I felt ashamed this was the best we could offer

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I felt ashamed this was the best we could offer
On Saturday, I spent the evening with four people in their mid-20s. Their accounts of the hopelessness they feel about the future were heartbreaking. Their world is filled with insecure options and mounting risk. They struggle to make ends meet on poorly paying gig economy jobs; they’re saddled with higher education debts; the threat of climate change is growing. I wept as I recalled that I didn’t feel this hopeless at their age, 35 years ago. I had aspirations and goals and could easily imagine my pathway to achieving them.

On Sunday night, I wept again as I was watching the so-called “Great Debate”, where two grown men shouted, niggled and quarrelled with each other. Instead of debating issues and how to address them, they exchanged talking points. The PM, whose party has been in government for nearly 10 years, supplied an endless barrage of statistics to prove we’ve never had it so good.

Watching this debacle, I felt ashamed that this was the best we could offer our despair-filled young people. It’s time to tell the major parties we want a different future than the more-of-the-same options they’re offering us. We need to vote for candidates, like the Greens and the “teal” independents, that stand for something better.
Donna Cohen, East Melbourne

More of a pub brawl than a debate
The latest political leaders debate was more a pub brawl than a real debate on policies, very disappointing for the viewer. Scott Morrison just kept shouting and shouting at Anthony Albanese and by doing so forced Albanese to respond in kind.

It was a very undignified way to behave, and the Australian people deserve better. Let us hope that the final debate is conducted in a cordially civilised manner and that the differences in policies are debated and the two men do not resort to personal attacks on each other.
Glenise Michaelson, Montmorency

Barnaby Joyce should have been there
In less than two weeks we will be required to choose among a Liberal-National Party coalition, Labor, independents and others.

Given that the Nationals are evidently major determinants of the present government’s policies and undertakings, to have had Barnaby Joyce included in the debate along with Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison would have been far more informative.
Ronald Carson, Beaumaris

They shied away from the important issues
The debate between Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese on Channel Nine on the whole was a very unedifying presentation. Neither man was inspiring in any way or presented a sustainable vision for the future. As many have commented, the necessity for fundamental and drastic changes that are needed, taxation reform for example, are shied away from.

Perhaps the best analysis was “Shouting, suits, venom and voters the losers” (The Age, 9/5) particularly the second-last paragraph, identifying the challenges facing the next prime minister in a very fragmented country and world.
Judith Morrison, Nunawading

It’s gardening and footy shows for me
Another policy debate at election time and yet another illustration of the banal irrelevance of such events.

I find it hard to believe that people would be enticed to change their vote in any significant way by the hysterical and partisan nature of announcements by politicians in the last few weeks. Surely we are mature enough to vote based on what has and has not been delivered in the last nine years of a Liberal hegemony at the federal level.

I will be away on holidays on May 21 and cast my vote early Monday. Then I will be restricting my media viewing to gardening shows and the footy for the next two weeks.
Tony Priestley, Fitzroy


COVID is not over
Human beings are resilient and adaptable, but their forbearance is not inexhaustible. COVID virus is spreading widely in the community, probably even more than official figures indicate as asymptomatic and mild cases occur not infrequently, especially in children.

As you point out (“Vulnerable ‘forgotten’ as toll climbs”, The Sunday Age, 8/5), the overall risk of death from reported COVID was 3.2 per cent in 2020, 0.4 per cent in 2021 and 0.09 per cent so far this year. Deaths in children and young people under 20 can be counted on two hands and occurred almost exclusively in 2021 and early 2022. Only a quarter of deaths overall have been in people under 70.

The toll from long COVID must be balanced against the mental health and educational damage of further lockdowns and social restrictions. Vulnerable people will need to wear quality masks and socially distance. All those in the community who are eligible for further doses need to be strongly encouraged to do so and should get a flu shot as well.

