Importantly, given the scale and gravity of these alleged offences, Australia must invest in anti-corruption bodies (as suggested by Faine) that are properly resourced and independent, to hold all power holders to account where there is an abuse of power and to stymie the flagrant misuse of public monies to preserve individual reputations.
Australia owes that to the brave whistleblowers who have been ‘‘monstered by Federal Police’’ and who have gone out on a (precarious) limb in the public interest. Jelena Rosic, Mornington
A stunning wake-up call US President-elect Joe Biden’s appointment of John Kerry as the US’s climate envoy, to be at the centre of White House decision making, should be a stunning wake-up call to members of the federal Coalition.
The climate change denialism promoted vigorously by Tony Abbott when he was prime minister has, as his critics foretold, led this nation into a dangerous cul-de-sac. Europe, led by Angela Merkel’s Germany, has in recent years forged ahead with wind farms and solar energy plants as a staple across regions like Bavaria. Norway surges ahead with electrified cars and France and conservative-ruled Great Britain are leading the war against carbon emissions.
Kerry is Australia’s great hope and potential ally in rejecting the economic and ethical damage wrought by the cynical denialists. Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza
Negative reinforcement I wonder if Mathias Cormann’s carbon footprint, instead of enhancing his chances, will prove the stumbling block to his coveted role at the helm of the OECD?
Jetting around Europe only reinforces Australia’s poor record on climate action, which is hard to repair with rhetoric. Cate Lewis, Clifton Hill
Perhaps the problem is that, since the advent of Jeff Kennett, Tony Abbott, et al, people understand only too well what the Liberal Party stands for. Leonie Millar, Ripponlea
Hammer it home If everyone from the NSW Premier to a SA pizza-shop employee fails to understand when isolation is required and can’t follow simple rules, what hope is there for the average quarantine security guard, let alone members of the general public?
The message must get through. It’s clearly time for grass-roots education in basic common sense, or else we’ll all be back to square one. Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale
Discordant impression While as Australians we should all applaud the quiet diplomacy that has led to the release of Melbourne academic Kylie Gilbert-Moore from the harsh conditions of an Iranian jail after 804 days’ imprisonment, Scott Morrison’s enthusiastic public basking in her recent freedom, and his deliberations about human rights, unfortunately, evoke a distinctly discordant impression.
This is the man who, beginning as immigration minister in the Abbott government, has been centrally implicated in the long-term detention of boat-arriving asylum seekers, some detained for more than eight years now, and some of whom had originally fled the Iranian regime.
This is the man who has overseen the punitive isolation of one Sri Lankan family on Christmas Island, for more than a year and continuing, after they had successfully integrated into a Queensland regional community, and this is the man who, when social services minister, oversaw the creation of the government’s appalling robo-debt scandal that falsely charged thousands of very vulnerable Australians receiving pensions or unemployment benefits, needlessly generating great distress among many of these citizens. Michael Faulkner, Toora
Hard work ahead Euphoria set in on Friday as we were officially declared to be COVID-19 free. Self-congratulations ranged across the community. We achieved together, through sacrifice, a rare victory in the world.
We deserve to party, have a holiday, enjoy friends and relatives, to see each other full-face without masks. But soon we should put in context what is known as post-disaster euphoria, a result of shared survival, common across bushfires, earthquakes and end of wars.
We should prepare for the next long phase of reconstruction. This includes recognition of what has been destroyed and lost: people, health, and family and economic infrastructures. Grieving them and replacement with new equilibriums, even if sometimes better than pre-disaster ones, is difficult and frustrating.
This is when pent-up suffering and exposed fault lines manifest in increased mental health issues, psychosomatic illness and social tensions.
Understanding and being prepared for this phase can ameliorate its noxious effects. Paul Valent, South Yarra.
The west has helped Your correspondent (Letters, 27/11) may not ‘‘give a rat’s’’ about Western Australia. It’s probably fortunate for the nation, however, that the impact of WA’s continuing economic activity during Victoria’s lengthy close-down has substantially lessened Australia’s pain from COVID-19.
We might have hoped that a global pandemic was enough to dampen petty interstate sniping. In some quarters, apparently not. Rob Brown, North Coogee, WA
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.
It removes from our streets and parks the most visible symbol of our COVID winter, signalling that although the pandemic still rages in Europe and America and future outbreaks are likely, we are where we want to be at the end of this wretched year.
It puts an end to the silliest of culture skirmishes – thankfully it never quite reached the stage of warfare here – about whether mandating masks outside was a reasonable public health precaution or an elastic strapped conspiracy against freedom.
It scraps the COVID restriction of weakest efficacy and re-focuses the public health response where we know the risk of viral spread is greatest: in hospitals and nursing homes, at family gatherings and in confined, indoor public spaces.
Since July 22 in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire and August 2 across the rest of Victoria, it has been mandatory to wear a mask outdoors. Anyone caught not wearing one, whether they were walking a deserted street or through empty parkland, could be fined $200.
It is unclear whether, in all that time, the wearing of masks outdoors prevented the spread of a single COVID case. Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton cannot say how many of the state’s 20,000 cases were transmitted outside or indeed, if any were.
“We have got very strong suspicions that the vast majority of our transmission has been within households and within workplaces,’’ he said. “We don’t have many examples of outdoor transmission and where it has been picked up, where there have been people in contact outdoors, they have also been in contact indoors.’’
Yet, despite the absence of data supporting the use of masks outdoors, they became an article of faith in Victoria’s response to its second wave.
The new regime, which comes into force on midnight Sunday, takes Victoria away from what public health expert Nathan Grills, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, calls “dumb masking’’ – a broader-than-necessary provision supported by neither epidemiology nor layman’s logic.
Epidemiologist and infectious disease experts such as Deakin University’s Catherine Bennett and Australian National University’s Peter Collignon have both argued that, given the negligible risk of contracting the virus from someone in the open air if you keep your distance from other people, the wearing of masks in those circumstances served no public health purpose.
