Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson

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The reality is that plastic products are here to stay

Re “Plibersek threatens to intervene on recycling” (The Age, 17/2). Forgive me if I reminisce, but when I was a child I recall that plastic bags were purchased for about sixpence (5¢) each. Their main use was for storing items in the refrigerator, while vegetables, bought at the greengrocer, were wrapped in last week’s newspapers. The plastic bags were a novelty and after use, were washed, dried and stored for reuse.

But the past is no guide to the future: plastic products are here to stay. Worldwide, about 400million tonnes of plastic are produced each year for many, many uses. Unfortunately, our meagre efforts towards recycling have been thwarted by the collapse of REDcycle, Australia’s largest plastics recycling program.

Further research into biodegradable plastics produced from organic waste and bacteria would reduce reliance on fossil fuels and offer some hope for sustainability in the future. Another opportunity for progress that calls out for urgent support.
Jennie Stuart, Balwyn

Like Europe, Australia needs ‘polluter pays’ laws

It is pleasing that Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek will regulate the plastics recycling industry if voluntary codes fail to fix the crisis. However, this is a weak attempt at tackling the back end of the problem without dealing with the front end. It completely ignores the companies that put the plastic into the environment in the first place and leave the general public to bear the cost of the clean-up.

Australia is many years behind the European Union in dealing with plastic. We need laws based on the “polluter pays” principle, similar to those being introduced in Germany. Under this law, manufacturers and importers will be required to pay a levy based on the quantities of plastic they put into circulation. Come on, Australia. We can do much better.
Allan Dowsett, Preston

Pay for disposal before packaging taken home

“Markets” have been extremely successful in driving down the price of plastic bags and packaging to the point of creating so much wicked waste. “Markets” have totally failed at the post-consumer end. There are too many species of plastics, with too many contaminants, to make recycling of such low-value products economic. Let us hope that Tanya Plibersek simply has plastic bag users/manufacturers pay a reasonable price for their disposal before the packaging is taken home. That will make a proper recycling market.
Neil Hauxwell, Moe

Experience tells us self-regulation doesn’t work

Tanya Plibersek should regulate the plastics recycling industry, because, as has been demonstrated so many times before, voluntary or self-regulation just does not work. It is vital for the future of the planet that robust regulation is implemented so that disasters like the REDcycle debacle cannot happen again.
Glenn Murphy, Hampton Park


Luring in the children

The YourPlay pre-commitment system has failed to meaningfully impact poker machine addictions (The Age, 16/2). It is a challenge for governments to curb existing poker machine use, and help chronic gambling addicts.

However, it is not too late to eliminate the “claw machine” at my local supermarket. With its glaring, flashing lights and filled with brightly coloured soft toys, it is clearly targeted at children. Centre management tell me it is a “game of skill, not chance”, but it is not difficult to see the next steps: the thrill of “playing and taking a chance” and the “next time” mentally of the addict.
Felicity Browne, Toorak

Taking responsibility

Congratulations to Josh Gordon and to your editorial – “Victoria increasingly isolated on pokies reform” (The Age, 16/2) – for providing such an insight into the gambling issue. I wait with interest to see the Andrews government’s response to this. Responsible government for the well-being of its citizens anyone?
Christine Baker, Rosanna

We’re long-term allies

Re the American B52 bombers on Australian soil. Your correspondent says “we would do well to remember that next month is the 20-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, which is well known to have been based on a lie” (Letters, 16/2). She would do better to remember the 80th anniversary of the battle of the Coral Sea in which Americans and Australians fought and died, side by side, to prevent an invasion which would have changed the Australian way of life.
James Ischia, Hawthorn East

Danger of overreaction

The United States’ response to most situations seems to be: shoot first and ask questions later. I am sure its enemies have noted this. Maybe the next balloon will contain some “nasties” just waiting for another American overreaction.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North

Our diminished power

The US must be thanking its lucky stars. It tells us, “we will park our vehicle in your backyard, but we can’t tell you if there’s a bomb in it”. And the US gets away with this.
Rita Camilleri, Strathmore

Odd objects overhead

Is it a bird, is it a plane? Faster than a runaway kite, more more powerful than a helium party balloon, it’s an eye in the sky watching our every move. Send out the air force.
Pier Paolo De Carlo, Ascot Vale

Sex, love, spirituality

Jo Stubbings lists today’s sex education, including correctly naming our body parts without embarrassment, different configurations of family units, contraception and puberty (Comment, 17/2). We have come a long way since I was at school and sex was never mentioned by the nuns who taught me.

However, many Australian parents and some schools are still reluctant to teach more detailed sex education to our children. Surely teaching about emotions, and respect for oneself and others, would go a long way towards reducing family violence.

