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RESPONSIBILITY AND RISK
It’s up to all of us to hold our leaders to account
Peter Hartcher’s article chronicling the indisputable facts of the disaster of federal management of aged and disabled care during the pandemic is a sobering reflection on the lack of effective leadership by our elected government (“No care, no responsibility”, Comment, 5/6).
How Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck is still in his lucrative ministerial post defies comprehension. Unfortunately, the indulgence by the Prime Minister to overlook his incompetence and dereliction of duty is not an isolated incident by a government intent on deflecting any criticism and prepared to lie and dissemble.
This lack of responsibility and accountability is leaving us ill prepared to handle the certain recurrences of this pandemic and future shocks. How do we, the ordinary members of our democracy, counter this trend? Complacency will bring about our downfall. Unless we speak up, look for leaders that truly respect us and are concerned for our welfare above their own self-interest, and then hold them accountable, the future looks grim indeed.
Bob Malseed, Hawthorn
Wake up, Victoria, it’s not that hard
Wake up, Victoria. Yesterday, while out walking, I was horrified to see the number of people with no mask or wearing one on their chins.
We complain about government mistakes, of which there are many, but unless we all take responsibility with masks, hand-sanitising, QR codes, testing when we have even the slightest symptoms, getting vaccinated and isolating when necessary, whatever restrictions governments bring into force will be compromised.
The majority of Victorians are doing the right thing, but for those who don’t seem to care, we all need to work together at this in order to get back to some sort of normality and to learn to live with this virus. It really isn’t that hard.
Hilary Vaughan, Williamstown
Weighing the risk of a blood clot …
Your correspondent (“For some of us, the health risk is very real”, Letters, 5/6) suggests that her vaccine hesitancy is because she views having the vaccine as similar to joining an MCG crowd of 100,000 from which one person will be taken and shot.
Aside from dramatically overestimating the likelihood of someone over 50 getting a blood clot, there is no mention of the risk to herself, or others, from COVID.
If such emotive and inappropriate metaphors were used before getting into a car, crossing a road or going outside during a thunderstorm no one would ever come out from under their beds.
Let’s keep this discussion real.
Julian Guy, Mount Eliza
… against the other risks we assume on a daily basis
Imagine an MCG filled with 100,000 people. Now think that traffic will kill four people in that crowd and leave a further 124 with serious injury – acquired brain injury, quadriplegia, paraplegia, amputations, lifelong pain and so on.
Who would take the risk of going to the MCG? Well, every day, every Australian who drives, cycles or crosses a road chooses to take those risks. They are the bald statistics of road accidents in Australia. AstraZeneca is much safer than using our roads.
Louise Kloot, Doncaster
A delicious contradiction
Ah yes, the delicious contradiction: Safety and access concerns that demand sanitisation and sterilisation for unhindered admittance to the remnants of our natural, but potentially lethal, environment (“(Green) thumbs down for garden closure”, The Age, 5/6). I sympathise with consultants needing to keep their liabilities at bay by identifying all the rusty nails, impaling bamboo tomato stakes and risks of severe facial skin irritation after handing chillies.
Clearly, legislation is required to indemnify councils and other organisations from life in the real world – a world where children still climb a few secret local trees that scream out “climb me” (the kids know them by heart), where kids “check the depth” and then dive off piers at high tide; the world where few wear a helmet at the skate park.
The real risk is that we create, as one conservative commentator noted, a “snowflake generation of insufferable idiots with the coping skills of overtired toddlers”.
Ronald Elliott, Sandringham
Good money after bad
It is frustrating watching more government money chasing wasted money. Your article (“Secret strategy on NDIS overhaul”, The Age, 4/6) revealed that more money is to be spent advertising and coercing the public to accept the ill-fated proposal for independent assessors.
There are already enough obstacles for people who do apply for the NDIS and for their approved packages to actually get utilised. People need their usual doctor/clinicians to help with the application forms and to detail the specific nuances of their daily needs.
Rather than increase scrutiny of the disabled, a better strategy would be a review of the layers of organisations that have sprung up to administer and distribute NDIS funds to approved patients for their needs. Please stop throwing more money in the wrong direction.
Corinne Haber, Caulfield North
A slightly mellowing mood
When we entered the latest lockdown, I noticed, out and about exercising, there was a snippiness in the air among folk. At sets of traffic lights, for instance, I heard cross words being flung at perpetrators of the maskless felony every time without fail that one was spotted.
