While welfare payments are a good thing and vital to many, the recipients are receiving government money – from the taxpayers’ pot. Thus it seems fair that it is used for what it is intended and fair that it be directed towards those needs. Financial counselling should also be a part of receiving welfare payments.

Living on welfare is difficult; it is virtually impossible if you are not in public housing. Unfortunately, some Centrelink payments are sent ‘‘back home’’ and some family members travel overseas. To survive, individuals may then seek aid from charitable organisations. Cashless debit cards should be given to all welfare recipients, to ensure government money stays in our country and is used appropriately. Robo-debt was a cruel and flawed system. The cashless debit card likewise needs improving, but it is a means of ensuring a roof over families’ heads and providing food, clothing, medicine and school needs, particularly for children.
Jill Blundt, Travancore

A very selective distribution of cashless cards

As an age pensioner, can I find out why the government cannot give me one of these newfangled, cashless welfare cards to limit my wasting of taxpayers’ dollars on booze and gambling? I hope it is not because I am a tertiary-educated, middle-class, literate voter in a highly marginal electorate.
Mick Webster, Chiltern

Yet again, the vulnerable will be hurt the most

So the federal government is putting out to tender debt collection for those who are on social security. Has it learnt nothing from robo-debt? You can guarantee that the benchmarks that need to be hit by these agencies will hit the most vulnerable the hardest. Again. This is disgraceful.
Ann Maginness, Cheltenham

The government’s short-sighted, short-term tactic

Increasingly economists are arguing that wage stagnation in Australia and other market economies is the cause of low demand and, hence, low economic growth. And yet the Morrison government, in the last sitting days of the year, has put forward an industrial relations bill (The Age, 10/12) that will limit the capacity of workers to bargain for secure work and decent wages.

By attempting to kick out the BOOT requirement (the better off overall test) and to alter the definitions of casual work, it rewards old employer allies to the detriment of our economy overall.
Under the guise of the ‘‘COVID recovery’’, Scott Morrison and Christian Porter have revived the old ‘‘flexibility’’ arguments, but in so doing have condemned the economy to slower growth.

Individual employers may delight in being able to lower their wages bill in the short term but as wages reduce across the economy, consumers will have less money to spend. The fruits of victory will then be ashes in their mouths. As with climate and energy policy, when ideology, powerful lobbyists and short-term political tactics triumph, we are all the losers.
Lesley Ryder, Blackburn South

Workers miss out, no matter the state of business

Over the past eight years in Australia, wage growth has been stagnant and is at the lower end of the scale across OECD members. Yet business profits have grown significantly during that period.

But in tough times, the government expects employees to take a wage hit when those businesses are struggling. Other than the usual mantra that people will not even have a job if those business fail, can the government explain how it expects voters to believe it has any industrial relations credibility whatsoever.
Brandon Mack, Deepdene

THE FORUM

Subject MPs to IR laws

One wonders how the government might view the formulation of industrial relations laws for workers if MPs were, themselves, subject to exactly the same regulations and conditions. After all, they are workers who are employed by us, the taxpayers. I am sure a sudden epiphany would cause them to ensure that fairness plays an intrinsic role in the process and that every MP would form an entirely different view of the IR framework.
Erica Grebler, Caulfield North

Customers come first

Could someone please explain to the government, and the Prime Minister, that survival of a business depends primarily on the availability of confident, cashed-up customers. Without such customers, labour costs are irrelevant.
Joe Wright, Greensborough

The people’s senator

I heard Jacqui Lambie in the Senate on Wednesday night, explaining why she was opposed to the cashless debit card legislation. Her speech was absolutely brilliant and passionate. She uses her life experience to make decisions on how to vote in the Parliament, not like those who blindly follow their party’s position. It is a pity that we in Victoria do not have a Jacqui Lambie on the ballot.
Michael Higgins, Erica

Danger of casualisation

So we have found out the connection between insecure, insufficient, but essential, casual work and the spread of COVID-19, and now we want to entrench the ills of casual work in preparation for the next virus.
Robyn Hyde, Camperdown

The power of money

Do I really understand that people will be able to jump the queue and receive a vaccination by paying for it (The Age, 10/12)? If this is correct, then it reveals a truly awful aspect of the capitalism culture in Australia. I sincerely hope that when the official policy for rolling out vaccines is announced, it will be one that fairly and equally provides protection for everyone, beginning with those most at risk. Anything else makes a mockery of all that we have sacrificed during 2020.
Josephine Ben-Tovim, Carlton

Surely this is a first?

