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  Issue No 48 Official Organ of LaborNet 31 March 2000  

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Letters to the Editor

The Problem With Mandatory Sentencing


Mandatory sentencing is the latest "law and order" issue to create practical difficulties for the left of Australian politics.

Mandatory sentencing clearly offends basic human rights principles, yet it is often traditional Labor supporters who most feel the impact of crime or illegal drug misuse. It is the homes and cars of honest trade unionists or pensioners in working-class suburbs that are broken into; not the well-fortified mansions of the rich.

Trade unionists and ALP members, then, have an obligation to explain to the battler that harsh law enforcement and arbitrary punishments offer only an illusion of a safer society.

In the longer term, it is the just and democratic society with a fair legal system and an accountable police force

that will deliver the safer community that we all seek.

In a recent edition of the respected liberal magazine, Nation, an American Senator wrote, "A decade of bipartisan law-and-order politics has created a new malignancy of police abuse from Los Angeles to New York".

California State Senator Tom Hayden was referring in particular to the case of Officer Rafael Perez, a member of an elite police unit enforcing harsh and unjust anti-gang laws.

Caught selling cocaine he had taken from the evidence room, Perez confessed to many other criminal acts, the worst of which was the shooting by him and his partner of Javier Ovande without provocation and the planting of a gun on him. Ovande is now in a wheelchair.

In total, dozens of Los Angeles police were involved in some 3000 incidents of shootings, beatings, framings and the planting of evidence.

A police force drunk on powers it should never be given quickly becomes unprofessional, even if it does not sink to the levels of corruption that arose in Los Angeles. Determined and intelligent criminals have nothing to

fear from such a law enforcement agency.

Those who oppose unreasonable police powers and such measures as mandatory sentencing are not soft on crime they want a safer society just like everyone else. The challenge for the left is to convince the whole

community of this.

This is a task far harder than just attempting to

outbid conservative governments in a futile "law-and-order" bidding war no self-respecting Labor government can even win.

Noel Baxendell


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*   Issue 48 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: The New President
At the end of her first week in the job, new ACTU President Sharan Burrow trades emails with Workers Online.
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*  Health: Making Sense of Medicare
Nurses lift the lid on the Medicare myths as they shape up for a major national campaign.
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*  Unions: Bush Bashing
The Finance Sector Union is taking to the road to pressure the government to impose community service obligations on banks.
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*  Politics: The French Connection
While Victorian building unions are seeking a 36 hour week, Eurpoean nations like France are taking a more communcal approach to working time.
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*  Economics: Mutual Obligation
New statistics show that an increasing number of people are volunteering to contribute to the community.
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*  History: Living Library - Part II
More on the rich labour history that is housed within the walls of Sydney's Mitchell Library.
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*  International: Russian Revolution
Russian trade unions are calling for the revision of a draft Labour Code, against the backdrop of Presidential elections.
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*  Review: Casino Royale
Laurie Aaron's new book is sparking a lively debate about how a progressive agenda can be adapted to the challenges of globalisation.
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*  Satire: Chop ‘em Up and Stick ‘em in Acid”
The West Australian Government is poised to pass Pakistani-style sentencing laws.
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News
»  Workers Demand Internet Access to Organise
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»  ILO Condemns Australian Labor Laws
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»  Flying Doctor Grounds Aussie Jobs
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»  Bank-Bulance Hits the Road
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»  April Deadline on Olympics Pay Claim
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»  Pressure Builds on Stellar Contract
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»  Shares Plummets But Rio Bosses Get Millions
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»  Nurses to Launch Medicare Campaign
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»  Action Boosts Wages for Disabled Workers
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»  SA Workers Close Building Industry
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»  Political Economy for Activists
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»  Workers to Set the Tunes for Dili Streets
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»  OBITUARY - George Petersen (1921-2000)
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  Sport
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  An Open Letter to Ansett
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»  Moved by Wal's Life Story
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»  The Problem With Mandatory Sentencing
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