Robust anti-corruption laws needed urgently

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INTEGRITY IN POLITICS

Robust anti-corruption laws needed urgently

I am disgusted and frustrated by the lack of honesty and integrity demonstrated by our current crop of (mostly) Liberal and National party politicians with the sole exception of the courageous Bridget Archer. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s failure to adopt an integrity commission proposed by Helen Haines (pictured), or at least equal its specifications, demonstrates that he and his tarnished bunch of followers have plenty to hide.

The past fortnight in Parliament demonstrates the futility of government when ethics and integrity are missing. Collectively, we should be ashamed by our parliamentary representatives. Think about the sports rorts, the ongoing theft of irrigation water, the car-parks scandal, the Sydney Airport land sale, the failure to take care of the environment, the failure to care for our future generations, the failure to reflect the wishes of the majority of voters to the benefit of the fossil-fuel lobby. The list is extensive and is the sad legacy of the Coalition’s failure to meet its few election promises and its appalling behaviour.

It is critically important that all the major parties collaborate to adopt robust federal anti-corruption laws that apply to all politicians and all who interact with them. Parliament may need to be recalled to ensure this occurs before the next election. A robust integrity commission helps to force honesty on those who need to be forced.
Jon Temby, Wonthaggi

Time to look back and be retrospective
Although I am normally against retrospective legislation, the Morrison government’s abject failure to legislate a robust national integrity body, and the ever-growing number of scandals which it has failed to investigate, provides a very strong argument for making this an exception to that rule. It appears the government has been deliberately avoiding the issue, despite its election promise to act. Opinion polls show that a majority of Australians want action, so I suggest the Labor Party make it a key election promise to legislate a body and to backdate its authority for say five years. It would be difficult to see how the government could mount a scare campaign against that because it would simply prove the need for such action.
Ray Pilbeam, Canterbury

Prime Minister reneges on promise
I am angry and frustrated at the arrogance with which the Prime Minister reneged on his December 2018 pledge to establish a national integrity commission. He must be called to account: for delivering a slippery proposal for a weaker watchdog than any operating in the states, for consistent stonewalling on the matter, and for his last-minute attempt to blame Labor for his failure to deliver on his promise. Liberal MPs are beginning to cross the floor in protest. Prime Minister, it’s time for action – and honesty!
Evelyn Jansen, Aspley, Qld

Government idles and neglects ideals
Helen Haines, the independent member for Indi in Victoria, has been able to construct a viable bill for an integrity commission, yet the federal government with all its resources cannot. Its vast resources seem to be funnelled into idleness and neglect with the taxpayer paying for it.
Marguerite Heppell, East Hawthorn

Keep the bastards honest
I want a federal integrity commission because too often politicians can get away with being dishonest or even acting illegally. I think it would make or help politicians to behave themselves more especially if the commission had teeth to enforce its decisions. I want honesty from our legislators and to be honest and true to what they signed up for, in all sincerity.

They say they’ll do this and that, but often this doesn’t happen not only because of broken promises, but also because of the votes of other politicians.
Let’s have a federal integrity commission to “keep the bastards honest”.
Dereka Ogden, Tugun, Qld

THE FORUM

Post-truth rabbit hole
The editorial (“Scrap jab rules – or say why you won’t”, The Sunday Age, 5/12) implores the state government to scrap vaccine mandates as soon as possible in order to lessen the chance of anti-vaccination victimhood, but then gives them credence in the form of “the misinformation they have been fed”.

All individuals have a personal responsibility to arm themselves with the most accurate information available, in order to form a world view that is based around facts. Anything less is to continue down this post-truth rabbit hole.
Sean Burns, Point Cook

The real boss
In her column (“Poor Bridget? More Bridget the Boss”, The Age, 4/12), Parnell Palme McGuinness recognises the observation made by Helen Haines that Bridget Archer was courageous crossing the floor to support Ms Haines’ proposed bill for an independent integrity commission for Federal Parliament. McGuinness outlines how she would respond in her company should one of her employees contradict her in public. This is reasonable for her private company as she directly employees and pays her workers, so they do have a fidelity to her business. What McGuinness has mistaken is that Archer’s “boss” is the voters in her seat of Bass not the Prime Minister. It would appear McGuinness may have forgotten MPs are elected public servants, not “sub-contractors”; ultimately accountable to their electorates and not their political parties. To think otherwise, I suggest is an additional reason for the need for an independent integrity commission for Federal Parliament.
Michael Cowan, Wheelers Hill

