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Rubber stamp training belies true competence

Neo-liberal myth leads to front-line folly
With the wisdom of foresight, most of what Victoria is experiencing now could have been averted. The decision to put low-paid, poorly trained, non-unionised private security guards on the front line of our quarantine response was a folly that many flagged as such months ago. The stupidity of putting private contractors in charge of the most vulnerable part of our virus response was apparent to many from the beginning and is on the record in numerous places.

Governments of all persuasions contract out their responsibilities and belittle regulation as interfering with the fairytale that private enterprise is always more efficient. This is the neo-liberal myth that has led us to this point.

We needed to listen to the right people with no vested interest in the constant diminishing of public servants, of regulations that protect us and the marginalisation of responsible unions.
Simon Collings, Barwon Heads

Lax qualifications trigger major problems
To be a security guard, an applicant needs to undertake an average of 136 hours (until recently only 56 hours were required) of training, apply to the police for a licence, which will be granted as long as the applicant does not have a criminal record and this will allow them to carry and use weapons against the public. It is to be thankful that such lax qualifications aren’t applied to other industries.
Peter Roche, Carlton

Consult the departmental risk register
The coronavirus pandemic is bringing to light many systemic failures including employing poorly trained private security guards instead of police, prison guards or ADF personnel, and allowing security guards to attend multiple sites over one or more days.

Many employers ‘‘encourage’’ their staff to perform risk assessments to identify hazards and estimate consequence versus likelihood of occurrence. I note the existence of a Victorian Government Risk Management Framework. Perhaps the Coate inquiry could save a lot of time and expense by requesting a copy of the hotel quarantine assessment from the DHHS Risk Register.
Frans Brouwer, Ringwood North


Independence daze
The key interim finding of Graeme Samuel’s review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was the need for a well-funded truly ‘‘independent cop on the beat’’. Instead we see watering down of protections and rhetoric about ‘‘assurance monitoring’’. It feels reminiscent of the proposed federal body against corruption – weasel words and having no teeth. The ALP, the Greens and the cross benchers need to make sure the federal government is held to account.
Margaret Beavis, Brighton

Environmental leadership
The proposed weakening of environmental safeguards is not only environmentally irresponsible but confirms Australia’s economic short-sightedness. Not only are we knocking down forests at an alarming rate, with mega-fossil fuel projects that threaten our wildlife and climate but, just as foolishly, we are ignoring an opportunity for a green recharge of our economy.

We know what the strategy should be: strong laws with clear standards that are fairly and independently enforced, together with incentives for businesses to get onto the environmental bandwagon. Come on, national leaders: lead!
Nick Jans, Marysville

Tired of the attire
Why would two highly respected journalists, Kate McClymont and Lucy Cormack, in their ‘‘From Hermes to Handcuffs’’ article (22/7), feel the need to include the description of a woman’s attire: ‘‘Ms Hall, a make-up artist, was wearing a white puffer jacket and grey tracksuit when she was taken away from her suburb of Greystanes in the early hours of yesterday morning’’? There was no description of the man/men, in their grey suits and blue shirts.
Jan Courtin, Albert Park

Not fashionable
I read with interest those who are complaining about the inconvenience of wearing a mask. Have these people thought of how the healthcare workers might feel having to wear not only a mask but face shield and full PPE equipment, not for just an hour or so but for perhaps 10-12 hours. They do this to save lives, not because it’s a fashion statement. We only have to wear them for the amount of time it takes us to shop, do our daily exercise or are unable to social distance.
Jane Taylor, Newport

Why the rush?
One must ask just what is Sussan Ley on about in her hurry to rid the Commonwealth of environmental responsibility and ‘‘devolve’’ decision-making to the states. She must believe the states will more readily allow development of endangered species habitat areas, thus giving short-term economic benefit to a few land-grabbers and miners. Instead of knowledgeably protecting our biological heritage, the federal Environment Minister must see it as a burden. Ms Ley is squandering the biological heritage of our grandchildren, and setting us up for hard times ahead, and we are letting her do it.
Jill Dumsday, Ashburton

Free masks for poor
Masks are now compulsory in Melbourne and may well be so in other areas over time. The government has announced a coming reduction in support for people unable to find paid employment. Has anyone given any thought to providing masks free for the unemployed? The French government is doing so for its population in financial need. What about Australia?
Dr Juliet Flesch, Kew

US’ Weimar moment
Farrah Tomazin’s article (‘‘Trump’s war on ‘liberal cities’’’, 22/7), is an admirably balanced account of the intense, even anarchic, street fighting occurring across the US. It isn’t surprising that some US commentators are asking if their nation is having a ‘‘Weimar moment’’ in reference to Germany’s short-lived Republic in the 1920s which was characterised by brutal civil strife. As in the US now, far-right and far-left militias back then exploited the impotence of a democratic government against the backdrop of an economically stressed middle-class; and an aspiring autocrat, namely Adolf Hitler, eager to take advantage of the chaos. Fast forward to 2020 and Donald Trump’s brinksmanship has many Americans feeling the fabric of the US Republic is imperilled.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

Best fabric choices
It’s clear that when the DHHS compiled advice about homemade masks they didn’t research the issue. Simply googling ‘‘best fabric for masks’’ quickly reveals the work by Supratik Guha, professor of molecular engineering at the University of Chicago.

