Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

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FLOODS

Parliamentary inquiry needed for flood wall

Having Melbourne Water review the impact of the Flemington Racecourse’s flood wall on surrounding areas (The Age, 17/10) is inadequate. A parliamentary inquiry is necessary. The spring carnival races have important social and economic benefits for Victoria. And it is not unreasonable to minimise disruption. The flood wall preserved the racecourse but surrounding areas have experienced detriment due to flooding.

Three major, west-bound arterials – Dynon, Smithfield and Maribyrnong roads – were cut off. Two of those lead to the new Footscray Hospital. The Melbourne Seafood Centre was isolated as was Dock Link Road, with impacts on the Dynon Freight Terminal. Flood waters also got close to the Metro Tunnel’s portal at South Kensington. The flood wall did not cause all of this but it may have contributed to it. These disruptions have had great economic and social impacts. That is why a parliamentary inquiry is required.
Carlo Ursida, Kensington

The review must be perceived as independent

Why hasn’t someone other than Melbourne Water – such as an independent, consulting hydrologist – been appointed to review Flemington Racecourse’s flood wall? Melbourne Water had a significant involvement, historically, in the wall being built, including reviewing the modelling and not opposing the granting of a town planning permit. There will be greater public confidence if there is a perception of independence and arm’s-length separation in the conduct of such a review.
Gary Testro, Maribyrnong

The high cost of the Kennett government’s ’reforms’

It seems we are now playing “blame the authorities” in regard to housing developments on flood plains. This is what I know. When I bought a ramshackle old house in 1986 on what was then a neglected part of the Yarra River’s banks, the 1934 flood levels went across my backyard and I was told Melbourne Water would never permit any building there.

After the Kennett government’s “reforms” and privatisation of town planning processes, I have observed council and Melbourne Water progressively relax these restrictions, supported by “expert” opinions employed by developers and home owners.

My property is now surrounded by concrete behemoths built out over the old flood levels and extending from boundary to boundary, blocking the natural flow of water down to the river. Perhaps the “red tape” that was abolished in the 1990s push for privatisation of planning and building served a purpose after all.
Miriam Faine, Hawthorn

A basic requirement: houses that are flood-proof

Why isn’t it mandatory for all houses which are built on flood plains to be of a flood-proof design, such as the houses being raised? Some of the modern houses around the Maribyrnong River have such a design and probably got through the crisis much better than the older houses. It seems just logical to me. These better designed houses would probably be more expensive to build but so too is the cost of insurance for a flood-prone houses.
Doug Springall, Yarragon

Revealing the rubbish we send into our waterways

If you are not flooded out, go and have a look at the banks of your local river, creek or drain. The amount of rubbish you will see is a tiny proportion of what we have just sent into our bays and oceans. This is a devastating reflection on our community and our government.

Victoria’s container deposit scheme, set to begin in 2023, is a small step in the right direction. However, we also need serious bans on disposable drink cups, plastic packaging, containers, tree guards etc and the moment to implement them is now. We oldies managed to do without all this stuff in the past. We all have to learn to do it again.
Graham Patterson, Briar Hill

THE FORUM

A state-wide approach

Re “Out-of-date flood maps mean homes built on flood plains” (The Age, 18/10). The Premier says “town planning in the main is a matter for local government” and therefore he is not responsible for solving the problem. He also says “local communities know best” regarding areas prone to flooding.

Why do we have the Victorian Planning Authority, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and other state-wide departments and agencies if local communities are to deal with these significant issues, including flooding?

Surely, a government-led, state-wide, integrated approach to identifying and planning for flood plains and the like is necessary. Especially as the location of flood-prone land does not respect local government boundaries.
John Henshall, Fitzroy

Stand up to developers

The Premier appears to deny flood mapping has anything to do with the state government, stressing that “town planning in the main is a matter for local government”. What role then does the Victorian Planning Authority have in preparing precinct structure plans for future development on flood-prone land and existing wetlands?
And what about the role of Planning Panels Victoria to (according to its website) “independently assess planning proposals and major projects across Victoria”?