Power to women
I fully agree with Parnell Palme McGuinness’ article regarding women being willing and able to take accountability for their own actions. Only then will the ground shift from women having to be protected from their poor decisions and a true power balance between men and women be obtained. This could give women power to direct their lives and respect for women’s achievements.
Christine Baker, Rosanna

Discrimination confusion
Am I the only one who gets more confused each day about the Religious Discrimination Bill currently under review? According to Morrison the bill allows people of faith to discriminate against others (“Defend Offend”, The Sunday Age, 5/12) and that statements of belief are immune from legal action. The last time I looked, religion was about faith in a God and about love and acceptance, this law is about discrimination and persecution. I cannot agree more with the statement by Equality Australia that “our laws should protect all of us equally, no matter who we are, whom we love, or what we believe”. Aren’t the laws of our land meant to help us live together as social beings?
Julie Ottobre, Forest Hill

Religion is a choice
I cannot be the only person who has noticed that all our discrimination acts refer to aspects of a person that are beyond their choice. We do not, for example, choose our age, sexual orientation or race. It makes sense that we should not be discriminated against because of these.

Religion is a matter of choice, at least for adults. Many thousands of people move into and out of religious faiths on an annual basis. No matter how heartfelt the religious beliefs, they are still an expression of personal commitment.

Religion should be no more, or less, protected in law than are other personal choices. People of faith should have protection against persecution under our laws. Their personal beliefs do not merit a legal right to discriminate against people who do not share them.
Patricia Barry, Kangaroo Flat

Price of freedom
It may well be that BHP is quietly celebrating the decision by the Fair Work Commission to reject mandatory vaccination of all staff at a coal mine in the Hunter Valley (“Fair Work rejects BHP’s jab mandate at mine”, The Age, 4/12).

Even with “thorough consultation” it would appear that responsibility for a safe workplace is now shared. If a breakout of the virus does occur, presumably all parties, management, staff, unions and the commission itself, could be culpable. Those against vaccination have won a freedom – but that freedom is the right to spread the virus as effectively and as efficiently as is humanly possible. A pyrrhic victory indeed.
Philip Bunn, Beechworth

Outbreak frustration
My mother’s nursing home had a COVID-19 outbreak in one of four units which started with one staff member on October 26. It grew to 43 cases, including seven staff. During that time all residents were confined to their rooms with no visitors allowed. Rather than locking down the first unit and implementing a “green/red zone” system the facility locked the whole place down causing untold damage to the residents, most of whom are living with dementia.

The outbreak was over on November 22. We are now in the midst of a second outbreak awaiting testing of all residents and staff. Again it’s a staff member who is positive.

When will nursing homes be able to have a strategy in place to overcome this dire situation? Living with COVID-19 is presenting us all with daily risks but something needs to change to enable family to be there for their loved ones and provide support.
Paula Wales, Research

Inequality grows
It is laudable that governments are continuing to acknowledge the special needs for protection of people with compromised immune systems. Last year older people outside of nursing homes with equally life-threatening conditions could feel hopeful and confident that our governments would protect us too. This year, as the demands of the young, the healthy, the business and entertainment lobbies have become irresistibly louder, the term “co-morbidities” has vanished from the lexicon.

But we are still here, so with hope extinguished, millions of seniors are left to go silently and voluntarily into deeper and permanent lockdown as Australia continues to “open up” for the lucky ones, and now the unvaccinated ones, in our increasingly unequal society.
Sue Currie, Northcote

Terrifying prospect
One of PM Morrison’s catchphrases to scare voters is that if you vote Labor you are voting for a Labor/Greens coalition.

I find the prospect that if you vote Liberal you end up with a Liberal/National/PHON/Clive Palmer coalition more than scary. It’s downright terrifying.
Robyn Westwood, Heidelberg Heights

Other issues at play
The low vaccination rate in sub-Saharan Africa is not due to lack of supply by richer countries, according to the World Bank. South Africa has even requested that the US slow down the flood of vaccines due to oversupply, and concern about expiration dates.

