The government must help our stranded Australians

Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson

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The government must help our stranded Australians

My daughter has worked in the UK for two years and, in May, booked a flight home for June as her visa was expiring. She has now had four economy seats on flights cancelled, three with Qatar and one with Emirates. In desperation she has paid for a premium economy flight for late September. She has had to move from her flat, have friends give her a bed for a few weeks and is now trying to find somewhere else to stay. She is very anxious as are many Aussies overseas trying to get ‘‘home’’.

The UK government has extended their visas for one month at a time but this does not help those who are stranded without a job, have to pay rent and food, and do not know how long they will wait for a flight. If our government is not going to let stranded Aussies return home for several months, could it please ask for longer extensions on working visas so they can seek temporary or extended work, whilst waiting for months to get a flight. Even though they may have a ‘‘confirmed’’ booking, it will be cancelled so airlines can charge business or first class fares. The anxious wait could be for many more months.
Dianne Posthuma, Bentleigh East

Is this too much to tolerate in a state of disaster?

Anne Summers in New York and Nicola Philp in Australia (Comment, 21/8) point out some of the problems Australians are facing because of travel restrictions. Both seek sympathy. ‘‘I can’t tell you how it feels’’ are Summers' opening words. She goes on to tell us exactly how it feels – ‘‘bitter experience’’ and so on. Philp’s article is less self-indulgent, offering sympathy for those who cannot mourn in traditional ways. But neither acknowledges the situation we are in; in Victoria, an official state of disaster and elsewhere, a state of emergency.

Have there ever been disasters and emergencies on this scale that have not caused distress and discomfort, constrained and inconvenienced millions of people? So might we, more constructively, understand and offer sympathy, but also urge people to harden up a little? Disasters cause grief.

So Summers' friend in New York has lost her job and visa, is faced with bills for living and something close to an impossible task to get a ticket home. But she still has communication channels, access to friends and food, and probably shelter and credit. This is not as it was for World War II refugees, nor for today’s residents and refugees in war-ravaged countries. And the lucky and privileged ones? We have to stay home, mask-up, social distance and manage without our usual friends and hugs. Is it too much to tolerate in this time of disaster?
David Myer, South Melbourne

Long, anxious wait for loved ones to return

I agree with Anne Summers that some regulation of airline fees for returning expats and an orderly queue process for airport access needs to be established, and traveller quotas need to be increased. My daughter is booked on a flight to Sydney in October and her dog is due to be transported to Melbourne on a cargo flight. I should be rejoicing that she is returning home after living in the United States for five years. Instead I am filled with fear. What if the flight is cancelled on the day of travel? She will have packed up her New York life and will be in transit in another US city, knowing no one. What if my daughter flies out but the dog is left stranded? I try to stay positive. Just another layer of COVID-19-induced anxiety.
Philippa Bailey, Kawarren

Problem with our legal right to ‘come home’

If the law concerning the right of citizens to return to their own country is as simple as Anne Gallagher (Comment, 21/8) suggests then, presumably, lawyers acting for Australians stranded overseas will take action against the Commonwealth and win. However, such outcomes seem unlikely. International law is high on principle but low on practicality because it lacks the key requirements of an effective legal system. It is poorly understood, regularly ignored and difficult to enforce. In current circumstances, the Victorian law requiring the wearing of face masks is far more powerful than the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills


A balanced approach

Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer says the stage-four lockdown will not ease until we see daily cases in the ‘‘single digits or even low double digits’’ (The Age, 21/8). As a frustrated GP, I am working to stop suicides from escalating and seeing delayed cancer diagnoses. One patient had a heart attack at home as he was too scared to go to hospital. We have seen increased mortality in aged care homes, something we should be ashamed of as we had prior warning from Europe’s experience.

As these numbers drop off, theexcess mortality, hospitalisations and ICU COVID-19 occupancy should be the driver of our public measures. Promises of a free vaccine when we have no idea that it will be effective, safe or purely a mitigation measure are premature. We need sensible measures and a balanced approach otherwise we will be heading out of our pandemic and into the psychosis of casedemic.
Dr Nicola Doyle, Ascot Vale

Use our common sense

Surely by now we know enough about this virus that we can all use a little common sense when it comes to border crossings. I cannot see how someone who lives on one side of the border but can see the other side from their backyard (The Age, 21/8) needs to be refused entry, especially if the area they are in has had no COVID-19 cases. What are they bringing in, apart from economic recovery? One size fits all does not work.
David Jeffery, East Geelong

Let’s unite Australia

But we are not free, our borders are closed both internally and externally. Politically motivated state leaders are making a mockery of our once proud nation.We are not in this together and never will be while federal and state governments share power under the auspices of our Constitution, circa 1900.
The biggest post-coronavirus change this country needs is to have one united government leading us forward with all of our citizens’ interests in mind – think New Zealand. Can Australia ever advance to be fair?
Gary Williams, Surrey Hills

Who needs the states?

If we had abolished the states, as suggested by former governor-general Sir Ninian Stephen many years ago, we would not have the current border closures – for better or worse.
Stephen Whiteside, Northcote

So grand final is OK?

How ironic. The Queensland Premier says her state’s hospitals are only for Queenslanders. And yet she is desperate to have the grand final in her state. Does that mean she requires it to be played by the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast? If that is the case, the AFL may as well not bother with the difficulties involved in continuing with this season
Bill Matthewson, Doncaster East

No smoking outdoors

Last week the Spanish government banned smoking in outdoor spaces when a distance of at least two metres cannot be maintained. The Health Minister cited research suggesting droplets contained in exhaled smoke can spread the coronavirus. There is also concern it can be spread after smokers remove their masks and touch their mouths while placing cigarettes there.

