Optional work day forces politics onto personal lives

Credit:Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

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Australia Day

My vote during an election is a private matter between myself and the ballot box, as are all referendums. It’s a fundamental tenet of democracy that the people vote secretly without any form of coercion. Now the government and big business are creating an environment whereby one’s attitude to Australia Day might be inferred from an absence or presence at work on the gazetted date (“More staff opt out of Australia Day holiday”, 19/1).

If the Albanese government doesn’t want Australia Day to be recognised, then remove it from the list of gazetted holidays. This mealy-mouthed approach will simply create further division, and polarise the vote on the Voice.
Mike Pantzopoulos, Ashburton

More days in lieu, please
Australia Day is obviously a difficult day for many to “celebrate”. As an atheist, so is Christmas and Easter. As a non-horse racing fan, Melbourne Cup day; non-footy fan, grand final parade, and finally a republican, the King’s Birthday. Can I have them all off in lieu please?
Robert Gibson, Kensington

A change for the better
Let’s hope the decision by the Albanese government to overturn the ban on the Commonwealth public service substituting Australia Day for another is a step towards changing the date of the national holiday. Rather than “deliberately undermining Australia Day” as claimed by Liberal senator Jane Hume, a change would only enhance its significance.
Phil Alexander, Eltham

Date rejection is dividing the nation
We need to question the push to atomise the Australian community. The Australia Day public holiday, celebrated by many as an acknowledgement of the success of our society and democratic government, is increasingly viewed by some under the lens of dispossession of Indigenous people, colonisation and as a matter of shame. Yet, despite some 60,000 years of occupation it would be idealistic to believe that had the British not arrived in 1788 that Australia would still be in the possession of the Indigenous people.

We need to ask precisely what it is we object to when turning our backs on Australia Day. An immense amount of hard work and investment has taken place by many different people to produce the current affluent standard of living demonstrated by key international indicators. The right to education, healthcare and an excellent welfare system form part of a complex social infrastructure available to Australians. Rejecting Australia Day creates internal tensions rather than focusing our collective capacity for the extraordinary and inspirational.
Liz Burton, Camberwell

If only everyone had equal choices
Ironic that hundreds and thousands of people are given an option to work on Australia Day when our Indigenous people were not given an option about colonial invasion, about their healthcare or about deaths in custody. Hopefully the Voice to Parliament will offer better choices and options for Indigenous people and a fairer society for all who inhabit their land.
Julie Ottobre, Sorrento

Sydney Day is more accurate
Can we please stop saying that January 26 is the date of the arrival of the British First Fleet in Australia. It’s only the date the British moved house from Botany Bay to Port Jackson because they didn’t like the camping facilities. January 26 should really be called “Sydney Day.”
Peter Kay, Carlton North

Rethink the name before the date
Without taking sides, the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay on January 20, 1788. On January 26, 1949, the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 was enacted, which effectively gave us all the right to call ourselves Australians. Maybe we rethink what we call the day, instead of moving the date.
James Sarros, Black Rock


Outsourced, out of sight
It’s simply staggering to think that councils are now outsourcing their in-home aged care (“Council secretly votes to leave aged care”, 19/1). While I am sure that they can argue it will save them a fortune, it will guarantee the aged in their community a diminished level of care in the remaining years of their life and ensure the opportunistic “care-giver” businesses a Maserati or two. Surely this type of service is the reason councils exist?
Julian Guy, Mt Eliza

A problematic path
I see that Whitehorse Council are pulling out of age care. I suggest their councillors visit the Mornington Peninsula to see the disaster that has occurred since the Mornington Shire made the same decision. Despite the self-congratulations in the council press releases about how well planned their process was, the reality was that the appointed private provider was unable to source sufficient staff to provide the service. Of the services that councils provide to ratepayers, I would have thought aged home care should be one of the first priorities.
Ken Finley, Mount Martha

Hiding in secrecy
Secrecy is one of the biggest impediments to aged care reform in Australia. When the Morrison government, for example, lifted the ban on working at more than one facility, which was put in place to minimise the spread of infection while the pandemic was still raging, it was done quietly.
People keep tumbling unquestioningly into the unacceptable system, because they don’t know much about it. The two reports of the aged care royal commission, “Neglect” and “Care, Dignity and Respect”, tell the full story.
Ruth Farr, Blackburn South