Is there any connection between developers wanting to build on flood-prone land and wetlands and the premier having a mind blank? This push by developers needs to be blocked, by the state.
Bruce McGregor, Brunswick

Taking positive action

As Rory Nathan, a professor in hydrology and water resources at the University of Melbourne, says, we cannot stop floods from happening but we can minimise the anthropogenic contributions to flooding (Comment, 18/10).

We can prevent land clearing that exacerbates water run-off, stop channelling rivers, plant trees to absorb water, abstain from using impervious surfaces wherever possible and reduce the expansion of housing into flood plains and the environmental footprint of buildings by mandating vegetation. By thinking ahead, we take positive action in the face of climate change.
Leigh Ackland, Deepdene

Mechanising the process

This year I have viewed a large number of floods over the east coast of Australia. Every time I watch antiquated “technology” , used for hundreds of years, to fill sandbags: a shovel dropping sand into a bag held by two human hands. In terms of workplace safety and efficiency, it is abysmal.

Any good, basic engineering shop could put together a large bin feeding through multiple shutes into bags. This would vastly accelerate the pace at which we fill sandbags, and remove much of the labour and the workplace safety issues. I just can’t believe that we cannot be cleverer.
John Paterson, Kooyong

Let’s build higher up

When I travel in countries where people have been building for centuries, I see many picturesque, densely built towns on top of hills. That probably helped to defend against invaders (humans always were like that), but it helped equally as a defence against water. Surely we have enough hills to emulate that approach, if only we stopped covering precious fertile land with single-story houses.
Ralph Böhmer, St Kilda West

Ideal teaching resources

Re “Push for shared lesson plans to help teachers” (Comment, 17/10). There are already high-quality resources available to teachers in all subjects. They are written by experts, aligned to the national curriculum and allow a clear and logical progression from one year level to the next. They are called textbooks.
Marlena Knight, Swan Point, Tas

Pressure to create plans

Peter Hendrickson (Letters, 18/10) nails it. The workload of teachers increased exponentially with the advent of school-based curriculum development. Suddenly it became uncool to use an established (or any) textbook, and every teacher had to formulate exciting and creative lesson plans of their own five times a day.
Lindsay Zoch, Mildura

Talk to literacy teachers

Re “Students’ writing skills in ’serious decline‴⁣⁣ (The Age, 18/10). Since NAPLAN was imposed as the standard measure, we have had a plethora of costly materials directing parents and teachers on how to prepare kids to meet reading and writing standards.

Only spelling standards have not declined over seven years we are told. Spelling is a “surface feature” of writing and is easy to measure. It can be over-valued as a skill at the expense of meaningful engagement with writing.
Spelling is also seen as a measure of reading ability which can be equally misleading. It is time the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, made up largely of career public servants, consulted with classroom literacy teachers. I suspect NAPLAN is already doing more harm than good.
Susan Mahar, Fitzroy North

Unfair labels on doctors

Medical misallocation of scarce resources is a universal feature of universal healthcare systems.

In the United Kingdom, I saw thousands of pounds wasted: by surgeons working round the clock because of an addiction to operating, by oncologists and radiotherapists prolonging the life of the terminally ill, and by many others whose clinical decisions did not seem to be in the best interests of the health of their patients, or of the National Health Service. But there was never any question that it was due to the financial greed of individual doctors.

Moving to Australia I saw similar behaviour patterns, now distorted by the perceived financial incentive of the Medicare item number. It is not easy to distinguish a clinical judgment you disagree with from financial greed. There may be as much as $8billion of waste in Medicare, but to label all of it as “systemic rorting” by doctors is “overkill”.
Mike Sanderson, retired anaesthetist, Drouin

Temptation of easy money

Why are we surprised about the Medicare rorts when the system assumes that because doctors are “professionals” they will be honest in their dealings? Remember how the vocational training system was also rorted by the private sector? It sounds like a similar ethos here – if it is easy money, with minimal oversight, we are again the losers.
Denise Stevens, Healesville

Not all ‘reforms’ are good

In the 1990s, we were told that more competition in training and building approvals, for example, would result in a nirvana not unlike that predicted by Competition Minister Andrew Leigh – “Reforms raised for ’zippier economy‴⁣⁣ (The Age, 17/10).

