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GOVERNMENT MANDATES

Vaccine rules are not the thin edge of the wedge
Your correspondent (“This is not justified”, Letters, 23/11) need not be concerned about restrictions on unvaccinated people being the thin end of the wedge. This is simply a logical and time-limited measure to keep people safe and our hospitals operating. The risks are starkly, and unfortunately, evidenced by the fact that 95 per cent of COVID-19 patients in hospital are unvaccinated.

It is not a matter of “freedom of conscience”. I cannot get behind a wheel, buy a gun or wander onto a worksite without proper training, the appropriate licence and being within drink/drug rules. We accept laws restricting our individual rights in order to better protect our community. It is a fundamental norm of our society.

Or as Senator Jacqui Lambie (“Lambie blasts One Nation on jab mandates”, The Age, 23/11) put it: “Being held accountable for your own actions isn’t called discrimination, it’s called being, you wouldn’t believe it, a goddam bloody adult.“
Graeme Russell, Clifton Hill

Unvaccinated must remain separated
Your correspondent (“Some restrictions must stay”, Letters, 22/7) rightly points out the strain on our heathcare workers the unvaccinated pose. They also represent a twentyfold risk of infecting others compared with the fully vaccinated, and prolong the period the virus circulates leading to greater chances of new mutations developing.

Far from allowing them freedom to take their place in society again, they should remain separated until COVID-19 is no longer a risk to the vulnerable. Why reward such selfishness?
Marie Martin, Malvern East

Opposing overreach is not a clinical condition
Josh Roose cleverly suggests those he disagrees with suffer from some sort of diagnosable disorder (“Extreme protests point to wider threat”, Comment, 23/11). Protesters suffer from “anger”, “resentment” and “powerlessness” and have their ideological roots in “extremism” and “conspiracy theories”.

What an incredibly patronising take. Might it be that many people simply disagree with the state government’s response to the pandemic. They might object to their freedoms being abridged for mere messaging (a la outdoor masks and curfews).

It’s not a conspiracy theory to say that the lockdowns have been disproportionate, it’s a value judgment. And there are plenty of thoughtful and well-educated people who take that view.

At any rate, it is galling to suggest that the plebians who have had their jobs eliminated by government fiat, their children out of school for most of two years and the minutiae of their lives dictated to them are really just falling for conspiracy theories and extremism in a stubborn, self-willed exile from the state’s loving breast. Opposing this isn’t some clinical condition. Maybe the writer is wrong, and they’re right.
Thomas Baker, Camberwell

It’s time to stop pandering to fringe minorities
Jacqui Lambie perfectly captured the frustration and anger felt by many of us. I love how much of her tirade applied to Scott Morrison and the Coalition as it did to Pauline Hanson and One Nation.

It’s time for all the pandering to fringe minorities for political advantage to stop. Most of us have done the right thing. We balanced out the risks and the benefits – not just to ourselves but to our community and our country. We listened to experts – real experts. We didn’t engage in our own “research” on YouTube.

We just want to get on with our lives in a way that is safe and allows hospitals to keep functioning. We do not want fringe minorities to threaten that. As Senator Lambie said: “We’re not going to stand for it.” Andy Stewart, Coburg

The other pandemic
We seem to be in the midst of another pandemic – misunderstanding the word “freedom”. We don’t have the feedom to drink-drive, bash our fellows, steal or drive without a seat belt.

It seems however, for some, requiring responsible behaviour is an infringement of our rights. Let’s give it a name: I suggest “freedumb”.
Peter Seligman, Brunswick West

THE FORUM

Other forces at play
What is really driving these protests? Is it really about perceived losses of democratic freedoms, or is this a reaction to the increasing gap in socioeconomic equity, where some feel crushed and isolated by a political and capitalist system that is reducing their quality of life, not enhancing it?

Perhaps COVID-19 was the last straw in the struggle to cope with stigmatised, low-paid, insecure work and high debt that is helping others turn a profit but not them.

Unions once provided the collective power to help reduce the equity gap, but they have become a relic that has not adapted to the disruption of globalisation. Instead, unions have been replaced by a dangerously toxic social media that escalates and mashes extreme left and right-wing grievances.

This is a demographic the Labor Party would have once represented, but it’s too late for that. Both major parties have been overtaken by populist charlatans, who represent some ugly ideologies and are whipping up the anger and division.