Voice is but a start
Jack Whelan, (″⁣Voice is PM’s sword and shield″⁣, 19/1), in his constructive article on what should be perceived as a non-controversial referendum proposal, is too kind in saying Australia is not ″⁣a static place and home to unfair people″⁣. In relation to Indigenous people, white Australians have for too long been unquestioning about a 1901 constitutional document that was, from its inception, devised by old white men and still reflects the biases of old white men.

Call a spade a spade. The Voice is a start and no more. Unfairness is evident in the tenor of conservatives’ deceit around a so-called ″⁣third chamber of parliament″⁣. Already, opponents of the Voice are devising, 1999 republic-referendum style, rabbit holes to divert attention from the central issue of allowing our indigenous people to have a meaningful constitutional role.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

Don’t diminish culture
Jack Whelan fails to consider “race” in more than superficial terms – in other words, as more than a descriptor of external attributes like skin colour or ethnicity. He therefore perpetuates the misguided notion that despite Australians’ external differences, we are all internally equal and can come together under the shared banner of “fair dinkum Australians”. This understanding of race fails to consider the specific differences between Indigenous culture and the Anglo-European culture that rules Australia. For instance, while Indigenous “belonging” is deeply tied to the land, Anglo-European Australian culture tends to treat land as an exploitable, capital-generating product.

Whatever sacred lands and waterways Indigenous people still have left will therefore always be at risk of being chipped away at by future fiscally motivated governments.
Yana Barton, Balwyn North

A chance for redress
As far as I can see, Jack Whelan misses the point in his discussion of race and race-based laws. The Voice, and all actions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is about inheritance or its lack. It is about those whose ancestors once controlled what is now Australia in their own way and had it taken against their will. The Voice is an opportunity to give some heed to this perspective, and actions taken are to redress the negative outcomes from it. There is no need to cast the ever-changing distinction of “race” over it.

It’s strange that the idea of inheritance puzzles many, since it is so integral to our society drawing on many backgrounds. If handing on what you have to descendants is unfortunately so ingrained, how can we be surprised that those who have lost out want a better outcome and that many of us who live on what was taken also hope for a better result.
Conor King, Pascoe Vale South

Seeding divisions
If one seeks to question the enigma that is the Voice, they are labelled a bigot. This is simply not fair. I am not against the advancement of Indigenous people, I am against making a big and dysfunctional government even bigger and more dysfunctional. This Voice sounds like nothing more than a euphemism for constitutionally protected pork-barrelling for legislators. A government does not need a constitutional mandate to take into account the views of select groups of people, and nor should it – we are already supposed to be a representational democracy.

Creating a constitutionally recognised divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous voters is nothing more than a pressure-cooker for greater disunity within Australia.
Dane Stella, Caulfield

Sowing hatred
The concerned former Liberal voters who backed the teals must feel justified. In questioning the Voice, Peter Dutton is giving a voice to the fringe groups who are only interested in division and hatred. Surely the great majority of Australians will rise above pettiness and give the First Peoples the recognition and respect they deserve.
Meg Paul, Camberwell

Everything connected
The idea that sport and politics don’t mix is often rolled out by either side when it suits. The Russian embassy used it in defence of people holding a Russian flag at the tennis. (18/1). An alternative view was aired by Osman Faruqi (Comment, 19/1). When I was a small boy, I remember family and friends often saying to other adults not to mention politics or religion at the dinner table. Now I see it as the best place to respectfully discuss political differences.

Anyone connected to a local sports club knows that politics is part of life. Decisions are made based on shared values, or are influenced by a rich benefactor, or led by someone who has actively collected a coterie of supporters. This is pure political behaviour.