What did we get? Shortages of skilled workers, the scamming of people signing up for courses and housing units with serious construction faults. Leigh needs to explain how his proposed “reforms” will not lead to some similarly dubious outcomes.
Robert Glass, Mont Albert North

Onus is on the employer

The response to the employee who was being berated and belittled by her boss about her workload was short on sensible useful advice (Life, 12/10). What happened to advising her of the legalities relating to being bullied and potentially discriminated against, talking to the HR department, seeking out the union rep etc?

Yes, the worker’s health comes first, but there must be other actions available than seeking out people within the organisation she trusts, and to what end? This advice places the responsibility of resolving the issue on the employee, when the power relationship is already heavily weighted in the manager’s favour.
Trish Reid, Burwood

Let’s follow Paris’ lead

I have just returned from a couple of months in Europe where there has been a substantial amount of traffic management. Paris was a standout. Major and minor roads are one-way with every other road in the opposite direction. Parking remained on both sides; the first road lane was of normal width, providing two ways for people-powered and electric bikes and scooters. The second and any other lanes were one-way for cars, motorbikes and buses.

Very wide roads had a small median strip for the bus stops, otherwise it stopped in the bike lane. Bikes and scooters had plenty of space and, being part of the road, meant they obeyed all rules.

Pedestrians were safe with no wheeled transport on the footpath and only one way to look when crossing. Traffic flowed easily with only one lane turning, one way, at each intersection.

Obviously, journeys took a bit of planning and there was more walking involved but the system was a delight. If they can do it on the two roads divided by the Seine River, maybe we could try some similar thinking here.
Heather Barker, Albert Park

Bring roads up to standard

With every good reason the authorities insist that vehicles on our roads are roadworthy. One wonders why the same scrutiny does not apply to our roads. So many are now dangerously scarred and not “carworthy”.
Mike Jolley, Torquay

It comes down to players

With the regular, end-of-season sacking of AFL coaches, wouldn’t it be more prudent for the clubs’ presidents to look at their list managers rather than their coaches? It is almost impossible to turn chewy into chocolate.
Kevin Laws, Thornbury

Put pressure on banks

For many years commercial banks have enjoyed a guarantee from the government to protect their customers’ deposits. An insurance scheme with no premiums. It is about time the government asked for something in return by setting a minimum per capita number of branches, tellers and ATMs that can be used without charge. On current trends, a bank will soon be nothing more than an “app” that does nothing useful for anyone and charges for everything.
Don Relf, Mentone

AND ANOTHER THING

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Medicare

What a surprise that with few checks and balances and billions of dollars available to access, Medicare would be rorted.
Tony O’Brien, South Melbourne

Did some doctors take the hypocritical oath?
Roger Christiansz, Wheelers Hill

As a bulk-billed pensioner and taxpayer, why can’t I check what my GP has claimed on my behalf, in real time
Mick Webster, Chiltern

Ethics should be a compulsory subject in all tertiary courses.
Graeme Walters, Mount Waverley

Floods

Hollow out public sector town planning and ignore global heating and you are left with a flood of tears.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Floods? Let’s blame Dan.
Pat Rivett, Ferntree Gully

There’s a volcanic eruption next or maybe an earthquake.
Margaret Skeen, Point Lonsdale

Why does your correspondent (18/10) thank Dan for Mickleham when it was Scott’s government that built and paid for it (4/10)?
Greg Hardy, Upper Ferntree Gully

Furthermore

Australia’s greatest defenders fought against the powerful invasion force of 200 years ago. They should be front and centre at the war memorial.
Andrew Weatherhead, Glen Waverley

Tony Lenten (17/10), think of the joy when the Saints do win a premiership in 150 years.
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

I agree with Jon Smith (17/10) and think DA took a shortcut with his multiple “split” clues in his quick crossword on Friday.
Helen Mitchell, Berwick

Do graffiti artists paint their own homes first?
Bill Burns, Bendigo

I object to a “fart tax” on people over 75 (17/10). It’s un-Australian.
Bob Whiteside, North Warrandyte

Your correspondent asked if Albo “will spend it all” (18/19). Too late. ScoMo has already done it.
Ross Hosking, Blackwood, SA

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