Van in headlights points to off-road democracy

I wonder if all those in the Liberal Party calling for Van to quit Parliament altogether would be so eager to see him go if he was a member of the lower house where a risky and inconvenient by-election would be needed to fill the vacancy. Adrian Connelly, Springwood

This week in parliament

This week in parliamentCredit: Illustration: Matt Golding

So, if allegations of Van’s behaviour were well known in the parliament, then nothing has changed since the days women in the workplace would warn each other about certain male co-workers to avoid. Decisive action by the Liberal leadership would have been when the first allegations came to light, not when they were publicly aired. Megan Wilson, Springwood

Chelsea Potter (“Why a Liberal woman’s spirits lifted”, June 19) has no cause for her spirits to be lifted. Only when outside the parliamentary party did Stoker feel free to make her complaint public, and only then when prompted by another complaint. Dutton has finally acted in the face of independent
complaints from three women. There is nothing in this matter to indicate
that the Liberal Party’s attitude to women has advanced from the 1950s.
Alan Kesby, Casula

Am I the only one who is confused by the conga line of Coalition politicians praising Dutton for the swift and fearless leadership he showed by expelling Van from the party room and calling on him to resign from parliament? It appears to me that he wasn’t so swift or fearless when Lidia Thorpe complained about him. To use Thorpe’s words he only acted when “a white woman” complained. Until then, nothing. Not even a request for an investigation. Ian Morris, Strathfield

What has happened to “innocent until proven guilty” in our dysfunctional federal parliament? Investigations into Van’s behaviour have not even started yet. Anne Ramsay, Kiama

Politicians never fail to disappoint. Both sides of politics have taken to weaponising and politicising the Brittany Higgins allegations, even long after the case was dropped. Meanwhile, more allegations of sexual harassment have come to light. We deserve better. If the allegations are true, the corridors of Parliament House sound like a backstreet in some sleazy neighbourhood. We expect our elected representatives to provide leadership and to behave in an exemplary manner; instead, we get bullying, allegations of sexual misconduct, self-serving dirty politics and disrespect for the electorate. Graham Lum, North Rocks

I’m obliged to carry a “Working With Children Check” for volunteer work. Should MPs be required to secure and carry a “Working With Colleagues Check”? Barry Lamb, Heidelberg West (Vic)

Perfectly pitched message by Stoker or a convenient lifeline thrown to Dutton? Witch-hunting one of the Government’s most trusted, hard-working senators, Katy Gallagher, understandably wasn’t gaining much traction. Liberal inquisitors, Dutton included, had become stuck in a quagmire of their own making. Trial by media of Van isn’t fair or balanced. Words spoken using parliamentary privilege can destroy a politician. Van is right to request a fair hearing in an appropriate independent forum. Cleveland Rose, Dee Why

To be brief, minister, all you need to do is check the ABC’s financial history (“Communications minister seeks briefing from ABC management on cuts”, June 19). Years of assaults, funding cuts and slow bleeds under Coalition governments have weakened the ABC and reduced it to the desperate measures we are seeing now. Questioning the manner in which economies are applied is one thing, but if the ABC was properly funded they would not be needed, and our national broadcaster could focus on excellence rather than on base survival. Meredith Williams, Northmead

Former ABC Political Editor Andrew Probyn: “I’m still trying to come to terms with it.”

Former ABC Political Editor Andrew Probyn: “I’m still trying to come to terms with it.”Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

I sincerely hope that Philip Bell’s letter (Letters, June 19) somehow reaches the echelons of the ABC. His concise and precise message is exactly what needs to be read/heeded and acted upon by the powers-that-be in the ABC. Especially regarding the sports-obsessed news coverage that I am simply not interested in. Please bring back Andrew Probyn! Rose Panidis, Graceville (QLD)

