Gari Sullivan writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. With all respect to you, Crikey‘s editorial yesterday concerning the situation in Syria is so filled with ignorant inaccuracies and misinformation (even in such a short piece) that it renders the article useless and irresponsible. How do I know this? I have just spent nine weeks in Syria on my fourth trip to the country in five years.

First, the Russians are not protecting the brutal dictatorship of Assad. They are following the wishes of the vast majority of the Syrian people (around 90% according to some anti-Assad activists) who want Assad to go through democratic means, not through military intervention. You even acknowledge this in the second paragraph by admitting there is no serious appetite in the country for outside military intervention. If the Western governments really wanted to encourage democracy in Syria, they could start by setting an example and actually listening to the wishes of the Syrian people.

Secondly, there is no bloody or divisive civil war in Syria. Yes, there is fighting there, but the vast majority of Syrians just get on with their lives. They go to work, they shop, the students study for their exams. They sit in cafes and have a natter. It’s a very small number of people (who are despised by the peace-loving Syrians) that are fighting the regime with weapons supplied by Western and Middle Eastern government because they have their own agenda and reasons for getting rid of Assad.

There are many Syrians who believe the fight for democracy has been usurped by rebels who are interested in religious, not democratic, reform. Any loathing they have for Assad is dwarfed by the hated Syrians have for the Western militarisation of the rebel bandits and for the rebels.

What started as a genuine and justified rebellion against Assad’s regime has escalated into terrorism with support from the West; with innocent people being killed on both sides. If you condemn Russia for providing support to Assad (with the backing of the vast majority of Syrians) then you should reserve your greater condemnation for the West and the Middle East countries that supply weapons to the fragmented opposition who plant bombs and terror in the cities and villages.

Finally, if you honestly believe that regime ousted by Western intervention would result in durable post-conflict settlement, then I urge you to look at the results in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt. How many young soldiers do you want to die in Syria before you and other Australians ask: “What are our young men doing in Syria?”

Your organisation describes its aims as being fair and open, that you are a showcase for information that might otherwise be oppressed. You say you see your role as being one that acts as a vital checks and balance on what is really going on in politics, etc. I believe you have failed on all those account in your short article about Syria. You have simply followed the Western media line; showing no understanding of the reality of the Syria situation. Your piece shows no evidence of research, nor do you offer the slightest piece of evidence to support your claims.

If you really want to live up to your aims: Do something the mainstream Western media NEVER do. I suggest you contact ordinary Syrian people — not the rebels, not the government representatives — real, ordinary Syrians — and ask them what is going on in their country.

Please don’t follow the mainstream media, you guys are so much better than that.

Queensland’s surrogacy laws:

Mary Ella writes: Re. “Newman v gays: where else but Queensland?” (June 26, item four). Premier Campbell Newman’s broken promise regarding surrogacy laws have been so far focused on same-s-x couples. However, the changes are unnecessarily broad and have far-reaching effects.

The changes will be based on Springborg’s bill of 2009, from what I know. The bill proposes to criminalise, and not merely to prevent the entering into and offering to enter into of an ineligible surrogacy arrangement. What it means is that, for example, a woman may agree to enter into a surrogacy agreement with a de facto couple without knowing that they have not been of at least two years standing, she would have committed a crime before they even reach the lawyers. This criminalisation is, in my opinion, quite unnecessary and would make Queensland the only jurisdiction in Australia to do so.

To the best of my knowledge, same-s-x couples and singles are also restricted from entering into recognised surrogacy arrangements in states such as WA and SA, and there is absolutely no way for them to enter a surrogacy agreement and have the child’s parentage transferred to them lawfully under the laws of those states. This would already achieve the purpose of the government’s objectives to restrict access to surrogacy (again this is not what I endorse, it’s just to show how overboard the Springborg bill was).

I am also concerned about the position of fertility service providers. As entering into an ineligible surrogacy agreement will not only be invalid but actually illegal, I am concerned that healthcare providers who provide services to surrogates in such agreements may be in breach of the law by being accessories to a crime. Asking de facto couples if their relationship is of at least two years standing in the legal sense is not only difficult for the doctor-patient relationship, it is also, to the best of my knowledge, against the federal S-x Discrimination Act.

As such, there is no way a healthcare provider can be sure they are not breaking the law then. I’m concerned that ultimately doctors will just cease providing surrogacy related services.

Northern food bowl:

John Hunwick writes: Re. “A northern food bowl? Katter’s heard that one before” (yesterday, item three).  The problem with using Australia’s north as a food bowl for the world is that it is not just water that is required to achieve it. Besides water there is  a need to store it without most of it evaporating away at the very time you want it. You also need an ecological context in which the various birds (migratory and others) and mammals (especially rodents) will let the development proceed without due interference.

As this is not the case, it is a waste of time and money putting temperate agricultural systems in (sub)tropical areas. Would we back the Ord river scheme today if we had known its cost up to now? The kindest thing I can say to supporters of this scheme is spend your time learning some basic ecology — you would be better person contributing to our society if you did.


John Richardson writes: While Justin Templer (yesterday, comments) confidently asserts that everyone under Labor is a “loser”, unless they have the good fortune to be in permanent work and a member of a trade union, maybe even those in that latter group might be excused for having second thoughts, after hearing Ford’s latest announcement.

With the trade union movement and the Labor Party openly competing for the dubious distinction of having the fastest rate of membership decline, are we at serious risk of being faux-naif to think that Labor could never reach the point where the only cause it had was to look after its officials and political representatives?