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Our freedoms and our rights come with a cost

A very different lockdown
Once upon a time, when overseas travel was the norm, my husband and I made two separate visits to Amsterdam. On both occasions, I visited Anne Frank House, where eight people lived in hiding from the Nazis for months on end.

Space was very confined, they were dependent on others to bring them food and other necessities, deprived of fresh air and outside exercise, forced to be quiet all day, and they lived in fear of discovery every moment.

It was certainly lockdown in extremis. Unfortunately, the outcome was tragic for them. I know the current circumstances in Victoria are, of course, entirely different, but do we really have much to complain about in comparison under our lockdown?

Can we all just stop whingeing and comply with what is being asked of us, so it can all be over as soon as possible and we can resume our lives again?
Christine Harris, Mordialloc

It’s time to change the format
Why doesn’t the “if you can work from home, you must work from home” edict apply to government press conferences?

As all of us working from home know, we have digital platforms that support live-streaming of classes, lectures, presentations, and webinars. They all support Q&As and would allow our politicians to take questions from the public as well as the media. Eighteen months into this pandemic, there is no excuse for press conferences being held in person.
Ann Nicholson, faculty of information technology, Monash University

I’m not sure this is about the kids
Kids are great at playing. Kids love to make up their own games. Playgrounds might be closed, but kids can still run around with a ball on an oval and ride their bikes near their homes.

I have to wonder how much this temporary loss of easy-play playgrounds is being felt more by the parents.
Claire Merry, Wantirna

THE FORUM

Brought to a standstill
Peter Hartcher’s opinion piece takes a razor-sharp scalpel to Scott Morrison’s government and completely eviscerates it (“Hitting the snooze on taking the lead”, Comment, 21/8). Morrison’s glacial pace to ct on anything has brought Australia to a standstill.

In areas where Australia has previously excelled – innovation, immigration and crisis management – there is inertia, dawdling, delay tactics and political manoeuvring. We are now so slow to the starting blocks that we don’t even realise the starter’s gun has gone off. In this regard, Hartcher’s contrasting analogy to the winning mindset of Australian Olympians is spot on.

Sadly, we have a government that seems averse to any action, unable to project forward, preferring a lazy wait-and-see-until-it’s-too-late approach. This has taken Australia down a dangerous track and left us straggling and struggling.

The Prime Minister’s job is to lead, protect and inspire a nation through good times and bad. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is missing in action again.
Marisa Spiller, Harrietville

Mitigating circumstances
I support the lockdown and the “pathway to freedom” through high vaccination rates, however, before we attack the lockdown protesters as lunatics we should consider the disproportionate impact lockdowns are having on younger people.

All of us are socially suffering, but many of us have jobs that have continued. The employment opportunities for young people have been obliterated – hospitality, entertainment and retail are mainstay employment sectors for the young and these are now shut down or so uncertain they may as well be shut. The financial stress must be intense and there is no real universal financial support.

Further, these are the most socially formative years, it’s when partners are met and lifelong friends are made. I’m sure vaccine reluctance by those who have been eligible is further exacerbating their anger.

For this plan to be successful, we must offer financial support and real understanding of those most affected.
Julian Cook, Brunswick

A spectacular backfire
Gladys Berejiklian’s jibes at Daniel Andrews regarding hard lockdowns and curfews have spectacularly backfired on herself.

She is too proud to admit her shortcomings, and we are now paying the price with extended lockdowns and harder restrictions. Sunday’s score: Berejiklian 830, Andrews 65.
Peng Ee, Castle Cove, NSW

It’s a balancing act
As the debate intensifies in coming months over the rights of those who are vaccinated, and the restrictions on those who are not, it is worth considering long-standing situations where we have balanced personal freedoms with public safety.

A good example is driver licensing. Learning to drive and passing a test allows someone to participate in the high-risk setting of commanding a vehicle on the open roads.

Like a vaccine, a licence does not provide a 100 per cent guarantee that the holder will not be in a car accident and harm themselves or others, but it greatly reduces the risk. Few would argue that it would be a good idea to let unlicensed drivers get behind the wheel. Even fewer would consider driving a car a personal right.

The same principle should be applied to the freedoms provided by proof of full vaccination, and the restrictions applied in its absence.
Rick Dixon, Mount Eliza

Make them watch this
I’d like to see some of these protesters and anti-maskers forced to sit and watch footage of the ICU units in the paediatric wards in the United States where young children are hooked up to ventilators, struggling to live.

That’s what we’re trying to prevent happening here.
Anne Maki, Alphington

While we’re at it …
As summer approaches, isn’t it time we rethought our futile quest for zero bushfires?

Events around the world have demonstrated that zero wildfires is an unattainable goal. And yet we persist with cruel total fire bans, crippling businesses reliant on outdoor machinery and disrupting families and communities by banning the great Aussie barbecue. When will we realise we have to learn to live with bushfires.

Having dealt with this issue, next week I’ll turn my attention to the road toll.
Alan Walker, Fitzroy North

Lessons from history
Tony Wright (“To leaders who waver, a plague on your house”, Insight, 21/8) is instructive in many ways.

Perhaps the most illustrative is that it was not politicians who appealed to the people of Eyam to close their borders when the bubonic plague arrived at their town in 1665.

