Why not make Cartier watches findings public?
25th December 2020

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ACCOUNTABILITY

Why not make the Cartier watches findings public?

The Morrison government, after undertaking to release the findings of the review into Australia Post’s expenses culture, has now said the report will be kept secret (‘‘Cartier report to stay under wraps’’, The Age, 22/12).

The Australian Financial Review has reported Christine Holgate was completely exonerated by the review, finding she had not breached any rule, policy, procedure or governance requirement, a fact not disputed by the Communications Minister’s office.

Holgate had discretion to reward staff, unfettered by government. So why not make the findings public? That’s an easy one … to save the Prime Minister from profound embarrassment after his overblown diatribe against Holgate for her gift of watches to senior staff, including his demand she stand aside, ‘‘and if she doesn’t wish to do that, she can go’’. So humiliating for Holgate.
Neil Hudson, East Melbourne

The art of deflection on display
It seems clear that the unpublished review into Australia Post’s expenses culture has found that Christine Holgate has not breached any rule, policy, procedure or governance requirement.

But she has broken the law: Scott’s lore that decrees that when he’s under extreme pressure, as in his government’s abject failure to properly fund and regulate aged care homes, he must be able to deflect blame by hyping up some minor issue as a distraction from their poor performance.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham

Standard government practice
The hypocrisy of Communications Minister Paul Fletcher is gobsmacking, although it is in complete congruence with the standard practice of his government.

Despite saying he would release the report into the so-called Cartier watch affair at Australia Post, he’s now keeping it secret. Yet he repeatedly leaks ‘‘private’’ communications with his other key organisation, the ABC, before the latter can even consider same. Furthermore, he and his colleagues expect the ABC to release all aspects of an internal review of peripheral aspects of its coverage of the previous federal election.

What a cheek you have, minister.
Royce Bennett, Baxter

Australia deserves better
We shouldn’t be too critical of soon to be ex-President Trump for his slew of pardons to cronies and party hacks. Our Prime Minister seems more than happy to pardon many ministers in his government despite their repeated failures and lack of accountability.

Alan Tudge, Christian Porter, Angus Taylor and Richard Colbeck would not still hold any ministerial responsibilities (let alone be promoted) in past federal governments not that long ago. Under Scott Morrison, standards of ministerial responsibility have not just slipped; they have plummeted. If the government is answerable to the Australian people, we deserve better than to be governed by people whose very integrity is compromised.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris

Clever politics, but lacking leadership
As with Victoria, the outbreak of the virus in Sydney’s northern beaches has seen Scott Morrison remaining at arm’s length from the emerging problem.

He probably figures that he and his government will be absolved from responsibility if things really go pear-shaped. It may be a clever political strategy but it certainly lacks leadership.
Phil Alexander, Eltham

Selective scrutiny
I can understand some Victorians or sections of the media wanting Daniel Andrews to resign due to the bungled hotel quarantine program and subsequent deaths.

I am puzzled that Scott Morrison is not under the same scrutiny with the robodebt scandal, Ruby Princess, lack of national quarantine planning, last summer’s bushfire mismanagement or Richard Colbeck with aged care.
Simon McCuskey, Footscray

THE FORUM

A study in contrasts
Shaun Carney suggests that Daniel Andrews might need to reflect on his leadership style (‘‘Nothing lasts forever in politics’’, Comment, 23/12). All good leaders should do that from time to time. However, I am currently in Sydney visiting family and note stark differences in leadership style between him and Gladys Berejiklian.

Whether you love or hate Dan Andrews, the reality is he fronts up, he gives clear directions, he answers questions, even when people might not like the answers. He admits mistakes.

The NSW Premier is holding daily press conferences but always leaves before all the journalists ask their questions. It is possible to listen to the whole press conference and still not be clear about what should be done to stop the spread.

Few people are wearing masks when shopping and restaurants and hotels still look crowded. While it is good to see so many people coming forward for testing, and the numbers of new cases stabilising, the reality is that, despite their ‘‘gold standard’’ contact tracing, they are still unable to identify the initial source of the latest outbreak.
Marg D’Arcy, Rye

Who are the alternatives?
Twice this week two of your contributors (‘‘Andrews’ grit commendable but challenges loom’’, Jon Faine, Comment, 24/12) and Shaun Carney (‘‘Nothing lasts forever in politics’’, Comment, 23/12) have in quite different but thoughtful ways raised questions about the political viability of Premier Daniel Andrews.

