November 25th 2006

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: CLIMATE CHANGE: An appeal to reason: the economics and politics of climate change

EDITORIAL: Water infrastructure needed, not gimmicks

AUSTRALIA'S DROUGHT: COAG's free trade in water threatens farmers

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Howard's loyalty to U.S. faces severe test

UNITED STATES: U.S. voter backlash against Bush's Iraq war

IRAQ WAR: Bush runs out of options

THE ECONOMY: Wishful thinking about agriculture, manufacturing

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Taped calls incriminate ex-premier, minister

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Sinister side to lunatic fringe / The gentle art of blackening reputations / Faces of vulnerability / The old refrain?

HUMAN CLONING: Patterson's curse - the Frankenbunny

Lies, cowardice and cloning (letter)

Bouquet and brickbat for News Weekly (letter)

Optional preferential voting rejected (letter)

Greenhouse superstitions (letter)

Using children as spies (letter)

BOOKS: INSIDE THE ASYLUM: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse Than You Think, by Jed Babbin

BOOKS: THE BATTLE FOR SPAIN: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, by Antony Beevor

Books promotion page

Using children as spies (letter)

by Greg O'Regan

News Weekly, November 25, 2006


There is a long history in totalitarian countries of using children as spies to inform on those whom such governments believed to be working against them.

In the ACT, an ALP minister Kate Gallagher wishes to parallel practices of Communist governments, such as China, Romania (under Ceausescu), the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, and use adolescents to trap or inform on shopkeepers who sell cigarettes contrary to ACT laws. As in totalitarian regimes, the end justifies the means.

Eliminating sales of cigarettes to under-age people is a "good" in terms of public health; but is the training of youth in deceit and trickery, a "public good" or a means of their personal corruption?

Presumably recruitment will be secret, given the nature of the job. What will be the selection criteria for these young spies? Will recruits be non-smokers and be volunteers or enlisted? Will previous experience be an advantage? Must they look older than they are, without being 18? Their training will be in deception and persuasion. Will graduates want to add this qualification to their CVs?

What is the award rate? How many hours must they work? Are overtime, penalty rates and performance pay applicable? Will there be physical protection if cover is blown? How will they travel and with whom? To whom and how will they report? What legal power and protection will these informers have? May they harass young shop assistants into illicit sales? Are the relevant unions happy about all this?

After they are no longer useful or young-looking, will they be kept "on the books" as potential informers for future similar jobs and told their employment as "informers" when young, will be "revealed" if they do not co-operate.

In comparison with a system of inspectors, the schooling and use of youthful spies is degrading, devious and, given its antecedents, damning of its initiators and participants.

Greg O'Regan,
Farrer, ACT

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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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