Liberals lose all claims to occupy ‘sensible centre’

Illustration: Cathy WilcoxCredit:

Any pretence that the Liberal Party is the party of the sensible centre has been put to bed by party games (‘‘‘That’s politics’: Inside the Liberal Party’s branch-stacking machine’’, 24/8). This is no longer the party of Rupert Hamer who built the Arts Centre, expanded the national park network of Victoria, decriminalised homosexuality and allowed women into the public service.

The Liberal Party has incrementally become a party of the hard right. It has embraced the neoliberal economics of Thatcher and Reagan, sold a vast array of public assets, politicised the public sector and weaponised issues such as asylum seekers, abortion reform, the Richmond safe injecting room and dying with dignity legislation. Most destructive of all, the Liberal Party has fundamentally rejected the science of climate change.

The revelations of industrial-scale party stacking by the evangelical religious faction of the party continues this inexorable drift to the right. The Liberal Party in Victoria no longer represents the vast majority of Victorians, it is a party of narrow sectional interests that represents only extreme elements in our society.
Craig Horne, Fitzroy North

We rely on newspapers and whistleblowers
Yesterday’s news and opinion pieces about branch stacking (‘‘Wider implications of another stacking affair’’; ‘‘‘That’s politics’: Inside the Liberal Party’s branch-stacking machine’’, 24/8) diminishes yet again our faith in politicians. The opinion piece and the article illustrate how deluded the public is in believing that we live in a free and fair democracy. The system used by both major parties allows faceless unelected power brokers to influence who we get to vote for.

All the anti-corruption commissions, toothless or otherwise will have little effect on stopping the power brokers. As long as these backroom boys and politicians beholden to them for support, see their actions as just politics, the public will have to rely on newspapers and whistleblowers to highlight and stamp out their activities.
Peter Roche, Carlton

Voters must support independents instead of parties
The blatant branch stacking in Victoria, by both major parties, demonstrates how moribund the political party system has become. The membership of both parties has shrunk to a level which encourages the power hungry to dominate the preselection of members. This allows minority groups, such as the religious right, or the far left, to gain significant control of existing parties. Our democracy has been hijacked by extremists. The only remedy is to vote for independents, who can be trusted to represent their constituents, rather than an ideological cause.
Mike Francis, Fitzroy

Time to empower anti-corruption bodies
Victorians can be in no doubt that both major parties are gaming the electoral system. Nobody knows how many parliamentarians owe their position to tax-funded branch stacking. Little wonder the representation of the religious right is out of all proportion to census records of religious affiliation. How can we trust Liberal or Labor parties to clean themselves up? Isn’t it time for verification of membership by an independent authority and, like a driver’s licence, require a verifiable person to front up, sign on and pay the fee? Isn’t it time that those indulging in branch stacking be prosecuted and, if found guilty, jailed? Isn’t it time for federal and state anti-corruption commissions to be empowered to make parliamentarians accountable to the electorate?
Angela Munro, Carlton North

Both major parties guilty of shady dealings
The revelations of branch stacking in both major parties coming so close together seems to indicate this problem is endemic to both. The sheer ingenuousness, or is it just the plain stupidity, of committing so much of the shady dealings to memos and social media makes one wonder at the mental acuity of the perpetrators. Whether complacent or complicit, many within the parties must now realise the folly of each of these stances.
John Paine, Kew East


Budget for research
Opposition to the proposed redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial at a cost of half a billion dollars is coming from all directions. While it is important to commemorate the sacrifice of Australians who have died in war, the psychological toll on those who have survived combat but have been left significantly traumatised remains profound.

As one of a group of psychiatric researchers who have attempted to initiate a study in Australia using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat veterans with PTSD, research which has been designated ‘‘a breakthrough therapy’’ by the American Food and Drug Administration, I remain constantly frustrated and more recently bamboozled by the lack of financial support from the federal government.

