Government’s insular and retrograde move

Credit:Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

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Government’s insular and retrograde move

With its anachronistic mentality of the Cold War, the Morrison government has cancelled Victorian’s Belt and Road agreement with the Chinese government, as well as two Victorian government education agreements (The Age, 22/4). Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s declaration they they are “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations” has soured any hope of a gentle rapprochement with our largest trading partner and a healing of the political rift. Her assertion that China would not retaliate is naive at best.

Victoria leads building, finance and services sectors, with one of the highest standards of living globally. External partners are vital in aiding development, injecting finance, technology and exchange of ideas. A memorandum of understanding is symbolic of friendship, trust and co-operation. By cancelling such agreements, the federal government shows itself acting in bad faith with scant understanding of China’s intent.

It should reverse this retrograde action, which will indicate Australia is not merely an insular, xenophobic arm of anti-China forces. It will also show Australia’s willingness for dialogue, mutual understanding and a respectful, ongoing relationship.
Anthony Leong, president, Victorian branch, Australia-China Friendship Society

Australia does not need Belt and Road agreements

Congratulations to the federal government in cancelling Victoria’s Belt and Road agreement. Our local tour guide in Sri Lanka was scathing of his government’s similar BRI deal, especially about a very expensive and useless road built from nowhere to nowhere. When will this government cancel the Port of Darwin lease?
Kerry McInerney, Mornington

The right decision but carried out the wrong way

I understand the reasons behind the federal government’s decision to tear up Victoria’s Belt and Road agreement with China, and I agree that we should not become beholden to others through such agreements. But is it good diplomacy to be so openly confrontational in our prosecution of such decisions?

Perhaps, it would have been better if Foreign Minister Marise Payne had tapped the Andrews government on the shoulder and recommended that the agreement be quietly shelved. We are ill placed to rattle our sabre at China – these actions simply invite it to retaliate with further trade sanctions as it has in recent times. The result is all Australians suffer the economic consequences. The Morrison government has much to learn in the art of diplomacy.
Des Bleakley, Vermont South

Will the Port of Darwin’s lease also be torn up?

In October 2015, the then Country Liberal-controlled Northern Territory government granted a 99-year-lease (with 100per cent operational control and 80per cent ownership) of the Port of Darwin – one of Australia’s most strategic assets – to the Chinese-owned Shandong Landbridge Group. At the time, experts and defence raised concerns regarding our national interest and security along with China’s planned Belt and Road initiative.

Seeing that Australian ports are the domain of state and territory governments, and the Victorian government’s agreement with China has been torn up, the federal government needs to explain whether the Port of Darwin lease is subject to the new Foreign Relations Act.
Daniela Goldie, Camperdown

Surely, Payne doesn’t really believe China won’t react

What is it about China’s demonstrated thin skin, past retaliative actions and well-documented attitudes to date that could have led Marise Payne to conclude it would not retaliate to the government’s cancellation of the Belt and Road Initiative?
Erica Grebler, Caulfield North


Our own ’George Floyds’

While people are rightly celebrating long-awaited justice for George Floyd (The Age, 22/4), it is important to remember that black lives matter here, too. Five Indigenous Australian men and women have died in custody since the beginning of March, to a response of deafening silence. At least 474 have died in police and prison custody since the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was released in 1991.

So, take a day or two to feel good about some justice for George Floyd but then let us shift the microscope to Indigenous deaths here and to no longer accept a lack of justice for such victims. Sadly, this country quietly continues its deplorable record of neglecting our First Nations peoples.
Mark Thomson, Beaumaris

Pressure to repay ’debts’

The federal government is at it again. I received a call from Services Australia (formerly the Department of Human Services) claiming I had been “overpaid” about $500 in Austudy payments, and about $500 in – you guessed it – JobKeeper payments. This is highly unlikely but, once again, the onus is on the recipient to prove otherwise. Given that I am
juggling full-time study, single parenting and casual work, they are probably hoping I will be too exhausted to object. Surely, this is Robo-debt 2.0.
Brenda McKinty, Oakleigh East

Our ambos’ long wait

I was not surprised to read your article, “Ambulance delays a ’health disaster‴⁣⁣ (The Age, 22/4). In 2020, I was taken by ambulance to hospital following a bicycle crash. The paramedics who attended the scene had to wait with me in a hospital corridor for well over an hour for someone to attend to me.

