Extending the state of emergency jeopardises our democratic norms

Extending the state of emergency jeopardises our democratic norms

August 25, 2020

Illustration: Cathy WilcoxCredit:

James Moutsias is right (‘‘Emergency laws endanger democracy’’, 25/8), the proposed extension to state of emergency laws is dangerous for our democracy. The accumulation of power in the executive branch of government leads to an unacceptable risk of abuse of that power.

There is a tendency in these times to acquiesce to an erosion of our democratic norms in the name of keeping the community safe. If we are not careful, we will end up with a sharp distinction in the history books between pre-COVID and post-COVID power structures. We must proceed carefully, conserving as much as we can of our democratic norms. Ultimately, what Victoria needs is an innovative model of community protection, led by the community, not imposed by arbitrarily long states of emergency.
Michael Puck, Maffra

Safeguards needed beyond September 13
Why is everyone complaining about the state of emergency being extended? The state of emergency does not equal lockdown, it simply allows for health directions by the Chief Health Officer to be enforced to protect public health – measures such as ensuring those with the virus are staying at home – without getting parliamentary approval first. If the state of emergency ends on September 13, it’s going to be a lot harder to keep those infected at home, so we’ll end up in another COVID-19 mess.
Riley Mizis, Kensington

Power trip and a cop-out in coronavirus debacle
Night club bouncers policing quarantine. Masks for walkers, but not runners. Victorians stuck overseas, with ‘‘upgrading’’ to first-class their best chance of a return home. Stage four appears to be working, yes, but Victoria isn’t. And what’s the plan? More of the same for 12 months? It’s a power trip and a cop-out.
John Skaro, Malvern

We need protection from ourselves
We have already shown that we are not that great at following recommendations from the government or health officials. If we had been, stage three may not have had to become stage four. The ability to extend the state of emergency post-September 13 may be the only way we can be protected from ourselves.
Claire Merry, Wantirna

Sensible powers for a speedy response
In response to James Moutsias I would argue that the decision to extend Victoria’s state of emergency by 12 months demonstrates clear thinking and sensible judgment. It would mean the government will have the ability to make policy choices in an efficient manner. While our individual freedoms have been restricted by stage four, labelling Victorians as being under ‘‘house arrest’’ is a gross exaggeration. Don’t we want our decision makers to have the ability to act quickly in times of crisis, where lives are at risk? This is not an attempt to weaken the mechanisms of our democracy but a rational, sensible decision designed to protect Victorians.
Jacob Bau, Brunswick

Six months would be halfway there
While I can understand the Premier’s desire to extend the health emergency power for 12 months, I would prefer six months at this stage. Parliament can meet to extend powers at any time. While in lockdown the message that this is going on for another 12 more months is disheartening.
Graham Reynolds, Soldiers Hill

Extension would allow endless flip-flopping
The president of the Australian Medical Association Tony Bartone says the extension to emergency powers is not a signal lockdowns are being extended. Sorry – what? That is precisely the purpose. Sure, stage four might be lifted on time back to stage three but we still will not be visiting lonely, psychologically traumatised relatives and our kids will still suffer from enforced absence from school. The extension will also allow this endless flip-flopping to continue the next time there is an inevitable outbreak. How many lives will we lose to suicide and domestic violence before we say enough is enough?
Warren Howden, East Brunswick

THE FORUM

Puzzling stance
Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel’s stand for gas is puzzling in view of its massive release of potent methane which is so destructive to the world’s climate. The group of scientists including Will Steffen, of the Australian National University, are correct in questioning Dr Finkel (‘‘Don’t ignore climate doubts over gas’’, 25/8).

