It is distressing to know that under our customary two-party-preferred system, the findings of the inquiry will not result in less chaos and lack of accountability, but rather another opportunity for perpetual tit-for-tat political sledging. What would be vastly more helpful would be a bipartisan commitment to a re-evaluation of the effects of neo-conservative economic policy and for-profit essential services on humanitarian outcomes.
Michelle Goldsmith, Eaglehawk

Nothing changes until Commonwealth steps up
Victorians have long been concerned with the obsession of the LNP of finding the person who made the decision to hire security guards. Personally, at the time I thought employing security guards was appropriate as it was providing employment to Victorians, and freed up the police to catch criminals.

Hotel quarantine was and still is the issue and until the Commonwealth addresses the problem we are still in the same insecure position we were 10 months ago.
Margaret Raffle, Keilor East

Who signed the contract?
When an entity performs a service, a contract is signed by both the provider and the beneficiary of that service. Whether it’s selling a property, building one, or engaging a lawyer or a tradesman, someone signs off on the job. We are talking about a multimillion-dollar contract to a private security firm to administer hotel COVID-19 protection where no one knows who did what. Absolute rubbish, there is a responsible person and they know who they are.
Ian Anderson, Surrey Hills

Governance culture needs urgent overhaul
Kristen Rundle (‘‘The verdict is in on contracting out’’, 22/12) correctly identifies the key lesson to be learnt from the Coate report: the conscious abdication of governments, state and federal, from taking responsibility. Put simply, from governing.

Whether it be the Andrews government’s hastily outsourced quarantine hotels decision or the Morrison government’s woeful theoretical oversight of nursing homes in Victoria, our governing systems still, bizarrely, assume by default that private business operators can deliver better outcomes than taxpayer-funded and well-resourced public bureaucracies. The governance culture needs to be urgently overhauled.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

Serious failures evident in inquiry
The hotel quarantine inquiry has just found what Daniel Andrews wanted it to find – a damp squib. No one decided to use private security instead of police and the ADF – it just happened. The inquiry never asked the proper questions and failed to get the people in the witness box who should have been called.

Andrews said that he was sorry for this disaster and the deaths of 801 Victorians but exonerated himself because of massive government failures and says that he will hang around until the next election to fix the problems. Why wasn’t Andrews asked to provide all his phone records? This is a serious failure of the inquiry.
Coke Tomyn, Camberwell

Terms of reference lacking
It is a shame that the terms of reference of the Coate inquiry didn’t include finding out what the Premier meant when he said he was, ‘‘accountable for any mistakes’’, with the hotel quarantine program. But then again perhaps now we know.
Don Relf, Mentone

THE FORUM

Hospital pass
It’s my distinct recollection that there is a federal Immigration Minister, a federal Health Minister, a federal Minister of Home Affairs, and a Prime Minister, one of whose much admired predecessors once said words to the effect, ‘‘We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come’’.

So how has it come about that none of those ministers appear to take any responsibility for allowing this latest outbreak that has been introduced, apparently by an unsupervised US airline crew member, but have managed to place the entire responsibility in the hands of state governments?

Apparently our Prime Minister has learned from his footy team the cunning art of the ‘‘hospital pass’’.
Ronald Burnstein, Heidelberg

Water saver
It’s sad to watch the Elwood canal as billions of litres of water rushes to the bay after the rain on Monday night. Surely in the future this gift from the skies can be funnelled into underground reservoirs – to guard against drought – for use on parks and crops.
Tim Nolan, Brighton

Christmas wish
The heartlessness of the Morrison government manifests itself in many ways. From its miserly unemployment support system and robo-debt to its treatment of refugees it has shown itself to be as callous and self-serving as any authoritarian regime. Deaf to the voice of the people, it has left the Biloela family languishing in what amounts to house arrest on Christmas Island. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Scott Morrison could bring them home to Biloela as a Christmas present to this brave family and all the people of the town who have fought so hard for a fair deal for them.
John Mosig, Kew

