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THE BODY POLITIC
The next election will show what we stand for
The 2022 federal election will be a test of the long-held proposition that Australian voters reject extremes in politics and vote for the sensible middle ground. Sean Kelly’s view of the election campaigns under way now (“Danger in desperate measures”, Comment, 22/11 ) outlines how the political leaders are acting over the unprecedented events of the COVID pandemic.
What is likely to shock voters is the unexpected public display of US-style behaviour openly shown in capital cities, particularly in Melbourne, ostensibly over public health issues. ASIO has been keeping many of the neo-Nazi fanatics appearing at these demonstrations under surveillance for several years, but has consistently warned against the “loner” in their ranks using weapons without warning.
There are dangers in the measures of these desperate people to Australia’s democracy that middle ground voters can reject even before the next election.
Des Files, Brunswick
The lost art of civil discourse
We seem to have lost the art of civil discourse. Has lockdown so diminished our social skills that it’s no longer possible to chat amicably with casual acquaintances or pass the time of day with total strangers without risking vicious retorts or shouted abuse?
Will removing restrictions eventually reduce the alienation and polarisation affecting so many, or is this symptomatic of a deeper malaise? Somehow letter-writing seems a safer option.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale
The seeds of my frustration
Prime Minister, I am frustrated, too – by those who refuse to get vaccinated and the politicians who support them, by conspiracy theorists and the social media that appears to be their only source of information, by demonstrators calling for “freedom” and displaying symbols used by governments and organisations that believe in anything but freedom, and the politicians who support them, by those who flouted safety rules during lockdowns, by the disrespect shown to our medical experts and health workers, and most of all by politicians who speak from both sides of their mouth.
Michael Hall, Blackburn
An increasingly misunderstood and misused term …
The term “fascism” is increasingly misunderstood and misused. An organiser of last Saturday’s “counter” rally held at the Eight Hour Day Monument said they would not allow “fascist groups to propagate their bigotry and occupy our streets without resistance”.
While there were neo-Nazi elements at the larger anti-lockdown rally being conducted in the city, many of those attending would be surprised to hear themselves described as fascists. Indeed, some believe they are also protesting against “fascistic” behaviour by the state government.
To prevent further confusion, we should preserve the word fascism for situations where it can be used accurately and not just as a lazy way to label people with whom we disagree.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills
… that does not describe me
I question use of the term “anti-fascist” that the “counter-protesters” used to describe themselves about those who attended last Saturday’s huge “anti pandemic bill” rally.
Given the Andrews government’s pandemic bill has been described by eminent legal minds as “Stasi-like”, surely “pro-authoritarian” would be a more accurate description of these counter protesters. All the “kill the bill” protesters want is freedom from government overreach – and to go about their lives in peace.
As for the term “pro-vaccine” to describe the counter protesters, I attended the “kill the bill” rally, and I was double vaccinated many months ago. So again, perhaps not a useful description.
To call advocates of a liberal democracy “fascist” really is the ultimate Orwellian spin.
John Anderson, Mount Martha
This is not justified
The restriction of unvaccinated people from “non-essential” retail in Victoria was a seminal day in our history. While foreshadowed, this was done with less than 24 hours’ formal notice and was taken as a given in news reports heralding old freedoms for the majority. This says a lot about COVID-normal reality. The interests of the minority are not the concern of polite society.
Restriction of unvaccinated people is not justified by a relative risk analysis of viral infection. It is alarming that less than two years of fear of the coronavirus has left public policy with only one focus. If we neglect community, if we cannot abide freedom of conscience, if we restrict the lives of those who disagree – the consequences to society will be far worse than COVID.
The “papers, please” regime is a direct attack on a free society. I hope it ends with vaccination passes, but I will neither make predictions nor rule out possibilities. I do know a huge change has been wrought in the past 18 months, and I fear for the stability of society. We have quickly accepted radical change, and in history, radical change has been the most dangerous.
Michael Puck, Maffra
It’s not that simple
What your correspondent seems to misunderstand or not acknowledge is that religious organisations’ “faith issues” are not just about “belief in a deity” but what they happen to believe their deity said or taught (“It’s not about ‘faith’”, Letters, 22/11).