In the UK, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies advises against the “excessive measure’’ of mandating their use outdoors. “It is critical that recommendations are seen to be based on the science and proportionate,’’ the group notes.
Professor Sutton and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews took the view that, however small the risk of outdoor transmission, it was not a big ask for people to wear a mask to mitigate it. The inconvenience of wearing a mask when walking the dog seemed trifling compared to economic, social and educational disruption caused by Victoria’s other COVID restrictions.
Victoria is now moving into line with jurisdictions like California, where masks are mandatory indoors but outside only when social distancing is not possible. Masks must still be carried outside in case the need arises.
For anyone uncertain about when to wear one, Mr Andrews offered a Bunnings analogy complete with “sausage rule’’: you must wear one inside the store, you don’t have to wear one in the parking lot but, if you get stuck in a queue for a snag, please put one on.
“Common sense drives this,’’ Mr Andrews said. “If you are outside in the open air and you believe you can keep your distance from people then you don’t need to wear it.”
Having gone three weeks without a new confirmed case, Victoria is on the brink of COVID normal. Professor Sutton believes all community transmission of the virus has ceased. The Premier flagged Christmas day gatherings of up to 30 people, a gradual return to the office and greater patronage for restaurants, cafes and pubs.
For many of us, the greatest returned pleasure is the simplest – walking outside and filling our lungs with fresh, free air.
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Chip Le Grand is The Age’s chief reporter. He writes about crime, sport and national affairs, with a particular focus on Melbourne.
So to get us out of stage four safely and in a way that Victorians will readily accept, risk controls must be specific, not generalised. A general approach that scoops everyone up in the same net is not sustainable, has vast costs and curbs liberties disproportionately. Risk controls need to be strong where we need them most, and less intrusive where we don’t. Otherwise, we’re cracking nuts with sledgehammers, increasing the chance of people not complying, and anger bubbling over to civil unrest.
Data and experience have shown where COVID-19 consequences are highest. We know seniors and those with chronic disease or compromised immune systems are most at risk. So it makes sense to have robust controls in place to protect them. If we can reduce the likelihood of the virus entering environments where these people live, or are being treated, by limiting visitors and being strict about who can visit, and when, we will protect our most vulnerable.
In our hospitals and aged care facilities, personal protection equipment and adherence to strict infection control protocols must remain.
Data and experience have also shown us that COVID-19 spreads quickly between those who live in close quarters and share amenities such as lifts. It’s a lot cheaper – and easier – to restrict numbers in each lift, provide hand sanitiser, and clean rails and lift buttons after each use than it is to take away personal freedoms. By cheaper, I am not just referring to the financial cost, but the cost to mental health and wellbeing. It’s sensible and proportionate.
For Victorians who are fit and healthy, the cost to livelihoods, business, jobs, and mental health means that the risk controls on personal freedoms also need to be sensible and proportionate. And trust needs to exist in the relationship between government and the people. We know that contracting COVID-19 has both short term and long term consequences, so a new COVID normal is what’s needed.
One where people can exercise for however long they want and where they can run down to the shops after 8pm. Where families and friends can see each other, albeit in fewer numbers than some would like.
Low and medium risk workplaces need to resume with their COVID risk plan in place – masks, social distancing, hand sanitiser on tap and clear directives about staying home if unwell and getting tested.
While the state government has flagged it’s currently working on a long-overdue plan to reopen business; it needs to be careful of a generalist approach. A traffic light system might sound easy, however we know many businesses don’t fit the cookie-cutter standard. Tourism and restaurants need people back, and there’s no reason that they can’t resume with directed checks and balances in place.
While hand sanitiser and social distancing are the way of the future, we will still need masks indoors in public and where social distancing can’t be assured. We know the drill and are used to it now. We need a return to community policing. Local cops know their turf, and together with our defence forces they can quickly prevent large groups congregating. We need proactive policing rather than reactive.
And if people want to ride their bike for 30 kilometres, they should be allowed. Common sense needs to return. And sensible restrictions need to be backed with education – at school, in the community, on social media and television. When people understand why, they are more likely to comply.
The conversation about how COVID risk will be managed into the future needs to start now. Not in a week, or over the next few, but now. The sooner it happens, the sooner we can get on with our lives.
Dee Ryall is a risk and governance specialist and former state member of Parliament.
Lockdown is hardly a state control ploy If federal Treasurer Frydenberg really believes that ‘‘Victorians need hope. We need to hear more about the road out, than a longer road in’’, then he has to stop pretending that the economy can be planned and opened up as if COVID-19 doesn’t exist. He is adding to the stress of many suggesting that the lockdown is a ploy by the Victorian government to exert undue control.
There can be no relaxation until the outbreak is under control, then road maps out can appear. Treasurer Frydenberg is fomenting dissatisfaction for political purposes and giving oxygen to conspiracy theorists. Attend to your own failings first and stop the dog whistling Mr Frydenberg. Graeme Thornton, Yallambie
Dealing with circumstances, not a calendar Federal and state Coalition politicians and their proxies are being disingenuous by demanding the Victorian government immediately provide a road map for COVID-19 reopening. Lifting of any restrictions is circumstance based and not date based. To be credible and to demonstrate they are not diverting attention from branch stacking and aged care failures, they must detail the circumstances under which they would ease/remove restrictions.
For instance, how many daily infections are tolerable, how many mystery infections are acceptable? Under what circumstances should schools reopen, numbers in indoor venues, which industries should reopen and how to contain any infections to these workplaces to prevent community spread and so on.
Given ‘‘ring-fencing’’ and ‘‘hotspot’’ management hasn’t seemed to have worked, they must detail if any future outbreaks should be merely managed with contact tracing, and as Scott Morrison has demanded ‘‘to hold our nerve’’ or instead impose lockdowns, new restrictions and border closures. Carlo Ursida, Kensington
Not good governance After pledging to remove red tape to facilitate business the Morrison government is now creating an extra layer of compliance by introducing legislation that can bar a ‘‘negotiation or arrangement’’ with a foreign entity that is ‘‘inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy’’. This is aimed at China but given the government’s own inconsistent policy towards China how can this work?