Safe return plan
Once the Therapeutic Goods Administration gives vaccine approval, Australians stuck overseas should be urgently offered immunisation, administered at embassies or consulates. A week or two after receiving the booster, they can fly home on packed planes, no hotel quarantine required, which can be reserved for non-immune travellers and aviation crew. Will this require a sophisticated logistical plan? Innovative thinking? Strong medical oversight? Political will? Yes! But this is the safest way to rapidly bring many of our citizens home and take pressure off the vulnerable hotel quarantine system.
Dr Anita White, Kew

Honour health workers
Wouldn’t it be a nice change if the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List was focused mainly on front-line health workers dealing with COVID-19 patients. Maybe just this once, the Honours and Awards Secretariat could put aside the awards for parliamentarians, professors, celebrities and sportspeople and honour those people who put their own health at risk by working long hours tending the sick and assisting grieving families. Unfortunately some of these health workers paid for their devotion with their lives and the efforts of all these health workers should not go unrecognised.
Phil Mackenzie, Eaglemont

City refuges needed
That nearly half of residents in high-fire risk areas prefer to ‘‘wait and see’’ is no surprise. In addition to the temptation to stay and defend property must be added the lack for many of alternative destinations. We need to consider refuges in the metro area for temporary evacuations. Many of our universities and student residences are underused in summer and churches are under-occupied most of the time.

Labor’s puzzling perpetuation of Kennett-style public sector cost-cutting and outsourcing to third-party providers meant we were unprepared for an effective quarantine program. Let’s not make the same mistake with bushfires. A comprehensive plan of where to go if you are leaving early needs to be put in place pronto.
John Carmichael, Hawthorn

Crucial third step
To say sorry in a meaningful way is an act of repentance. First, admit that the event did actually occur. Then express heartfelt regret for its effects. But then, vow to take steps to ensure that it cannot be repeated. Too often in public life there is a lack of will towards implementing that third step.
Jim Spithill, Ashburton

Remove options
In NSW mask-wearing and social distancing are optional in the midst of a growing COVID-19 outbreak. This makes as much sense as allowing motorists to decide for themselves what side of the road they drive on. Victorian authorities may have made some mistakes during our second wave, but they took it more seriously than their counterparts across the border – and eventually licked it.
Mike Puleston, Brunswick

Hands-off approach
As a former public servant, I’m saddened to read of public service failings in implementing and managing the hotel quarantine program. And I’m surprised to learn that ministers were not properly briefed by their department secretaries, which is a significant departure from what used to be standard practice.

Nevertheless, those ministers must take responsibility for taking a hands-off approach and not requiring briefings. Or was it a case of not asking questions because you might not like the answers?
Daren Fawkes, Forest Hill

Bring back marvellous
A dismal visit to Melbourne city in this Christmas week, many businesses closed or shut down, the lanes lacking their old vibrancy. Making things worse, construction and upheaval in almost every street. Add to that lacklustre Christmas decorations and a feeling of neglect, and it’s clear that Sally Capp and her team need to get their act together if Melbourne city is to be marvellous again. Creativity and ingenuity needed pronto.
Sally Holdsworth, Malvern East

What gold standard?
Once again I reflect on the Australian government commending NSW on its ‘‘Gold Standard’’ coronavirus testing yet once again it has failed.

First it was the outbreak from the Ruby Princess which was allowed to spread the virus throughout Australia and beyond. Now we have another outbreak, that after 10 days they have been unable to identify patient zero. What is the Gold Standard of this?

Thank God we had Dan Andrews who took early, divisive steps to arrest the spread and bring it under control in this state. Unless the NSW government acknowledges the challenges its progress will be much slower and more difficult.
Andrew Connell, Newtown

Federation rethink
Federation was appropriate in Australia 100 years ago and throughout the 20th century. In the 21st century, and the digital age, Federation has passed its use-by date. It is now time to rewrite the constitution to better meet the needs of the 21st century.

