Rot set in during the era of John Howard

Federal election 2022

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Election fallout
Richard Flanagan’s powerful essay (“Morrison defeat marks end of Howard era”, The Age, 26/5) summarises what many of us have felt and endured since John Howard’s election as prime minister in 1996, which marked the end of a civil society based on care and consideration for our fellow citizens. It has amazed me that so many see Howard as an elder statesman of Australian politics rather than the architect of the negativity that has seeped into every corner of our life. The destruction of the public service, the climate denial, the media monopoly, the jobs for mates and so forth. One can but hope the change of government, including the increased number of independents, will reshape our politics and institutions so that we can be proud again.
Denise Stevens, Healesville

‘Fair go’ went missing
Flanagan’s article was a masterpiece. It concisely defined the selfish and ruthless policies that has made the Liberal Party what it is today. His description of the plight of the Biloela family summed up his argument perfectly. Thank goodness their persecution has come to an end, and hopefully our new government will maintain the policy of “a fair go” which has been missing for many years.
Lesley Black, Frankston

Bitter words
There is no doubt Flanagan is a master wordsmith – his outstanding novels so attest. However, so soon after the end of an era he decries, when Australians need a collaborative approach to our future, the bile, bitterness and base hyperbole spread throughout his article serves only to foment further divisiveness and “degener-nation”. My quick count came up with 24 negatively slanted phrases or words referencing death, destruction or debasement. Even a touch of the positive noting the potential freeing of the Murugappan family was not enough to steer his hell-ship to the right and bright side of the river twice invoked.
Kimpton Harris, Mordialloc

Only half of it
I thought something significant missing from Flanagan’s contribution: Howard’s prompt, brazen attempt to terrify the Australian electorate into resisting, even rejecting, the Indigenous native-title rights that had been confirmed by the High Court’s Mabo decision. And other episodes too, like the “children overboard” assertion.
Brian Cullen, Carlton North

Many enemies
Flanagan is spot on. The arrogance on full display with the belittling of scientists, universities, public schools, women, the ABC, ICAC, foreign countries and refugees caused the Coalition to lose this election. Perhaps Peter Dutton should start by learning “treat anyone as an enemy and they will become one”.
Ian Todd, Leongatha

A rejection of self-interest
Last Saturday’s results were a clear rejection of Howard’s, Abbott’s and Morrison’s legacy. A rejection of self-interest at the expense of nation building and looking after each other. The question now remains has the Liberal Party learnt anything? I doubt it, if it thinks that Peter Dutton can lead it onto a higher plane. His attack-dog mentality precludes him from engaging on any matter collaboratively.
David Conolly, Brighton

More than topical issues of the day
Former federal Liberal MP Dave Sharma refers to climate change, equality and a federal integrity commission as “topical issues of the day”, and by implication mere “irritants for the public” (“This is a Liberal bloodbath, all losses to our left”, 26/5). He is wrong. All three are critical now and in the long-term to Australia’s future. Climate change, in particular, is existential. Further, Liberals did not, as Sharma asserts, have “credible policies and proposals to address each of these issues”. His party is woefully out of step with the Australian electorate.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

THE FORUM

American impasse
There is no easy answer to the guns and weapons issue in America (“Fury as innocent lives lost”, The Age, 26/5). There is an extremely strong bias to retain “the right to bear arms”. Why it includes semi-automatic military weapons is baffling.
Gun culture is inbred; many supermarkets and large retail chains sell ammunition and guns.
Politicians and legal experts in the US would take many years to modify laws, and changes will be minimal. There will certainly be more senseless mass killings, and the same rhetoric will be churned out. That’s America!
Nigel Beresford, Drouin

Dragging their heels
If, as the Texas governor says, there is not a gun problem but a mental health problem, why don’t those supporters of the Second Amendment support a requirement that those who wish to purchase guns, especially military assault weapons, require serious mental health checks?
Graham Reynolds, Soldiers Hill

National boycott
If the (Dis)United States won’t do any thing about their gun laws, maybe countries like Australia should encourage them to reconsider. As a first step, we could upgrade our travel advisory to reflect the increased threat of random individual and mass shootings.
Australians should avoid the US as a tourist destination and let them know why.
Michael Harrison, Blackburn

