Who are these dictators and defenders
Tom Switzer believes ‘‘self-righteous activists are dictating to the rest of us how we should feel’’. I wonder who Switzer – a white male and former advisor to the Howard and Abbott governments, as well as a TV talking head, a broadcaster and an editor – imagines ‘‘the rest of us’’ are.
I also wonder why Switzer, on the payroll of free market think tank the Centre for Independent Studies, takes this dictatorship personally, writing: ‘‘I have been denounced in these pages and elsewhere for holding unfashionable views – from praising John Howard, Boris Johnson and free-market capitalism to criticising the ABC and millennial socialism and those activists who claim Australia is a racist nation.’’
Switzer writes that ‘‘thought police’’ are everywhere, but his commentary doesn’t allow them to speak for themselves: instead they must be spoken for. ‘‘The cancel-culture defenders,’’ he writes, ‘‘say attitudes have changed and that marginalised groups are starting to gain equal footing in society. Why, then, are they so afraid of a debate?’’
Who are these dictators and defenders, and why are oppressed mainstream media commentators such as Switzer so afraid to name them?
Katherine Wilson, Healesville
Save us from the echo-chamber of cultural cleansing
Tom Switzer is spot on. The irony of the dangerous ‘‘cancel culture’’ movement sweeping the globe is that it risks destroying the very liberal democratic culture it seeks to cleanse.
Liberal democracies thrive in an environment of free speech, rigorous debate, respectful, robust intellectual scholarship and evidence-based discourse in which opinions stand or fall on the strength of their arguments. That’s why journalism and newspapers are the first to be attacked when demagogues stalk the land.
Nazis, by their intimidation, violence and intolerance of difference, wrote the handbook on how to destroy liberal democracy. George Orwell’s seminal novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four prophesyse about such techniques to create a totalitarian state. Orwell wrote about ‘‘cancel culture’’ in his novels well before the term was invented. It’s not new.
God save us from the self-righteous echo-chamber of cultural cleansing, the stifling of proper, respectful debate and the re-writing of history. There’s an exciting chapter on the history of BLM yet to be written. Let it be written by the future and not re-written from the past.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
Selective writing about freedom of speech
Tom Switzer writes selectively about freedom of speech. He fails to propose an end to defamation actions. No mention of varying degrees of anti-protest laws in jurisdictions around Australia. He fails to condemn federal government attacks on journalists. He doesn’t challenge the right of employers to deny free speech to employees. What is his game?
Darryl Pyrke, Blackmans Bay, Tas.
A disingenuous claim
We live in Singapore and have been planning our return home to Australia since early January, well before this ballooned into a pandemic.
We couldn’t throw our Melbourne tenants out onto the street during the first lockdown, so our return was delayed until August.
It is disingenuous for Scott Morrison to claim everyone has had sufficient time – families have to organise and line up employment, multiple school enrolments and rental leases.
We are happy to pay for quarantine however the latest medical evidence shows the virus is only infectious for the first eight days, so a 14-day quarantine is no longer justifiable.
I am happy with Scott Morrison’s response to the pandemic – but please get your facts straight before blaming, criticising and wrongfully punishing your own citizens.
Richard Bourke, Singapore
A sad, but true, image
Columnist Anson Cameron (‘‘Welcome to wasteland’’, Spectrum, 11/7) has painted a sad, but true, image of Port Melbourne’s Station Pier and Waterfront Place.
For some time, the Beacon Cove Neighbourhood Association has been advocating for the revitalisation of the area by creating a precinct overseen by an independent body, bringing together all interested parties. Our proposal has been met with a lukewarm response.
Establishing a precinct run by an independent authority would result in a planned, strategic redevelopment of the area by overcoming competing forces and current restrictions and meet the needs of the residents and Victorians generally. By doing this, Melbourne’s gateway could be repolished and returned to a vital economic and community hub.
Eddie Micallef, president, Beacon Cove Neighbourhood Association, Port Melbourne
An amazing assumption
We are all aware of the danger of close contact with others at the moment. It is amazing that there is an assumption teachers are immune to this.
