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MANAGING THE PANDEMIC
We need purpose-built quarantine facilities
I don’t understand the government’s impetus to vaccinate the entire population against coronavirus. The vaccine is still in its infancy, tagged with question marks over its efficacy, particularly with the emerging new virus strains. Supply is limited and may now be restricted given the European Union has announced a scheme to control vaccine export.
The bulk of our population has been virus free due to the mandatory quarantine of international arrivals and strict internal measures. As a second-line defence and for the safety of those working on the front line, vaccination is essential. To discard current arrangements in favour of a national vaccination program would be irresponsible.
It’s likely the virus will be globally rampant and out of control for years. It’s time the federal government accepted this and set about building fit for purpose facilities that will allow more travellers to enter Australia.
Sue Bennett, Sunbury
We should have learnt how to do this by now
We now have had hotel quarantine problems around the country. For last year’s Victorian hotel quarantine outbreak we had an inquiry into how it escaped, who made decisions on this or that and forensic examinations of the Victorian government by various members of the media.
Where is the hue and cry now, where are the calls for resignations from other state governments when, after all, they should have learnt from our experience. Viral escape from hotel quarantine is dependent on the behaviour of each and every person involved; one deliberate or accidental breach, despite the good intentions of the government, can cause a new outbreak.
Howard Barnes, Docklands
‘Quarantine’ means just that
″Quarantine″ is a word apparently misunderstood by civic authorities, who face yet another COVID-19 outbreak linked to a person watching over people in isolation. At the price of massive disruption, a major city is locked up.
Quarantine must include isolating the care-givers and related staff. While this would require handsome remuneration, it would be minuscule when compared to the wider cost.
David d’Lima, Sturt, SA
This system is not fit for purpose …
The federal and state governments have spent tens of billions of dollars countering the economic effects of COVID-19. But this could have been radically lower had the federal government, the entity with primary responsibility for quarantine, built fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities as continually advised by experts such as Professor Mary-Louise McLaws.
It is mind-numbingly obvious that quarantine in city hotels is problematic. Perth is just the place of the latest problem. Community transmission of the virus and the lockdown steps to counter it would have been avoided by proper controls.
Even with vaccines for COVID-19 coming, there will be other viruses. Quarantine facilities, with proper isolation, ventilation, anti-microbial surfaces, etc, should be built as a matter of urgency.
Janet Cohen, Caulfield North
… so why are we persisting with it?
The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So why, oh why, are we persisting with hotel quarantine in our cities, or at the very least not having live-in staff. Consider the earlier breaches around the country and now in Western Australia (after 10 months free of community transmission), where one worker has been the catalyst for massive disruption and heartache, not through negligence, but just by going about their normal life.
We cannot continue to close down our states every time we have a case escape from hotel quarantine. With all the billions of dollars being spent on this virus, how much cheaper to have purpose-built Howard Springs-like facilities constructed outside our capital cities with live-in rostered staff. The argument that hospitals are not close is spurious as very few people have to be hospitalised, and those who do can be taken by air or road ambulance.
This madness will continue as long as we have hotel quarantine, with everyone on a knife edge waiting for the next inevitable escape and subsequent lockdown.
Liz Harvey, Mount Eliza
Money doesn’t only talk
The report on federal political parties receiving $1.1 billion from ″hidden donors″ made up of ″a handful of dominant players″ who ″have increased their sway over federal politics by making one quarter of all donations″ over the past two decades ″in a trend towards greater secrecy″ should be shocking: but it’s not (″Integrity fears over $1.1b secret donations″, The Age, 1/2).
Most Australians would greet the disclosure with unsurprised and weary cynicism – a sad measure of widespread jadedness regarding the questionable relationship between deep-pocketed, vested-interest donors and political parties.
Of course political donations must be made public in real time, before an election: and of course donation-bestowing vested interests must be visible to voters. For genuinely free and fair elections, voters must know who and what they are actually voting for.
Money not only talks, it is extremely persuasive, and only the widest-eyed innocent would believe otherwise.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
Demand this of them
Why aren’t we demanding that our federal politicians finally come up with legislation with teeth to expose and control the huge donations that political parties regularly receive in secret?
