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TRANSPARENCY v SECRET HEARINGS

An accusation is one more chance to sling some mud
While I understand the prima facie desire for transparency in any federal anti-corruption commission investigation in terms of sunshine being the best disinfectant etc, the brutal reality of partisan politics in the context of the intensity of media scrutiny these days is that an accusation is licence to sex up media reporting to the point where the accused’s reputation is besmirched whatever the investigative outcome (“Clash looms over closed watchdog hearings”, The Age, 28/9).

In that context, an accusation fed to the proposed the National Anti-Corruption Commission would be just more mud for one part of politics to sling at another. Given the current standard of parliamentary grandstanding, self-promoting and verbal assault of other parties, a completely public investigative process would just add another vector for privileged character assassination.

When it comes to politicians, I don’t trust crossbenchers any more than party members; self-interest has no ideological affiliation, so no thanks.
Mike Seward, Port Fairy

Public airings of allegations not always best
In the coverage of the national integrity commission, much has centred on the issue of public hearings versus private hearings and the initial reaction of we electors tends to be a desire for hearings to be public.

However, the current extensive coverage of allegations against some past members of the Hawthorn Football Club is an example of how the public airing of allegations of serious misconduct, prior to their full examination and responses, may create an unequal basis for the examination of the facts.

That public hearings for the national integrity commission be held only in exceptional circumstances and where they are in the public interest seems a more just process.
Jenni King, Camberwell

Transparency in open hearings is crucial
An anti-corruption hearing behind closed doors allows for the potential of collusion and obfuscation. Transparency in open hearings is crucial if we as a community are to stamp out the rorts and insider deals that have damaged our international credibility, community and environment.
Carmel McNaught, Balwyn North

We need public hearings …
I was disgusted to hear that the proposed National Anti-Corruption Commission was to hold proceedings in secret except in exceptional circumstances.

The reverse needs to be the case, as it is in most courts and tribunals. We only have to see all the current publicity about unpublished grants of tax money and secret ministries to realise that it is primarily politicians who fear publicity that puts them in a well-deserved bad light.
Loch Wilson, Northcote

… for public enlightenment
The imminent new federal integrity act should favour public, not private, hearings for the good of public enlightenment; we are fed up with secrecy.
Barbara Fraser, Burwood

ICAC hearings a lesson in critical thinking
We live in a world dominated by social media, reality TV and clickbait news. Many people never engage in or witness anything other than emotional thinking.

Recent livestreamed ICAC hearings showcased critical thinking and demonstrated that reason is not yet dead. We need more of this, not less.
Anna Lord, Croydon

THE FORUM

A welcome change
My respects to Jane Hume for saying she will change her vote in the Senate on the territory rights bill to allow voluntary assisted dying after experiencing her father’s peaceful planned death (“Liberal senator changes view on assisted dying”, The Age, 29/9).

If a few more politicians had some real world experience of events that tested their personal beliefs, then maybe we could have some sensible political debate in this country, particularly on sensitive moral and philosophical issues such as this one.

I’m not feeling too optimistic, though at the moment it seems there is some hope for a positive change.
John Togno, Mandurang

Look beyond the personal
How good that Senator Jane Hume has amended her previous stance on assisted dying legislation, saying “who am I to deny you this choice?”

The problem is that if her beloved father had not been a grateful beneficiary of this law in his home state, she would have stuck with her personal opinion and voted against its introduction in the territories.

Why do our leaders – whom we elect in order to represent us as a whole society – so often require personal experience (Jane Hume) or spousal advice (Scott Morrison) before they even consider modifying their firm belief on significant issues?

Do our politicians ever consider the needs of those they represent by reflecting on the societal impact of their decisions, rather than relying on their limited experience and personal opinion?
I see little evidence of it.
Susan Coull, Frankston South

Offset opportunity
Santos’ CO2 issue with its South Korean investor highlights the other element of the greenhouse/energy crisis we’re facing (“Barossa project faces funding blow”, Business, 29/9) and that’s the destruction of our traditional carbon sinks.