I told them I had assumed they would drop me off to someone, and then proceed to their next emergency. They said this happened in NSW, but in Victoria these delays occurred frequently and that sometimes they had waited at hospitals for up to two hours. It is no wonder some physicians believe the system is at its worst point in three decades.
David Charles, Newtown

For some, it’s very easy

I am over 70 and had the vaccination at Jeff’s Shed on Wednesday. I didn’t book, it was done in 15 minutes, I waited for 15 minutes and then I enjoyed a walk along the Yarra River. Don’t wait for more negativity from the media. If you meet the criteria, just have the vaccination.
Anthony Arthurson, Ringwood

For others, it’s harder

My daughter has an intellectual disability. She turns 49 in June. She lives in a staffed disability home. Her medical condition severely inhibits her immune system. Due to her age, her GP will not give her the AstraZeneca vaccine, and even her specialist has no idea where she could get a Pfizer jab.
Helen Hanrahan, Lower Plenty

Aim to reduce congestion

The opposition to a tax on electric vehicles (The Age, 22/4) to replace lost fuel excise income misses the point. In 2009, the Henry Tax Review proposed replacing petrol taxes with congestion charges to fund our roads. We need all vehicles to pay for roads, irrespective of what powers them. The best way to do this is a charge that relates to usage and, at the same time, provides a disincentive to create congestion. A usage charge not related to congestion is highly inefficient, and penalising EVs relative to greenhouse gas-emitting, fossil-fuel guzzlers is plainly madness. It is time to resurrect the Henry review.
Roger Gibbins, urban economist, Ivanhoe

Setting carbon targets

Even though the proposed EV tax in Victoria is like tripping up a toddler learning to walk, far worse is Australia’s lack of mandatory carbon targets for car makers. Such targets in the EU are enforced with hefty fines. Every time VW sells a Golf, for example, it effectively faces a fine of thousands of dollars.

But car makers can offset the emissions of their CO2-emitting cars by selling EVs. Little wonder why they do not send many affordable EVs here. Australia will continue to be a dumping ground for polluting petrol, diesel and gas cars until we get carbon targets for car makers.
Grant Morgan, Hurstbridge

Stick with it, Treasurer

Tim Pallas’ road user tax is a far-sighted policy. When EVs have replaced petrol and diesel vehicles, Victoria will have a source of revenue for road maintenance and a quasi-congestion charge. Both are necessary. Introducing the tax now is good policy because introducing it later would be difficult for any government.
Michael Angwin, Surrey Hills

Protecting the children

I am appalled that several photographs and a video of Nicola Gobbo’s children, which revealed their exact location, were posted on a social media site by an overseas childcare centre (The Age, 22/4). Regardless of one’s opinion of Ms Gobbo’s actions, her children should be kept safe.
Eleanor Prout, Ringwood East

Our city’s precious park

Duncan Fine – “Crowded cities need grass not plastic turf” (Opinion, 21/4) – writes about how our need to recapture our relationship with nature can be achieved by simple things like walking across a field. This feeling is so well experienced in Fawkner Park, with its expanses of green grass, treed avenues and specimen trees. It is an invaluable asset to Melbourne. Yet Melbourne City Council plans to dig up an expanse of green grass, the setting for the historic Avenue of Elms, and replace it with an artificial, hard surface, multi-purpose sports court. It is not surprising that nearby residents are dismayed by this inappropriate development.
Jennifer McDonald, South Yarra

Judgment by the world

It does not make sense on any level to throw money at research (only) on technology to mitigate the harmful outcomes of a process such as burning coal or gas. Far better would be to eliminate the process in the first instance, spend money on that. It does not even require research to be immediately effective. Cynicism would suggest the Prime Minister is “seed funding” a coalition of recalcitrant governments while also finding a use for stranded mining resources. How will Joe Biden’s international climate summit judge us? Our principal customers have already moved on and our “Hill’s Hoist mythology” will be lost on them.
Trevor Martin, St Leonard

Looking to the future

I don’t do dinner parties any more and have not been to a wine bar either, but I have grandchildren and I want to leave them a liveable planet. Urgent action on climate change, please, Prime Minister .
Cavell Zangalis, Hawthorn East

False face of mental illness

I am a mental health worker who is irritated by the representation of mental illness in the new drama, Wakefield (ABC TV). It may as well be 1970. Stereotypes abound as people with mental illness conform to stigmatising images of “crazy”.

