Ticket inspectors have a tough enough task without the criticism
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Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding
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Authorised officers on Melbourne’s public transport patrol the network in “SWAT-like” gear with “black vests, cargo pants, and hard boots” to prevent fare evasion, writes Abbir Dib (“Why do our ticket inspectors have to be so stern?” 31/10). The role of authorised officers is to provide passenger information, improve safety and help the travelling public during special events and disruptions. If you use public transport, you’ll know about disruptions: they’re unpredictable and can involve verbal abuse and physical violence. They’re frightening and endanger us all. These officers protect us. Working in groups ensures their and our safety when dealing with such incidents. Their uniform reflects this role.
As to “hard boots”, moving all day long on hard surfaces can cause long-term chronic pain. These boots protect the officers’ health, just like any other person working in tough conditions.
I’ve also been at the receiving end of tough treatment after unintentional fare evasion. Yes, it’s humiliating and distressing when you can’t afford the fine. But more importantly, these officers perform an important, thankless and often risky job to protect us.
Anna Ridgway, Abbotsford
The simple solution
A solution to the problem of fare evasion and the threat of intimidation by overbearing authorised officers is obvious. Make public transport free, sack the authorised officers and close down the bureaucracy upholding the system of fines. Visitors to the state would no longer need to worry about their obligations when travelling. Residents could enjoy a stress-free commute. It would be interesting to know how much is currently spent to punish the “offenders”.
Michele Couper, Toowong, Qld
Abbir Dib cited a study on the psychology of fare evasion, but whichever population was sampled it can’t have been users of the Geelong regional bus service. It’s mostly students who get on without tapping their myki. And there is definitely no embarrassment about it. Instead, they seem to regard the bus as a free chauffeur-driven service. I’ve occasionally seen inspectors get on. I have noticed them being very discreet and helpful towards anyone who hasn’t paid, giving advice on how to sort out the unpaid ticket or for other help if people are not well-off.
Heather D’Cruz, Geelong West
Deserving of thanks
There is no denying that some authorised officers are officious. But we should not demonise them. My daughter is an authorised officer on the tram system. She and many of her colleagues face a great deal of abuse, verbal and sometimes physical. Sometimes cheered on by fellow travellers. There are many occasions when the officers have assisted those who need help in various ways and are thanked for their efforts.
Wilma Pimm, Mentone
The human touch
There was a time when a ride on the tram was sheer entertainment. The driver sang as we swayed on leather straps. The connie (conductress) dressed in brown, hair upswept under her hat, moved through the passengers selling and checking tickets from a huge bag, keeping her firmly planted and upright. There were always pleasant exchanges and hilarious quips from the no-nonsense connie. We would leave the tram mildly radiant.
Margaret Skeen, Point Lonsdale
No ticket to ride
I was living in Carlton in 1969. Taking a short tram ride up Swanston Street one day, reading a book, I had not been approached by the conductor to sell me a ticket. Suddenly noticing my stop, I jumped off, to be followed by two chaps in suits who told me I hadn’t paid my fare. The 10¢ was in my pocket for the fare, so I apologised and offered the coin – “too late for that” they said. I subsequently received a letter from Melbourne Transport threatening court if I didn’t pay up. All for a failure to pay a 10¢ fare. Formidable.
Christine Moore, Frankston
Take into consideration
Despite their attempt to show moderation in their rejection of both antisemitic and anti-Muslim attitudes being expressed within Australia, the support of the Turnbull-drafted statement by six prime ministers (“Ex-PMs unite to condemn Hamas”, 31/10) still shows overwhelming support for Israel. Obviously, under no circumstances could one support the initial attack by Hamas on Israeli citizens. But the historical context of Israeli oppression of the residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank must be taken into consideration. This has involved killing of Palestinians – including many children – by the Israeli military and Israeli settlers over the past 16 years, if not longer. To this we must add that in the first decade of this century and a few years later Israel supported Hamas as a Palestinian pressure group because it believed it could control it.
