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NEW AGE OF POLITICAL GROWN-UPS: Unique co-operation should be harnessed

Waleed Aly (“Politicians, finally, acting grown-up”, 10/4), rightly cuts to the chase when he states that the Morrison government’s end aim of massive government spending is “not to remake our economy but to preserve it”. Putting aside whether coronavirus will co-operate with this strategy, it is surely worth asking the hard question as to whether Australia now requires a leader who can, in the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt at the time of the Great Depression, view the “organised power of government” as a benevolent force countering “economic tyranny”. At a time when the world’s wealthy are fleeing to private islands and villas while working people are forced to risk their lives in the metropolises, the notion of prioritising public over private resources should be a central aspiration. In a time of ongoing crisis, it is imperative that Australia, for the long term, has centrist governments based on the principle of social and economic equity rather than the preservation of capitalism’s worst features.

Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

Rethink default adversarial position

I agree with Waleed Aly’s view (“Politicians, finally, acting grown-up”, 10/4) that “after the pandemic is done … we might, if we’re lucky, emerge with some new political habits”. If we’re lucky and if we are to learn one thing from this pandemic, the seating in the House of Representatives needs to be rearranged. We’ve seen in this pandemic that it can be done quite easily. As outlined in a recent book by Andrew Scott, Northern Lights: The Positive Policy Example of Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway, Members of Parliament in Scandinavia are seated in electoral groups. Rather than shouting at each other from opposite sides, MPs work constructively together to serve their constituents and achieve the best outcomes for their country.

Kristina Olsen, Brunswick

Ethics of wildlife trade examined

While there will inevitably be future debates about economic, social and political change in Western democracies brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, (“Politicians, finally, acting grown-up”, 10/4), there is surely one thing there should not be any debate about. It is time to crack down on the farming, smuggling, capturing and selling of wildlife across the world. We all know it happens in China but it is prevalent everywhere, including in rich, developed democracies. It is immoral trade for profit. It is rampant greed that exploits the poor, that trades on superstition and ignorance, that gives the wealthy a licence to indulge in private zoos or private tastings of animals no ethical person would entertain. It is demand and supply at its very worst. If anything comes from this crisis, including examination of the principles of the “free market”, it must be the trade in wildlife that takes some priority. It alone has demonstrated how unchecked trade, globalisation and profit at any cost threaten all of our existences.

Robyn Edwards, Chelsea

THE FORUM

Andrews’ sterling job

It has generally been accepted that Daniel Andrews’ decisive and clear leadership during the coronavirus crisis has been exemplary. Michael O’Brien would be well advised to take his opposition leader’s hat off and acknowledge this instead of trying to find fault with the state government’s actions. He might find he would gain some respect.

Phil Alexander, Eltham

Temperature issue

I have no idea how many thermometers capable of recording a person’s temperature without touching the person are readily available. However, with the reopening of Victorian schools imminent for the children of essential workers and “at risk” children, would it not be prudent to test their temperature before they enter school? This would go some way in lessening the risk of infection to the teachers who will be rostered for face-to-face contact with students.

Jenny Callaghan, Hawthorn

Praise for teachers

Thank you Tony Wright (“In testing times, praise of those born to teach”, 11/4) for the article on teachers both past and present and how their dedicated giftedness can and does trickle down through the generations. Just so loved the apt pic of the dear little old school, out in the Aussie bush, in Drik Drik (1873).

Tris Raouf, Hadfield

Response questioned

Reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic timeline, why did I, the government and the media not respond to China’s problems and WHO warnings in January? Why was our response limited to banning travel from China, Italy, Iran and Korea when, in retrospect, the US along with cruise ships, was the source of many cases? Our xenophobic response and ongoing blaming of China, or more absurdly, people of Asian ethnicity, raises questions about how far we have come as a multicultural society.