The sensitive and intuitive psychiatric nurse who is able to connect with the plights of the patients/clients/consumers, is, of course, haunted. Other staff have limited skills and empathy. A woman with a baby and mental illness is not in a specialised mother-baby unit. A man wears a jacket and tie above his pyjamas.

We deserve better accounts of the lived experience of people with mental illness and to respect them. One in four of us will experience this in our lifetimes. Spend money on mental health and money will be saved. It is a no brainer.
Lynda Clarey, Woodend

Neglected rural areas

The Victorian government plans to spend $81billion on infrastructure (The Age, 20/4), most of it in Melbourne. I have contacted politicians, been redirected and shuffled with no result; the roads continue to fall apart while useless signs, inappropriate barriers and unnecessary lower speed limits abound. In Gippsland, V/Line service is deteriorating and the level crossing works between Dandenong and the city have made it impossible to create a dedicated Gippsland line, so the infrequent trains slowly follow Metro trains. Perhaps it is punishment for continuing to elect the Nationals.
Owen Rye, Boolarra South

My favourite people

Anson Cameron’s articles, Leunig’s cartoons, anything written by Tony Wright, and David Astle’s crosswords – what I love about The Age. And I hope, one day, to complete another DA cryptic.
Jan Harkin, Blackburn

Facing up to Morrison

Given all the failings of Scott Morrison and that he is still the preferred prime minister according to your poll (The Age, 21/4), the Australian public deserve a credible, alternative leader. An opposition leader that is more than an Anthony Albanese, one with a heart and vision.
Graeme Martin, Alphington

Greed or compassion?

Yes, Margaret Callinan, you get what you pay for (Letters, 20/4). The services provided in our community, and use of tax dollars, represent and reflect the type of society we believe in. Do we continue to gloat about tax cuts or use our taxes to build better support and services? How we spend our money reflects the kind of world we want to live in.
Mary Tobin, Albert Park

Definitely not a MAFS fan

I am not at all “obsessed” (The Age, 19 and 20/4) with Married At First Sight. These advertisements for the program belong in Green Guide, not the news page.
Martin Lenard, Mornington

Quick, check the speed

Your correspondent (Letter, 22/4) is not the only one confused by ever-changing speed limits. If I drive from my home to Burke Road, in the first three kilometres there are no less than six changes of speed limit – one every 500metres. How are drivers supposed to watch everything going on around them if they spend half their time looking out for speed limit signs?
David Francis, Ivanhoe


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding


Scott Morrison will achieve net zero based on net zero policies, action and vision. Simple.
Tony Danino, Wheelers Hill

Trees are good at carbon capture and coal, left in the ground, is good at carbon storage.
Penelope Buckley, Kew East

With its electric vehicle tax, the Andrews government, in one fell swoop, is destroying any credibility it has on climate change policy.
John Parham, Reservoir


Jen, can you get Scott to fulfil his promise to speak with Brittany Higgins.
Patricia Grodski, Heidelberg

Did UK adviser Tony Abbott suggest that “uncomfortable chair” for Dan Tehan?
John Boyce, Richmond

What products can Britain offer us that we can’t source for better quality and prices from our other trading partners?
Peter Bennett, Clifton Hill

Now the feds have torn up Victoria’s Belt and Road agreement, will they do the same for the Chinese company’s 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin?
Diane Lewis, Mount Martha


Derek Chauvin lived up to his name, believing in the superiority or dominance of one’s own people.
Margaret King, Rosanna

I love listening to old fashioned rock’n’roll. It’s a pity that Australian singers often add an American accent.
Jaroslaw Kotiw, Strathfieldsaye

Milkshakes and tacos: indigestible.
Bruce Watson, Clifton Springs

There’s no use crying over spilt milkshake. It’s certainly sparked conversation.
Will Bennett, Ballarat

The 5500 people at the Anzac Day march have to be gone by noon to allow those valuable 75,000 or more fans to attend the footy.
Doug Springall, Yarragon

Will new president Mark Korda be able to wind up the Magpies?
John Bye, Elwood

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