The correct choice is not being offered to us

VINTAGE LEUNIG

Illustration: Michael LeunigCredit:

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COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

The correct choice is not being offered to us
I do not have a degree in marketing or communications, but I have to question the messaging around AstraZeneca. Back when Europe was alerting people to the higher risk of a rare, often fatal and quite dramatic form of blood clotting syndrome, our governments, state and federal, kept saying, “It’s all fine, nothing to worry about, it’s still very safe, COVID is worse.”

Then there was a sudden about-turn, and this is the message I heard: “Young people will only be given Pfizer due to the increased risk of clotting from AstraZeneca, but everyone over 50 will only have access to AstraZeneca.” So we don’t want to expose our younger people to that risk, but it’s OK if you’re over 50. It kind of makes me feel like we are being sacrificed in order to use up all the expensive doses our government invested in, so they avoid a bad investment.

I know that the risks are small and the risks from COVID are worse, but that’s not really the point. It shouldn’t be a choice of AstraZeneca or COVID. It should be a choice of AstraZeneca or another vaccine with less risk.
Teresa Dowding, Hoppers Crossing

The Prime Minister seems to be on leave
There are very few Victorian parents who do not fear a return to lockdown and home schooling due to a COVID outbreak. To prevent this, as many people as possible need to be vaccinated.

With the extremely high rates of vaccine hesitancy in those eligible to be vaccinated and most parents not eligible because of their age, I fear for what is ahead this winter. Promising, with no guarantee, Pfizer vaccines late this year and running such a low-key vaccine campaign, Scott Morrison seems to be on long service leave.
Jenny Callaghan, Hawthorn

Does the government have another agenda?
There is a lack of urgency in Australia in relation to the COVID-19 vaccination program. The rate of vaccinations remains surprisingly low and even more surprising is a federal government advertising campaign for this essential program that so low key it’s almost invisible.

While the rollout has been haphazard, clearly the Morrison-led government has another agenda. Mr Morrison seems intent on allowing people to make their own choice about if or when they will access this essential vaccination.

Why? Is this another case of the Prime Minister avoiding responsibility for a program that might fail to provide full protection for this insidious and deadly disease?
Andrew Dowling, Torquay

Let those who can, do
In Australia we annually vaccinate millions of people to protect against influenza, childhood illnesses and other serious infections. So what’s gone wrong with the coronavirus campaign?

I think the politicians thought that this was a great opportunity to generate some easy, positive, personal publicity. Instead, all they’ve done is demonstrate that they have the scientific know-how of a gnat and lack the ability to run even a chook raffle. They should withdraw, offer support as requested and let those who can, do.
Cor Lenghaus, Armstrong

Voter sentiment suits the government’s timeline
Peter Hartcher says for Australia to live safely with a COVID-infested world, the solutions are “a system of rapid vaccinations and a rigorous quarantine system” – both being pursued by the Morrison government with a “dreamlike languor” (“Ringmaster keeps focus off crisis”, Comment, 22/5).

He might have added that the government’s vaccine rollout and its quarantine system have both been a fiasco.

With one of the latest polls showing that 73 per cent believe international borders should remain closed until at least mid-2022, legitimising uncertainty among Australians might suit the government’s election timeline, but any new lockdowns or deaths over winter will be down to the Morrison government.
Neil Hudson, East Melbourne

THE FORUM

Surely they can do both
A new note issued to Defence staff under orders from Defence Minister Peter Dutton states, “Defence represents the people of Australia and must at all times be focused on our primary mission to protect Australia’s national security interests. We must not be putting effort into matters that distract from this” (“Dutton crackdown over ‘woke agenda’”, The Age, 22/5).

I truly hope that Defence has the capacity to both protect Australia’s national security interests and host a morning tea while wearing clothing to mark an occasion. Many organisations manage to achieve their goals while also holding staff events to celebrate diversity in the workforce. A morning tea is not rocket science.

Defence does represent the people of Australia. The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey demonstrated that the majority (61.6 per cent) of Australians support marriage between two people of the same sex. It is likely many more are supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community, despite their views about marriage.

Minister Dutton, please stop imposing your personal and minority view on one of Australia’s most significant workplaces. Portfolio responsibilities extend beyond your electoral base to the entire nation.