Greg Bailey, St Andrews
Our former prime ministers are probably correct in asserting that a vast majority of Australians would support their recent public letter on the Gaza tragedy. Of course the immediate priorities are to stop the killing, free the hostages, and provide humanitarian aid to civilians. The letter also endorses support for a two-state solution as “the basis for a long-term lasting peace …” History and much contemporary opinion strongly suggests that a major impediment to this “solution” is the growth of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Most of the international community, supported by UN resolutions, regards the settlements as illegal. Calling for this solution, while turning a blind eye to this reality is of limited value.
Norman Huon, Port Melbourne
Skin in the game
Thank you David Leser (“Stop this massacre of Palestinians”, 31/10) for the most insightful and compassionate contribution on the current Israel-Gaza catastrophe. I had almost given up on getting any balanced view on this from either “side”, with nothing but one-eyed, often irrational, judgments that fail to recognise the complexity of the situation. When someone “with skin in the game” can provide this insight there is just a slight chance that some fair and reasonable resolution can found.
Peter Salway, Beaumaris
The love you take
David Leser’s article on the current horrors occurring in the Middle East was personal, perceptive and balanced. My father was a member of the Palestine Police from 1947 to 1949. Over the subsequent years he told me stories of the atrocities he witnessed, perpetrated by both sides of the ongoing conflict.
Leser ends his piece with a quote from a Paul McCartney song that he paraphrases as “the love you take is equal to the love you make”. Let’s all hope he’s right, though I fear that “the hate you take is equal to the hate you make” may be a more accurate depiction of what is unfolding.
Robert Power, Malvern East
Holding on to humanity
Thank you David Leser for expressing so powerfully and eloquently the conflicting feelings so many of us are struggling to contain as we watch with horror the events unfolding in the Middle East since October 7. How do we hold on to our humanity, and keep our empathy for both sides in all this, no matters where our instinctive loyalties might lie? It seems our very souls depend on finally finding a middle path of fairness in this seemingly unsolvable problem which began so many years ago. Josephine Ben-Tovim, Carlton
Refusing to vote
As a former UN staffer, I am utterly ashamed of our government for refusing to vote at the UN General Assembly last week for an “immediate and sustained humanitarian truce” in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Its excuse for abstaining was that the resolution was “incomplete”. With hundreds of civilian Palestinians, including children, being killed each day, it is obvious that our government is incomplete: lacking any moral compass.
Allen Jennings, Viewbank
Not so convincing
It is very understandable that Stan Grant and other First Nations people are devastated at the result of the referendum (“Grant takes aim at Price over No push”, 31/10). I cannot, however, agree with Grant that “a politician” whom he did not name, but your article indicates is Jacinta Price, was “devastatingly convincing”. She was certainly not convincing in saying that colonisation was good for First Nations people. Her claim completely negates the past and ongoing trauma experienced by them, which underpins their current disadvantage. We should not forget that almost 40 per cent of Australians voted Yes. As time goes on and more of us are educated about the history of settlement, about Indigenous culture and about the ongoing effects of not closing the gap, we will find that percentage will increase.
I admire the fact that Thomas Mayo, Yes campaigner, “vowed to keep on fighting for recognition”. There are many of us who are waiting for the lead from First Nations people on how we can best support them in seeking a better future for themselves and hence for us all.
Jan Marshall, Brighton
Wait your turn
Millie Muroi (“One generation is copping unfair tax rules”, 31/10) is right in stating that people over 60 enjoy tax-free withdrawals on their super and that many old-age pensioners get a senior tax offset. Your correspondent should be aware that these older folk did not get such benefits when they were “starting off in their careers”. They likely spent at least four decades working hard, paying taxes at high marginal rates and saving whatever they could. So, Muroi will just have to wait a few decades before she, too, will be entitled to favourable tax concessions.
Roger Farrer, Hampton
While outlining the perceived tax advantages that retirees have over the younger members of the workforce, Millie Muroi fails to mention numerous other taxpayer-funded schemes available to members of the workforce.
We retirees did not have access to taxpayer-funded paid parental leave or childcare subsidies. Presently, paid parental leave is available to those earning up to $168,000 per annum. Childcare subsidies are available to those with household income up to $530,000 per annum.
