Hospital’s infection control among best
Rick Morton’s story on the Covid-19 outbreak in north-western Tasmania (“Burnie questions”, April 18-24) was incorrect to say the North West Regional Hospital “has consistently ranked among the worst private or public hospitals in the nation” on a key measure of infection control. In fact, the opposite is true. Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on the level of Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) infections show that in 2018-19 this hospital had a rate of only 0.64 per 10,000 patient days against a national average of 0.75. This makes it one of the best hospitals in the country, not one of the worst. Longer-term averages produce similar results. Conscientious and professional staff are being subjected to a wave of online and personal abuse they do not deserve, driven at least partly by the prime minister and the chief medical officer spreading rumours that turned out to be untrue.
– Martyn Goddard, Hobart, Tas
Time to fight for press freedom
“Pyrrhic victory”(Editorial, April 18-24) extols a serious warning. While most of the news is concerned about health and economic issues surrounding the coronavirus, it is vitally important not to let other issues slip under the radar. The decision of the High Court to invalidate the raid on the home of a journalist speaks powerfully to our concept of freedom of the press and other matters in an open society. It is completely unacceptable that the raid was deemed invalid yet documents belonging to the journalist are still being held by the AFP. This is scandalous. The pursuit of journalists or whistleblowers must be fought vigorously if we are not to further impale our democracy.
– Judith Morrison, Mount Waverley, Vic
Questioning Robb’s concern
I am disappointed The Saturday Paper gives Andrew Robb a voice on the pretence he has concern for humanity (Andrew Robb and Tania de Jong, “Making a mental leap”, April 18-24). Robb wears as a badge of honour that he and Tony Abbott destroyed negotiations between the Rudd government and the Turnbull opposition on the carbon pollution reduction scheme more than a decade ago. There is a century of now-proven science informing us of the destruction of Earth’s life support systems by burning fossil fuels. Yet there are ongoing dubious assumptions that short-term economics overrides these facts. Anxiety and depression are not only rooted in mental health conditions but also in circumstances faced by climate, energy and carbon reduction specialists, and many others who are out of work, frustrated and depressed by no action. Anxiety and depression are increasing in young people who agonise about their futures. How dare this man talk of fracture and disintegration when he is one of the origins of such anger, frustration, anxiety and depression.
– Gus Sharpe, Lyneham, ACT
Why the focus on public debt?
A regular theme from your correspondents, including Mike Seccombe (“How this crisis will end”, April 18-24), is that the federal government should be very concerned about the level of public debt, and aim for regular budget surpluses. But government finances are nothing like a household’s or business’s. The federal government issues the currency via the Reserve Bank, so it does not make sense that it would need to “save” it. Would you save your money if you had a money printing press in the basement? Then, of course, we have the cries of “hyperinflation” at the prospect of the government “printing money”. This would only occur if there was a severe shock to supply, such that the new money circulating was excessive for the economy’s ability to provide goods and services to be purchased. Yes, we do have a shock to supply at present, but the shock to private demand is far greater and needs to be made up for by government spending. What is important is to maintain a functioning economy during this crisis, by keeping businesses running and jobs available as much as possible. If the government doesn’t spend enough to do this, it will be far more expensive for us in the long run as the economy collapses and then struggles to bounce back after the crisis. So what of the public debt? This just represents public money injected into the economy net of taxes over the years. The interest paid is on Treasury bonds issued in line with budget deficits. Those bonds are not required to “fund” the spending, but to ensure interest rates don’t drop too low from the additional injected money. There will never be a problem paying that debt, which is not debt in the same sense of private debt, as it is all in Australian dollars of which the federal government is the sole issuer. So please, let’s not worry about the level of public debt; it’s not an issue.
– Elinor Hurst, Evandale, SA
Government transparency is vital
One of the most important pages in The Saturday Paper is the World page. With so much of our news covering the Covid-19 virus, of necessity, stories on this page keep everything in perspective when we feel that life here is challenging. The story of 12-year-old Abdullah Boumadian being tortured in Egypt has remained with me (March 28–April 3). The right to vote and the right to hold government and business leaders to account are precious and we must not treat them lightly. The Australian parliament needs to return to provide us with certainty and transparency. There are issues as pressing as this virus.
– Barbara Lyle, Tea Gardens, NSW
Meat and potatoes for Mungo
Good to find topical commentary in an unlikely place. Thank you to Mungo MacCallum (The Cryptic, April 18-24) for noticing that the coronavirus is carnivorous. Does this mean we need a vegan vaccine?
– Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 25, 2020.
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