Could we not rethink the selection process for university places in 2021 (which is the reason given for the importance of year 12 students and their teachers returning to school) and simply develop a new ‘‘test’’ or requirement for entry? There are many valid examples available.
Our teachers’ health and wellbeing, when devoid of the protective measures utilised within the health sector, surely warrant close consideration?
Julie McCormack, Brunswick West
Just to remind everyone that Victorian Liberal state MP Tim Smith began this pandemic with a batty plan to remove all bats from Kew, complaints that we weren’t open early for Mother’s Day, complaints that golfers were hard done by, and now he’d like Dan Andrews to resign – probably so he can crow about Andrews stepping out on Victorians during a crisis.
Smith’s social media presence has been a blight on Victorian politics; I can’t believe the Victorian Liberals are proud of the fact that he’s one of their own. Along with his colleagues; they’ve seemingly decided that supporting any lockdown and safety measures is signalling soft support for Andrews, instead of care for the community.
It’s toxic politicking and all of them should hang their heads in shame and know that Dan Andrews has got more class in his little finger than all of them put together.
Danielle Binks, Frankston
Surely this is good news
I have just finished reading your article about the ICU at the former Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre remaining empty (‘‘$30m ICU at former hospital still empty’’, 13/7).
I would’ve thought that this is good news not bad since we have not yet been overwhelmed with cases requiring ICU treatment.
It seems to me that the building of this unit ahead of time showed foresight and should not be criticised. Talk about dammed if you do and damned if you don’t.
Overall Daniel Andrews and his government seem to have done a really good job in combating the coronavirus pandemic despite one or two failures and should be encouraged rather than criticised.
Peter Meadley, Ballarat
Missing the point
Containment of the virus is the catch-cry of both the Education Minister and the Premier, but they are missing the point when it comes to opening schools within COVID-19 hot spots.
I am one of many teachers who commute into metropolitan hot spot schools from Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Gisborne, Sunbury, Castlemaine and many smaller regional communities.
Education Minister James Merlino has not foreseen or addressed this issue. Perhaps containment of the virus to hot spots would have more chance of success if Harry Potter could cast an appropriate spell.
Nick D’Aglas, Woodend
An unhappy shopper
On Saturday morning I went to a large supermarket in order to do some much-needed shopping for groceries.
I was disappointed – given the advice from the Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, on Friday – not to see more people wearing masks and making more of an effort to keep their distance. However, what was really concerning was that none of the staff were wearing masks and the onus was entirely on the customers as to whether or not the trolley handles were cleansed with disinfectant wipes.
If the supermarket chain’s CEO truly has the wellbeing of customers close to his heart – as he persistently claims in his frequent emails to rewards cardholders – he should act quickly to address the concerns I have raised here.
Ivan Glynn, Vermont
Unfairly singled out
In ‘‘Lockdown: How we stuffed it up’’ (Naked City, The Age, 11/7), John Silvester wrote that security guards are blamed for the COVID-19 spike, although it is not clear whether he holds them accountable for the total increase of the past few weeks.
Three security companies supplied hotel quarantine guards but he only goes into detail about one firm – naming it and shaming it.
While quick to disparage Unified Security, he fails to acknowledge the company was a finalist in six excellence awards from the NSW Business Chamber and Local Business Awards in 2018 and 2019, winning three.
He gives the location of the Melbourne office, cites two company cars in Indigenous livery and quotes from their website that Unified is ‘‘Australia’s largest wholly Australian and Indigenous-owned security company’’. Why emphasise the Indigenous connection?
Details of the names, offices and cultural profile of the other two firms were not supplied. Are we to conclude they were blameless so not worth profiling?
Why is it acceptable to sarcastically attack Unified Security and yet a few paragraphs later say ‘‘the three security companies have established track records’’?
The article unjustly targets one specific company in a sea of comments about the whole security industry in Australia.
