Cancelled deal a chance to reconsider the Open

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MANAGING THE RISK

Cancelled deal a chance to reconsider the Open
The striking down of the Westin Melbourne Australian Open deal raises serious questions about quarantine safety. Why was this venue even contemplated? One minor breach from a tennis player to a permanent resident could seed COVID-19 to the community. The Deputy Premier’s innocent comment, ‘‘Let’s hope that doesn’t happen’’, in relation to medi-hotel transfers of players or staff who test positive should also alarm. It shows a naivety and poor understanding of the risk posed to Victoria. This is not normal quarantine. The players will be out and about.

Highly transmissible variants, and record case numbers overseas mean the risks have escalated. Why doesn’t the government just say ‘‘Trust us, we wouldn’t gamble with Victorians lives and livelihoods for the sake of sport, but, if it all goes wrong, we’ll call an inquiry?’’ Victorians need to know exactly how the government plans to mitigate all the risks in detail, so we can openly discuss the merits of the event. The Westin Melbourne cancelled contract is a warning that we need to pause and reassess, not just find another hotel.

Put the full infection control plans in the public domain, today. Let’s have the inquiry before the outbreak. Victorians deserve nothing less.
Anita White, Kew

Breaches are going to happen
Breaches of quarantine, deliberate or unintentional, and poor hygiene will happen. Are we then, each time, going to scramble to contact trace, test widely enough to find all cases and reimpose restrictions to avoid an out-of-control new wave?

Such seesawing is neither good for the economy nor for those who do get infected with attendant chance of complications and even death. A better policy would be to maintain a steady level of restrictions – such as mandatory masks outside homes (a relatively small ask, but with a huge impact), mainly only outdoor hospitality venues and indoor gatherings highly restricted – all at a level to keep the index of transmission under 1, so any outbreak will be easily contained. It will be a wiser policy to increase tax for those still working to enhance the JobKeeper budget than to give tax relief to try and boost spending by opening up cafes and bars.

Such a steady regimen may be needed until we are well covered by vaccination. It will also provide some resilience against the new strains that show higher potential for spread.
Trichur Vidyasagar, Kew East

The border decision was not based on the numbers
As a healthcare worker taking a well-earned break visiting friends and family, I have now been imprisoned alongside thousands of other Victorians, despite only travelling to ‘‘green areas’’ (where to this day there are no active cases).

Despite the recent edict pushing testing to its limits, there’s little surprise that there was not a single positive case in a returned traveller from NSW. Ironically, someone in Mentone or Mitcham (where there are active cases) who is symptomatic only needs to isolate until they receive a negative test result, whereas the tens of thousands of us who were unfortunately too far from the border to make it back within Jacinta Allen’s narrow window must isolate for 14 days, despite the closest most of us came to an active case was on our return home.

Should everyone in Mentone or Black Rock go into isolation too? Imagine the outrage if they did. Perhaps once Dan Andrews returns from his holidays he might make a decision based on the numbers.
Dylan Stevenson, Murrumbeena

Leave it to the experts
Advocating the return of an influx of workers into the CBD, Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp enthuses ‘‘That each city worker that returns means another coffee bought in our cafes, an after-work drink in our bars and extra customers for our retail stores’’ (‘‘Fresh cases, mask rule hit return to the office’’, The Age, 5/1).

Well that much is obvious, but uninformed advocacy doesn’t have any place in management of a pandemic. What about the risk of a third wave of infections? After an extended period of ‘‘double doughnuts’’ we’re now back to getting a few new community-transmitted cases every day.

Personally, I’d prefer the lord mayor to leave the risk assessments to those scientifically qualified to make them.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

THE FORUM

We need real consultation
As a retired transport planning engineer and town planner, I am appalled at the lack of proper community consultation by the Andrews government. Two articles in The Age on Monday (4/1) highlight typical examples.

First, the decision about the Westin Hotel being set aside for the use of Australian Open tennis players without prior consultation with the resident owners of apartments that are part of the hotel complex (‘‘Row over hotel plan could hit Open’’) … how arrogant is the behaviour of the government, its bureaucrats and the hotel management. It’s hardly surprising that this arrangement fell through.

Second, the article about tree removals from a number of road projects and rail level crossing removals (‘‘Ire grows as thousands of trees axed’’) highlights the fact that ‘‘consultation’’ in these cases is no more than lip service where public relations consultants are hired to smooth over community concerns after key decisions have been made.