For some people of faith those beliefs might be sourced in writings from the Bible or the Koran, for example. It’s another argument whether one believes these writings to be words of a deity, but for many people of faith they are just that.
Brendan O’Farrell, Brunswick
Selective concern for rights
The recent protesters seem to be worried about the Victorian government’s overreaching powers, their human rights and the secrecy of the pandemic legislation that is proposed by the Andrews government.
What about the human rights of others? Bernard Collaery, the asylum seekers left languishing offshore and those locked up in the medivac hotels have all been stripped of their human rights by our federal government.
Why aren’t the protesters fighting to restore the human rights and freedom of these people?
Marilyn Hoban, Mornington
Playing a dangerous game
The Prime Minister is playing to the most dangerous brand of populist politics this country has seen.
Seeing an opportunity to shamelessly win favour with the anti-lockdown demonstrators, he has given currency and legitimacy to some of the most dangerous fringe elements we have ever seen gathered on our streets.
Trump flags, QAnon slogans, noose-swinging gallows, calls for killings in Spring Street might just be the start. These people have reason to feel they have a “friend” in The Lodge, in the same way that white supremacists in the US felt they had a friend in the White House after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottsville, Virginia, in August, 2017, when then president Donald Trump described many of them as “very fine people”.
The PM has allowed this populist genie out of the bottle. We risk witnessing in Australia a re-enactment of the January 6 insurrection on the Congress in Washington.
The demonstrations have been hijacked by “wacko” elements, led by Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer, determined to spread unsubstantiated claims about vaccines.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
The states are the lifters
Scott Morrison and members of the Coalition should be thanking the states and their premiers for mandatory vaccination. It’s the only reason we have such high vaccination rates for them to crow about.
Those high vaccination rates are allowing our stranded citizens to return home and allowing international travel to start again.
Kate Malangre, Bayswater North
Take a seat (belt)
I am so relieved social media was not around in 1970, when Victoria became the first state in Australia to legislate that the wearing of seat belts was compulsory.
Can you imagine the freedom fighters’ outrage and what the accumulated road toll would be now?
Drew Reid, Kennington
What’s the verdict?
I am unsure where Georgina Robinson stands in relation to Tim Paine’s actions in 2017 (“Painful lesson for sport: good people do stupid things”, Sport, 22/11).
She seems uncomfortable with Cricket Australia looking into past behaviours of potential captains, arguing that good people make (presumably forgivable) mistakes and that “redemption is possible”.
So far, so fair. How then does she conclude that Paine’s resignation was “the right call”? If it’s right for him to resign over such a past mistake, then why should CA not inquire whether other players have made mistakes before considering them for the captaincy so as to avoid another such disruptive resignation?
If she believes such inquiries are unfair, because imperfect people may well be good captains, then why should Paine resign?
David Francis, Ivanhoe
The system’s already here
Your correspondent imagines a better system where a need is brought forward, followed by a presentation of all the best ideas and finally the wisest decision is made leading to draft laws (“It’s back to front”, Letters, 21/11).
We already have this system, it’s called the public service.
David Fry, Moonee Ponds
They won’t get my vote
Being a swinging voter, Liberal last federal election, Labor last state election, and acutely aware that our health has been carefully nurtured over the past 24 months, it becomes impossible to jeopardise the gains we’ve made by voting for any politician who lends succour to extremists and conspiracy theorists.
Leonard Yaffe, Caulfield South
Don’t force their hand
I increasingly despair at the lack of common sense and nuance displayed by the left and at times the media in their portrayal of protesters of the proposed pandemic law and vaccine mandates.
What concerns me most is an almost total lack of understanding that if you continue to portray the protesters in Melbourne as fascists, thugs, anti-vaxxers, covidiots and other such low characters, who do you think they will eventually turn to for leadership?
Have we not learnt anything from the rise of demagogues elsewhere?
Like many of the protesters, I am double vaccinated, pro-vaccination and anti-fascism but also against this bill and the vaccine mandates.
Tens of thousands of ordinary people with legitimate concerns over a bill that 60 top QCs in Melbourne have also condemned are trying to be heard. A tiny minority carried effigies or gallows, similar to left protests where effigies are carried.