Fortunately, COVID is no longer a hot political issue, but remains a significant medical resource challenge for governments. COVID is not over, but most of us are over COVID.
Peter Barry, Marysville

Priorities hard to gauge
It is so difficult to understand the priorities by the federal and state governments in this continuing pandemic.
Health issues are being ignored, despite advice from epidemiologists, in favour of economic and political concerns. There appears to be a concerted effort to encourage people to behave as if we are still living in the year 2019 and not 2022.

If about 30 people were dying each day on our roads or in house fires there would be a clamour to address the problem and find solutions to reduce this toll.
Wendy Kershaw, Balwyn

Think of them as pets
The amount of money that is spent annually on pet care dwarfs the estimated cost of rescuing Australia’s threatened species (“The wave of extinction rolling over the nation”, The Age, 9/5).

This shows that Australians care far more about the exotic species living with them than the native animals who have lived in Australia for thousands of years. We prize and pamper our domestic companions with scant regard to the plight of creatures that do not require daily feeding or expensive vet care. They just need a safe place to live.

A different attitude might regard native animals as the nation’s pets. We do not have to own them, play with them or even see them. Just knowing we have allowed them to live in peace should provide enormous pleasure.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills

Growth isn’t helping
It was reassuring to see your editorial (“Our native species need urgent help”, The Age, 9/5) drawing attention to the ongoing and accelerating loss of Australia’s wildlife, and pointing out that land clearing is a bigger immediate cause of this loss than climate change.

More funding for environmental programs and better environmental laws will help. But they won’t address the underlying drivers, which, according to the 2016 State of the Environment Report, are our growing population and economy.

It is understandable that the business community wants growth, but it is disheartening that our political leaders don’t just ignore the issue, they actively promote such growth despite the clear evidence and expert opinion that it is the root cause of our declining natural environment.
Ian Penrose, Kew

We need these people
What a story of courage, determination, endurance and hope (“A resilient ride from refugee to surfer”, The Age, 9/5). Masi Mobin has overcome so many obstacles to survive, learn new skills, build a business and continue studying for the future. And he was only 14 when his journey began.

Lucky for him that he reached Australia before 2013 and a policy that would have seen him incarcerated for all his youth.

Indefinite detention may have been largely dropped and hotel detainees quietly released, but refugees still face a plethora of bridging and temporary visas that offer minimal support and seem designed to eliminate hope.

We need people like Masi Mobin with the energy and determination to not only build a new life for themselves but to make a contribution that benefits us all. So I want change – a policy that offers hope and humanity. As a grandmother I will be voting to make a difference for refugees.
Anne Sgro, Coburg North

Better teachers will …
It would be great to see more high achieving students going into teaching courses – students with ATARs in the 80s or 90s.

Academic ability is not everything of course, but it’s a very good start, and arguably essential for success in the classroom (“Labor push to boost teacher numbers with cash incentive”, The Age, 9/5). But why is it necessary to offer a special incentive to potential candidates? Why are excellent students, who often admire their teachers greatly, not aspiring to enter the same profession?

The answer is pay and conditions, especially the crippling workload, and until something is done on this last front (by reducing the amount of assessment, for example), nothing much will change. Good or potentially good teachers will continue to leave the profession in numbers, schools will continue to find it difficult to replace them and the most able students will continue to study medicine, law, engineering, physiotherapy, and the like.
Lindsay Zoch, Mildura

… follow better conditions
There are a number of proposed initiatives to get “smart” students to become teachers but if they are smart they will find out what being a teacher is like and not go near it.

Teachers need to be respected, better paid and not overworked. It would help to get those “smart” students to think about it.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill

‘Running dead’? Hardly
I was elated when I saw the letter headlined “Piers under pressure” (The Age, 9/5) but disappointment followed when I realised it was a letter about Flinders Pier and not the Greens candidate for Kooyong, Piers Mitchem.

The article “Clashing Colours” (Extra, 8/5) was about the battle between Josh Frydenberg and Monique Ryan for the seat of Kooyong. In the article, Frydenberg says the Greens and Labor are “effectively running dead” to help Ryan get elected.

