Australia

Government slogans and policy betray the young

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

Illustration: Andrew DysonCredit:

Good on Chris Uhlmann (‘‘Here’s an idea: Stop the slogans’’, 5/8) for making an important and often unstated point about the terrible, disproportionate effects the government’s extreme and unprecedented measures will have on children and young people. A virus that overwhelmingly affects very old and sick people is being ‘‘managed’’ at a phenomenal cost to future generations: the crucial years of childhood and adolescent socialisation and development are being severely disrupted through social distancing and school closures; low-level jobs that youths use to enter the world of work will be gone; and important milestones such as school graduation, and 18th and 21st birthday parties, which mark the transition to adulthood, often highlights in a life, have been wiped from the calendar.

Oh yes, and the average 20-year-old will have to spend their working life paying off the debt. Surely a strategy that focused on protecting old people and care homes while allowing the healthy young to go about their lives would have been more sensible? The government has betrayed the young, and I don’t doubt in future years those now grown-up children will shake their fists and curse the so-called caretakers of this country.
Emmet O’Dwyer, Shepparton

Glib slogans fool nobody
Chris Uhlmann critiques the slogan ‘‘Staying apart keeps us together’’ and thinks that keeping us physically distanced is causing economic and emotional harm. He says slogans are counterproductive. I agree with him on all of this, but to defeat the virus of course we need physical distancing.

The more insidious slogan is ‘‘We are all in this together’’. This seems to indicate we are equally suffering. This is not true. Wealthy people and those that are employed have the cushioning of one or more warm homes, a secure income and enough food. Poorer people and people on visas do not necessarily have these basic necessities. Younger people are worse off. They have had their education interrupted, will carry a big tax debt to pay off the government handouts and their careers will take years to come to fruition. Glib slogans fool nobody, or do they?
Jan Marshall, Brighton

Thinking of our children and grandchildren
Thank you Chris Uhlmann for a concise, intelligent summation of the continuing disaster that encompasses us all. As a 75-year-old, I fear for our children and grandchildren’s future. My husband and I are at the short end of our lives. Let our families live openly and proceed to a reasonable future.
Geraldine O’Sullivan, Hawthorn

No evidence provided about divisions
Chris Uhlmann is obviously living in a different universe to the rest of us with his assertion that ‘‘... forcing people apart (in the current crisis) will be to entrench physical, economic, social and ideological barriers that will further ghettoise us’’. What utter nonsense. Where is his evidence? He claims that making us keep apart in the pandemic – both internally and within state boundaries – is a bad thing; that it is simply driving us apart, yet the evidence is very much to the contrary. I can assure him that I prefer – and will continue to follow – the advice of health experts rather than the musings of a political journalist.
Brian Morley, Donvale

Less blame required
If Chris Uhlmann was able to offer the elderly ‘‘with only a few more years’’ to live (however he defines that) the certainty of voluntarily ending their lives now to rid us of this virus, I suspect there could be a significant take-up. Of course, he can’t. And if the virus disposes effectively of the elderly (over 70? over 60?) then it is perfectly capable of moving to those in their 40s and 30s as it has already done. ‘‘One generation will make sacrifices to protect another,’’ indeed to protect everyone else, is what happens in a war. If the 92-year-olds could do it, they almost certainly would. So perhaps a little bit of reflective hush, instead of the perpetual blame game, might help us all.
Alison Fraser, Ascot Vale

THE FORUM

Disorder in the house
Can anyone explain to me why the Victorian upper house chose to meet, even though the medical authorities suggested that they don’t? And then, instead of saying ‘‘OK, what do we need to do to help deal with this pandemic?’’, behave like spoilt five-year-olds. Very disappointing.
Catherine Milner, Port Albert

Politics unwanted
Just how much lower can the state opposition go? Right now, every Victorian should be united behind the attempt to get on top of the pandemic. Instead, against the advice of the Chief Health Officer, it called a sitting of the upper house. The aim appeared to be an attempt to humiliate Health Minister Jenny Mikakos rather than proposing any constructive plans to further fight the pandemic. Victorians will get a chance to make their judgment of the handling of the pandemic at the next election. The state opposition would be well advised to keep politics out of it for now.
Phil Alexander, Eltham

