As a gardener, I am amazed at the low retail prices of in-season fresh produce. It’s so easy to pick up a cheap punnet of strawberries without a moment’s appreciation of the work required to get them to our markets and shops.

Perhaps it is time to show our gratitude for all those involved in producing, picking and delivering the wonderful range of fresh food available to us in Australia by paying them fairly for their efforts.
If this means higher prices, like at farmers markets, then so be it. It might make us look at why we throw out a nationwide average of 20 per cent of the food we buy.

Our access to affordable fresh produce for our home cooking and dining out must not depend on exploiting farmers or pickers, whatever their nationality or visa status.
Jenny Backholer, Clifton Hill

A grateful patient
Reflecting on Duncan Fine’s article (“Ordinary people the heroes of 2020”, Comment, 30/12) about the importance of ordinary people where he noted Tolstoy’s observation that history is a calculus of the actions of thousands of individuals led me to think of The Alfred hospital’s culture in this way.

I have spent most of the past month as an inpatient and outpatient in several departments of this hospital. I have been filled with gratitude for the quality of the medical teams and their professionalism and compassion. I have noted the way they collaborate with each other, the respectful way they listen to and communicate with patients and their warmth and kindness.

I have witnessed myriad instances of such professionalism so clearly displaying the quality of culture of The Alfred. I have also been delighted to see such a diverse workforce with people from all parts of the globe.

am proud to be a taxpayer supporting such a high standard of care in a public institution and offer a big ‘‘thank you’’ to The Alfred and the thousands of staff who enliven its culture.
Marie Dumais, Camberwell

The population problem
In discussing Waleed Aly’s article ‘‘Get to the root of the mess’’ (Comment, 26/12), Pamela Bores (Letters, 28/12) could not have identified the issue of overpopulation better than by saying it ‘‘screamed out’’ at her as missing from the article that otherwise was excellent in its coverage of the effects of humans on the planet.

The problem is that population growth is a sacred cow, not to be mentioned despite the fact that it is at the root of our problems, including those described by Aly.

Reasons may be that the dogma of growth, including population growth, is entrenched in our psyche. It forms the basis of our current economic model that maintains increasing growth and material possession leads to more jobs and to a better quality of life. Furthermore, reproduction has been a key part of some religious practices with much opposition to birth control until relatively recently.

These factors that have blinded us to the perils of overpopulation deserve discussion and debate.
Leigh Ackland, Deepdene

This could be a template
Rita Thorpe, (Letters, 29/12), your new year wish list for a better and more compassionate Australia highlights our main shortcomings as a nation and could provide a template for policies for a brave and forward-thinking contender at the next federal election.

There have been important lessons learnt this year about thinking of new ways to solve problems and just maybe this could lead to some innovative and science-based solutions to our present raft of intractable national policy failures.
Rhonda McCaw, Kew

This was not my experience
Serene Teffaha’s claim that hotel quarantine ‘‘lacks empathy’’ and a class action will ensue (The Age, 29/12) is not my experience. I am in day 10 of hotel quarantine in Adelaide after returning from London.

From the moment we stepped off the plane the process has been professional, respectful and caring by SA police, SA Health and the hotel. Daily phone calls to check on our wellbeing, mental and physical, chats with the SA health nurse about what we are reading and Netflix suggestions, and daily quizzes and challenges set by the hotel have made us feel secure and comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong. It is a hard slog but a necessary one to keep the horrors of what we experienced in the UK at bay.
Sandra Bennett, Hotel Grand Chancellor, Adelaide, SA

It’s close to crunch time
If I was being told by medical and scientific experts my lifestyle choices and/or profession were damaging my health and potentially that of future generations, not to mention the planet, I’d like to think I’d be courageous enough to make the necessary changes for the greater good?

It is nearing crunch time for the planet – can the courageous politicians and business leaders please stand up.
Timothy Phillips, Coburg

Terms of reference
Jeff Kennett and Peter Beattie have called for an ‘‘educative’’ inquiry into the handling of the pandemic (‘‘Call for royal commission into handling of COVID-19’’, The Age, 29/12).

Perhaps, apart from analysis of the financial impact, this inquiry could also include a look into some aspects of our unpreparedness such as Kennett’s closure of the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in 1996.
Helen Kamil, Caulfield South

You all shine brightly
My congratulations to every year 12 student who completed this year. You are so much more than your score. Morning TV shows and morning radio were full of the hype of VCE results this week but only the ‘‘best-scoring’’ students seemed to be interviewed.

While I am so happy for their high scores (in some cases perfect scores), I ask that we spare a thought for those students who did their best but perhaps did not get anywhere close to this result. Success comes in so many forms. In our household, success was doing the best you could while you had a father in jail and an anxiety disorder, and there are no doubt other students who had worse circumstances than what we did.

Every single one of you is a success and I congratulate every one of you. Your stars all shine brightly
Name withheld

The real winner
Cricket is a great leveller. Poor fielding and an inability to build an innings by the Australians and great leadership by the Indian captain were the deciders in the Melbourne Test.

But in my mind the real winner was Melbourne and the MCG. The wicket and ground were a credit to the grounds people, the crowd supportive of both teams and the weather just perfect for cricket.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North

This is a bad idea
Does anyone seriously believe that allowing overseas seasonal workers to quarantine on-farm, effectively on trust, would not risk coronavirus outbreaks throughout the state (‘‘Farmers’ crop hopes wilt in hot air between MPs’’, The Age, 30/12)?

The Victorian Farmers Federation is only thinking through its pocket, regardless of the consequences outside the farm gate.
Garry Meller, Bentleigh

The climate for economy
Sam Roggeveen states that it is understandable that no government will sacrifice the economy for the sake of saving the environment from climate change (‘‘This year was not all bad’’, Comment, 29/12).

It is not understandable, it is totally irrational. Economies and the environment are not mutually exclusive. Economies have a direct reliance on a habitable planet so if the climate fails, economies will fail with it.
Paul Miller, Box Hill South


The new year
I will have stayed up until midnight on New Year’s Eve just to make sure that 2020 really does leave.
Kerry Lewis, Williamstown


Welcome to the new decade.
Mary Walker, Richmond

Good riddance to 2020 but will 2021 be any better?
Susan Munday, Bentleigh East

The pandemic
NSW’s rolled gold is beginning to look a lot like tinsel.
Frank Stipic, Mentone

I assume Peta Credlin is rushing to Sydney to interrogate Gladys Berejiklian.
Robyn Lovell, Epping

Somebody in Sydney is not doing the right thing.
David Brabet, Carlton North

Surely Gladys Berejiklian is breaking the Liberal Party rules in not using fear to political advantage.
Joan Segrave, Healesville

Will the Prime Minister and fellow ministers be referring to the outbreak in Victoria as the “NSW virus”?
George Reed, Wheelers Hill

One positive in 2020 has been amortising the price of the house over its vastly increased hourly use – it’s starting to look like a good buy.
Heather Barker, Albert Park

Paying the pickers
Visa-dependant backpackers are paid a pittance for back-breaking work. Overseas fruit and vegetable pickers wouldn’t be needed if sufficient remuneration was provided locally
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Tackling COVID-19 without a face mask makes as much sense as facing up to world-class fast bowling without a helmet; I wonder if the NSW Premier would suggest this should be the conditions for the upcoming Test and what Richie would’ve said.
Michael Cowan, Wheelers Hill

Summer in Melbourne: Winter with longer days.
Helen Moss, Croydon

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