Time to bring this tragic human farce to an end

Illustration: Cathy Wilcox.Credit:

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REFUGEES

Time to bring this tragic human farce to an end

We learnt yesterday that the three-year-old daughter of the Biloela family, effectively jailed on Christmas Island, has been medically evacuated to Perth (“Medical evacuation for ‘Biloela family’ daughter”, The Age, 8/6). That the family’s physical and mental health is compromised by their continued incarceration and state of limbo is beyond doubt, and should be called what it is, a shameful reflection upon our lack of compassion and fairness as a country. No country that professed to value a “fair go” would treat children like this. No government with a sense of right would tear a family away from the community to which they contributed economically and socially – and lock them away at a ridiculous cost to the taxpayer – unless they wanted to send a “tough” message. There is nothing tough about locking up children. That this continues brings shame on us all. Is there no one in this government with a sense of decency and the courage to bring this tragic farce to an end?
Tony Roberts, Wandin North

Serious questions over detention need to be asked
Once again we are reminded of the inconsistency of the federal government. What is happening to the Biloela family is immoral, disgraceful and heartbreaking, and the treatment of their daughter Tharnicaa being flown to a Perth hospital is another sorry chapter in this saga. As reported, the Department of Home Affairs repeats their tired old argument that “no one who attempts illegal maritime travel to Australia will be settled here”. The inconsistency is that many hundreds have come to Australia by boat, have gained bridging visas, many now have permanent residency and are making a contribution to our country. So why is the Biloela family not allowed the same consideration and why is the government prepared to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees defending this un-Australian policy? Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews needs to seriously apply herself to this question.
Bruce F. MacKenzie, South Kingsville

Demand family’s return to Biloela immediately
Tharnicaa is the three-year-old Australian-born daughter of Tamil refugees Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan, and the sister of five-year-old Kopika. Together with her family she has been detained on Christmas Island for more than two years and has now been flown to Perth with a suspected blood infection. This report is beyond devastating. We should all be demanding that this family, loved and supported by the Biloela community, be returned to that community immediately.
Judith Taylor, Clematis

A shameful blight on our collective conscience
The medical evacuation of this little Aussie-born girl to Perth highlights the punishment being meted out to both her and her family. Her parents came to our land as asylum seekers, not as “illegal” marine entrants but as unauthorised marine entrants, as they were entitled to do. The UN Refugee Convention does not proscribe how you get to the country where you seek asylum; when you arrive you have the right to apply for asylum.

This family has done nothing wrong. They have proved themselves to be good citizens contributing to the life of Biloela and the nation. This situation is a shameful blight on our collective conscience.
Graham Reynolds, Soldiers Hill

Maybe targeting the purse strings will work
Both Labor and Liberal governments have failed to meet our obligations under the UNHCR and have treated and still continue to treat people seeking asylum in an inhumane and cruel manner. Appealing to the sense of fairness, humanity and decency of the government(s) hasn’t worked. Perhaps we need to change tack and forget about the heart strings and target the purse strings. Let’s focus on the cost to us (the quiet Australian taxpayers) – keeping people locked up is expensive and it would be much cheaper to have asylum seekers in the community. I think it will work – money talks.
Belinda Burke, Hawthorn

THE FORUM

Check-in checkers
I was in Sydney recently and before entering a workplace, I was required to download the NSW government app and register my details. I then had to show the person at the entry a screen shot that my registration had been successful and then I had to check into this location and again show my successful check-in. It is ironic that we have issues with contact tracing when I consider that in Melbourne I have never been required to show whether I have in fact checked in via our multiple apps when entering any shop or workplace. Perhaps this may explain in part why we are under lockdown and Sydney is not.
Michael Loterzo, Kew

Reputation at risk
Australia has cut and run from Afghanistan, after 20 years of supporting the US in a misguided foreign intervention. The people of that country who welcomed our involvement, and assisted our war effort, have been abandoned. Peter Dutton, the minister who could arrange for the interpreters, and the immediate families, to be on a plane tomorrow, suggests that these people should apply for a visa in the normal fashion. This attitude could condemn these people to death. The Australians caught overseas by COVID-19 restrictions risk getting very ill but they do not face almost certain execution as do our Afghan allies. The federal government needs to make a decision, and rescue these families. Or does Australia want to have the reputation of being an untrustworthy, gutless nation.
Mike Francis, Fitzroy