The Victorian government’s Belt and Road Initiative agreement with China is now on the nose but when it was signed in 2018 cabinet ministers spoke approvingly of it. Also, in 2017 the Turnbull government signed a similar, confidential deal, with China and as recently as 2019 Morrison said his government was ‘‘neutral’’ on the BRI. These inconsistencies are a result of Morrison making foreign policy decisions based on the pressure he is under in domestic politics. If foreign policy is created on the run it can potentially fluctuate from week to week. This is inefficient and unworkable, creates unnecessary red tape and is inconsistent with good governance. Peter Martina, Warrnambool
Divergent tax moves What a difference a day, or in this case a few pages and a change in hemisphere, makes. On yesterday’s front page we have the call by an Australian business lobby group to bring forward tax cuts (that favour higher income earners) ‘‘regardless of cost’’ and, it could be added, economic benefit (‘‘Business chiefs call for faster tax cuts’’, 31/8), while a few pages later we read that ‘‘Treasury officials in Britain are planning for tax hikes to plug holes blown in public finances by the coronavirus pandemic’’ (‘‘Treasury officials ‘pushing for tax hikes’’’, 31/8). Maurice Critchley, Kenthurst, NSW
Look to the future I am 79. Though I see the risks and sadnesses of coronavirus, I would rather see our leaders looking more to the future of our children and young people, and a bit less at the vulnerability of older people. History has shown that after a recession it is the young who can’t get jobs and who suffer.
We need to keep balancing the costs of the good intentions of lockdown, of testing and developing vaccines, with the costs of the effects: the loss of jobs; the lack of mobility; the lack of real social interactions; the loss to the arts and artists; the loss of freedoms thought essential to a democracy; the loss of fullness of life.
I see the lockdown has had benefits. But this is a plea now to look to the future and be cautious and thoughtful in extending the lockdown and in spending billions on efforts which may not succeed in preventing infections. Elsa Martin, Warrandyte
Clarity on China needed Shaun Carney (‘‘China veto is clothed in doubt’’, 31/8), exposes the federal government’s illogical anti-China campaign which threatens to undermine Australia’s post-COVID economic recovery. Viewing trade and educational relationships with an economic superpower as effectively dispensable makes no sense, especially as the given rationale – China’s poor human rights record and defence manoeuvres – has not been allowed to impair relations over a number of years. Indeed, Coalition supporters with long memories will remember how Robert Menzies prospered politically in the 1950s and 1960s due, in large part, to his pragmatic willingness to forge a trading alliance with so-called ‘‘Red China’’. More latterly, the lease given to China to control the Port of Darwin makes a mockery of the Morrison government’s pretensions to have a values-based foreign policy. Clarity is needed urgently. Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza
One amazing goal Just one goal kicked in the entire third quarter of the Collingwood-Carlton game and Bruce McAvaney tells us it has been a fabulous quarter of footy. Really. The commentary these days is as bad as the modern game itself. Greg Hardy, Upper Ferntree Gully
Give women a break Jennifer Duke (‘‘Female-focused recovery stimulus package needed’’, 31/8) describes multiple disadvantages suffered by female employees even before the pandemic, including salary disparity, parental leave, earning capacity and superannuation. Women are now over-represented in the casual and part-time workers ineligible for JobKeeper. In addition, those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 include aged care workers, nurses, retail and hospitality workers, all predominantly female occupations.
As Dr Chandra Shah of Monash University also highlights (‘‘Higher education reforms are missing the point’’, 31/8), there is a lack of foresight in the federal government’s proposed higher education reforms, which are also heavily biased against women. Society needs graduates in social sciences, history, economics and languages – the very arts subjects which women favour and that the government is cutting back and increasing fees. Clarice Ballenden, North Caulfield
Education as a cost The federal government proposals to increase university fees are likely to have many unintended consequences. While Fergus Hunter (‘‘Fee changes mean years of uni debt’’, 31/8) highlights the disproportionate impact on women this additional burden will entail, there are other broader negative long-term societal impacts: the potential for the additional costs of university education to further widen existing socio-economic and gender divisions.
For the past 50 years, university education has been a democratising force, offering one pathway for low-income, low socio-economic students up and out of multi-generational poverty. In addition, the proposed government legislation proposes to cherry-pick courses they deem as ‘‘job-relevant’’ by reducing fees for particular degrees.
The proposals, if passed, will consign some students to a working life shackled by student debt, impacting more heavily on those groups already marginalised and therefore least able to overcome the increased debts. David M. Kennedy, Balwyn North
An American dependency Russell Brims (Letters, 31/8), says Morrison will be on the road to greatness as a PM if he can stop foreign interference in Australia. The problem is that the greatest interference in Australia has come from the US – occupying spying facilities at Pine Gap, basing troops in the Northern Territory, dictating our defence policy, influencing our foreign policy and our voting in the UN on issues such as Palestine/Israel, Iran and of course China.
As Shaun Carney quotes US Conservative David Frum: ‘‘The Trump government’s unstated policy manifesto … Canada, Australia and Mexico should be treated as dependencies.’’
A truly independent Australia could be a mediator in pan-Pacific tensions. If instead we continue to be a ‘‘dependency’’ of America, we will be seen as an enemy by China. That is not a great idea at all. Danny Cole, Essendon
Chesty charm The PM’s hairy-chested defiance of China is, as Shaun Carney suggests, a dangerous game. One that may lose its appeal for Australian voters if a Chinese push back begins to further damage our pandemic-weakened economy.