The views of the nation are clear on this matter.
Ben Bishop, Coburg

Consider this, Mr Taylor
Federal Emissions Reductions Minister Angus Taylor “has ruled out incentives [for electric vehicle uptake] and said the federal government’s policy was focused on enabling consumer choice and supporting natural uptake” (“Australia to be ‘graveyard’ of petrol cars”, The Age, 22/5).

Sounds all right? Well, try applying this logic to something else urgently important to our general wellbeing but already accepted – say, measures to improve road safety.

Would we agree to “rule out incentives” – let alone penalties – to encourage “natural uptake” of speed limits? Or make seatbelts a matter of “consumer choice”?
Colin Smith, Glen Waverley

They must be supported
As an Australian playwright, I am astounded by the proposal to discontinue triennial funding for key arts organisations in the City of Port Phillip (“Arts groups dismay at funding cut”, The Age, 22/5).

These companies are the lifeblood of our city, sources of joy, hope and imagination for our community and evidence of passion and determination of our arts practitioners.

Among them is Red Stitch, a theatre company whose name is synonymous with intelligent, inspired and intimate theatre. Visiting artists from New York and London have recognised the extraordinary work of Red Stitch. Humble, authentic and punching far above its weight, it’s a living, breathing miracle of stoicism and passion.

What elevates Melbourne as a city are its artists. Art gives us the ability to rise above the problems of the moment and find powerful cause for inspiration and gratitude. We are living in a time when our own home must provide the nurture and generosity that we once found across the world.

The City of Port Phillip should see companies such as these as jewels in our crown and do everything in its power to support the artists who, through blood, sweat, tears and very modest funding, give us so much joy.
Joanna Murray-Smith, Fitzroy North

Forget the politicians
It was great to see all those students rallying for climate change, but as we know, the Coalition has a tin ear on the subject.

I think young students will have more effect if they pressure their parents to vote for Labor or the Greens (if they don’t already) until they themselves reach voting age.
Jack Wajntraub, South Melbourne

It’s not that taxing
I seem to remember an ancient-with-wisdom saying: “Tax where the money is.“
State Treasurer Tim Pallas has done that at last, but federal counterpart Josh Frydenberg, being a slow learner, is unlikely to follow for some time. Ultimately, as an old non-economist, I suspect, that to repair the budget he will have to. If he lasts that long.
Michael Hipkins, Richmond

A pressing need
The Andrews government’s commitment to significantly increase mental health funding is praiseworthy, but it is important to remind ourselves that in reality we are playing catch-up for decades of severe neglect.

It is also evident that despite expanding federal schemes such as Better Access and Headspace, the rates of mental illness have continued sadly to climb. Nonetheless, given the hopes raised over the past two years in Victorians it is vital the increased funding is used effectively and justly.

The royal commission report into Victoria’s mental health system noted systemic racism is a mental health burden requiring serious attention. Racism elevates rates of mental illness and reduces help-seeking. Australia lags well behind its counterparts in data collection and research to inform resourcing and service delivery.

Psychiatrists for Racial Equity in the Mental Health of Australians is a recently formed group of psychiatrists from diverse backgrounds with a broad range of professional expertise and experience and we wish those entrusted with implementing reform of Victoria’s mental health system every success. In doing so we highlight the pressing need to actively address systemic racism as a mental health concern.

To not do so would itself be now considered a form of racism.
Gunvant Patel, Carlton

I think he’ll go early
Once again George Megalogenis makes heaps of sense (“Morrison in a race to get re-elected before he has to face climate change challenge”, Insight, The Age, 22/5).

How much longer can an Australian Prime Minister continue to publicly brush aside strong advice from our two closest allies, the US and the UK?