But in Victoria people can take their masks off (to smoke) without any social distancing. Each time I venture out to shop for food or walk my dog, I get smoke blown in my face. Smokers light up while waiting at traffic lights and sit at tram stops blowing smoke over passers by. They walk along streets while smoking. Perhaps we should go further than Spain and introduce a total ban on smoking in outdoor spaces during this pandemic.
Erica Cervini, Prahran

Count your blessings

David Maunders (Letters, 19/8) has had cancelled two fully-paid, interstate trips, has a cruise in doubt and has not visited his beach house in months. Perhaps he could reflect on his life and how different the lives of the next generation will be post-pandemic, and with a looming climate crisis further eroding their hopes of a bright future.
Kerry Rieve, Brighton

Excuses good for a laugh

In these sombre times, it has been the source of some humour to hear the excuses provided to police by people breaking curfew. Some have been Pythonesque and have made me laugh out loud. Out to buy an aquarium for a pet frog or going to care for goats in the middle of the night were two of the best.

Victoria Police should compile a weekly list of the oddest, or most novel, excuses and The Age should publish them so we can have a giggle to remove some of the tension we are feeling. Jim Pavlidis could complement the best excuse with one of his wonderful art works.
Catherine Healy, Brighton

Living with the virus

The flaw in Professor Patrick Charles’ thesis – ‘‘Letting virus run easier said than done’’ (Comment, 21/8) – is that the majority of countries, including most of Europe, are learning to live with it without a stage four-style lockdown and without catastrophic consequences.
Peter Rushen, Carnegie

The power of access

Congratulations to the Melbourne International Film Festival on the success of its online delivery (The Age, 21/8). There is some talk of MIFF 68 being a stand-in for the ‘‘real’’ festival that usually takes place. Yet for the many film buffs living with illness and disability who can never attend MIFF in its ‘‘real’’ form, the opportunity to participate from home has been transformative. Perhaps the impressive ticket sales speak to the power of access.
Emma Sutherland, Camberwell

And the costs go up

No pension rise this time because of ‘‘deflation’’. Has anyone checked their power bills lately? In sharp contrast, pensions continue to be chopped back by ridiculously high deeming percentages, despite near zero interest rates. Heating costs have doubled this winter, so disability and age pensioners have lost essential income big time. Doubtless a pay cut for politicians will be announced soon, to share the pain.
Peter Freckleton, Hampton

Pollies must share pain

The Future Fund was set up in 2006 to generate income to pay the superannuation entitlements of politicians, judges, military and other public sector employees of the federal government. Its source of funds from 2006 to 2008 came from government surpluses and the proceeds from the sell-off of Telstra. As Philip Witherow (Letters, 20/8) comments, if it is good enough for the rest of us to have super contributions attributed at 9.5per cent of our salaries, then that should be good enough for our pollies (rather than their 15.4per cent). Aren’t we ‘‘all in this together’’?.
Shirley Molloy, Shepparton

A natural-born leader

Michelle Obama’s powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention was captivating. She articulates the need for Americans to adopt empathy, a trait she no doubt perceives is lacking under the current administration. She wants Americans to not only ‘‘feel’’ but ‘‘do’’. The world has seen a similarly inspirational leader in Jacinda Ardern. We can only hope Michelle Obama overcomes her dislike of politics and takes up an active leadership role in the US government.
Denise Toomey, Chelsea

A last loss of ‘faith’

Although a lapsed Catholic and atheist, I have always held a sense of affection for the church. Reading the article about Father Glen Walsh’s 2016 papal visit – ‘‘Pope quizzed whistle-blower priest’’ (The Age, 19/8) – has killed that stone dead.
Patrice McCarthy, Bendigo

Same old, same old

This is not the first time Australia has been in a diplomatic stand-off with China. In the 1950s and 60s, we refused to recognise mainland China as the legitimate representative of China at the UN Security Council. Diplomatic relationships were not re-established until December 1972. At that time, China was a major market for our wool and wheat. Now it is iron ore and coal.
Peter Connell, Highett


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Life matters

Does Qantas’ underlying pre-tax profit of $124million include my $3000 it hasn’t returned?
Paul Custance, Highett

What happened to Zits cartoon (21/8)?
Carol Shelbourn, Brighton

Consign Swamp to its namesake. Zits rule.
Jonathan Emes, Ballarat Central

Vale Zits. We will miss our son, sorry, Jeremy, very much.
Glenn Murphy, Hampton Park

Lord Mayor Sam Newman? It isn’t a rumour. It’s a joke.
John Bye, Elwood


Going crazy home alone. Please let me visit one relative or friend without having to be intimate with them.
Merryn Boan, Brighton

Books only circulate within our small community. Allow our library to open for the sake of our mental health.
Vivienne Whitehead, Eagle Point

Perhaps now the federal government can see what a folly it was to crucify the CSIRO’s funding.
Lorelle Denham, Beaufort

The common utterance from CEOs: ‘‘I understand the current situation but …’’
Phil Mackenzie, Eaglemont

Qld, NSW and SA premiers have a borderline problem with their farmers.
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

Will Annastacia and Gladys open their borders when they need cyclone or bushfire relief?
Lesley Black, Frankston

Those emails about ‘‘making money while you sleep’’ are true. Sign up to be a quarantine security guard.
David O’Reilly, Park Orchards

Active cases have dropped by more than 2000 since Wednesday (21/8). What do we get from O’Brien? The usual carping.
John Cain, McCrae


I learned ‘‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’’ at primary school. The Donald is too little to understand it.
Martin Shaw, Mirboo North

Trump’s poster boy for authoritarianism, Putin, is at it again, this time seeking to silence Alexei Navalny.
Ben Witham, Warrnambool

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