Michael Langford, Ivanhoe

Helping others paramount

Well put Matt Wade (“We barely notice the calamity on our doorstep”, 12/4). Despite the challenges to Australia’s economy resulting from COVID-19 we must not ignore the even greater issues that will be faced by countries in our region. We are and will remain a wealthy nation so we have the means. We have always been a compassionate nation and it is in our own interest. When nations that surround us are progressing and developing they play a valuable role in the stability of our region as well as its prosperity.

Peter Cleary, Medindie, SA

Church communities unite

This year has seen a very different Easter, as a parish priest it has been extraordinarily different. Yet it has been fulfilling. Our parish has made videos of all our services and we have had bigger congregations (by the number of views) than ever. Parishioners are ringing each other regularly and shopping or delivering meals, making sure everyone is OK. This story is being replicated in churches across the country. Church, after all, is not about a building, it is all about people being community, and many of us are discovering newer and richer ways to be community.

Fr Graham Reynolds, Ballarat

Help asylum seekers

Advice to Keith Head (Letters, 10/4) with suggestions about his $750 government payment, have been interesting and encouraging. My suggestion is to consider the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for your donation. This organisation is under stress as it tries to continue supporting families on various types of visas. Many, who have been struggling for up to seven years as they wait for approval of their application, have now lost their jobs and are in a perilous position both financially and health wise.

Rosemary Faris, Torquay

A call to action

John Silvester (“Charting a future after COVID-19”, 11/4) presents some interesting scenarios for the end of the year. My hope is that COVID-19 wakes us all up to a consciousness of mankind’s limits and fragility. And to the need to foresee threats, and deal with them, early and hard. The challenge of climate change looms large. The Great Barrier Reef, the koalas, our beautiful bushland, the air and atmosphere – all are threatened now. We don’t want to look back in 10 years and wonder why we didn’t act.

Elaine Hopper, Blackburn

Joggers, keep clear

Joggers please cease and desist from being “space invaders” by keeping the required distance of at least 1.5 metres when passing or overtaking. If it’s not possible to deviate on to the nature strip or even the road, just shout “passing on the right” when approaching walkers from behind and we would happily squish over to the left. Instead, you just hurtle past often swiping an arm on the way.

Sally Landman, Camberwell

It’s all in the stats

Graham Haupt (Letters, 11/4) the statistics say it all. With a population of 10.2 million compared to Australia’s 25.5million, Sweden has 9685 confirmed cases and 870 recorded deaths. We have 6292 confirmed cases and 53 deaths. Self assessment be damned.

Heather Murfet, Northcote

People still suffering

Peter Hartcher seems to think Scott Morrison has redeemed himself by belatedly recognising the seriousness of COVID-19. Certainly the doubling of the Newstart allowance is beneficial to many. However, one must notice the threat that this is temporary and that many sacked employees are ineligible. People waiting for citizenship and students who work limited hours are ignored despite being taxpayers. They have no superannuation to draw on, they are unable to “go home” because borders are closed and airfares now too expensive.

Gael Barrett, North Balwyn

Move strikes wrong note

As a music teacher I find the decision by Haileybury private school (“School staff stood down via Zoom”, 11/4) to stand down its music staff last week citing financial viability disappointing and short-sighted. Ostensibly the decision shows an ignorance of the value of music education and its benefits for students, particularly at a time like this. There are so many exciting possibilities for delivering music classes online that will keep students focused and engaged. It is incomprehensible that this element of a student’s education would be denied to them. In the case of Haileybury, it has been stated that the staff affected are highly valued members of the school community. Indeed, so much so that in a time of crisis they are not required.

Cheryl Morrow, Vermont

Jobs figure illusory

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg could not help but state the usual government line (Insiders, 12/4): “We have created a million and a half jobs”. Well bully for them and if they keep saying they have created a million-plus jobs every time a minister talks to the media we may start believing the spin. But what the Treasurer failed to explain was that within those so-called “Million-Plus Jobs” are thousands of casual workers who work a day or two just to survive and will not be covered by this workers saviour bill.

