Canberra must face up to its responsibilities

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QUARANTINE AND THE TRAVEL BAN

Canberra must face up to its responsibilities

The Commonwealth government can’t ignore its duty to provide effective, purpose-built quarantine facilities throughout Australia (“Shifting pandemic politics brings PM to the table”, The Age, 1/5).

Like national defence, quarantine is ultimately a Commonwealth responsibility. We face potential aggression from foreign countries as a nation, not as individual states and territories. Any proposal to fund separate armies, navies and air forces would be laughed at as ludicrous. Defence is up to the Commonwealth. Neither in a pandemic should the states and territories have to scrabble to find money for quarantine. COVID-19 has been a fact of life for more than a year now.

It’s high time the federal government faced up to its responsibilities.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

This is anything but ‘arbitrary’
The definition of “arbitrary” is “based on random choice or personal whim rather than any reason”. Australian citizens aren’t being “arbitrarily prevented” from returning from India, which is currently being ravaged by COVID-19 (“Ban on India may breach law”, 2/5).

There’s a very good reason for the current prohibition.
Wayne Robinson, Kingsley

Failing its first duty
The Australian government, whose first duty is the safety and welfare of all its citizens, wherever and whomever they be, has just announced that any Australians returning from India would face $66,000 fines and or five years in jail.

Most of these Australians are effectively trapped in a ″⁣war zone″⁣ because the Australian government failed to do what it promised and that was to have them all home by last Christmas.

Instead of mass evacuation flights and spending money on permanent quarantine facilities, the government will punish these Australians who are fleeing for their life. This is a government that could do with some empathy training.
Greg Tuck, Warragul

‘Drastic action’ results in dire jeopardy
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said “we have taken drastic action to keep Australians safe” regarding the draconian penalties that the government has introduced for citizens who attempt to return to Australia from India.

These people are also Australian citizens and the “drastic action” he is taking places them in dire jeopardy.
Reg Murray, Glen Iris

Insular thinking is not justified
Being an island nation doesn’t justify insular thinking. Dragging out the process of waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 technologies so poor nations will have better access to vaccine production and threatening to jail our own citizens for coming home, are the actions of a nation favouring the fears of a few over the needs of the many.
Matt Dunn, Leongatha

Crunching the numbers
The Prime Minister has on several recent occasions claimed that hotel quarantine is “99.99 per cent effective”. Specifically I assume that means there has been about one quarantine failure in every 10,000 individuals who have been through hotel quarantine.

In just recent weeks, media reports have listed between 10 and 20instances of COVID transmission sourced to hotel quarantine. Given the limitations on inbound travel from overseas, it would amaze me if in the same period there have been between 100,000 and 200,000 individuals put through hotel quarantine.
Ronald Burnstein, Heidelberg

This cannot be allowed to stand
A basic and fundamental right of citizenship is surely that citizens must be allowed to return to and live in their own country.

The Australian federal government has just made this right a criminal offence in some circumstances. This is the most autocratic and ruthless move of any Australian government in my lifetime and it cannot be allowed to stand.
Malcolm Fraser, Oakleigh South

THE FORUM

Vaccinate us here
I am a 72-year-old Australian citizen who has been isolated in the north-east of Thailand for the past 16 months. I recently heard Dr Norman Swan, and later a representative of the Grattan Institute, talking on ABC radio and both agreed on the need for a policy reset to facilitate the in-situ vaccination of Australian citizens now overseas.

This is really a no-brainer. It would minimise the perils all overseas Australians now face in flying home, and, likewise, the risks, and expenses to all of hotel quarantine.

I did not apply for a repatriation flight after assessing the relative risks and expenses of both flights and hotels. Yet now, as the COVID-19 “emergency” is heading into its second and possibly third year with no end in sight, surely an innovative and safer initiative is called for.

By all means replicate Howard Springs, but at the same time get our logistics moguls at work (minimising the need for such bunkers) shipping vaccines to embassy workers and expats. Once vaccinated, tested and retested, returnees may have a “home quarantine” option and thereby the risks and expenses to all will certainly be minimised.
Philip Nicholls, Sakon Nakhon, Thailand

Catch-22 quarantine
As a result of the COVID-19 outcomes in April the federal government now wants to imprison travellers who manage to enter Australia from India.

We know that hotel quarantine is not effective and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told the Senate select committee into the government’s response to the pandemic last Tuesday that “We expect transmissions in quarantine”, which might give one cause to wonder if they actually know what quarantine is and what it is intended to achieve. We have also seen two quarantine transmissions in Perth originating with travellers recently returned from India.

So, by blocking travellers from India we can clearly see that Australia has “Claytons Catch-22 Quarantine” – It’s the quarantine you have when you don’t have quarantine and you can only be in quarantine if you don’t need to be in quarantine.
Holger Lubotzki, Wundowie, WA

It’s still the norm
Excellent article from Sam Mostyn (“Unlock women’s goals to win”, Comment, The Age, 1/5) connecting the success of AFLW (100 years after women started playing footy) to the challenges of achieving broader equity for women across society.

But Simone de Beauvoir’s ″⁣woman as other″⁣ is still the norm, as evidenced by the branding of the men’s comp as AFL, with no gender tag meaning men by default.

I call on the AFL Commission to rebrand the men’s comp AFLM, and The Age to lead the way by making this change immediately in its articles.
Ann Nicholson, Clayton

Don’t forget support staff
Yes, teachers need less time from teaching and fewer students (“Teachers seek pay rise, smaller classes”, The Age, 1/5), but they also need the education support staff to help in classrooms, in libraries, in the front office, with first aid, facilities maintenance and so much more.

They deal with parents, students, staff and the wider community. Just like the teachers, they need a pay rise too. Just because they work behind the scenes doesn’t make them any less important in the creation of the next generation.

Let’s not forget the importance of the support staff in schools.
Asa Smith, Montmorency

Jumping at shadows with …
With unerring aim and a bit of help from H.L. Mencken, Tony Wright has skewered Scott Morrison, the leader who, by believing in something new every week, turns out to believe in nothing (“Master of deflection. Hey, look over there!”, The Age, 1/5).

The latest efforts of the PM and his minions to have us jumping at the shadows of threatened war with China is a particularly calculated version of the hobgoblin technique Mencken spoke of.
Tony Haydon, Springvale

… a deflection campaign
The masterful Tony Wright has nailed it again and clearly exposes the “drums of war” deflection campaign as a cover for domestic politics.

This campaign is also evidenced in the Prime Minister’s announcement about upgrading defence facilities and weapons training at the four military bases in the Northern Territory, while strangely, not being perturbed about the 99-year lease of the strategic Port of Darwin to a Chinese company.

Fear and warmongering may have serious consequences. Australian farmers are already paying a high price for our lack of diplomatic finesse.

The Chinese might not have Tony Wright’s understanding of the domestic politics at play here andmight interpret the inflammatory language differently and at face value.

Australia may well be edged towards a conflict that no one in their right mind wants. Time for the government to rein in the rhetoric, stop the deflection and deal with the domestic problems that are confronting us.
Anne Sgro, Coburg North

What else would you call it?
Alan Tudge, if First Nations people did not experience “an invasion and dispossession of land, sea and sky (“Tudge concern at teaching focus on First Nations”, The Age, 1/5), then what did they experience? Liberation and salvation?

Racism comes in many forms. Any attempt to rewrite this perspective in the draft national curriculum in the name of balance would be just one expression of it.
Colin Smith, Mount Waverley

I give them a miss
Not so long ago reading the letters to the editor page in The Age was an informative and enlightening experience, but sadly those days appear over. No better example exists than the pile on over Scott Morrison’s Christian beliefs and his ″⁣laying on of hands″⁣.

Recent polls have Mr Morrison far ahead of Anthony Albanese as preferred prime minister yet this paper only seems to publish a never-ending stream of usually disrespectful letters from the same tired old crew of perpetually outraged Morrison haters.

I bet I am not the only one who lightly scans the letters page first and ignores any that mention the PM’s name, safe in the knowledge that the correspondence will, often as not, be neither reasonable, clever or insightful but just another mindless attack.
Greg Hardy, Upper Ferntree Gully

Report makes it clear
So, you report (“Power grid warnings spark calls for fresh wave of national reforms”, online, 30/4) that federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor says he will “leave it to the market to decide the mix of coal, batteries, hydro and gas used to back up renewables”.