Sue Watson, Paynesville
It’s a bit rich for conservative Liberal MPs and intellectuals to condemn perceived attacks on free expression when the same people hysterically attack the right of those expressing views contrary to themselves on such matters as the commemoration of Captain Cook’s arrival in Australia and the celebration of Australia Day and Anzac Day.
A recent example was when some Victorian Liberal Party politicians and right-wing commentators called for the removal of Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer, Annaliese van Diemen, for posting a controversial tweet about Captain Cook.
No right to free expression there.
And who can forget the hounding of television presenter Yassmin Abdel-Magied out of both the ABC and out of Australia after her controversial Facebook post about Anzac Day in April 2017.
Garry Meller, Bentleigh
Anger and apprehension
This lockdown round, Victorian teachers and parents are expressing anger and apprehension at the return to face-to-face schooling of VCE students. Disturbingly, there are letters with the name withheld, indicating fear not only of the virus, but of retribution for speaking out.
For many Victorians, trust in their government has taken a battering due to significant errors in its handling of the virus. Will this return to face-to-face teaching in reportedly ‘‘deep-cleaned’’ schools, with classes of 25-plus young adults, no social distancing, and masks discouraged, be another error?
Perhaps teachers and students should take it upon themselves to socially distance the classroom tables – if that’s even possible – and wear masks?
And, perhaps teacher unions, parents, teachers, students and legal firms should be looking at possible class action should any COVID-19 cases and deaths be traced back to this return to school.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
Breach after breach
Here’s an idea – instead of fining people for COVID-19 regulation breaches, why not make them undertake some hours in community service at a testing station? This reality check might just shake up those foolish enough, like the car of Victorians who tried to cross the Queensland border several times and mocked the $4000 fine they were each issued, to realise this is not some joke they can laugh off.
Over the weekend I witnessed breach after breach of some of the most simple aspects of social distancing. Exceptionalism has taken hold of too many who think along the lines of ‘‘oh it won’t happen to me’’ or ‘‘it’s just a small breach, it won’t make a difference’’ or ‘‘well others aren’t, so why should I?’’ Just take a scroll through Instagram if you need any proof of this.
If you care about your own health and that of your friends and family, take this seriously and abide by the regulations.
If not, prepare for many, many more months of lockdown, infections and deaths.
Paul Bugeja, Footscray
AND ANOTHER THING
Stopping the spread
If Premier Daniel Andrews wants us to ‘‘follow the rules, to only go out when you need to, and to only go out for the purposes that are lawful’’, why are the shopping malls and retail stores open?
Nadine McMaster, Port Melbourne
I agree with Andrew Gemmell (Letters, 12/7), maybe it is time masks should be worn on all forms of public transport as a courtesy to other passengers – to help limit the spread of all sorts of illnesses (not just COVID-19).
Maria Wickham, Mount Nelson, Tas.
Sunday on the Gardiners Creek walking loop: hundreds of people, and I counted 11 wearing masks. Not good enough, folks. We are all in this together.
Brian Marshall, Ashburton
It’s hard to believe now but AFL used to be described as the best game in the world.
John Hennessy, Glen Iris
While I don’t begrudge our Prime Minister attending his beloved game, I am less than impressed that he was not self-distancing or wearing a mask.
Susan Munday, Bentleigh East
Empty ICU beds
Until or unless the former Peter Mac building is required for COVID-19 care (The Age, 13/7), couldn’t it provide temporary housing for homeless people or those fleeing domestic violence?
Mary Cole, Richmond
The fact that the emergency ICU at the old Peter Mac remains unused is a testament to the success of the initial Victorian lockdown in suppressing COVID-19. We can only hope that it remains empty.
Nick Barton, Hillside
So, the reason teachers are not allowed to wear masks is it stops them teaching properly. What really stops a teacher teaching is contracting COVID-19.
Susan Caughey, Glen Iris
Our grandma got out her sewing machine and made individual masks for the whole family. Grandmas are beautiful people.
Peter Finn, Tallarook
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