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Premier, perfection is not the answer, pragmatism is

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The Victorian government’s plan to demolish public housing towers as a precursor to building new ones, is justifiably “slammed by planning academics” (“Experts warn over public housing plan”, 22/9). The state is crying out for more public housing, not replacements of existing infrastructure. Premier Daniel Andrews in saying “we can’t search for perfection and then not deliver anything”, reveals a fatal flaw in his government’s thinking. Victoria’s housing crisis needs to be met with pragmatism, not perfectionism. Accept the existing towers’ drawbacks, fix them up as much as practicable and make the best of it. At the same time build or buy as much new public housing as can be afforded. That should be the new plan.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

Careful management key to scheme
While the outcry on the disruption to the lives of the tenants is well-justified, the first two rebuilds are of vacant premises. It shouldn’t be too difficult to offer the new apartments to the occupants of the next scheduled demolition tower. With careful management of a rolling rebuild, any disruption could be kept to a minimum. Another aspect of the program, you would like to think, is that it provides a great opportunity to incorporate features that will future-proof housing stocks against the effects of climate change.
John Mosig, Kew

Put the people first
Recent articles in The Age about the Jolimont railway project and the government plans for public housing raise the issue of planning. For too long, planning has resulted in projects that do not put people first. The need is to plan for communities that serve people. Such communities would have well-designed buildings which contribute to an attractive environment where public transport, schools, parks and shops are nearby. In Melbourne, poor results are seen in the outer suburbs where low-rise buildings are crowded together and in high-rise areas, such as Southbank, Docklands and the north-west of the city. Possibly there is a middle way with buildings of four or five stories, such as in London, placed around central parks. For Melbourne to remain a livable city, planning should consider people first.
Denis Robertson, Windsor

A blot on the urban landscape
Thank you Norman Day (Comment, 21/9) for articulating what is wrong with the planning for Melbourne’s built environment. The lack of vision and aspiration in the proposal for Treasury Square means more of the same ugly black glass towers that are blighting the urban landscape. It’s now time to change our approach to urban planning. As Day says, we must establish a vision for this precinct that respects heritage and envisions a future where we can all enjoy fresh air, open space and each other.
Tony Roche, Richmond


Inquiry failings
The terms of reference of any inquiry inevitably determine the report and recommendations made. In the case of the COVID inquiry, the tight terms of reference will ensure that the final report is limited as a thorough investigation and, just as importantly, inadequate as a roadmap for future pandemics.
Peter Randle, Pascoe Vale South

Premiers are needed
Why has Prime Minister Anthony Albanese decided not to require state premiers to be involved in the COVID inquiry? They were controlling the wellbeing of their constituents during the pandemic, and are a vital source to explain decisions made during it so we may be better prepared for the possible next pandemic. What will this inquiry achieve with integrity without their compulsory involvement and accountability?
Christine Baker, Rosanna

Eaves to the rescue
Your correspondent (Letters, 22/9) recommends “painting roofs white, planting trees and spacing houses a fair distance apart” as a start to mitigating against the effects of El Nino and climate change. One commonsense thing that should be reintroduced, compulsorily if needs be, is eaves on all houses. In Australia’s climate, never mind a climate emergency, it is nonsensical that these have all but disappeared from new-build housing.
Margaret Callinan, Hawthorn

Publish reserve prices
In Victoria’s housing statement released this week, the government proposes to “crack down on dodgy real estate agents by introducing tougher penalties” on agents who underquote.
Tougher penalties will not stop underquoting. The current auction rules are fundamentally flawed and will remain so as long as vendors, working in cahoots with their agents, can change their reserve prices at any time before contracts of sale are signed.
Rogue agents are well-trained in the art of manipulating published price guides and the use of creative vocabulary to conceal the prices they know their vendors really want.
The simple, easily policed, instant fix to underquoting is to require vendors’ reserve prices to be published in all auction advertisements.
John Keating, managing director
and auctioneer, Keatings, Woodend

Skill shortages
Have our planning boffins no better short, medium and long-term answer to the skilled manpower shortage than to drain the manpower resources of other nations? Allied to this question, are our educational capabilities simply a way for the nation to drain money away from these same nations from which we are sourcing skilled labour rather than a way to meet those skill shortages?
We remain a lucky country, despite our constant “foot shooting”, but we are far from a “clever country”, having gone back to the “migration well” to fill shortages from well before I studied for a degree in the 1970s and obviously looking to do so far into the future.
In my field of medicine, planning of a homegrown medical workforce has been piecemeal, inadequate and led to increasing shortfalls in, among other specialties, general practice, especially in rural areas.
Michael Langford,

