Failing to honour our greats is mean-spirited

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Barry Humphries: Failing to honour our greats is mean-spirited

I am appalled that there are no plans yet for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to pay official tribute to the late great Barry Humphries, one of its formative figures (“Festival ‘did not snub’ Humphries”, 25/4). It is such a mean-spirited decision and will be seen as such by his many fans around the world. The festival is based in his home city of Melbourne, a city he parodied but loved, and where he helped to establish our thriving comedy community.
Barry Humphries deserves, and his fans expect, far better recognition of both his amazing talent and his significant contribution to the development of the MICF.
Jayne Francis, Ivanhoe

Board made the right call
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival board made the right decision to defend a vulnerable and much maligned minority in 2019 by ceasing to name its top award the Barry. Continuing to honour the person whose comments offended that minority by keeping the person’s name on the festival’s most prestigious award would have signalled that the board was condoning the person’s views.

What has transpired in the four years since, the increasing levels of vilification of that minority, has only confirmed that the board’s decision to disassociate from it was the right decision.
Richard Moore, Melbourne

Erasing our imperfect past
By Sammy J’s reasoning (Comment, 25/4), the Nobel Prize should be renamed because Alfred Nobel was a misogynist who argued against women’s suffrage; hence a woman “nominated for an award named after someone who’s wilfully torn down [her] sense of worth” might not “feel welcome”. And we’d better rename the Archibald Prize, since The Bulletin, started by the eponymous Jules Archibald, “ran extremely racist cartoons attacking Asians, in particular Chinese and Japanese, along with Indians, Pacific Islanders and Jews. It was offensively mocking of Aboriginal people”, according to the Migration Heritage Centre. I hear the floodgates creaking open.
Geoffrey Marnell, Gardenvale

Cruel comedy
I agree with your correspondent (Letters, 25/4), I never found Humphries very funny. I felt he was always putting someone down as the basis for his humour – he had to have a victim, and it was usually an ordinary person, not the powerful.

Then for a male who regularly dressed as a woman to denigrate transgender people was the last straw. Yet another victim. Give me Billy Connolly any day.
Max Ogden, Fitzroy North

A special performer
I have been an avid theatregoer all my life, the shelves in my study groaning under the weight of theatre programs. Seeing Barry Humphries perform on several occasions had my sides aching with laughter and people would still be chuckling in the foyer and in the car park as they left to go home.
Humphries was a very special, talented comedian. He was unique, his timing perfect and his ability to see into human nature incredible. I shall miss him.
Cecily Falkingham, Donvale

Withhold your generalisations
Nicely put, Sammy J (“Why we changed the name of Barry Award, 25/4). However, as a woman approaching 70 (“from the wrong direction”, to borrow a pithy line from Dame Edna) I take umbrage with your assumption that young people are more likely to agree with the name change than older folks. Like many of my generation, I was reduced to tears of laughter by Humphries’ live performances, but I think the Comedy Festival board made a sensible decision at the time.
So, yes, diversity and inclusion is about acceptance of trans people, but it is also about withholding judgment based on someone’s age.
Maryanne Barclay, Frankston South


Payment will revive work
It is welcome news that the federal government is considering restoring Parenting Payment Single to parents – mostly mothers – of children aged from eight to – hopefully – 16 years old (“Single-parent policy faces being ditched”, 25/4).

If this very necessary payment is restored, it will not result in most of these parents staying home for another four years, as has been suggested. Of 80,000 single parents who lost the PPS cut by the Gillard government in 2013, 68 per cent were working part-time.

While PPS provides an invaluable safety net for parents in times of hardship, illness, disability, the need to escape domestic violence or unemployment when they cannot work, the main effect of restoring it will be to enable single parents to return to work part time while still being home for their children after school. The PPS income test encourages part-time work, whereas the harsh JobSeeker income test virtually forces parents to choose between full-time and no paid work.

