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We all need to stand up and call out misconduct
Brittany Higgins’ story is sadly still far too common (“Confronting the toxic culture in Canberra”, The Age, 18/2). We still see it across many settings – sporting clubs, businesses, care institutions, churches, schools, medical and law precincts. You are not a team player if you speak up in defence of someone. Silence and solidarity cover up failure, and put the institution before the individual.
We have personal, painful experience of someone losing not only their reputation but their life to anxiety, because this toxic culture is so dominant. Leaders are still subscribing to “nothing to see here”, shifting the blame, often to the victim. Why in our society is it so hard for justice to be achieved for any victim?
The #MeToo movement revealed many horrific stories, but still it goes on. Racial intolerance is alive and well. We still have a long way to go as a society. It is the duty of every one to call out that which we know to be wrong and unjust. Do we have the courage?
Margaret Scanlon, Carlton North
Contrasting views (not) on same page
Great to find, on the same page as Amanda Vanstone’s piece (“Reynolds’ response to rape claim was textbook”, The Age, 22/2) Sean Kelly’s coherent explanation (“PM can no longer look away”, The Age, 22/2) of why Brittany Higgins’ choice not to report her alleged rape in 2019 was due to her fear of losing her job.
Vanstone writes “she had come, drunk, into a minister’s office at the weekend, late at night, with a man”. Does it still need to be said, in 2021, that the fact a rape victim was not in full control for any reason, including drunkenness, is an aggravating circumstance not for them but for the rapist who took advantage of this?
Mirna Cicioni, Brunswick East
Past time to get the House in order
Sean Kelly and Amanda Vanstone are poles apart in their attitude to the unfolding drama surrounding Brittany Higgins’ revelation of her alleged rape. It’s hard to believe that a breach of security was the reason the staffer at the centre of these allegations was dismissed. What of the behaviour of the security staff themselves when confronted with the situation? It seems the macho culture in many high-pressure workplaces will always work to the detriment of women. It is not the only workplace with problems in this area but we should expect a high standard of behaviour in Parliament House of all places.
Vanstone opines that: “The delay was her decision. I don’t blame her for that. But it’s made it harder for her and everyone else.” Seems like victim-blaming to me. Kelly makes the point of this occurring just before the 2019 election, which many had thought would be a loss for the Coalition.
Kelly draws a comparison with the major banks’ failings, the Catholic Church on child abuse and Collingwood Football Club on racism, all instances where the institutions steadfastly refused to believe that the problems were of any significance.
John Paine, Kew East
Leaders lack moral wisdom
Once again, we are confounded by the display of moral reasoning by our leaders, whether within banks, business or religious institutions. We now stand astounded by the moral performance of our politicians.
Follow the policies, abide by the laws, and leaders are safe from accountability. That has become the norm for protecting the most powerful. In the light of questions about Peter Dutton’s security grant program, he defends his integrity as of the highest standard. Scott Morrison emerges from the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, reassuring us that he is on top of the issue after advice from his wife to treat this as if it was one of his daughters. US psychologist Lawrence Kolhberg has articulated that moral reasoning is a progressive journey through life. Starting with simple obedience to parents, we slowly develop moral skills as we learn to grasp the complexities of life, eventually maturing with the universal perspective. How does our society allow leaders to reach positions of power when time and again, they display little more than the basic steps towards moral wisdom?
Geoff Cheong, Aspendale Gardens
It is not surprising but deeply concerning that the federal government has made the regressive decision to merge the Family Court with the Federal Circuit Court. It shows a total disregard for the complex reasons for maintaining the Family Court as a specialist court. Choosing to ignore the advice of eminent judges and many others who work at the grassroots level with families utilising the Family Court is indicative of an arrogant government that lacks vision and compassion. Devastatingly, this mindset is also evidenced in the way allegations of rape, sexual assault, harassment and bullying have been swept under the carpet and only brought to light when the victims have the courage to call them out.
Susan Hillman Stolz, Rye
You need to pay for news
I am enjoying the community spirit of reining in Facebook. So many people were scammed or hacked in Victoria during lockdown and Facebook didn’t appear to do anything. News is an essential service and needs to be paid for.