In 2019 Kooyong was a blue/green seat and the Greens are not “running dead”. Mitchem is a very impressive candidate. The reens visibility in Kooyong is affected by the media’s obsession with the teal independents and the enormous amounts of money being spent in attempts at gaining the highest visibility in a signage war between Frydenberg and Ryan.

I hope voters can look beyond the cash splash and hype and consider the policies on offer in Kooyong and elsewhere. Your article “Zero sum game” (Insight, 23/4) notes expert opinion by Richie Merzian that “only the Greens emission reduction target is in line with what climate science demands”.
Ruth Hudnott, Canterbury

Independent ways
Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, as quality independents supporting Julia Gillard’s government, did a fantastic job of analysing the pros and cons of proposed legislation, without the bias of any political party. They were then able to negotiate improvements to the resulting legislation with government.

If our forthcoming election resulted in quality independents having the balance of power, it would by no means be a disaster.
John Groom, Bentleigh

Selective enthusiasm?
Malcolm Turnbull says that the Liberal Party has lost its way and that if “teal” independents win seats “it will mean the capture of the Liberal Party will be thwarted by direct democratic action from voters”.
I wonder what he would say about the independents if he was still the prime minister.
Carlos de Lemos, Hawthorn East

Truth in advertising
I’m sure most of your readers are heartily sick of political advertising that stretches the truth, defies logic or is simply wildly inaccurate. This is at best irritating and at worst, is a matter of political parties and candidates obtaining electoral advantage by deception.

Laws and regulations apply to all business advertising in Australia, including advertising by not-for-profits and community organisations, as well as to fundraising activities.

The ACCC says of false or misleading statements, “It is illegal for a business to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression. This includes advertisements or statements in any media (print, radio, television, social media and online) or on product packaging, and any statement made by a person representing your business.”

None of this applies to political advertising by parties and candidates. But it’s not a gigantic step to adapt it.
Why shouldn’t political parties and candidates be required to comply with the same basic standards of advertising everyone else in Australia must obey?
Julia Thornton, Surrey Hills

Students’ welfare first
I remember when psychiatric institutions were mainstreamed. For some residents it meant a loss of programs and activities because replacements in the community were poorly thought out. It also meant a bonus to state coffers as land was sold off.

I also remember taking a relative to a hospital emergency department and another very frustrated patient yelling that she had been waiting all day to see a doctor and that if she had a broken leg, she would have been attended to much sooner.

If special schools are closed (“Special schools must stay an option”, Comment, 9/5), there has to be adequate planning and teacher training so no student is disadvantaged.
Helen Pereira, Heidelberg Heights

They’re not statesmen
After seeing The Great Debate, we can safely say that neither of our future leaders could ever be described as “statesmen”.
Ron Mather, Melbourne


Australia votes
That debate deteriorates to verbal attacks by any of our leaders shows they are as bad as one another. They need to be sent to their rooms to think about that by the teal candidates.
Sue King, Balnarring


As we cast around for a reason to put one of the major parties ahead of the other, maybe this test could help: Which of the two leaders would I prefer to sit down with and talk about issues for half an hour over a cup of coffee?
Jim Spithill, Ashburton

I’m becoming rather confused. Who is running this election campaign? Journalists or politicians?
Michael Hall, Blackburn

The leaders are shouting so loudly they can’t hear the electorate shouting for change.
Robyn Stonehouse, Camberwell

A poke in the eye with a burnt stick would be less excruciating than watching The (not so) Great Debate.
Jenny Bone, Surrey Hills

Anything you can shout, I can shout louder and that, dear reader, is why we have such a poor choice in politics.
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a politician who, when asked a question with a yes or no answer, actually answers with a yes or no reply.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

Negative gearing
Those who voted against negative gearing reform last time have no right to complain about the rental crisis this time.
Steve Melzer, Hughesdale

It is misleading to release unemployment figures unless the number shows how many of the so-called employed are actually earning a liveable income.
Lyn Beaumont, Bentleigh

I was in public libraries for most of my working life and the true crime section was the most popular and the books disappeared on a regular basis.
Susan Munday, Bentleigh East

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