Taking responsibility for where you live

Credit:Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

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FLOODS

Taking responsibility for where you live

National Recovery and Resilience Agency co-ordinator-general Shane Stone asks why people would want to live “among the gum trees” following the disastrous floods. This recalls Victoria’s then planning minister Matthew Guy’s jibe after floods in 2012: “If Labor and the Greens and their associates have such concerns about bushfire risk in the Green Wedge, why do the people making these claims still live there?” (The Age, 10/9, 2012).

There are many reasons why people live in such areas: some have been there for generations, others have taken advantage of more affordable housing, while other want to move away from the ever increasing urbanisation. However, residents need to act in advance to mitigate risk. This involves formulating an emergency plan to leave early, preparing a property appropriately, having a back-up plan or two (maybe a personal bunker) and so on.

It is not an easy task. Gender dysfunction emerged as a key issue in a local survey following a bushfire – ie, he wants to stay, she wants to go. Also, after time, memories of disasters fade and complacency returns. New residents often have no idea about what might happen. Volunteer and emergency services work with the community to ensure awareness and compliance. Nevertheless, it is an uphill struggle. Responsibility and awareness, first and foremost, lies with residents.
Dick Davies, North Warrandyte

A dangerous veneration of our military service

First Peter Dutton and now the Prime Minister say they will “not cop”any criticism, presumably valid or otherwise, of the Australian Defence Force. How is this banal response legitimate?

Notwithstanding the constant cranking up of United States-style veneration of military service, and former prime minister John Howard’s promotion of “Anzacery”, the ADF – as the servant of our democratic society – is not sacrosanct. Rather than following this up, the media representatives who asked legitimate questions seemed to have copped it sweet, and abandoned the issue. I hope not.
Ian McKendry, Kew East

Pivot our defence forces to support the community

The timing of the announcement of a boost to the defence forces (The Age, 10/3) is interesting given the comments by Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton that defence personnel cannot be called up at whim. If we will have 50,000 to 80,000 personnel in training and preparation for a war, why can’t they also be trained to support the community during natural disasters?

Surely in times of conflict, they will have to deal with fires and floods, reconstruction and building communication – all of these skills are needed with these situations at home. Why can’t the defence forces have a section that is ready to be called in as needed? As we face the impacts of climate change, we will require such services more often so we must pivot our defence forces to support the community.
Marg D’Arcy, Rye

The very different leaders of Ukraine and Australia

In one country, we have a leader who is courageously standing up to the forces of an invasion, even refusing to abandon his people when offered the chance. In another country, we have a leader who, when visiting flood victims, gutlessly sneaked into an event via a back entrance so as to avoid dealing with the locals, and who did not tell the media (The Age, 10/2) in case there were any awkward handshake refusals.
Greg Smith, Caulfield South

Warnings about weather events have been ignored

Some people say we should not expect government to help in every natural disaster. After years of climate-change denial, people are naturally angry they are suffering because of the failure to act on the warnings, and they will not be distracted by political talk about costs. Unless we plan for the future that science tells us is very probable, the anger will only increase. Scott Morrison is, understandably, the focus of resentment because of his stunt with a piece of coal, trivialising a dire issue.
David Lamb, Kew East

THE FORUM

Anti-democratic approach

Your editorial – “Albanese needs bold ideas to make his case” (The Age, 10/3) – repeats Scott Morrison’s claims about Anthony Albanese’s inexperience: “On both the economy and national security, his lack of experience gnaws at his credibility.” This seems a little odd, coming as it does after your praise for Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, both of whom had far less experience of government than does Albanese, or indeed many of his frontbench colleagues.

But the more serious problem is that this argument would mean we should never change governments: the longer one party remains in power, the less experience its opponents are likely to have. In practice this is a dangerous and anti-democratic argument. It might be a good line for the Prime Minister, it is not one worthy of a serious newspaper.
Dennis Altman, Clifton Hill

Integrity and experience

Your editorial casts doubt on the abilities of Anthony Albanese. He has been an MP for more than 20 years, and was Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House under Labor governments. Above all he demonstrates integrity, competency and fairness, qualities lacking in the current government.
Penny Ryan, Mordialloc

Enriching children’s lives

How wonderful that child care is a hot political issue, with both the major parties making increased funding part of their election platforms. But how unfortunate that the justification for it is mainly couched into terms of how it will free women to enter the work force and thus boost the economy – eg, your editorial (The Age, 7/3).