Sharyn Bhalla, Ferntree Gully
Beware of burnout
Those who claim that smaller classes make no difference to student learning but quality teachers do (“Small class sizes not always big deal”, The Age, 22/2) should connect the two factors.
Able people are more likely to become and remain teachers if they have decent working conditions, and smaller classes are one aspect of this. They understand that every extra student increases the stress level in the classroom, the time available for interaction with each student and the correction time demanded of a teacher.
The teacher will handle this by cutting back on the detail in correction of each student’s work, cutting back on preparation time, withdrawing from other school activities or increasing the time working. The committed teacher will be inclined to the last option, but in the end will be likely to burn out and either reduce effort or leave the profession.
Chris Curtis, Hurstbridge
Not just academic
Education expert Peter Adams may declare, “The data seem to show that small class sizes in and of themselves don’t increase academic performance.” In the same article the OECD Program for International Student Assessment in 2018 concluded, “research provides mixed evidence” on whether smaller classes improve outcomes.
Therein lies the problem. If academic output and outcomes remains the sole criteria for assessing school achievement and results, students will continue to be disengaged.
If the same study was done using social/emotional markers the results would be very different. Social and emotional connection between staff and students is an important aspect of education, even more so as teachers and students work through the repercussions of the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s about time education analysis became holistic and took account of all aspects of student development.
Rohan Wightman, Muckleford
Tennis crowd disgrace
What an embarrassment and a disgrace was the behaviour of the crowd who booed the mention of the state government and the rollout of the vaccine at the Australian Open. The very government that encouraged the tournament to go ahead and allowed those spectators to attend. And the immunisation program that may see a more normal life return.
Wendy Hinson, Wantirna
Bird flu risk
The news of a strain of bird flu virus A(H5N8) being passed to humans from birds for the first time illustrates the risks of intensive farming of poultry (“Bird flu strain found in humans for first time”, The Age, 22/2). Russia has reported the matter to the World Health Organisation. We know it is cruel for birds to spend their short lives crammed into cages; now we have confirmation it is also dangerous for humans.
Jan Kendall, Mount Martha
It’s no surprise that a Russian court has rejected Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s appeal against his jail sentence and has now sentenced him to a Soviet-era penal colony.
After all, Russia’s strongman president Vladimir Putin has steadily restored Soviet-era politics and persecution in that country, where the rule of law is what Putin dictates it to be.
Rajend Naidu, Glenfield, NSW
John Brumby’s article (“Foreign students are our fourth largest export …”, The Age, 19/2) was a strong argument for the sector’s emphasis on overseas students. He provided an impressive array of statistics to highlight the importance of these students to the Australian economy.
Australia has long been a provider of education to overseas countries, particularly in Asia. This process was started to improve the education of Third World students and give them opportunities they lacked at home. In recent decades, however, this has been replaced with the idea that overseas students are a golden source of funding for our tertiary (and secondary) sector.
Mr Brumby said nothing about the rumoured drop in standards in many courses. No mention of the fact that many of our universities have more than 40 per cent overseas students.
Our education sector is there primarily to service the youth of Australia. If we can help students from overseas to gain knowledge, experience and qualifications, then all the better. Our education sector too often is being seen, and run, as an industry, not a right for citizens to help improve the future of the country.
Shaun Quinn, Yarrawonga
Spin over substance
The probability that Australia would have had a faster, more reliable NBN at less cost, under the Labor government model (“Secret review hid $10b savings on NBN”, The Age, 22/2) is yet further evidence of the Coalition’s poor record as economic managers. Other examples include the robo-debt disaster, gross mismanagement of JobKeeper, the Howard/Costello profligate waste of the resources boom windfall and the sale of LPG at bargain basement prices, with little return to Australia. By contrast, a Labor government steered Australia through the GFC at what now is seen as modest cost, we have one of the world’s most successful pension systems and a healthcare system delivering quality care at a fraction of the cost of the US private system. The Coalition’s smug claims of financial competence are an appalling example of spin over substance – promoted by a master-spinner.
