Death of a community and birthplace of ideas

Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson

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UNIVERSITIES

Death of a community and birthplace of ideas

Monash University’s proposal to cut some theatre and music courses (The Age, 30/9) is a targeted attack on Australian arts and culture. After a year of shocking cuts in government funding for the performing arts, massive fee hikes for arts degrees and years of Monash slowly dissolving the Centre for Theatre and Performance, we are barely surprised by this proposal.

A Monash spokesperson said most of the units of study to be removed had an enrolment of fewer than five full-time-equivalent students in 2019. As an honours student at the centre, I know this is not accurate of theatre units, and using it as the primary justification to close an entire school is devastating. Closing it will take away not only classes but also a community, a birthplace for new ideas and world-leading research. Scientists and politicians may create systems that keep us alive, but it is artists who make it worth living.
Paris Balla, Clayton South

Maintain Monash’s integrity and academic standards

I completed my creative practice PhD in music performance at Monash University. The decision to shut down its world-renowned ethnomusicology and musicology departments has been based on inaccurate data and a lack of due process, forcing academics of international standing into so-called ‘‘voluntary’’ redundancy. All subjects require a minimum of 70 students per class. Musicology and ethnomusicology classes easily meet those requirements. In fact, every year between 700 and 800 students from all faculties come to music to study subjects in ethnomusicology and musicology.

More than 70 music scholars from universities including Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge have signed a letter urging Monash’s vice-chancellor to reverse the decision. This speaks to the integrity and high academic standards these outstanding departments maintain. If cuts are to be made, they must be done in such a way as to protect Monash’s most valuable assets – the world-class academics and departments that are the foundation of its excellent reputation.
Stephen Morley, Blackburn

If cuts have to be made, spread them across arts

Monash University’s decision to cut the theatre major at the Centre for Theatre and Performance does not reflect the value that it generates. I chose to attend Monash because it was one of the few universities in Australia where I could study both education and theatre studies. To become an accredited primary school teacher in Australia, all graduates need to have a specialisation in a specific subject. I intended to specialise in drama, which I would achieve through my theatre studies major.

Monash’s decision to close the centre means that many aspiring drama teachers will choose to attend other universities instead. I understand the trying financial position the university is in and am aware that difficult decisions need to be made. However, there are alternatives that will be more beneficial to students and the university in the long run. One is to offer the nine redundancies across the arts faculty (more than 300 staff) rather than insisting that three of the four full-time equivalent positions go at the centre.
Sarah Matthews, Glen Iris

A strange reversal of views on freedom of speech

Have I got this right? Senator Pauline Hanson is defending the freedom of academics to teach, discuss, research and publish freely, as recommended by High Court Chief Justice Robert French in his government-commissioned review of free speech at Australian universities, while universities are opposing it (The Age, 29/9)? O brave new world.
Caroline Miley, Heidelberg

The Minister’s receptive ear to One Nation

Pauline Hanson says that federal Education Minister Dan Tehan ‘‘has shown a strong willingness to listen to the recommendations of [Senator] Malcolm Roberts and myself’’. That augurs well for the government’s proposed university funding legislation.
Bryan Fraser, St Kilda

THE FORUM

Students to fill the gap

My heart goes out to the farms that are dependent on the seasonal workers who will not be here this year (The Age, 30/9). I have a son in year 12 and a daughter at university. There will be thousands of these young adults who may be interested in getting a holiday job, particularly after being in isolation. Also, many of the traditional routes of getting a job after VCE are no longer viable given the state of the economy. These young adults will have a break of two to three months.

If there is a scheme where farmers can provide accommodation and meals, and perhaps transport to and from central hubs, it may be a way of getting the workforce that they desperately need. Some flexibility would go a long way – eg shorter shifts (so young people last the distance) or shorter stints for those who only want to work on the farms for a few weeks.
Sandy Morris, Surrey Hills

No more ‘slave’ labour

Fifty years ago when I was at university, my fellow students looked forward to going fruit picking. The work was hard but the money was good, there was a lot of camaraderie, the farmers looked after you and it was all worth while.

Fast forward 50 years and a young friend of mine, who was on a temporary visa went fruit picking. He was paid the correct wage but his boss took out $327 a week for accommodation (a shared, three-bedroom house with eight other people), and transport and food costs. At the end of the week, my friend cleared $28 for his labours.