Both major parties and voters will need to dig deep to understand what needs to be done to address the increasing socioeconomic gap that is fuelling an unrest that is showing signs of increasing violence.
Paul Miller, Box Hill South

Lambie speech …
If only all politicians were so direct and accurate and said exactly what they meant, as did Jacqui Lambie refuting the proposal by Pauline Hanson to rescind vaccine mandates. What a brilliant speech.

I don’t always agree with Senator Lambie, but she nailed the issues on this one, cutting through the pandering, placating nonsense, straight to the real issues, backed up with historically accurate examples. A breath of fresh air.
Joyce Butcher, Williamstown

… hit the nail on the head
Jacqui Lambie’s speech in Parliament on Monday may have resembled the fire and brimstone of a preacher’s sermon, but she hit the nail on the head. Too right, “being accountable for your actions isn’t called discrimination”, but behaving like “a goddamn bloody adult”. It’s not that hard to do the right thing by “putting others before yourself” (“Lambie blasts One Nation on jab mandates”, The Age, 23/11).

Indeed, who better than straight-shooting – revved up to the max – Jacqui Lambie to challenge fear-mongering opportunist Pauline Hanson regarding the latter’s wrongful spin doctoring of what it means to be discriminated against.

The annals of our political history are positive proof of Ms Hanson’s ability to discriminate in spades. Indeed, Ms Lambie’s delivery of a linguistic masterclass to Ms Hanson (seen observing from a safe distance via video link) regarding her misappropriation of the word discrimination was pure gold.

Bravo, Jacqui Lambie, we all needed a bolt out of the blue.
Jelena Rosic, Mornington

Building communities
The discussion surrounding housing affordability, high-density living and development in Victoria following Michael Buxton’s article (“The assault on our suburbs”, Comment, 20/11) misses the basic point – that of building communities.

The discussion ignores what happens in other countries, such as Germany, where high-density living is developed in the context of community space, such as market squares, parks and gardens and other outdoor recreation spaces. This rarely if ever occurs in Australia, where developers maximise profits by maximising the number of apartments without any consideration of how people live and interact in such spaces.

Such poor developments are exacerbated by town planning controlled by politicians, who can be influenced by political donations, rather than an independent planning authority like we had in the past (remember the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works?).

I look forward to the day when apartment buildings are designed in the context of community living rather than just providing shelter.
Tim Davis, Heidelberg

Will I have to isolate?
I am in my 70s with a mild heart condition, so I really don’t want to catch COVID-19, even though since I am fully vaccinated I am reasonably well protected.

But the chances of catching it are much higher if I am mixing with the unvaccinated. If the vaccination mandates are removed, will I then have to isolate myself while the anti-vaxxers roam free?
Jan Newmarch, Oakleigh

We could do this
A common thread in your recent articles on crime is that our perceived fears are costing an extraordinary amount of money to lock people up more frequently and for longer (“Crime fear not borne out by figures”, Comment, 22/11 and “Cuff love”, Insight, 13/11).

Yet every state election sees a bidding war by Labor and Liberal to prove who will be the toughest on crime and keep us safe in our beds. Until the last election, going hard on crime was generally a vote winner.

Going back to 2019, John Silvester (“Don’t be tough on crime, be smart on crime”, The Age, 5/10/19) highlighted how America realised that building more prisons was fruitless. This was due to ever-escalating budget costs, not any humanitarian change of heart. Yet here is Victoria, then and now, still expanding its prison system.

The Premier, Daniel Andrews, and the newly reinvented Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy, have an opportunity for bipartisanship to stop the bidding war. By developing a modern law and order policy it would leave us safer, at less cost, and possibly change some people’s lives for the better. If Texas could do it, Victoria could too.
Peter Thomas, Pascoe Vale

What’s changed?
In April 2015, the federal government announced that parents who are conscientious objectors to childhood vaccination would no longer receive family tax and childcare payments.

Scott Morrison, who now says “we’re not in favour of mandatory vaccines imposed by the government”, was at that time minister for social services. So what’s changed?
Joe Wilder, Caulfield North

Character assassination
As an urban planner I have some sympathy for the view expressed by Roz Hansen that some streamlining is justified to facilitate consistent progress on major metropolitan-wide transport projects such as the Suburban Rail Loop (“Building great cities takes political will and courage”, Letters, 22/11).

However, the same cannot be argued for the destruction of our historic strip shopping centres that has been a virtually invisible project actively promoted by the state government’s planners for some years.