Freedom to hate
Americans pay a hefty price for their freedoms. This time, the freedom to arm oneself with powerful guns cost many children’s and teachers’ lives.
The cost for freedom of racial hatred and incitement to riot speech is also high. That is, the freedoms of haters and deranged Americans to perpetrate and incite hatred and violence are more important than the freedoms of their citizens to live.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East

Theory from Middle Ages
I was dismayed by the comments of some US politicians that this was an “evil” that had come to pass. Labelling what will inevitably be found to be a psycho-social or psychological aberration is akin to practices in the Middle Ages.
Surely, we know enough about mental illness to take a more pragmatic view, and treat the causes before we repeat this total waste of life, both for the victims and the individual concerned.
Ron Micallef, Berwick

Lobby wins again
So a lot more sabre rattling, crying and praying “never again”… until the next time. How many more massacres will it take before the gun lobby is defeated?
Marie Nash, Balwyn

Legacy issues
For once, Peter Dutton has made an accurate prediction when he warns “things are going to be tough under Labor – higher interest rates, cost of living, inflation and electricity prices”.
Each of these legacy issues is a direct consequence of his government’s term in office, even if they did somehow overlook mentioning the electricity price rises during the election campaign. If this level of hypocrisy is being demonstrated prior to Dutton’s ascension to leader of the opposition, it does not bode well for the quality and integrity of his role.
John Togno, Mandurang

Poisoned chalice
On election night when asked who would lead the Liberal Party after Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne summed it up by saying, ″⁣I hope someone wants the job″⁣, and remarking that never in the party’s history had someone taken the job after a defeat and become prime minister. From the Liberal Party’s perspective, Peter Dutton might be the perfect candidate.
Mike Fajdiga, Beaumaris

Qualified opinion
I ask the same question of Peter Dutton that his party asked of Anthony Albanese: is he qualified to be prime minister?
Dutton has never been treasurer, deputy prime minister or even deputy leader of his party.
Andrew Dods, Apollo Bay

Election injustice
There is no justice in this world, particularly at election time, when disgraced former education minister Alan Tudge retains his seat of Ashton, but universally respected former treasurer Josh Frydenberg did not.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris

Crossing the line
I have always admired Tanya Plibersek as an articulate and progressive woman, enjoying her many appearances on media programs. I am no fan of Peter Dutton but her comments about his appearance (“‘Shouldn’t have said it’: Albanese condemns Plibersek for comparing Dutton to Voldemort”, 26/5) are completely unacceptable and do her and the Labor Party no service. I will never think of her in the same way again.
Margaret Loadman, Mt Eliza

Election positives
A decent politician who did not depose his leader – thank you, Josh Frydenberg (“Libs talked of ditching Morrison last year”, 25/5). An affable prime minister who seeks to unite not divide – thank you, Anthony Albanese.
Amazing women seeking real change – thank you, teals. It’s these different shades that make Australia a great nation. Let’s all work together to make it even greater.
Rajiv Khanna, Canterbury

Cleaning up
In considering whom I will vote for at the next election, I am taking note of how quickly candidates remove their corflutes.
This may seem a trivial matter, however I think this action is very telling. Speedy removal shows good organisation and teamwork, attention to detail, respect for the environment, and the ability to move on when things go badly.
Beatrice Barnett, Ainslie, ACT

Selfish motives
The intransigence of the middle-class “not in my backyard” brigade in Darebin over the development of four residential towers on the site of Northcote Plaza needs to be called out (“Northcote social housing draws ire”, The Age, 26/5).
These towers, wherever they are built, provide rental and owner-occupied housing for not only the socially disadvantaged, but for many single-income families. The fact that few of the apartments are earmarked for social housing is a red herring.
Objections are based on fears that the towers will become ghettos for low-income earners, single mothers, pensioners and other welfare recipients, some of them refugees and recovering drug addicts, and adversely affect neighbouring property values.
The approval of the development proposal by VCAT was exactly the right decision.
Brian Sanaghan, West Preston

