Archbishops vaccine stance out of tune with community

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Singing from the same hymn sheet in times of crisis makes both common and ethical sense, which is why reports of the Archbishops of Sydney’s suggestion (‘‘Archbishops tell PM of ‘tainted’ vaccine concerns’’, 25/8) of a ‘‘Oxford vaccine’’ boycott seems so wildly out of tune with contemporary Australia. COVID-19 has brought out the best in many communities, seeing greater kindness, empathy and compassion but this latest outburst from the same spiritual test tube that invested $2million against marriage equality and threatened politicians who advocated medical abortion is yet another exception to the Australian rule.

Exceptionalism, entitlement and privilege are at the heart of the problem of ‘‘church leaders’’ who lead prayers for a vaccine but, not liking the answer, send it back to the kitchen. Most ordinary Christian people are genuinely hopeful and want the best for all Australians. It is nonsense to place the interests of any foetus or prelate above finding a vaccine to defend human life.
Fr Peter MacLeod-Miller, Rector of Albury, St Matthew’s Anglican Church

Use of cell lines helps redeem moral status
Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher and his ecumenical colleagues in their criticism of the projected use of the AstraZeneca vaccine do not seem to have recognised the fact there are bioethicists, both Catholic and Anglican among them, who believe that the subsequent use of such foetal cell lines, far from aggravating the immorality of the original abortion, at least to some degree, redeems it. This subsequent use is not a justification of the original abortion, and, equally certainly, one should not abort in order to generate the foetal cells. But, once the abortion has taken place, rather than consigning the foetus to the hospital waste, the derivation of such cell lines from the foetus for vaccination or for other morally acceptable uses may well be considered morally responsible rather than ethically compromised.
William Uren, Parkville

Speculation not only unhelpful but dangerous
I live with an anti-vaxxer who I love dearly but our difference in views are increasingly fractious. While, for the nation I hope we develop a COVID-19 vaccine, I despair over the challenge in persuading my partner (and subsequently our children) to vaccinate. The article (‘‘Doctors say COVID jab must not be mandatory’’, 23/8) has galvanised my partner’s resistance to not only taking a COVID-19 vaccine, but all vaccines and presents another hurdle among the uninformed propaganda peddled by anti-vaxxer groups. If it can’t be tested properly it should not be administered. Public discussion on these topics are rapidly contorted by anti-vaxxer groups and recited ad nauseum in many households. Information is contorted then weaponised.

Governments should not release a vaccination until it is entirely safe. Don’t speculate on the safety aspects of a yet-to-be-developed vaccination. The AMA and Australian government have just added another string to the bow of the anti-vaxxer propaganda machine.
Name and address withheld

Archbishops ought to be commended
The three Archbishops of Sydney should be commended for their courageous stand in defense of proper ethical standards in medicine. The foetus didn’t give consent to being killed and its body parts used for medical research. Just forget about it you say? It happened 50 years ago and you can’t be responsible for that? That would be true if we were animals with no conscience. Like many unethical approaches to science and technologies, disadvantages come back to complicate apparent technical advantages.
Stefan Kos, Toorak

Outdated moral theology causes great distress
Archbishops have spoken out against the Oxford coronavirus vaccine on the basis that it is derived using human embryonic stem cells obtained from aborted foetuses. Non-Christian religions have no such objection. As a former priest and now retired doctor and psychiatrist, I must warn of the anxiety and distress such outdated moral theology causes in the hearts and minds of the faithful. It has happened before. There is no need for religion in making moral judgments. We all have personal conscience, reason and human empathy that tell us what is right and what is wrong.
Dr Peter Evans, Malvern


Too busy to reply
‘‘Treasurer faces his greatest challenge’’ (26/8) is brilliant. At last we know why those of us who are members of the Kooyong branch of Grandmothers for Refugees, advocating for the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers, never receive replies to the letters we send.

The Treasurer is busy – phoning journalists. We in the Kooyong electorate do receive regular email updates telling us of his largesse (with our money) and of his appearances in the media. But nothing about the people our leaders consider ‘‘voiceless’’.