Here it is – the frighteningly clear and open statement that it is big business that runs the country.

Next election, people might think about electing a government to run the country, especially those people who are struggling to eat, put a roof over their head, send their children to schools that have all the basics needed for a good education, those who are on public hospital wait lists, and on and on – all so the rich can get richer. And ″⁣the rich getting richer″⁣ includes those very same non-governing, not-doing-their-job politicians.
Margaret Callinan, Hawthorn

It’s all about ethics
The Prime Minister goes on about moral beliefs. What is the difference between a moral v an immoral belief? Who is the judge?

Just because a lot of people believe in a religion doesn’t make their beliefs any more or any less moral than another person’s. It becomes a popularity contest of what morality means.

I would rather that the Prime Minister concentrated a bit more on ethics which provides a much more thoughtful analysis of how best to live in a world of competing moralities.
John Rome, Mount Lawley, WA

Outraged and ashamed
I am in my 70s. I was discussing with a friend the things that used to make us proud and grateful for being Australian. Things like our multicultural society, our welcoming refugee policy, our generous international aid program, our world-class health system, our care of the disadvantaged and our access to tertiary education that did not leave us with crippling debt. I am sure there are more.

We also believed that if we were ever in serious trouble overseas our government would assist us.
Where are we now, with the exception of our multicultural society and our healthcare there appears to be nothing left to be proud of.

Add to that Malcolm Turnbull’s callous dismissal of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Peter Dutton’s snarling demonisation and cruel detention of asylum seekers, the embarrassment of climate change inaction and the lack of a social housing policy.

We now have the federal government threatening to jail our own citizens for wishing to return home.

I am outraged and ashamed. I urge everyone to think about what this government is doing to our once respected and admired nation.
Dorothy Lim, Moonee Ponds

This has to stop
Surely the penny has dropped now for the federal government – privatisation by stealth has not worked and is downright dangerous in a pandemic. Hotel quarantine is an example – while benefiting the hotel owners it is not fit for purpose. Likewise the aged care homes run by private owners. And of course – worst of all – the letting of contracts to run the vaccination program.

It’s time the federal government shaped up to the responsibility entrusted to it by the people of Australia. The duck shoving has to stop, before we lose the advantage hard won by the programs run by the states to control COVID-19.
Doris LeRoy, Altona

The colonial blip is nothing
I agree with federal Education Minister Alan Tudge (“Tudge concern at teaching focus on First Nations”, The Age, 1/5), we have to get the balance right in our teaching of Australian history.

However, the blip that is Australian history since British colonisation is as nothing compared with the countless millennia of rich human culture in this great country of ours.
Craig Reichenbach, Briar Hill

AND ANOTHER THING

Politics
How dare James Merlino suggest building a quarantine facility on Commonwealth-owned land. Surely there must be land available to purchase, at an exorbitant price, from a Liberal Party donor.
John Rosenbrock, Mount Martha

Religion is the ultimate form of identity politics, Prime Minister.
Mike Puleston, Brunswick

Should we be alert but not surprised by the government’s newly resurrected “Reds under the bed” campaign? There must be an election around the corner.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North

Australia – from happy-go-lucky democracy to accidental theocracy?
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

Hopefully, federal Housing Minister Michael Sukkar understands that negative gearing and discounted capital gains tax are currently the main drivers of house price increases rather than irresponsibly just blaming the states (The Age, online, 1/5).
Peng Ee, Castle Cove, NSW

A bus by another name
A tram with rubber wheels and batteries is a bus (“Trackless and with rubber wheels, it may be our next generation trams”, 2/5).
George King, Wheelers Hill

India travel ban
Surely it is unlawful for the government to ban Australians in India from returning home and threatening fines up to $66,600 or five years in prison ?
Susan Munday, Bentleigh East

Furthermore
Yes, Australia has a white/Christian/European history. Let’s consider how that worked for Indigenous Australians.
Chris Boon, Nunawading

Correction
The letter from Traecey Bremner, Kew, published on Saturday (1/5) should have read: Re vaccine hesitancy. Remember the possible blood clotting complications associated with the COVID-19 infection.
The mistake was made in editing.

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