Instead of politicking, Treasurer should urge Victorians to obey rules

Illustration: Michael LeunigCredit:

How disappointing to see the Treasurer (aka my federal MP) bleating that Victorians ‘‘want answers’’ to this second COVID-19 wave. It’s now pretty clear the cause was a classic ‘‘too many fingers in the pie’’ situation, delegating quarantine responsibility to private sector companies that failed to deliver. This was of necessity arranged in a hurry but government supervision was inadequate. The inquiry will determine which ministers or bureaucrats were most at fault. But given the national importance of COVID-19 quarantine, where was the federal oversight of state arrangements? And why were nursing homes – a federal responsibility – so poorly prepared?
Victorian MPs, state and federal, should have one message only in this crisis: urging fellow Victorians to follow the rules.
Joan Reilly, Surrey Hills

Member for Kooyong reveals true motives
It hasn’t taken long for Josh Frydenberg to abandon the solidarity of federal-state teamwork during the pandemic in order to attack the Andrews government’s handling of hotel quarantining. Australians have learned a lot about the Member for Kooyong during this crisis.

As federal treasurer he has used his office to reward his government’s supporters, e.g. News Ltd, and punish its perceived critics, e.g. the ABC, the universities and the arts sector. He has provided upper-middle-class welfare for home renovations while declining to fund public housing for the homeless. He has provided grants to his government’s perceived supporters via JobKeeper, while for months neglecting the millions struggling in the gig economy. He has declined to provide support for the international students who have made a major contribution to our economy.

We have seen his poor grasp of economics in his wish to provide Thatcher-Reaganite style tax benefits for the wealthy, despite the total failure of trickle-down economics in practice. And we have seen his poor head for figures in his $60 billion JobKeeper miscalculation. Given his track record, he might be prudent to withdraw from the parapet and leave the political point scoring to his backbenchers.
Peter Gerrand, West Melbourne

Victoria needs support of federal members
I listened with increasing despair and anger at Josh Frydenberg’s comments that what Victorians need are ‘‘answers’’. What Victorians need, and I strongly suggest want, is for our political, policy and health leaders to have the space and time to deal with the most important thing at present. That is to put all efforts into managing the devastating health pandemic that Victoria, and because of the state’s role, all of Australia is confronting. Yes, we Victorians would like to know who is accountable and what the lessons are, but an independent inquiry has been established and we will know the findings in due course. Of vital importance now is that those leading the state be allowed to get on with the job, with the support of federal colleagues.
Nettie Harper, Clifton Hill

Coalition enables casualisation, sham contracting
If I was Josh Frydenberg, I’d be making sure my own house was squeaky clean before I started attacking the Premier. The hotel quarantine failure was driven out of good intentions and an expectation that the private security industry was up to a basic security task. The aged care tragedy has arisen from Coalition neglect. Coalition policies that allow massive casualisation and sham contracting created the perfect situation for the hotel quarantine and aged care tragedies to arise. The failure to provide pandemic leave for all workers (despite the ACTU warning of the likely consequences at the outset of the pandemic) made the situation worse.

The Coalition’s policy failure, greedy owners of aged care facilities and private security firms and workers having no choice but to work when unwell have all combined to produce the terrible situation we now face. It is not the Premier who has failed the Australian community, Mr Frydenberg – it is the Coalition government.
Liz Schroeder, Thornbury

THE FORUM

Gas plan worrying
That the solution for a shortfall in energy supply is through increasing production of natural gas (‘‘PM flags gas plan to fire economy’’, 8/8) shows worrying ignorance of energy development in most other OECD countries.

In Australia, we are surrounded by a much cheaper source of energy than gas. Denmark produces about 12 per cent of its power from biomass, including straw and putrescible wastes, and Finland more than 14 per cent. Straw and chipped wood waste are both significantly cheaper sources of energy than gas, and the UK, Canada and Germany all have found that development of this option creates far more permanent jobs than for any other. In Finland, Sweden and Latvia, biomass provides more of their national energy needs than any other single source. For Victoria, our economically available and sustainably sourced biomass and biowastes could be the source of more than 15 per cent of our power, and over 30 per cent of industry and residential heat and
transport fuels.
Andrew Lang, president Victorian Bioenergy Network

Energy blind alley
That the PM backs gas shows short-term thinking, more of the same old fossil-fuel businesses leading the nation up an energy blind alley. Has anybody asked how many long-term jobs this approach will generate in what is a terminally ill industry? If ordinary people are worried about future generations, there a few things we can hope for.

