Victims of bureaucratic, controlling behaviour
Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson
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Victims of bureaucratic, controlling behaviour
No wonder government bureaucracies become fodder for satirical television programs like Yes Minister and Utopia when one learns an important climate change-mitigation strategy is rejected by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal because of heritage restrictions (The Age, 7/6).
Simple. Change the guidelines. The victim in this case, Richard Barnes, whose home is under a City of Boroondara heritage overlay, is supposed to do nothing to detract from his ordinary, tiled roof lest it affect the streetscape for everyone else.
I have had a heritage overlay on my Victorian home to preserve history for the community. Yet in the 30 years I have lived in it, not one passer-by or community group has made any enquiry regarding its history. It is the bureaucratic, controlling behaviour experienced by Richard Barnes which deters so many people from purchasing homes with an overlay and penalises current owners of same.
Diana Yallop, Surrey Hills
We can improve aesthetics and protect the planet
While I agree with the common reaction to the retrograde decision by the City of Boroondara, I must admit that those solar panels look ugly on old, classic homes. That is because they only cover parts of the roof in a patchwork of rectangles. The aesthetics could be much improved by covering the roofs completely and neatly, using dummy solar cells cut and framed to the appropriate shapes, to fill out the missing areas. Solar installation companies offering that solution would gain a great competitive advantage.
Ralph Böhmer, St Kilda West
An urgent need to move to renewable energy
Here is a member of the community wanting to do his bit towards saving the planet from the ravages of climate change by installing solar panels on the roof of his home, only to be ordered to remove them by the local council and VCAT because of heritage restrictions. This beggars belief.
A tribunal member said there were no sustainability guidelines in the applicable heritage policies. However, the panels obscured a “sizeable proportion” of the western roof panel on the principal facade which would ” detract from the heritage significance of the dwelling as it presents to the street”. Also, they were a “modern feature”. How ridiculous.
Obviously, heritage policies need to be urgently revised to include allowing owners to install solar panels, double-glazed windows, or anything else that will contribute to saving our planet (including our heritage buildings) and keeping it liveable for future generations. Richard Barnes should be congratulated for taking seriously the need for us all to be converting to renewable energy in our homes, not punished.
Joy Hayman, Blackburn North
Reward, don’t penalise residents for their actions
VCAT’s proposition that a Boroondara resident’s solar panels “will detract from the heritage significance of the dwelling as it presents to the street” would be laughed out of chambers in local government regions where homes have been razed by climate-charged storms, floods and fires.
Rather than issuing a directive for the resident to remove his solar panels, which escalated the decision to VCAT, perhaps a properly progressive council would introduce awards for residents who engage in climate action, including making this item 1.1 on their agenda. Shame on the City of Boroondara for seeking to cut a climate emergency suit to fit its heritage, leafy-green cloth.
Karen Campbell, Geelong
A double standard on what’s right for Boroondara
VCAT’s decision to force the removal of useful solar panels is based on aesthetics. Yet all around in Boroondara, beautiful small houses are bulldozed and replaced with fence-to-fence cubes, usually with fake pillars.
Phillip Hankin, Camberwell
Our COVID complacency
Imagine this scenario: up to 20 people die every day from cholera or typhoid in Victoria. There would rightly be a public outcry and demands that the government take urgent action.
Yet with COVID-19, this situation is accepted benignly by both governments and citizens. This is especially reprehensible when two straightforward courses of action are obvious.
The wearing of masks in high-risk settings such as theatres etc must be reintroduced and enforced. Secondly, booster vaccination must be strongly encouraged, perhaps mandated, and available to all.
Fewer than 70per cent of Victorians above the age of 16 have received a booster. It means that half of the population (when children are included) has negligible protection against the Omicron variant. Governments have abrogated their responsibility in the fight against the pandemic, but it is not too late if urgent action is taken.
Emeritus Professor Ben Adler, department of microbiology, Monash University
Premier’s refusal to act
Daniel Andrews’ pronouncement about masks – that “people can make their own decisions” – flies in the face of current reality and his previous mandates. A minority of people are now wearing masks indoors when high COVID-19 numbers persist and viruses such as the flu are proliferating.