Whether with climate change, COVID-19, and now the tragedy that is unfolding in Afghanistan, it is always the political imperative that holds sway. Truth is abandoned, so easily, as is compassion and accepting responsibility.

Yes, indeed, a plague on those who constantly demonstrate political opportunism and personal ambition at the cost of leadership.
Judith Morrison, Mount Waverley

Make it a crime
So the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority is advising companies to stress-test their finances for the impacts of 4 degrees of global warning (“Global warming too ‘wicked’ to muddle through”, Business, 21/8).

This highlights how disconnected the government and its regulatory bodies are from the reality of climate change. How many times do they have to be told by the world’s scientists that we are facing an existential threat and humans cannot survive if the planet warms by such a magnitude?

Balance sheets, profit levels, dividend payments and even which party is forming government will be irrelevant. The excuse “I didn’t see that coming” should now be a crime against humanity.
Peter Thomson, Brunswick

Redefine the target
With more than one-quarter of Victoria’s new COVID cases being children under the age of 10, the spread of COVID has taken on a new phase. However, the federal government is unwilling to adapt its vaccination targets to cater for that phase.

Its targets of 70 per cent and 80per cent are in line with the recommendations of the Doherty Institute, but do not reflect the current situation as they refer to percentages of a population over the age of 16. Vaccinations can now take place down to the age of 12.

But a better gauge of just where we are at would be to include all people regardless of age in the calculations.
Greg Tuck, Warragul

We’re already divided
I’m not sure why some Coalition members are concerned that a proposal to allow exemptions for vaccinated digital record holders would create two classes of citizens (“Digital record plan to allow exemptions for vaccinated”, The Age, 21/8).

I thought we already had two classes – the rich and the poor.
Allan Havelock, Surrey Hills

Missing some points
Matthew Lynn misses three important points in his justification of the UK’s opening up. (“Hermit economies will pay a high price”, Business, 21/8).

First, only the lucky ones will get to benefit from his open borders. The unlucky ones (admittedly a minority, but still a lot of people) will be either dead or damaged by this disease. Neither they nor their loved ones would agree with your rosy view.

Second, none of our leaders here in Australia and New Zealand has plans to keep lockdowns going. Once there are sufficient of us and the world vaccinated, we expect to be able to open up safely.
Third, we are doing quite well financially as things stand. There are gains and losses, winners and losers. We entered this pandemic in a strong financial position, and expect to survive this period just fine.

Also, he bases his whole hypothesis on his own opinion of Amazon’s motives. In my experience, large decisions like this are never made for one reason. I am sure that they considered many things before moving Lord of the Rings away from the land some know as “Middle-earth”.
Cliff Strahan, Greensborough

I’ll stick with Austen
I couldn’t agree more, Jessie Tu (“Surely there are better literary heroes for the Millennial generation than this”, Insight, 21/8).

Pedestrian might describe Sally Rooney’s Normal People. My expectation that an opening paragraph will engage me imaginatively was cruelly disappointed, though, to be fair, it paints the scene for what follows.

I greedily revisited a couple of Jane Austen works as an antidote. Sure, “white, able-bodied straight people”, but the author demonstrates a keen knowledge of human behaviour, along with skilful character development. Two hundred years later, a spectacular read.
Robyn Hewitt, Carlton North

A brief moment of hope
News of a large protest in the CBD gladdened my heart. Here were Australians showing their support for people seeking freedom from oppression.

So imagine my dismay to discover they weren’t there because of events in Afghanistan. No, they want the “right” to spread a virus during a pandemic.
Susan Maughan, Selby

AND ANOTHER THING

The pandemic
Perhaps the NSW press conferences could be substituted by just a sole videotape repeated each day at 11am.
Meg McPherson, Brighton

Credit:

Gladys Berejiklian seems hell-bent on proving we are only as strong as our weakest link.
Joan Segrave, Healesville

We have only ourselves to blame for the predicament we find ourselves in. So much non-compliance.
Marsha Merory, Ivanhoe East

Collateral casualties of COVID: common sense and common decency.
Helen Hallett, Gisborne

Lockdown protests
Protesting about the lockdowns by marching maskless through the city is like promoting veganism with a steak sandwich.
Nick Grant, Diamond Creek

It seems the anti-lockdown protesters don’t know the difference between being in lockdown and being locked up. Perhaps a taste of the latter might enlighten them.
Lisa Bishop, Macleod

Congratulations to our police force for a great job done on Saturday. The majority of Victorians are behind you.
Christine Hammett, Richmond

Of course lockdowns are about controlling people: people who cannot control themselves.
Russ Brown, Warragul

Can we organise reverse evacuation flights from Melbourne to Kabul for protesters and anti-vaxxers so they can get a taste of what it truly means to have your freedom taken away from you?
James O’Keefe, East Melbourne

Round up the protesting freedom fighters and put them into a big sandbox in the outback where they can play sovereign citizen.
Ralph Bohmer, St Kilda West

Finally
Over the years the world has faced pandemics, the Great Depression, world wars and global financial crises, and each time the economy has recovered. The dead haven’t.
Warren Wiggins, Flemington

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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