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Credit:Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

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FIGHTING COVID-19

Sadly, we were not protected from harm

In Greek mythology, Soteria was the goddess or spirit of safety and salvation, deliverance and preservation from harm. It is very sad that the government’s Operation Soteria, set up in March to quarantine arriving passengers in hotels, did not live up to its noble intentions. Victorians have suffered avoidable illness, death and extreme disruption to our social and commercial life, and the scheme is now under investigation.

Any plans to scale back hotel quarantine and instead use electronic monitoring devices for returned travellers isolating at home (The Age, 20/10) need to be rigorously explored and structured by a bipartisan, non-political board comprising experts in both organisational and health management. We need governance that preserves our population from harm.
Libby Taylor, Camberwell

Focus should be on what went wrong, not scalps

There seems to be a general feeling that the main questions to be answered by the hotel quarantine inquiry are who engaged private security companies and when people knew about this.
Unfortunately those questions have diverted the public’s focus from the real issues – the competence of the administration of contracts with private providers, how effectively those contractors provided the services for which we paid (said to be in the order of $30million), and how the virus escaped from the hotels. Sadly, it seems much of the media and opposition are more interested in scalps than in understanding how to avoid the pitfalls of the past.
Brandon Mack, Deepdene

The disaster that is Victoria’s ‘crisis council’

Daniel Andrews formed the Crisis Council of Cabinet as the core decision-making forum for the government on all matters related to the coronavirus emergency. In light of the resignation of his former health minister and the state’s most senior public servant, the collective amnesia of members of the crisis cabinet and senior public servants who cannot recall who made key decisions, the doubts surrounding the testimony of our Chief Health Officer and now a backflip on a stupid decision authorised by his crisis cabinet to allow people to attend a horse race, the Premier needs to set up another ‘‘crisis cabinet’’ to oversee the performance of the original one.
Darren Stait, Carnegie

All praise to Andrews for doing what it takes

Good on trucking magnate Lindsay Fox (The Age, 22/10) for backing Daniel Andrews in his efforts to bring this virus under control. There has been so much bickering and criticism by shock jocks, politicians and those who think the virus is a conspiracy. But the Premier is doing a good job to keep us safe, no matter what it takes. My cousin, a nurse in the United Kingdom, tells me the situation is out of control there, with blatant disregard for the regulations and a very high infection rate, and that she admires what we are doing in Australia.
Carol Wilson, Wantirna South

The issue of training and protective equipment

Why are we focusing so single-mindedly on who made the decision to use private security guards and who knew about this decision? Isn’t it also the case that the guards were not supplied with adequate protective equipment, not sufficiently trained for quarantine conditions, and not supervised with regard to infection control? Surely the Australian Defence Force and Victoria Police would also have needed similar equipment, training and supervision.
Linda Stern, Alphington

This is the type of government Australia needs

Lara Blamey (Letters, 22/10), if Dan Andrews showing unflagging leadership, listening to the experts, admitting mistakes and caring for the welfare of the Victorian community is a poor lesson in ‘‘civics and accountability’’, then I say let us have more of the same, especially on the federal level of government.
Harry Kowalski, Ivanhoe

How did Sutton not know?

Brett Sutton says he did not know private security companies were guarding quarantine hotels until late May. In the weeks up to then, we had a major outbreak, companies withdrawing staff from the program due to unsafe work practices and healthcare workers sending correspondence to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding major issues and dangers. All of these matters were reported in the media.

And yet our Chief Health Officer remained unaware of them? Did he not inquire as to the structure or effectiveness of the hotel quarantine system? A more complete failure would be impossible to find.
Paul Wilcock, Blairgowrie

In support of our CHO

It is sad to see the credibility of Brett Sutton challenged through the hotel quarantine inquiry (Editorial, 22/10). From the beginning of the pandemic, the opposition has attacked the government, even suggesting Melbourne’s iconic bats should be removed. Aided by the Murdoch press and its Commonwealth colleagues, the opposition has created such a politically charged and toxic environment that it had led to people acting to protect themselves from yet more vitriol.
The reality is that mistakes have been made but the Chief Health Officer and the government have led us out of the first wave and have successfully tackled the second wave. Let us stop the blame game and get on with rebuilding.
Marg D’Arcy, Rye

Loud voices are heard

Donald Trump attempts to discredit Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’ top infectious disease expert (World, 21/10) in the middle of that country’s pandemic emergency. Liberal MP Tim Smith attacks Victoria’s trusted and hardworking Professor Brett Sutton (The Age, 22/10) as we are reaching a critical and tricky phase of our pandemic. Neither Trump nor Smith has any expertise or solutions to the very complex problems thrown up by the virus, but they do have shouty voices. And their political motivations are clear.
Jane Robins, Moonee Ponds

Complying through fear?

