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Credit: Illustration: Jim Pavlidis
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So no new rail lines for Wyndham Vale or Melton just yet because they are now an “evolving commitment” of the Andrews government (“Axing new rail to west not betrayal, insists Labor”, 3/8). Could it be that too much money was spent on removing level crossings, some of which weren’t really all that “dangerous and congested”, while somehow choosing to ignore the constantly increasing daily danger and congestion on the Princes Freeway and the Western Freeway because commuters have limited public transport options?
Ross Bardin, Williamstown
I’m surprised it’s taken so long. Victorian Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll has topped John Howard’s famous “core and non-core election pledges” with the creative “evolving commitment” to explain away the abandonment of new rail lines to the west.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South
It was great progress to provide a separate track for regional rail, and now it is great progress to use the capacity for suburban trains. It was great progress to build the wider Comeng trains to comfortably allow 3+2 seating, and now it is great progress to remove the third seat to provide high capacity, also known as standing room.
It was great progress to combine the CFA, police and ambulance station at Diamond Creek, and now it is great progress to build a separate ambulance station. It was great progress to bring natural gas to Hurstbridge in 2007, and now it is great progress to get rid of gas from homes.
Whatever happens is progress. Onward and upward forever!
Chris Curtis, Hurstbridge
Link comes apart under scrutiny
Your correspondent (“Dwindling returns”, 3/8) laments the government’s choice of “core promises”, suggesting the North East Link is the only one posing a half-decent return.
That may have been the impression when Infrastructure Victoria first looked at this road back in 2016. The problem is, their costing for the project was between $5 billion and $7 billion – today it stands at $18 billion and counting. So even if Infrastructure Victoria’s assessment of $8 billion of benefits is correct, it’s still a colossal waste of money. Those benefits are also dominated by travel-time savings for peak-hour commuters, yet there’s been no rework of the business case for a post-2020 world where many still work from home some days.
In general, road projects rely for their viability on a short-term sugar hit of travel time savings before they entrench long-term congestion problems. Rail projects have benefits that endure into the far future. But they highlight the problem with economic assessments that implicitly assume a benefit to our children in 30 years has only 11 per cent of the value of the same benefit experienced today.
If properly evaluated, a comprehensive Western Rail Plan would leave the North East Link in the dust.
Tony Morton, president, Public Transport Users Association
Rail option again ignored
Western suburbs and country towns deserve sympathy and positive action. They are the latest victims of a government hatred of rail, developed after the early building of extensive rail such as the inner and outer circle railways, destroyed rather than extended as Melbourne grew.
The North East Link will be the latest multibillion-dollar road disaster as it debouches onto the already full Eastern “Parkway”, while Doncaster rail has languished since 1977, airport rail similarly. Fast rail to Sydney and beyond is also absent. It is surely easier and cheaper to electrify rail than to provide multitudes of electric cars and trucks. Global heating continues apace.
Loch Wilson, Northcote
A new force
With all due respect to Anthony Bergin, (“We need a national citizens’ militia”, 3/8), I, an ordinary Australian citizen, would feel infinitely safer if academics and politicians instead recommended that taxpayers’ money be used to recruit tens of thousands young people into the diplomatic service, where they would be specifically trained in extensive negotiations with our neighbouring countries.
In addition, more jobs and increased national security would result from establishing a national volunteer service (let’s not call it a militia, please) which would provide disciplined training to civilians who want to help when (not if) our country is threatened by fires, floods, hurricanes and droughts.
Mirna Cicioni, Brunswick East
Supporting each other
Anthony Bergin calls for the federal government to set up a national citizens’ militia. His article made for an interesting read even for an anti-conscription believer. However, his final paragraph raises questions concerning his grasp of Australians – he states that finding volunteers of any kind is difficult in Australia. Has he not been here when bushfires, floods or major catastrophes have occurred and witnessed volunteers from all walks of life react without government compunction.