Months ago Steffen said nature is declining ‘‘dangerously’’ therefore Australia must do its part by ending all new fossil fuel mining; halve emissions by 2030; and achieve net zero emissions by 2040 not 2050 (‘‘Climate Change 2020: Why we are facing an emergency’’).
Barbara Fraser, Burwood

Back renewables
It is timely to hear from a group of Australian scientists that ‘‘transitioning’’ to renewables via the fossil fuel gas is a harmful idea. AGL’s proposed gas import facility at Crib Point on Western Port Bay will emit only ‘‘an additional 0.02per cent of Victoria’s annual emissions’’ which the company justifies by the demands of its customers. But those customers wouldn’t be so keen to know they are contributing to climate damage through the end-use of gas in burning and heating. The customers need well-priced, reliable energy. Instead of enabling such projects, the government should be offering incentives for people to get off gas and put money into renewable sources for electricity and get our economy going in a sensible direction.
Elaine Hopper, Blackburn

Gas has its virtues
While the jury is still out on the greenhouse gas emitted per kilowatt hour of electricity, gas has several critical virtues as a transition fuel. The choice is between retaining coal as the main source of generation while transitioning to renewables or replacing coal generation with gas. Renewables do not respond at all to changes in demand so the change has to be supplied from fossil generation or storage.

In general gas turbines can be brought online quickly and respond rapidly to demand changes. Coal generation takes days to bring into service from cold and is extra wasteful with a fluctuating demand. The quantity of storage, say batteries, required is enormous and will take 30 years to install. Gas power plants are virtually off the shelf and will be much cheaper than keeping old coal plants running. The major downside is the fuel cost.
Dick O’Hanlon, Anglesea

Time for a Basic Income
Diagnosis of problems related to casualisation, underpayment (‘‘Bogged: Industrial relations talks struggling over old ground’’, 25/8), pay inequity, lack of pandemic leave and a decrease in JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments is often misguided. The solution is not a full-time job – it is security of income. One social policy again gaining momentum is the Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI is a payment delivered by the government each month to all citizens without tests for employment, marital status, disability, income, age or ‘‘work for the dole’’.

UBI would solve problems of poverty and provide gender equality. Many world leaders, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his Nelson Mandela speech of July 18, are suggesting that UBI may be the solution the changing world requires.
Judith Willis, Mount Waverley

A case of the zoomies?
Like many people stuck at home in Melbourne, we have taken the opportunity to introduce a puppy, Otto the cocker spaniel, to the household. Sometimes if Otto has been playing or running around for too long, he can start to run around like a headless chicken, growling and chewing anything he can get his paws on. This worried us for a few days, but ‘‘google dog trainer’’ tells us it is a recognised phenomenon known as ‘‘the zoomies’’. The treatment for the zoomies is to sit quietly on your own for 10 or 15 minutes – without fail, this returns Otto to his normal peaceful state.

Daniel Andrews has now put on more than 50 consecutive days of press conferences, and is starting to ask for unchecked powers in his battle against the virus. Does he have the zoomies? Could he benefit from sitting quietly on his own for a few days, and returning as a more balanced and thoughtful leader?
Joshua Smith, Carlton North

School camps in danger
School camps businesses were just recovering from cancellations due to last summer’s bushfires when the pandemic hit. Apart from a brief attempt to reopen in late June, no camp has received a cent of income since mid-March. We are now seeing the sector, a key part of our schools’ programs for decades, staggering towards an early grave.

Camps have been shown to reduce anxiety, increase efficacy and connection with school and peers – all indicators of mental health. Camps are the ideal way for students to reconnect with the community following long and stressful periods of social isolation and remote learning.

Camps also play an important role in the economic health of regional communities. We call on the Department of Health to allow camps to resume at the same time it is deemed safe for students to return to school. To do otherwise will effectively put an end to a much loved part of our community.
Pete Griffiths, CEO, The Australian Camps Association

AFL doing a fine job
Waleed Aly’s argument to not repeat the AFL ‘‘football frenzy’’ (‘‘Why the footy frenzy should not be repeated’’, 25/8) seems predicated on assumptions that Australia – and, more specifically, Victoria – will never experience another pandemic and that we will be completely free of COVID-19 by the time the 2021 AFL season commences.