If our greatest ally, the US, can find a way of co-operating with one of the world’s most brutal and misogynistic regimes – Saudi Arabia – then surely, we can find a way of getting along with China when so much is at stake. Patrice McCarthy, Bendigo
Hoping for a recovery To paraphrase the annointed ‘‘saviour’’ of our economic malaise: A recession is when your neighbour loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. A recovery is when Frydenberg loses his. Kim van den Berghe, Tolmie
Plain-speaking police How refreshing to hear Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius use down to earth relatable language to describe the minuscule minority of Victorians who subscribe to idea that COVID-19 is a conspiracy theory. The Assistant Commissioner’s exasperation with the ‘‘batshit crazy tin-foil hat-wearing brigade’’ was loud and clear. For the vast majority of hand washing, socially distancing, lockdown rule-abiding Victorians, the Assistant Commissioner gave us an opportunity for a real belly laugh.
Note to politicians and others in high-public profile positions; the use of plain English with strong embellishments is very welcome. Prue Blackmore, Carlton North
Pass the parcel There has been much criticism of Australia Post’s reduction of mail deliveries but little comment on the changes to collection times from letter boxes and post offices, from 6pm to 4pm, and in some cases to 12pm. Despite the widespread use of digital technology, most businesses still post mail and, once life opens up again, it is not practical for offices to have mail ready to post by 4pm.
Assuming that the explanation for this reduction in service would be the increased demand in parcel delivery, I was surprised when three postal workers each said, ‘‘No, it means we can go home earlier.’’ So is this another cost-saving exercise? Elizabeth Douglas, Melbourne
Arts creators ignored When did the word arts, as used frequently in the media, have the definition restricted to include only theatre and music performance? What happened to painting and sculpture and all the other artforms practised by individuals? The real art is in the creation. Without the creative part, done by writers and composers and others, there would be nothing to perform. The reason for my concern is that governments who want to support ‘‘the arts’’ now seem to restrict their support to this performance concept and ignore the real artists – the creators. Owen Rye, Boolarra South
AND ANOTHER THING …
Politics Morrison, the Trump mini-me wannabe? Denis Liubinas, Blairgowrie
OK Josh, you are behaving as if you know the answer. So, why not join Victoria’s Opposition Leader and explain to Premier Andrews the direction he should be moving in? Bruce Dudon, Woodend
Fortunately, Mr Frydenberg, it is not your job to keep Victorians safe. Ruben Buttigieg, Mount Martha
Stimulating the economy by reducing the restrictions imposed by lockdowns implies that the Coalition has a cut-off figure of daily deaths which it finds acceptable. Jack Lilley, Kennington
Can’t wait to get my MADA hat. Make America Divided Again. Tony Newport, Hillwood
It seems the answer to that ‘‘meaning of life’’ question is no longer 42. It’s now gas. Ian Wilkinson, Mount Martha
Coronavirus Rob Willis (Letters, 31/8), the bottles should go in the recycle bin. Try mixing these with your newspapers, cartons from online shopping and supermarket packaging. That should shut them up. John Marks, Werribee
I blame Gil and the AFL for none of us knowing what day it is. Does anyone know what round this is and what happened to just weekend football? Linton Edwards, Ivanhoe East
I have discovered a new use for face masks. Other drivers cannot decipher what you are mouthing at them when they cut you off. David Kitchen, Violet Town
Furthermore The last question you ask anyone in Russia: What’s your poison? Bill Trestrail, St Kilda
Ahh. That familiar chant from the business lobby groups. ‘‘What do we want? Tax cuts! When do we want them? Now!’’ Robert Niall, Fitzroy North
Finally As part of a Brexit trade deal could we export Pauline Hanson as well as a ‘‘two for the price for one’’ deal? Ruth Davis, Carrum
To submit a letter to The Age, email email@example.com. Please include your home address and telephone number.
Restrictions bearable as long as numbers fall Professor Duncan Maskell (‘‘Fallout worse than virus, says uni chief’’, 21/8) deplores people commenting on matters outside their area of expertise. He then immediately moves beyond his own knowledge of infectious diseases to comment on social and economic aspects of the lockdown where his opinion has no more credibility than that of any other educated person.
We are all suffering at the moment but in general are willing to wear these galling restrictions so long as we continue to see the daily numbers fall. We have seen what can be achieved in other states and NZ. It’s not a pipe dream. Peter Barry, Marysville
Peregrine falcons provide lockdown joy How delightful to see Melbourne’s favourite birds of prey again. The peregrine falcons nesting atop 367 Collins Street are back being live-streamed on their website, with clean, new nest boxes to lay eggs and raise their chicks in. Thanks to the Victorian Peregrine Project for its work on this charismatic species. We can look forward to many hours of unmissable viewing – a lovely prospect for those in this lockdown. Here’s hoping for a successful season. Debbie Lustig, Elsternwick
Lockdown use-by date fast approaching We are an undisciplined mob. We have had it too good, as a society, over the past 70 years and are not used to sacrifice and are unwilling to accept any form of dislocation to our mollycoddled lives. It is called selfishness.
Lockdowns and self-isolation have a definite use-by date in our society and in the electorate, as a result. Any government that does not recognise this is headed for the political garbage bin. Michael J. Gamble, Belmont
Play by the rules for a quicker recovery Lockdown should go for the full, regulated period. I live in a tourist area and when the first lockdown was lifted tourists came up in their droves, disregarding all social distancing rules. It was ridiculous seeing eateries only allowing the prescribed number of people on the premises to order takeaway while waiting patrons outside all huddled together. If everyone just plays by the rules, it will end sooner. Amanda Plater, Launching Place
Immunity freeloaders Two key points need to be made about the possibility of mandatory vaccination should a coronavirus vaccine become available. Yes, all vaccines carry the possibility of some side effects, usually very minor. It must be noted that herd immunity against any infectious disease has only ever been achieved through vaccination. Those refusing vaccination are therefore freeloaders who rely on others taking the very tiny risk in order to protect them and the community.
It is not that long ago that travel to most countries required one to carry a vaccination certificate. The vaccines required depended on the country one wished to visit. No vaccine, no entry. It was as simple as that and was an accepted aspect of international travel. Emeritus Professor Ben Adler, Department of Microbiology, Monash University
Mental health support I support Lesley Osenieks’ (Letters, 21/8) advocating for government-funded community mental health services, staffed by multidisciplinary teams. As a solo private provider, I have long seen the necessity for such a program – and advocated it.