Pfizer furore
The furore over Ms Palaszczuk, 51, receiving the Pfizer vaccine is rather noisy compared with the then 52-year-old Scott Morrison receiving the same vaccine three months ago. Or is there a different rule for the chaps?
Brian Kidd, Mount Waverley

Tax cuts boost inequality
The latest tax statistics for individuals provide evidence of growing inequality, with the number of people being paid more than $1 million a year increasing by 3 per cent (“Reliance on high-income earners to prop up budget”, The Age, 8/6). The statistics also show the inequality is entrenched by location: the average income in Toorak is more than $200,000 a year compared with $33,300 in Lake Tyers. Our tax system plays a vital role in putting a break on growing inequality. Research has shown inequality makes communities poorer, with increased social problems and impacts on mental health. As wealth is linked to political influence, the OECD has identified that growing inequality undermines the proper functioning of a democracy where every person should have an equal say. We should not be making our tax system less progressive through the planned stage three tax cuts for the wealthy.
Mark Zirnsak, secretariat, Tax Justice Network Australia

Value reading
Peter Adams (“To improve schools, cut-and-paste won’t cut it”, The Age, 7/6) has noted perceptively that “education is a complex ecosystem where culture, environment and teaching practice are key to success”.

One of my most professionally rewarding teaching positions as primary teacher librarian was working in a school, where reading was highly valued. Parents were highly motivated to read with their child regularly and to model their own love of reading; and classroom teachers used best practices for teaching reading, including phonics.

One of my roles there was immersing students in a variety of best-quality books, including First Nations myths, and developing their critical thinking skills. Students were encouraged to find the perfect book for them. They really wanted to read even during lunchtime and after school.
Their reading skills improved, and also importantly they were developing as lifelong readers. Choosing to regularly relax with great books likely also contributed to improving their mental health.
Caroline Rogers, Surrey Hills

Education funding
Peter Adams, a former general manager at ACARA, should know better when he states that “throwing more money at education – beyond the threshold that schools need – has not been shown to improve [student] performance” and cites the UK as an example. Almost all public schools are underfunded by 20 per cent while all private schools are overfunded. Australia is the fourth most privatised education system in the world and according to the OECD one of the most unequal. UK governments do not fund private schools whereas our federal government spends about $24 billion a year on private education.
David Zyngier, Southern Cross University

Credits should be optional
Retention of fares by airlines for cancelled COVID flights is an unjustifiable form of free working capital for airlines. Legislation needs to be introduced that requires refunds to be paid out. Travel credits for future flights should be optional only at the traveller’s request.
Martin Newington, Aspendale

Lockdown lessons
As a person with a parent in aged care, I find the indignation of Josh Frydenberg and other Victorian Liberals about the lockdown galling. While there is a degree of uncertainty about the best use of lockdowns, the lessons from last year arising from the devastating impact of COVID-19 on those living in residential aged care are beyond dispute. Perhaps the energies of Mr Frydenberg and his colleagues would be better directed at addressing the failure of the federal government to address the obvious and life-threatening vulnerability of residents and staff in aged care.
Brendan O’Hanlon, West Brunswick

Cut NBN bonuses
As the end of financial year approaches, the board of NBN Co will no doubt be giving careful consideration to awarding bonuses. One hopes they will take into account the recent report of “Scheduling blunder to cost NBN millions” (The Age, 7/6) and ensure any bonuses are dramatically reduced to reflect this failure to achieve a satisfactory outcome. Looking for a scapegoat is not appropriate; this is an organisation-wide failure.
Russell Cocks, Williamstown

Wrong message
I accept the AFL has its financial struggles as it navigates crowdless and reduced-capacity venues. But its recent move to engage Sportsbet as a sponsor of its family-friendly Fantasy game is yet another blurring of the lines between simple enjoyment of the sport and persuasion to have a financial stake in it.

Undoubtedly, Sportsbet knows that a significant number of Fantasy participants are children. As a parent, I sometimes feel I’m swimming against a king tide of negative and unhealthy influences. Ideally, the AFL would be a help in this space, not a hindrance.

