Lettersby Lee Nightingale, Bernard G. Doyle, Michael T. GleesonNews Weekly
, November 4, 2000
East Timor: facts missing
While I agree with the general direction of your article "East Timor: Whitlam was the main culprit," (News Weekly, September 23, 2000) there are two issues raised in the article on which I wish to comment.
A close associate of mine was a member of the UDT Central Committee prior to the Indonesian military occupation and he lived in East Timor until 1983 when he was eventually evacuated by the Red Cross.
According to this person, the civil war between UDT and Fretilin was engineered by the Indonesian military in order to make their occupation easier. Your article fails to mention this important fact.
Also my associate has no knowledge of Indonesia proposing an international peace keeping force in East Timor in 1975 including Portuguese and Indonesian troops.
Such a proposal would have been widely known by the political leaders at that time.
Oxley, QldShipping safeguards
May a mere layman say a few words after reading the Brennan-Hudson "Flags of Covenience shipping" letters? I found them most interesting, particularly after re-reading Tom Margold's "Scandal of the Rotting Tankers," (Reader's Digest, October, 1993). The most obvious faults appear to be
(a) errors by ship masters;
(b) inadequate inspections and safety standards;
(c) crews forced to accept low wages and poor conditions; and
(d) ships able to pollute beaches and run down fishing vessels and get away with it.
Many organisations are involved, including governments, ship-owners, cargo-owners and classification societies (responsible for inspecting ships).
Surely, what is needed is an international "umbrella" organisation, with real power to force all of the above to accept responsibility, possibly along the lines of Tom Margold's article.
This could mean tougher world wide standards for construction, inspection and safety, with classification societies forced to oversee these standards, condemning vessels where necessary.
Unions should be permitted to ensure that crews no longer work in poor conditions for starvation wages.
Ships officers would need to keep up-dated in their trade to prevent future Erika and Sea Empress repetitions.
Governments world-wide would need to agree that such action is necessary and that they will supply the impetus to ensure its success.
However, I suspect that entrenched bureaucrats will make sure that current conditions will not improve, despite the loss of hundreds of lives.
Finally, in December 1992, the Australian Government issued an official report "Ships of Shame." It is now out of print. Does anyone know where an original copy exists?
Bernard G. Doyle,
Pascoe Vale, VicExporting skills
It is a matter of concern that many of our most skilled young people now find better opportunities overseas.
Some years ago, the Federal Government closed down the Defence Standards Laboratories in Maribyrnong, Victoria. The DSL had a world-wide reputation for technical excellence and provided very important back-up for industry.
At the same time, technical schools were closed down by the Victorian ALP Government.
Thus the Federal and State governments have lowered the base technical standards of Australia, upon which our prosperity depends.
We are now set to follow the example of New Zealand where 35,000 young people emigrate each year rather than become basket weavers or finger painters.
Michael T. Gleeson,
Society: Markets and morals
This article first appeared in 'First Things'. For the article click on the following: