If ever wearing masks was necessary, it’s here

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THE CORONAVIRUS

If ever wearing masks was necessary, it’s here
As has been observed, (Letters, 31/10 and 2/11) residential construction site workers’ flouting of mask-wearing requirements is so widespread it has indeed ‘‘become the rule’’.

Understandably, on building sites some fundamentals of defence against COVID-19 – physical distancing and mask-wearing – may be difficult. Groups of people may need to be on site. They may need to work in close proximity for certain purposes. The job may require physical exertion similar to the kind of exercise for which not wearing a mask is permitted.

However, it is precisely these conditions: groups, close proximity at times, the breath expelled in shouted conversation or instructions, air expelled via any physical huffing and puffing, that are the very reasons why masks must be worn – even on the busy building sites of newly liberated Melbourne.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East

Exemption undermines the message
Tradies should be wearing masks. If they’re not, dob them in. So say some of your letter writers. On the other hand, tradies could well be ‘‘working’’ as hard as cyclists and joggers thus finding masks hinder their work activities.

That exemption of cyclists and joggers from the start has undermined the government’s message ever since.
Margaret Callinan, Hawthorn

They have done themselves no favours
Michael O’Brien and Josh Frydenberg are not bad blokes, but in trying to exploit a wickedly challenging situation for Daniel Andrews for political gain they have done themselves and their party no favours.

Had we hearkened to their constant demands to take the foot off the brake, we would be now heading towards the hell of Europe rather than the sunny uplands we now inhabit. Many will remember their behaviour when it’s election time.
Peter Barry, Marysville

Give the man proper acknowledgment
Given the acceptance of the necessity now for lockdowns in the UK, continental Europe and the US and the pride we can take in our state as they look to Victoria for answers, isn’t it time Dan Andrews is given credit for following the science and public health advice, mandating masks and lockdowns in the face of fierce criticism?

His commitment to facing this dangerous virus, communicating the game plan daily and keeping the rest of us Victorians on track should now be properly acknowledged.
Steven Sommer, Highton

Our leaders have done well
All members of the national cabinet have been working their backsides off to keep their states and territories safe from this destructive virus. As a result these leaders (regardless of their political persuasion) have been enjoying unprecedented levels of approval from their constituents. It should therefore come as no surprise to the shouty armchair epidemiologists that the public is showing no appetite for a change of leadership.

Contrast our situation with the UK and continental Europe, where their economies are in a worse state than ours, as well as having millions of cases and thousands of deaths from an out-of-control COVID-19.

Well done, leaders, and well done, Australia. At least we should be able to enjoy a COVID-normal Christmas.
Liz Harvey, Mount Eliza

We are becoming restless
The Northern Territory government has opened its border to regional Victorians so why can’t the others do the same?

We regularly have zero cases of COVID-19 and have been patient and co-operative. We deserve to be permitted to visit family and friends in other states. We are becoming restless and a little bit angry.
Ian Braybrook, Castlemaine

THE FORUM

A failure of leadership
If history is anything to go by, the research by Deloitte Access Economics on the mind-boggling cost to the Australian economy of unchecked climate change will not trigger a change of heart in Canberra (‘‘Impacts of climate change ‘to dwarf virus’’’, The Age, 2/11).

Researchers have been ringing the alarm bells about the costs of climate impacts for a long time now. The quantification might be somewhat different but the essence is the same. Act now or pay more later. Act now or require future generations to bear the brunt of our selfishness.

It is the failure of leadership, the lack of a moral compass, not the lack of information, that is driving our inaction.
Lynn Frankes, Kew

Just ask your staff
If Ken Lay or other senior officials want to know about bullying and sexual harassment of women in the Victorian public sector, they only need to invite past and present staff to contact them about their experiences.

The government-employed investigators of a workplace I experienced concluded there weren’t just a few bad apples but a bad tree. Precisely nothing was done about it.

As it stands, speaking up simply puts women at risk of losing their job or other retaliation, as per Ambulance Victoria, so of course the problem ‘‘disappears’’ from the vision, hearing and knowledge of senior personnel.

