Billions of dollars of expenditure wasted
New Zealand’s acceptance of Behrouz Boochani’s claim to refugee status makes me sad. Not for him, of course. No, I am sad because the Australian government has caused him (and others) an immense amount of suffering. And for what? If you look at it in purely dollar terms, according to the Refugee Council of Australia keeping asylum seekers offshore has cost more than a billion dollars a year. In the 2018-19 financial year, the cost to hold someone in detention in Australia was more than $350,000 a year. Can we hope to see the system of incarceration begin to fray further, with pressure mounting on the Morrison government to take up New Zealand’s offer to resettle ‘‘our’’ asylum seekers?
Fiona Colin, Malvern East
Grace and honour in the face of suffering
In the recent past, we watched New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern respond to disasters, massacres and pandemics with grace, honour, respect, humanity and strength. New Zealand recognised the validity of Behrouz Boochani’s asylum claim and granted him a visa. Ardern and New Zealand demonstrate repeatedly how a nation, a leader, a people can display strength wrapped in humanity.
Judy Bamberger, O’Connor, ACT
Unable to report violence
Congratulations to John Silvester (‘‘The scandal behind locked doors’’, 25/7) and the perceptive and compassionate comments by Dean McWhirter, the policeman who informed the article. It’s about 40 years since I escaped and this is the first time I’ve read something about family violence that has not been judgmental. McWhirter calls family violence the tragedy no one understands, yet he seems to understand a great deal including that the victim is often unable to report anything. Prompted by Silvester’s article, I have tried to imagine what lockdown world would have been like. There would have been no escape. No quiet moments, no normal moments. I used to crawl under the bed to catch lost sleep and pretend to be working if he came home. Only in lockdown, he would always be home. More alcohol, more abuse, more violence and no escape. Constant fear. Not a moment of freedom. How awful. Please, when you see it or hear it call the police. She doesn’t because she can’t. A visit or two from the police will often break the cycle. Your phone call may well reduce her terror and misery. It could help save a family. It could even save a life.
Diana Thurbon, Keysborough
Rights and responsibilities
The coronavirus spread in Victoria has clearly revealed some of what occurs when people put their ‘‘rights’’ ahead of responsibilities. This attitude is seen in people claiming it is their right to go where they please, and/or not to comply with directions aimed at limiting the virus spread. There is no thought for the care of others. To our detriment, this attitude is becoming more prevalent.
John Weymouth, Ringwood East
Worried about climate
I’m really worried about global warming. Global warming is more serious than people think, even with COVID-19 going on. Greenhouse gases are still forming a blanket of air pollution over the world, trapping the heat in. That heat is melting arctic habitat, causing water levels to rise. Populated land is sinking, homes are being lost. There are island refugees – unlucky people whose islands are sunken. We can help stop that. My idea is to make all cars electric, and petrol stations can all have solar panels on the roofs. Those solar panels can capture enough energy to charge the cars so we can basically make solar-powered cars, and people who work at petrol stations won’t lose their jobs.
Benjamin Hines, 10, Heathmont
Women’s sport MIA
For a while, it seemed as though the media was making a strong attempt to promote gender equality in sport. The sports section had a reasonable balance of articles on women’s and men’s sporting issues. This has been changing over the past few months. I’m not sure that there is any reason to blame COVID-19 for this. A recent online edition of The Age made no mention of women’s sport. One article, on the possibility of staging the 2021 Australian Open, could perhaps be seen to apply to both men and women. Why has there been this backwards step?
Jane Trimble, Airlie Beach, Qld
We are lucky that Josh Frydenberg is an admirer of Thatcher and Reagan and is looking to their models to see us through this looming recession. The US and Britain are coping so well unlike Germany. Really, what does it take for us to recognise a failed model that created such wide social divisions?
Roger Dunscombe, Richmond
So, Thatcher and Reagan are Treasurer Frydenberg’s inspiration. God help us. I think Josh should read the history of the impact of those leaders. Certainly, Thatcher stimulated Britain’s economy but at immense expense to the poor. Reagan’s economics were a disaster.
Barry Buskens, Beaumaris
A forbidden brand
‘‘Coon’’ as a cheese brand has now been cancelled due to ‘‘coon’’ being a racist slur against African Americans and, by extension, other ‘‘people of colour’’. Will this particular combination of letters now be a forbidden word in any usage? Others apart from Coon cheese inventor, Edward William Coon, have this vilified word as their surname.
Rather than banning a word deemed offensive, how about turning it into a defiant statement of identity. Words are given power when they are cancelled: the power of what is forbidden, of what dare not speak its name. Instead, a word can be appropriated by the group it seeks to denigrate, and those who would cause injury and hurt, can find their verbal weapon has been either neutralised, or erected as a strong shield against their assault.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
Have-nots who spend
John Lithgow (Letters, 26/7) asks what the critics of the proposed tax cuts don’t understand? What we don’t understand is why the government would prioritise spending on the haves (the taxpayers) who are just as likely to save their tax cuts as spend them, over the have-nots (those on benefits) who spend all the dollars that come their way. Leaving aside the issue of fairness, increasing benefits to the have-nots is far more effective in stimulating spending.