3A change is an F
The proposed changes to the 3A tram service are disappointing (″⁣St Kilda, City Circle heritage trams cut in timetable overhaul″⁣, 21/9).
It reduces direct weekend services from St Kilda’s closest train station Balaclava to popular weekend destinations like Acland and Fitzroy streets, Luna Park, St Kilda foreshore and the beach. It also cuts weekend public transport options for our increasingly car-less St Kilda residents.
Better public transport is essential for our constantly growing city.
If PTV has based its changes on actual patronage maybe it’s a sign that St Kilda is no longer the visitor hotspot we imagine. That’s another story altogether.
Geoffrey Conaghan,
St Kilda

Yes, to new perspectives
A Yes vote is crucial to disrupting the failed interventions of the past 250 years and replacing entrenched policy and implementation failures with fresh perspectives and energy.
Involvement of stakeholders in complex decision making and change has long been recognised as improving productivity, quality and creativity. This occurs through greater ownership of the problem and solution because genuine consultation produces higher levels of discretionary effort and develops the adaptive and thinking capacity of the people who are intrinsic to successful change.
The No campaign seeks to continue with the passive involvement of the people most impacted. This can only result in prolonging the status quo: problems not solved but becoming worse, higher levels of waste, poorer decisions and elevated levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander alienation.
The referendum provides a wonderful opportunity for Australia to think well and to listen with empathy.
Dr Patrick McCarthy, Camberwell

A decent change
The No campaign has an air of the 2015 Adam Goodes incident. Adam Goodes used his voice as Australian of the Year to politely ask Australians to help break down the barriers of racism that impact on Indigenous Australians. For this, he was met with unjustly sustained booing at his AFL matches and spurious criticism by some in the media. Waleed Aly’s observations in an interview on the ABC’s Offsiders program in 2015 explained it quite succinctly. He stated, ″⁣Australia is generally a very tolerant society, until its minorities demonstrate that they don’t know their place.″⁣
So, it’s not a surprise that some who are beneficiaries of the status quo are receptive to the hyperbolic catastrophising of the No campaign. What is being proposed in the referendum is a decent and simple change to the Constitution that means a lot to many Indigenous Australians. The subsequent legislative processes that require debate and the support of a majority of MPs will provide adequate checks and balances to ensure that the sky will not cave in.
Paul Miller,
Box Hill South

PM’s bad planning
The problem for the Yes campaign is not so much the bad luck of the timing coinciding with a time of economic stresses but that the PM had not tested the waters with the Coalition, and was, seemingly, unaware of its opposition and intention to oppose the proposition. This was an egregious error, considering the history of referendums.
Lucy Niu, Mount Waverley

Timeline to hope
Some steps towards a reconciled Australia:
1967: Referendum to count Indigenous Australians in census (90.77 per cent Yes vote)
We see you more clearly now.
1976: Legislated Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory
It’s not much, but it’s a start.
1984-85: Royal commission into nuclear testing in the 1950s-60s
Lamentably, we let the British test weapons that left people and country poisoned by radiation.
1992: High Court’s Mabo decision
Our law recognises now that you were here long before us.
1997: Bringing Them Home report We understand now that the policy of forcibly taking your children was wrong.
2008: The Apology
Sorry about past wrongs.
2023: Referendum for recognition and a Voice
With this we can all listen better.
Vote Yes on October 14.
Paul Chadwick, Melbourne

A bit of colour, please
Could The Age put some colour on the puzzles page, eg, some light red or yellow shading behind the headings of each puzzle.
It could compensate for the loss of the humour and, so often, the delight of the comics. The black and white page is too bleak and offers little contrast to the news.
Des Files, Brunswick


The new emblem for Qantas should be a cash cow.
Nola Cormick, Albert Park

Your correspondent (Letters, 22/9) is on the money suggesting Alan Joyce’s bonus be paid in flight credits, but with the proviso that he be given a year to use them or lose them.
Ian Maddison, Parkdale

Until there is a fiscal disincentive that reduces the number of people buying houses for investment and wealth creation, there will always be a housing crisis.
Julie Perry, Highton

Simply take negative gearing away from residential property investment if it is not used for long-term rental.
Judy Kevill, Ringwood

Demolishing well-situated, even if imperfect, public housing towers during a severe housing shortage, is certainly placing the cart before the horse.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood

Where will the residents of the housing towers live while replacement accommodation is being built. I hope not in the hotels that were used during the COVID outbreak. Pam Swirski, Berwick

Rather than making your legs look longer, wouldn’t a fake belly button stuck higher up be a sure sign you’ve had a face lift (Odd Spot, 22/9)?
Paul Custance, Highett

A question to the No side: how will a No vote improve things for Indigenous people? I can’t see it, but maybe someone on that side can.
Mick Webster, Chiltern

If the Voice referendum is defeated, it could be appropriate to also deny access to those groups who lobby parliament.
Wendy Knight, Little River

The evidence would suggest that love is god rather than the other way around (Letters, 21/9).
Lindsay Zoch, Mildura

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