However, as this particular COVID-ian prohibition lingers, I am now observing a resigned yet determined goodwill setting in.
Last Friday, we “virtually” farewelled a chap at work. Thirty or 40 people sat at their computers at home, some with a glass of champagne, others a cup of tea, chatting and laughing. It was really quite heartwarming and, to be honest, I’m actually not sure we would have achieved such an atmosphere and camaraderie were we at the office itself.
So, for what it’s worth, I might offer a ″well done, Melbourne, hang in there″.
John Skaro, Malvern
Give us a break
I was disappointed to see a contractor loading cars onto their trailers last Friday afternoon that were parked in clearway zones in High Street, Prahran. Surely the Stonnington Council could cut people some slack during lockdown.
Lockdown means there’s no real peak hour. So the 4.30-6.30 clearway zone is irrelevant. Isn’t it enough thousands of people are currently not earning any income? Yet Stonnington Council seems more intent on revenue raising so they can spend more on kitting out their offices.
Give us a break.
Melissa Rothfield, Armadale
Getting back to basics
It is understandable that the letters you are publishing at present focus on the immediate concerns of the current COVID outbreak. However, much of the angst and uncertainty in the community (including those in leadership positions) is due to lack of confidence in understanding the epidemiological information that is presented.
We need to understand how a country with purportedly high education standards has such limited statistical knowledge in the community. One answer could lie in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study data that shows that nearly one-quarter of Australian year 8 students were taught mathematics in 2018 by teachers whose major qualification was not in mathematics.
Of course, teaching involves more than content knowledge but “knowing one’s stuff” is essential.
Mathematics is a splendid vehicle for introducing the broad logic and data literacy skills that everyone needs in order to make informed decisions about crucial questions such as “should I get a COVID vaccination now?“, “are the COVID restrictions based on reliable evidence?“, “is there data to support predictions about issues such as herd immunity?”, etc.
Developing (and funding) the correct standards for mathematics teaching is a vital issue for Australia.
Carmel McNaught, Balwyn North
These folk have no choice
It is not only aged care homes and disability support staff who need to be vaccinated. The home care packages so many have now undertaken rely on care workers. These workers go from home to home; one could not think of a better way to spread an infection.
If these carers do not want to vaccinate, they should find other employment. Their clients have no choice as to whom they have to allow into their homes; clients should not be put at such a disadvantage.
Doris LeRoy, Altona
They have shown the way
Tony Wright’s story (“The fighting men of Budj Bim held up high”, Insight, 5/6) filled me with a range of emotions.
Above all, admiration for the strength and determination of the Lovett brothers and Chris Saunders, Aboriginal soldiers from Lake Condah who confronted blatant racism on many fronts before and after their participation in war; and for the inspiration and work of descendants, artists and community to establish a reflective garden at the base of the water tower in Heywood that commemorates the contribution of Indigenous soldiers to their country.
I laughed at the “celebration” at the pub in 1919 and the connivance of locals that ensured no punitive action was taken. I was outraged at the appalling living conditions forced on Reg Saunders’ family while he served his country. And I felt hope that powerful stories such as these may move and inform us, leading Australians to accept a Voice enshrined in the constitution, truth-telling and treaty as outlined in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
First Nations people have shown us the way. Now we need our “leaders” to actually lead.
Anne Sgro, Coburg North
A casebook study
The cartoonists and letter writers are right onto Mathias Cormann. We are used to the spin and two-facedness of politicians generally, but Mr Cormann’s journey from minister for finance to secretary-general of the OECD provides a casebook study in the dirty business of politicians looking after their mates and the insincerity of the views they espouse.
I don’t believe his views on climate change have altered one iota but he is simply reading from a different script to justify his new salary.
It will be a cringeworthy sight watching him berate his old mates in Canberra for not doing enough to reduce emissions. No wonder the public have zero trust in their politicians.
Peter Thomson, Brunswick
Let down at the top
Could Rebecca Skinner or Michelle Lees from Services Australia please explain why, with 31,000 staff, I was on hold for 56 minutes on the Older Australians “hotline” in order to make an appointment at Centrelink for my 80-year-old mother?
Perhaps the eight senior staff sharing $5.8 million of taxpayers’ money as their annual salaries could spend some time sharing phone duties as a mark of respect to my mother and other millions of older Australians.
Or perhaps these “key management personnel” could actually spend some of the $1.4 million unspent by the end of June 30 last year on real services for real people, instead of apps and voiceovers.
