Jacinta Allan would be wise to avoid the red herrings

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State politics

A note for Premier Jacinta Allan: when asked about things she’d rather not answer, for example legal fees incurred in withdrawing from hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games, she should just address the questions frankly. References to unrelated topics like “delivering housing and other priorities to the regions” are too obviously red herrings, (“Lawyers got $1.2m to help ditch games”, 4/10). They don’t succeed in diverting attention from the issues in question and seem designed to dodge accountability.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

Getting the balance right
At first I thought your correspondent’s letter criticising Jacinta Allan’s female majority cabinet was a joke (“Gender imbalance”, 4/10). I wonder if he had a problem with cabinets when they were all male? It’s only 10 years ago that former prime minister Tony Abbott created a cabinet with just one woman. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was once asked when there would be enough female justices on the US Supreme Court and her response was when they are all female.
Viviane King, Milawa

Merit-based appointments
I would just like to assure your correspondents that all the members of the new Victorian government were chosen purely on merit, not gender. After all that is what every male dominated government shows, all of those men were chosen on merit, weren’t they?
Janice Merrett, Seaford

Classical tax
As with his road user tax on electric vehicles, Tim Pallas’ tax on empty property is a justifiable tax – it targets those who impose costs on others by their behaviours (“Pallas launches surprise tax move to free up vacant land”, 4/10). Empty properties impose a cost on others in the form of a reduced supply of property that in turn leads to an increased price for the available properties.

The empty property tax is a classical economic strategy, for which the treasurer should be commended. My only advice is that Pallas find a way of applying the revenue from the tax in favour of those whose property owning or renting ambitions have been thwarted by the hoarding of empty properties.
Michael Angwin, Surrey Hills

Keep land under wraps
I have worried for years about the rapid urban expansion at the fringes of our towns and cities, in most instances the McMansions being built on prime farmlands. Not to mention that these new houses take up most of their block with no consideration of passive solar design and all sporting mechanical heating/cooling systems on their often dark-coloured roofs. Rarely are they close to schools, hospitals, public transport, park space and other amenities needed to build and sustain strong communities.

Where will it end? When the whole state is covered in houses? Instead of taxing owners of vacant land to promote more of this catastrophic invasion of our fertile paddocks, how about providing incentives to builders of higher density housing around the major suburban and city centres where services and public transport exist already?
Anne Austin, Flinders

Leaving on his terms
Dan Andrews leaves at the top of his achievements and gives the state government a smooth transition to continue, what is not only his, but Labor’s legacy in the vital infrastructure and progressive social policies that have transformed Victoria from a stagnated state to one of dynamism. The vitriol contained in many letters (The Age, 3/10) only show great frustration of conservatives in Andrews’ success. Andrews proved he was the man of the moment with the positive implementation of ALP policies, endorsed in three successive elections and each one greater than the last. Voters chose Andrews, who proved that debt and taxes are vital in a modern economy.
Derek Costello, Belmont


Fodder for self-interest
Your correspondent writes that it is “unconscionable that the hard-right Republicans are prepared to gamble on the possible suffering of millions of Americans for political opportunism and self-interest” (“The decline of US”, 4/10). Unconscionable but unfortunately not uncommon.
Preparedness to exploit and maintain the suffering of the marginalised and disadvantaged for political opportunism and self-interest is tactic of the hard right worldwide. It is a strategy we have seen often in Australia, using the unemployed, asylum seekers, LGBTQI people and other “others” as fodder.
Graeme Henchel, Yarra Glen

Mounting concern
The American people have often faced difficult choices in their presidential elections due to an embarrassment of riches. For example the foreign policy brilliance of Nixon, the innate decency of Ford and Bush snr, the peacemaking of Carter and the great communication skills of Reagan. However, next year’s presidential race is causing mounting concern both in America and around the world. The elderly President Biden has said he will run again. Even if he withdraws later, the American people are not getting a clear view of Democrat alternatives. The Republican Party appears to be in lock-step behind former president Trump, who despite some fine achievements in office, carries enormous baggage. Patriots on both sides of the aisle should think deeply about who they offer up as candidates. American leadership is crucial for both our region and the wider world.
Peter Curtis, Werribee South