Gillard was a selective feminist. She is famous for her misogyny speech, but appeared indifferent to the fate of women forced by PPS cuts to choose between impoverishment, full-time work or returning to a violent partner to put a roof over their children’s heads.
Rosemary West, Edithvale

Misguided blame
Independent economist Saul Eslake says: “I don’t understand why younger people today aren’t out on the streets, protesting against their parents and their grandparents for what they’ve done to the cost of housing in this country” (“Property plans dashed for the young and homeless”, 24/4). Your correspondent adds “Where there is greed, there cannot be a fair go” (Letters, 25/4). But where is the consideration of the effects on housing of our governments’ addiction to immigration?

Migrants on “millionaire visas” can, and do, outbid local would-be buyers. Meanwhile others on residential visas also successfully compete against locals to purchase or rent property in Australia. And then there is stockpiling, or house-banking of Australian property – which can remain unoccupied for years – by foreign investors.

Perhaps we could be less ready to flagellate earlier generations, particularly the much-maligned “Boomers” and look more widely at other contributing factors.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East

Crims inflating prices
Many of those railing about the inability of young people to get into the property market (Letters, 25/4) continue to blame government policies for the problem. They should read John Silvester’s article in the Saturday Age “Chasing crims with bits and bytes” (22/4). It quotes Detective Sergeant Dion Achtypis of the Crypto Operations Team: “Achtypis says the money from South East Asia (original source unknown) was used to buy real estate in Australia and around the world. ‘They bought every flavour available – land, commercial properties and residential at both ends of the market. This means that home buyers are indirectly competing against criminals at auctions.’”

If this is true, then all the possible changes to negative gearing, taxation levels and superannuation stamp duties will make little difference for young people seeking to purchase a house.
Margaret Arthur, Haven

Make sacrifices
My grandson is 23, his partner 21, and both are uni students who work. They just bought their first home for just over $620,000. A lovely three-bedroom in Seaford. Yes, it needs work, but it is more than liveable. The only help was from the first home buyers grant.

There are multiple opportunities to buy; one just has to make some sacrifices. Stop the beat-up about how home ownership is dashed.
Barry Buskens, Sandringham

Suburban life
Re: “Action on housing is well overdue” (Editorial, 25/4), the advice that we should “embrace the benefits that higher density living brings to once-moribund neighbourhoods” unjustifiably denigrates suburban living.
Peter Drum, Coburg

Aussie myths
Danielle Wood (Comment, 25/4) posits three myths concerning welfare payments. I would add a fourth: Australia is the land of a “fair go”. How can it be morally defensible to adhere to the economic principle that a well-functioning economy needs a certain percentage of its workforce to be unemployed while not providing adequately for those people?

Wood describes the various reasons why people are unemployed. It’s simply not the case they all are “dole bludgers”. If our governments can feel confident and creative enough to commit us to billions of dollars of submarine purchases and tax cuts to the most wealthy it behoves them to do something decent for our most vulnerable. Now that is what I would call a real, not mythical, “fair go”.
Allan Havelock, Surrey Hills

Build them up
One way of making life easier for the unemployed, if the government won’t increase the rate of Newstart payments, is to increase the earning capacity of the unemployed before Newstart is reduced. For example, allow the long-term unemployed to keep their full allowance for six months with pro rata reductions over the next six months. It would allow this group of Australians to reduce the debt that many of the unemployed carry and also ease much of the mental health load that comes from living in poverty.
Bruce McMillan, Grovedale

Tell it straight
Australia is not being well-served or informed about our foreign and defence policies by two key federal ministers who keep dishing up platitudes and talking in riddles. It’s difficult to disagree with Paul Keating’s assessment that Penny Wong’s speech to the Press Club on April 17 was laced with platitudes and repeated reference to “the balance of power”. During a short 7.30 interview on Monday Richard Marles uttered the words “collective security” five times. What did he mean? Could we please have some straight talking.
Ian Bayly, Upwey

Criticism falls flat
Labor has laid out a comprehensive review of our defence strategy, accompanied by a plan to equip the ADF to support this policy (“Funds hike targets for ADF long-range firepower”, 25/4). The best the opposition defence spokesman can offer, having already referred to the announcement as tricky politics, is that there is no strategy and no new money and “They are using Anzac Day as a smokescreen, hoping the Australian people won’t notice”. What an inert opposition with, as usual, nothing constructive to say. At least they didn’t say no!
Bill Pimm, Mentone