At the elite level of sport, federal and state politicians become involved because of the exposure sport gets in the media. Prime minister are often seen at grand finals in sports they have no interest in. The Formula One grand prix would not be in Melbourne without political involvement.
It is time we acknowledged the wisdom of the First Nations people when they say “everything is connected”. We can start by accepting that sport and politics are intimately entwined.
Howard Tankey, Box Hill North

Elocution classes
So many letter writers are incensed by certain pronunciations. Yes, it’s spelt nuclear not nucular and I too cringed every time I heard George W. Bush use that particular one. But to be honest, my reaction was at heart an elitist snort. Everyone knew what he meant. Many people far more intelligent and educated than me use the same pronunciation. Enough is not spelt “enuff ” so words do not need to be said the way that they’re spelt.

Is our outrage an ongoing expression of class consciousness in a society we like to believe is classless?
Patrick Kavanagh, Strangways

Celebrate strine
Back in 1966 Professor Afferbeck Lauder wrote his celebration of the distinctive elements of our Australian version of English pronunciation, Let Stalk Strine. He even had an appendix on ″⁣Rywy Strine″⁣ that still captures commuter language today. He lists countless examples of how we love to express ourselves – one of my favourites is his spelling of our national capital: Cairmbra. A recent example is that celebrated political figure Jobson Grothe.
Chris Appleby, Fairfield

Before it has begun
The term “mate” is a classical Aussie term of endearment. “G’day, mate. How’s ya day been” is popular and engaging. However, I could never quite understand the young bloke on the coffee cart at the Auburn train station who would enthusiastically ask customers “how’s ya day been?“. You see, it was 6am and for most customers/commuters, well the day hadn’t really even begun.
Tim Habben, Hawthorn

Let it be our evolution
Apologists for the alleged declining standard of the language, written and spoken, of Australians often resort to that old chestnut “language continually evolves”. Of course it does, but perhaps we should exert some influence over its evolution and be mindful of our own Australian culture. The culture of teenage Californians may be magnificent, but it is not ours, at least not so far.

When we misuse or mispronounce, we lose precision, nuance and colour. It’s a brave person who uses phrases such as “the exception proves the rule” or “it begs the question” correctly. Perhaps the original meanings are outmoded but their use in the popular sense results in something close to nonsense.
Alister McKenzie, Lake Wendouree

Masterful music
Your correspondent (Letters, 18/1) believes the pipe organ was an 18th-century anachronism. It was invented in the 3rd century BC, and further developed with bellows 400 years later. Bach, the master technician, developed it much further in collaboration with the Meister German organ builders. The magnificent organ recitals by Handel, Bach, Elgar and Saint-Saens, among many others, will endure forever, but tragically cannot be played in the organ-free Hamer Hall.
Jeff McCormack, Javoricko, Czech Republic

And another thing

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Jacinda Ardern, you will be missed from the world of politics. Wishing you all the best for the future.
Christine Hammett, Richmond

Are Marise Payne and Scott Morrison more instances of quiet quitting? Turning up, but contributing very little – all on the taxpayers’ dollar?
Kaye Fallick, Malvern

Why do things happen at this point of time instead of now?
Maureen Goldie, Blackwood, SA

TV and radio commentators insist on the use of the phrase “having said that” when all that is needed is a single word, “however”.
Dorothy Galloway Mentone

But the worst of all is “haitch”.
David Kingston, Armadale

Strewth! Everything must be right with the world if all we are concerned about is proper pronunciation of words.
John Cain, McCrae

Sport has been politicised since the ancient Olympics. If it were not so, athletes would be named without any mention of their country and there would be no medal counts.
Les Aisen, Elsternwick

Given that ChatGPT has the ability to create essays that can pass uni exams, how can we be sure it hasn’t written articles in this newspaper?
Colin Mockett, Geelong

So, young women are seeking medical advice on “social media”. As George Bernard Shaw said, ahead of his time, “Beware of false knowledge … it is more dangerous than ignorance”!
Myra Fisher, Brighton East

At least Daniel Andrew’s white elephant is being used for something (“Suspected drug lab uncovered at Mickleham quarantine centre”, 19/1).
Greg Hardy, Upper Ferntree Gully

Not surprised overseas travel is booming given the prices being charged for holiday accommodation in Australia.
Teresa McIntosh, Keysborough

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