Building great cities takes political will and courage

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MANAGING MELBOURNE’S GROWTH

Building great cities takes political will and courage
Michael Buxton (“The assault on our suburbs”, Comment, 20/11) raises issues around public benefit versus local community interests. Great cities are built on big ideas. They require political will, courage and determination converting ideas into reality, especially if they demonstrate intergenerational social, economic and environmental benefits.

The Suburban Rail Loop is a very big idea. It supports Plan Melbourne’s polycentric city structure, enabling more people to live close to middle-suburban hubs rich in jobs and services while slowing down unsustainable urban sprawl. The rail loop will enhance people’s access to these hubs via public transport rather than via the car. Increased residential densities within 800 metres (that is walking distance) of the loop hubs and other centres support a city of 20-minute neighbourhoods, another big idea embedded in Plan Melbourne.

Sometimes transformational big ideas warrant state government intervention to make them happen. As an urban planner of more than 40 years’ experience, I have experienced good ideas being watered down and even dismissed by a noisy minority. Planning a metropolis of 5 million-plus people is about delivering significant public benefits that last for generations.
Roz Hansen, Merimbula

The character of our suburbs will be ruined
I feel both despair and fury on learning of an unreported revision of the planning system “to advantage development and subvert local government and resident rights”.

Planning schemes, permits, and resident rights to object or appeal are supposed to come within the purview of local councils, but if the state government overrides council decisions or, worse, changes the planning system altogether, then the character of our suburbs will be ruined. For example, without height controls, shopping strips with their personal service and charm would disappear.

Development is king. Heritage and charm aren’t worth anything. And it seems there’s nothing we can do about it – except fume.
Elizabeth Sprigg, Glen Iris

These targeted reforms are necessary
Michael Buxton incorrectly suggests increased housing approvals in desirable suburbs and close to public transport are a bad thing. In the middle of a housing affordability crisis, more housing than ever is required to ease rising house prices. Unfortunately, some well-heeled parts of the city want to selfishly lock up swaths of Melbourne from new housing.

These residents often form cashed-up NIMBY groups, spending years blocking reasonable developments at council and the planning tribunal. Delaying new housing, increasing costs and shutting young people out of the housing market.

In tandem with enabling new housing in desirable locations, Planning Minister Richard Wynne has focused on making widespread improvements to apartment design guidelines, changes that have dramatically improved the quality of new apartments.

These reforms are ignored by those who oppose new housing, but greatly appreciated by apartment residents. Mr Wynne’s targeted reforms ensure that vested interests cannot frustrate the delivery of new affordable housing and major transport projects.
Brandon Tebbut, Collingwood

The last nail in the coffin of inner-suburban living
Michael Buxton objects to “a suite of new powers to impose by stealth major projects and higher-density development onto larger sections of Melbourne”.

This would seem then be the last nail in the coffin of inner-suburban living – the lid of which has already been set in place by anything-goes local council development approvals.
Peter Drum, Coburg

THE FORUM

At odds with the claim
The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia’s most important agricultural region, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s gross value in agricultural production. The basin produces more than $20 billion worth of food and fibre every year. So it was alarming to read about the effect of climate change on the basin (“Rural push to review impacts of climate change”, The Age, 20/11).

Professor Lesley Head of the University of Melbourne warned that “irrigated agriculture may not be feasible in parts of the Murray-Darling Basin beyond 2050”.

According to the Victorian government’s Mallee Climate Projections 2019 report “On average between 1981 and 2010, Mildura experienced 7.8 days per year when the temperature exceeded 40°C … By the 2050s under high emissions, this is expected to increase to between 15 and 23 days.”

Statements and projections like these make it hard to understand why Barnaby Joyce, leader of the National Party, which is supposedly “protecting and securing the future of regional Australia” according to the party’s website, is so opposed to strong emissions reduction targets.

It seems Mr Joyce and his colleagues are more concerned about jobs in fossil fuel mining than jobs in agriculture or quality of life in regional Australia.
Ray Peck, Hawthorn

Not the skills we need
I heartily agree with your correspondent (“Same old, same old MPs”, Letters, 20/11) that Josh Frydenberg’s reasons for supporting Simon Frost for the state Senate ticket (“Simon’s speciality in ‘on the ground game’ campaigning …”) are not the skills we need.