Striving for peace
On Anzac Day we came together again to honour the sacrifice of those who fought and died or suffered horrendous ongoing physical and psychological trauma. At the same time our political leaders are warning us of the ever-increasing threats that require the nation to again be placed on a war footing. Recruitment drives are under way to find volunteers to operate the new sophisticated weaponry. However, the war in Ukraine shows us that all wars eventually result in butchery. The peoples of the world, if not their political leaders, want a peaceful life. We must find a better way to achieve it.
Peter Thomson, Brunswick

Anzac reflections
What a glorious Anzac morning, sunny and reflective. I dip my Anzac biscuit into my cup of tea and think of my father, a man I did not know or recognise when he returned from three years in New Guinea. Of how I ran in the night up to the telephone box to call for a doctor – Dad was in the throes of another attack of malaria.

I asked him whether he had killed a Japanese soldier. He never answered, and never marched on Anzac Day.
Margaret Skeen, Point Lonsdale

Real victims the voters
Regardless of the outcome of the three-way legal stoush between the Commonwealth, Monique Ryan and Sally Rugg, the real victims of Labor’s underhand act have been the voters of Kooyong (″⁣Albanese accused of workplace law breach in Rugg v Ryan lawsuit″⁣, 25/4). They voted expecting the successful candidate would have the staff to represent them in Canberra.

It’s not just about policy; to grasp and deal with complex legislative issues takes time and expertise, especially for the slew of independent members who have arrived to breathe some fresh air into the cosy two-party system that Labor has been a beneficiary of for so long.
John Mosig, Kew

Welcome research
The federal government has attempted to hide the parliamentary inquiry report on long COVID by releasing it on Anzac Day eve, (“Push for action over long COVID”, 24/4) however it is pleasing to see the government allocate $50 million to long COVID research, so long as the funds are spent on long COVID research and not, as is often the case for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, on vague entities such as fatigue.

The report also recommended the government fund research and patient support for those affected by ME/CFS. This is essential to limit the cost to the Australian community caused by ME/CFS.
Anne Kennedy, Surrey Hills

The right angle
Re: discussions about parking (Letters, 25/4), I’ve long wondered why all jurisdictions have not adopted the angle parking solution used in parts of NSW and Qld. By angling parking lines at about 30 degrees away from the direction of traffic vehicles have a simple task of backing in. When exiting the space, the driver has an unimpeded view of traffic and pedestrians. Quick, efficient and safe.
Terry Black, Black Rock

And another thing

Credit: Matt Golding

Housing affordability
Has anyone else wondered why there is a critical shortfall in Melbourne’s residential housing of all sorts, while there’s an equally critical oversupply of empty commercial space, much of it newly constructed.
Elon Burnstein, Heidelberg

Defence policy
As Peter Hartcher says (Comment, 25/4), “If future wars are conducted by reviews, Australia will be competitive”. Let’s hope so, because reviews are much cheaper than submarines and take minimal manpower.
Tony O’Brien, South Melbourne

Given that Stephen Smith’s and Angus Houston’s defence review endorses the AUKUS submarine deal how can any of its other recommendations be taken seriously?
Peter Martina, Warrnambool

Albanese’s new defence rhetoric sounds similar to that used by the American gun lobby – we need “bigger guns to protect us from the bad guys”.
David Cayzer, Clifton Hill

It goes against logic to publish our National Defence Policy. Why tell our potential enemies all?
Meg Paul, Camberwell

The Barry
Sammy J, I don’t agree about changing the name and I’m not 80 yet. Stand-up calls for a pretty thick skin but apparently the young aspiring comics of today don’t have it.
Megan Peniston-Bird, Kew

If the MICF award was never actually named after Barry Humphries then perhaps in recognition of his role in developing the festival and his lifetime contribution to comedy it could be renamed the Edna?
M. Leah Billeam, Portarlington

Sacking Tucker Carlson – at long last, Rupert has done the right thing. Will he now apologise to Fox News viewers and all Americans for supporting the false Trump election big lie and treating them with utter contempt?
Peter Rutherford, Hamlyn Heights

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