Is it any wonder that young people do not want to do the job, especially as they are often paid by the amount they pick? There have been so many stories of exploitation that perhaps our Prime Minister should ensure that if this scheme is adopted, workers are treated properly.
Olivia Manor, Coburg

Desperately seeking info

My 21-year-old son is keen to go farming/harvesting in regional Victoria, but where does he apply? Everything online is so unclear. Which agencies are the best? Do you apply directly to the farmers? Who can you talk to for guidance? If farmers need workers, we need to make sure the campaigns to attract them include information about how and where to apply.
Abigail Cooper, Caulfield North

A joke of a debate

The first US presidential debate was a disaster. A boastful, bullying incumbent, a contender too polite to push back and a moderator who could not (or would not) keep control. It was a sad indictment of American democracy.
Valerie Gerrand, West Melbourne

A shameful spectacle

In view of the depths to which American public discourse has sunk under President Donald Trump, ‘‘debase’’ might be a more appropriate term than ‘‘debate’’ for the demeaning spectacle that citizens were subjected to yesterday.
Trevor Hay, Montmorency

Protective, native bushes

If I ever felt that I was living in a future tinderbox, I would need to look no further than the inset photo shown in ‘‘Bush block fans conserving wild places’’ (The Age, 29/9). While it would be ideal to convert former pine forest land to native vegetation, the reality is that climate change has dictated the type of vegetation cover that should be planted and this is not towering trees. Houses on bush blocks should incorporate all of the practical features that will ensure their inhabitants survive, including native bushes that will not engulf them in the case of fire.
Robin Martin, Coburg

A lesson from Spain

Spain is in the process of approving a full set of new regulations to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The plan is estimated to generate 200 billion euros of investment and create up to 350,000 jobs. Included is a ban on fracking.
Marlene Krelle, Surrey Hills

Damage to precious planet

Let us not forget how this coronavirus came to wreak havoc. It was through negligence, contempt, greed and ignorance of our finely balanced planet. And she can only take so much.
Colleen Filippa, Brown Hill

A matter of adaption

Jacinta Parsons’ article regarding chronic illness and the pandemic (Comment, 30/9) was interesting. When you are diagnosed with such an illness, your life changes. Living with the pandemic has the same affect. Both are hard to cope with but we have no choice but to face the challenges they bring, every day, difficult as it is. There is very little to be said in favour of chronic illness except that it can make us more adaptable. Hopefully the pandemic will be beaten sooner rather than later.
Linda O’Brien, Heatherton

A very dangerous event

Daniel Andrews, can you please engage the Australian Defence Force to guard the quarantine facilities that will host hundreds of tennis players and officials for the Australian Open? They will be visiting from COVID-19 hotspots, such as France, the United States and Spain. It might save a lot of heartache. Better still, ask them to stay at home next year.
Darren McClelland, Moonee Ponds

Freeing up businesses

Dan Andrews, here is a fix to open up the economy. Keep the five-kilometre restriction and open up businesses. If there is an outbreak, lock down the suburb and put the resources which are currently spread across Melbourne into that suburb while the rest of the city carries on ‘‘normally’’. Removing the five-kilometre restriction will just spread the outbreak and makes containment impossible.
Bruce Lowe, Brighton

Pain of small business

For small businesses whose doors have been forced shut, the support received from state and federal governments has been heavily dependent on luck, and which structure you chose when you established your business.

Partnerships saw limited support from JobKeeper, and have now been excluded from the latest round of Victoria’s Business Resilience Package. Partnerships without employees qualify for neither the Business Support Fund nor the Sole Trader support.

Surely an unintended exclusion of small businesses hit hard by the ongoing restrictions, but one which Business Victoria seems unwilling to follow up or address. This is particularly galling in a week that we see big business paying millions in dividends to shareholders on the back of JobKeeper handouts.
Michael Coates, Thornbury

Libs need to show maturity

Has the Victorian Liberal Party checked lately at what is happening in the United Kingdom with its second wave of infections? Perhaps if the party put political point scoring aside and took a bipartisan stand, people might hold it in some regard. Instead its churlish whining is an embarrassment.
Helen Hilton, Armadale

