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I dread living through Thatcherism again

As education minister, Thatcher savaged the very system that had nurtured her, introducing the factory system of comprehensive schools. As prime minister, she mounted a vigorous campaign against the poorer members of society, particularly the unionised sectors (factory workers, miners and transport workers). The social costs in the Midlands, the north, Wales and Scotland were huge, and still affect the current generation there.

Under her leadership, the welfare system was severely reduced and the gap between the rich and poor accelerated. And she won her second election by mounting a war in which hundreds of British and Argentinian personnel died.

However I have one thing to thank Margaret Thatcher for. My wife and I, watching the news showing the number of businesses shutting and jobs lost in a week, decided to bring our teenage children to Australia. We shudder at the thought that our Treasurer is taking her policies as a model for post-coronavirus rebuilding.
Peter Evans, Bentleigh East

Our country needs a return to social collectivism

Josh Frydenberg’s channelling of Margaret Thatcher might be helpful if he could use it to emulate her drive and intellect, but certainly not her policies. The problems she faced in the 1980s were completely different, indeed some the very opposite, to the challenges of today. She had to deal with high inflation, uncontrolled wage growth, powerful militant unions and inefficient nationalised industries. We have negative inflation, flat wages, a voiceless workforce and huge, unfettered, private companies with unmerited political sway. We need massive government intervention and a return to social collectivism. Sorry,Treasurer, that’s a bit more Marx than Maggie.
Paul Mann, Dingley Village

A failure of policies in almost every respect

Josh Frydenberg and Tom Switzer https://www.theage.com.au/national/is-josh-frydenberg-so-wrong-to-invoke-thatcher-and-reagan-20200729-p55gm8.html(Comment, 31/7) are clearly blinded by ideology. Forty years after the Reagan and Thatcher ‘‘experiment’’ in free market, trickle-down economics, the results are clear. Both the United States and the United Kingdom are dysfunctional societies in rapid decline, with grossly unequal income distributions, gutted manufacturing sectors and hollowed-out civil services and, in the case of the US, an atrocious and ineffective health system and gigantic public debt.

Fifty years ago the US could mount manned missions to the moon, now it cannot mount a coherent or sane response to a global health emergency. The policies of Reagan and Thatcher failed in almost every respect, and we would be very stupid to follow their lead.
Peter Hogg, North Melbourne

Post-pandemic, let’s take a new approach

Ross Gittins https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/thatcher-and-reagan-he-must-be-joshing-us-20200728-p55g4n.html(Opinion, 29/7) points out some of the policy choices, and their disastrous results, made as a result of the adherence to the policies of Reagan and Thatcher. The post-pandemic period would seem to offer a golden opportunity for a fundamental evaluation of the nexus between society and economy preferred by Australians.
Marcia Roche, Mill Park

Thatcher made tough decisions and won elections

Perhaps Ross Gittins could go back and look at the UK economy
pre-Margaret Thatcher and it might explain why she took (with electoral success, l might add) the measures she did. Paul Keating said it was ‘‘the recession we had to have’’ and most economists of Ross Gittins’ ilk fell at his feet.
Murray Horne, Cressy

THE FORUM

John’s spirit lives on

A beautiful story to lighten our hearts in these awful times: the family of John Clarke, comedian, satirist, actor and nature lover, has paid tribute to his memory by donating land on Phillip Island for flora and fauna conservation https://www.theage.com.au/environment/conservation/heart-s-desire-family-of-comedian-john-clarke-make-conservation-gift-20200729-p55gk2.html(The Age, 30/7), a place to learn and enjoy. A very fitting legacy.
Mary Cole, Richmond

A truly wonderful gift

The news that John Clarke’s family has donated a globally significant property on Phillip Island to the conservation group Trust for Nature, on his 72nd birthday, is a bright spot in a currently very dark world. Thank you to his widow, Helen McDonald. I am sure he would approve of this fantastic birthday present. We miss you and your wry humour, John, and wish there were more like you.
Ron Hayton, Beaumaris

Rap over the knuckles

Magistrate Cathy Lamble, when sentencing three police officers who had been called to a property to do a mental health check on a disabled man, said she was horrified by the images of them brutally restraining the defenceless manhttps://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/three-police-who-assaulted-disability-pensioner-spared-jail-20200729-p55gh7.html (The Age, 30/7).