Specifically to establish the effectiveness of commonly available fabrics, he and his team laboratory tested a range of fabrics and combinations. They concluded that closely woven cotton lined with closely woven silk provided near medical grade protection. Cotton is a barrier to larger droplets and silk – or other fabrics with electrostatic properties – trap the remaining aerosol particles.
Lou Wilksch, Brunswick East

Blind support of Dan
The Age has shown its colours with its undying support for Dan Andrews. No stone is left unturned in its blind support of his handling of the pandemic. Little mention of the inconsistent messaging about masks, lockdowns; mishandling the quarantine procedures; claiming no responsibility for flagrant corruption in a party he leads and refusing to lead by example and offer a salary sacrifice.
Graham Haupt, Ivanhoe

Time for a break Dan
There has been a lot in the media about Dan Andrews’ handling of the pandemic. I have no complaints as to what he has done but I am worried about one thing. By my recollection he hasn’t had a day off for months. That might be good for his image as someone who is putting everything in to show leadership. But it is not OK from a health perspective. For your own sake Dan, take a few days off, I’m sure even Michael O’Brien will understand.
Glenn Murphy, Hampton Park

Time to disband SAS?
Is it time to disband the SAS? After the murder of two Somali men by members of the Canadian Airborne Regiment in 1993, the Canadian federal government disbanded the unit. The evidence is accumulating that the Australian SAS may have reached the same level of irresponsibility.
Adrian Tabor, Point Lonsdale

Minister stands by figures
Your article (‘‘Emails reveal warning over arts stimulus figures’’, 21/7) uncritically reports on the continuing attacks from the arts union, the MEAA against the Morrison government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs. Did I ask my department to provide quantitative estimates of the extent of support provided to the cultural and creative sector by JobKeeper and JobSeeker, before I publicly stated that the estimate of total support would be between $4 billion and $10 billion over six months? I certainly did.

You write that ‘‘the government has since stopped using these figures’’. Dead wrong. The government stands by them. The MEAA is excited that its FOI request turned up an email in which an official stated that appropriate data was not available. As is clear from other documents the MEAA obtained there are later emails from the Bureau of Communications and Arts Research (BCAR) within my department stating that based on its modelling JobKeeper, JobSeeker and related support could be worth up to $13 billion. (In other words, the estimate of $4 billion to $10 billion I have consistently used is conservative.)

The number of workers whose main industry of employment is in cultural and creative sectors is about 645,000. The economic contribution of this sector breakdown is valued at about $111.7 billion. The MEAA has consistently made factually inaccurate claims, including that most arts workers were not eligible for JobKeeper support – when in fact more than 90 per cent are eligible; JobKeeper has been vital in providing support across the cultural and creative sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The estimate I have consistently used of total support to the cultural and creative sector is based on advice from BCAR and the government stands by it.
Paul Fletcher, Federal Minister for the Arts

Less costly than hospital
I’m sure that Stuart Campbell (Letters, 22/7) would not mind paying the full cost of his hospital visit if he unfortunately catches COVID-19. After all, why should the government contribute to something that he brought on by not paying the price to protect himself and others?
Mark Schwerdt, Ormond

Distancing a priority
According to the government, both the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments have to be changed because they are creating wage and salary distortions that are disincentives for the unemployed to seek a job. But the only effective tools that can eliminate the coronavirus are social distancing and safe hygiene. Therefore, shouldn’t the government be offering more financial incentives for people to work from home and for the unemployed to be able to live above the poverty line, instead of being under pressure to search for work when social distancing should be our priority?
John Glazebrook, Terang

Tackle the decline
The quality of AFL games is declining at such a rate that it will soon be indistinguishable from rugby. A simple rule change will fix the interminable scrums. If a player has possession of the ball they can only be tackled by one opposition player. If the player in possession doesn’t immediately get rid of the ball legally it’s holding the ball. If more than one opposition player tackles, it’s a free to the player with the ball.
Jeff Langdon, Smythesdale

Virus blame game
Yet again the COVID-19 figures have come out and yet again it is the publics fault for, in this case, not staying at home after being tested. Perhaps if Daniel Andrews’ requirements had been well considered, firm, fair and unequivocal we wouldn’t be in this situation.
Simon Greenwood, Brighton




Thanks to obligatory mask-wearing, lipstick sales will plummet and eye make-up soar.
Wendy Weight, Sorrento

What a marketing coup – a new season of The Masked Singer kicks off at the same time as the introduction of the compulsory wearing of masks.
Peter Venn, East Bentleigh

Stuart Campbell (Letters, 22/7) argues that the government should provide him with free masks. I assume he receives his compulsory seatbelts for free too.
Peter O’Donoghue, Kensington

Sadly, the trio of Andrews, Sutton and Mikakos appear to be losing audience appeal. Maybe, Moe, Larry and Curly can be sought as replacements. They could not perform any worse.
Dennis Walker, North Melbourne

Who would have thought that my ears would do the heavy lifting during this crisis. Reading glasses, hearing aids and now masks!
Liz Buick, Ventnor

Some months away, there will be a Senate seat up for grabs. I see a job opportunity for those applying four times a month for work.
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

So jails are in lockdown because a prison officer tested positive. Why were their doors unlocked?
Ray Pilbeam, Canterbury

Our elected representatives should be transferred to a JobShirker program to pay them a living wage to cover the period when parliament is not sitting – $40 a day should do the trick.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

Owning a pub in the 1990s, we never encountered hostility when our patrons were told they would not be served or allowed in the hotel if they were smoking. The pseudo libertarians among us need to follow the mask-wearing rule or stay home.
Mary Mandanici, West Preston

Melbourne City Council identifying 100 exceptional trees is the very model of public policy humbug. If the trees in Yarra Park were exceptional, their root zones would not be being used as car parking.
Christopher Deakin, Northcote

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