On what planet do members of the ABC board live? In an Australian media environment where political reporting and appraisal are often characterised by misinformation and manipulation, there is a great need for a core of responsible journalism and many people have traditionally turned to the ABC for this. Now, in a fit of bewildering shortsightedness, the board has decided to dump the crucial functions and oversight associated with the role of a political editor and to dismiss Andrew Probyn, whose probity and balanced analysis of political issues have been excellent and widely respected. These decisions undermine rather than enhance the value and quality of the ABC’s role. Gary Mulley, Collaroy Plateau

Philip Bell nails it. I still listen to the ABC but, fortunately, I have a smart speaker, so when the loud advertisement emerges I can simply yell, “Hey Google” which mutes it for the duration of the ad. I have also found BBC Four as an alternative when the ABC offerings are too mundane and tabloid.

Tom Meakin, Port Macquarie

The shake up of the ABC is long overdue. The administrators should be praised for taking the initiative to make the ABC more relevant to the nation’s needs. I say this as a former long-time viewer and listener of the ABC. I now no longer bother to watch or listen to the ABC and it’s clear that I am not the only one. I hope that the shakeup to the ABC is deep and profound. Perhaps dissatisfied viewers like myself may then consider tuning in again. Denis O’Brien, Orange

River rebound is a sight (and sound) to behold

Jordan Baker’s report on the Cooks River (“New dawn for a river on the rebound”, June 19) is most welcome. As a local resident and regular walker along its banks, I am always amazed by the diversity of the bird life and the flourishing of healthy mangroves only a few kilometres from the city. Cup and Saucer Creek may now be concreted, but a swale, constructed to filter its water and return it to the river, is teeming with ducks, water hens and native vegetation. Pelicans compete with cormorants for prime position on a pollution trap that captures floating debris, and towards evening the flocks of cockatoos and corellas provide a deafening cacophony of squawks. Governments and volunteers are to be congratulated on their efforts to bring back the beauty of this much prized river. Jennifer McKay, Ashbury

Loved the feature on the Cooks River, which I have cycled along for years and have come to love. The wildlife has benefited from the removal of concrete drain walls, which were replaced by rock walls with native river plants growing between them in some locations. More to do, but a good start.
Garry Feeney, Kingsgrove

Cooks RiverCredit: SMH

In the late ’50s, our school field sports were held at Tempe ovals, and a favourite game was to count the most dead dogs and cats floating among the moored boats in the Cooks River. It seems that little has changed, but let’s hope your worthy investigation and call for action brings the needed impetus for remediation. Lance Dover, Pretty Beach

Williamtown perils

Unknowingly, Samantha Kelly placed her family in harm by living in the Newcastle suburb of Williamtown and, with enormous love and strength, has abandoned her home, trust for government officials irrevocably damaged (“Officials tried to alter cancer study”, June 19). The scenario could be adopted for the big screen. What has not happened is learning from the experience. In the United States, there is little confidence in government authorities to protect from big business. Trust is lost and democracy is failing. Australia, it seems, is not far behind. Janice Creenaune, Austinmer

Nab a jab, save a life

There is an urgent need for everyone over the age of 18 who has not had COVID infection or vaccination in the past six months to organise a bivalent booster (“Fifth wave yet less concern about COVID”, June 18). This is regardless of the number of previous vaccinations or COVID infections, as immunity wanes after each. This is to protect self and community.

It is not just a problem for old people. While hospitalisation and death are skewed towards the elderly, younger adults are still dying, and long COVID is predominantly a disorder of 18- to 60-year-olds. COVID in pregnancy is still associated with a higher risk of more severe disease and of miscarriage and stillbirth. The rapid development of safe and effective COVID vaccines was a scientific miracle, but they do not fully prevent infection and immune protection from severe disease.

As a result, COVID is still causing a second tragedy due to the continuing impact on major public hospitals: the reduced ability for people with severe non-COVID disease to access timely diagnosis and treatment. The current number of 1400 beds occupied by COVID patients in NSW is the equivalent in bed numbers of removing Westmead and Royal North Shore Hospitals from the system. Hospitalisation has always been skewed towards those with the lowest level of vaccination.