It is well established that those early years of children’s lives are vitally important for their development and that quality early childhood education makes a substantial difference in helping them reach their full potential.

Surely that should be a very high priority and early childhood education should be seen as the first and perhaps most fundamental building block in our education system. In emphasising that this service is primarily part of the education system, we will also give proper recognition to the expertise of the people, mostly women, who work in this field.
Barbara Wertheim, Brunswick

Re-educate the experts

Joanna Barbousas – “We must educate a new class of teachers” (Opinion, 10/3) – is spot on. The current system of education is stuck in the 19th century and desperately requires fixing.

However, just changing the curriculum for student teachers will not change the system. In my experience, much of the pressure to retain the old ways comes from the top down – the Education Department and school leadership. In order to fix the problem, we need to re-educate the “experts” first.
Judith Crotty, Dandenong North

Importance of history

Miles Pattenden (Opinion, 7/3) is right that Australia is suffering from a lack of historians working before the 20th century. Historians of the premodern world help us interpret the past and respond to its presence now.

Frankly, though, the number of historians working in any area in Australia is vanishingly small. This leaves us with a diminished capacity to analyse situations where history is at play at home and across the world. Vladimir Putin’s false history of the Kyivan Rus is one example. Another is China’s accounts of its emergence and development.

Only the very short-sighted could argue that we don’t need experts trained in premodern Chinese history to help us understand its actions, yet there is hardly anyone in the country who researches in this area.

We need to employ historians and teach students across chronologies and geographies. That way we have the best chance to respond with sophistication to the world now. There is a solution: proper funding for focused teaching and research across historical studies in all their depth.
Dr Matthew Champion, senior lecturer in history, University of Melbourne

Well, what a coincidence

Hoteliers and alcohol manufacturers make a $390,000 donation to the Coalition, and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg discusses halving the tax on draught beer in the budget (The Age, 8/3). A top-shelf shout for all who are lucky to be at the table.
Brent Hodgson, Hawthorn East

Win or lose, it’s loss

Do we need to feel sorry for Russian soldiers in Ukraine? Lose the war, and with events like the despicable bombing of a maternity hospital, they could well be convicted as war criminals.

Win, and they can’t go home. Russia is being lied to and told their forces have not invaded Ukraine. Disputing government propaganda has been made a criminal offence. The military know where they have been, so will be permanently silenced or imprisoned. It’s a lose-lose for Russia’s military on the ground unless Vladimir Putin is replaced.
Brett McGowan, Lynbrook

Showing our humanity

Of course we have to let the 100 Australasian gannet chicks that hatched over summer stay on a platform in Port Phillip Bay until they can fly from their nest (The Age, 10/3). These are the little things that make us the best of human beings.
Peter Johns, Sorrento

A lack of forethought

Why spend the money on engaging experts to provide “advice, detailed methodology and services” to relocate the gannet chicks when a bit of forethought could have revealed the likelihood of this problem occurring and therefore delayed the project for the comparatively short time needed to ensure that all the chicks fledge safely? Once again bureaucracy triumphs over common sense and conservancy.
Lee Palmer, Albert Park

Come on, it’s only a month

Given that the Department of Defence seems unperturbed that we will have to wait 20 years or more for our first nuclear submarine, surely it can wait a month for a bunch of gannet chicks to fledge before demolishing their platform in Port Phillip Bay?
Brandon Mack, Deepdene

Truly vital services

What a logical piece from Danny Hill – “Long triple-zero delays preventable” (Opinion, 7/3). Years ago, I attended a few pre-training and selection sessions with the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority. Although I did not make the cut, the experience opened my eyes to the complex nature and pressured environment for call-takers. Given those work circumstances, it does not surprise there should be a constant drive for new recruits.

