Government’s arrogance in refusing to apologise

Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson

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Government’s arrogance in refusing to apologise

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has found what any right-minded person should have thought at the time – the lockdown of the high-rise towers, which occurred with only 15 minutes’ notice to tenants, breached their human rights (The Age, 18/12). She did not find there should not have been a lockdown, only that the manner in which it was implemented was against the medical advice and breached human rights. When it occurred, I was appalled, both as a lawyer and an ordinary citizen.

Victorians did it tough over the lockdowns, but probably none more so than those in aged care facilities (and their families) and those in the public housing towers. To have a heavy police guard instead of appropriate food and medical supplies beggars belief. Many in the towers are refugees with poor experiences of police in their home countries and this would only have exacerbated their trauma.

Public health emergencies demand tough things of government and in order to ensure compliance, it must act with forbearance, compassion and appropriateness, not heavy handedness. Once trust in government is diminished or eroded, so compliance decreases. I hope for the sake of the tenants, and all Victorians, the government apologises. To not do so would demonstrate arrogance and complacency. Trust is not a constant in politics. The government should not assume that whilst it might be in favour now, that favour will endure.
Deborah Wiener, East St Kilda

Too big a risk if residents had been allowed out

So, when a deadly virus was found to be rampant in identifiable, high-density housing, vulnerable residents ought to have been given a day to shop for food and mingle, at whatever cost to public health, including possible deaths, before a lockdown was instituted so as to safeguard those residents and others? That way everyone’s human rights would have been protected. Fantastic.
Graeme Brewer, Port Melbourne

Many of these people kept our state running

I am disgusted that Housing Minister Richard Wynne has refused to apologise to the traumatised tenants of the public housing blocks that were locked down.

Firstly, the government needs to apologise for the Anglo-centric planning that led to this situation. Victoria was flooded with information about COVID-19, but little of it was in languages other than English. While the state sheltered, it was kept running by low-paid workers, many from migrant backgrounds – eg, cleaning, delivering, taxi-driving, nursing, and providing security. They took the risks for the rest of us but their needs were given no consideration.

Secondly the government needs to apologise for the precipitous and aggressive way the lockdown was carried out. The government reacted in a panic and behaved as if the 3000 residents were not people but some terrible contamination that had to be sealed up at all costs. It needs to apologise, openly and honestly, and acknowledge its mistakes. Acknowledging mistakes is how we learn.
Margaret Kelly, Port Melbourne

Forgotten people who also have human rights

So residents of the public housing towers felt their human rights were breached in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. I understand and empathise with their plight.

But let us not forget about the 60 refugees who were locked in the Mantra Bell City Motel in Preston and who have now been moved to yet another hotel (The Age, 18/12), with no hope for relief or a hearing. They have received no fresh air, exercise, compassion or human rights for months and months. And, of course, the beautiful Sri Lankan family who have been detained and isolated for nearly two years on Christmas Island.

Yes, all these poor souls are understandably depressed, anxious, bored and frustrated. But we must remember that every human has rights, not just those with the loudest voices.
Susan Snooks, Kew


Thanks, not an apology

It should be obvious that the residents of the high-rise towers were not given notice of the lockdown as it would have precipitated a rapid, mass exodus. Rather than seek an apology, the residents should thank the Victorian government for taking prompt action to stop the spread of the virus.
Peter Hendrickson, East Melbourne

Sorry for protecting you

On behalf of the Victorian government, let me apologise to those who were involved in the high-rise tower lockdown while we were attempting to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the resulting deaths.
Bob Graham, Yarragon

For the greater good

Waleed Aly says that our obedience to authority, our willingness to close our borders and our national psyche are reasons for our success in keeping COVID-19 at bay – ″⁣Carefree larrikins? You’re joking″⁣ (Comment, 18/12).

All true, but he neglects to mention another aspect – we complied because we understood that this method was for the greater good. We understood that it was temporary. We complied because there was no alternative to keeping us and our neighbours safe.

Australians have always been a kind and an altruistic people. We see examples of this daily, on the news and in our own communities. We are also practical and clear-sighted and most of us chose not to politicise the mandates or read anything sinister into them. Aly says the US “repeatedly (and sometimes explicitly) values liberty over life”. Clearly, the results speak for themselves.
Helen Kamil, Caulfield South

Melburnians’ sacrifice

Waleed Aly puts the worst possible face on Australia’s success in handling the pandemic. Anyone who personally endured or had close family or friends in Melbourne knows what the lockdown cost them. They saved the likes of us (in regional areas) from a lot of pain and we are grateful.

To characterise their effort as being born out of anxiety, obedience to authority and a miserable attachment to closed borders is offensive. I get all choked up thinking about what they did. I reckon the Melburnians are heroes.
Patrice McCarthy, Bendigo

Share and share alike

Congratulations to New Zealand for securing enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate all of its people as well as Pacific island nations if they choose to accept the offer (World, 18/12). That is a sign of nobility in a small nation.

Scott Morrison, how about following New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s lead? Why not do the same for Papua New Guina, for a start? Poor countries cannot aspire to obtain vaccines in quantity.
Bill Mathew, Parkville

Guarding our privacy

Dave Robson (Letters, 17/12) raises a critical issue. Collection of data via a universal, federal QR code reader from citizens attending restaurants, cinemas and other venues would enshrine federal privacy legislation, just as the sadly under-subscribed COVID-safe app did.

State governments are willfully encouraging businesses to deploy commercial apps which request unnecessary contact data and then cheekily ask if they can “advise you of offers” (ie, sell your personal information to other parties).

