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‘Plausible deniability’ threatens our democracy

The uber-smart political operatives of “the Minister’s office”, hand-picked for their loyalty, are unelected and, for the most part, anonymous. Back in the day when ministerial accountability was seen as important, a small office staff had useful functions in arranging itineraries and interviews and deflecting the trivial. We have allowed this to evolve so that the primary role of a much larger staff is to ensure “plausible deniability”. We must not let them get away with it.
Peter Sheehan, Camberwell

When the message is ’let’s not talk about this’

Those who volunteer for high office must, at the very least, be capable of running their personal offices and must accept the associated “mutual obligations”, just like those who are on JobSeeker. Saying “I was not told” is not good enough. The implications are very poor staff selection or intimating to staff that some things are better left unsaid.
Gerry O’Reilly, Camberwell

Morrison should be furious that he was not told

Within any organisation, the responsibility for decisions and outcomes stops at the top. Peter Dutton has added his name to the list of people, in and out of Cabinet, who knew about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins before our Prime Minister did. Dutton says he decided it was an operational matter for the police. (Did he really think the investigation could be undertaken without Scott Morrison knowing about it?)

Even if we accept, however implausible, that this is correct, should we as a nation tolerate leadership that is compromised by the censorship of others? If our Prime Minister does not know, how can he be accountable and tackle the problems at hand? Is he such a soft leader that he would not know what to do with the information? He should be furious that he was not told about something this important: an alleged rape and significant breach of parliamentary security.
Shelley Rowlands, Hawthorn

Not knowing: a convenient excuse for leaders

David Crowe (Opinion, 26/2), anyone who has worked close to government knows that ministers do not want to know or be told of things that might lead to their having to defend themselves. It allows them to ask “why wasn’t I told?” when the stuff hits the fan.
Ian Symons, Drouin

Seeking ways to protect parliamentary staff

Could federal Labour and the Greens please let us know, in concrete terms, what they are going to do to change the MOPs (Members of Parliament) Act to ensure a decent workplace for people employed in our Parliament? I would have thought the bare minimum would include a human resources department. Surely they can get the few extra votes needed on this issue to effect positive change.
Jenny Callaghan, Hawthorn

How to report an alleged crime, for beginners

It is extraordinary that the Australian Federal Police needed to tell politicians they must report allegations of sexual assault and other criminal matters without delay (The Age, 25/2). The evidence of recent weeks would suggest some do not know this. They should resign as they are not fit to represent us.
Ross Hudson, Mount Martha

Keeping mum: what else is new with Dutton?

Considering his usual response to probing questions is “no comment”, there is nothing out of character about Peter Dutton not informing Scott Morrison about the alleged rape in Parliament House.
Barrie Bales, Woorinen North

THE FORUM

Onus on the PM to act

I watched Parliament sit this week. The two questions that I wanted asked were: “Will the Prime Minister publicly implore all Parliament House staff who are aware of, or have experienced, an assault or criminal behaviour, come forth and report it?“

And “will he publicly assure them that their jobs and careers will not be negatively affected by their actions?” They are simple questions, the answers or non-answers to which will cut to the chase of forcing behavioural change in our Parliament.
Lawrence Bugeja, Clifton Springs

Pull up your socks, ALP

Labor must choose a new leader, preferably Jim Chalmers or Tanya Plibersek, so that the incumbent can become established. Anthony Albanese is getting absolutely no traction despite the government’s mishandling of many issues.
Judith McNaughtan, Mont Albert

The forgotten family

Politicians who talk about respect for women and fixing culture have no credibility while they allow two young, innocent children to languish in detention on Christmas Island. To respect any woman, first respect her child.
Anita White, Kew

Repay the taxpayers

So Harvey Norman founder Gerry Harvey says he will not pay back the $6 million JobKeeper subsidy his business received from the government despite the retailer more than doubling its sales and profit for the first half of the year (The Age, 26/2). While the $6 million may be inconsequential to him as he pockets his $80 million personal windfall, it illustrates how far Australian business has strayed from the country of a fair go. Pay it back, Gerry. It is called good corporate governance.
Dick Davies, North Warrandyte

The equity gap widens

With a pitiful increase being granted to the destitution-creating JobSeeker allowance, and tens of millions of dollars being paid as bonuses and dividends by corporations that received JobKeeper, the Coalition government has gone way beyond John Howard’s middle-class welfare. Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have allowed the COVID-19 stimulus to enable the reverse Robin Hood.
Matthew Kelly, Upwey

Many sacrificed so much

After more than 11 months of little or no work, I was delighted to see The Age highlighting the huge sacrifices made by thousands of Victorians.

There has been constant praise heaped on front-line workers, teachers, home-schooling parents, etc., from politicians, advertisers and bus shelters, but the COVID-19 under-employed and unemployed have largely been reduced to statistics and eye-watering budget lines.