Linda Skinner, Mooroolbark
Life became complicated
The aged care crisis (Editorial, 25/7) is not a product of the pandemic, but has arisen acutely at this time, after years of federal government neglect and ineffective and underfunded action. In the 1940s and ’50s, it was common for grandma or grandpa to live with a daughter. But life became more complicated when women pursued careers outside the home, and medical know-how expanded exponentially, extending lifespans.
Aged care homes sprang up, mainly initiated by religious groups, benevolent societies and local municipalities. But with federal backing, and only light-touch oversight, companies saw easy profits and quickly became dominant players. The Howard government abolished mandatory staffing ratios. Staff training and salaries were minimal, and aged care became a lucrative industry.
Now with COVID-19, the chickens are coming home to roost. And who will care well for the ageing who are dying without dignity?
Neil Wilkinson, Mont Albert
Local council stimulus
To counter the downturn in employment during this pandemic, I propose job creation run by
local government, using Commonwealth money. Councils already have many ‘‘shovel ready’’ small projects they would like to complete but lack the finance to do so. We should encourage every council to prepare a list of works that could employ the unemployed in their area. Local governments would need at least one full-time employee to run the scheme and should have guidelines for KPI supplied by the federal government. A minimum wage for 20 hours’ work isn’t much above the dole, so a little extra money spent would result in a massive nationwide benefit. This, for many people, would replace the dole.
More people working means more money in the economy, leading to a faster recovery. This is a far better economic stimulus because not only do we get millions of hours of work to improve our nation, we get money directly to the lowest paid in our society.
Graham Allen, Mount Pleasant
Hard work and loyalty
Paying the price for a casualised workforce (Letters, 25/7). Quite the opposite, Mark Bennett. Too many times I have heard of young casual workers who, when offered the choice, have opted to remain as casual workers on a higher hourly rate, rather than the security of part-time (lower hourly rate with pro rata sick leave and annual leave). And all too quickly did our young casual workers realise that with the guaranteed $1500 JobKeeper allowance every fortnight, chasing extra shifts is silly and if you ring in sick a couple of hours before your shift, well, eh, you still get the $1500. Sorry, I’m with Ita Buttrose. Young casual shift workers have never had it so good and maybe a lesson in loyalty, resilience and good old-fashioned hard work wouldn’t go astray.
Tim Habben, Hawthorn
Pooled tests not new
The suggestion by Helen Kamil to pool patient’s samples for
COVID-19 testing (Letters, 25/7) is not a new idea. Pooling has been regularly used in laboratories here and overseas when mass testing of clinical material is required and a sensitive test method is available. But testing pools containing up to 64 samples as suggested runs the risk that individual samples with low levels of the virus will go undetected. My understanding is that Victorian laboratories are testing pools containing a maximum of four patient samples. This greatly reduces the possibility that COVID-19-positive samples will be missed.
When community transmission rates are increasing, there is an increased likelihood that many pools will yield a positive result. This necessitates the retesting of every sample in these pools to determine those contributing to this result. When pool sizes are large (32 or more), the likelihood of a positive result increases, with the consequence that the turnaround time for individual patient’s test results also increases. This comes at a time when contact tracing of infected individuals is critical.
Dr Chris Birch, Surrey Hills
A special kind of care
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Aged care does require ‘‘a special kind of person’’, even heroic, as stated by Gail Greatorex (Letters, 25/7). However, staff with Certificate III qualifications can’t deliver good quality care, and will have no hope of managing
COVID-19 infection control if they lack the skills and knowledge essential for caring for elderly people with complex conditions. Not only do they need more than ‘‘adequate’’ staffing ratios, these staff also need greatly improved education plus close supervision and guidance from registered nurses and doctors with geriatric and infection-control training.
Sophie Cuttriss, Inverloch
AND ANOTHER THING …
Perhaps we could adopt the Japanese custom of a curt nod or a slight bow to acknowledge each other. The wearing of masks is considered a common courtesy in Japan.
Dee McLarty, Eagle Point
Had COVID-19 test at 10am on Thursday. Negative result notice by text at 11.36am on Saturday. Happy with the speed and the result.
David Allen, Bayswater North
Great news for anyone who doesn’t like wearing a mask. Just dangle it around your neck, and as long as you sip a takeaway coffee or puff on a ciggie, you and others will be protected. Apparently.
Mark Lewis, Ascot Vale
As the virus spreads through aged care, authorities must monitor disability accommodation, where good hygiene and social distancing are difficult to implement.
Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick
I view with suspicion anything Steve Bannon does. He’s the man who delivered Trump the presidency.
Linelle Gibson, Williamstown
Since it appears that Trump was only joking when he put his hand up for the presidency (The Sunday Age, 26/7), it now appears the joke’s on those who voted for him.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East
Gore Vidal noted he was born in the US and after 9/11 lived in Bush’s ‘‘Homeland’’. Judging by Federal Police activity in Portland, he fortunately didn’t live long enough to experience Trump’s Fatherland.
Moray Byrne, Edithvale
John Lithgow (Letters, 26/7) supports tax cuts as they will boost the economy. Logically then we should abolish all taxes. Oh but wait – we need some taxes to pay our politicians.
Dave Torr, Werribee
Memo Alastair Clarkson: Nobody likes a poor loser, so suck it up and soldier on.
John Paine, Kew East
Our ABC is the ‘‘ugly duckling’’ to our government. Maybe now they realise it’s really the (Norman) swan.
Myra Fisher, Brighton East
To submit a letter to The Age, email email@example.com. Please include your home address and telephone number.