I am horrified by her very lenient sentencing, consisting of $1000 and $3000 fines. The officers also received an adjourned undertaking for 12 months. How will the culture of police brutality ever change when the consequences of their excessive actions are so slight?
Claire Hogan, Northcote

Bring the family home

Regarding ‘‘Tamil asylum seeker mother flown back to Christmas Island without notice, supporters say’’ (The Age, 30/7). https://www.theage.com.au/national/tamil-asylum-seeker-mother-flown-back-to-christmas-island-without-notice-supporters-say-20200729-p55go0.htmlAside from the inhumanity dished out to this pitiable family, there has been an appalling waste of money and resources to hold them at Christmas Island when Biloela in Queensland is happy to allow them to make their home there.
The awfulness and pettiness of the government’s contribution to this family’s plight is exposed at a time when we are encouraged to pull together and support each other. The government must allow this family to contribute to the best of what Australia can be, and let them come home.
Jackie Smith, Collingwood

Payne’s art of diplomacy

Foreign Minister Marise Payne achieved a perfectly pitched response to the worrying sabre rattling of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Drifting into a new Cold War is the last thing this sick world needs, especially when it is so clearly driven by the needs of a President who faces political oblivion in the coming election. War, cold or otherwise, is the failure of diplomacy. Payne gets this.
Bill Cleveland, Kew

An enforced cold war

The Age says, among other things, that ‘‘unlike Mike Pompeo, Australia has no interest in a new Cold War’’ https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/marise-payne-keeping-a-healthy-distance-from-trump-on-china-20200729-p55gqt.html(Editorial, 30/7). This is sticking our head in the sand. The fact is China is thrusting one upon us whether we like it or not.
Russell Brims, East Bentleigh

Watch out, Australia

One fine day, Australia is going to be surprised by a Chinese fleet promenading through the Bass Strait Islands then slowly ambling up our east coast – just outside our 12 mile limit – before sightseeing through the Great Barrier Reef and pirouetting through the Torres Strait islands on its way home. To the screams of outrage from government and commentators alike will come the calm reply: ‘‘It’s OK. mate. The People’s Liberation Army Navy is just undertaking one of those freedom of navigation exercises you like doing up our way. And have a nice day.’’
John Quinn, Avoca

History of cost cutting

I wait with bated breath for the state opposition’s confected outrage regarding the revelation that the public health sector is severely stressed due to inadequate funding (The Age, 30/7). https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/top-bureaucrats-warned-a-year-ago-victoria-s-key-public-health-team-was-starved-of-money-and-staff-20200729-p55ggh.htmlWhilst working as a registered nurse in public health, under former Liberal health minister David Davis, I watched the sector being demolished and staff pared down to the bone.
This was in pursuit of the obsession with culling the number of public service employees, no matter how essential their roles. Advice regarding the risks to public health was ignored in pursuit of short-term savings. The public should keep in mind the devastation wreaked on the public health sector by the previous Coalition government when the political point scoring begins.
Margaret McMullan, Box Hill

We must close all schools

On Wednesday more than 80 schools were closed in Victoria after being linked with recent positive cases of coronavirus https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/closed-schools-left-in-limbo-as-covid-19-contact-tracing-backlog-grows-20200729-p55glf.html(The Age, 30/7). Many have been closed for well over a week and some have been closed multiple times.

This disruption to schooling for these students is undoubtedly greater than if they were in remote learning. The worry and fear experienced by teachers and students is growing and yet nothing is being done about it. Do we need an aged care-style crisis to emerge before the government will act? It needs to heed the cries of educators who are working in unsafe, anxiety-ridden environments and close all schools. Teachers and students need to return to remote teaching and learning immediately.
Kate Crossley, Brunswick

Civic duty to self-isolate

Like most people I am sick of the coronavirus. What I am more sick of is hearing about people who have been tested for it, or even found to be positive, and who are not self-isolating. These selfish people should be placed in hotel lockdown and made to pay for it as well as being hit with a heavy fine. When will they realise that it is not all about them?
Ross Beale, Moonee Ponds

Support our state’s battle

Ross Nielsen (Letters, 30/7) displays a weird sort of ‘‘loyalty and pride’’ by throwing ill-directed stones across the Tasman whilst we Victorians (and governments) continue our battle to get on top of the pandemic.
Maurie Keenan, Balaclava

Issue of communication

Is enough being done to communicate the vital messages about coronavirus, in their primary languages, to multinational workers in aged care facilities? When I placed my late husband in aged care, the toughest adjustment for me was communication.

In this facility, roughly 98per cent of the care staff spoke English as a second language. Most often, when a staff member rang me to speak about my husband, I could not understand them. This was upsetting for me as well as frustrating for them.