By the way, Kamal, when he finally answered, was lovely and very helpful. Which is more than I can say for the eight of you at the top of Services Australia.
Verity Webb, Yarraville
Some evidence, please
Your correspondent’s assertion (And another thing, 5/6) that Victoria’s contact tracing is inadequate cannot go unchallenged.
On what evidence is this based? The high number of contacts traced and the high numbers of people identified and in home quarantine would in fact suggest the opposite.
Some evidence-based assertions would be good in the current climate.
Graeme Gardner, Reservoir
‘Limbo’ doesn’t cover it
I wish journalists and radio presenters would stop referring to the refugees in immigration detention as being in “limbo” (“Minister keen for deal on refugees”, The Age, 3/6).
Doing so suggests that, despite being refused entry to “heaven” (a new life in Australia), the refugees are nevertheless in a benign place without suffering. Christians once believed this to be the fate of those who died unbaptised, who had lived good lives before the Christian era, or died in infancy.
But, of course, the whole point of the government’s harsh policies is to inflict suffering on the refugees for all to see. This is so that they will discourage others from trying to come to Australia.
Let’s not even call their living conditions “purgatory” because in Christian belief, that was a place of suffering but the soul would go to heaven once the sin was atoned for. Calling the situation of refugees “limbo” is a weasel word. I have spoken with many refugees and never heard one of them call their situation “limbo”. They call it “hell”.
Geraldine Moore, Hampton
A precedent, perhaps?
Russian citizens should be pleased with President Vladimir Putin’s dismissal of US Capitol rioters as not looters and thieves but people who came with political requests (“Putin attacks US ‘double standards’ on Capitol riot”, The Sunday Age, 6/6).
Any dissidents who decide to invade the Kremlin in their hundreds will no doubt be given the opportunity to explain their requests before being allowed to walk out the door back into the community.
Let’s hope this new attitude stretches to the release of Alexei Navalny, who may also have some political requests.
Tony Devereux, Nunawading
A shameful reluctance
As Peter Hartcher rightly exclaims (“No care, no responsibility”, Comment, 5/6) it is the reluctance of the federal government to accept its constitutional and moral duty in the roll out of the vaccine, particularly in federally funded residential aged care facilities, that is so shameful.
Sara Blunt, chair of Aged and Community Services Australia, echoes Hartcher’s concern: ″the government has to stop blaming providers or workers when the rollout is its responsibility″.
In its carefully orchestrated strategy, the government seems to have no intention of taking on responsibility for anything, especially anything that might fall over.
That wouldn’t look very good, would it?
Blaming others, abrogating responsibility and shedding itself of its leadership role has us all wondering just what this government is prepared to take responsibility for in this lifesaving vaccine rollout.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
AND ANOTHER THING
Fellow citizens, be careful we don’t fall over: We’re in a race, which is not a race, but it’s been upgraded to us “leaning heavily into this”. Crawl, don’t jog.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham
Risking being shot at the football isn’t quite in the same ballpark as risking a (treatable) medical condition to end a pandemic tearing at the very fabric of our society (“For some of us, the health risk is very real”, Letters, 5/6).
Mark Colautti, Melbourne
Getting vaccinated means thinking about the whole community and not just yourself. There’s no comparison with a personal pleasure that doesn’t affect anyone else.
Joan Kerr, Geelong
The board has the full support of the coach: That sounds a bit different to the normal, doesn’t it ?
Julian Robertson, Mount Eliza
Do the offending Crows footballers and officials need help to tie their shoelaces as well?
David Cayzer, Clifton Hill
I just discovered another problem – even having an iPhone is no guarantee of being able to use the QR system – there are mobile service black spots in Greater Melbourne. In my case, for my provider in Lilydale.
Sonja Ekberg, Warrandyte South
Peter Hartcher is right (“No care, no responsibility”, Comment, 5/6), the minister should be responsible. The Westminster doctrine has been replaced by the Axminster doctrine, nobody gets carpeted and everything is swept under it.
Richard Opat, Elsternwick
Scott Morrison has to stop putting out spot fires and become proactive and take responsibility for all the federal government’s obligations.
Rita Reid, Port Melbourne
I wonder if Peter Dutton still believes the proposed Victorian quarantine station is “political smoke and mirrors” now that his Prime Minister has agreed to it?
Peter Gribben, Drouin
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