The federal government has confirmed that prisoners and people with severe obesity will be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination. If so, it will be the first time a government policy gives precedence to the poor and disadvantaged over the rich, famous and well-connected. The cynics among us can only hope that this degree of fraternity and concern for the underdogs of society is reflected in future government policies.
Peter Roche, Carlton

Beware of the GPs

I would like to draw your attention to an advertisement in an online medical employment forum last week. Four general practitioners were required to sign up for three to six months doing hotel quarantine COVID-19 screening in Melbourne. One stipulation was: ‘‘Doctors cannot be working face-to-face in other jobs at the same time (Telehealth jobs elsewhere are fine)’’.
This week we learnt that GPs working at some of Victoria’s quarantine hotels will be permitted to work elsewhere in addition (The Age, 8/12).

Former president of the Australian Medical Association, Tony Bartone, says, ‘‘GPs are trained health professionals when it comes to infection control procedures and the use of Personal Protective Equipment’’. However, this has not stopped many from contracting the virus, with large numbers dying overseas. Patients outside the hotels should not be exposed to the possible risk of infection from these hotel doctors.
Dr Judy Campbell, Preston

Flying from state to state

As an Australian in Britain who wishes to return home, I have been regularly scanning airline websites. On one, website, I am able to book a ticket from London to Melbourne with a two-hour layover in Sydney before boarding my domestic Virgin flight to the domestic terminal in Melbourne. How so?
Sandra Bennett, London

Delights of ‘camp’ food

I fear you protest too much about the food in your quarantine hotel in Sydney, Julie Moffat (Letters, 10/12). Although I must admit it does sound a lot worse than the offerings on school camps which at least came straight from the stove to the plate.
Ian Kerr, Camberwell

The extremes of contact

Re. your reports of dogs experiencing anxiety and anti-social behaviour after going through isolation with their owners in this difficult, COVID-19 year (The Age, 10/12).

Given the importance of those early months and years on a child’s physical and emotional development, my wife and I wondered what the effects of enforced isolation and lack of a variety of physical contacts (for example, grandparents) have been on young babies. And how they are coping and adjusting to the sudden attention from relatives and friends post-lockdown.
Peter O’Keefe, Collingwood

A well-deserved setback

I am gratified the US Supreme Court has dismissed Donald Trump’s latest outlandish bid to overturn the election results, despite the fact that he worked hard to get his nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, elected to it. This shows that the court, despite its 6-3 conservative majority, looks at issues according to the law and not individual, partisan politics. There is hope for the US yet.
Louis Roller, Fitzroy North

Towards true diversity

Thank you, Jon Faine (Comment, 10/12), for pointing out the need for diversity in government rather than by ‘‘too many men in pinstriped suits’’. Our government would be a better place if it were represented appropriately by men and women of our proud, multicultural nation. Most of the comparable democracies are way ahead of us in encouraging political participation. Even our close ally, the US, has had a Black American as president, and its vice-president elect is a woman of Jamaican and Indian heritage.

Former attorney-general George Brandis defended the right of Australians to be ‘‘bigots’’. We need to move away from monocultural in our political process. The major parties need to preselect culturally different candidates in winnable seats, rather than fearing upsetting the ‘‘rednecks’’.
Ivan John, Eltham

Vote one for competence

More identity politics from the ever unhappy Jon Faine. It does not matter where our leaders come from, what they look like or how diverse they are – it is their competence or otherwise that counts.
David Southgate, Hampton

Socially regressive bill

The Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Bill is a Trojan horse. According to your article, ‘‘under the reforms, anyone found trying to suppress or change another person’s sexuality or gender identity faces up to 10 years’ jail or fines of almost $10,000 if it can be proved that their actions caused serious injury’’ (Sunday Age, 6/12).

