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The model was obsolete when the project began

The user pays for a high-speed plan but the connection is free. Eventually, with only a relative handful of exceptions, every Australian home and business will also ‘‘upgrade’’ to a fibre connection because the alternative is for the country to be left behind, forever saddled with the Coalition’s NBN model that was already obsolete when its roll-out started. It should have been done properly in the first place. The Coalition, with its toxic politics, has done a great disservice to the Australian people.
Michael Slocum, Ascot Vale

So many have experienced ‘tip of the NBN iceberg’

While NBN chief executive Stephen Rue received a $1.7 million salary package in 2019 and an extra $828,000 in short-term incentives, and is poised to get another bonus – ‘‘Broadband execs may still pocket bonuses’’ (The Age, 23/9) – poorly trained subcontractors fail to fix NBN faults.

My house was connected to the NBN by fibre-to-the-curb, then by the existing copper telephone wire. The result was persistent internet drop-outs and varying speeds. At worst, a 100 Mbps connection achieved only 0.7 Mbps download. This was unusable for vide-conferencing, despite its importance during the lockdown.

My internet service provider placed numerous requests to the NBN to have this problem resolved. Eight different NBN sub-contractors visited and all said they had fixed the problem, only to have it recur. None of the subcontractors had any knowledge of what the others had done.

My internet service provider finally managed to get a senior NBN engineer to visit. He said he had not bothered to read the reports of the previous sub-contractors as they were usually inaccurate. He found a faulty distribution point unit that connected fibre to the old copper wire telephone cable. After replacing this, all problems were resolved. He agreed the NBN response was appalling but said my experience with sub-contractors was merely the tip of the NBN problem iceberg.
Ken Harvey, Hawthorn

Our money has been wasted on an inferior system

About time. The Coalition has finally admitted that Labor’s policy of fibre-to-the-home is by far the better policy. Australian taxpayers have wasted billions of dollars (and time) on what we all know is a second-rate system. Yet the Coalition still maintains it is the better money manager.
Raelee Hunter, Ocean Grove

NBN policy failure being repeated with energy plan

The Coalition government has finally come to the realisation that there are uses for a fast NBN other than downloading illegal movies, music and porn. So it has announced billions of dollars to upgrade more of the NBN to fibre-to-the-home. It seems that the half-baked, multi-technology mix relying on an antiquated copper network is too costly to maintain, provides inadequate speed and is unreliable.

Yet despite this case study in incompetence, the government is now using the same template for its energy policy. If the aim is to reduce global warming emissions, there are clearly superior technologies in wind and solar available at the same or less cost than fossil fuel alternatives. But no, much better to deploy a costly, transition policy relying on legacy technology and the mythical carbon capture boondoggle.

In a few years we will find ourselves further behind in the global movement to renewable energy and our energy costs will be higher. We will have even more stranded assets and an urgent need to fix the mess. Once again, a dishonest, inadequate policy formed by politics and vested interests rather than science will mean billions spent for unsatisfactory outcomes.
Graeme Henchel, Yarra Glen

THE FORUM

The high cost of a family

It comes as no surprise to me that the fertility rate has fallen (The Age, 22/9). My four children aged 35, 33, 31 and 28, all with jobs, have so far not been able to achieve the security required to begin families, and biological clocks are ticking.

Josh Frydenberg’s comment in July that the best way to boost fertility was to make people more confident about the nation’s future is generic, and Kristina Keneally is right to sound the alarm that specific policies are required to encourage more births.

In my view, the reasons for the low fertility rate for working class and lower-middle class families is insecure work and low wages, especially in relation to high house prices. On a personal level, the absence of grandchildren has led to feelings of sadness. I suspect many others share this dispiriting situation.
Lauren Basil, Footscray

Repairing our society

Ross Gittins (Opinion, 23/9) tells us that economists are beginning to acknowledge that their politically influential views on neoliberalism have been seriously damaging to society as a whole. It now seems appropriate they should help us repair society by developing and promoting ideas on how to establish an economy which is not dependent upon continuing population growth, competition and ever-increasing consumption.