First, that investors continue to drive these industries into a transition from their traditional business. Then the Greens may get fired up and put a candidate in every electorate and reconfigure their policies towards the centre, demonstrating they have a long-term 25-year economic jobs strategy. Lastly, that Queenslanders wake up to the potential opportunities facing their children in the next 20 years to change direction.
Trevor Pratt, Eaglemont

Responsibility not one way
Those who object to regulation of alcohol and gambling say they have the free market right to sell their products and the onus of responsibility must be on individuals as to how they consume their products. But this belies the fact that such products can have harmful physical and mental health impacts. Responsibility cuts both ways – producers have to ensure their products are safe and consumers have to ensure they use the products safely. There is some agreement around the safety concerns of alcohol with the industry having the number of standard drinks printed on labels. But it is concerning to read (‘‘COVID drinkers plan to keep up lockdown pace’’, 9/8) that changes to how alcohol was advertised during lockdown was to link it with tough times in isolation and that this resulted in higher levels of consumption. Is the alcohol industry fulfilling its responsibility by targeting the vulnerabilities of consumers?
Allan Havelock, Surrey Hills

Addicted to alcohol excise
Des Files’ defence of bottle shops being open during lockdowns (Letters, 8/8) overlooks both the revenue raised on alcohol sales, and alcohol-fuelled domestic violence. The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education reports that alcohol is involved in 65 per cent of family violence and 47 per cent of child abuse cases.

Invisible in our social history are the generations of women and children who endured the daily tyranny of men rolling home drunk after the six o’clock swill. Far from 10pm closing and Sunday opening making swill culture ‘‘civilised’’, the extra drinking hours exacerbated the silent suffering of those families.

Surely, the need is to address the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism, and alcoholism, plus the state’s own addiction to alcohol excise.
Barbara Chapman, Hawthorn

Return to colonialism
Wake up, Australia. Rio Tinto could not care less about Australia and its cultural sites. It is controlled from London and has only three Australians on its board. They pay peanuts in royalties on our iron ore and yet our governments let them get away with it. We are seen as ‘‘colonials’’ that can be treated like mushrooms. ‘‘Maralinga’’ all over again.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North

Permission to be grumpy
At the last community garden working bee before stage three began in regional Victoria, many people said they felt very grumpy. But we all felt guilty about feeling grumpy because we were all healthy, had enough food and live in a great community. However, by giving each other permission to feel grumpy, we felt less grumpy.
Gretel Lamont, Aireys Inlet

Fake scare revisited
In 1921, P. G. Wodehouse published his comedy novel, The Adventures of Sally. In it, a shallow, self-centred playwright bemoans the closure of theatres due to Spanish influenza. ‘‘Damned fools! Where’s the sense in shutting the theatres, even if there is influenza about? … I don’t believe there is such a thing as Spanish influenza. People get colds in their heads and think they are dying. It’s all a fake scare.’’ Well, we know how well that ended.
Ed Murphy, Kingston

How about Cleary?
The ALP member for Wills, Peter Khalil, said he would like to see his electorate named after former member for Wills and prime minister Bob Hawke. I’ve got a better idea. Why not name it after former holder of the seat Phil Cleary, the first and only independent member to represent this area of Melbourne in the Federal Parliament since Federation.
Brian Sanaghan, West Preston

Vic. the pick for Hawke
Victoria is the place where Bob Hawke won his political spurs and his notoriety as ACTU president, then the member for Wills and ultimately prime minister. Being born and retiring are natural parts of life but the middle bit for Hawke places Victoria in first place for a memorial seat to be created in his memory.
Bill Cleveland, Kew

Divided legacy
‘‘A city divided on COVID-19 class lines’’ (9/8) points directly to the casualisation of the workforce as the main cause of high infections in working-class areas. Follow that pointing finger and you will see John Howard, architect of the ‘‘flexible’’ workforce, with employees lacking permanence, sick leave and union support. But he sits with a comfortable pension and the reverence of a grateful nation, unaccountable for his legacy.
Tony Haydon, Springvale

Join the dots
Is it really so difficult to join the dots between climate change and fossil fuels? Our politicians don’t seem to want to, and yet the science has been showing them how to for decades. Why is our health more important than the economy when we try to combat COVID-19, but the health of the planet takes second place to the whims of the fossil-fuel pushers?
Peter Holmes, Lima East

Footy in Switzerland
COVID-19 has made all AFL clubs geographically confused, most playing ‘‘home’’ games in ‘‘away’’ stadiums … in front of restricted crowds or no one. But this group confusion does little to reduce our concern for three teams, Hawthorn, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, who wear their geographic confusion on their uniforms.

Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs think they are, respectively, in Tasmania and Ballarat and even though they play some ‘‘home’’ games in those locations, neither has done so this season. Which leaves us with Melbourne, who believe they are in Switzerland. And while we have scoured the AFL fixture, we cannot find Zurich – or even Geneva – on Melbourne’s schedule. We had hoped that the Melbourne geography issue would be resolved this season, leading to the first AFL game played in continental Europe for points. We might now have to wait ’til 2021.
Anthony E. (Tony) Bracy, Mount Eliza

Focus on aged care
Closed borders mean Queensland will be able to fight its election without the usual level of interference and ‘‘white noise’’ generated by visiting federal politicians, and it is possible the WA election next year will be the same. Both will be fought against the backdrop of the successful border closure policies enacted by the incumbents (which is why they have been pursued with obvious state-based aims).

So, while the feds are largely locked out of active politicking outside of their own sphere of influence, maybe their time could be spent productively within what is their sphere of influence by reviewing the standards of oversight being applied to the
aged care sector.

An appalling 199 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded in Australia in aged care facilities, most under federal government control.
Gary Sayer, Warrnambool

Name the Aspen skier
What audacity. The woman who contracted COVID-19 during a ski holiday in Aspen in March and refused to isolate was reportedly seen and confronted on Mount Buller (‘‘Ski lifts close as rumours swirl of lockdown rebels’’, 8/8).

She is putting our community at risk again and should be named and shamed. Or does that only apply to the two young Brisbane women?
Jo Monigatti, Hepburn Springs

Foreign aid shame
The dramatic drop in foreign aid under Coalition governments (9/8) is a shameful and shortsighted policy driving poor Pacific nations into the arms of China.
Denise Deerson, Bulleen

Judgment day
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos admires the Greek statesman Pericles and has his bust in her office. A quote from Pericles is apt. ‘‘Although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.’’

One might add that our ability to adequately judge the state government on its COVID-19 policies is dependent on full and timely disclosure.
Edward Combes, Wheelers Hill

AND ANOTHER THING …

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Coronavirus
We understand, John Bye (Letters, 8/8), a full diary is important: our online grocery delivery on Wednesday will be a highlight.
Mary Cole, Richmond

Priorities? All our national sports can get going with COVID-19 protocols, but Federal Parliament can’t.
Peter Gould, Moonee Ponds

If our community garden’s committee can run meetings using Zoom why can’t governments do the same?
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill

The mess in aged care is what happens when you remove the ‘‘red tape’’. It’s there for a reason, as are unions.
Claire Cooper, Maldon

Thank you Ross Gittins (8/8). Your compassion gives me hope and feeds my soul.
Marilyn Hoban, Mornington

Seems some of our most wealthy need lessons in understanding that in a COVID-19 world, the rules applying to peasants also apply to them.
Annie Wilson, Inverloch

Shouldn’t the Mount Buller group (‘‘Ski lifts close as rumours swirl of lockdown rebels’’, 8/8) have immunity from COVID-19? Didn’t they pick it up in Aspen?
Robyn Carey, Fitzroy North

When we consider the economic plight in which so many find themselves, ScoMo’s bland throwaway line ‘‘we’re all in this together’’ is just that.
Hugh McCaig, Blackburn

If Michael O’Brien’s attitude and comments could be turned into a vaccine, the whole community would return a negative result.
Barry Kranz. Mount Clear

Considering the effect on landfill of disposable masks, how about the government delivers two reusable masks to every household?
Cynthia Lee, Elsternwick

The ‘‘neck mask’’ – as useful as a mask around your knee but a must have on building sites.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East

Finally
The virus hasn’t stopped football commentators screaming maniacally above the roar of empty stands.
Rod Cripps, Parkdale

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