There are in our community many people who struggle to maintain medication and form healthy long-lasting relationships, and who fall into all sorts of strife because of this. Although Better Access is not designed for nor sufficient for this demographic, they are frequently referred under it for lack of any alternative. The proposed community mental health centres could be the answer as long as they are adequately funded to attract and retain quality staff.
The NDIS offers another glimpse of hope, but getting the process rolling depends on considerable pro bono work on the part of solo providers who are often not consulted. An expansion of the Local Area Co-ordination Services’ capacity to handle these applications would be welcome, with the assessments being carried out by mental health professionals. Charlotte Brewer, accredited mental health social worker
Vehicle emission levels Would it not be a greater help to clean up the air if the federal government introduced a vehicle emissions standard, which has been studied for years? Instead it has been sitting on its hands. David Robertson, Wheatsheaf
Ban fruit stickers Stickers on fruit are not biodegradable. An apple is an apple and we know what an avocado is. Signage above fruit indicating variety means individual stickers are unnecessary. We learnt to live without plastic bags, so let’s petition for a ban on these bits of rubbish that cannot be composted. Joan Logan, South Melbourne
Trouble was brewing While I have sympathy for Dianne Posthuma (Letters, 22/8) and her daughter who is having trouble returning from the UK, I cannot help but wonder why she did not return in late March when the government issued advice for Australians overseas to return immediately, or as soon as possible.
Our son also had a two-year UK work visa due to expire in November. He had a good job and accommodation, and plenty more travel plans. Due to the advice being issued by DFAT, which included statements such as ‘‘DFAT is warning travellers they may not be able to return home at a later stage’’, and under some pressure from us, he reluctantly returned eight months early. At the same time Qantas and Jetstar announced they were slashing international capacity by 80 per cent. Surely one could foretell some trouble brewing. Amanda Nix, Montrose
Denials seem arbitrary I am not against someone like Jost Stollmann (‘‘Exemption given to pick up yacht’’, 23/8) receiving permission to travel to, among other things, pick up his luxury yacht that he will live on until he can return home. A perfectly reasonable thing to do and affects no one except himself. However, the seemingly arbitrary denials for others whose cases are at least as compelling, if not more so, make it appear that there are different rules for the wealthy or well-connected people. I feel for all those people who have been denied perfectly reasonable requests who have missed out on significant events in their lives at the whim of some bureaucrat. Alan Inchley, Frankston
Crowds of tourists With the crowds of tourists driving to Stanley and Beechworth at the weekend to ‘‘see the snow’’ (hardly essential travel) can someone explain why I should still wear a mask to walk up to the shops here? Mick Webster, Chiltern
Pass the parcel I have been waiting for a parcel in recent days, got the usual text, it’s on the way, then it is going to be delivered tomorrow, make sure someone is home. Then I got, ‘‘no one was home’’ (I was) ‘‘your item was delivered to the Mount Hutton LPO, please pick up there’’. Mount Hutton is 827.3 kilometres from Violet Town in another state. I am eagerly awaiting the usual ‘‘how did we do?’’ email. David Kitchen, Violet Town
Minister unprepared Commonwealth Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck’s stumbling inability to answer basic questions on aged care deaths from the Senate select committee, raises questions about either his competence and/or whether his department or staff prepared him adequately for his committee appearance. Either way the result was yet another case of poor public administration by both federal and state governments. Thomas Hogg, East Melbourne
Hats off to AFL What an absolute delight the Doug Nicholls Round has been. I ‘‘dips my lid’’ to all involved. One could be forgiven for thinking this special day would be the lesser given the COVID-19 pandemic. Not so. I, like so many non-Indigenous Australians, have been swept up in this fabulous weekend (the atmosphere at those Northern Territory games was electric. The Indigenous AFL programs enhance a sense of optimism that continues to build. Noel Butterfield, Montmorency
Bold deal required Adam Bandt is right to call on Labor to join together to fight climate change (‘‘Bandt calls for opposition pact on climate action’’, 21/8). According to the Department of Environment and Energy, Australia’s emissions fell under the Labor/Greens deal. Since then, under the Coalition, emissions have risen at more than 1per cent a year and continue to rise. The strong majority of Australians, including a majority of Coalition voters, want action on climate change. Like the struggle to overcome COVID-19, combating climate change requires a united front. A bold new deal involving all political parties is required. Ray Peck, Hawthorn
Solid-fuel ban welcome I hope Bayside City Council adopts its proposed outdoor solid-fuel burn ban (‘‘Council grilled over BBQ ban’’, 16/8). Others should follow. Much wood sold for barbecues and pizza ovens is actually much-needed native forest. VicForests have a licence to sell 26,500 tonnes of Gippsland eucalyptus forest, including mountain ash, alpine ash, messmate and shining gum, for firewood. This forest survived the summer’s megafires and is a refuge for animals. Moreover, as the Victorian government receives public submissions on the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems decline in Victoria its agency, VicForests, is hard at work accelerating that decline. Lawrence Pope, president, Friends of Bats and Bushcare Inc.
Hygienic borrowers Thanks for the article on privately run hygienic libraries (‘‘Quirky old sign a precursor to today’s fear’’, 21/8). As children, we would occasionally open a book to find the stamp of the Western Hygienic Library, which my grandparents had run from their newsagency in West Brunswick. In the 1960s the worry over books transmitting diseases was all but eliminated and we borrowed from municipal libraries. However, your article reminded us that things were not always that way. Clare Gleeson, Prahran
Economic reset lost A chorus of calls to increase the immigration rate (‘‘Call for new policies to attract skilled migrants’’, 22/8), represents an opportunity lost, to reset economic policy coming out of the pandemic. Having seen the results of excessive immigration levels in capital cities already, such as transport congestion, stretched services and defective construction, hitting the resume button on high immigration seems a lazy response lacking in vision.