American research has found that in these situations, the rate of job loss for affected employees is 82 per cent, compared to 18 per cent for perpetrators.
Barbara Chapman, Hawthorn

Praise for a big bank
The recent decision by the ANZ to address climate change by a range of measures supporting renewable energy is a welcome big bank decision (‘‘ANZ carbon policy riles Nationals’’, The Age, 30/10).

In an era when big banks have been criticised for irresponsible and inconsiderate policies, ANZ should be commended – instead our federal leaders have chosen to criticise a responsible decision.
Sadly, this demonstrates not only how insensitive and out of touch these ‘‘leaders’’ are but how eager they are to seek a headline. Regardless of political persuasion, when will they learn that without action we may in the very least lose even more than we did last tragic summer?

It’s time for real change Australia – thanks, ANZ, for the responsible move and exposing our leaders’ limitations.
Charles El-Hage, Ocean Grove

A progressive legacy
Paul Strangio’s excellent, insightful article (“A resilience to be thankful for’’, Comment, 2/11 ) only scratches the surface of the innovations, decency and progressive elements of the Liberal Hamer era in Victoria.

Other Hamer initiatives included the Ombudsman and the small claims and residential tenancies tribunals.

Such innovations would be scorned today by his federal successors, who seem to favour branch stacking, delays to an integrity commission and neutering the Auditor-General.

The decency and competence of Hamer era was further exemplified by the John Cain government. The Victorian electorate has always recognised these traits.

The next federal election will be held before Victoria’s of 2022. Without doubt, interesting and testing times are ahead, but which alternatives will best respond to Victoria’s demonstrable resilience, decency, liberal values and the spirit of our community?
John Miller, Toorak

No mask – no ride
Can we please have better policing of our public transport system; those choosing not to wear a mask should be asked to leave the transport.

As well – we deserve clean trains. No one wants to travel in a situation where they can catch COVID-19 from others’ dereliction of duty.
Doris LeRoy, Altona

We need an explanation
Uniquely, politicians are able to create laws to regulate themselves. This imposes a fiduciary duty when establishing an integrity body, which must be done at arm’s length using transparency and corruption experts to ensure an effective scheme.

Fortunately for us, in September 2019, the Senate approved a National Integrity Commission Bill, with only the Coalition opposing it. The NIC Bill is based on a model developed by anti-corruption experts.

Unfortunately, the Morrison government has stymied the establishment of the NIC by gagging a vote in the lower house. Instead, for more than two years, it has been ‘‘working’’ on its alternative model, which has been widely derided as having inadequate powers, secret hearings and limited jurisdiction.

Given the lack of trust in politicians and a plethora of reported concerning conduct of federal Coalition ministers, advisers and departments/agencies, the Morrison government needs to explain to Australians why we still don’t have a federal integrity body. And critically why, unlike other parties, it prefers a model developed by itself, i.e. a ‘‘politicians’’ model, over one developed by independent experts.
Carlo Ursida, Kensington

When Bond came calling
A friend of ours was a policeman stationed in Edinburgh in Scotland at the time Sean Connery came to fame as James Bond. Sean’s mother was getting hassled by people hanging around her house, and so forth.

Our friend, Norm, took Sean’s mother under his wing and took her shopping in the police car and looked after her welfare.

One Christmas Eve, our friend was on duty at the police station and late that night Sean arrived with a dozen bottles of the finest malt whisky, put it on the counter and said to the police: ‘‘Thanks for looking after my mum.’’
Carol Wilson, Wantirna South

The way forward
Ross Gittins has given us a good explanation of our flat economy and low inflation (‘‘How inflation dragon was slayed’’, Business, The Age, 31/10).

How to respond? One option is to make money cheaper through low interest rates and quantitative easing, but it’s hard to see how this can work when the drivers of low inflation continue on foot.

Thus far this option has only managed to create a housing bubble. Great if you’re in the small percentage of people who can afford an investment property, but regrettable for the millions who struggle with access to decent housing.

A second option is to embrace protectionism as the US has done. With its market of more than 330 million people, it might be possible to produce everything locally in the long term. During the transition, however, it means reduced choices and higher prices as consumers pay for the tariffs imposed on competitors. In a market as small as Australia’s, we’d probably have these negatives forever.