No compromises are offered regarding the often overdeveloped preferred project and the unnecessary removal of trees but placating promises regarding replacement tree planting and landscaping not all of which are implemented and maintained.

Daniel Andrews, it is time for genuine consultation before making key decisions and not ‘‘selling’’ the project after decisions have been made.
Bob Evans, Glen Iris

This is unsustainable
The loss of thousands of trees due to massive infrastructure projects as reported in Monday’s Age is yet another reason our high levels of population growth and consumption are unsustainable. Tree planting projects in other places do not compensate for the habitat loss of mature trees.

Our cumulative footprint erases those of many other species, unbalancing ecosystems, which will inevitably lead to our own demise, eventually.
Jennie Epstein, Little River

A fait-accompli plan
The last great green wedge of Melbourne as envisaged by Rupert Hamer many years ago, is facing imminent ruination at its main entry point.

As a former mayor and long-term local I am appalled at the way the state government has ridden roughshod over the people of Eltham’s legitimate concerns, with questions and genuine alternative proposals unanswered and ignored.

The cursory consultation with a fait-accompli plan will not only destroy many precious trees, but will replace the whole entry to our shire of Nillumbik with bitumen, no better than the worst parts of the Maroondah Highway, something that our community has fought against for 50 years or more, knowing the importance of a treed ambience and the fact that the more and bigger the roads, the more traffic will ensue.

The shire deserves better from its state government as many of us supported our local MP Vicki Ward in the last election, only to find this destruction on our doorstep. I am no longer an ALP member after this shoddy treatment of our community and the seat of Eltham may be vulnerable if a strong independent candidate should emerge.
Bronnie Hattam, Eltham

This must be preserved
I agree with Rod Mackenzie (‘‘Destructive footprint’’, Letters, 4/1). The Australian government’s proposal to construct a huge permanent runway at Davis Station in Antarctica leaves one with a sense of disbelief.

How destructive this would be to this magnificent, pristine environment and dangerous to the so delicately balanced wildlife systems. There are several international bases in Antarctica. If Australia goes ahead with this outrageous proposal others are likely to follow.
This precious, unique environment must be preserved, not exploited.
Tess Vietz, Kew

Community newspapers
In her excellent article (‘‘We need a new way to celebrate community’’, Comment, 4/1), Juliette Borenstein laments the demise of our local newspapers.
While I sympathise and share her sense of loss, I would suggest that we try to resurrect our local papers rather than replacing them with some other platform for our news.

No doubt such a move would boil down to simple economics and I, for one, would gladly pay for the return of this valuable source of information and support for the community.
Cath Dyson, Mount Eliza

Nurture these students
Anne Sgro (‘‘Aghast at this stupidity’’, Letters, 4/1) has appropriately commended The Age for drawing attention to the outstanding results of two year 12 refugee students, in particular to Abdul Basit, who is now dux of Dandenong High.

Despite this recognition as a quality student and his splendid result of 97.5, Abdul is unable to take out a HECS loan to enable him to further his university studies as this is prohibited by his permanent resident visa.

Being proud of the significant contribution of refugees in such areas as medical science and research, academia, engineering, etc., why are we ignoring the potential of such students as Abdul by denying them the opportunity to become outstanding contributors to our society?
Maureen McPhate, Mount Martha

They had enough warning
People had been warned repeatedly by the Victorian government and senior health officials in the lead-up to the holidays that travel to, or through, NSW carried major risks. These included very clear statements, given the continued occurrence of Greater Sydney cases, that the NSW-Victoria border may need to close at very short notice.

To claim that there was no thought or planning behind border closures is irresponsible and just plain wrong (‘‘No plan for border closure pain’’, Comment, 4/1). People made the decision to take the risk despite the warnings, and unfortunately now must face the consequences.

The alternative? If not quite so arbitrary on border closures, we would all be facing more potential Thai restaurant style clusters by allowing even more selfish returned travellers to flout the directives and spread this insidious virus farther and wider.
Craig Matthews, Ormond

One thing after the other
It’s just one thing after the other. Now we learn that cinemas are under threat from streaming services (‘‘Cinemas put Canberra in spotlight on survival’’, The Age, 5/1). There’s no comparison between seeing a film on a TV screen at home and seeing it in a cinema – a large, dark space with a big screen, no interruptions and in the company of others. Aesthetically, emotionally and socially it’s a completely different experience.