I have felt invisible and abandoned behind those numbers. It is time for all levels of government and members of society to recognise the fact that thousands of us have sacrificed our financial security, careers and mental health to keep everyone safe.
Elizabeth Long, Collingwood

Call it a violation

There has been discussion this week about the “damage” to an Aboriginal site by Fortescue Metals. This word reflects, and supports, Australia’s apathy to First Nations culture. If it were a site of white culture, for example a Christian graveyard, it is very unlikely the word “damage” would be used.
Officials from WA’s Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage are investigating whether the clearing was in violation of the Aboriginal Heritage Act (The Age, 26/2). To my mind, “violation” is more appropriate, since this covers both the transgression against cultural norms and disregard of policy and process.
Juliet McEachran, Beaumaris

Ensure battery recycling

While I applaud the proposed grid battery near Geelong – “Big battery on the way in push for renewables” (The Age, 26/2) – it will last only 4000 cycles, or 11years. After that it will join all the other lithium-ion batteries in a mountain of toxic landfill. World-wide this mountain will be 20million metric tonnes by 2030. If you thought a few tonnes of radioactive rods from nuclear power were a problem, wait until you get a toxic battery dump in your backyard. World-wide there is less than 5per cent of lithium-ion battery recycling, and most of that is experimental.

If we as a country are to go down the grid battery, electric vehicles and portable power tool path, then we need to pay a tax levied on every lithium-ion battery purchased, and that money goes exclusively to make that battery recycling commercially viable and environmentally acceptable.
John Dusting, Mornington

Ineffective training

I find it difficult to comprehend that a qualified doctor administered a double dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 to two patients. One reason given was “human error”, while another was that he had not completed the online training.

However, I should not be surprised as there are many disciplines which common sense would tell one cannot be properly taught online – they are hands-on procedures, injections being one of them.
In the past, injection technique and the use of multi-dose vials (or where one had to administer only half of the medication prescribed from a vial) were carefully monitored and recorded in writing as having been given, with the remainder amount discarded. This was signed by two people.
Yvonne Lenders, Frankston South

Pay back our money

It was interesting to read “Still chasing refund for trip to nowhere”, including about tour company Scenic (The Age, 25/2).

Like Fiona and Greg Mills, we are also still waiting for our large costs to be refunded. Scenic requested full payment well before the start of the trip, but our two cruises were cancelled.
We asked for refunds but Scenic refused and offered credit to be used before December 2022. The cruises have not been provided, and both our circumstances and travel options have altered.

This is a considerable amount of money which rightly belongs to us. No service has been provided, and we cannot understand why the full refund has not been returned to us.
Sally Petty, Eltham

Defrauding the voters

Janice Keynton – “MPs who put the party first” (Letters, 26/2) – when a person stands as an endorsed party candidate, voters expect that the elected member will vote in accordance with that party’s policies. If, once elected, the member quits their party and votes as an independent, they have effectively defrauded those who elected them. By all means quit, but face a byelection for the seat as an independent, and pay the costs of it. That is the least that democracy is owed.
Geoff Schmidt, Richmond

Back to the future, again

Throughout the ’70s, there was much discussion about how the urban sprawl would be managed. A “popular” concept was the establishment of satellite cities in places such as Melton and Dandenong to reduce pressure on the CBD and suburbia. This sprawl has now consumed these areas. Then prior to the pandemic and lockdown, the discussion on strategies to address congestion in the CBD included a congestion tax.

Now there is a call for people to return to the CBD, seemingly without any thought about how to ensure we do not return to the problems we had pre-COVID.

With reports of house prices in regional towns increasing and supply decreasing, it appears some Melburnians are voting with their feet. In the words of Joni Mitchell, “Don’t it always seem to go; That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise, put up a parking lot”.
Michael Cowan, Wheelers Hill

Unworthy of The Age

Are the tasteless and cruel comments regarding Tiger Woods’ car accident (Letters, 26/2) the new accepted standard? He was seriously injured and sheriff’s deputy Carlos Gonzales said he was “fortunate to come out of this alive” (The Age, 25/2). The comments were a disappointment for this reader.
Alan Fancourt, Werribee

AND ANOTHER THING

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Politics

Scott “Sergeant Schultz” Morrison: “I know nothing.“
Alex Renn, Corio

Is the Minister for Women missing in action?
Alan West, Research

Why does Peter Dutton have three press secretaries? Has their productivity justified their salaries?
Andrew Moloney, Frankston

That the AFP needs to remind MPs they must report crimes shows they believe themselves above the law, unlike their constituents.
Mike Francis, Fitzroy

Elections and leaders

When Craig Kelly loses his seat at the election, Scott Morrison could make him the chief scientist.
Eric Butcher, Eltham

Climate change will be a decisive issue and it will undo Morrison and his government. As it should.
Tony Delaney, Warrnambool

We can save the cost of an election. Peter Dutton is acting as PM already.
Harriet Farnaby, Geelong West

If Tony Abbott were the opposition leader at the moment, he would be having a ball.
John Russell, Bonbeach

Michael O’Brien and the Labor government agree on one matter – he’s the best leader for the state Liberals.
Richard Hughes, Woodend

Guy or O’Brien? Scylla or Charybdis? Rock or hard place?
Edward Brentnall, Southbank

Furthermore

Victoria has the raw materials, know-how and free, natural fuel in spades but we go to France to buy our big battery (26/2). Zut alors.
Carl Harman, Warburton

Australia, the land of ″⁣I’m all right Jack″⁣.
Carol McCammon, Coburg

Another mining bungle on a cultural heritage site (26/2), this time by Fortescue Metals. The industry is driven by money and arrogance.
Lesley Hoatson, Kensington

The evidence mounts, year by year, about the damage caused by concussion on AFL players. When will headgear be compulsory?
John Walsh, Watsonia

Note from the Editor

The Age’s editor, Gay Alcorn, writes an exclusive newsletter for subscribers on the week’s most important stories and issues. Sign up here to receive it every Friday.

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