Distinguished epidemiologists and medical professionals continue to be ignored and increasing numbers of Victorians aged over 70 are paying the price of unnecessary sickness and death. A very bleak Victorian winter has begun.
David Burke, Footscray
Heroes, still battling on
I note that the fatalities from COVID-19 continue as the community fights this winter’s flu. Once more our medical and nursing staff continue their roles without respite.
In earlier times, countless thank yous and prayers for the staff made frequent headlines, but probably fell on exhausted ears.
Might it be possible to institute a visible recognition of those in the front-line, the equivalent to a university blue or half blue, that they can wear on their uniforms or clothing. Every person directly involved in the medical/nursing system to receive a full blue and any support staff, including the cleaners, to receive a half blue. It is time to make it happen, lest their efforts become forgotten.
Dennis Denman, Preston
The program we need
It is gratifying that funding has been reinstated for Victoria’s From Homelessness to a Home program for another year (The Age, 8/6). It has “supported more than 1750 households to move into new homes with individual, tailored support” and been described as “world’s best practice for solving homelessness”. Surely it should become permanent – no one could argue against funding it.
Elspeth Chambers, Alphington
Plight of the unemployed
Thank you, Ross Gittins – “Albanese must stop government malice towards the jobless” (Comment, 8/6) – for describing the current state of play for unemployed Australians.
In addition to meeting unrealistic job search targets each month, there is also the shameful Work for the Dole program.
Depending upon the job seekers’ capacity to work, they are made to “volunteer” between 15 or 25 hours a week – at well below the minimum wage in various, thankless positions – just to continue receiving income support. At the program’s last audit it was found that fewer than 2per cent of participants found employment thereafter.
Anders Ross, Heidelberg
Need for a part-subsidy
Another excellent article by Ross Gittins. He outlines categories of workers whom employers are reluctant to take on. These included those aged over 45, have a disability, are sole carers and Indigenous people. Is it time to reintroduce a government part-subsidy to employ these workers? Yes it would cost, but so does having them unemployed both in terms of lost productivity and having to pay them unemployment benefits.
Jan Marshall, Brighton
Take action on profits
So the “Australian” (overseas owned) gas supply industry is not willing to now allocate a proportion of Australian (yes, actually Australian) gas for domestic use at a reasonable profit, because selling it overseas delivers inordinate windfall profits. Perhaps our new government could respond to this greed by taxing the inordinate profits and using the income to subsidise the gas bills of low-income consumers.
Janet Wickerson, Thornbury
Decades of strong policy
Despite his cheeky invocation of the phrase “inconvenient truth”, Chris Uhlmann makes a valid point about the challenges of transitioning away from embedded fossil-fuel use (Comment, 8/6).
However, there is nothing “inevitable” about that transition. As most of the past 30 years in Australia has demonstrated, the absence of forward-thinking policy leadership at the federal level has resulted in, at best, a patchwork of transitory initiatives. A bold, consistent and enduring national approach is desperately needed.
Craig Reichenbach, Briar Hill
The ball is in Dutton’s court
If Peter Dutton is “not afraid” to talk about nuclear energy, perhaps he could kick things off by talking about which Liberal electorates could host the reactors.
Helmut Simon, Thomson
A true, hands-on lesson
When my sons were aged 13 and seven, they had developed an unhealthy attraction to weapons via computer games. So, on a holiday to the United States, I took them to a gun shop that had a shooting range in order for them to learn what guns can actually do.
They had the sickening pleasure of fondling the type of automatic weapons currently causing death and destruction in the US and chatting with people there to buy.
They also fired off numerous rounds from a variety of pistols ranging from .22 to .45 Magnums under the watchful eye of the owner who explained the power, destruction and misery that weapons can cause if not respected and handled correctly.
From that day on, my sons had a healthy respect for shooting guns, be they real or computer-generated, and both are now strident anti-weapon evangelists. Now, to correct their other vices.
Shaun Lawrence, Richmond
Confronting the darkness
A CBS poll has found that a third of Americans think mass shootings are a price worth paying for the constitutional right to arms. This is an indication that alongside all that is great and good about the United States, there lurks a heart of darkness.