The real problem is vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation and conspiracy theories spread by social media, which in turn engenders mistrust in governments to supply safe vaccines, and deep-rooted historical mistrust of Western medical practices.

Religious beliefs also hinder uptake – in Niger and Liberia, 90 per cent of people surveyed believe prayer is more effective than the vaccine. There are numerous issues to address – supply constraints, structural and logistical barriers are the least of their problems.
Helen Kamil, Caulfield South

Climate of bipartisanship
Your correspondent (“No time for Caution”, Letters, 5/12) suggested that it is time for a bipartisan approach to climate change action.

If our COVID-19 response has taught us anything it is that the nature of Australian politics will never allow a bipartisan approach to a serious global issue.

Every announcement by a government is an opportunity for the opposition to make an equal and opposite announcement with the view to enhancing its own chances at the next election.
Julian Guy, Mount Eliza

Privacy concern
As an over 65-year-old, I finally got vaccinated. I also downloaded the proof of vaccination certificate to my phone through the Service Victoria app. I am surprised and dismayed that the certificate as displayed on my phone, clearly shows my date of birth. The governments are keen for us to protect our identity by regularly changing passwords and not giving personal information to anyone who has no need for it. Why then, is my date of birth clearly shown on my COVID certificate, to be shown to gain entry to business establishments?
Ian Bird, Kyneton

Unseen harm
There is much public discussion about those who are not vaccinated. Most of that discussion apparently accepts that there should be legitimate medical exemptions to vaccine mandates. But I have seen no information in the press as to the permitted grounds for medical exemption, nor are those grounds easy for lay people to find. But when found, they are surprisingly narrow. In particular, the probable exacerbation of an established medical condition is not a ground for exemption.

I personally know a young man with an established heart condition who followed the Prime Minister’s advice and consulted his treating practitioner. He was told “sorry, but I can’t tell you that it’s safe for you to take either vaccine”. So he has lost his job, and participation in his TAFE course, due to blanket mandates. This is the sort of unseen harm which is masked by stigmatising all of the unvaccinated as “anti-vaxxers”. As treatment options continue to evolve, and as the majority of the population is now fully vaccinated, I urge the Victorian government to reconsider the scope of the permitted medical exemptions.
Kristine Hanscombe, St Kilda

AND ANOTHER THING …

Credit:

Climate policy
Labor’s climate policy has been criticised by the conservatives and the Greens. It seems it’s just right.
Marilyn Hewish, Darley

ScoMo says a 43 per cent target is not safe for manufacturers or jobs. Climate science says a 26-28 per cent target is not safe for humans.
Ian Bayly, Upwey

Tony Abbott’s stunted climate change comprehension is still adversely affecting our nation.
Julie Conquest, Brighton

If Joel Fitzgibbon thinks Labor’s policy is fine then it must be really bad.
Pauline Ashton, Maribyrnong

Politics
Is Craig Kelly’s appointment to the social media inquiry to buy preference votes from the United Australia Party for Scott Morrison?
Michael Mckenna, Warragul

The opposite of “can do capitalism” is either “can’t do government” or “won’t do government”. Take your pick.
David Fry, Moonee Ponds

I thought the great resignation was to begin in March. What’s with our politicians, they seem to be jumping ship early.
Craig Tucker, Newport

If TV news programs ran a fact check text when politicians speak it would eliminate half truths and triple viewers.
Paul Crompton, Cheltenham

If Andrews calls the longest lockdown and highest death rate a “triumph”, what would he call a disaster?
Lesley Black, Frankston

Furthermore
Where are the cicadas asks Brian Kidd (Letters, 4/12). From their noisy chorus, I attest mainly in Cheltenham and Mentone.
Wilma Pimm, Mentone

Tayla Harris should have her statue outside the MCG. Kylie and Dame Nellie should be near the Arts Centre and Myer Music Bowl.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

Finally
Enjoy the balm of Christmas and the company of loved ones this festive season, before the sound and fury of the election campaign begins.
Mary Cole, Richmond


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