Professor James McCaw, one of the scientists charged with tracking Melbourne’s social distancing for the federal government, says: ‘‘Victorians are the most compliant with the rules of anywhere in Australia’’ (The Age, 19/10). Lesley Kehoe (Letters, 22/10) believes they are ‘‘the most community-minded’’.

It is doubtful that people’s motivations are as uniform or as unified as she suggests. Some Victorians may have acquiesced to the strict lockdown rules – despite considering that better targeted measures should have been introduced earlier (eg, mandatory masks in public) – due to concern about being dobbed in by neighbours, censured by employers or colleagues, or berated by Age letter writers.
Penny Mackieson, Richmond

Safely navigating paths

One important reason for council regulations affecting outdoor dining was missed from ‘‘Footpath plan leaves sour taste’’ (The Age, 22/10). That is, accessibility for people with a mobility or vision impairment who may require wider paths, free from obstacles, to safely navigate the area. In the process of getting hospitality businesses up and running again, with all the necessary COVID-safe measures, let us ensure that people with a disability can safely enjoy the benefits, too.
Chelsea Riviere, Warranwood

Consistency on numbers

More than once the Premier has stated that he understands how difficult it has been for people of faith not to be able to gather for worship under current restrictions. If this is more than just the well-rehearsed lines of a virtuosic, press-conference performer, he should at least give us, church-goers, the same opportunities for shelter as people who gather in a bar or restaurant once restrictions are further eased.
Roxane Le Guen, Kew East

Let the air flow freely

Free-flowing air has been tagged as a defence against the transmission of COVID-19. With summer coming, how about removing windows on the trams and buses? After all, we coped in the 1960s on the W4 class trams and Bedford buses, which both had fully opening windows.
Tom Danby, Coburg North

Reward front-line workers

Comparisons with restrictions on others made it seem wrong to allow owners and trainers to attend the Cox Plate (The Age, 22/10). However, in itself, it was a very good idea. Flemington Racecourse is much bigger than Moonee Valley. I would like to suggest that owners and trainers be allowed to be present at Derby Day, the Melbourne Cup and the VRC Oaks, and also, as a gesture of thanks, that the Victorian government shouts doctors, nurses and all hospital and nursing home staff to each of these days, trusting that rosters will be arranged so that all who wish to attend on at least one of these great days is able to.
Patrick Flanagan, Red Cliffs

Health before profits

Yesterday the world mourned 1.13million deaths from COVID-19. In unrelated news, seven business leaders demanded that Victoria’s workplaces be opened up so they can get back to making money (The Age, 21/10).
Peter Rooke, Hawthorn

Profits before the needy

We do not hear much from these chief executives around youth unemployment and homelessness, but when their bottom line is affected they shout from the rooftops.
Chris Murphy, Hurstbridge

Aged care tragedies

Like many in the community, I am sick of hearing about Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry. While there are questions to be answered, this pandemic is all new to those in charge. And of course mistakes will be made.

No doubt the Australian Defence Force would have done a better job, but surely these private security firms which hired the guards are also accountable. It seems it was ‘‘all care and no responsibility’’ on their part.

Most of those people who died have been the most vulnerable to this disease and were in privatised, aged-care facilities. Yet I do not see the federal government taking responsibility for its lack of neglect and proper oversight of aged care which led to these untimely deaths. The obsessive focus on hotel quarantine has served it well.
Margaret McKenna, Doreen

The unwanted ‘normal’

What was that steely grey haze building up over the CBD yesterday? Of course, polluting fumes and particulates from the surge in motor vehicle use as we emerge from the lockdown, and rush back to the old ‘‘normal’’. But maybe that will be worse than before as COVID-19 holds sway and decimates the use of public transport.
Michael Oxer, North Fitzroy

A workout and a ‘high’