The clearing of rainforests across South-East Asia, the Indonesian archipelago and the Amazon basin have been major contributors to the ever increasing CO2 in our atmosphere. Then there’s the input from the unplanned forest fires, from Australia’s Black Summer to the northern hemisphere’s 2022 drought across three continents.

While carbon capture has its technical problems, a properly audited carbon offset program offers a spacious country like Australia the opportunity to develop a profitable carbon offset industry in the dire balancing act of keeping the global economy viable while at the same time maintaining habitable global environment.
John Mosig, Kew

Queensland game changer
It is so refreshing to read the announcement by Queensland’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, on September 28 that her state would be 80 per cent powered by renewables by 2035.

Queensland gets 65 per cent of its electricity from coal at the moment, but coal will not provide any power at all after 2037.

Australia needs more visionary politicians like her. It will be not only fantastic for Queensland, it should be game changer for Australia and the world.
Ikram Naqvi, Tinderbox, Tas.

Unclear on the concept
I recently received a phone call from someone claiming to be from the fraud section of the NAB. She told me that she wished to discuss a transaction on our business account but, before doing that, wanted me to disclose my full name and date of birth and a few other details before she could be satisfied as to my identity.

I told her that I would not be doing that as it goes totally against everything we are told by the bank and that if she had concerns about my identity, she should not have rung me in the first place. I also pointed out that if the call was a scam and I had done what she was requesting, I would not have a leg to stand on with the bank if money was then drained out of our account.

More discussion followed but I refused to budge and eventually hung up.

About 40 minutes later, my NAB bank manager (who I know) contacted me to say the fraud people had contacted him with a request that he follow up with what they had wanted to speak to me about.

It seems I have grossly misunderstood all of their messaging up to now.
David Stratton, Melbourne

Hearsay won’t decide it
Alastair Clarkson is justifiably disappointed that pending an AFL review, some issues emanating from Hawthorn’s cultural safety review “are being widely canvassed in the public domain” (“Clarkson claims any chance of a fair process ‘corrupted’”, The Age, 29/9).

But this doesn’t “irrevocably corrupt” an AFL review as he suggests; it’s not going to be a trial by jury but an investigation headed by “a King’s Counsel or retired judge”. This AFL review, and not the hearsay of the public domain, will determine the veracity of the Hawthorn review.
Brendan O’Farrell, Brunswick

We made this a problem
As Ross Gittins suggests, we are to blame for high housing prices (“The great Australian illusion”, Comment, 28/9).

Rather than failure of government policies, the real fault lies in our own values. The same could be said for shortcomings in education, health and many other areas of public policy.

People create society, not government.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills

Some good news
I want to counteract the negative news about Victoria’s health system that is dominating the media and remind everyone that there are also good stories where the health system has worked well. My wife has a complex heart condition that requires medications and a pacemaker. Symptoms indicated that the heart and pacemaker were behaving erratically and she was fitted with a 24-hour monitor.

The specialist clinician read the results the next day and he arranged for a pacemaker change eight days later at MonashHeart. It was a difficult operation and took some time to remove the 12-year-old pacemaker and leads.

The heart surgeons and the nursing staff in the recovery area were excellent. It was listed as a day procedure and it took only 12 hours from admission to discharge.

We both appreciate how promptly MonashHeart managed the situation because it was a difficult, high-precision heart procedure. A good news health story like this should be told.
Terry Baker, Mount Eliza

They’ve done a fair bit
In a dubious attempt to elicit support for Australia’s two-party government, your correspondent (“Supporting the big two”, Letters, 27/9) asks “What have the ‘teal’ independents contributed since being elected in May?“, to which his response is “not much”. This is the same Monty Pythonesque summation of the effectiveness of the Romans.

