Enough of tall tales of war, tell the truth
FINALLY, an honest account of the Afghan war ("The real truth about Afghanistan", The Age, 9/2). Following two stints as an officer in Afghanistan, Daniel L. Davis asserts that the war is farcical, futile and unwinnable.
Why then do our political leaders continually obfuscate the truth? Are these proponents of the war so deludedly optimistic to believe that peace and security will soon (presumably before the proposed withdrawal next year) prevail in a country that has been ravaged by war and unrest for almost half a century? Afghanistan is a country in shambles corruption, tribal feuding, misogyny and insurgency are endemic.
Surely it's time our political leaders and army generals stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes with incessant claims of "making progress" and just tell us what we already know.
Joel Feren, Elwood
Lay down some law
THE story of Australian SAS involvement in war crimes ("Australia 'integral' in secret jail", The Age, 9/2) is deeply disturbing. Cover-ups and denials have until recently kept Australia's forces looking clean in the otherwise murky tale of the invasion of Iraq.
Now it appears that our soldiers were involved in activities that flouted the Geneva conventions to which Australia publicly strongly adheres.
This news reinforces the need for a royal commission on Australia's involvement in the illegally executed war in Iraq, and a law requiring commitment from both houses of Parliament to any further military involvement short of one required for immediate national defence.
Dr Jenny Grounds, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Riddells Creek
Make Optus pay
AS AN ordinary AFL follower, it seems to me Optus is acting like a "smart alec" ("Sports demand protection of broadcast rights", The Age, 8/2), and a dishonourable one at that, trading on an amendment to law introduced by our government which has had unintended consequences.
In the public interest, surely the government, with the support of the opposition, should immediately ask Parliament to amend the legislation so that Optus has to pay for the broadcast rights, as would have been the case in the past, so that the integrity of contracts entered into, in good faith by Telstra and others, can be honoured.
Ross Scholes-Robertson, Croydon
IT SADDENS me deeply as a Catholic that the church in Melbourne does not welcome a royal commission into the abuse of children by members of the Catholic clergy in this state ("Victims of clergy push for inquiry", The Age, 9/2) . I am saddened but not surprised. The church's response to this scandal since these outrages first came to prominence, from the Pope down, has been to obfuscate, procrastinate, turn a blind eye and, above all, place the image of the church above the protection of our weakest, most precious and vulnerable.
However, the problem for the Catholic Church worldwide is that as a faith-based institution, reluctance to deal with such an outrage openly and transparently is just as deleterious to the image of the church as is an acceptance that there are paedophiles in its ranks.
In this state, with the greatest respect to Peter O'Callaghan, QC, an "independent" commissioner with the power to award compensation to victims on the proviso of confidentiality is a poor substitute for real transparency in the form of a royal commission, and ultimately police investigation and criminal trial of credible allegations, with which an organisation so historically preoccupied with image might be well advised to give its full co-operation.
Simon Zebrowski, Camberwell
THINGS must be bad if thousands of nurses are prepared to resign from the public system ("United nurses are poised for mass resignations", The Age, 9/2). But the threat will avail them little. Our free-enterprise-obsessed Coalition government will welcome any action that drives people into enhancing profits of the private system. Ditto for education. But presumably the government is not yet ready for a privatised police force, as the police are being looked after nicely, thank you.
Mike Puleston, Brunswick
THERE is a great difference between greater power for principals and school autonomy (Letters, 9/2). The first empowers one individual, who may or may not be any good, to dominate the professional staff of the school through exploitation, favouritism, bullying and intimidation. The second empowers the school community of parents and teachers to work together on meeting the educational needs of students.
Victoria has had school-based decision-making for 37 years, ever since it introduced elected school councils representing parents and teachers guiding each school. It has also, for most of that time, respected the professional judgment of teachers within each school.
That collaborative decision-making process and the significant reinvestment in education in this state between 2000 and 2010 explain Victoria's strong performance in national tests.
We do not need a system in which principals cover up their lack of leadership skills by resorting to the naked exercise of power against the other school employees. The best principals knew 30 years ago that they were the first among equals, not petty dictators.
Chris Curtis, Hurstbridge
Bring on the taxes
TWO articles ("600 jobs at risk as Alcoa battles soaring dollar" and "Bigger mining tax would help ease economic stress", The Age, 9/2), show the fallacy of avoiding implementing wealth distribution and proper costing of polluting industry through a mining superprofits and carbon tax respectively.
Reliance on mining is short-sighted because one can only mine once it has forced the rise of the dollar, making the export of value-added goods impossible and when the prices of minerals and metals fall, profits disappear. A superprofits tax would have enabled the state to better profit from resources owned by the Commonwealth and helped peg back the disparities between mining and other export-focused industries. However, Australian manufacturing cannot hope to compete against countries with lower labour costs. Rather than focus on low-tech mass production, Australian industry needs to invest in education, research and development to stay ahead of the competition.
There is global demand for green energy and transport, which should become a target for new research and hence manufactured goods. Development of this industry requires capital investment, which could (and should) come from the superprofits and carbon taxes.
Alexander Lugg, West Melbourne
I WONDER how many of those who are now employed into their 60s ("Working longer, retiring stronger", The Age, 9/2) are there by choice? With eroded superannuation, rising living costs and women needing to work longer to increase retirement funding, I am not surprised that we have an older working population. Perhaps a survey should determine if they actually enjoy this lifestyle or are obliged to continue working to make ends meet.
Annette Bando, St Kilda East
Sexism in play
JULIA Gillard breaks two promises and she is branded a liar and vilified by the media and public. John Howard breaks numerous promises and the media turns it into a joke: "Is this a core or non-core policy?" a government Tony Abbott was a member of. This is why so many feel, like Bob Brown, that there is a sexist element to the attacks on Julia Gillard.
Why is Ted Baillieu not receiving the same scorn from the media? He has broken far more promises. Could it be that he is a male from the conservative side of politics?
Anne Crellin, Alphington
What's the story?
INTERESTING to see the report from the US: "Boy taken from gay pair" (The Age, 9/2). Had they not been gay, would the report still be on the front page and headlined "Boy taken from straight pair"? Seems homophobia is still alive and well in the press, even The Age, which disappoints me.
Ted Green, Epping
No to self-checkout
WE ACT like sheep being led to slaughter. Woolworths and Coles introduce self-service machines and, like sheep, people line up to use them. Little thought is given to the fact that by using these machines, jobs will be lost. Why not strike a blow in favour of employment and refuse to use these job-killing machines?
Erwin Reiss, East Kew