ActivePaper Archive LETTERS - The Age, 2/1/2021


They don’t have the luxury

The Saturday Reflection by Julie Szego (‘‘The high price of low hopes’’, Comment, 30/1) about the comparisons with private and public schools’ expectations and VCE results, are all true. However, she failed to mention one of the major differences.

The public school system has to, by law, accept every child living in their area. Most private schools have the luxury to say ‘‘this school is not for you’’ if the student does not meet the school’s academic or behaviour standards. Many of the children who attend public schools have incredibly complex needs and those students often require a disproportional amount of resources and teachers’ time and energy.

The government does try to provide resources to assist these students. However, taxpayers would never be prepared to support the additional expenditure required to meet the cost of buildings, resources and staff to match the private system.

Helen Richards, Mentone

A waste of talent

Many Australians – and particularly Coalition leaders – laud Australia as the land of a ‘‘fair go’’ and equal opportunity, but Julie Szego highlights the emptiness of such selfsatisfied claims.

Universal access to an excellent education is surely a cornerstone of a fair society, and we have one of the most inequitable education systems among OECD nations.

This not only demonstrably unfair

– it is a dreadful waste of latent talent, and ultimately imposes substantial costs on society.

Norman Huon, Port Melbourne

A better measure of success

With the Australian Open about to start we can look forward to the constant commentary around who will end up with the most slam titles and hence be hailed the best men’s tennis player of all time (Djokovic, Nadal or Federer).

For many reasons this is not a good measure of the greatest player of all time. For decades up to the 1980s the top players did not even bother coming out for the Australian Open, professional players could not play slam tournaments until the open era began in 1968 (Rod Laver could not play in these tournaments for six of his best years) and advanced sports medicine is extending the length of careers.

Perhaps the percentage of slam tournaments a player enters and wins, with a minimum number of slam titles, would be a better measure.

Dan Meehan, Thornbury

Not an isolated experience

Unfortunately, Alison Cook’s experience is not isolated (Letters, 31/1). At the end of my first year in geology, as one of only two female students, a lecturer called me over. ‘‘You’ve done well,’’ he said, ‘‘but you’ll never get a job in Australia.’’

He said men wouldn’t tolerate women on field trips and, while I might get work in South Africa, I’d be better off studying something suitable for women. My parents were alarmed and I transferred to a general science degree, qualifying to teach science and English.

Years later, I ran into another geology lecturer, who came from a country prejudicially associated with less progressive attitudes to women. Asking why I left, he was outraged: ‘‘Why didn’t you come and tell me? I hate seeing smart women lost to our field of science!’’

As it turned out, I loved teaching but I saw similarly obstructive attitudes elsewhere in adult education, with talented, highly qualified female staff used for their abilities without fair recognition, assigned the most arduous timetables in perpetuity, and otherwise blocked from fulfilling their potential.

Entrenched, ‘‘normalised’’ sexism has made Australia so much less than it should be; the human, social and economic costs of wasting women’s skills are unquantifiable.

Barbara Chapman, Hawthorn

Much of a muchness

Waleed Aly zooms in on Google as a company that sits above the nation state and can manipulate search results to subtly or overtly influence our access to information and shepherd us down particular narrow laneways (‘‘The other great superpowers’’, Comment, 29/1).

This differs little from the propaganda of modern governments, who employ hundreds of ‘‘spin doctors’’ to massage information to make the government look good. They are actively abetted by certain news organisations.

In recent years we have seen numerous inconvenient reports either suppressed, redacted into meaninglessness, or sneakily released when they are least likely to attract attention. Forceful recommendations of committees and commissions are ignored or contradicted by the government.

We have to be vigilant about what our chosen search engine presents, but we need similarly discriminating about the government verbiage we are bombarded with every day

Peter Barry, Marysville

Let down by both sides ...