Susan Caughey, Glen Iris
Tackling all gun violence
Actor Matthew McConaughey has visited Washington to promote responsible gun laws following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. While he is at it, he might find the time to call on Hollywood to impose a ban on gratuitous, gun violence in its movies.
John Mosig, Kew
Labor must take the lead
Anthony Albanese has expressed a desire to cease the excessive partisanship displayed in public debate and forums. That surely is to be applauded.
Why then does Treasurer Jim Chalmers constantly refer to the “inherited problems” instead of showing the way ahead and referring to how the government will address the economic, social and climate challenges? No more of the old, please.
Geoff Davidson, Wangaratta
Protecting the brumbies
The barbaric cruelty towards the brumbies in the Alpine and Barmah national parks (The Age, 8/6) needs to cease. Many of the horses would be wounded and suffer agonising deaths. To kill them under the cover of darkness, using silencers on guns so people cannot protest, is very shameful.
Susanne O’Neill, Balwyn
Their right to a card
I missed out on being called up for war in 1969 by one day, either side of my birthday. There were five of us sitting around the kitchen table that day, and Colin was the only one to get the ticket.
We never saw him again. I recall meeting up with some boys who had returned from service in Vietnam a few years later; they were never the same. These fellows have earned the right to the Veterans’ Gold Card like any other returned service personnel.
James Sarros, Black Rock
An open mind on Bombers
I have followed Essendon through thick and thin since 1951. I agree with Matthew Lloyd that it is time for the Bombers to conduct an independent, fearless review of their entire football operations.
I do, however, scratch my head at president Paul Brasher saying the review will not prompt wholesale change, but rather will likely prompt “incremental change” with “additional resources” added. How can he know what will be unearthed and what recommendations will be made by the review?
George Greenberg, Malvern
The forgotten refugees
Anthony Albanese and Joko Widodo appear to have a blind spot when it comes to resolving the plight of thousands of refugees who are suffering in Indonesian refugee camps, at Australia’s expense.
Robert Preston, McKinnon
The West must wake up
Vladimir Putin threatens Ukraine, China warns Australia. They must think they hold the trump card in international relations. Come on, the West. Are we feeling so defeated and inferior to these upstarts? Let us start threatening Putin and warning China. They have more than deserved strong language rather than a timid slap on the wrist.
Jonne Herbert, Kew East
No debate about it
Congratulations, Barnaby Joyce, on a rousing year 7-level debating performance (Comment, 7/6).
Peter Campbell, former English teacher, Newport
AND ANOTHER THING
Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
Boris, you beat the no-confidence motion but the sword still hovers above your head.
Tim Durbridge, Brunswick
Penny Wong is a woman of action. Mr Albanese, when will we hear you speaking Bahasa?
Mike Jackson, Ringwood
Most Liberal voters are secretly thrilled so see Penny Wong as our foreign minister.
Marilyn Hoban, Mornington
To the G20’s head honchos: why hasn’t the evil, immoral Putin been “uninvited” to the G20 summit in Bali?
Steve Barrett, Glenbrook
We call it the Vietnam War; the Vietnamese call it, wisely, the American War. We should be now talking about the Russian War.
Peter Price, Southbank
Much has changed since December 15, 1791. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution is past its use-by date.
Elizabeth Van Houten, Deans Marsh
The UAE, Norway and Malaysia own their resources, while profiteers enjoy the millions belonging to us. Nationalise resources now.
Brian Doig, Sandringham
If the previous government had managed the climate crisis effectively, we wouldn’t be having an energy crisis now.
John Togno, Mandurang
Is no one going to write a book with the title, The Unlucky Country?
Harvey Mitchell Castlemaine
Re “Watchdog will manacle political vision” (7/6). Heifer’s dust, Barnaby. Heifer’s dust.
Glenice Griffiths, Beechworth
One of Dutton’s goals is to make us safer. I feel so much safer already with him out of government. Thank you, Peter.
Margaret Stead, Frankston
Listen up, Jack Ginnivan. Drop the “blond” hair and cheeky grin. Go for a bloodied face and a bandage around your head and you will be rewarded magnificently.
Joy Middleton, Larpent
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