For self and for others, get a COVID boost this week, conveniently available in pharmacies. Until the waning of immunity in the months after infection or vaccination is solved (and it will be), it is a small price to adhere strictly to public health advice on boosting. If we are to live with COVID, let’s do so responsibly. (Professor) Graeme Stewart, Westmead

Give us a break!

The Coalition has been importing the worst of Republican mendacity, false advertising and divisive tactics for a long time (“Saying ‘No’ with American accent”, June 19). Richard Nixon and Roger Stone and a long list of toxic political operatives and media “personalities” made an art form of cant and deceit. Fifty years ago, the Republicans began non-stop political campaigning, and the coalition enthusiastically adopted this scourge.
Tony Simons, Balmain

Power-up the museum

John Williams, maybe the White Bay Power Station can become the new Powerhouse Museum as the government seems intent on transforming the one at Ultimo into a shopping precinct and entertainment venue (Letters, June 19). If London, Rome and Battersea can do it, surely Sydney can too.
Susan Rowe, Epping

Stop the wrecking ball

The decision by Housing Minister Rose Jackson to keep the Franklyn Street flats is good news (“Revealed: Sydney suburbs where billions of dollars worth of public housing stock was sold”, May 15). However, demolishing the complex at 82 Cowper Street, Glebe and rebuilding it at a cost of $21.7 million makes little sense. Architect John Gregory, who designed the building, says it could last 140 years if looked after, and could be refurbished at a cost of about $1.4 million. The Glebe Society has obtained an alternative scheme that demonstrates public housing can be provided at lower cost by refurbishing and extending. It has many advantages: it’s cheaper, it won’t take public housing out of the market for years, as demolition and rebuilding does, it won’t displace families, and it won’t add to greenhouse emissions by wasting embodied energy. We have written to the minister, asking her to request the City of Sydney defer her department’s development application until this option has been fully considered. We have a new government and we are looking for a new and more intelligent approach to increasing the supply of public housing. Ian Stephenson, Glebe

University of NSW professor Hal Pawson has estimated the current unmet need for social housing equates to 437,000 households. The government has announced it will contribute $2 billion dollars immediately. This would fund about 2400 new homes, less than 1 per cent of the requirement. To fund all of the requirement would take about $350 billion, which is coincidentally equal to the final costs of the AUKUS nuclear submarine program. Economics is said to be about optimising the allocation of scarce resources – guns or homes? We can’t afford both. Martin Walton, Upper Kedron (Qld)

Wise words

Ross Gittins’ perspicacious column (“Perhaps Lowe should stay on to mop up spilt milk”, June 19) invites the question, why isn’t this astute accountant/columnist on the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia?

Viv Mackenzie, Port Hacking

Fair point

I find myself more concerned, about the inappropriate use of the comma, than the under use, of the semicolon. (Letters, June 19). Meredith Williams, Northmead

I love the semicolon; it works wonders in half-helping my literary digestion. Eric Hunter, Cook (ACT)

Blood sport

The photo on today’s back page (“Tszyu’s Ocampo demolition puts Charlo on notice”, June 19), which depicts a triumphant boxer standing over a fallen opponent, encapsulates an appalling indictment on humanity. Such barbarism must stop. Brian Roach, Westleigh

Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty ImagesCredit: Getty Images

No one home

When trying to speak by phone to companies or government agencies, we are told by recordings to treat staff with courtesy and respect. If only someone would answer the call so that we can do what is requested. Mary Julian, Glebe

Festival favourite

Congratulations to the organisers of the Sydney Film Festival for another extraordinary array of films. Special mention must go to all those involved in The Dark Emu Story, which illuminates a nation divided, but ultimately offers hope, as indicated by the vigorous applause at the end of the film.
Steven Baker, Engadine

The digital view

Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on

Some Sydney councils want to break up, but who will foot the bill? 

From Swimmer. “Unscrambling the eggs is difficult, while the mergers have been a disaster, demerging them will be even worse.”

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Justin Scaccy

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