As a lesbian, could I be convicted or fined for counselling a non-conforming girl (one rebelling against heterosexuality and stuffy, sex-role stereotypes) that she is fine just the way she is, and might consider coming out as a lesbian or just enjoy being a tomboy and rebel? Alternatively, I could lie and say she has the brain and heart of a male trapped in the body of a female and should transition.

Beware. Transgenderism is the contemporary version of the bad old idea of ‘‘inversion’’. It is a socially regressive and we should not let this Trojan horse through our Parliament’s gates.
Liz Smith, Castlemaine

A serious lack of respect

The Minerals Council of Australia argues that a moratorium on mining projects that threaten sacred Indigenous sites across Western Australia until new legislation has been passed would unnecessarily stall not only mining works but also infrastructure projects (The Age, 10/12).

The council fails the pub test. Should valuable minerals be found beneath St Paul’s Cathedral, would its demolition be justified on the same basis as that for Indigenous sacred sites? One thinks not. The council’s lack of respect of First Nations Australians and their culture is inexcusable and should be condemned accordingly.
Colin Smith, Mount Waverley

The Palmer enigma

I realise there has been some controversy surrounding James Shipton, the boss of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, but he must be doing something right if Clive Palmer is taking out full-page advertisements to attack him.
Liz Jovanovic, Moonee Ponds

Come on, pay your tax

Getting the big tech companies to pay for news content is possibly a worthwhile goal. Of far greater importance is getting them to pay Australian tax that genuinely reflects their profits here. We need a digital turnover tax now. After that we should aim to tax all companies by turnover and abolish the all too regularly avoided company profits tax.
Mark Freeman, Macleod

Barred from ‘our’ port

The United States’ intention to direct naval exercises in the Pacific, the South China Sea and environs, and to use Australia as a base, would be a way to challenge China. However, this activity may prompt China to refuse entry for American and Australian ships into Darwin Harbour. Now who leased the Port of Darwin to Chinese interests for 99 years?
Jill Bryant Malvern East

Where’s the fairness, AFL?

We were robbed. How come the Western Bulldogs, which finished seventh, still get first pick in the AFL draft? It is supposed to give the bottom teams a foot up. Still way too Melbourne-centric, I reckon.
Stuart Gluth (ex Adelaide), Northcote

AND ANOTHER THING


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Federal

If Porter and his cohorts expect workers to take a pay cut, they should set an example and take one too. I await with bated breath.
Nola Cormick, South Melbourne

Peter Dutton’s beachside mansion was passed in at $4.355 million. Was it on Christmas Island?
Perry Becker, Gowanbrae

It will be interesting when the cashless welfare card is introduced into one of the Coalition’s blue ribbon seats.
James Lane, Hampton East

As politicians salaries’ come from taxpayers’ money, shouldn’t they, too, have cashless welfare cards?
Charles Naughton, Sunbury

Will China find some spurious reason to ban our iron ore? Probably not until it can get the same quality elsewhere.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

It’s a safe bet Google and Facebook aren’t political donors. They’ve probably never seen the need.
Gary Sayer, Warrnambool

Victoria

Can anyone think of a reason why the Premier won’t give more funding to the Ombudsman or IBAC.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South

With Donald Trump soon to be unemployed, maybe he can replace Michael O’Brien.
Ed Veber, Malvern East

When the state’s Belt and Road is unbuckled, could we have the Port of Darwin returned?
Graham Cadd, Dromana

Victoria, from COVID-19 pariah to ‘‘top of the lucky country pops’’ in a sniff.
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

Now how can we blame China and/or Daniel Andrews for the quarantine breach?
Ken McLeod, Williamstown

Furthermore

The fertility rate in inner-city Canberra is just 0.62 (10/12). It suggests the bonk ban is working.
Elizabeth Long, Collingwood

Will The Age change its name to Harvey Norman News?
Rob Mathew, Yarraville

Note from the Editor

The Age’s editor, Gay Alcorn, writes an exclusive newsletter for subscribers on the week’s most important stories and issues. Sign up here to receive it every Friday.

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