Letter From Oz

The humble but deadly supermarket plastic shopping back is getting plenty of air time in Australia. If anyone in East Anglia has seen the recent BBC television documentary about the plastic rubbish washing up on the beaches of the beautiful Pacific Island of Medway, people will understand why there is such concern.

Peter Gladwell

The humble but deadly supermarket plastic shopping back is getting plenty of air time in Australia.

If anyone in East Anglia has seen the recent BBC television documentary about the plastic rubbish washing up on the beaches of the beautiful Pacific Island of Medway, people will understand why there is such concern.

The problem is our newly elected minister for the environment Peter Garrett, the ex-singer from Midnight Oil, doesn't seem to have the leadership skills or courage to ban these bags in our shops and supermarkets.

Instead, following a meeting with State government ministers, only two seem to have some idea of how to change shopping habits in favour of the reusable bags now being offered by our supermarket chains.

Only South Australia has had the guts to ban these plastic bags altogether, with Victoria opting for a 25cents levy on all plastic shopping bags supplied from August 2008.

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The rest are undecided which indicates how seriously governments take the threat these things are causing to our wild life and our food chain in particular.

According to this TV documentary scientists in British universities have discovered strong evidence that plastic shopping bags gradually break down in sea water and small plastic particles containing a chemical cocktail end up in the gut of fish we eat, and sea birds.

So next time we all open a can of tuna or salmon we should all stop and think before we eat the contents how much of this stuff is about to be digested in a sandwich we are about to consume.

The mystery over the disappearance of the pride of the Royal Australian Navy, the cruiser HMAS Sydney, has been resolved since her sinking during the last war by the German raider Kormoran.

Recent pictures of the ship laying 2,468 metres down on the bottom of the Indian Ocean off the north Western Australian coast reveal something of what happened on that tragic day 67 years ago.

According to my own research on the internet, HMAS Sydney was an Amphion Class cruiser of 6,830 tons with 6-inch guns, of the same class as two of those famous cruisers that took part in the Battle of the River Plate and the eventual destruction of the German navy's pocket battleship Graf Spee.

These were the Royal Navy cruisers Achilles and Ajax which I believe both served with overseas navies after the war, and one ended up in New Zealand with the RNZN.

The Sinking of the Sydney was aired this week on television by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and footage from the research vessel that found her two weeks ago was shown.

Clearly the cruiser suffered major damage during its engagement with the Kormoran and it seems her bow section forward of her main gun turrets was blown off, which would have ultimately caused her to sink rapidly before her crew could get to the life boats and rafts.

Those families directly affected by this tragic end to a brave ship and her crew will now have some closure in their lives knowing where their loved ones lie. The matter should now be closed, with the site left as a war grave.

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