Letters to
the editor

Why aren’t feds in charge of quarantine?

I’m so pleased I have (re)subscribed to The Saturday Paper. In these troubled times, it’s great to have access to factual media outlets. I have been very pleased with Karen Middleton’s coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, I wonder why in her article “The other holes in Australia’s quarantine” (April 11-17) she didn’t mention it is the federal government that has overall responsibility for quarantine. There shouldn’t be any “ongoing federal–state brawling”: the Australian constitution gives the Commonwealth government responsibility for quarantine in section 51(ix). This constitutional power is covered by the Biosecurity Act 2015, an act that provides for the management of “the risk of listed human diseases or any other infectious human diseases entering Australian territory or a part of Australian territory”. Further, this act states that it has “the effect it would have if its operation were expressly confined to exercising a power … in relation to quarantine (within the meaning of paragraph 51(ix) of the Constitution)”. The act gives the federal government – via the federal Health minister – powers to, among many other things, advise the governor-general to declare that a biosecurity emergency exists, and for the Health minister to determine the emergency requirements during a human biosecurity emergency period. Now, I’m no legal expert, but this appears to me to say that it is the federal government that should be calling all the shots in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in relation to the Ruby Princess currently anchored in New South Wales waters. Sadly, it shows once again how there is a leadership deficit in Australia just now.

– Harry Burkett, Forde, ACT

Work together to find solutions

While to my mind the Commonwealth government has effectively greased the wheels of what we knew as “business as usual” to keep the economy on life support in the hope it will resurrect itself from “hibernation”, there will be little change to the inequality firmly entrenching itself within our country until there is such a thing as the Greens’ “new deal” in real life (Paddy Manning, “Dealing with it”, April 11-17). For that to happen there will need to be serious considerations of a coalition of the fully willing involving the Greens and the ALP, plus possibly a number of the more rational crossbenchers. Second, there needs to be a dropoff in the incumbent Coalition’s currently heightened “likeability” factor. Perhaps, and definitely without willing it on anyone or their community, there will need to be a further Black Summer horror show coupled with a prevailing never-ending epidemic to make sure policymakers come to understand that our redemption lies well beyond partisan politics – in the finding of rapidly initiated and implemented, mutually beneficial solutions to our quadruple bottom line dilemmas: the environmental, the cultural, the social and the economic/financial.

– Ellie Bock, Mena Creek, Qld

Not stimulating enough

Paul Bongiorno describes this crisis as “a rapidly evolving monster that is directly affecting millions of Australians in a way that the GFC didn’t” (“A long road to recovery”, April 11-17). That’s really the point, isn’t it. It didn’t because the timely fiscal application by the Labor government, orchestrated by Treasury secretary Ken Henry, shielded us from the cliff fall that affected most of the world. The problem is that these fiscal announcements are too small, too slow in rollout, and too poorly targeted (in their omissions as well). And they will need to be, hastily no doubt, increased under unwarranted duress.

– Paul Keig, Wahroonga, NSW

Innocent until proven guilty

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but ignorance of it in your excellent paper is inexcusable (Editorial, “A note on George Pell”, April 11-17). We are all innocent until proven guilty. Once the High Court determined there were errors in the courts below invalidating the verdict and Supreme Court judgement, they set Pell’s conviction aside. He remains innocent because nothing has been proved against him. No finding of innocence was required or possible. Do not infer that I support him. I do not understand how a man in his position could remain ignorant of abuse in the churches for which he was responsible unless he were not doing his job. I hope civil courts will be able to compensate his alleged victims. The law should not be changed to make it easier to convict for this sort of offence, or others. More injustice is likely to result. Many accused of crime are woefully inadequate mentally and educationally. They are no match for the highly intelligent lawyers seeking to take them down. Pell, though exceptionally intelligent, did not give evidence, but that did not affect the presumption of innocence nor the burden of proof on the prosecution. However, I cannot help wondering about the religious persuasion, if any, of the High Court judges.

– T. G. Stanton, Tinonee, NSW

Pell jury needed third option

In its ending, the conflicting for-and-against evidence at the heart of Pell’s case was all upheld, but his guilty verdict was “quashed”. This underlines a failing in our judicial system: trial juries have only the option of “guilty” or “not guilty”, the latter forced to cover all extremes of doubt. It appears that Pell’s jury did not want to proclaim him “not guilty”. We’d have been better served if they had the Scottish option of “case not proven” – the shadows of doubt that can never be removed would have to be accepted by all, and there would likely have been none of the angst and expense caused by his appeals. Instead, we have a final judgement “quashed”, interpreted as “not guilty” despite upheld evidence to the contrary.

– Russell Obst, Stafford Heights, Qld

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 18, 2020.

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