Faine says he would not survive a third COVID wave, which could be triggered by upcoming challenges including major sporting events (the Australian Open?) and Carney says that, like all strong political leaders, Andrews has reached his moment of reckoning. Both contributors see no danger to Andrews from Liberals led by Michael O’Brien.

Neither suggests who in the Labor Party could succeed. Clear contenders are the Leader of the House and Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan and Deputy Premier and Education Minister James Merlino.
Paul Ormonde, Northcote

The root of the problem
Had police been used for hotel quarantine, they too would have been doing shifts and travelling to and fro between homes and various job remits across Melbourne. The core problem is in using hotels, which are unfit for purpose.

It was appalling judgment to pull down Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital. We need to rebuild hospitals and specifically designed quarantine centres.
Julie Conquest, Brighton

Reserve powers
So, the Australian Defence Force has higher priorities at the moment and cannot assist the Victorian government with border control.

There is another option. Thousands of Australians take part in our Army Reserve program. Regularly trained to assist in times of emergency for local and overseas assignments, they can help communities when disasters strike.

A disaster, COVID-19, has struck Australia and the rest of the world. It appears it is time to mobilise our Army Reserve. Businesses and the community would support the release of Army Reservists for this. State governments would have extra trained personnel on the ground.
Saving lives along with our economy is a worthwhile use of our Army Reserve.
Alan Johnson, Surrey Hill

They can manage this
It’s time Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt acknowledged that being old doesn’t mean being incapable of running your own affairs. My 91-year-old mother prepares all her bills to the dollar for payment, knows the price of all her staples and their competitors, cooks every day and is still a valuable member of her community.

It took more than a year to get her first home care package and it’s now time for it to be upgraded to the next level, which no doubt will take as long. Home care packages also attract exorbitant fees, which is unconscionable.

I agree with Pauline Duncan (Letters, 24/12). Recipients are capable of managing their own home care packages without third parties depriving them of their rightful benefit.
Sue Tsalanidis, Mount Martha

Despicable policy
There must be a better alternative to the indefinite mandatory detention of refugee arrivals by boat (Letters, 23/12).

This despicable policy, which treats human beings as human shields and sports with their lives simply to send a signal to ill-informed hopefuls and would-be smugglers, is a blot on Australia’s honour. Whatever the risks we cannot continue in this callously cruel practice and pretend to be justified. Our national virtue is at stake, to say nothing of our reputation.

There are many ways borders can be secured while finding quiet release, especially for those held for extended terms. If only those in power could swallow their pride and fear of power loss, stop wedging the opposition and put in place an Aussie way out of a national disgrace. Or are we too far gone?
Alastair Pritchard, Templestowe

Put the experts in charge
Having worked decades ago in a maritime body as a UK civil servant for 15 years, the administrator/expert dichotomy revealed by the reports quoted by Jon Faine rang immediately true with me (Comment, 24/12).

Luckily we had experts at the top of the organisation and in the field (master mariners). But it was easy to see that if left to us administrators, mistakes of judgment could easily occur.
Clearly neither administrators, even with degrees in hospital administration, nor politicians are qualified to override medical officers, and to exclude them from key decisions in situations like we’ve had here is professional negligence at the very least.

From news reporting during the worst of the pandemic here it was clear also that too many departmental people were involved with designing and executing the moves. Add to that political pressures and no wonder mistakes were made.
Anthony Whitmarsh, Viewbank

Why mention her age?
You mention the age, 37, of Emma Hendry, an ex-CEO claiming that a campaign of sexual harassment and bullying forced her out of her $6 million property company (‘‘Investors harassed me, says ex-CEO’’, The Age, 24/12). But there is no mention of the age of the men alleged to have harassed and bullied her. There is no mention of age discrimination.