Time to do away with duplication, fragmentation, inconsistency, inefficiency, confusion, loss of productivity and financial waste. Time to do away with the benign dictatorship of state premiers.
We need consistency of laws, administration, policies and procedures across the nation. We need one national government and one border – the international one.
Derek Shepherd, Woodend

Tough rules required
Scott Morrison has been quick to show ‘‘toughness’’ in relation to refugees by locking them up and turning boats around. It’s a pity he is not prepared to show the same determination with COVID-19 by setting tough, uniform rules for flight crews and diplomats. Perhaps there are not as many votes to be gained by doing so.
Geoff Phillips, Wonga Park

The refugee quandary
I agree with you Jill Dixon (Letters, 21/12) that confining refugees away from society is inhumane … but what is the alternative? And please don’t say, like many before you, simply set them free. As Kevin Rudd proved early in his prime ministership, such action is a green light for the people smuggling trade to recommence with its dire consequences. So long as Australia remains a desired destination for so many people, sadly, there is no alternative to indefinite mandatory detention of refugee arrivals by boat for Australia to maintain control of its borders.
Jack Coffey, Camberwell

Diminishing value
In her excellent piece on contracting out (‘‘The verdict is in on contracting out’’, 22/12) Kristen Rundle observes that conceptualising government functions as ‘‘services’’ embeds the idea that private sector providers and public officers are equivalent in their suitability to perform the ‘‘task’’.

I would go further. In the last 2 decades Australian governments have repeatedly demonstrated their belief in private sector provision as superior – of anything from childcare and aged care, to energy and water supply, to building regulation and social housing construction. Only blind allegiance to neoliberal ideology can explain the wilful denial of increasing costs, decreasing standards and steadily diminishing value for taxpayers.
Dr Kate Shaw, School of Geography, University of Melbourne

What’s the secret?
The inquiry into the Cartier watches handed out by AusPost CEO Christine Holgate has exonerated the CEO. At the time Morrison said he was ‘‘disgusted’’ on behalf of the nation because ‘‘we are all shareholders in AusPost’’. In light of that, how can Morrison declare the report secret? Did the watches threaten national security? Or is it because Morrison and an AusPost board made up of Liberal Party appointments has been roundly castigated? When will we get Morrison’s abject apology?
Stephen Williams, Wandin North

AND ANOTHER THING …

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Credit:

Coronavirus
Will Scottie come out again praising Ms Berejiklian for her ‘‘gold standard’’ response to the new coronavirus outbreak?
Max Nankervis, Middle Park

NSW the gold standard eh Scotty? Looking a bit like fools gold to me.
Richard Wilson, Croydon

It is time for the PM and his minions to start the finger pointing at the NSW government like they did to Victoria, or apologise.
Andy Wain, Rosebud

It’s not about schadenfreude but …
Kyle Matheson, Mont Albert

Politics
Dan, you’re the captain. If no one in your team is accountable, then you are accountable.
Ian Wilson, Brighton East

‘‘We intend to implement all of the report’s findings …’’ Where have I heard this before?
David Cayzer, Clifton Hill

Daniel Andrews’ resignation over the hotel quarantine debacle, costing more than 800 deaths, would show strength not cowardice.
Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick

An apologising politician always give me confidence and reassurance. I also believe in the tooth fairy …
Adrian Tabor, Point Lonsdale

Furthermore
Wondering after this year if we can set a precedent and put the word ‘‘unprecedented’’ in permanent quarantine.
Peter McIntosh, Ballarat

Iron ore may be Australia’s economic saviour now. But whatever happened to Bob Hawke’s ‘‘clever country’’ aspiration?
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

Trump should sack Rudy Giuliani and hire Dennis Denuto. In the absence of evidence of voter fraud, he could employ ‘‘the vibe’’ as a defence. It worked for Darryl Kerrigan.
Hans Pieterse, Narre Warren

Finally
Let’s hope infrastructure spending on upgrading schools actually goes to government schools in dire need and not to private schools wanting to upgrade their pool or some other necessity.
Marie Nash, Balwyn


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