Peter Roche, Carlton
The Oppenheimer movie has been called out on a couple of points (e.g. “Anger at atomic bomb jibes”, 3/8) but what has been largely overlooked by the filmmakers is the disgraceful treatment of the Navajo indigenous tribe and other tribes who suffered tremendously from the radiation fallout in Nevada and New Mexico during and after the nuclear testing.
The parallels between the America native tribes and later in Australia by the Aborigines confirms that the native people in both countries were barely considered. As is evidenced by the lack of investigation into the effects of radiation on the “sacrificial” Navajo.
Rob Park, Surrey Hills
The battle against Trump
Former president Donald Trump is being charged again (“Trump charged with conspiracy”, 3/8), yet he is still the Republican frontrunner for next year’s election.
Real democracy in America is being undermined by his lies, repeated by many right-wing media outlets. Legal action against him fails to dent his popularity, at least, among the MAGA crowd.
Worse, the majority of Republican Party representatives in Washington and in individual states parrot the misinformation. Many know that Trump is a false prophet, but they put their own re-election before the interests of their nation.
But the Democrats are fighting back, not with the witch-hunt in the courts that they are accused of, but with good policy. The Biden administration is concentrating on real action, including on infrastructure, new jobs and expanded healthcare – what Americans want.
One example of electoral progress – in April this year a Democrat judge in Wisconsin was voted onto the state Supreme Court, despite a Republican-gerrymandered electoral map.
John Hughes, Mentone
There’s a common, unstated theme behind headlines “Needy suburbs miss out on affordable childcare” in some of Victoria’s most disadvantaged postcodes and “Axing new rail to west not betrayal, insists Labor” (The Age, 3/8) with new rail lines for Melton and Wyndham Vale excluded from the Western Rail Plan.
The same theme lies behind the Albanese government’s timid housing plans and hesitation about axing regressive stage three tax cuts, and that is that all governments are petrified about upsetting aspirational, swinging voters who cherish their privileged advantages such as superannuation concessions, negative gearing, capital gains tax and other taxation laws that favour property investors over home buyers.
One might hope that socialist-inclined governments would be motivated by justice, equality and compassion but sadly they too treat the most disadvantaged, vulnerable people as collateral damage in the insidious game of wedge politics and electoral preservation.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham
A step forward
The Andrews government is to be applauded for banning gas connections in new homes from January 2024, but we are still left with the blight of dark-coloured roofs on nearly every house in new estates, a major contributor to increased energy use. The government should consider mandating lighter roof colours on all new builds.
Pauline Moncrieff, Wangaratta
Recent correspondence about electric vehicles tends to concentrate on greenhouse gas emissions, but climate change mitigation is only one reason an EV purchase should be encouraged. Research suggests that traffic pollution may be causing more than 11,000 deaths in Australia each year (“The hidden road toll: Pollution may kill 10 times more than crashes”, 24/2). Thousands of hospitalisations for respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses have also been attributed to vehicle exhaust emissions. Fine particle emissions have long been known to increase rates of heart disease, lung cancer, strokes, diabetes and childhood asthma.
Helen Moss, Croydon
Not a security issue
Scandal after scandal is emerging in the Department of Home Affairs, while the damaging deficiencies in our immigration processes are now obvious. It is worth asking why immigration was placed in a department that is primarily concerned with national security in the first place. That decision was based on previous conservative governments making an unwarranted link between recent immigrants and risks to national security, which insults a substantial number of Australians. Shouldn’t immigration be removed from Home Affairs and placed again in a stand-alone department with policy links to labour market management, rather than border control?
Miriam Faine, Hawthorn
Our population is under siege by phone-based scammers. Two friends of mine have both been scammed – via brilliantly deceptive phone calls of the kind at our household we hang up on every day. One very smart friend, last week, was tricked into signing up to a $2000 gift to an ingenious scammer.