The pandemic coupled with recent trade tensions, have highlighted our over-reliance on essential imported goods. Accordingly, focus should turn to sovereign manufacturing capacity, which can also provide both security of supply and economic stimulus in the years ahead. Mathew Knight, Malvern East
Fossil fuel shadow lingers Yes, Peter Hartcher (‘‘A drain on the nation’s energy’’, 22/8), the Liberal Party, which boasts at every election it is the best manager of the economy, has, since Tony Abbott’s accession, drained our economy of energy – literally and figuratively. In the face of a tremendous opportunity to build the infrastructure and industries that will prosper in a sustainable future, its governments have stood with the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry – ‘‘defending Blockbuster in a Netflix world’’.
Even now, when the opportunity beckons brighter than ever, and the shadow of fossil fuels fades globally, the government’s approach has been to pick a National COVID-19 Commission panel filled with gas industry executives to plan a future based on gas. Never has the pernicious influence of vested interest been seen so clearly. Christopher Young, Surrey Hills
AND ANOTHER THING …
Coronavirus Morrison’s defence of Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck is almost as concerning as the failings of the minister. Annie Wilson, Inverloch
So … masks don’t protect you if you’re a singer? Pete Sands, Monbulk
Would Peter Rushen (Letters, 22/8) care to put a number on how many COVID-19 deaths are required for a catastrophic consequence? Rob Warren, Ivanhoe
Could we refrain from referring to recycling labels as a ‘‘dog’s breakfast’’ (20/8). My dog’s breakfast is readily identifiable and consumer friendly. Jim Pilmer, Camberwell
Where is Zits and why is there a mundane 10-year old cartoon in place of it? Unacceptable. Brian Kidd, Mount Waverley
The Prime Minister’s position on a vaccine is perfectly clear – it will be mandatory but not compulsory. Denny Meadows, Hawthorn
It ain’t easy being Albanese with Joel on a roll over coal. David Jones, Essendon
I knew there was a Divided States of America but now we have the Divided States of Australia. Lyn Mitchell, Black Rock
Now I know why we have a minister at both federal and state level overseeing the same thing, as in health. So when things go wrong they can point the finger at each other. Gerry Lonergan, Reservoir
Tomorrow I’m starting to prepare for stage five lockdown. I’m staying in bed for the whole day. Tony O’Brien, South Melbourne
Exemptions to travel restrictions, and quarantine rules, seem to be more about who you are and who you know, than what your reason might be. Marie Nash, Balwyn
Sir Humphrey Appleby once said that secrecy must surround the actions of ministers to protect them from their own stupidity. Ian Powell, Glen Waverley
To submit a letter to The Age, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your home address and telephone number.
What does it take to be the best of the best — a truly great sports team? What’s the secret to their success?
It’s a question Sam Walker, the founding sports editor for the Wall Street Journal, spent more than a decade investigating.
“I would go to the World Cup and the Olympics and cover the Super Bowl and European soccer title championship games, [so] the only thing I really saw with any regularity were great teams, and I wondered what it was that made them so much better than every other team,” he tells ABC RN’s Sporty.
What was originally supposed to just be a sports’ column ended up taking him on a long journey down a rabbit hole to find the answer, and resulted in a book.
Sam began by asking athletes why their team was so much better than any other team in that sport.
“I asked Tom Brady, the great American football quarterback, the question and he said, ‘You do your job so that everybody else can do their job, there’s no big secret to it,'” he recalls.
“Maybe there was something simple … some element that allows a team to become exceptional for a long period of time that is right in front of our faces, so close to our noses we can’t even see it.
He wondered if the answer was a combination of great coaches, fans, management, team culture, or a superstar player.
In the end, he discovered that every great sporting team that had sustained excellence over a long period of time all had one thing in common — and it wasn’t what he expected.
Which teams are the best?
The first thing Sam had to do was identify the most successful sporting teams of all time.
“I had to look at literally every team in the history of sports, which is what I did,” he says.
The mammoth exercise involved analysing 37 different categories of sports from all over the world, dating back to the 1880s.
“It was crazy, and there were tens of thousands of teams that I looked at,” he says.
He also had to define “team”. Are ice dancers a team, or is that a partnership? He settled on teams comprising at least five players. He excluded sports where the sides aren’t engaged in direct play with each other, such as rowing.
Then there was working out the benchmark for “excellence”.
“I wanted to study teams that had sustained excellence, that had won for a long period of time. So I wound up setting the bar at a minimum of four years of dominance,” he explains.
“A team [also] had to have done something unique, whether it was the number of titles they won or their winning percentage over time.”
From tens of thousands of teams, just 17 met all his criteria and made it onto the top list. Another 106 teams narrowly missed out.
The top 17 teams included a wide variety of sports: men’s and women’s soccer teams, rugby, basketball, handball, volleyball, American football, and Australian Rules.
The famous 1990s Chicago Bulls side that won six NBA titles in eight years didn’t make the shortlist. Instead the Boston Celtics team which won 11 titles in 13 seasons in the 1950s and 60s did.
The earliest team to make the list was the Collingwood Football Club that won four VFL premierships from 1927 to 1930. The Australian women’s hockey team, the Hockeyroos, from 1993 to 2000, also made the cut.
Now Sam just had to work out what their secret to success was, the common factor they all shared.
It took him 11 years.
‘I noticed early on these odd characters’
Initially, Sam thought the prevailing catalyst could be put down to sheer talent.
“I assumed that greatness was probably just a function of better talent, but I quickly realised that most of those teams were not really, on paper, the best, most talented team,” he says.
Then he turned to tactics.
“Again, there were some teams that were tactically brilliant and others that really weren’t at all or weren’t really remarkable,” he adds.
Sam also ruled out money and resources — teams from Cuba and Hungary who excelled and made his list had far fewer resources and talent pools than other teams.
“I really thought it would be coaching, and that’s where I spent a lot of time,” Sam says.
He says any great team needs a combination of things such as a great coach and talent.