Democracy in action
In contrast to your correspondent who sees political games in the questioning of the Health Minister in the upper house (Letters, 5/8), I see an opposition carrying out its elected role in a democracy, that of holding the government of the day accountable. This is all the more important at a time when sweeping powers are being exercised.
Sidra de Zoysa, Glen Iris

Indifferent minister
The Minister for Health seemed to be more interested in tweeting on her phone than answering questions concerning her knowledge of the outbreak of infections at hotel quarantine sites. Unbelievable indifference.
Martin Newington, Aspendale

Message is simple
Sorry to see Noel Butterfield (Letters, 5/8) has found the government’s COVID-19 guidelines complicated (as with Labor’s communication at the last election). I think it has been simple. 1. Stay at home; 2, 3 and 4 are exceptions. If you don’t understand the exceptions, refer to 1. Stay at home. How simple do you want it?
Geoff Cheong, Aspendale Gardens

Honour hospital staff
Hear, Hear, Margaret Fitzherbert (‘‘It is our duty to fix honours system’’, 5/8) when she calls for a COVID-19 medal for those at the front line, including hospital medical staff, cleaners and administrative and other support staff. It doesn’t seem nearly enough acknowledgement of the efforts and bravery of our neighbour across the road, a nurse, to be supplying her with a few eggs from our two chooks.
Rosemary Taylor, Castlemaine

Swedish imperfections
Andrew Rothfield (Letters, 5/8) points to Sweden as a justification for not imposing a severe lockdown in dealing with coronavirus, noting that in the past fortnight, Sweden has had fewer deaths than Australia. Quite true. But there is a significant omission in his letter. In the first wave of the pandemic, Sweden, with a population just 40 per cent of Australia’s, had 81,000 cases and 5747 deaths, 25 times greater than Australia’s toll. I doubt if Sweden can be seen as a perfect model.
Barry Jones, AC, Melbourne

Adopt Swedish model
Lockdowns have not quelled the virus. New Zealand’s approach worked because borders closed quickly and it was used from the outset. It’s now time for the Swedish model but with harsh restrictions on those in quarantine, awaiting tests or with the virus. No more collective punishment of the uninfected.
Edward James Ebinger, West Footscray

Living in a society
Ross Gittins (‘‘Smaller does not mean better’’, 5/8), details the inherent flaws in sidelining the role of government. Josh Frydenberg’s praise for the ‘‘smaller government’’ approach espoused by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan could not have been more ill-timed. The former said: ‘‘There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.’’ Ergo, governments can opt out of social responsibilities. Profit-taking trumps taxes ensuring the ‘‘social good’’. As Gittins argues, many of the COVID-19 deaths in Australia and the US have resulted from health systems paralysed by years of neglect in pursuit of such an ideology of individualism. ‘‘Society’’ does exist and collectivism must underpin the decisions of democratic governments.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

Contractual distancing
If the private security companies hired to help were confused about who was in charge, what about the employees of the sub-contracting, sub-contracting companies? Do they know who is really paying the bill, who they are working for? The greater the distance between employer and employee, the less accountability or responsibility.
Wendy Brennan, Bendigo

Be sensible at the grocer
It seems likely the food supply will be reduced by necessary workforce restrictions, so could the government get ahead of this problem rather than waiting until it escalates with panic buying.
Many of us have been food shopping once a week to reduce time out of home. If ‘‘store limits’’ are fixed regardless of whether shoppers visit the supermarket daily or weekly, more frequent shopping trips are likely, as many will cruise in hope of the elusive minced beef. There are many ways a fair rationing system could be implemented to prevent this erosion of the lockdown, and avoid the queues we saw last weekend.
Janet Wickerson, Thornbury

Dwarfed by Siberia
Much has been said and written regarding the causes of the bushfires. While we have dwelt on the 12,000,000 hectares of fire ground that engulfed our forests, farms and grasslands, these figures pale almost into insignificance when compared with the 20,000,000 hectares of fires that have destroyed forests in the Siberian wilderness. These fires started in January and are still burning now. If you add on the continued burning of the Amazon forests, you would have to say there is little chance of climate change mitigation.
Rob Park, Surrey Hills

Carers need to shop
The restrictions in supermarkets are adding to the risk for carers of at-risk people. I went to the supermarket yesterday, after being told not to panic buy, shopping for both my elderly mother-in-law and father both in their late 80s and fortunately not living in aged care facilities. I tried to buy a number of loaves of bread, canned vegetables and other goods and was told that I could not because of restrictions. I asked if they could be put through separately but was rebuffed again because I have only one card.