If only 1 per cent of the War Memorial budget was set aside for this research, which if successful may help to significantly ameliorate suffering, not only among veterans but potentially for all victims of trauma, a high-quality, large trial at a reputable research institute could be initiated. The Memorial could still be built but a lot of brave men and women, whose suffering cannot be alleviated by current psychiatric therapies, might eventually feel a whole lot better too.
Dr Nigel Strauss, South Yarra

Scare tactics not working
Daniel Andrews and Brett Sutton have emphasised that the lockdown will go on as long as necessary till the state’s COVID-19 caseload decreases to some unspecified, manageable level. While I am sympathetic to their message, this is the wrong way to go about it as evidenced by reports of more people using public transport and flocking to parks and other venues at weekends. If this is happening by the end of week three of a planned six-week lockdown, it’s a strong indicator that the scare stick isn’t working. This isn’t because Melburnians haven’t got the message or due to a group of recalcitrants. People are buckling under the mental health load which they are starting to feel is having worse consequences for all of us. The long grey pallor of apathy and lack of motivation is high across all age groups and the Premier and CHO are just going to have to find another way to communicate their message.
Ramesh Rajan, Canterbury

Men in power don’t care
What valid reason is there for cutting childcare workers off JobKeeper? It seems discriminatory, a ruling passed down by powerful people, predominantly male, on to an employment sector of predominantly women. It smacks of white men in power projecting the circumstances of their own privileged existence on to others or, worse, simply not caring despite ostensibly representing the nation’s interest not just their own.
Emma Borghesi, Mount Martha

Postpone council elections
Victoria’s council postal elections in October should be postponed because of the significant restrictions on candidates imposed by COVID-19 stage four restrictions. In particular, almost all electioneering chances for new council candidates are unavailable, or too costly. In my municipality, I am aware of good candidates who have abandoned standing because of the restrictions. There is significant anguish about building overdevelopment and many residents want to see new councillors elected. NSW has postponed its council elections and Victoria should follow suit.
John McLennan, Caulfield South

It’s just not cricket
I get the idea that our travel is restricted. What I do not get is couples who have valid marriage visas and people whose relatives have died overseas not being allowed to leave the country when a planeload of cricketers and support staff can fly to a country that has had one of the highest rates of infection of COVID-19.

Can someone please explain what restrictions our cricketers endure when away and will the returning team and support staff be put in mandatory hotel quarantine at their expense, or will they be given an exemption because they have acted on Australian business?
Peter Brown, Warrnambool

Adelaide grand final
Queensland is indicating it is on top of COVID-19 but is that the case? If the AFL grand final cannot be staged in Melbourne surely Adelaide is the obvious choice? An AFL-informed and passionate demographic, suitable weather, good facilities and in control of the pandemic as well as anywhere … it should be in SA – this year, anyway?
Tony Nicholl, Normanville, SA

Regulators, regulate
Back when elderly people were cared for in hospitals, a lobby group representing care home operators met with federal health authorities. They claimed they had the facilities and expertise to do the job of aged care at lower costs to taxpayers. Legislation followed, but with strict conditions. The lobby soon convinced government that nurse ratios and the like would be more cost effective in the hands of the nursing homes. Government, believing strongly in self-regulation, agreed. More casualisation, fewer qualified nurses, more demands to keep costs down.

The years passed and complaints mounted: poor nutrition, sloppy care, insufficient staffing, too few nurses. Many promises to improve. A nasty virus hits and problems become disasters. The death toll mounts. Denials all round. Then $1 billion to partly restore what we had years ago. If that money had been spent on care homes over the years instead, we may not have had the mess we have today, and we can be sure there will be more. Another success for privatisation? When will regulators regulate?
David Lamb, Kew East

Where footy has heart
The magnificent AFL Dreamtime match in Darwin was obviously a smaller affair in terms of numbers, but a so much larger spectacle in terms of heart. Indeed, judging by the responses afterwards, many people rightly now wonder whether the annual game should be either moved to Marrara Oval permanently, or perhaps a parallel event held there each year, such was the cultural vibe of the spectacle.

Besides the close contest game that was hard fought, the highlight would have to be the passionate and emotional Welcome to Country that was delivered by Richard Fejo of the Larrakia People. It was upbeat, inclusive and charitable towards all Australians, notably free of any grievance or animosity that usually now accompanies Australia Day each year.