We need an economy which aims for, and maintains, an ongoing equilibrium, and which sustains us all decently and at a reasonable level of equality. How else can we expect to achieve a peaceful society, preserve the planet and save ourselves from long-term extinction?
Kaye Cole, Princes Hill

Uniting our communities

Ross Gittins’ piece reminded me of two things I read recently. One was the need for countries to budget for the ‘‘wellbeing of communities’’, which some enlightened countries are already putting into effect. The other was an African proverb: ‘‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’’.
Erik Vahl Meyer, Geelong

The ‘benefits’ of cash

Janine Perks says, ‘‘A friend who lives in regional Victoria, where small businesses are still operating, tells me that she has twice been asked recently to pay in cash in order to avoid eftpos fees’’ (Letters, 22/9). I may be an old cynic but I wonder if these requests are a way of getting cash payments in order to hide ‘‘under the counter’’ business income.
Margaret Rogers, Mount Eliza

Who gave final approval?

I cannot believe it is so hard to identify the person who authorised the use of private security providers for the quarantine hotels in Victoria. Is the inquiry being given the run-around? Why not ask the person who signed the contracts? They, surely, can clarify upon whose direction they were acting. Alternatively, read the minutes of meetings which considered the issue. There is a paper trail, isn’t there?
Ross Williams, Glen Waverley

Jogging their memories

The hotel quarantine inquiry is revealing a large number of politicians with memory problems. A one-month stay in the memory support unit of a residential aged care facility could prove to be very beneficial, for more than one reason.
John Schlank, Geelong West

Harsh reality of the virus

Yesterday I heard that long-term complications of COVID-19 may include Parkinson’s disease. Having battled this as a relatively young man, I suggest that the protesters who do not believe COVID–19 is real could be taken on a tour of the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s intensive care unit by someone with Parkinson’s on their walker. (I’m sorry to infringe on the protesters’ rights but they would have to wear masks.) That way they could see for themselves the acute and coming attractions.
Dr Steven Sommer, Highton

The joys of lockdown

During the lockdown, I have discovered some surprising things. At the tender age of 81, I have found my feet are further from my hands than they used to be. I have also decided that late-night TV is more interesting than lunch-time TV. My telephone bill has increased but, best of all, I have beautiful neighbours who enjoy baking and produce yummy platefuls of exciting slices and cakes which they share with me and my husband. Could the lockdown be extended for a bit longer?
Lesley Rule, Brighton East

A simple solution

Jacqui Smith longs for the day when the first thing she asks her husband each morning is not ‘‘How are the numbers today?’’ (Letters, 22/9). She should rise at 5:30am, watch the sunrise, have breakfast with her husband and three or so hours of conversation before the numbers come out.
Kevin Christensen, Maffra

Exceeding the parameters

University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell suggests that we need to consider quality of life issues in determining our ‘‘appetite’’ for disease and mortality from the coronavirus – ‘‘State faces life-and-death issue’’ (Sunday Age, 23/9). We need to open up and learn to live with the virus, within defined parameters, decided by our political leaders after full scientific discussion of the issues.

My question is: What happens when we reach or exceed those parameters? Who is going to tell the virus to stop? Do we just go back into lockdown again? Or do the parameters start expanding to accommodate whatever the current figures happen to be?
Helen Gardner, Caulfield South

Cost of the virus fight

In response to ‘‘‘Unethical to lower value of elders’’ (Comment, 23/9). Of course the elderly need more protection from the virus than the younger population. But we do not protect lives at all cost. We do not wrap cushions around every tree on a highway to prevent road deaths. Sensible discussion is needed about the cost of fighting the virus. By the way: I am 68 and retired.
Alex Czewinski, Dandenong North

Time for accountability

Another day, another rort. This time it involves land near Western Sydney Airport. The federal government forked out almost $30million for land owned by Leppington Pastoral Company in 2018, only for the Commonwealth to value the 12 hectares at just $3 million less than a year later (Age Online, 23/9). Whoever promises the Australian people a powerful, fully independent national integrity commission, along with a serious cap on political donations, will win the next election by a country mile.
Daniela Goldie, Camperdown

Poor Auntie pays the price

With the government spending 10 times more than it should have on the land for a second runway at Western Sydney Airport, it is obvious that it ran out of money to fund our ABC adequately.
Irene Zalstein, East Doncaster

Community housing

I agree with every point that Nick Dyrenfurth makes – ‘‘Raising the roof on rental stress’’ (Comment, 22/9). But why does he neglect state and federal investment in public housing as by far the most cost-efficient and productive way of supplying affordable housing?