It seems that local government planners have been forced into a Faustian pact with their state counterparts, who will only support height controls if multi-level development is to be encouraged only a few metres back from the shop frontage, thus destroying some two-thirds of our historic shop buildings. This destructive built form is happily defended on the basis that a streetscape of facades is to be “preserved”.

The number of apartments to be created in these narrow strip centres makes a minimal contribution to projected inner-area housing growth but nevertheless will destroy the very thing that attracts people to the inner-suburban lifestyle.
Ian Wight, Richmond

The curse of the mandate
Europe is having its fourth wave of infections and beginning to lock down again. Is this what we will face if mandates for unvaccinated people are lifted any time soon? But I guess we can always blame the government again. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

No wonder the Prime Minister leaves it to the states to do the heavy, unpopular lifting.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

Cancelling harmony
Warmest thanks to James Button and The Age for the brilliantly illuminating series on “cancel culture”. Many people now fear speaking out honestly for fear of being “cancelled”. But there is another associated outcome that is problematic.

The ability to think critically and argue reasonably is an art that is acquired through practice. If I feel frightened of speaking and censor myself accordingly, I risk losing the chance of honing skills essential to civil discourse.

I also lose the chance of learning from my many betters in this art, who are also censoring themselves.
The issues involved in not knowing how to disagree amicably are profound. Slanging matches and worse are becoming the norm, with social harmony imperilled, here in Melbourne and throughout the world. However well-intentioned it may be in theory, “cancel culture” appears to be a regrettable part of this trend.
Laura De Bernardi, Doncaster

A meanness of spirit
I have always loved Test cricket but the response to Tim Paine has left me cold. The prurience. The holier-than-thou former cricketers and other commentators. The relish of reports of English glee. He made a mistake, which he regrets.

Deep down, we all know this is really none of our business. One can only say there is a meanness of spirit here, in the media and at large, that bodes ill for our society.
Tony Newport, Hillwood, Tas.

The truck is empty
A Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation spokesman states, without any irony: “We will continue to deliver high-quality regulation of the gaming and liquor industries.” (“Boss of gaming watchdog resigns ahead of regulatory shake-up”, The Age, online, 22/11.)

How can you “continue to deliver” when you have been sound asleep at the wheel for a decade, and haven’t even loaded the truck yet?
Jeff McCormack, Javoricko, Czech Republic

There is a limit
The Morrison government’s performance in recent months is a collective personification of Groucho Marx’s classic statement that “those are my principles, and if you don’t like them … well, I have others”.

We Aussies are accustomed to our political leaders being loose with the truth, but there’s a limit to our capacity to absorb endless streams of deceit and dishonesty.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham

AND ANOTHER THING

Politics
Where on earth is “on leave”?
Lindsay Donahoo, Wattle Glen

Credit:

Scott Morrison, the master of spin, has added new meaning to the concept of “where”: It seems it is no longer about a place or location, but has becomes a state of being.
Ron Slamowicz, Caulfield North

Heartened by the popularity of JobKeeper, the Coalition is now pushing ahead with DebtKeeper.
Bryan Fraser, St Kilda

If you were in any doubt as to the sad state of affairs Australia’s political system is in, watch question time.
Ron Mather, Melbourne

Vaccine mandates
Jacqui Lambie’s words of anger against Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts are important, reminding us that freedom has a price and these people, along with Clive Palmer, Craig Kelly and co. don’t want to pay it.
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

Jacqui Lambie in full flight proclaiming common sense is an awe-inspiring force of nature.
Barry Lamb, Heidelberg West

Will the unvaccinated be able to enter polling booths at the next election?
Peter Carlin, Frankston South

Jacqui Lambie
I know the world is shifting when I call Jacqui Lambie “the voice of sense and civility in Australian politics”. Go, Jacqui.
Vicki Myers, Fitzroy

Having started as a Palmer candidate, Senator Jacqui Lambie had a lot of catching up to do, and she’s giving it a red hot go.
Niko Melaluka, Fitzroy North

Furthermore
So it seems if you want to be able to legally discriminate just join an appropriate religious organisation.
David Eames-Mayer, Balwyn

Finally
To ease the protesters’ anger, they should maybe catch a movie, do a bit of shopping, have a meal and then return to bemoaning their lost freedoms refreshed.
Steve Melzer, Hughesdale

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