Revelations by the Centre for Public Integrity’s report raise alarming issues around the very integrity of our democratic processes.
As an author of the report, Professor Joo-Cheong Tham, declared: ″The federal disclosure scheme is misnamed – it is a non-disclosure scheme with more than a third of political funding shrouded in secrecy″.
Both major parties have conveniently glossed over glaring loopholes. You’re in the box seat, Scott Morrison.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham
Let’s hear from the Greens
I keep hearing and reading reports from and about the government and Labor, but there is a deathly silence when it comes to the Greens.
Since Richard Di Natale’s resignation we have heard little from their leader. We need to hear from them more often, otherwise how can we decide whether we can support them?
We need an alternative to the two ″L″ parties who are so alike as to be almost indistinguishable from each other.
Margaret Collings, Anglesea
Time to join forces
Ross Gittins (″How economics could get better at solving real world problems″, Business Day, 1/2), clarified for me why things that work for people don’t immediately translate to economic policy.
There are always ″academic″ economists whose work ignores social issues, and they can continue to drive policy.
The renewables industry is going gangbusters for millions of us who have chosen solar panels, and we know the cost of renewables is now so competitive. Socially and environmentally it makes sense to shift to renewables as fast as possible, but we keep hearing that the economics doesn’t add up and this makes for arguments about regional jobs, which take precedence.
It is the way that politicians choose to use ″economic″ arguments that is holding us back here. Plenty of economists point out the risks of this approach. Whatever the price, the vast majority of people are asking our governments to stop fuelling climate change, and here we have a way to do that by ceasing to burn fossil fuels and generating our energy renewably.
This is one time where the ″academic″ and ″practising″ economists must get together, to show that it works, both mathematically and socially, so thatthe politicians have nowhere else to go.
Carolyn Ingvarson, Canterbury
Failure all around
Heaps of thanks to Jill Dumsday (Letters, 1/2) for calling out the utter failures of both Coalition and Labor to lead with science-based climate action.
Over many years we’ve had increasingly urgent warnings from top climate scientists, including Will Steffen and Joelle Gergis, and wise former politicians, including John Hewson and Malcolm Turnbull.
Australians should be howling with outrage and worry about this global tragedy.
We now have just the next nine months to stop mucking around politically and develop 100 per cent leadership and will for science-based climate policy and action.
Barbara Fraser, Burwood
Albanese’s own goal
You have to wonder if the ALP is serious about winning government. The removal of the highly respected and passionate Mark Butler from his climate change shadow portfolio is an own goal in terms of keeping the heat on the government over their tepid climate policy.
Transitioning away from fossil fuels provides opportunities for countless jobs in the renewable sector. Determined to cling to coal, Labor’s own Joel Fitzgibbon seemed unable to acknowledge the potential windfall in the Hunter Valley.
But it is in setting ambitious emission targets that Butler was courageous enough to promote, but which put the wind up some of his more cautious caucus comrades like Fitzgibbon, that he will be sorely missed.
And so the differentiation between the two major parties narrows further. Without Mark Butler in the role, the ALP is looking even more like Liberal Lite.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
Living in hope
Peter Singer’s article (″Case mounting up against meat″, Comment, 1/2) mentioned the practice of confining animals indoors leading to deaths from the stress of overcrowding.
I wonder now if folks will, as Singer’s colleague Richard Keshen did, choose to reduce their meat consumption out of abhorrence for the plight of the factory-farmed animals. After all, quite a lot of Victorians now know first hand how very stressful confinement can be.
Singer’s other comment of interest was that if the transport industry goes electric to reduce emissions, it will be of little benefit if the livestock industry continues as is. Reduction of emissions is vital, and all sections of society, business and government must be working together to achieve a useful result.
Elaine O’Shannessy, Buxton
No valid reason for this
Scott Morrison seems determined to completely strip the Coronavirus Supplement from the JobSeeker payment and to stop JobKeeper payments altogether, on March 31 (″Morrison flags end to COVID payments″, The Age, 1/2).
While the pandemic continues there is no valid reason for this to happen. We are the Commonwealth of Australia, by definition ″a political community founded for the common good″ and Australia is wealthy enough not to cast its people below the poverty line.