After a months-long lockdown drought friends and I have enjoyed three excellent films since cinemas reopened – bliss.

How can we defend ourselves against this threatened impoverishment of our cultural lives?
Elizabeth Sprigg, Glen Iris

They need better people
If anyone is wondering why the Victorian Liberals are in the political wilderness they need look no further than the member for Kew, Tim Smith. He spent most of 2020 making asinine comments and embarrassing his electorate.

After an ill-timed tweet espousing the virtues of a Sydney back to normal, he most recently appeared on Sky News to (1) complain that he was not tested when he returned from Sydney to Melbourne on December 12 for an outbreak that was identified a few day days later and then, (2) compare Victoria to Communist Eastern Europe and then complain he wasn’t forcibly tested.

If the Liberals want any chance of governing in Victoria they must drastically improve the quality of their people.
Melissa Macrae, Balwyn North

Preserving our history
It’s wonderful to see our social history immortalised in Warren Kirk’s photographs. (‘‘Why Kirk wants to let pictures do the talking’’, The Age, 5/1). A continually changing landscape means that many of his subjects and locations will have long disappeared.

He is right to argue that we have been flooded with images from abroad, and if these quintessentially Australian pictures redress the balance, so much the better.
Helen Scheller, Benalla

Efficient, friendly service
I arrived early at the Malvern East COVID testing centre on Monday. Despite the crowd, I was there for only two hours and my results (negative) came through on the same day. The staff were all efficient and friendly.
Thank you, DHHS.
Philip Anthony, Hawthorn East

Not a good plan
I note that the Labor Party is reviewing, thus erasing, many of it’s current policies in order to appeal to a greater number of Australians and thus win government in Canberra.

They should well heed what is often said about Gough Whitlam, in that during the late 1960s he made the ALP electable. But he importantly also made the Labor Party worth electing.

If the current leadership achieve the former objective but do not pay heed to the latter, there is really little point in having them on the government benches.
Liberal-lite should hardly be Labor policy.
Graeme Gardner, Reservoir

Not worth the risk
Hosting the Australian Open tennis championships would involve bringing to Melbourne hundreds of competitors plus many more support staff from all over the world. This is much riskier than a cricket Test series.

Many Victorians willingly put up with massive inconvenience for months on end last year. Our hard-won gains should not be squandered.
Jill Wright, Berwick

The bears deserve better
What an extremely sad scene of these majestic beasts rummaging around in refuse looking for scraps (‘‘‘Exile’ with polar bears a new fear tactic’’, The Age, 5/1).

I don’t particularly care about the human occupants but the bears deserve the return of their once pristine environment.
Greg Bardin, Altona North

AND ANOTHER THING

The pandemic
We would all be much happier if the virus would slow its rate of spread. Then authorities could allow more time between announcing and implementing restrictions.
John Groom, Bentleigh

Surely there is incentive to shoot for a Victorian “platinum standard” response to COVID-19 by building in an efficient capacity to deal with these government-induced spikes in demand, Jeroen Weimar.
Eric Kopp, Flinders

I wonder if Greg Hunt is aware of the irony in his statement that Victoria has a duty to find a way to get its residents home (‘‘‘Pathway’ plea for stuck Victorians’’, The Age, 4/1).
Jill Rosenberg, Caulfield South

These are testing times.
Greg Lee, Red Hill

As highlighted by Leonie Wood (Comment, 4/1), the Victorian government has still not realised that you need a plan to handle the myriad issues relating to COVID-19. Reminds me of the adage – ‘‘failing to plan is planning to fail’’.
Daren Fawkes, Forest Hill

Live exports
The live export of sheep would stop quick smart if each farmer had to send a family member as observer on the ship to help care for their stock during the voyage.
Dan Drummond, Leongatha

The Australian Open
Anyone for tennis? Not if it’s going to be a lawyers’ picnic too (‘‘Row over hotel plan could hit Open’’, 4/1). It’s an Open and shut case.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

Furthermore
I woke up on Saturday morning and read about the Labor Party’s capitulation regarding excess franking credits and turned a brighter shade of green. They certainly have lost my vote.
John Rome, Mount Lawley, WA

Finally
Our Christmas cards are still trickling in, some from interstate posted about a month ago. With Australia Post now in such a mess, should we be thinking about cards for Christmas 2021?
Ken Barnes, Glen Iris

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