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Aiming for rejuvenation of mental health services

We must act to avoid more tragic deaths

Brian McKittrick, my heart breaks for you and the enormous, unnecessary loss of your sons. It is time we all stopped hoping things will improve with the mental health system and started “actioning” before we lose more valued people.
Robyn Stonehouse, Camberwell

We’re paying the price of decades of cutbacks

Two more reports from two more royal commission were released this week: on aged care in Australia and one on mental health in Victoria. Whilst much research and canvassing of first-hand evidence has gone into these reports, do they contain anything that was not already known? And have not the advocates for better care and support been telling us what needs to be done: more government money in aged care, better training for workers, and more institutional and personal support for mental health sufferers.

The underlying problem pertaining to both areas is the severe cutback in government expenditure over the past three decades, the privatisation of the aged care sector in the interests of profit, the deregulation of the economy and the lessening of government activity. Governments must get back into the game of looking after the most vulnerable, and stop envisioning society as a corporation where the fittest survive.
Greg Bailey, St Andrews

We will all age – and may need help one day

Thank you, Ross Gittins for your insightful article on how to pay for improved aged care (Opinion, 3/3). We taxpayers have an obligation to our needy elderly to ensure safe and good quality care. They have made their contributions to society over many decades and deserve our gratitude. An increase of 1per cent to our tax bill is warranted. Let us hope this increase receives bipartisan support in Parliament. As we age, many of us may find we are in need of this support.
Rob Evans, Glen Iris

THE FORUM

The more things change

The year: 1973. The place: Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps School in Sydney. The event: the official address (by a high-ranking female) to newly graduated soldiers in front of their proud parents and families. As a brand new soldier and innocent 17-year-old, I, and my fellow graduates, were dumb-founded when the phrase “soldiers’ sleeping bags” was included in reference to us.
I vividly remember these words but I can no longer clarify whether we were doomed to become (male) soldier’s sleeping bags, or whether we should work to avoid becoming one.

Whatever the context, the fact it was included – in front of parents already concerned what the future might hold for young girls in the army – by a person tasked with providing an official welcome was bizarre. While I continued to experience bizarre events during 22 years of full-time army service, I note that not much has changed in the 26 years since I left it – “Anger at ADF chief’s “prey” warning to new recruits” (The Age, 4/3).
Christine Schulz, Lara

No price rise? Seriously?

As we have seen too often, the private sector is offered a deal to administer a government entity – in this case, a partly privatised VicRoads registry (The Age, 5/3) – and there is already uncertainty as to whether fees will rise (The Age, 5/3). Pardon me while I stifle a laugh.

When was the last time a private company engaged with government and then maintained the price levels of services? I would be happy to have examples pointed out if there is any evidence of this. Some VicRoads operations may need to be improved, but with such a course of action this government seems to be admitting that it is beyond its own ability.
John Paine, Kew East

Follow this healthy path

Professor Afif Hadj, I am sure your expertise, gained over many years as a surgeon, was the contributing factor in keeping the coronavirus out of your aged care facilities (The Age, 5/3). Everything you did, especially ensuring your staff did not work in more than one location, seems to have been crucial to your success. Thank you. It is a pity our health officials did not follow your good example. Enough said.
Caroline Heard, Glen Huntly

Selective compassion

The Prime Minister has called for compassion for Defence Minister Linda Reynolds over her “lying cow” comment, on the basis that it was made “during a period which was very traumatic and very stressful” (The Age, 5/3). Well, all the refugees held in detention have been having stressful periods for some time now. Where is his compassion for these poor souls? Politics is a hard game. If his ministers cannot stand the heat, they should vacate the “cabinet kitchen” on the double.
Shaun Lawrence, Richmond

Porter must stand down

Christian Porter says that if he stands aside or quits his job, “anyone in public life is able to be removed simply by the printing of an allegation” (The Age, 4/3).

However, he does not seem to realise he is not just “anyone”, and the standards he must abide by have a higher threshold. As the holder of the highest legal office in the land, the Attorney-General must be beyond reproach. His continuance in that role is untenable in the current circumstances. His actions show a marked lack of respect for the office.

As set out in Peter Hartcher’s excellent piece (Opinion, 5/3), Porter must step aside and allow an inquiry to be conducted. Only then can we be satisfied as to whether Porter is a fit and proper person to hold that office.
Wendi Nisbet, Fairfield

Bring on an ICAC, now

The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General are calling on us to respect the rule of law. At the same time, they are prosecuting the man who blew the whistle on Australia spying on East Timor, with one of the greatest beneficiaries Woodside Petroleum (Opinion, 24/10/19). And they are doing it in a secret trial. It seems the rule of law varies depending on your position. How desperately do we need a federal ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption)?
Jen Hooper, Box Hill

Part of rough and tumble

Patricia Wiltshire contrasts “the reverential treatment given to Australian of the Year Grace Tame with the media frenzy of hounds baying for Christian Porter’s blood” (Letters, 5/3).