Dermot Mcintosh, Bacchus Marsh

Scrutiny essential

Thank you to the protesters who highlighted the inhumane nature of detention centres. Leaving these people at risk in high-density living during this pandemic is unforgivable. This protest also highlights the need for government scrutiny. While the state government seems to be doing a good job, a committee to oversee measures and suggest solutions relating to human rights, democracy and all those slipping through the cracks, may be beneficial, as necessary but draconian rules are applied.

Atholie Harden, Williamstown

Heading in right direction

I never thought I would say this, but, apart from the debacle of the Ruby Princess, Scott Morrison and his team appear to have made the right decisions to curb the spread of coronavirus, and support for those affected by it. It is also a pleasure to see the Parliament working together as one instead of the usual party politics.

Ron Hayton, Beaumaris

Our ‘disposable’ workers

To counter the loss of post-colonial economic exploitation, the Europeans (and the US) devised a colonialism-at-home system that allowed for temporary workers. Such workers were disposable so they would not become a burden on the welfare system. The COVID-19 shutdown has exposed a similar large disposable workforce in Australia. About one million workers may be entitled to some support through Centrelink (JobSeeker) but another one million on student or work visas have been advised to go home. At present they can’t travel and can’t access any support although they have paid taxes.

Kishor Dabke, Mount Waverley

Flu injection inconsistency

I concur with GP, Dr Sarah Hume, who is unhappy with distribution of the flu vaccine (Letters, 11/4). Every year the supply to doctors and clinics is insufficient to vaccinate their at-risk patients, while the local chemist has adequate supplies to inject all comers. For the at-risk group it needs to be given by a doctor, so their health can be checked. This year it is more important than ever so those at risk do not have to line up in a chemist to get the injection.

Doris LeRoy, Altona

Focus on the future

Premier Andrews has signalled his intention to ramp up infrastructure projects after the coronavirus lockdown, to stimulate the economy. I hope there will be less emphasis on projects designed for motorists and more on moving towards zero carbon emissions. Construction of a comprehensive network of charging stations for the inevitable increase in electric cars would be one worthwhile project. Another would be an increase in bicycle infrastructure.

Julia Blunden, Hawthorn

AND ANOTHER THING

Further reading

Barnaby Joyce’s next book should be The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis (“From Thunberg to Bean, it’s a matter of Joyce”, 12/4). It is scientific, optimistic if we act speedily, and has practical actions for everyone.

Barbara Fraser, Burwood

If Barnaby Joyce took the time to read some of the books on climate change, before he gave them away, he might learn something useful.

Annie Wilson, Inverloch

At this time, we all require serious reading matter. We have no form guide for races at Mornington.

William Hines, Mornington

Coronavirus

It used to be goals, behinds, points, team by team. Now it’s infections, deaths, recoveries, country by country.

John Walsh, Watsonia

If the Coalition wants to upskill the workforce shouldn’t online tertiary courses be free?

Hans Paas, Castlemaine

Trump, the Pythonesque Black Knight of the US.

Gary Sayer, Warrnambool

In view of the reputational damage, Easter Bunny has announced Bugs has applied for a name change.

Joan Segrave, Healesville

With our coronavirus curve done but not dusted (keep hand washing folks!), it’s time to squash our total emissions trajectory.

Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Surplus, bushfires, pandemic, global warming: let’s hope the penny’s dropped and it’s burnt into the PM’s brain that there’s no snap-back from 2 degrees of warming.

Vince Corbett, Glenroy

Re the timing of “Coming Out”, to quote economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, “the presence of disease kills people, and the absence of livelihood also kills people”.

Bill Beauie, Alphington

Finally

Note to Peter FitzSimons: as chair of the Australian Republican Movement, can I ask you never offer up a presidential model anything like the US. So much power and so little leadership in one person.

David Chamberlain, Beaumaris

*Sign up to editor Alex Lavelle’s exclusive newsletter at: www.theage.com.au/editornote.

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