If you continue to portray the Melbourne protesters as thugs without trying to understand their concerns, don’t be surprised if we end up with our own version of Donald Trump stepping into the leadership vacuum.
Teresa Dowding, Hoppers Crossing
We need to be able to act
Are the anti-vaxxers and “kill the bill” protesters reading the current news about what is happening with lockdowns now necessary again in European countries?
Of course it can happen again here. We need to know that immediate protection can be employed.
Irene Morley, Seaford
The mandate is justified
The vaccine mandate across our society is fully justified on public health grounds. The Prime Minister’s attempt to weaken this through pandering to the reluctant and the anti-vaxxers represents a desperate grab for votes at the expense of the majority of Australians now fully vaccinated.
Health and age exemptions should be the only ones that apply, so this serious virus is properly controlled and its deadly impact minimised.
Tony Delaney, Warrnambool
Abolish the institute
Eryk Bagshaw concisely presents the diplomatic dilemma facing Australia as US-China relations improve (“Australia feels a chill political wind”, Insight, 20/11).
Should Australia wish to follow the lead we should start by abolishing the hawkish and foreign-influenced Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) . This state-owned policy body also accepts funding and influence from foreign governments and armaments makers. This is against the spirit of our foreign interference laws.
The institute has opaquely influenced much anti-China publishing and media coverage in Australia in recent years. Worst is its influence on our politicians.
Australia needs foreign policy reform more than ever and professional diplomacy to implement it. There is no place for ASPI in this future.
Mark Freeman, Macleod
Fully jabbed have rights too
Fully vaccinated citizens with health vulnerabilities should be able to enjoy a visit to the cinema, restaurant or bar without worrying if the person sitting close by has been vaccinated.
There is an obligation as a member of a community to behave in a way that does not frighten others or make them uneasy. You can’t smoke in cinemas or restaurants because of the health risks and offence caused to other patrons.
If some entrepreneur decides to provide entertainment or shopping experiences for the unvaccinated, the vaccinated would have no objection, but they may resent having to pay via taxes for intensive care unit treatment that could well have been avoided.
Peter Barry, Marysville
A winning formula?
In the wake of the Glasgow climate summit, when all sectors of society and the economy are under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint, why is the F1 motor racing circuit free to keep on polluting?
Isn’t it time that motor sport went all-electric? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the top brands were to compete against each other to see who could build the world’s fastest electric-powered racing car?
Think of all the spin-offs for the vehicle industry. And it would also be so much quieter … but maybe that wouldn’t be such a crowd pleaser.
Richard Barlow, Torquay
AND ANOTHER THING
Nobody is above scrutiny says our Prime Minister. Therefore a robust federal ICAC is a no brainer.
Tim Douglas, Blairgowrie
Are the recent substantial rises in petrol prices an example of what the Prime Minister is telling us to expect if we elect a Labor government?
Tony O’Brien, South Melbourne
I found Scott Morrison’s comment that “it’s time for governments to step back” interesting. I’ve been waiting for more than three years for him to “step up”.
Andrew Dods, Apollo Bay
How many Victorian crossbench upper house members actually got more than 1 per cent of the vote?
Michael McKenna, Warragul
From what I’ve been hearing from the federal government, it looks like that if we are attacked and so at war, it will be up to the states to work it out. Seems to be the way with everything else.
Gerry Lonergan, Reservoir
What would Scott Morrison say if the “Grandmothers for Climate Action” protesters put up gallows outside the Federal Parliament?
Bernd Rieve, Brighton
A crowd of 100,000 on day 1 of the MCG Boxing Day Test will be a pretty strong demonstration of support for vaccination by Melburnians.
Greg Lee, Red Hill
I am one of the 90 per cent of Victorians who is fully vaccinated to protect both myself and the community. Do I want to sit in the cinema with unvaccinated people? No, keep the mandate.
Susan Lister, Newport
Children learning Auslan will add a whole new dimension to children talking to each other during lessons (“Auslan a great sign for early learning”, The Age, 22/1).
Alan Inchley, Frankston
What is a synonym for double standards? Answer: Cricket Australia.
David Seal, Balwyn North
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