It seems we are required to expose ourselves and staff of the supermarkets on several occasions a week or roll out our elderly kin just to get appropriate levels of food. This is an ill thought-out set of restrictions that should be removed or altered to allow carers like myself to do appropriate shopping.
Peter Bertolus, Kialla

Inequity in support
There are many Victorian businesses run by sole traders who employ regular weekly sub-contractors as opposed to employees, thus rendering these businesses ineligible for business support grants.

These businesses have the same ongoing overheads, such as rent and utilities, as businesses with employees. For example, a business that turns over $350,000 a year employing 10 sub-contractors is ineligible for support grants, while a business that turns over $40,000 a year with one employee is eligible for the grants.

Such inequity must be rectified within the next 40 days before the grant applications close. If this inequity is not addressed, there will be a collapse of entire sectors. The dance school industry, which has been ignored throughout this pandemic, is one such sector.
Rachelle Kellett, Kyneton

Sole traders hurting
As a sole trader, I commend the call for federal and state government support for companies and sole traders in metropolitan Melbourne. Inexplicably, sole traders have been excluded from the state government’s $5000 expanded Business Support Fund. Yet, the lockdowns have devastated custom for these small businesses, which still have all the operating expenses to pay.

As sole traders often contribute a great deal to local communities, they should surely receive equitable support and some relief from the extreme stress caused by these enforced closures.
Marie Stokes, Kew

Grants not on merit
I know it’s a tough time to be a politician, but when there are business support measures announced, I would have hoped that those in need would be treated equally. Clearly not so. Employing businesses are eligible for a $10,000 grant to help get through the next six weeks provided they are registered for JobKeeper.

Small business owners who work their businesses themselves, usually doing horrendous hours in an attempt to get ahead, will have to look after themselves. These small businesses will mostly be closed under the stage four restrictions and many will go to the wall. Business grant applications should be assessed on both merit and need, not a set of largely irrelevant criteria.
Paul Blackie, Flinders

AFL should experiment
AFL season 2020 presents the perfect opportunity for radical experimentation. For the final three rounds, limit teams to 15 men a side – five backs, five centres which include the followers, five forwards and five interchange. Let’s see if that opens up the play and improves scoring.
John Walsh, Watsonia

AND ANOTHER THING ...

Illustration: Matt Golding

Illustration: Matt GoldingCredit:

Coronavirus
It’s time for Daniel Andrews and Brett Sutton to enlist the Lone Ranger and Tonto to lead the mounted police. They both realise the importance of masks, keeping distance and bringing recalcitrants to justice.
Peter McIntosh, Ballarat

How about face masks with a map of Victoria and a positive message such as Victoria – the Great Maskerade?
Keith White, Red Hill South

Hopefully among the Victorian unemployed will be those that bungled the hotel quarantine.
Robert Lewis, Brighton

Given that they are mostly negative, Michael O’Brien’s ‘‘column inches’’ don’t add up to anything much. Mind you, the invisible, nameless deputy PM adds up to even less.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Why are so many people wearing their masks over their mouths but under their noses? Perhaps they breathe through their chins.
Ranee Mischlewski, Box Hill South

We are in a State of Disaster the likes of which has never been seen; add Mikakos’ arrogance in parliament and Andrews’ lack of transparency and I am grateful we have an opposition leader to complain about.
Simone Martin, Balwyn

Tony Beach (Letters, 4/8), my reading of the Premier’s use of ‘‘I’’ instead of ‘‘we’’ suggests he is taking full responsibility for his announcements.
Ann Blunt, Doncaster

We are accused of being ‘‘sheeple’’, by the same crowd that wants us to develop ‘‘herd immunity’’. Make up your mind.
Steve Melzer, Hughesdale

The federal parliament expects Australians to work from home but they cannot do the same themselves. Have they not heard of Zoom or are they worried about ...
Glenn Brotchie, Warrnambool

Finally
To Victor Diskordia (Letters, 5/8): I cover your Dostoyevsky, and raise you a John Donne: ‘‘No man is an island entire of itself ... never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee’’.
Mike Puleston, Brunswick

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