Time to change
“For flood and fire and famine she pays us back three-fold.” (Dorothea Mackellar, My Country) Tell that to the folk who have suffered in this week’s “fire and flood” situation in Gippsland (“Flooding fear as rain dampens Gippsland fire risk”, 4/10). Human actions have contributed to our changed weather patterns and the damage that is now ensuing. Planning for so-called natural disasters is important but so too is the recognition that we need to change our lifestyles to live in a more sustainable fashion.
Carmel McNaught, Balwyn North

Peace of mind
As we head into bushfire season, it is worth being aware that an increasing number of properties in high-risk areas are considered uninsurable. High-risk areas now also include beachfronts and reclaimed flood zones. The federal government should offer leadership and set up a national property insurance service so that all properties, wherever they are, can be affordably insured. At present insurance rates have increased to such an extent that they are often unaffordable, but an affordable national facility would offset the costs of its payouts by its wide reach and huge customer base. Once upon a time Medibank Private was a government service and it paid for itself and was sold at a huge profit.
Di Cousens, Upwey

‘Problem’ child
I am the parent of a young adult with intellectual disability who had experience of both mainstream and special school education. Your correspondent (Letters, 4/10) questions the “justice” of a special needs student redirecting the lone teacher’s attention away from the “rest of the class”. And there’s the rub; this view paints the disabled student as the problem and separate to their classmates.
There would need to be a seismic shift in the culture of public education policy to rebuild the whole system to be properly inclusive and supported for justice for the whole class. I am thankful for the opportunities and support afforded my son by a wise and understanding mainstream school principal and by his brilliant special school.

I look forward to meeting the generation of adults who have had the privilege of being educated appropriately alongside classmates of all abilities.
Shannon Brand, Carnegie

We pay later
It is sometimes said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. In New South Wales in the 1980s, the Richmond report recommended closing down large mental health institutions and replacing them with community care. While the large institutions were closed down, the resources provided for community care were woefully inadequate.

Our public education system is underfunded. How can we propose to integrate students attending special schools into the regular education system without ensuring that we first have a fully funded school system?
James Proctor, Maiden Gully

True appreciation
My daughter is teaching in Uzbekistan this year, after many years teaching in Australia. On Monday they celebrated a holiday for International Teachers’ Day. Returning to school after the holiday, she was greeted with a sea of gifts! Current students, former students, colleagues – even her cafe lady – gave flowers, plants, pampering products and chocolates. There are so many things that need to change for teachers in Australia, but feeling appreciated the way they are in Uzbekistan would surely be a good start.
Marilyn van Loon, Point Lonsdale

One more airline
Air Canada, Air India, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Emirates, Etihad, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Sri Lanka Airlines, Thai Airways, Qantas, Qatar, United Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines. I can fly to Europe with any of these carriers, with various starting points within Australia. Further, I can fly to Singapore or Hong Kong to pick up other carriers such as Finnair or SAS. Will this market be magically transformed to be more competitive if Qatar is allowed a few extra flights a week?

Our dislike of Qantas (well deserved at this moment) seems to have morphed into heroic statements about competition. The current Senate inquiry seems to me to be politically motivated and not based in reality. Personally, I will never fly Qatar. Past the age of being strip searched to see if I have given birth in an airport toilet, I stand in solidarity with the women who did suffer this outrageous assault.
Louise Kloot, Doncaster

Healthy competition
Qantas isn’t the only Australian airline lacking in customer loyalty. Four years after booking and paying for flights to Europe with Virgin Australia, the options to use flight credits by December 31 this year are limited to flights to Japan, various Indo-Pacific destinations, or domestic flights.
However, Virgin is still taking bookings for flights to Europe using partner airlines. Those of us with flight credits can’t use them for any of those flights, nor are refunds available, if booked and paid for before the pandemic – not an insignificant number of people. You may be keeping all of my flight credit money, Virgin, but you’ll never get another cent from me.