If these cuts take effect, that’s what faces many more struggling Australians. The Commonwealth government will be failing in its duty to fairly distribute the common wealth.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills
Sending a message
Kevin Andrews’ conservative views are obviously not embraced by all Liberal Party members of Menzies. I applaud the message that this preselection outcome gives to all elected representatives.
Listen to your electorate or ignore it at your peril.
Krystyn Hendrickson, East Melbourne
Stick your neck out
Anthony Albanese, you have nothing to lose but the next election and that looks inevitable right now.
Stop moving the deckchairs (shadow ministries). Take a deep breath, stick your neck out and come up with a climate change policy that seriously aims to help save the planet.
A lot of voters would be with you.
Edna Russell, Ocean Grove
A heartbreaking story
Tony Wright (″Haunted by Monty’s last dance″, Insight, The Age, 30/1)) captured exactly why January 26 should be a day of mourning.
Monty Foster’s life is heartbreaking, and it occurred in the lifetime of many of us, not some distant past.
It will make anyone weep.
Jo Connellan, Brunswick
Courage is in short supply
“It will just take a Prime Minister with the courage to say ’now is the time‴, writes Brandon Mack (“We are still dithering at the margins”, Letters, 1/2).
That being the case, Australia’s First Nations people are in a sorry plight, as nothing resembling a prime minister with courage has been seen in Australia in many years, and there is little evidence of this being about to change.
Ian Usman Lewis, Kentucky, NSW
How to kick goals
In September 1962, US president John Kennedy announced a goal to go to the moon within the decade (a target of seven years). He didn’t announce a goal to go to the moon only when all of the science and each of the technologies had been developed.
Imagine president Kennedy announcing we will go to the moon sometime in the future when we are ready. The specified timeframe provided the challenge and the momentum to master the technology and achieve the goal in July 1969.
Our Prime Minister wants the accolades for announcing his support for achieving zero emissions in a timeframe he has yet to announce. He anticipates that the goal will be achieved by implementing science and technologies that are yet to be mastered so a timeframe is unknowable. He is adamant that until he knows the ″how″ he cannot commit to the ″when″.
That is not leadership, that inspires no one.
Dennis Richards, Cockatoo
Put an end to this
Peter Singer stopped eating meat because of the cruelties inflicted on farm animals.
But the cruelties inflicted on wild ducks in the annual duck hunt are numerous, too. Year after year, birds are shot out of the sky and their broken bodies abandoned. They can die slow, painful deaths – as would never be allowed in animal abattoirs.
As we await an announcement about the season, I hope 2021 will be the year Victorian Labor puts an end to this unremitting torture.
Debbie Lustig, Elsternwick
AND ANOTHER THING
Really, Prime Minister, coal mines operating for decades to come? What makes you think that we even have decades before we face the catastrophic consequences of coal burning.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East
If Anthony Albanese’s shadow cabinet reshuffle ″had nothing to do with Joel Fitzgibbon″ (31/1) then Santa has nothing to do with Christmas.
Malcolm Cameron, Camberwell
Is it just a coincidence that the major political parties as represented in Canberra continue to turn a blind eye to transparency in political funding and legislating for an effective and well-resourced independent anti-corruption commission.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South
A vote for the future: another white, middle-class, male barrister, Parliament is riddled with them.
Chris Watson, Braybrook
The fact that Josh Frydenberg backed Kevin Andrews in the Menzies preselection contest highlights that Mr Frydenberg has about as much authority over the Liberal Party rank and file as he does over the Australian economy.
Phil Alexander, Eltham
Perhaps NSW should wait until they’ve been more than eight months without a COVID-19 case before they criticise WA lockdown.
Robyn Lovell, Epping
It would appear that no government in Australia, especially the federal government, has realised that insecure work spreads COVID-19.
Marilyn Hoban, Mornington
Thank you, Peter Singer, for your simple explanation of why eating animals is wrong for so many reasons (″Case mounting up against meat″, Comment, 1/2)
Jan Kendall, Mount Martha
Peter Singer’s piece resonates with me. My usual meat-free diet protein source for the past 10 years has been dried pulses: 375 grams costs about $2.50 and makes three meals with curried vegetables and brown rice.
Andrew Smith, Leongatha
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