The way forward? Regard globalisation and technological change as opportunities. Apple is but the most obvious example of the riches and employment that follow this model. There would be no point competing with Apple, but there are huge opportunities in transforming to a renewables-based economy.
Darryl Pyrke, Blackmans Bay, Tas.

My grandson’s lament
What a sad situation for the future generations when I hear the words of my grandson: ‘‘You were seen as the ‘the Baby Boomers’, we will be seen as ‘the Baby Doomers’.’’

Please, Prime Minister, wake up to what the future will be for the next generation to come if you do not take immediate action on climate change.

What a legacy you will leave if you do not act now .
Glenise Michaelson, Montmorency

He’s done them a favour
As Cole Brown suggests, removing Donald Trump from office will not solve the deep-seated problems facing the United States (‘‘Trump’s damage will endure’’, Comment, 2/11). The ‘‘years of division and dereliction’’ Brown refers to, however, are not the Trump years, but centuries of American history.

While Trump has exposed these problems, in a perverse way, he has done Americans a favour. He has confronted them with the nature and scale of their challenges.

There is a real danger that a Biden election win will lull Americans back into a false sense of ‘‘normalcy’’. Getting rid of Donald Trump should not be confused with the fundamental change required to make the US the successful nation it claims to be.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills

The verdict is in
The Court of Public Opinion has ruled in the case of Annastacia Palaszczuk and the verdict is an unequivocal ‘‘vindicated’’.

It just goes to show how out of touch Scott Morrison and Co. are with the people not only of Queensland but the whole of Australia.
Reg Murray, Glen Iris

The task before us
Winning the ongoing fight for democracy in the US and elsewhere will not be easy. It will require broadening and deepening both our conception and practice of the democratic idea (‘‘Time for a US leader who serves the people’’, The Age, 2/11).

The rise of an electoral autocracy such as the Trump regime is part of a more general trend and has become the form of government in many countries. In such states, elections might still be held but the electoral process is compromised and challenged, the independence of the judiciary is eroded, media diversity and freedom is challenged, police, security and military forces are politicised.

In the immediate term, the focus must be on defeating Donald Trump and his ilk in other states. In the medium and longer term, the core ideas of the separation of powers, the rule of law and press freedom will need to be reinvigorated and joined by a 21st century struggle for economic and ecological democracy in corporations and nations if we are to deal better with the expanding powers of oligarchies, plutocrats, and autocracies.
Stewart Sweeney, North Adelaide, SA

AND ANOTHER THING

Emission reductions
Perhaps the reason that the government can’t achieve any emission reduction targets is that Angus Taylor has yet to figure out how many zeros distinguish a thousand from a million.
Erica Grebler, Caulfield North

Credit:

I look forward to the PM brandishing a BBQ gas bottle in Parliament as China, Japan and Sth Korea cut their coal imports. The Coalition is looking increasingly non-renewable.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Politics
Amanda Vanstone, as an obvious expert on ‘‘pub tests’’ what do you have to say about the land sale for the Sydney airport?
Ian Grandy, Nunawading

A well-deserved rebuke from Amanda Vanstone for Christine Holgate’s gifts. I can’t remember Bridget McKenzie receiving the same criticism for her largesse before the federal election.
Les Anderson, Woodend

Americans are facing a difficult choice – the chaos following re-electing Donald Trump or the chaos following not re-electing him.
Tony O’Brien, South Melbourne

The coronavirus
Michael O’Brien wants to introduce dining out vouchers like the UK did – just as they go back into lockdown.
Dave Torr, Werribee

When is our Prime Minister (for NSW) going to start demanding Gladys Berejiklian opens up the NSW/Victoria border?
Andy Wain, Rosebud

Furthermore
Fossil fuels and fossil politicians, we need to get rid of them both.
Jeff Moran, Bacchus Marsh

What are the chances that the last of our ‘‘new’’ multibillion-dollar submarines ends up in the maritime museum the moment it is completed?
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

Finally
Thanks, Mark Bucknall from Queensland, (And Another Thing, 2/11), yes, we truly are a beautiful, soulful and friendly city, good on you, Melburnians, we should be proud.
Donna Tsironis, Blackburn South

Note from the Editor

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