Why was is felt necessary to mention Ms Hendry’s age, and only hers? This is no less sexist than describing women’s clothing, while ignoring men’s, or qualifying Jacinda Ardern as a female prime minister. It is simply more subtle.
Anne Rutland, Brunswick West

A pathetic situation
How pathetic is a situation where overseas airlines threaten to boycott Melbourne (‘‘Airlines threaten to abandon Melbourne over COVID-19 test requirement’’, The Age online, 24/12) because of this city’s tougher stance on isolation of airline crews?

Why does the federal government not establish stringent rules that prevent airlines from cherry picking lenient airports during this crisis?
Russell Harrison, Sandringham

Crunching the numbers
There is no doubt the Commonwealth has performed badly in its funding and supervision of aged care places, but the attempt by some people to shift the blame for the disastrous state government management of the pandemic to the Commonwealth is not supported by the data (Letters, 24/12).

There have been 820 COVID-19 deaths in Victoria, of which 655 (80 per cent) were in aged care, but just 88 deaths in the rest of Australia combined. Even the Victorian non-aged care deaths of 165 is near twice the total number of deaths in the rest of Australia.

Had Victoria achieved control like the rest of Australia did, we might have expected total deaths in Victoria to be about 32, with deaths in aged care reduced proportionally to 25 – not the actual 655, and seven non-aged-care deaths instead of the 165.

By my reckoning that leaves about 630 excess aged-care deaths and 158 excess non-aged care deaths attributable to the inexcusable incompetence of the state government.
Thomas Hogg, East Melbourne

Own your own decisions
In early March, at the start of the first wave of the pandemic, I was in London on the first week of a two-month European holiday.

It was clear even back then that we needed to get back to Australia quickly while it was still possible; we didn’t want to be stranded far from home and family as the pandemic inevitably spread worldwide. This cost us thousands of dollars in cancelled flights and accommodation, but our health and wellbeing were far more important.

I must admit I am getting a bit sick of reading about people who have chosen to stay overseas through the pandemic and now expect the government to bring them home when flights continue to get cancelled due to the pandemic.

We are all responsible for the decisions we make.
David Parker, Geelong

What a waste
It is really petrifying to learn that we as a nation spend millions of dollars for the gifts that we throw in the rubbish bin (‘‘Taking the fun out of giving’’, Comment, 23/12).

What could be a more imprudent act than this? There are millions of people around the world who cannot afford to buy even medicine. What about adopting a system and cultivating a habit to buy medicine or clothes for needy ones as gifts for them.

This will bolster our ethical standards and our cash will not be trash any more.
Shiva Neupane, Macleod

AND ANOTHER THING

Politics
How about putting Christ back in Christmas, Scott Morrison, and freeing the medevac refugees and returning the Biloela family to Biloela?
Susan Munday, Bentleigh East

Credit:

Coming soon, a new comedy Pardon Me starring Donald Trump.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North

President Trump’s award to Scott Morrison would seem to be as relevant to the real world as Tony Abbott’s knighthood to Prince Philip.
Bill Pimm, Mentone

The award is worse than meaningless (Letters 24/12); it’s embarrassing. Stick it in a bottom drawer, Scott.
Claire Merry, Wantirna

The PM could wear his US Legion of Merit for ‘‘addressing global challenges…’’ to COP26 in Glasgow to give the delegates some light relief.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Barnaby Joyce claims that the ‘‘white-collar, urban workforce’’ can’t understand trade (‘‘Joyce takes aim over trade moves’’, The Age, 24/12). Doesn’t that sound like a job description for a federal parliamentarian?
Bob Twyford, Campbells Creek

Government services: downsizing and outsourcing – the prefixes say it all.
Ron Wilkes, Highton

Border patrols
Is there any correlation between the fact that Victoria and Queensland have Labor governments and the fact that they cannot get ADF assistance?
Marie Nash, Balwyn

The cricket
Christmas wish: a five-day Test match. Aah, those were the days.
Michael Cowan, Wheelers Hill

Furthermore
Greg Bailey got it right (Letters, 24/12). Cleaners are poorly paid for doing most important work, particularly in hospitals. They deserve realistic income for keeping us clean.
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

Finally
Hooray for the kind and thoughtful Cecilia Chuah and her family (‘‘Help for homeless hits the spot’’, The Age, 23/12). When so much seems dismal, she lights the world with great goodness.
Deborah Rogers, Seaton

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