It seems a ‘‘group-think’’ has entered Australian governments, peak housing bodies and now research centres where community housing – managed by private, non-profit housing associations – is the exclusive target of (minimal) government housing expenditure.

Community housing is legitimate and has a place in any city, but I know of no city in the world with an equitable housing system that does not have a significant stock of housing built by the city/state.
Dr Kate Shaw, school of geography, University of Melbourne

Aiming for a good society

We must be crazy. Billions of people are suffering and 200,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, but investors in the US stockmarket have more wealth than they did before the pandemic. Last week we celebrated an increase in the employment rate because the gig economy created more insecure jobs. COVID-19 was spread through insecure, low-paid workforces which lack safety nets and paid sick leave. People who had to work to survive. Something is very wrong. The economy and its measures are neither an indicator of, nor a road map to, a good society.
Bruce Campbell, Williamstown

So what else is new?

The Age can hardly be surprised by the ‘‘astonishing about-face’’ by Republican leaders over the timing of the selection of a new justice to the US Supreme Court (Editorial, 22/9). Politicians will always serve their own ends.
John Edwards, Mount Waverley

A very frustrating battle

Pivoting has become de rigueur for teachers. Now many of us face the tedious and frustrating machinations of the Victorian Institute of Teaching as we engage in the fruitless and thankless task of re-registering, using the clunkiest web-based process I have yet encountered. Three hours on hold before a hang up or five days to answer an email. Really? Is that all our $97 registration fee gets us? Oh, and there is a late fee if you miss the cut-off date.
Micky Hanharan, Balwyn North

Yes, it’s really your money

Oh happy day. I have just had a call from my car insurance company to tell me it owes me $50, plus interest, for a 2014 claim. No, it was not a scam and yes, I had to sit down while the information was repeated. Honesty exists in the most unexpected places.
Jane Ross, San Remo

If only I could have walked

Kudos to Australia Post. I sent two cards to Port Melbourne. They took 14 and 28 days respectively to arrive. If I had been allowed to travel further than five kilometres from my home, I could have strolled there in two hours.
Bruce Severns, Toorak

Media created the dislike

Greg Baum, Australia does not owe Marie-Jose Perec an apology for her treatment at the Sydney Olympics (Sport, 23/9). The media does. We in the public only came to dislike her because of what the media decided to tell us about her.
Mick Webster, Chiltern

AND ANOTHER THING


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Politics

If only NBN Co had followed Tony Windsor’s advice: Do it once. Do it right. Do it with fibre. So much money would have been saved.
Gretel Lamont, Aireys Inlet

It takes a certain logic to justify building a second-rate NBN because Australians didn’t know they wanted a better one.
Jenny Bone, Surrey Hills

There’s a tornado alert over Canberra. The Bureau of Meteorology puts it down to spin.
Martin Shaw, Mirboo North

Carbon capture and storage? Take a seat on the bench with the perpetual motion designers.
Kent Hansen, St Kilda

Coronavirus

Re Andrews’ Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill. The correct word is ‘‘ominous’’.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East

There’s been a disturbing outbreak of Alzheimer’s among bureaucrats and politicians.
Kym Levett, Spring Gully

What does it matter who chose the security guards? Is he/she going to be hanged, drawn and quartered?
Truda Olson, Ringwood East

No doubt CVs are being dusted off and appointments made with memory counsellors.
Shaun Lawrence, Richmond

Is anybody else as bored as me with Andrews’ daily, televised pantomime performance?
Dennis Walker, North Melbourne

Dan, solid, focused, is leading Victorians out of the pandemic wilderness. Grateful thanks.
Ken Hiew, Glen Waverley

Furthermore

Airports are haemorrhaging money (22/9). Now they know how I feel when I use their carparks.
Rob Martin, Oakleigh South

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s enlightened legacy will live on, long after Trump has faded from view.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

‘‘What’s wrong with the Pies?’’ (23/9). Try: Nathan Buckley.
Gary Oraniuk, Geelong West

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