In the interests of allowing kids to grow up with a healthier relationship with gambling, I urge the AFL to reconsider this partnership.
Glenn Cartledge, Blackburn

Climate catastrophe
The words “climate change” are too weak and unalarming to describe the weather extremes the globe is experiencing. The phrase needs to be revved up, given more credibility and oomph, to convince the sceptics. “Climate chaos” or “climate catastrophe” sound more powerful, and communicate an urgency to act.
Charlotte Fanner, Toorak

Lesson for Morrison
We all know the Prime Minister doesn’t hold a hose and assume he doesn’t hold a syringe. If he wants schools to reopen and stay open he should, however, make vaccination available immediately for all school teachers and ancillary staff.

Perhaps he could devote as much time to working out the fastest and most efficient way of doing this as he devotes to denigrating his opponents and smirking at the camera. The vaccine rollout is his responsibility and it’s up to him to make it better.
Dr Juliet Flesch, Kew

Prioritise teachers
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says getting children back into the classroom should be a particular priority. Therefore it should follow that making the vaccine available for all teachers should be a particular priority, for their safety and wellbeing, especially as two of the current virus cases are primary school children.
Joy Hayman, Blackburn North

Heartfelt thanks
Thank you for the heart-warming and uplifting article by Ian Kerridge (“Going to my patient’s funeral honoured our bond”, The Age, 8/6). I have a rare leukaemia condition and underwent a bone marrow transplant in January last year.

I am continually astounded by the depth of excellent and genuine care I received from all the haematologists and nurses who have treated me over a period of more than two years.

Mr Kerridge refers to some of his colleagues’ concern for “threats to professional detachment or objectivity” (albeit in the context of attending the funeral of a former patient). While there may be a place for that, it is also uplifting and inspiring to be treated by a doctor who shows genuine care, even when telling you of the risk of death. That level of care always suggested to me, that despite a bleak prognosis, I was in the hands of someone who would do their best.
Jim Rutherford, Ocean Grove

EV incentive removed
Apparently the Victorian government is determined to undermine the take-up of hybrid and electric vehicles. Not only do they want to charge extra for road use for those of us with hybrid or electric vehicles, but yesterday I received an email from VicRoads announcing that my $100 vehicle registration concession will conclude on July 1, 2021.

Seems like an excellent way to encourage the uptake of sustainable vehicles, NOT.
Helen Gardner, Caulfield South

AND ANOTHER THING …

Credit:

Biloela family
What are you trying to prove, Karen Andrews? For pity’s sake just let them go back to Biloela.
Ross Hudson, Mount Martha

Dear Mr Morrison, imagine if it were your girls.
Dr Cheryl Day, Beaumaris

Politics
It’s winter. Richard Colbeck is hibernating. Don’t disturb.
David Lyall, Mount Eliza

Election campaigning is the wrong race, Mr Morrison. As the nation’s front runner, please move to the other track now for the bipartisan race against the pandemic.
Colleen Cousins, Alphington

Is that the Prime Minister of NSW I hear, dumping on Victoria again?
Eric Kopp, Flinders

Coronavirus
Surely it is now clear that hotel quarantine is an oxymoron.
Priscilla Pyett, Fitzroy North

Unleash those fabled market forces and charge baby boomers $50 for a Pfizer shot. There would be a stampede!
Moray Byrne, Edithvale

Scott Morrison says Victoria should open up as soon as possible. Victorians say Scott Morrison should get vaccinations for aged care residents and workers ASAP.
Noel Turnbull, Port Melbourne

Scott, I’d feel more comfortable about ending lockdown sooner if you had ensured your promised vaccination programs met their deadlines.
Brian Williams, Vermont

Furthermore
Whopping big dinosaurs and other fossils found in Queensland. So what else is new?
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

I am surprised that more dinosaur fossils have been found in Queensland. I thought they were all in Canberra sitting on the government’s front benches.
Ron Hayton, Beaumaris

Finally
Women’s ordination. Priestly celibacy. Just what is the problem the Catholic Church has with women?
Brian Marshall, Ashburton


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