I, too, suspect Scott Morrison is sorely tempted to go early, hoping to avoid having to start taking climate challenges seriously.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham

A jaw-dropping complaint
Our government complaining about the Chinese court secrecy in the Yang Hengjun case is jaw-dropping (“Australian writer faces spy trial”, The Age, 22/5).
The secrecy in our courts regarding the Witness K case and another whistleblower is an affront to our democracy and justice system with its long tradition of open justice. The hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Terry Martin, Benalla

My agenda is love
I am the father of a trans girl.
I have struggled at times to understand, made many mistakes with pronouns (getting much better, thank you), driven her mad with “dumb” questions, and, yes, live in fear she’ll be mentally or physically bashed when they head out the door.
The only agenda is that my daughter knows she has her parents love and respect, always and unreservedly.
Andrew Watkins, Highett

They found money for that
I have trouble understanding how a government that found hundreds of millions of dollars for detention centres for a few refugees fleeing persecution and murder, who posed very little danger to the Australian populace, cannot find the money to build secure quarantine facilities to protect us from a deadly pandemic that could kill huge numbers, but relies on hotels that time and time again have shown to be not fit for purpose.
Philip Andrews, Hawthorn, SA

Ripe for the greening
Melbourne City Council is to be congratulated on its $60 million spend on open space (“Council gives green light to $60m for open spaces”, The Age, 22/5). Its response to climate change with its goal of a city in a forest is commendable.

But just three kilometres from the city centre we have 43ha of public land with very poor tree coverage. The Melbourne General Cemetery (which is within the boundary of Melbourne, but on Crown Land) is a heat island where regular use of herbicide has removed both ground cover and topsoil in many sections, particularly towards the north of the cemetery. There is only a very sluggish tree planting plan with many of the recent planting being pencil pines, which have no canopy.

It would be good to see the City of Melbourne making better use of this existing public land. A sound tree-planting plan would contribute to heat reduction as well as making this an attractive area in which residents could walk. This can all be done without the expense of purchasing new open space.
Jane Miller, Carlton North

It’s hardly comparable
Your correspondent (Letters, 22/5) describes Penny Wong’s recent speech as “more like accommodation than diplomacy” and suggests it is reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain 85 years ago.

It may be fair to suggest that had European leaders acted with more resolution and taken earlier military action, Hitler could have been nipped in the bud. He is surely not suggesting that Xi Jinping and his regime can be turned around with decisive military action.
Maurie Trewhella, Hoppers Crossing

Consistency would help
I am more than happy to have the AstraZeneca vaccine and have had my first dose at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton.

It would be great to book the second dose but no – the booking system for this vaccination centre does not book that far ahead and you need to wait a week or two before it is due.

Meanwhile my friend at a different centre has had his second dose efficiently booked by staff as he waited the 15 minutes after his first jab. I think there needs to be a consistent system across vaccination sites – especially with people showing hesitancy about vaccines. Don’t put up barriers.
Ange Mackie, Coburg

AND ANOTHER THING

Climate change
Give us a referendum on new gas-fired power stations. That would put an end to this irresponsible, climate-damaging proposal.
Ralph Frank, Malvern East

Credit:

Will Scott Morrison take his lump of coal to the G7 meeting, show it to everyone and tell them to not be afraid of it?
John Walsh, Watsonia

The pandemic
As COVID-19 is a national health problem, perhaps a 1 per cent extra Medicare levy for those who don’t get vaccinated should be considered.
Michael Nicholls, Travancore

Maybe we should call Australia’s vaccination program what it really is: a stroll out.
Denis Evans, Coburg

Get the meerkats to front the advertising campaign: “Get vaccinated as eventually you will be exposed to COVID-19. Simples.”
Dee McLarty, Eagle Point

Politics
Is there any chance Canberra could extend its much-vaunted foreign relations bipartisanship by substituting Marise Payne with Penny Wong?
Leon Burgher, Stony Creek

Scott Morrison announces funding for a new gas power plant, parliamentary sceptics happy, byelection won, job done.
Dave Robson, Port Melbourne

Our Prime Minister’s re-election strategy appears to be Operation Sovereign Borders redux.
Joe Wilder, Caulfield North

Here is a question for Michael O’Brien: How would you fix the mental health issue?
Dan Drummond, Leongatha

Mixed messages
Peter Dutton says he rejects discrimination in the armed forces (The Age, 22/5), but bans “woke agenda” activities that may raise awareness and morale: how does that work?
Mary Cole, Richmond

Finally
The Brutish Broadcasting Corporation.
David Price, Camberwell

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