Handle dispute without inflaming the situation

Credit:Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

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Handle dispute without inflaming the situation

Our government has decided to poke the Chinese dragon with a number of sticks, including blocking $14billion of foreign investment, some of which had been approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board, launching anti-dumping investigations and blocking Huawei from our 5G market. There has been criticism of China’s human rights record and an independent inquiry on the origin of the coronavirus has been called for. The dragon is not happy and punitive measures are being applied, including restrictions on trade that will have a devastating effect on the Australian economy.

I believe arbitrary restrictions on Chinese investment (including Huawei) could have been avoided by application of appropriate measures to ensure Australia’s security is protected – we need foreign investment. On human rights, we should state our view but in diplomatic way that allows the criticised to save face.

On the coronavirus inquiry, surely it could have been couched more in terms of a scientific investigation out of the public eye. I am concerned that politicians are more concerned about gaining favour in their supporter base through ″⁣China bashing″⁣ than in working through points of difference constructively. If this ham-fisted approach is perpetuated, we are going to get severely burnt.
Roger Gibbins, Ivanhoe

Why are we surprised by China’s trade actions?

From the moment Scott Morrison led the charge against China’s responsibility for dealing with COVID-19, its government would have worked on a strategy to deal with Australia if it persisted with what it regarded as aggression. It would not only remind Australians who is the customer for our exports, but also suit its purpose in signalling to the United States, which would already be working on new trade policies. With our track record in dealing with asylum seekers and our selfish behaviour on climate change, our ammunition is likely to be rather damp in arguing China is being unfair.
David Lamb, Kew East

Australians’ gain with the ban our crayfish

I would like to thank the Chinese government for stopping the importation of our crayfish. I have just enjoyed my first one for many years. Long may the ban continue. Obviously, it is economic to sell Australian crayfish to Australians, so perhaps it is time to insist on an ″⁣Australia first″⁣ policy and encourage the industry to continue to market more locally.
Eileen Ray, Ascot Vale

Working together to rebuild trust between nations

A friend introduced me to the beauty of Chinese poetry from the first millennium. It is one of many windows into the richness of Chinese culture. Hence, it is sad to observe what is now happening. What can we ordinary folk do to rebuild trust between China and Australia?

Many folk in Australia are of mainland-China origin. These days must be very hard and uncomfortable for many of them . Perhaps, in various locations, we might hold a rolling ″⁣Chinese/Australian Festival of Poetry and the Arts″⁣ through which we might all share the beauty that ennobles our common humanity. Our Church, All Saints Newtown in Geelong, would be happy to host a gathering.
Bishop Philip Huggins, Point Lonsdale

The importance of diplomatic and political skills

Paul Sands (Letters, 14/12), I doubt that China will be monitoring the effect of our federal election on its aggressive trade stance. All cards are clearly in China’s hand and Australia’s bumbling impatience to line up behind “Trumpian” lunacy and completely disregard diplomacy has resulted in disaster for our country. When the ridiculous US experiment with Donald Trump as president has run its course, Australia will need to quickly and reliably rebuild our important ties with China. I note that the Prime Minister appears to be attempting this re-positioning. However, a person with considerably more political and diplomatic skill than Scott Morrison will be required for this difficult task.
Mark Bennett, Manifold Heights


Neglect of public housing

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has found the forced lockdown of public housing towers during Melbourne’s second wave violated the human rights of up to 3000 residents (Online, 17/12). Hopefully this will offer some relief and validation to the traumatised tenants who were confined to their buildings for five days and initially deprived of food and medications. But Ms Glass’s report does not cancel out calls from the public tenant community for a discrete, public housing ombudsman.

