An absence of caring
Rick Morton’s exposé of the inept policy behind “living with Covid” is appallingly unsurprising (“Exclusive: Robo-debt call centres take over Covid hotline”, February 5-11). It says something about a mindset in government that it can countenance an unprofessional, untrained, casualised workforce to run a public health response with such dire results. This takes dumbing down to an extreme level, even as one assumed current levels of incompetence couldn’t be surpassed. There is something deeply disturbing about politicians seeming not to register the inhumanity of this, on both workers and distressed people who call them hoping to receive credible information. It seems as if the core business of thinking about governing for real people is imperilled. Leaders themselves seem deficient in this. How do we expect decent policy to emerge out of such a vacuous mindset that only knows how to manipulate but not to care, unsupported by expert public services and universities that once used to inform them?
– Gil Anaf, Norwood, SA
It’s bad enough the Covid hotline is outsourced to the robo-debt company using mostly poorly trained and underresourced workers in difficult working conditions. But these “casuals” are contractually obliged to pay back their casual loading should a court or tribunal decide they are not really casuals. Doesn’t $270 million buy an employer decent industrial advice on correct employee classification?
– Rachell Fisher, Bellambi, NSW
Nursing bad memories
Words cannot express my anger with governments since 1997 when Prime Minister John Howard gave providers self-regulation in nursing homes (Editorial, “Two jobs”, February 5-11). For the following 20 years I worked as a registered nurse in “a Hell” with loss of job satisfaction. My skills helped the nursing home to pass accreditation standards. To deal with my subsequent depression, guilt and shame I vented my anger and became obsessed with advocacy, by writing to politicians and alerting the media to the crisis in aged care, which resulted in no change whatsoever. In 2015 I attended New South Wales government hearings to be told a registered nurse was not needed in a nursing home 24/7. At 78, I now sit comfortably in my own home and shed tears at the debacle in aged care unfolding on my television screen. It wasn’t always like this. It was a joy to begin my nursing career in the 1980s when funding for nurses was returned to government if providers did not use it as ordained for nursing care only.
– Judy Nicholas, Denistone East, NSW
From human scale to global
In “The revolution will be electrified” (Mike Seccombe, February 5-11), Saul Griffith speaks about something that concerns me greatly: How do we urgently engage people in climate action? Saul’s answer: “I don’t think we solve climate change until we build public consensus that solving it is good for them.” Even for Saul, climate activism is often deeply personal and domestic, and burdened by a preference for old familiar ways. Debate about which climate actions are worthy, pitting our own small, domestic actions against broader, big-picture climate advocacy, doesn’t help move us beyond our domestic perspective. Even our smallest actions contain Griffith’s personal benefits of action – engagement, modelling new behaviours and providing an on-ramp to broader action – moving the personal to the political. It’s not a question of less beef or Beetaloo, but of capturing hearts and minds so that we are empowered to do both.
– Karen Lamb, North Geelong, Vic
A weak bill and undisclosed payments
After three years, the Morrison government has not legislated a national integrity commission as promised. Retired judge Stephen Charles describes the government’s weak draft integrity bill as “a sham intended to protect” parliamentarians and their staff from investigation (“The case for a national integrity commission”, February 5-11). After the sports and car park rorts, that conclusion is hardly surprising. Muddying the integrity waters are the millions of dollars in undisclosed political donations from the fossil-fuel industry (Hannah Ryan, “Dark money and receipts”, February 5-11). It would be better if donations were made only by citizens, similar to Canada. Transparency International argues donations should be capped and the disclosure threshold lowered. A vote for independents at the election is a vote for integrity, transparency and climate action. Seems like the way to go.
– Carolyn Ingvarson, Canterbury, Vic
Set Australia to rights
However squalid, the preselection mud fight in the NSW Liberals also reflects a deeper ethical malaise in the nation’s politics (Karen Middleton, “Inside the Liberal Party’s open warfare”, February 5-11). Not only is the country alone among developed democracies in refusing to adopt a bill of rights, but its present government seems to be steadily abandoning even pretences of allegiance to the concept of integrity. At the very least, Australia’s parliament can finally disclose the minimum class of maritime arrival that can ever be legally adjudged to be consistent with classification as a human being.
– John Hayward, Weegena, Tas
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 12, 2022.
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