The Guardian 4 May, 2005

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Letters to the Editor

Joh — a lesson from the past?

How sad it is to see Labor Premier Peter Beattie approve a publicly-funded state funeral for the late but unlamented ex-Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Mr Beattie also intends to attend this funeral and give a speech as a representative of the State Government.

State funerals are meant to be an honour accorded to people who have given long and distinguished public service — what sort of message does this send to the people of Queensland, particularly the young?

Does it mean that if you use the police to suppress freedom of speech and public dissent, Queensland will honour you?

Does it mean that if you trample over workers’ rights and destroy the lives and hopes of workers and their families (the sacking of SEQEB workers being a prime example), that Queensland will honour you?

Does it mean that if you ruin the career of someone like Ray Whitrod, the ex-Police Com­missioner who tried to clean up the corrupt Queensland police force (I wonder what his family thinks of any honour accorded to Joh), that Queensland will honour you?

If you then personally involve yourself in the appointment of someone like former bagman Terence Lewis as police commissioner and give him a knighthood, (a man later jailed as a result of the Fitzgerald enquiry), that Queensland will honour you?

Does it mean that you can be a bigot and a racist as long as you also claim to be a Christian, and Queensland will honour you?

Joh Bjelke-Petersen led a corrupt government that allowed its rich capitalist cronies to line their pockets by taking advantage of an unrestrained development policy that cared nothing about the needs of the environment or the despoliation of natural beauty. Profit was all that mattered. He even wanted to allow oil exploration on the Great Barrier Reef.

People have said that Joh wasn’t aware of the corruption going on within his government. If this was true then he was too stupid and naïve to be Premier of Queensland. I for one do not believe he was that stupid.

Even his trial was corrupted. How did that young National Party member get onto the jury?

As for you Mr Beattie, I hope that one day you will realise that when you honour the dishonourable you dishonour yourself.

Laurie Newcombe

Prisons and more prisons

"We could well become Australia’s Guantanamo Bay", said Gordon Thompson, shire president of Christmas Island on the SBS TV Insight program. There has been practically no information in the daily papers on the building of a new concentration camp ("detention facility" as our government calls it) on the island. It is being built to hold 800 inmates. The estimated cost is $336 million. The spin is that it is for refugees that might be arriving by boat.

Several questions need to be asked. First of all, why is the government so secretive about the whole affair?

Secondly, as it is well known and statistically proved that most "illegal" refugees come by air, why bother squandering the money on a far-away island? Is it to keep the goings-on there out of sight?

Third question — is it really for the "illegals" or somebody else?

After all, Guantanamo Bay prison has amply demonstrated that there is no higher law in the world than the law of the bully with the biggest weapons and devoid of all scruples and morality.

The US has already established a network of prison camps in Afghanistan, where no-one will know or hear of what might be done there, in Iraq and Cuba. Australia has Nauru and now Christmas Island not to mention the detention centres on the Australian mainland.

One has to wonder — who are they really for?


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