Sex education also needs to be taught, side by side, with the negative effects of social media, drugs, vaping and alcohol. For too long children have been left to find out about the damaging side of life for themselves. Where has love, respect and spirituality gone?
Sheila Mansfield, Highton

Serving the kids well

Jo Stubbings, I too was given the tiny booklet with the “perky pony-tailed girl on the front”. It was my sole source of sex education for some years. Such matters were not discussed at home, even though my father was a doctor. What a wonderful thing that boys and girls are now receiving all the relevant information so openly. It surely bodes well for their future relationships. Thank you to the teachers who are fitting this in to their class time.
Julie Smith, Soldiers Hill

A plea for better service

Why do we put up with being treated so shabbily by banks? This week I spent about three hours “holding” on the telephone while trying to contact three banks for information which was not, as their messages said, easily available or easy to understand on their websites. With all the super profits they are making, and will continue to make with the additional increases in interest rates, can they really not afford to employ more customer service people to deal with queries?
Diana Saad, Thornbury

GST, the better option

Mortgagors and renters lose spending power when lending institutions raise their mortgage interest rates. Lenders return increased revenue to shareholders and depositors, raising their spending power. Interest rates are a very blunt tool to control inflation. Instead, why not make the GST variable?
Ian Black, Essendon

Come on, fair’s fair

It might seem like ancient history now but when interest rates were dropping like a bungee jumper, the banks said they would not pass on the full cuts because the new, lower rates did not reflect their cost of doing business.

With mortgage rates increasing and the excess gravy profits being enjoyed, this proves the banks’ cost of doing business has been well and truly met. The royal commission reflected on banks’ lack of integrity. They could improve their reputations by not passing on the full impact of the next rate rise. That would seem to be fair.
Douglas Hopkins, Aspendale Gardens

Stability is the key

If we put community ahead of economy, then the importance of young families as the basic element of society and the need to nurture them becomes obvious. The costs of housing, education and health care are now so high, in many families both parents are working as well as caring for their children.

Young parents need time and energy to become a family unit, become active in their local community and develop civic responsibility. They need time to relax and form friendships that will be part of their support network. Affordable home ownership gives security, stability and time to young families. This makes our society more stable and we all, including business, benefit from that.
Kate Kennedy, Coburg

RBA’s wrong approach…

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe says the bank must get inflation down. By increasing interest rates? According to economics 101, that would work if inflation were being driven by demand. However, the inflation we are seeing is due to increased prices as a result of decreased supply after COVID-19 and the flooding that has interfered with the harvesting of fruit and vegetables. Is the bank taking the wrong approach? The chance of success – slim.
Greg Tanner, Elwood

…no, the RBA’s only tool

The Reserve Bank’s job is to keep inflation in the 2 to 3per cent range. Yes, raising interest rates is a blunt and and powerful instrument. But that is the one tool the bank and its governor Philip Lowe have been given. Until their role and tools change, we should be content they are doing their job.

The treasurer has a much wider range of tools – eg, government spending, wages policy, productivity policy and competition policy – with which to tackle inflation. It is time he used them.
Michael Angwin, Surrey Hills

Getting the full picture

Governments undertake cost/benefit analyses when deciding policy – ie, negative gearing, land banking and the ability of non-Australian residents to purchase property. I am curious as to whether they also factor in, as a cost, the despair, social dislocation and loss of hope for those who are unable to enter the housing market.
Susan Nisbet, Caulfield North

You little beauty

What an exquisite picture of that little tree-hugger, the wraparound spider of the Australian Alps (The Age, 17/2). He might be newly discovered by us, but his lesson is ages old. We are all dependent on our environment for our very lives.
Elaine Hopper, Blackburn



With their huge profits, banks are laughing all the way to the bank.
Joel Feren, Caulfield

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Remind me again what lessons the banks took away from the royal commission.
Fiona White, Alfredton

The profitable Commonwealth and state banks were once owned by the people.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood


I’m 70, I haven’t kicked the bucket (17/2) and I didn’t vote Liberal in the last federal and state elections.
Rob Hocart, Tyabb

How can Victoria call itself the education state when public schools are so underfunded?
Laurens Meyer, Richmond

So in 15 years, I can look forward to Peter Dutton’s apology for undermining First Nations people’s right to a Voice to parliament.
Rowan McKeon, Belgrave

As a trial, the government should increase the Medicare rebate to see if it reduces the number of people going to emergency departments.
Rita Reid, Port Melbourne

Victorians will see Dutton’s campaigning skills at the Aston byelection. Not easy to predict.
Hugh McCaig, Blackburn

Re the statue of Andrews. I’m sure the gulls and pigeons would like a new statue, for obvious reasons.
Emmery Bihary, Ormond


It would be very unwise to hold the annual World Hot Air Balloon championships in the US this year.
Rob Willis, Eagle Point

It’s all a lot of hot air.
Meg McPherson, Brighton

The surge in balloon incursions must be the beginning of the post-nuclear age. We need to increase spending on party poppers immediately.
Rodger Young, Newport

How do we know some of the balloons didn’t originate in Russia?
Peter Lyell, Brighton


Have Sigrid Thornton and Tom Burstall (15/2) opted for a sea change?
Dale Crisp, Brighton

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