A little healthy competition for Qantas and Virgin can only be a good thing for Australian customers.
Jane Carrigg, Ocean Grove

Think bigger
Despite the evidence of history (and indeed of our own lives) that change is constant and inevitable, we are often shown to be fearful in considering changes large and small. The article “Bike lane projects hit a speed bump” (The Age, 3/10) canvassed various developments, proposals and community reactions in and to bike lane expansion. A petition signed by 154 people, opposing a plan to improve cyclist safety by Stonnington Council, apparently elicited the cry from one resident that “they feared the ‘annoying noise’ of cars going over speed humps”.

With such a determined rejection of even small-scale suburban street-level change designed to bring about the broader community benefit of saving lives, it must be exhausting to contemplate some of the truly important larger issues confronting us as a society.
Ian McKendry, Kew East

Inspiring story
Thank you, Julie Lewis (Opinion, 4/10) for the inspiring story of your grandfather’s history. With so many untruths about the Voice in circulation at this time, I found your article profoundly moving. Your grandfather believed that in remaining silent about his Indigenous heritage he would better protect his descendants from the abuse and hostility endured by him and his forbears. His voice was never heard. We know better now.

We want to hear the voices of those with Indigenous connection, loudly and clearly. The Voice to parliament is just a start.
Annette Madden, Highett

Expulsion not the answer
It’s a good thing that the Department of Home Affairs is taking practical steps to “wrestle back control of a visa system racked with rorting, worker and student exploitation and delays” (“Accused sex trafficker kicked out of country”, 4/10). It will also enable the government to crack down on dodgy domestic migration agents and human trafficking.

But the expulsion of an alleged sex worker racketeer Binjun Xie is concerning. Your article suggests he illegally entered Australia a decade ago and was jailed in Britain in 2013. Deporting him does not prevent him resuming such activities elsewhere.
Brendan O’Farrell, Brunswick

Slip through the cracks
That alleged people trafficker Binjun Xie was able to enter the country after being jailed in England in 2013 and remain here for roughly 10 years running what police allege was an extremely brutal and cruel prostitution racket, as reported by The Age, should send a shiver up the spine of Australians. That he was able to work with dodgy migration and visa organisations with impunity and amass millions beggars belief. At a time of high immigration, how can the present system cope with the checking that is needed?
Tony Davidson, Glen Waverley


Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding

US politics
The Republicans who ousted Kevin McCarthy without a replacement are like dogs chasing a car. Once they’ve caught it, they don’t know what to do with it.
Benjamin Levy, Caulfield North

Doing business with a banana republic is risky. Doing business with the US is even riskier now that Trump’s Republicans are in charge.
John Walsh, Watsonia

One hopes a permanent gag can be placed on Trump. A dummy would be appropriate.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North

Gender equality
It has taken the men two minutes to object to a Victorian parliament that consists of two-thirds women, describing this situation as discriminatory. Mates, it’s taken us 200 years to get here — stop being so precious.
Louise Burton, Tullamarine

Does more women in Victoria’s cabinet mean merit at last? Joan would be pleased.
Rosita Vila, Aireys Inlet

Re your correspondents’ vocal concern with gender equality in government, until Victoria has elected 46 women for premier consecutively perhaps we can refrain from such melodramatic claims as the deck being “[loaded] against men” (Letters, 4/10).
Samantha Lavery, Ivanhoe

Picture Premier Dan, rugged in his North Face jacket. Now remember Joan Kirner, trivialised in her polka dot dress.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

That John Pesutto has ushered failed leader Matthew Guy back into the shadow cabinet only highlights how shallow the talent pool must be in the parliamentary wing of the state Liberal Party.
Phil Alexander, Eltham

Brilliant Golding cartoon (4/10) – yes, it’s too late for humans to desert planet Earth for elsewhere.
Ian Bayly, Upwey

Will the state tax all its own undeveloped vacant landholdings?
Jackie Fristacky, Carlton North

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