Even the name we have given to the virus, COVID-19, should remind us that it began in 2019, and while it has coloured every thought during 2020, it will also continue into 2021 and possibly beyond.

Embracing masks, social distancing and the new ‘‘COVID-normal’’ vigilance will need to remain with us for quite some time.

Having said that, I’m as glad as anyone to see the back of 2020 – Happy New Year, everyone.
Claire Merry, Wantirna

It can be done
Christmas, with its emphasis on increasing consumerism, is not my thing. However, these are my wishes for the new year.

An honest, fully accountable, government, overseen by a Commonwealth Integrity Commission, with real teeth. This will go hand in hand with the vindication of whistleblowers.
Repudiation of our harsh, cruel policies towards asylum seekers. To be replaced by compassion and resettlement (either here or places of their choosing).

A fairer distribution of our considerable resources and an end to poverty and homelessness, with good wages and adequate benefits for the jobless and those in need. Support and housing to be seen as rights not as optional extras.

Real environmental policies and legislation, conducive to reducing our carbon emissions and eliminating pollution and our extraordinary waste.

A treaty with our First Nations people.

Just a dream? No, with the right policies and goodwill, these are all things that are totally achievable in Australia, so that we all can benefit and prosper in our ‘‘lucky country’’.
Rita Thorpe, Coburg

The shortage says this
‘‘Harvester shortage starts to bite’’ (The Age, 28/12) clearly shows that we can afford to eat fruit and vegetables only through exploitation of foreign pickers.

For most Australian workers the wages and conditions for this work are clearly unacceptable.
Kishor Dabke, Mount Waverley

End these partnerships
Following the Western Roads Upgrade debacle it is time to scrap the public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure model (‘‘Road project stalls with firms owed millions’’, The Sunday Age, 27/12). PPP was a product of neoliberal economic theory in the Kennett era that has been embraced enthusiastically by both political parties.

Like the contracting out of public service functions, it is attractive to politicians because it transfers some responsibility and accountability away from the government.

Back in the 1990s, various failures of PPP were predicted by Age writer Kenneth Davidson. His predictions have mostly turned out to be correct.

The system cannot be fixed with Band-Aid patches. It is time to restructure the entire public service and stop contracting out services that should be provided by government agencies and ban PPPs.
Colin Turner, Mornington

Deluded thinking
Public-private partnerships, like the one for the Western Roads Upgrade, are not partnerships at all. They are transactions for the sale and purchase of goods and services.

Clinging to the idea of bogus partnerships, the Victorian government seems to harbour the delusion its contractors will work in the government’s interests, rather than their own. No wonder these types of arrangements often go pear-shaped.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

A catalogue of symptoms
In discussing the source of the mis-labelled ‘‘unprecedented’’ events of 2020, Waleed Aly says we must treat the underlying disease, and not just the symptoms (‘‘Get to the root of the mess,’’ Comment, The Age, 26/12).

However, does he clearly state what that disease is? He mentions deforestation and loss of biodiversity, but these are really more symptoms of the true root of the problem.

The underlying disease is us. There are too many people on Earth and we want too much stuff. All the issues he discusses stem from there. But trying to cure that disease is extremely difficult, particularly while we cling to ideas such as wanting each succeeding generation to have a ‘‘better life’’ than earlier ones.

Live simply to simply live – and allow more of the species with which we share the planet to live as well.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills

It’s physical distancing
Our premiers and other leaders have urged us all to socially distance ourselves from each other over the coming days. This is a most unfortunate request any time but more so at this time of the year.

Fortunately, most people are ignoring them and socialising more than ever but at a physical distance and with face masks. Keep it up everybody: socialise, socialise but at a physical distance.
Elvis Kipman, Killara, NSW

Not off the hook
Your correspondent (Letters, 26/12) is correct in his analysis that Victoria’s management of COVID-19 and its impact on aged-care facilities was inexcusable, but he begs the question about the Commonwealth government’s role in the mismanagement of these facilities.

Many of his figure of 630 ‘‘excess’’ aged-care deaths in Victoria would not have occurred had the Commonwealth mandated defined levels of registered nurses to be on site at all times and if there was more checking and oversight by the government agencies instead of the self-regulatory regime put in place by the Commonwealth.