In our case, in 2019 the Ombudsman’s staff failed to properly investigate our complaint concerning the Department of Health and Human Services’ neglect of our estate over many years. They accepted the DHHS’ risible excuses and failed to take their cue from the Auditor-General’s reports highlighting the persistent lack of an asset management strategy over many years. This pattern of deteriorating public housing assets is replicated across the state, posing health and safety risks for tenants.
Kerrie Byrne and Lyn Dixon, Port Melbourne

The bigger ‘human right’

I have not seen any analysis of what would have happened had Daniel Andrews not locked down the high-rise towers. If the residents had been given 24 hours’ notice, my guess is that a significant number would have left the towers to stay elsewhere (with family, friends?) and the risk of the virus spreading could have been catastrophic. On balance, the government made the correct decision and the ″⁣human rights″⁣ argument is spurious. The entire community has the ″⁣right″⁣ to be protected from the virus.
Tim Mahar, Fitzroy North

The indefinite detention

When The Age published its article about the Ombudsman’s report on the human rights of public housing tenants, about 60 refugees were being told to get ready to be transported from the Mantra Hotel in Preston. Their new ″⁣prison″⁣ is the Park Hotel on Swanston Street.

They have now been detained on a hotel floor for more than a year. Two men per room, no fresh air, not allowed outside, guards at every door. At the Park Hotel, their indefinite lockdown continues, after seven years of indefinite detention by the federal government on Manus Island.
I feel sorry for the people in the public housing towers who were in lockdown for two weeks. But there should also be an investigation into human rights violations involved in the indefinite lockdown of these refugees on Victorian soil, for hundreds of days? And Premier Daniel Andrews, remember: If you remain silent, you agree.
Lieke Janssen, Brighton

Our shameful policies

So the haunting portrait of Behrouz Boochani has won the people’s choice in the 2020 Archibald Prize (The Age, 17/12). It not only shows his anguish, and that of the many other cruelly treated refugees in Australia, but it also reflects the deep concerns of many Australians about our immigration policies.

How many of us would want to flee persecution in the hope of sanctuary in an allegedly more civilised country, only to be imprisoned for several years, whether on Nauru, Manus Island or in a motel in Melbourne? The heartlessness of these policies is breathtaking, not only for the imprisonment of genuine refugees, but on the rare occasions of their liberation, release to destitution. How many more times does New Zealand have to put us to shame?
Gwenda Davey, Burwood East

Story behind the story

Thank you for your two articles over the weekend – ″⁣How we beat COVID″⁣. They made for interesting reading. The Age has done a terrific job in backgrounding this unwinding story. It is much appreciated.
Craig Smith, Brunswick West

Limiting the misery

Good on Manningham Council for buying the local RSL club to keep it free of poker machines (The Age, 17/12). I, like many others, have had family members who fought for their country and who, years later, lost everything through their gambling addiction.

I do not understand why an organisation which was set up to help returned defence personnel continues to contribute to the misery of families. With Christmas approaching, the misery is bound to be at its peak.

Some councils have set limits on the number of poker machines in their municipalities. Let us hope more councils take the initiative to reduce the number of poker machines by innovative methods such as the City of Manningham has instituted. I wish them well in their campaign. Lest we forget.
Wilma Hills, Echuca

An end to nuclear …

I am delighted that Cecilia Malmstrom, possibly the next secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, has excellent climate change credentials and is not afraid to raise the matter (World, 15/12).

It is interesting that she hails from Sweden, a country with seven nuclear reactors creating 40 per cent of its electricity. Originally it had an admirable policy to phase out nuclear reactors by 2010 but, disappointingly, its government, of which Ms Malmstrom was a member at the time, changed the policy to allow their replacement.
John Capel, Black Rock

… in support of nuclear

Peter McIntosh hopes Cecilia Malmstrom becomes the OECD’s next secretary-general because of her commitment to climate change (Letters, 15/12). Yes, Sweden is a low per capita emissions nation. But 80 per cent of its electricity is powered by nuclear and abundant hydro power, both sources of zero-emission power supply. Australia has limited hydro resources but big uranium reserves, yet the green-left oppose uranium and many hydro projects. Why are these acceptable in Sweden but not here?
Thomas Hogg, East Melbourne

Selfish, short-term gain

With unprecedented, climate-related disasters affecting more than 30 million people on our doorstep in Asia (World, 17/12), our government again buckles to its rump of science illiterates to pressure financial institutions to keep financing climate-destroying, fossil fuel projects (The Age, 17/12). What this country really needs is a probe into how the “behind the scenes” influencers continue to sabotage effective climate policies for selfish, short-term financial benefit.
Michael Hassett, Blackburn