Why the wait?
Six months ago, health authorities issued a third COVID-19 vaccine to all healthcare workers. This was a sensible decision for those working at the coalface. Now six months later, these vaccines are well past their peak effectiveness and unless workers are over 65, they are not eligible for a fourth jab.
My wife, a nurse, 62, has contracted COVID-19 and has been unable to work. Where was that fourth jab for my wife and her co-workers when it was needed?
Dave Barter, Hawthorn

Building confidence
I doubt if your correspondents’ concerns are that significant in the disturbing decline in attendance at AFL matches so far this season (Letters, 25/5).
Although I am not overly enamoured with flashing lights etc, they are not going to stop me from going to the MCG to follow my team. The English Premier League season has attracted record crowds. So the AFL is surely asking itself what has gone wrong.
Britain came out of lockdowns much earlier than we did. So it’s possible that it’s just taking time for our confidence to return.
Ivan Glynn, Vermont

It’s loud in here
Has Greg Baum (“Watching brief: has footy become a home game?”, The Age, 26/5) sat in the stands at the footy lately? You can’t hear yourself think, with all the noise and advertising. The only time you can talk is when play is in progress. Hit the mute button, AFL, let us enjoy the footy like we used to.
Phillip Ford, Pootilla

Limit the alcohol
As a 17-year-old female football fanatic, going to watch AFL has been an ongoing activity for my family and friends. After 50 crowd members were evicted from Saturday night’s game between Richmond and Essendon mostly due to alcohol consumption, my views of going to the footy aren’t as strong any more.
Watching the football should be a safe environment for youths and young parents with younger kids.
The MCG may not be able to monitor the behaviours of each individual in the crowd but should put a limit on alcohol consumption to prevent violence.
Eliza Fry, Ormond

Spending priorities
My child attends a government school and has to deal with unheated classrooms in winter, while the three nearby private schools have heated swimming pools all year round.
I suggest the new government reappropriate education spending by reducing private school payments by the amount received in JobKeeper, especially where schools made a profit.
How many more first-class facilities do these private schools need when state schools struggle to provide functional classrooms?
L. Ayre, East Burwood

Cruel crossword clue
The description of introverts as “self-centred” (Quick Crossword, 25/5) is ill-informed and insulting.
Introverted people are quiet not because they are focused on themselves, but because they are highly reactive to their environments and exhausted by stimulation. To avoid this, they simply choose a quieter life.
Extroverts would be offended if they were described as “lacking self-awareness” because of their greater ability and readiness to interact with their surroundings.
Chris Wilson, Poowong

And another thing

Illustration: Matt GoldingCredit:

Pacific relations
How good to see Australia is now resuming its co-existence with our Pacific neighbours, sadly lacking during the Morrison government. A major effort needs to be made in Papua New Guinea. Indonesia is a prime target for Chinese expansion, and far better efforts must be made in Western New Guinea so that we do not have a repeat of the Solomon’s fiasco.
Doris LeRoy, Altona

It is about 20 years early for Peter Dutton to be elected prime minister. By then, we will have our nuclear submarines and he can attack China. In the meantime, treat them nicely.
John Rome, Mt Lawley, WA

Logging protest laws
The Victorian government should learn that nature needs protection, and native forest logging must end by early next year with new jobs for VicForests’ workers (“Native logging protests could lead to jail”, 26/5). It will be a big election issue.
Barbara Fraser, Burwood

The most dangerous forest activity is logging.
Bob Brown, Cygnet, Tas

If only the 272 bird species and 87 mammal species who live in East Gippsland’s native forests could impose penalties on the human species who enter their homes and make them unsafe.
Jenny Smithers, Ashburton

Liberal leadership
Is multiple personality disorder a compulsory requirement for aspiring leaders of the Liberal Party?
Joan Segrave, Healesville

Will the Liberals ever learn? The blokes have failed dismally. Give Sussan Ley a go as leader.
Jan Kendall, Mt Martha

With the LNP of Queensland controlling the Liberal Party, what chance have they to regain the hearts of Sydney and Melbourne Liberals-turned teal supporters?
Peter FitzGibbon, Inverloch

Finally
The “purist Greens” sank Kevin Rudd’s emissions-trading scheme, promoted Tony Abbott to prime minister and now threaten to ruin the Statement from the Heart.
George Reed, Wheelers Hill

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