Tame is a survivor of sexual abuse and Porter is one of the most powerful men in the country. In addition, she was invited to speak at the National Press Club whilst the Attorney-General called a press conference. He is well known for his arrogance and rough and tumble political style. If he cannot handle the heat of a press conference which he organised, he should get out of the kitchen – which he may well have to do soon.
Graeme Gardner, Reservoir

A natural born leader

I watched Grace Tame speaking at the National Press Club. Her precise, incisive address and natural warmth were prime examples of why we need more woman in leadership in all aspects of Australian society.
Paul Webster, Burwood East

Killing our wildlife

Australia has about 1700 living species that are threatened with extinction (The Age, 4/3). While there is an emphasis on the fate of mammals, where Australia is responsible for 38per cent of extinct and threatened species globally, other animal species including birds are also threatened with extinction.

That duck shooting is allowed to continue is testament to the power of political lobby groups who shoot birds for fun. They influence the state government to such an extent that it is unable to ban an activity that contributes to loss of wildlife and potential animal extinctions.
Leigh Ackland, Deepdene

How to deter people

The lord mayor of Melbourne may be accurate in describing the CBD as a “revolting” wasteland. While COVID-19 has discouraged many people from returning, either to work, or for cultural, entertainment or hospitality reasons, much of the vandalism, graffiti and general soullessness of the city has come under her watch and with a full workforce at her disposal.

A council devoid of inspiration and awareness of the needs of its citizens, with an obsession with championing cyclists over the needs of workers, residents and motorists, is deterring visitors and commercial opportunities. Removing traffic lanes and parking options is creating gridlock and ignoring the needs of many who are unable, or unwilling, to join the Lycra brigade.
Tim Swain, Carlton

In the words of Dr Seuss

Yet another childhood favourite has gone to the dark side, with the estate of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel withdrawing six books (The Age, 4/3). They were seen as racist, with inappropriate presentations. Many old books may contain content that is no longer acceptable. But is the answer to remove them or hide them away when it might be better to identify the issue, explain why it is wrong and decide how to resolve these matters?

There is some wisdom in Dr Seuss’ own words: “Think and wonder, wonder and think” or “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill

High price of tax cuts

Chris Hooper (Letters, 5/3) asks: “Why don’t we have the money to make a really caring and safe aged care system?” The answer is simple: look in our pockets.

Successive governments have given tax cuts repeatedly over recent years using the “pea and thimble” deception. They return a small amount of money as a tax decrease but cut funding to essential services which are only occasionally used by most people. The average citizen does not notice until they go to use a government service and find that it is substandard.

Think long waiting times at hospital emergency departments, bad service at government departments and poorly maintained roads. That voters fall for this betrayal astounds me.
Angus McLeod, Cremorne

AND ANOTHER THING


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Federal

The main criteria to be PM: the capacity to bat unpleasant things away urbanely.
Bill Burns, Bendigo

Prime Minister, the “mob” and the “tribe” are offended. And we vote.
Warren Thomas, Ivanhoe

And we all thought Tony Abbott was the worst prime minister.
Kevin Pierce, Richmond

Why doesn’t Australia have a Minister for Women? Oh, it does. Yoo hoo, Marise Payne.
Eryl Lowe, Aspendale

PM, why don’t we apply the rule of law to refugees who are treated cruelly and unlawfully?
Alan Currie, Northcote

Morrison says he doesn’t hold a hose. With so many spot fires to put out in his government, perhaps he should.
Annie Wilson, Inverloch

If curiosity killed the cat, perhaps our incurious Prime Minister is on his way to immortality.
Paul Bolger, Eltham

It is everyday Australians who should be shedding tears over the appalling standards of our supposed leaders.
Ken Machin, Grovedale

Surely the one person who should be insisting on an independent inquiry to clear his name is Porter.
Ron Mather, St Kilda

John Silvester’s piece – ″⁣Justice is blind in the case of Christian Porter. And so it should be″⁣ (5/3) – says it all. Move on.
John Rawson, Mernda

Now we know why asylum seekers are treated badly. There seems to be a culture of bullying all round.
Anne Flanagan, Box Hill North

Furthermore

The Grinches who banned Dr Seuss.
Terri Mackenzie, Box Hill North

Is Christian charity a matter of “heaven helps those that help themselves?“
John Seal, Hamlyn Heights

Wordwit (4/3) asked for two countries whose names ended with T. The answers were Egypt and Kuwait. I can hear Tibetans yelling: “Hey, what about us?“
Doug Shapiro, Doncaster East

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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