With a fresh wave of COVID about to hit us, threatening our vulnerable and our whole health system, the Australian Medical Association features among the large chorus of respected voices calling for mandating of face masks in indoor settings.
It is one of our most effective defences. On ABC radio on Wednesday, pressed for why he and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) wouldn't recommend a mask mandate, chief health officer Paul Kelly said while we need to increase mask use throughout the community, it was for governments to consider the "pros and cons of how to do that".
On Thursday (on ABC TV), Prime Minister Albanese ducked, saying that the AHPPC hadn't advocated mask mandates to him at all. It wasn't even on the table at the last National Cabinet meeting and apparently no state or territory leaders raised it.
Our Andrew Barr, in the jurisdiction arguably most likely to accept it, is consistently smacking down the idea. It seems that buck passing is now as contagious as COVID.
The inconsistency of the advice on mandatory indoor mask mandates between ACT public health bureaucrats and leaders of the broader medical profession and epidemiologists is concerning and unexplained.
It naturally leads one to wonder whether the local bureaucrats are incapable of speaking truth to power, or are looking at different data.
Well-credentialed and experienced independent experts repeatedly explain that because COVID spreads increasingly efficiently in air, our best defence in public indoor areas are N95 masks, and where they can't be reliably worn (such as in school-rooms, restaurants and bars), ventilation and HEPA-style air purifiers.
To avoid even higher rates of infection, hospitalisations, medical-staff burnout, further deterioration of health services, lockdowns and damage to local businesses, surely we must urgently adopt the independent expert advice.
That includes mandatory mask-wearing indoors in public, ensure excellent ventilation where possible, and deploy HEPA purifiers where not possible.
With minimal effort, the ACT government could supply 10,000 large-room HEPA purifiers to school-rooms, waiting-rooms, restaurants and bars at a cost of about $4.99999 million, coincidentally the price of a mentoring guru for the CIT.
I find it incredible in the age of COVID that children are allowed to go to school or childcare when they are obviously unwell.
Surely it is common sense to keep children at home when sick. Sick children then translate to sick staff and other children so the whole school/centre is then affected.
When I started in education and day-care in 1976 children who were sick were not allowed to attend day-care. We had a nurse employed in the baby room who would monitor the children.
This ensured staff did not have to time off from sickness caught from the children. This is common sense but it appears to not matter any more.
In her opinion piece on masking COVID issues ("Anthony Albanese and other politicians are masking COVID issues", canberratimes.com.au, July 16), Michelle Grattan writes "... the politicians, including federal Health Minister Mark Butler, are making it clear the experts have to operate in the real world of where we're up to with community opinion".
I agree that we all, including experts, have to operate in the real world. But I don't agree with what is implied by these politicians; that it is the experts who should be the ones to sugar, or dilute, the pill of unpalatable medical advice. Sugaring, or diluting, the pill is a political job, responsibility for which should be borne by politicians.
The job of medical experts is to clearly state what in their opinion would be the optimal medical response and that of sociology experts to state how this might most successfully be presented to the public. But it is the politicians' responsibility to devise the political strategy.
Sure, if the politicians tell the experts that their advice is not politically practicable, the experts can offer least harmful, less effective alternatives. But when informing the public of what the government intends to do, the expert advice and its caveats should be clearly distinguished from the political pragmatism or expediency and responsibility for each made clear.
John Mungoven (Letters, July 15) is right to identify the renter's tax (land tax) as the worst feature of the socio-economically bigoted tax system of the Barr/Rattenbury Labor/Green government.
John notes that the ACT is the only jurisdiction that has no tax-free threshold on such a tax, but it is worse, land tax in the ACT commences with a large and regressive fixed charge that is $27 per week before any value-based charge.
The combined outcomes of these features are that the 31 per cent of households that are occupied by renters contribute between 37 per cent and 45 per cent of all annual residential property tax (rates plus land tax). Given the distributions of property values, the true number will be much closer to the 45 per cent end of that range. As John points out, households that rent typically have low incomes.
Households near me on low fixed incomes renting modest two-bedroom townhouses contribute more to ACT government property taxes than 17 of the 23 Assembly members who are owner-occupiers.
The 2012 ACT Taxation Review, quite rightly, recommended abolishing this punitive tax.
It was with a sigh of relief that many people saw the end of the Morrison government's bizarre policies to obstruct progress on climate change. The new government will do better but has to heed the UN's advice that to counter global warming we must not pursue development of new coal and gas projects.
In particular, Woodside's immense Scarborough gas field in the north-west cannot be exploited. This field would result in an additional 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime; the equivalent of 15 coal fired power plants.
We are experiencing here and also seeing reports from around the world of the drastic effects of climate change on the environment.
To maintain Australia's Paris pledge on emission reductions we cannot continue with this project or any other new coal and gas developments.
It isn't hyperbole to say that the fate of humanity rests on decisions we make in the next few years.
It is pleasing to see the interest being taken in the need to amend the Australian War Memorial Act to allow representation of the frontier wars. Eight years ago I wrote that the best way to commemorate the Centenary of Gallipoli was one that truly united all Australians; one that saw Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians standing side by side on the steps of the AWM to commemorate the past sacrifices of their forebears.
More recently I asked how those who visit the AWM to learn, in the words of the director, "what it is to be Australian", can do so without the bravery of Indigenous warriors (both male and female) defending their families and land, being represented?
I spoke about this at the public hearing into the expansion of the AWM. The argument that there is insufficient exhibition space is no longer relevant. It is time for the Government to do the right thing.
Minister Keogh it is your turn to stand up and fix this.
I am appalled that the ACT government would even consider the proposal for a V8 Supercar track in the EPIC precinct. How would the forward thinking ACT government justify such a proposal and how it falls within any kind of existing environmental legislation? We suffer annually from Summernats with smoke, noise and the people who attend and take part. The mind boggles as to how this fits within existing environmental legislation.
A development approval for the speedway would be just another kick in the teeth for people living in the northern part of Canberra who mostly enjoy the bush and natural environment that this area offers. This is Canberra's gateway.
How about investing in some greater environmental tourism to celebrate the region's diversity and individuality?
I'm losing patience and faith in the ACT government. We are not prepared to allow this without a fight. Also, the Chief Minister has been very silent on the matter of Summernats and the existing issues with the nightly after dark hooning on the roads surrounding EPIC.
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