But there was one common element that glued together every great sporting team that has sustained excellence over a long period of time.
“The one thing that was common was that thing that I noticed early on, these odd characters,” Sam says.
“When I started looking at them, it was obvious. The beginning of the winning streak and the end of the winning streak for all of these teams corresponded very closely, if not precisely, to the arrival and departure of one player, and that player in every single case would become the leader or the captain of the team.”
As individuals, all of these captains differed greatly in personality, but they all shared one thing in common — their approach to leadership.
Sam interviewed all the living captains on his list, collected anecdotes, and spoke to their teammates.
“They approached leadership exactly the same way and made exactly the same kinds of decisions. So it was a philosophy of leadership and management that they shared in common,” he says.
And their philosophy of leadership wasn’t what Sam expected.
“I thought that a leader had to be a superstar, someone who could put the team on their back and then win the game single-handedly when they needed to,” he says.
“I assumed they were the most charismatic person, someone with great magnetism who everyone was drawn to. I thought they would be diplomats, people who would resolve conflicts inside the team, create harmony.
“[But] they were really not superstars for the most part and they really didn’t like attention. Many of them were not charismatic at all, they preferred to avoid attention, to labour in the shadows.”
They were often difficult to manage, they would push back, and create conflict on the team at times.
Sam adds that a lot of people think that leadership is about your output, but it’s really about your input, and what you do for that team behind the scenes.
“These captains were willing to do whatever it took to help the team win, whether they got credit for it or not,” he says.
“You have to really be willing to sacrifice of yourself and then do all those little acts of service and labour behind the scenes to help the team.”
He also noted that these captains he studied rarely liked giving speeches.
“They would pull people aside in the moment when they needed something, whether it was encouragement or a talking to, and they would have a very intense conversation,” he says.
“It was a conversation and they would listen and talk and there would be this high level of engagement and eye contact in a very one-on-one way, not in front of other people.
“That’s how they communicated, and that’s a lot of work. Not everyone has that motivation to put that kind of work in.”
The Last Dance
While the 1990s Chicago Bulls didn’t make Sam’s top 17 list (they were on his longlist) they did have something in common with the top teams — and it isn’t Michael Jordan.
“Everyone thinks Michael Jordan was the leader of that team but he wasn’t. He was the most valuable player but absolutely not the most valuable leader,” Sam says.
“I like to go back to the moment where I think the dynasties began, and for that team it was December 19, 1990, and before that date they had never won a title, and Michael Jordan had played for six seasons and had not won anything or even made it to the NBA finals. And that was the day they started winning.”
Sam says the Bulls won 12 of the next 13 games, and turned into the team that would win their first championship that year.
“I went back and looked at what happened on that day, and that was the day when Phil Jackson, the second-year coach at the time, decided … he made an announcement that Bill Cartwright was now going to be a co-captain of the Bulls along with Michael Jordan,” he says.
Although he lacked charisma and wasn’t the best player, Sam sees Cartwright as the leader who brought the successful qualities he’s identified to the Chicago Bulls.
“He’s someone who actually sacrificed scoring in order to do all the rebounding and the blocking and the fundamental things that the team needed. But really more importantly he was the mentor to the younger players,” he says.
“That team was really divided: it was Michael Jordan and everybody else, and everybody else resented him. Jordan did not fit the profile of a great captain for several reasons, and one was that really the way he attacked his teammates personally is just not something that elite leaders do, and no-one wanted to play for him.”
Sam says the day Cartwright was appointed co-captain was the day the 1990s Chicago Bulls turned into a real team.
He also adds that Jordan wasn’t originally a fan of Cartwright, but he later acknowledged that without him the team would never have broken through and been so successful.
How others can benefit from this leadership style
Since Sam published The Captain Class: A New Theory of Leadership in 2017, he’s worked with professional sports teams, Olympic teams, military units, and businesses.
“You find a lot of people who have the right instincts but are not motivated, they just don’t want to put the work in, because it’s a lot of work,” Sam explains.
But he says it’s possible to create a successful team environment by adopting the qualities of the greatest sports leaders of all time: doggedness, selflessness, emotional control, principled dissent, functional leadership and practical communication.
“Leadership is actually very simple. It’s a behaviour pattern, but really anyone can change their behaviour, and that’s what blew me away about these captains,” he adds.
“They lived at different times, different sports, completely different backgrounds, even personalities, but they all learned through trial and error that this is how you do it.”
RN in your inbox
Get more stories that go beyond the news cycle with our weekly newsletter.
In their paper available on the medRxiv* preprint server, researchers from Russia showed that patients with moderate and severe coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have a high incidence of deep vein thrombosis – indicating that they may necessitate an early administration of anticoagulation therapy as a part of their treatment regimen.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the data on various complications caused by this virus are still emerging and evolving in real-time.
Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. Image at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID
One of the potential complications is deep vein thrombosis, which is a condition that occurs after a blood clot forms in a large vein, most often in the calf. Pain, swelling, and sometimes pulmonary embolism (or a sudden blockage in the lung) can occur, making deep vein thrombosis a life-threatening condition.
Several studies to date have shown a high incidence of venous thromboembolic complications in patients with severe and critical COVID-19; however, the data on moderate to severe (but not critical) illness is lacking.
This is why researchers from the Federal State Clinical Research Hospital and Burnasyan Federal Medical Biophysical Center of Federal Medical Biological Agency in Russia aimed to investigate the incidence of deep-vein thrombosis in patients with moderate to severe COVID-19, but also to assess its prevalence by using imaging methods, clinical information, and laboratory data.
Inclusion and exclusion criteria
This study explored 75 consecutive patients during the first half of May 2020 with moderate to severe COVID-19. All of them underwent venous ultrasonography within seven days following hospital admission, which is the standard imaging test used in patients suspected of having acute deep venous thrombosis.
Critical COVID-19 patients admitted to the intensive care unit, patients with a known history of deep vein thrombosis, patients with more than 75% lung damage, as well as patients with recent hip or leg trauma were excluded from the analysis.