In fact, the impact of the teals is already evident in a number of changes to the conduct of parliamentary debate, the most important of which is their influence on the form of the national anti-corruption commission legislation brought forward by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

That the commission will be independent of government, that it can examine the behaviour of all federal public servants, including politicians and their staffers, that it can investigate retrospective behaviour and that it can decide, without external reference, which persons or organisations to pursue, are all aspects on which Helen Haines and her independent teal colleagues have had a major influence.

The two major parties would not necessarily be comfortable with any of these aspects of the legislation and it is due to the powerful work of the independents that the proposed commission has these characteristics.
Maurie Trewhella, Hoppers Crossing

How to catch up
It is hardly surprising that “Australian retailers are falling behind in the climate race” (“Retailers lagging on net zero promises”, Business, 27/9).

The half-heartedness and lack of direction from the previous government over the past decade have meant a lack of direction, support and urgency.

For example, Australia’s Long-Term Emissions Reduction Plan, released by the previous government, had no mention of reducing scope 3 emissions, those from a company’s supply chain.

Fortunately, leaders such as Coles, using the “science-backed targets” initiative developed by non-profits, are showing the way.

The new government must oversee, support and incentivise this process so that it is consistent, transparent and easier for companies to manage. In this way, we have some hope of catching up in the “climate race”.
Ray Peck, Hawthorn

An apology is in order
It is clear that the lockdown at the public housing towers saved lives, yet the way it was conducted is unacceptable (“Ombudsman renews call for apology on towers lockdown”, The Age, 29/9).

The lack of warning left some without food or medicine. Initially, information in community languages was sparse and interpreters in short supply, leading to confusion and panic among the residents. If this had happened to the rest of us, how would we have coped?

Residents of the towers deserve an apology from Dan Andrews and government, not for the need to do this lockdown, but for the way it was conducted.
Betty Alexander, Caulfield

Standing on the precipice
Yet again, Geoffrey Robertson (“World’s most critical power shift”, Comment, 29/9) alerts us to an issue of enormous importance, not only for Brazil, but for the world as well: Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, with his far-right agenda and his Trump-like tactics, is standing for re-election.

We stand on another precipice at a time that the earth and we earthlings are facing catastrophe and peril in many directions. Let us hope that sanity, justice and equality are nurtured in the Brazilian election.
Judith Morrison, Nunawading

AND ANOTHER THING

The Optus hack
As a long time ex-Optus customer, I was surprised to receive an email of apology regarding the recent data breach, raising the question, “how long do they keep our private data on file”?
Vivienne Whitehead, Paynesville

Why does a phone company need your Medicare number?
John Miller, McCrea

Private hearings
Public hearings are an opportunity for politicians and public servants to show what they are doing on our behalf and with our taxes. Those who want their activities kept secret should avoid politics.
Gerry O’Reilly, Camberwell

A federal anti-corruption commission hearing behind closed doors is an oxymoron.
Bryan Lewis, Saint Helena

Let the light into anti-corruption hearings. Public money equals public hearings as the default position. We are voters and taxpayers, not mushrooms.
Kevan Porter, Alphington

Without public hearings, the National Anti-Corruption Commission will be a hushed puppy, not a watchdog.
Kishor Dabke, Mount Waverley

Politics
Ho hum, Labor shutting down public hearings so they get the Libs’ support to sidestep the crossbench. Let the watering-down commence …
Mick Webster, Chiltern

Are the state Libs (“Libs walk back $8b regional vow”, The Age, 29/9) the first political party to break an election pledge before polling day?
Phil Alexander, Eltham

Furthermore
I note that daylight saving time is to start on this Sunday. Perhaps this year we could put it off until we have had a couple more weeks of spring weather.
Cliff Strahan, Greensborough

Finally
Brilliant start to my day – 100 per cent score on the Superquiz yesterday. Maybe you could repeat it more often.
Helen Hanrahan, Lower Plenty

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