Peter Hartcher argues that Scott Morrison has ‘‘transformed’’ his leadership over the course of the last year (‘‘PM conquers from the centre’’, Comment, 30/1). His main evidence is the creation of the national cabinet, which has played a useful role in pandemic management and co-ordination across the country.

However, already a land of environmental fragility, Australia faces a climate change crisis in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren as predicted again by recent reports, yet the PM was recently in rural Queensland speaking of coal mines there operating for decades to come. The Coalition destroyed the carbon pricing mechanism in 2013, impeding vital transformation to renewables. There is no sign of a return to this important climate policy instrument.

Saturday’s Age also contained an article on Australia’s poor record on human rights in some areas, including Aboriginal deaths in custody, the jailing of 10-year-olds, and indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

Many Australians are crying out for change in these areas, but both major parties are showing a distinct lack of leadership and courage. It is a time of despair for people who are concerned about the Australia that we will leave for our children.

Andrew Trembath, Blackburn

... on climate change issue

The Prime Minister says our climate policies are set in Australia’s national interests, according to the science (‘‘Global climate action surges from fossil fuel’’, The Age, 30/1).

But his version of national interest seems to coincide with the Coalition maintaining power. In the federal electoral cycle, rather than the science.

Net zero by 2030 is widely accepted internationally as a reasonable target, but even this is not strong enough given the absence of any viable carbon-dioxide drawdown technologies at appropriate scale. Anyone with eyes and ears can read the trends on temperatures, number of heatwaves, bushfire seasons, fire intensity, and so on.

These trends do not match up with being ‘‘in our interests’’, except dubiously by generating rescue, medical, and post-fire construction activities etc, which are counted as economically positive.

When is this government going to start acting ethically on climate and plan further ahead than the next election? And when is Labor going to stop using them as a role model and stand up for us and our national climate interest? I see many pigs flying by.

Jill Dumsday, Ashburton

We have to act

The pandemic and the report on our natural environment provide a clarion call to look at how we live in our environments. If we let continued deterioration of the environment take place, pandemics will become part of our life.

Nature is already unhealthy, but when it is healthy, it can do a lot to maintain the state. But when we exploit its resources and pollute it, then it loses its capacity to sustain a healthy environment. We need sound conservation practices and we need to clean up the world around us – otherwise the pain will only worsen.

Graham Reynolds, Soldiers Hill

Beef up state powers

Over the years many people have suggested that Australia was over governed and that maybe we didn’t need state governments.

But the COVID pandemic may have changed many people’s view on that. It is clear that our overall success in handling the pandemic compared with other countries is down to the state premiers. They have all done a superb job under very difficult circumstances and despite political sniping from Canberra and their own oppositions.

Perhaps we should hand more powers over to the states and have a reduced presence in Canberra?

John Cummings, Anglesea

Save our old-growth forests

So, ‘‘The razing of an old-growth forest is not just the destruction of magnificent individual trees – it’s the collapse of an ancient republic whose interspecies covenant of reciprocation and compromise is essential for the survival of earth as we’ve known it’’. (‘‘The social network’’, Good Weekend, The Age, 30/1).

Policy and decision makers, please take note and stop the destruction of our old-growth forests.

Anne Heath Mennell, Tenby Point

Selective distancing ...

My normal morning walk from Brighton Beach to Sandringham is along a beach path, which at times becomes a narrow bush path. On Sunday morning there were hundreds of competing runners from a triathlon also on the path, lots of bumping, panting and sweating with absolutely no social distancing – and I mean hundreds.

Next week the tennis starts with attendance set at up to 30,000 each day. In the afternoon I will go to our local supermarket, where I will sanitise, wear a mask and social distance as per our government requirements. Confusing.

Pauline Walden, Brighton

... is sending a message

Will Victoria telling all the world we are having 30,000 watching the tennis each day affect our allocations of the vaccine?

Will they see us back to normal, so our supplies could cut back for more deserving countries to be supplied?

Peter Gustavsen, Brighton