Owen Peter Lyell, Brighton
Thank you for the two uplifting articles about children, “A wrinkle in time as preps imagine their future selves”, and “They’re the voice: high schoolers make a John Farnham musical” (The Age, 2/8). Amid all the bad news being caused by the grown-ups around the world, stories like this give us hope for the future.
Claire Merry, Wantirna
It seems ironic that the Liberal Party, while condemning the Labor Party for the wastage over the Commonwealth Games expenditure, is setting up a committee, at considerable cost, which won’t report for two years. Maybe they see it as a vote winner.
Adrian Peniston-Bird, Kew
I have been contemplating the experience of the gay community during the height of the AIDS epidemic and the broader queer community during the marriage equality debate and how both have influenced my decision to vote Yes for the Voice referendum. The response to AIDS in Australia was fully informed by engaging gay men (and others) in the decisions of how best to respond and we were central to the delivery of education and care. Australia’s response is recognised globally as at the forefront of the response to AIDS. During the marriage equality debate, the fearmongering about queer people was at hysterical levels. Personally I didn’t see marriage equality as the highest priority for my community, but I recognised it was important to others in my community and it addressed an inequality.
So my conclusion re the Voice? Reject the negativity, engage First Nations people in decisions that affect them and give them the respect to make empowering decisions. If it isn’t your highest priority, acknowledge that it is a call that others in the affected community want. Then likewise seek support for the next big challenge that you want to address.
Dean Michael, Mount Macedon
We don’t wish “to deny the existence of Captain Cook” (“Valuing heritage”, 3/8), nor is it possible to do so. We can, however re-appraise his role in our history. (And he was a great navigator).
Bill Pell, Emerald
Losing sight of values
The plan by Cabrini hospital to upgrade its buildings and bypass the city of Stonnington, allowing the state government to decide on its plans, (“Neighbours angry as Cabrini bypasses council in growth bid”, 2/8) sounds like the rich v the richer. The objection by the residents in a neighbourhood known for Edwardian-era housing, and the comment that if you’re paying for private health insurance, you expect to be cared for in a single room, both smack of entitlement.
I suspect the residents living close to Cabrini hospital will request for a single room if hospitalised. The reason for this expansion is to remain competitive in the healthcare system, but I wonder how far this current process has moved from the founder St Francis Xavier Cabrini, whose vision was to meet the health care needs of the community with compassion, integrity, courage and respect.
Julie Ottobre, Sorrento
AND ANOTHER THING
Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding
The world is watching while one of the great democracies, the US, brings to account those who would try to break it by force. History is unfolding before our eyes.
Matthew Hamilton, Kew
If the president of the US is leader of the free world, perhaps the free world should have a say in their election. Clearly the American people can no longer be trusted to act responsibly.
Brian Kidd, Mt Waverley
There were promises, then non-core promises; and now we get evolving commitments.
Elizabeth Meredith, Surrey Hills
George Orwell would love the term “evolving commitment”; it could easily come from his Ministry of Truth.
Peter Farrar, Brighton East
Saying “commitments are always evolving over time” is like saying that a marriage is only a necessary step in the road to divorce.
Greg Malcher, Hepburn Springs
With Dan Andrews running Victoria, who needs to watch Utopia?
Ken Barnes, Glen Iris
I wonder how many contractors and tenderers will get something for nothing — at the public’s expense — from the latest round of Victorian government cancellations.
John Skaro, Malvern
I thought I was the only one who hates hearing “in terms of” in every second sentence these days. (Letters, 2/8) Now can we start on “reach out to”?
Yvonne Carr, Southbank
If for one day The Age didn’t publish stories about corruption in high places, the blank pages would make a useful writing pad.
Gerry Lonergan, Reservoir
Captain Cook’s cottage, fascinating as a kid, keep it. But why they build ugly statues is beyond me.
Cliff Ellen, Rye
Not bowling enough overs in an innings? How about you lose a player, at random, for the next innings.
Mick Webster, Chiltern
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