The closing comment hits the nail on the head: ‘‘The bottom line is even his colleagues aren’t quite sure what he stands for.’’ As grandmothers who are elders in our community, we know that knowing what you stand for is every human’s greatest challenge. Our hope is that Mr Frydenberg will discover what he stands for, and that he will be assisted in this by listening to those in our community who are deliberately silenced or preferably unheard.
Mary Williams, Camberwell

Pressing matters
In early April, I wrote to our local member Michael Sukkar’s office seeking guidance about consular assistance for our daughter who was stranded in Guatemala. We are yet to receive an acknowledgement from his office. I now understand that he and his staff have been awfully busy attending to ‘‘other pressing matters’’.
Gloria Bower, Mitcham

Same, same
Nick O’Malley (‘‘Chief Scientist Alan Finkel fires back after criticism on gas’’, 26/8) reports that Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel ‘‘wrote that greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning coal gas to generate electricity were lower than that created by burning coal’’. I can assure both O’Malley and Dr Finkel that an atom of carbon, whether in the form of coal, or in the form of coal gas derived from coal, will end up as carbon dioxide when burned. In other words, based on carbon content, the emissions of both sources are equivalent.
Assoc. Prof. Maurie Trewhella, College of Engineering and Science, Victoria University

Show us the numbers
Having some of the nation’s leading climate change scientists at loggerheads with the Chief Scientist is not a good look. The sooner some ballpark figures for energy generation between now and 2050 are put into the public domain for debate the better. This needs to show how the transition from fossil to renewable energy is expected to track. Once we have an initial pathway outlined, the speed, extent and cost of change can be debated and refined. This might show Dr Finkel and the climate scientists are not too far apart in their thinking. It will also hopefully force a response (and action) from an obstructionist government and vacillating opposition.
Peter Thomson, Brunswick

Many lives saved
As a GP I am grateful that we have had stage four lockdown. It is the fastest way to reduce deaths and get the economy back to health. Aiming for zero transmission as has happened in other states needs emergency powers, given how many people give themselves exceptions to masks etc. It is unlikely we will have a vaccinated population before September next year. Fighting coronavirus is a marathon, not a sprint. Despite mistakes, clear leadership based on medical evidence has saved many lives.
Dr Margaret Beavis, Brighton

Adopt Finnish system
I suggest to David Zyngier (Letters, 26/8) that the best way for Australia to reduce social segregation in schooling is to join Finland in fully funding non-government schools and not permitting them to charge fees, or New Zealand which almost fully funds those that charge very low fees. The problem in Australia is not the fact of funding but the use of the socially stratifying Howard/Gonski socio-economic status funding model, the one that ignores school fees.
Chris Curtis, Hurstbridge

Hewson insightful
What an insightful column from former leader of the Liberal Party John Hewson (‘‘Cancerous branch stacking demands leadership’’, 26/8), regarding the practice of branch stacking. While Labor leaders acted decisively, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has once again been shown up as weak; hand washing and buck passing while he kowtows to the religious right of his party.
Gillian Unicomb, Sandford

Power imbalance
The fact that Indigenous Australians hold the rights to only a fraction of available surface water in the Murray-Darling basin is another example of the structural inequality that exists in this country (‘‘Basin agency warns on water’’, 26/8). This is no different to the powerlessness of Aboriginal communities to stop the destruction of sacred sites. Only when First Nations Australians are treated as equals while decisions are being made about natural resource development will there be true progress towards reconciliation.
Colin Smith, Mount Waverley

Neglect long exposed
The Prime Minister’s attempt to deflect responsibility for the COVID-19-related disasters in Victorian aged care by pointing to other failures or mismanagement in the control of the pandemic, or by suggesting that Australia’s record of nursing home deaths is better than other countries, is disgraceful. The neglect and brutality in aged care facilities has been exposed numerous times, including via a royal commission, long before the pandemic. Despite these disclosures, nothing has been done. I wonder how the families who lost loved ones feel, as their relatives’ deaths are reduced to political point scoring. If our leaders can’t take responsibility for their failures, surely they can at least show some compassion.
Cheryl Day, Beaumaris

Yearning for dignity
Apologising for his government’s failure in aged care, Morrison said: ‘‘On those days when our efforts fall short, none are more sorry than I as Prime Minister.’’ The PM’s apology might be genuine, heartfelt even, but families of the residents who have died prematurely in aged care homes, often in the most distressing of circumstances, might see the apology as inefficacious. The Morrison government’s lamentable failure in aged care has denied those dying the one thing they might have wished for – a basic level of dignity.
Neil Hudson, East Melbourne