Call the deniers to account

Coalition MP George Christensen and federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt questioning banks, insurers and superannuation companies about their climate change action? It is the deniers who should be in the dock about their reckless lack of action.
Peter Moore, Clifton Hill

ABC of banks’ funding

Banks make decisions based on their shareholders’ expectations and on commercial risk. That is why they are not funding coal-based projects. I hope that clarifies the situation for George Christensen and saves us all the cost of a parliamentary inquiry.
Michelle Leeder, Seddon

Punish the cowboys

The developers who illegally knocked down the Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton have been sentenced to 30 days in jail for contempt of court (The Age, 17/12). They are appealing against its “severity”. I do not agree the punishment – the harshest possible sentence – is severe. I believe it is totally inadequate in view of the men’s intransigence in responding to the decisions of the courts over a number of years.
Marcia Roche, Mill Park

A loss to Victorians

I am saddened by the loss of Jill Hennessy from the Victorian cabinet (The Age, 17/12). She has been a strong, energetic, reforming and inspiring leader. I wish her well for her time with family and look forward to her return in a leadership role with the government. Thank you, Jill, for improving the rights of ordinary Victorians, including through the introduction of the voluntary assisted dying legislation.
Meriel O’Sullivan, Williamstown

Too lucrative to neglect

I know of future, full-fee-paying postgraduate students from oversees who are having doubts about coming to Australia due to the absence of information from state and federal governments over their visa approvals and the entry processes.

There are students whose governments will pay for a full PhD upfront, as well as their living expenses. Over, say, four years, this amounts to about $400,000 per student – ie, not just a contribution to the university but also to the economy (housing, general expenses). Increase this amount for family members who accompany these students.

The students are receiving vague statements that something will happen next year. Public health is critical, but so is reassuring consumers of our knowledge economy that Australia wishes them to come here. If they are neglected and other countries are more welcoming, they will go there. Call it crisis marketing, but that is what is needed.
Larry Stillman, Elwood

The silence is deafening

If the five federal executions – including of the only woman on federal death row – that Donald Trump announced recently go ahead, it will mean there have been 13 since July. Among those, two were teenagers when they were sentenced and one was the sole Native American in federal prison.
Of the executions ordered after Trump lost the election, there were three black men and the only woman in federal prison. They are to be executed before he leaves office on January 20.
I am waiting for the outrage from ″⁣democracies″⁣, including Australia, which constantly criticise countries they do not like about their ″⁣human rights records″⁣. That includes the media. I am not holding my breath.
Irene Bolger, Fairfield


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding


My new, 2021 diary seems much thinner than the current one. It’s been such a looong year
Wayne Tonissen, Kangaroo Ground

Even with 20/20 vision, no one could have foreseen the catastrophic events of 2020.
John Cummings, Anglesea

It appears NSW’s much-lauded ″⁣gold standard″⁣ is turning to pyrite (″⁣fool’s gold″⁣).
George Reed, Wheelers Hill

What precautions are there to ensure those on the so-called priority list for the vaccine get it?
Doris LeRoy, Altona


Sound the trumpexits and herald in the end of demockeryOK.
Brian Rock, Beechworth

Putin has congratulated Biden on his victory. How could he after all Trump has done for him?
John Ackerman, Keilor East

Can Trump run a presidential campaign from a jail cell?
Geoff Champion, Mount Dandenong


The China syndrome isn’t what it used to be.
Bill Trestrail, St Kilda

How long before China claims Australian iron ore is rusty?
Nick Barton, Hillside

China may be the catalyst that pushes our government into abandoning its blinkered, over-dependence on coal. At least it has a zero-emissions target.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham


Dear Ita. You go girl.
Pamela Pilgrim, Highett

Please don’t walk dogs in the heat of the day on concrete paths unless you’re prepared to walk barefoot.
Kathy Diviny, Coburg

Whenever I see a bloated advert in big yellow type, my eyes glaze over.
Peter Russo, West Brunswick

I’m not sure for whom Barney Zwartz (15/12) is speaking, but it isn’t for healthy minded religion.
Kenneth Ralph, retired Uniting Church minister, Belmont

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