The Guardian 14 December, 2005

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Letters to the Editor

Punishing single mothers

The new welfare-to-work legislation is extremely unfair in regards single mothers. First of all, not many women choose to be single mothers. Sometimes circumstances beyond their control make it impossible to have a partner. Everybody who has ever cared for children knows how difficult it is. For single mothers on benefits it's even more difficult as money is always a problem.

My friends are sending their little daughter to school next year. It's a public school but so far they've spent $300 dollars on the uniform and other things that the school had specified. And that's even before the school started.

Food prices are high and if you are renting the biggest part of your income goes into rent. In essence, there is very little if anything left.

Many single mothers do work because they have to. Under the new laws single mothers will be harshly punished by Centerlink for failure to comply with the new rules.

One of the biggest problems for every parent in Australia is the availability and the affordability of good quality childcare facilities. If a single mother cannot arrange for her child's supervision, then that child will have to be left unsupervised. I am as yet to see legislation which actually cares for the needs of children and their parents, single or otherwise in a compassionate and realistic manner.

Well-run and affordable childcare centres, opportunities for studies and professional training, affordable housing and health cover — it's not impossible.

Millions of dollars are wasted on unnecessary wars, politicians' salaries and perks that go with it, etc. Forcing single mothers into a stressful situation with even less security than they previously had will only make things worse — for mothers and their children. Punishment of the most vulnerable seems to be the hallmark of this government. What a shame!

Olga S
Surry Hills, NSW

Do something useful

The enquiry into the Wheat Board and other Australian companies during the period called the "oil for food program" in Iraq is totally useless. It should be likened to investigating who supplied the wood for the huts at Auschwitz rather than the "holocaust".

The oil for food program was a genocidal program from which two very distinguished UN Diplomats resigned for just that reason. I am referring to Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck who loudly and publicly proclaimed the reasons for their actions. They said at the time that 5,000 children were dying a month during the sanctions and embargo on Iraq.

No one thought to have an investigation of that issue or of the whole scandal of that time and the deaths and misery caused by the embargo on Iraq. Instead we have the holier than thou exclamations about graft in Australian companies trying to get wheat to the starving in Iraq. Good on them, I say, if they had to bend rules to get food to those people well so be it!

The Australian Government then and now is guilty of condoning the genocide involved in the oil for food program and the embargo on Iraq. This policy was called by the then US Secretary Madeleine Albright as "worth the price".

Abandon the "Cole Enquiry" and do something useful like apologising for starvation and misery caused by the "oil for food" program in Iraq from 1992 to 2002.

Denis Doherty
Glebe, NSW

Forgive us for being native wildlife

I am writing to apologise for all the horrible things we native Australian birds, reptiles, mammals, insects and plants have done since Europeans settled this continent.

It took a lot of your valuable time, effort and money for you to clear 75 per cent of the forest systems on this vast continent, including the oldest rainforests on the planet. And to think we had the gall to seek food and shelter in your orchards, garden and on your farms in order to survive.

How dare some of us survive on the edge of extinction and cause our government employees to spend countless hours in costly endless meetings talking about how we could be kept alive.

We are sorry for generating interest from conservationists and environmental groups. The attention spent on us could be so much better directed at generating support for improving our defence forces, finding new sources of oil and discovering more Australian Idols, Survivors and Big Brothers.

We don't mean to get in the way of cars and bullets, eat your poison or pester your pets thereby causing wildlife carers to spend inordinate amounts of their time and personal money trying to keep us alive when they could be doing something more productive… like watching Australian Idol, Survivor and Big Brother.

How dare we try to take the limelight away from your precious cats and dogs? Who do we think we are asking for a tiny share of the millions of dollars spent each year on feeding, maintaining and protecting Moggie and Rover? After all, they contribute so much to the life sustaining ecosystems of this country, don't they?

And why shouldn't your four-legged household pets be allowed to maul us to their heart's content, after all, pet shop toys are expensive.

How presumptuous of us to think that each and every one of us — winged, furred, scaled, gilled invertebrate or leafed — has a role to fulfill that is essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems and that our continued existence is vital to the survival of this planet.

Oh, and please don't be too angry at us for only generating more than $4 billion a year for Australia's wildlife tourism industry.

Dictated to Lee K Curtis
Wildlife Advocate
Yungaburra, Qld

Capital punishment

The Guardian Editorial of issue #1255 on the execution of Van Nguyen in Singapore raised an issue which is rarely mentioned in this paper.

In regard to capital punishment, it was good to see that first sentence: "The Communist Party of Australia is opposed to capital punishment in Australia or in any other country".

The use of capital punishment is denying any hope of rehabilitation. It denies the existence of personal prejudices in the jury members and judges who hand down the sentence. It denies the class divide and the role social conditions play in the formation of the criminal's character and the intent with which the crime is carried out.

Capital punishment can not, therefore, be considered "justice". True justice in society cannot exist under capitalism.

Aside from Singapore, the article singles out the United States as a country in which capital punishment is sanctioned. Among the most notorious examples of its use were during the 1990s — as Governor of Texas George W Bush oversaw the execution of the mentally ill and mentally retarded, as well as people who had committed crimes as minors. (As of March 2005 a United States Supreme Court ruling has banned executing juvenile criminals. A ban on executing the mentally retarded has been in force since 2002.)

But I believe it would be disingenuous not to mention that in total 74 countries continue to allow the death penalty, and 25 have practised it within the past year — foremost among them the People's Republic of China, which is estimated to have executed at least 10 times the number of people in the past year as the other 24 countries put together.

"If capital punishment is not applied, it would not be enough to calm the anger of the people", reads a notice that often accompanies official notices of death penalties. And perhaps this is true.

Socialist countries are not created in a vacuum. While the balance of class power changes at the time of socialist revolution, the social conditions that exist in that country do not change overnight.

Keeping this in mind, I hope it possible for us to criticise aspects of socialist countries or even policies of overseas communist parties without being accused of attacking them, and to remain in solidarity and maintain a spirit of comradeship.

Julie Messenger
Sydney, NSW

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