It’s time for action

The Premier has said yet again that he must wait until the final report of the hotel quarantine inquiry is tabled before taking action to address the deficiencies which will be the subject of recommendations in the report. His reasoning is as flawed as the judgment of his senior officials. There are many failings identified by the inquiry which can, and should, be addressed now. The pandemic is not a static target. It waits for no one. Or maybe the Premier would prefer to keep fiddling.
Dr Janet Mould, Safety Beach

A courageous suggestion

Bravery of the Week Award goes to columnist Catherine Ford (Comment, 29/9) for advocating the opening of sacred, green golf courses to the great unwashed with their dogs, their Macca wrappers, their ciggie butts, their plastic detritus and their sheer numbers. I hope that she lives a fair way, more than five kilometres, from the nearest clubhouse.
Elaine Hill, Warrnambool

What was the delay?

The real ‘‘trillion-dollar question’’ (The Age, 30/9): With interest rates having been at historically low levels for so long, why has it taken a global pandemic to bring about the stimulus spending that our economy has clearly needed for so long, and at what cost?
Andrew Remington, Travancore

A true work of art

Has Da Vinci, Carravaggio or even Rembrandt inspired Justin McManus’ photography – ‘‘Lockdown a lonely time for new mums’’ (The Age, 28/9) – or is it the timelessness of parental adoration? Dad’s expression is beatifically Renaissance. Marvellous. Hats off to photojournalism.
Chris Burchett, Ballarat

Memories of our past

How do we find the almost daily need for emotional courage, so perfectly offered in Warwick McFadyen’s article – ‘‘The flame of a candle, a life gone too soon’’ (Comment, 29/9). His tender, heartfelt memoriam to his son Hamish is testament to the unrelenting pain that is the unsuspected death of a child. Each of those amongst us who know that special depth of aching loss walk hand-in-hand with memories of our past together. Mourn your loving Hamish, with morning tears upon your pillow.
Denis Wilkins, Balnarring

To make it, or not make it

Thank you, Sue Green, for a cheery ‘‘make your bed straight away’’ story to avoid lockdown lethargy (Comment, 30/9). I have late onset asthma that may be affected by dust mites. Unfortunately these live on dust – much of which comes from shedded human skin cells. Our beds provide warm, damp environments ideal for dust mites.

I used to make my bed early until I read that doing so traps the mites and their faeces in the bed with a guaranteed food bank. Dust mite allergies are common so it may not be a good idea to make your bed early. The topic is controversial. Does anyone have better science to help me or should I just leave the bed unmade and avoid lethargy by sitting in the sunshine?
Beth Wilson, former Victorian Health Services Commissioner, South Yarra

AND ANOTHER THING

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Politics

Trump wants Biden to take a drug test. Biden should ask Trump to take a lie detector test.
Peter Mountford, South Kingsville

The latest on Trump: real news about a total fake.
Jacki Burgess, Port Melbourne

Are the port workers asking for more than the pay increases federal MPs receive each year?
Brent Baigent, Richmond

Three words for how outsourcing and contracting became the norm in Victoria. The Kennett years.
Jae Sconce, Moonee Ponds

It’s telling that the Coalition is channelling Labor PM Chifley to deal with the economic malaise.
Bob Zanker, Leopold

Was that a dung ball being muscled up a steep hill towards ‘‘distant democracy’’? Bouquets, Wilcox (30/9).
Tris Raouf, Hadfield

Overseas trips

Under which category did Abbott and Pell get travel exemptions? Was it ‘‘in the national interest’’?
Arthur Pritchard, Ascot Vale

I don’t care who gave Pell special permission to leave. I’m just glad he’s gone.
Cate Rose, Sandringham

Abbott went to London and Pell has left for Italy. I haven’t seen my cousins for ages. Where do I apply for an exemption?
Pat Agostino, St Kilda West

Advice for George. When in Rome, stay in Rome.
Richard Rawson, Mount Waverley

Coronavirus

Have the streets of Melbourne been filled with joggers at 10pm just because they can?
Margaret Ludowyk, Brunswick

I took my two dogs to the dog groomer this week. They look great. Pity about their owner.
Cath Dyson, Mount Eliza

Is Catherine Ford (29/9) happy to pay for her walk on the golf course? Golfers surely do.
Colleen lloyd, Malvern East

A Golfers Rights party (30/9) is surely aimed at swinging voters.
Peter Thomas, Pascoe Vale

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