As someone who used to run up to 16 kilometres regularly in my twenties through to my late forties, but switched quite a few years ago to high-intensity, interval training on running tracks, trails, and as part of a gym workout, I can definitely vouch for the superior benefits of the high-intensity work (Life, 22/10). Repeatedly working harder at intervals not only pushes the muscles to adapt but does the same for the cardiovascular system that has to work to supply the oxygen to them. And it is brilliant for keeping in condition for cross-country skiing (no luck there this year thanks to the coronavirus), and I reckon you get a better high.
Anthony Whitmarsh, Viewbank

As Maxwell Smart said

The football pundits tell us that tomorrow’s grand final will be played by two teams using two contrasting styles, one of chaos and one of control. Does that mean the losing coach will legitimately be able to claim, ‘‘Missed it by that much’’?
Geoff Whyte, Research

Applying a ‘gender lens’

Ross Gittins (Comment, 21/10) is spot on about the blokiness of the budget and national policy thinking generally. This bias must come to an end. The Victorian Gender Equality Act 2020, the first such legislation in Australia, and one of only a few in the world, is a potential model for national legislation. A gender lens needs to be applied to all public policy so that, in future, the status of women, the work done predominantly by women and equality of all our people can be a genuine national focus.
Rosemary Kiss, Rippleside

An intentional bias?

Ross Gittins says, ‘‘I bet it’s never crossed Scott Morrison’s mind that his commitment to Smaller Government is biased against women and the further growth of female employment’’. I bet it has.
Anita Xhafer, Fitzroy North

Imortance of the vote

Peter Hartcher is right to be proud of compulsory voting in Australia (Comment, 17/10). In a democracy the people elect their representatives to Parliament and I believe it is their duty to do so. If you do not want to vote for any candidate, simply hand in a blank ballot paper. What is important is that you have exercised your right, and it is a matter of public record. Many people around the world are risking their lives in the struggle to get that right. Voting shows that we honour the institution of democracy. How we vote is a matter of individual choice.
Elizabeth Sprigg, Glen Iris

Our fast, efficient mail…

Can we please have a moratorium on letters from people whingeing about Australia Post? I received a birthday card in my rural post office box five days after it was sent from Melbourne. And that was inclusive of a weekend. Well done.
Geoff Perston, Yarram

… via Australia Post
October 21, 12.25pm: Express delivery parcel lodged at North Brighton Post Office. October 22, 10am: Parcel safely received at Wentworth Post Office. That’s express. That’s service.
Brian Fletcher, Brighton

AND ANOTHER THING

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

COVID-19

I am Brett Sutton. No, I am Brett Sutton. No, I am Brett Sutton…
Peter Thomson, Brunswick

If Josh and Greg plan to undermine Daniel, they’ll need big shovels or maybe a front-end loader.
Michael Brinkman, Ventnor

Let’s keep following the rules. We don’t want a third wave. Recriminations and politics can wait.
Marsha Merory, Ivanhoe East

Will Santa wear a correctly fitted mask this year?
Greg Lee, Red Hill

Hang in there, Dan. You are the tallest of the tall poppies.
William Hines, Mornington

Smith says his party is close to calling for Sutton’s resignation. Victorian Liberals: doing the hard work, making the tough calls.
Chris Boon, Nunawading

Politics

Sorry but since when was racing so important that it got its own minister?
Anna Evans, Thornbury

Trump accuses the Biden family of being a ‘‘criminal enterprise’’. Pot, kettle?
Lyn Beaumont, Bentleigh

If we rush down this fossil fuel-led recovery, posterity will regard 2020 as the easiest of years.
Christine Morris, Hoppers Crossing

Morrison shirt-fronting Andrews is as useful as his shirt-fronting China, losing us billions in trade.
Campbell Laughlin, Berwick

Representative Parliament: NZ shows how it’s done, again.
Wendy Knight, Little River

Kennett took away Show Day and Andrews replaced it with grand final eve. Doesn’t that makes us even?
Hans Paas, Castlemaine

Furthermore

Is Westpac’s offer of an interest rate of up to 3 per cent for 18 to 29-year-olds age discrimination?
Martin Baggott, Camberwell

And to think legal casinos were established to keep them out of the hands of criminals.
Glenn Hilling, Watsonia

Money laundering at a casino? Pull the other one.
John Rawson, Mernda

Note from the Editor

The Age’s editor, Gay Alcorn, writes an exclusive newsletter for subscribers on the week’s most important stories and issues. Sign up here to receive it every Friday.

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