The ESTA is fundamental to the community. Surely non-urgent calls should be identified quickly, then re-directed to a nurse-on-call team (or similar). And surely much increased funding should be allocated for purchase of ambulances equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.

Rather than government funding of non-essential projects, the community is in dire need of skilled paramedics who are properly remunerated and supported. I cannot conceive any voter disagreeing with such funding or, indeed, renovation of the present system, so why the political pussy footing?
Lois Davey, Leopold

Good food, good health

I am undertaking a degree in food studies and wonder why institutional food is still so void of taste. A relative was recently a COVID-19 patient in hospital. She lamented that “they can’t even get the bread and butter right,” as she became increasingly dispirited about her recovery in an already sterile and lonely environment.

The broth that I managed to run up to her ward helped her realise her taste, in fact, had not been tainted by her illness. She merely needed food with some substance. This is incredibly disappointing in a country with access to culturally diverse, ethically responsible and tasty food.

I am not critical of staff who have been under enormous pressure during the pandemic. However, it is laughable that there is not a higher budget for better food in our healthcare system.
Carl Watson, Pascoe Vale

Stop talking the talk

After hearing all the excuses and platitudes from politicians in the north, I have come to the conclusion we should pass a bill that they all be forbidden from speaking, and only allowed to act.
Suzanne Palmer-Holton, Seaford

The million dollar question

For me, the biggest question around the potential takeover or split of AGL (Business, 8/3) is the make-up of a new entity, Accel Energy, with all the coal-fired power stations in it. Will it also have the financial backing to carry out the clean-up and restoration of its power stations once they are closed, or will the Australian people be expected to pay for the environmental mess they leave behind?
John Pinniger, Fairfield

Convenient for the PM?

I might be somewhat cynical but maybe the Victorian Liberals took their “vital redemptive step” (Letter, 9/3) by adopting a net zero target by 2050 at the behest of the beleaguered federal Coalition. Surely the Prime Minister is not hoping to bask in the reflected glory of his Liberal counterparts in Victoria rather than taking a redemptive step himself?
Jennifer Quigley, Balwyn

Accepting responsibility

I am grateful for Ross Gittins’ clear-eyed view of the federal/state relationship (Opinion, 9/3). The unhappy political consequences usually mean that when the feds are responsible, they are able to pass the buck, set up a royal commission and move on to the next fiasco.

Gittins says of the feds, “If you can’t hold a hose, just bring your chequebook.” Yes, but bringing the chequebook means nothing without action and an acceptance of purpose and policy responsibility. The chequebook/buck stops at the ballot box.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

AND ANOTHER THING

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Floods

I’m waiting for the publicity photo of the PM helping to clean up the sludge – holding a hose, of course.
Kevan Porter, Alphington

Too little, too late once again Mr Morrison.
Karen Morris, Newport

He’s too busy holding the coal.
John Uren, Blackburn

Last seen, Scott Morrison was swimming for his life.
Margaret Skeen, Point Lonsdale

Remember the bushfires and last years’s floods? Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome is the definition of madness.
Sean Geary, Southbank

The PM’s famous ad, “Where the bloody hell are you?” would be appropriate for the ADF’s response to the floods.
Andrew Dods, Apollo Bay

Morrison says no amount of support will be enough in Lismore. Does that mean resident’s expectations were too high?
Vivienne Kane, Hawthorn

The PM’s response to victims is, basically, “you’re on your own”. Is it any wonder he didn’t want the film crews there?
Ian Anderson, Ascot Vale

Politics

The Liberals’ back flip on climate change is a charade. Let the party room brawling begin.
Andrew McFarland, Templestowe

Few, if any, will mourn the demise of the DLP (Defacto Liberal Party).
Tom Stafford, Wheelers Hill

An extra $38 billion to be spent on defence? No one wastes money quicker than the Defence Department.
Philip West, Jan Juc

ScoMo’s latest slogan is PPNK: Political Promises Never Kept.
Robert Freeman, Portarlington

Ukraine

McDonald’s to close its 850 outlets in Russia? That’s rewarding the Russians, not penalising them.
Bryan Fraser, St Kilda

With fast food companies suspending operations, we’re giving Russians a health boost.
Joan Segrave, Healesville

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