Norman Huon, Port Melbourne
Vaccine free ride
As a nation we can accommodate about 15 per cent of the population going unvaccinated without putting the rest of us at too much risk. If the cohort of anti-vaxxers is larger, it would be reasonable for the community to impose some sanctions on those putting the rest of us in harm’s way, just as we do with those who decide to drive over the speed limit. The modest sanctions on parents refusing to have their children vaccinated have been very effective. Our COVID-19 immunisation program is likely to be successful despite a ranting and bleating rump of conspiracy theorists. They, somewhat unfairly, get a free ride.
Peter Barry, Marysville
One of the most personally distressing components of living within a pandemic is the use of lockdown measures in society, to contain and control outbreaks of COVID-19. Endured by millions to date, the distress of living in lockdown runs a close second to the distress of contracting COVID-19 or having loved ones who succumbed.
There is a sense that lockdown measures, although deemed necessary, carry minimal risk to the individual. Those exposed to lockdown may believe they are the fortunate ones – spared of an evil virus capable of decimating them, their families and their communities. This is true, but it is time to be honest about the effects of the continued use of sudden short lockdowns on our psychological wellbeing and our need to maintain a sense of structure and connection.
Dr Helen Schultz, Richmond
Why has the federal government not directed all the available vaccine to protect quarantine workers? Seemingly, this would be the best way to protect all the other at-risk groups given that it would greatly strengthen the quarantine system and thus make it considerably less likely the virus could enter into the community again. Furthermore, quarantine workers are the group that is the most at risk given there is zero community transmission. There may be good arguments to justify the policy that treats quarantine workers much like other high-risk groups. If so, these reasons need to spelt out and justified as a matter of urgency.
Tim Thornton, Northcote
So beautifully put, Paul Jurkovsky (Letters, 22/2). I sincerely hope someone from federal Labor reads your letter on property prices and realises there are many, many voters who share that view. By abandoning its stance on franking credits and negative gearing Labor has capitulated to a selfish cohort and is now complicit in the ever-widening inequality gap. The last thing we need is Labor to become Liberal Light.
Ann Maginness, Cheltenham
Requiring people to take some responsibility for their own health is hardly “coercive medicine”. If you don’t want to give up smoking, you can’t expect the rest of us to pay for a new set of lungs for you. If you don’t want to be vaccinated, you may be restricted from accessing certain services for the sake of the health of others. It’s mutual obligation medicine and calling it “coercive” is plain misleading.
Harry Onsman, Elsternwick
AND ANOTHER THING …
Jen, please advise Scott that the young girls detained on Christmas Island could be his daughters.
Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick
What if Jenny Morrison were to say to her husband, “think of how you would feel if we, your family, were locked up in detention for seven years after surviving a perilous boat journey”.
Lucille Forbes, East Brighton
Can we assume Morrison asked Jen for permission to place her at the centre of his workplace problem or did he make the choice on her behalf?
Joan Segrave, Healesville
Captain Morrison first into the lifeboat by pushing aside the passengers and crew who wait their orderly turn.
David Sadler, Point Lonsdale
Not all the “comic book characters” at the anti-vax protest were dress-ups (Letters, 22/2). Clearly their leaders were the real deal – the Fat Controller, and the one with the pink wings backing him up was the Tooth Fairy.
Barbara Abell, Essendon
Reading Amanda Vanstone’s article (The Age, 22/2) reminded me again why I read her rarely. She took me into the twilight zone.
Patrick Alilovic, Pascoe Vale South
In the spirit of tennis, “Amanda Vanstone, you cannot be serious!“
Malcolm I. Fraser, Oakleigh South
Greg Tuck warns flat-earthers that if they move too far to the right, they’ll fall off (Letters, 22/2). This is very worrying. What if there are enough of them to tip the whole world to the right, and we all slide off?
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
How long will it be before we hear from the Mars landing deniers?
David Charles, Newtown
Is there a course available on how to become a nodder standing behind politicians being interviewed, and what are the job prospects?
Corrado Tavella, Rosslyn Park, SA
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