Sport is the great equaliser in our communities and should amplify what is best and most worthy of praise in both remote and suburban Australia, so let’s enjoy these too few moments of solidarity when we are able to.
Peter Waterhouse, Craigieburn

Grand final comeback
COVID-19 cases on the rise in Queensland and numbers dropping in Victoria, perhaps the logical venue for the grand final would be the MCG.
David Bond, Portarlington

Whitlam visit overlooked
Amanda Vanstone’s high praise for Nixon’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China in 1972 (‘‘We must learn to co-exist with China’’, 24/8) fails to acknowledge Whitlam’s visit to meet with Zhou Enlai in 1971, ahead of Nixon’s visit as it turned out, and Australia’s subsequent recognition of the PRC when Whitlam became prime minister.
Marion MacLennan, Mooroopna

Renewables policy
It is great that the National Farmers’ Federation has announced a commitment to zero emissions by 2050. It’s also great that AGL is supporting a battery storage plant as a replacement at the Liddell Power plant. Further good news; an Italian-owned oil and gas company is building a solar farm with a 25-megawatt capacity in the Northern Territory. The insurance firm Suncorp announced that it will no longer finance or insure any new gas or oil ventures. Neoen, a French company, is proposing to build a solar and wind project 10 times larger than the existing Tesla one in South Australia.

To the contrary, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor stated that the Renewable Energy Target will not continue beyond 2020, providing no indication of what’s next. When will the federal government believe climate change science and support renewables as the groups and companies listed above have?
Jane Woodman, Blackburn

Trade subsidy argument
Minister Littleproud on ABC’s Insiders was adamant that Australia doesn’t subsidise our farmers. Further, he claimed that only New Zealand subsidises farmers less than Australia. One hopes the Chinese weren’t listening. Not a very compelling argument to take to the World Trade Organisation.
Irvine Newton, Essendon

Casino rethink needed
I congratulate the Victorian government on its plan to upgrade the Federation Square precinct. I hope the upgrade will preserve the original concept of the architects who designed it and bravely carried it through the many controversies at that time. To more fully open the connection with the river and Birrarung Marr and the events hubs beyond, such as the MCG and Melbourne Park, will enhance the original design.

How different the wonderful, visceral experience of Federation Square is to the King Street bridge entrance to the city. The casino complex straddles King Street at the edge of the river. To cross the river to the city, motorists drive through a dark tunnel, flanked by the concrete fortresses of the casino and its carparks. The entrance to the river is thus through the casino. The casino itself is ugly, square and aesthetically brutal. Could there not be a rethink about this end of the city and its relationship to the river?
Lesley Hardcastle, Ashburton



At last bipartisanship on something in Victoria: branch stacking.
Ivan Glynn, Vermont

That’s an on-water matter, that’s before the courts, that’s commercial-in-confidence, that’s a state matter. Scott you are the best handballer since Polly Farmer.
John Walsh, Watsonia

So will Scott Morrison sack Michael Sukkar for his conduct?
Margaret Ludowyk, Brunswick

Labor acted decisively on Adem Somyurek. Will the Liberals adopt a similar standard with Marcus Bastiaan?
Peter Bennett, Clifton Hill

Branch stacking; we’re all in this together.
Richard Opat, Elsternwick

So branch stacking a ‘‘party game’’? Is that like pinning the tail on the donkey or passing the parcel?
Myra Fisher, Brighton East

What’s happened to Federation? We seem to be going backwards. Just who’s in charge – the PM or the Premier.
Wendy Veitch, Healesville

Drain the mediocre Swamp and plug in Zits again: it was the only comic worth keeping, a welcome reality check in an unreal world.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

How wonderful to see a great Australian comic strip, Swamp, in your newspaper.
Nat Karmichael, Margate Beach, Qld

Where is Jeremy in these humourless times?
Brigitte Shaw, Dromana

United States
Given the way the US elects its presidents, I believe a zimmer frame race with lots of fanfare between Trump and Biden, as a way of deciding the winner, wouldn’t be out of place.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North

My dad used to call the US the Benighted States of Hysterica. Seems apt.
Lesley Taskis, Kingsbury

Well there’s one positive aspect to the coronavirus … no more The Masked Singer.
Ross Ogilvie, Woodend

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