Meanwhile, AFL rules change every year and have been changing ever since the game began being played formally in the mid-1800s. Historically, the fixtures have also responded to calamity as necessary. The COVID-19 pandemic happened and the AFL responded as best it could. I express my congratulations and gratitude to the AFL for finding a way for the show to go on, in the process saving the sanity of thousands of passionate AFL supporters.
Penny Mackieson, Richmond

The issue of lists
I am more positive towards AFL teams ‘‘managing’’ their lists than Waleed Aly. Instead of a ‘‘self-inflicted wound’’, the opportunity for the AFL to provide a genuinely fair competition with 34 home and away games and the transparent knowledge that teams already manage players’ game time, would ensure its integrity. Far better than the notion of a level playing field in which teams play once, or twice, based on performances in previous seasons.
Peter McGill, Lancefield

Where is the justice?
In this lockdown with borders closed, how lucky some are, that if you are rich you can get exemptions to go interstate. Taking your luxury yacht with you (‘‘Magnate sails away from lockdown and face masks’’, 25/8) and even a member from another family. Calling in at several towns along the NSW coast as you merrily sail along. However, if you need urgent cancer surgery interstate you must wait until the lockdown is over. Where is the justice and compassion?
Gerard van de Ven, Mount Martha

Fees continue to rise
The raison d’etre of the Howard government for providing public funds for private schools was to make these schools ‘‘more affordable’’ (‘‘State, Catholic pupils ‘set to boom’’’, 24/8). However, despite receiving billions each year private school fees have continued to grow, outpacing inflation and stagnant wages. Private schools do not have to follow laws regarding discrimination or reporting of suspensions and expulsions (‘‘School expulsion rates plummet’’, 24/8) and yet they still feel entitled to public funding. Parents who believe that sending their children to private schools will enhance their academic performance should understand that longitudinal research shows that public schools outperform private schools when socio-economic status is taken into account.
Dr David Zyngier, Southern Cross University

Phantom deliveries
I work from home and am dependent on Australia Post for supplies needed for my work, as are many at this time. However, for the last few years the service has decayed dramatically, with many delays and articles not delivered, but with a text or card saying delivery has been attempted and the article is now at a collection centre. I’ve been home on these occasions and know that no such attempts have been made. These events are well before COVID-19. I am wondering if the virus is being used as an excuse to phase out home delivery of parcels? I now notice the texts don’t say delivery has been attempted, they just tell you where your parcels are.
Lindy Patterson, Albert Park

We’re not in this together
Please, drop the catchphrase, ‘‘We’re in this (pandemic) together.’’ We’re not. Yet another wealthy family has absconded from Victoria for Queensland by questionable means and in so doing flouts the rules to keep the virus from spreading. What message are these parents sending to their privileged children? We live in morally corrupt times.
Sue Bennett, Sunbury

Sharing the blame
Watching the Prime Minister’s attack on the Victorian government in Parliament yesterday, I wondered if he would ever acknowledge that the debacle in aged care facilities in Victoria would have been better controlled if the federal government Aged Care Act had been amended to mandate nursing competence levels and staffing numbers and changed performance checks from self regulation to checking by the relevant government agency? Mr Morrison, you are as guilty as Mr Andrews for the appalling situation in Victoria’s aged care.
Rob Evans, Glen Iris

AND ANOTHER THING …

Credit:

Borders
I’m a bit annoyed that COVID-19 interstate border closures apparently don’t apply to the super-yacht set. Stop the boats.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

So a rich magnate is able to sail his mega yacht to Queensland and enter the state when others are not allowed, am I missing something here?
Doug Springall, Yarragon

Wakey, wakey Mr Dutton, there are people arriving in Queensland by boat.
Andy Indrans, Taradale

Politics
A backseat driver gives orders but takes no responsibility for the end result. A lot like the actions of the federal government.
John Rosenbrock, Mount Martha

The PM has become the master of evasion. Dickens would have called him the Artful Dodger.
Jon Smith, Leongatha

It was once the last refuge of scoundrels. It seems, nowadays, that patriotism has been replaced by politics.
Jack Lyon, Wangaratta

Comics
An impressive new improved Puzzles Page and Zits is back!
Susan Munday, Bentleigh East

Welcome back Zits. What took you so long?
Jane Washington, Frankston South

Things are looking up. Case numbers are down. The sun is out. And Zits is back!
Richard Wilson, Croydon

Furthermore
What does AMP stand for anyway? Another Manager Required?
Patrick Toohey, North Balwyn

Jeff Kennett calling Daniel Andrews a megalomaniac? Now I’ve heard it all.
Mick Hussey, Beaconsfield

The AFL can kick a goal for Victoria by awarding the grand final to the state prepared to open its border to Victorians.
Martin Newington, Aspendale

Finally
Looks like the chief scientist didn’t complete his homework on the gas project.
Mary Mack, Box Hill

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