Yes, the state’s incompetence in letting the virus lose on the community was inexcusable but so is the Commonwealth’s lack of adequate supervision of aged-care facilities.
Rob Evans, Glen Iris

Fix the foundation first
To be able to ‘‘reset’’ a clock, one needs to repair it first. So it is with this ‘‘great reset’’ politicians and big business are talking about: You can never build anything durable on a broken foundation.
Mario Moldoveanu, Frankston

An unsustainable model
Education should not be just a commodity, subject to the whims of international trade and the vagaries of public health. Education is about opening our minds to inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge.

Yet, as a result of the COVID-19 travel restrictions, all the ANU vice-chancellor can worry about is damage to the bottom line of his unsustainable business model (‘‘Uni chief’s plea to PM on foreign students’’, The Age, 26/12).

The old-fashioned notion of research schools of excellence in this seat of higher learning seems to have been consigned to the marketing scrap heap.

Sadly, it’s precisely the marketing angle that is seen as having more traction with the current government: Australia can’t be seen to be ‘‘losing market share’’. What we do risk losing is international credibility and academic respectability unless we remind ourselves about the purpose of education and urgently reassess our priorities.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

The more things change …
Rio Tinto might be acting shamefaced over its destruction of Juukan Gorge caves, attempting to restore relations with Aboriginal owners and appear a more responsible corporate citizen, at least in Australia.

Across the Pacific, in Arizona, the company, and its partner, BHP, is being enabled by the Trump administration to take over and mine for copper on almost 1000 hectares of the Tonto forest called Oak Flat, an area listed on the National Register of Historic Places and described as ‘‘a holy place and ancestral homeland to the Western Apache Indians’’.

According to a New York Times story on December 19, after blasting takes place, ‘‘the mine will gradually start to cave in on itself, forming a crater, nearly two miles wide and up to 1100 feet deep’’.

The local San Carlos Apache tribe was incensed to hear about Juukan Gorge, the story explains. No doubt it can look forward to a reset of the relationship with the company once the sacred site has been destroyed.
Tony Edney, Ballarat

AND ANOTHER THING

Naming rights
At the Donald J. Trump Airport the departure board would be fake news, the arrivals would be grossly exaggerated and a Donald J. Trump presidential library would have an extensive autobiographical fiction section.
Adrian Tabor, Point Lonsdale

Credit:

While I am not in favour of naming anything in honour of Donald Trump, I think ‘‘The Donald Trump Departure Lounge’’ has a certain ring to it.
Derek de Korte, Malvern

Come on, Florida, surely you can find a bus shelter or rubbish tip or the like to name after poor Donald.
Ralph Frank, Malvern East

The Department of Words
‘‘Revert back’’ (Letters, 28/12) is not very unique.
Tim Brown, Ascot Vale

In praise of the Pie
Thank you, Trish Young, I had forgotten about the Eskimo Pie (Letters, 27/12). It was my favourite, along with a lemonade icy pole. Memory lane.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

Politics
No comment from the Prime Minister about ‘‘gold standards’’ to date. More like pyrite to me.
Julian Robertson, Mount Eliza

The second Test
That’s better. Even if Australia is playing the Test like schoolboys, I now have a full schedule of TV watching.
Graeme Lee, Fitzroy

Destroying ourselves
I totally agree with Gail Pritchard’s letter ‘‘We are the enemy’’ (28/12). Self interest will be the ruination of the Earth.
Glenise Michaelson, Montmorency

Furthermore
My garden grew wonderfully well this year, blissfully unaware. Bless it.
Chris Wilson, Poowong

After last weekend’s shenanigans in Sydney, it appears that the selfish,stupid alleged adults of NSW are no different or any more trustworthy than the selfish, stupid, alleged adults of Victoria.
John Cain, McCrae

Finally
To the temporally-incontinent sellers of hot-cross buns … the Wise Men haven’t even visited baby Jesus (Epiphany is January 6) and we’re already crucifying him?
Laurine Hurley, Northcote

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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