Victorian independent MP Fiona Patten is a national treasure – what better example of a member who has had life experience before entering Parliament could we have? Her opinions and support for proposed legislative changes are clearly considered and clearly explained.
Judy Kevill, Ringwood

It’s not about ‘faith’
I applaud David Crowe’s objective article (“PM’s secretive religious ‘freedom’ bill”, Comment, 19/11).
It seems to me that the crux of the “freedom” push by religious organisations is that they define as “faith” issues that are nothing to do with a belief in a deity but are issues conceptualised by humans as offensive to themselves, such as homosexuality.
Jan Dwyer, Rosebud

The greater good
We are currently swamped by individuals and organisations whose headlines are slogans without substance and who use headlining words such as “freedom” that don’t accurately portray their attitudes orbehaviours.

Peter Singer’s article a few months ago about vaccination and the associated issues, points out that actions are sometimes required to restrict individual freedoms and choices to ensure a better community outcome (“Why jabs should be compulsory”, Comment, 9/8). In dire times, such as now, it is not about the individual good but about the individual making decisions for the benefit of friends, family and the community.

This next federal election will hopefully show that the silent majority still value this sense of community and reject extremist views at the ballot box.

We have for decades followed the United States in many aspects, but we do not want the “Trump” type views and actions permeating society here in Australia as a rowdy minority are trying to.
Phil Mackenzie, Eaglemont

Meetings forced me out
When I had a lengthy after-work meeting about organising the meeting schedule so that more people could attend more of the current meetings, I knew it was time to leave teaching.

I could have had a glass or two of wine that night to settle down, but I still had a few hours of correction, and red wine stains on test papers are not appreciated. I loved teaching, when I just taught.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill

It’s worth trying
Your correspondent (“Trouble in the wind”, Letters, 21/11) asked, “How on earth will non-essential retail businesses block the unvaccinated entering their store?” The short answer has to be that they can’t, at least not completely.

Along with most Melburnians I’ve been shopping and dining a bit more over recent weeks. My experience is that the vast majority of shops and restaurants have clear signage and assertively, yet politely, ask for proof of vaccination and I have yet to see anyone fail to politely comply.

I suspect that the key is to be politely assertive. Given that around 90 per cent of eligible adults have taken the jab it’s hard to believe that we’d refuse to show it in order to dine or shop where we want.

Junior and inexperienced staff might need some training and occasional support from management perhaps, but a small number of belligerent buffoons shouldn’t be a reason not to try. Staff in hotels have to learn how to refuse service to the intoxicated, so it can be done.
Richard Jamonts, Williamstown

The wrong sort of qualities
Your article on The Accidental Prime Minister, Annika Smethurst’s book that delves into the personal traits of Scott Morrison, identifies him as a person with “low emotional intelligence” (“Morrison’s ingrained women’s problem”, Spectrum, 20/11).

Some of the symptoms of this condition include: little interest in finding new ways of solving problems, trouble accepting criticism – constructive or otherwise – difficulty expressing ideas clearly or getting a point across and a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Familiar? Hardly the qualities of a constructive leader.
David Mandara, Hepburn Springs

Their cries ring hollow
Australia, and indeed the world, is still experiencing the effects of the worst pandemic in a century.

As governments grapple to protect their communities, the cries for freedom from self-important protesters ring a little hollow to say the least.
Phil Alexander, Eltham

A bipartisan lie
The article “Shoot out” (Good Weekend, The Age, 20/11) highlighted the challenge of busting the hunting industry’s lies.

With extraordinary courage, young Melbourne filmmaker Rogue Rubin posed as a photographer in African game hunts. Hunters describe themselves as “conservationists”, but she found “inexperienced hunters shooting wildly … [and] injured animals limping off into the bush for a painful demise”. She decries the “smokescreen” hiding the brutal reality.

In Victoria, she would not be allowed near the main killing fields of our annual duck hunting season; draconian fines apply to non-shooters. This lockout is defended as a “safety” measure, suggesting some shooters can’t distinguish between a duck and a human. There are no tests of shooter accuracy, and thousands of waterbirds suffer a slow demise from gunshot injuries.