Please give us a federal QR app that will protect, instead of sell, our contact, purchasing and location information which we, as conscientious citizens, are willing to surrender to help fight the pandemic.
Caroline Leslie, Hawthorn

Time for strong action

The federal Treasurer projects the economy will recover more quickly from the ″⁣corona recession″⁣ than previous recessions.

The more concerning aspect about the ″⁣road map″⁣ to recovery is the lack of action to address issues this recession has brought to light – eg, casualisation of the workforce, the role of sub-contracting, the level of income support for the unemployed, support for the homeless, supporting female workforce participation, and funding of the health system.
It will be interesting to see if the government has the commitment to address the market failures to which we have historically turned a blind eye.
Michael Cowan, Wheelers Hill

All aboard with mask

On Thursday, I travelled into the city using train and tram. I was horrified to see numerous people either not wearing a mask or wearing it incorrectly. We have all been through such a shocking year, surely commuters could be more responsible. Do we need roving inspectors checking on mask wearing?
Carole Nicholls, Surrey Hills

Is this a double standard?

Apparently, the AFL is concerned about ″⁣reputation risks″⁣ posed to players and the AFL brand by any inappropriate associations, including with a high-profile gambling identity (The Age, 18/12). It does not seem to be so concerned about the well-known destructive effects of gambling on individuals, families and communities.
Brendan O’Farrell, Brunswick

Such brave, honest men

Kieran Pender’s article on the prosecution of whistleblowers should alert all citizens to the dangers besetting justice in Australia. Witness K, Bernard Collaery, David McBride and Richard Boyle should be celebrated as brave men who, having tried to alert authorities to the wrongs they saw, took the public step of exposure. They have risked their careers and now their freedom. Is the federal government trying to conceal previous wrongdoing? Is it protecting earlier ministers? Security is just an excuse. These men should be praised, compensated and held up as models for our children.
Gael Barrett, North Balwyn

Let’s get picking, kids

When I was a kid, my mate’s parents took me raspberry picking. It was great. A day out eating raspberries, and I got paid by the number of punnets I delivered. How about year 9 students take a week, or even a day, away with their teachers, and pick crops? They would learn so much about life on the land, develop a work ethic, work together and get paid. I think there would even be a bit of a competition going on as well. Call it a school work camp. Farmers would be happy, too.
David Baker, Glen Iris

Why we’re not picking?

Our poor farmers are struggling to get those lazy Aussies out in the fields picking. Now we know why – farmers are pushing back against union moves to see minimum wage rates granted to fruit pickers and seasonal workers (ABC, 17/12). Really? I am not sure why anyone would not want to work for less than the minimum wage.
Lee Guion, Portarlington

Please come in, Behrouz

When we have a change of government, I hope one of the first things it does is invite Behrouz Boochani to visit Australia so he can see Angus McDonald’s portrait of him – which was crowned people’s choice in the 2020 Archibald Prize – in the Art Gallery of New South Wales (The Age, 17/12).
Suzanne Palmer-Holton, Seaford

Depriving green funds

Besides the Morrison government’s wish to diminish industry superannuation funds for ideological reasons (viz, it does not agree with workers controlling large amounts of capital), the real reason may be that it wants to stifle the flow of investment into renewable energy. Super funds are now seeing good returns from wind, solar and big batteries. Depriving renewable energy projects of funds certainly fits into Angus Taylor and Scott Morrison’s modus operandi.
Dan Caffrey, Traralgon

A very crowded room

David Eames-Meyer – “Our path to destruction” (Letters, 17/12) – makes the excellent point that over-consumption is the “elephant in the climate room”. Unfortunately, the elephant is not alone. The blue whale of over-population is also in the room.
Robert Niall, Fitzroy North


Credit:Ilustration: Matt Golding


I’m not holding my breath for Greg Hunt and Josh Frydenberg’s comments on the NSW outbreak.
Francis Bainbridge, Fitzroy North

The Australian Open will be a replay of Sydney’s northern beaches outbreak. Prestige and love of money always negate common sense.
Max Langshaw, Sunbury

Dan, for someone who took ″⁣full responsibility″⁣, it can’t be too difficult to say sorry to those poor people.
Diana Goetz, Mornington

Dan, you saved lives and that does not require an apology.
Duncan Reid, Flemington

I would award all health workers a citation in reducing the effects of the virus.
Ronald Hall, Middle Park

Climate change

Soon it will be illegal to operate coal-fired electricity stations and no one will want our lumps. So, PM, what’s our plan?
Tim Hoffmann, Brunswick

Morrison says no one will tell us what to do re climate change. Does he think we live on another planet?
Jane Desailly, Brunswick

That settles it. We are governed by a ″⁣fossilition″⁣.
Keith White, Red Hill South

I trust ScoMo will visit Fiji to explain why we don’t need to urgently take stronger action on climate change.
Malcolm Gurr, Elsternwick

One way to reduce climate change and rising temperatures by 50 per cent: halve the number of politicians.
Peter Robinson, South Yarra


Any bridge between a panel of top scientists (18/12) and government policy will be a drawbridge.
Joan Segrave, Healesville

Beer in China may have a different tang due to a change in barley supplier. Will there be a rare, consumer-led uprising?
Murray Horne, Cressy

Thanks, DA, for a Friday treat. A quick crossword that was indeed quick.
Joan Mok, Kew

I’d hoped we’d heard the last of Pell (17/12), but I fear we haven’t heard the last from that Trump fellow.
John Bye, Elwood

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