Sukkar loses my vote
Whether or not Michael Sukkar survives the allegations against him, I will not be voting Liberal in Deakin as long as he is the party’s candidate. I respect that his socially conservative views are different from mine. As a consequence, I reluctantly put aside his decision to renege on a promise to his electorate that he would vote for the same-sex marriage legislation in December 2017 ‘‘in accordance with the majority view of Australians’’. But what I am not prepared to go along with is someone who refuses to appreciate that the party he serves is a broad church and – what is worse – someone who is actively plotting against Victorian Liberal MPs who do hold views more aligned with mine. It’s time to go, Mr Sukkar.
Ivan Glynn, Vermont

Urgent scrutiny needed
There has been much criticism of Daniel Andrews’ request to extend emergency powers in Victoria. The fact that other states already have these powers has been omitted from much of the discussion. Yet there has been little scrutiny of the national cabinet, which does not include the Opposition Leader and operates in secrecy. In addition, there is a National COVID-19 Commission stacked with fossil fuel executives who are allegedly making plans to revive our economy without developing renewable energy. This commission also operates in secret and is not required to release details of their meetings. Scrutiny of these bodies is urgently needed.
Jen Hooper, Box Hill

Return to the 1950s
When will Mr Morrison give women a fair go? His home builder grants disproportionately favour men and he provides little or no JobKeeper support for mostly female-dominated industries such as councils, universities and childcare. Now we see the Defence Force getting $1 billion to increase overall personnel numbers. When you consider that women are also picking up much of the home schooling, it seems the COVID-19 response comes straight from the back-to-the-’50s playbook.
Donna Wyatt, Wyndham Vale

Tough enough for Defence
At a time when the costs of COVID-19 are escalating daily, a $1billion boost in defence spending seems ill considered (‘‘$1b defence cash splash’’, 26/8). When the going gets tough, governments can almost be relied upon to increase defence spending. The notion of building our ‘‘sovereign industrial capacities’’ exposes the hollow nature of a government which is not prepared to deal properly and meaningfully with the complex problems which face all of us at present, especially the young who, as Ross Gittins points out, have been hardest hit by this pandemic.
Helen Scheller, Benalla

Lower voting age
Every day, we hear of young people with talent, intelligence and enterprise. Yet they are not entitled to vote. Let’s face it, we ‘‘grown ups’’ have made a mess of the planet. In many places, including Argentina and Scotland, people from the age of 16 are optionally entitled to vote. We should do the same. Young people are the ones who are going to have to put up with the mess we’ve made.
Peter Seligman, Brunswick West

Virus compensation
Will Victorian Liberal senator Sarah Henderson (‘‘Victorians urged to claim ‘lockdown compensation’’’, 26/8) also support compensation claims against the federal government given they failed to prevent the first arrival of the virus?
Steve Melzer, Hughesdale



It’s Time: Both Michael Sukkar and Kevin Andrews should be sacked from Parliament.
Don Vincent, North Warrandyte

Michael Sukkar, another minister behaving badly with impunity.
Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick

Hey Scomo, don’t take us for suckers – time to ditch Sukkar.
John Lippmann, Canterbury

The PM and AFL umpires have something in common; inconsistency and incompetency, blame anyone but yourself for a wrong decision and then deny any decision or criticism.
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

The PM is pointing the finger of blame at the Premier. Three other fingers are pointing back at him and the thumb is a rude remnant from his bushfire debacle.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

After moaning to a client in the US about being stuck in stage four restrictions, she casually commented: ‘‘I wish someone would look after us like that.’’ Enough said.
Claire Collins, Flemington

I’d far prefer to run with the approach of the epidemiologist, Catherine Bennett (25/8) than I would that of the law graduate, James Moutsias.
Merv Wilson, Mitcham

Travellers’ tales are no longer filling up my Facebook feed. What’s exciting now is parcel tracking. Rilke Muir, Kensington

Gas debate
Re ‘‘Chief Scientist Alan Finkel fires back after criticism on gas’’ (26/8). All gas but no hydrogen. Why?
Sally Dammery, Malvern East

Like the ‘‘debate’’ about climate change, the debate about gas as a transition fuel is over. You cannot fix the problems caused through burning fossil fuels by burning more fossil fuels.
Helen Moss, Croydon

Let’s hope the Qantas workers about to lose their jobs own millions of Qantas shares so they can take advantage of the share price rise.
Tony O’Brien, South Melbourne

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