The notion of “safe, humane, sustainable” game hunting is a bipartisan lie.
Joan Reilly, Surrey Hills

Politics and the pandemic
As shown by the public demonstrations being held in many parts of Australia, this pandemic should never have been politicised and should have remained in the health officials’ domain under their control.

This has resulted in mixed messaging, bringing with it confusion, disillusionment and even mistrust of governments.
Glenise Michaelson, Montmorency

Squibbing the moment
“It is easy to dismiss as mere clowns those gathering around a gallows in the streets of Melbourne”, says Tony Wright, but he dismisses this mindset as dangerous, likening the protests to the “Trumpist mob” that stormed the US legislature hunting for politicians they thought were traitors (“Grim imports from the (dis)United States”, Insight, 20/11).

Wright says the language of the so-called “freedom” protesters mirrors the US conspiracy cult QAnon, a far-right-wing network of believers, who embrace unsubstantiated beliefs that a cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles (including politicians) murder and torture children.

This should have been a defining moment for Scott Morrison to show leadership to subdue this growing extremism – but, distressingly, our Prime Minister is only interested in exploiting the discontent for his own elemental political needs.
Neil Hudson, East Melbourne

A disturbing read
It was disturbing to read of Hugh Sheridan’s traumatic experience of “cancel culture”, (“Cancelled”, Good Weekend, The Age, 20/11). This talented actor was hounded out of a role, causing him personal and professional angst, because his sexuality didn’t match that of the main character he was portraying.

Seriously? The only criteria for playing a particular role must surely be talent and skill, not their sexuality. Each human relationship is unique, and also universal, intricate experiences that an actor will capture and interpret: this is the core of acting.

Anything else would mean that only heterosexual actors could play certain parts, only homosexual actors homosexual characters, and so on. Such an attitude would diminish the spirit of the performing arts.
Mary Cole, Richmond

Some restrictions must stay
Freedom protesters should think of the nurses who come home from work crying because they are exhausted from working extra shifts, fed up with having to work in extremely uncomfortable PPE, sick of being abused by anti-vaxxers.

By their selfishness, the unvaccinated represent the majority of seriously ill who put more pressure on our healthcare workers. Unfortunately, the current protests will see an increase in COVID cases in a week’s time.

It is not yet time to reward these people with removal of mandates for other crowded places such as sporting events, restaurants or nightclubs.
Ralph Frank, Malvern East

AND ANOTHER THING

Politics
The PM’s maxim: If you don’t like my opinion today, then I’ll have a different one tomorrow.
Kevan Porter, Alphington

Credit:

Isn’t the cashless welfare card all about controlling people’s lives, Scott Morrison?
Hans Paas, Castlemaine

What’s next – Adem Somyurek to join that other serial spoiler at the United (that’s a laugh) Australia Party?
Stuart Gluth, Northcote

Greg Mirabella’s selection on the Senate ticket will no doubt be a big disappointment for both Simon Frost and Josh Frydenberg, but hopefully it will be a huge benefit for rural businesses and farmers.
Meg Biggs, Kew East

So the freedom activists are going to join Craig Kelly in joining Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party. Perhaps it will be renamed Ignite Australia Party.
Alan Inchley, Frankston

Melbourne protests
Thousands gather for anti-vaccination and anti-pandemic-legislation protests, millions and millions did not.
Brent Baigent, Richmond

The protesters at State Parliament provide an excellent example of white privilege. Imagine if their skin were brown and they were Muslims.
Steve Melzer, Hughesdale

Ditching coal
We could ditch coal tomorrow if we could all go to bed when the sun sets and the wind dies down.
Gordon Thurlow, Launceston, Tas.

Furthermore
Melbourne seems destined for this century to be one never-ending building site. Catching up on previous governments’ neglect takes time.
John Walsh, Watsonia

Planning and “development” under Richard Wynne and Labor … much more liberal than the Liberals.
Margaret Callinan, Hawthorn

Finally
There is only one question left for the Australian men’s Test cricket team: is Tim Paine the best wicketkeeper to play for his country now?
Brian Morley, Donvale

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