Ian Bennett, Jan Juc
Millie Muroi complains about, among other things, her HECS debt. Nobody forces people to get a degree and those who undertake study know the costs and the fact that indexation will occur. These students choose to invest in themselves with the expected pay-off being higher salaries for the rest of their lives.
In regards to the Greens’ absurd call to scrap HECS debts, I wonder how those people who chose not to do a degree because of the cost would feel if HECS debts were suddenly wiped out? And how would those industrious types who worked a job during their degree (sometimes a second and third job) to pay off their debts quickly feel if everyone else’s debts were wiped out?
Neale Meagher, Malvern
Something is not right
Hardly a week passes by when we read of the tragedies that affect women. Just in the past fortnight in Sydney at a private school, in recent days Bendigo and overnight at the casino in Perth and no doubt other violent acts against women that perhaps do not hit the headlines. It is all very well to accuse the authorities of not doing enough to protect women, but much also rests with members of our society to call out potentially developing difficult situations when it is sensed that something is not right. It is so tragic for lives to be lost not only for the victims, but for the families and children within these families. It is time to say enough is enough.
Bruce MacKenzie, South Kingsville
Let’s hope the government has more sense than it has had in the past, and that the 60,000 new homes (“Middle ring of suburbs key to home build plan”, 31/10) are all required to have double glazing, rooftop solar, rainwater tanks, room for vegie patches and lemon trees, and that’s before we even get to good public transport, sports grounds, parks and community centres.
Peta Colebatch, Hawthorn
Your correspondent outlined teacher housing in the 1960s came with a wood-fire stove, outside dunny and a chip bath heater (“Those were the days”, 31/10). I can add kerosene lamps for lighting and a copper for clothes washing. And, when the flue of our chip bath heater became wet one evening, it exploded, smothering an unsuspecting bather in pieces of flue and ashes. Other than that, life was most enjoyable.
Tom Ward, Sorrento
Your correspondent referring to the current times of strife and dread (“In times of strife, seek beauty”, 31/10) quotes from an uplifting letter to The Age written some years ago, which stayed with her: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”.
Those familiar with the Bible will recognise the passage as being from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians, written almost 2000 years ago. They are timeless words, relevant to human beings then, just as relevant now, and no doubt for future generations as well.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
Gone to pot
Melburnians cruising along unblemished, rapidly repaired Bell Street or Punt Road should spare a thought for their country cousins. The pothole-festooned entrances to numerous towns (Woodend and Daylesford are two examples) continue to be ignored by VicRoads. Not to mention the flood-damaged roads in between.
Greg Malcher, Hepburn Springs
AND ANOTHER THING
Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding
Turbines harvest wind to make electricity, they do not generate wind, so, contrary to your correspondent’s view (Letters, 31/10), “farms” is more apt than “factories”. The opposite might be true of politicians …
Manny Hemman, Lower Plenty
Some may want to call a wind farm a wind factory, but I’m not a fan.
Geoffrey McNaughton, Glen Huntly
Our ex-prime ministers finally find a bipartisan cause to safely warm their souls.
Bernd Rieve, Brighton
David Leser what a breath of freshness and fairness. Would you consider contesting the next general election in Israel?
Roger Christiansz, Wheelers Hill
While the “bully boys” of the Middle East flex their muscles, thousands of innocent people die. The future of the region is being destroyed while the rest of the world sits idly by.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North
Your correspondent suggests that we need something to lift our thoughts. In Australia we are lucky that we have a choice.
Julie Ottobre, Brunswick East
Are those Halloween ghouls, or images out of Gaza? It’s hard to tell.
Tony Adami, Caulfield South
Post offices to sell coffees! Only until midday on Saturdays, that is.
David Cayzer, Clifton Hill
A free trade deal seems like an oxymoron.
Craig Tucker, Newport
Artificial intelligence seems to be the only form of intelligence currently in operation in planet America, so why regulate it?
Ian Bayly, Upwey
The plans to build thousands of homes in 10 of Melbourne’s key activity centres surely insists that the suburban rail loop be built.
Jim McLeod, Sale
Crossword puzzle (30/10), 17 Down. Q. Fabricated to deceive (7-2)
A. Trumped up. How appropriate.
John Rosenbrock, Mount Martha
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