High prevalence of deep vein thrombosis in COVID-19 patients
Detailed vein ultrasonography has revealed spontaneous echo contrast in common femoral veins in 71% of patients, which indicated a decreased venous flow velocity and blood stasis. Furthermore, vein thrombosis was found in 16 patients; one of them had superficial thrombosis, while 15 patients developed deep vein thrombosis.
Most of the patients had thrombi only in calf veins, while two patients presented with ileofemoral thrombosis and floating thrombi with an increased risk of pulmonary embolism. Most of the thrombi were occlusive and situated in the peroneal veins, posterior tibial veins, and sinuses.
“Patients with deep vein thrombosis were somewhat older than those without thrombi, and they had a longer time between symptoms onset and admission to hospital,” explain study authors. “However, those differences were not significant,” they add.
Despite intensive anticoagulant therapy with low molecular weight heparins, results were limited, and basically, all thrombi persisted. The aforementioned ileofemoral thrombosis in two of the patients carried a high risk of pulmonary embolism, but early detection helped in averting that dire scenario.
Additionally, two patients with deep vein thrombosis presented with thrombi in veins of the upper extremities, which underscores the possibility of extensive thrombi formations in patients with even moderate COVID-19.
Based on the results of this study, we can appreciate the recommendations of the American Society of Hematology to monitor platelet count, partial thromboplastin time, activated partial thromboplastin time, fibrinogen and D-dimer in all patients with COVID-19. But should we wait for the results before administering treatment?
“Perhaps it is advisable to start anticoagulation therapy as early as possible in patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 and continue it after discharge from hospital”, caution study authors based on their results.
Moreover, it perhaps makes sense to additionally follow these patients even after recovery and, at some point in the future, perform venous ultrasonography in order to rule out deep vein thrombosis.
Going forward, physicians around the world will have to consider appropriate prevention of deep vein thrombosis in patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 by ordering screening tests for early detection and making proper referrals for patients that necessitate prophylactic treatment.
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.
Victorians have a new normal. A new set of rules to follow. A new way to order our lives. It is nothing like what we once had, but nobody would have expected that. There is a very long way to go.
It was only two months ago that closely packed crowds were lining up at Albert Park to watch the grand prix. That all came to an abrupt end when Prime Minister Scott Morrison banned gatherings of more than 500 people. From that moment the dominoes fell quickly as all Australians had to eventually adjust to living in stage-three lockdowns with no gatherings of more than two people and stay-at-home orders set in stone. It has been a tough few weeks. After Tuesday night’s easing of restrictions, let’s hope the state never has to live under those conditions again.
Victoria should be proud of its progress so far. The Age tips its hat to the more than 160,000 people who got tested, to the vast majority who played by the rules, to the medical teams caring for those worst affected, to the contact tracers chasing down outbreaks and to the state and federal governments for providing a steady hand during this time. It has been a collective effort on an immense scale.
But for all the success in suppressing the virus, the way forward is still uncertain. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews repeated it often, and then some more: he wants to ease restrictions in a manner that is safe, cautious and appropriate. Mr Andrews has been more wary than most in relaxing the rules. And he’s had his critics. On Sunday, Liberal MP Tim Smith described the Premier’s reluctance to ease restrictions for Mother’s Day as “loony” and “incredibly cruel”.
Can a very common allergy medicine improve survival among patients suffering from the serious skin cancer, malignant melanoma? A new study from Lund University in Sweden indicates that this may be the case.
Previous studies have shown that the same antihistamines have survival benefits in breast cancer. Now we see the same thing concerning malignant melanoma. However, more research is required to confirm the results.”
Håkan Olsson, Professor and Researcher
Olssons is one of the researchers behind the study, which was recently published in the research journal, Allergy.
In the study, the researchers examined the use of six antihistamines in patients diagnosed with malignant melanoma; desloratadine, cetirizine, loratadine, clemastine, ebastine and fexofenadine.
They have matched information from three large registers (the prescribed drug register, cancer register and cause of death register) for everyone in Sweden between 2006 and 2014 who received their first diagnosis of skin cancer, a total of 24562 individuals.
Of these individuals, 1253 were antihistamine users. Most used desloratadine (395) cetirizine (324), loratadine (251) or clemastine (192). The other antihistamines were used by considerably fewer individuals. The follow-up of individuals was carried out on 31 December 2018.
“We observed improved survival among those who used desloratadine and to a certain extent also loratadine, particularly in the age group 65 and older, when we compared with those who had not used antihistamines. The use of the other antihistamines showed no significant survival effect. The use of desloratadine and loratadine also seemed to reduce the risk of getting a new malignant melanoma”, says Håkan Olsson.
“The finding is interesting for a future drug against melanoma and may also help in advanced stages of the disease. In addition, the medicines have virtually no side effects.”
The research team is now planning animal experiments and randomised studies in order to understand the mechanisms behind the effect, the appropriate dose and optimum treatment period.
“We are collaborating with researchers in Barcelona and Stockholm. In Lund, we are underway with studies in both animal and human subjects, in which doses of antihistamines will be compared with the patients who do not take antihistamines, in order to measure the treatment effect”, concludes Håkan Olsson.
Sky News host Chris Kenny says “while there are no magic cures” for the deadly coronavirus, a common medicine used to treat malaria and rheumatoid arthritis is now “touted as a bit of a wonder drug for COVID 19”.
Mr Kenny said the drug hydroxychloroquine “has now been authorised for use on coronavirus in the US” and is being looked at in Australia too.
“It is cheap and easy to produce but is already running short, so production is ramping up”.
“And our Health Minister Greg Hunt is ramping up supplies here”.
“Now we know this drug is safe, people have been taking it for those other conditions for decade, so this does hold out great hope”.
“I’m glad Greg Hunt has ordered extra supplies … this could be crucial”.
Authorities have confirmed the drug has not been tested in clinical trials yet and it will be some time before scientists can determine whether it will be effective in the fight against COVID-19.