profits for mining corporations.

Nathan Barnes
Brisbane, Qld

Teen years in detention

There is one teenage girl left in the detention camp on Nauru. Is this young girl the symbol of suffering that Mr Howard needs? Is she the candle on the rock to warn all others who flee persecution, war, rape and torture?

This young schoolgirl has no girlfriends to talk to. She is lonely and keeps to her room. This is her fourth year locked up.

We would not like our daughters in this situation, but there are things even worse that her family have fled from.

Is this girl to be left on the rock of Nauru as a symbol of our treatment of refugees? Is she the face of Mr Howard's border protection?

Elaine Smith
West Haven, NSW

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