Can carers understand sufficiently the daily messages broadcast via the media? What effective multilingual communication is being made available to these workers either publicly, or within their workplaces?
Evelyn Cronk, Brighton

Overdue for scrutiny

As a former aged care worker, I am cynical about the defensive posturing of the relevant politicians and peak age care body. The private sector is a business and aims to make a profit but the industry has attracted players because of the unconscionable high profits to be made at the taxpayer and residents’ expense.

I witnessed an area manager instruct a physiotherapist to increase the level of all residents’ physical requirements and disabilities, thus enabling more government support dollars. Anyone in the industry could give such examples.

Cost cutting and penny pinching impacts the residents who have paid dearly (often their homes) for unexpectedly niggardly treatment. The care staff are the other victims – minimally paid, casually employed and stretched to the limit, their willingness to go the extra yard for ‘‘their’’ residents gifts many hours of unpaid overtime. They have no voice and are dependent enough to rarely call out poor management behaviour.

A six-month notice of an accreditation virtually guarantees 44 ticked boxes. There is a lot of time to organise painting, carpeting and and new equipment, and drilling staff on how to react to the accreditors and present paperwork in the ‘‘new look’’ facility. Would the Aged Care Minister care to comment on why accreditation teams should not be allowed access without notice?
Roger Holdway, Sorrento

Where money is needed

The coronavirus crisis has shown that the Andrews and Morrison governments need to invest more in health care than on infrastructure such as freeways.
David Beardsell and Fiona Matthews, Balwyn North

Ensuring our safety

It was very upsetting to read Kristy Meiselbach’s story about how she was struck by a car, leaving her with a bulging disc in her back and a serious hip injury – ‘‘Kristy’s life was taking off. Now she’s afraid to cross the road’’ https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/kristy-s-life-was-taking-off-now-she-s-afraid-to-cross-the-road-alone-20200729-p55gl9.html(The Age, 30/7). As a mother living in an area with a high number of pedestrian fatalities, it is an issue very much on my mind.

Too often I witness and experience drivers not adhering to the rules regarding children’s crossings and speeding near schools. Also, sadly, in my area the highest amount of pedestrian accidents includes the elderly.

It isn’t as simple as, or fair, to be putting the onus only on pedestrians. It is time councils and the government implemented effective traffic calming measures and education campaigns so drivers are more mindful. Especially as we know the future to a healthier population and planet is to encourage children and adults to be more active, such as taking to the streets and walking.
Anna den Hartog, Coburg

Unfair victim blaming

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud makes a cheap jibe about unemployed people not being motivated ‘‘to get up off the couch’’ to go fruit-picking in distant places. He recites ideological stereotypes and victim blaming that hint at a ‘‘snap back’’ to punitively low benefits for the undeserving poor. Anyway, isn’t staying at home now our vital national duty?
|Rod Duncan, East Brunswick

AND ANOTHER THING

Illustration: Matt Golding

Illustration: Matt GoldingCredit:

Coronavirus

A year ago, who would have believed that masked, vegetarian walkers with children learning at home could be a way forward?
Wendy Knight, Little River

Ross Nielsen (29/7) blames the Andrews government but the fault lies with stupid Victorians who don’t follow the guidelines.
Toni Brady, Ballarat

To allow unsupervised, or any, exercise whilst isolated is insane. It’s only two weeks. Stay at home.
Margaret McNiel, Malvern

How many older Australians now think that ‘‘stay in your own home’’ is more vital than ‘‘stay at home’’?
Glenda Johnston, Queenscliff

Yes, Meredith James (29/7), aged care has become a corporate industry. It says so much about what’s wrong in our country.
Barry Buskens, Beaumaris

How much of the funding for Manus and Nauru was taken from the aged care budget?
Stephen Baldwin, Frankston

Politics

We’re allowing the US military to establish fuel reserves in Darwin, but we sold its port to the Chinese. Advance Australia Confused.
Graham Cadd, Dromana

Australia and the US will expand their joint training exercises in Darwin. Do they have approval from China?
Greg Lee, Red Hill

Howard and Costello emulated Thatcher’s privatisation binge and there’s nothing left, Josh. You could still close the coalmines.
Bill King, Camberwell

Morrison says Clive Palmer’s court case to reopen the WA border is ‘‘highly likely’’ to succeed. Can he spell ‘‘separation of powers’’?
Julie Carrick, Leopold

The denial of a visa to Ghulam Farooq Rahe is cruelty beyond belief. Shame, Peter Dutton.
Ewa Haire, Moonee Ponds

Furthermore

There isn’t a metallurgist in the world who would toughen steel by ‘‘annealing’’ it (Crossword, 29/7).
Ian Cayzer, Frankston

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