Changes will disadvantage many vulnerable people

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

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Changes will disadvantage many vulnerable people


I am horrified at the reassessment program that the federal government is trying to install for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. My nine-year-old autistic granddaughter will have to face a stranger with a very long list of questions. She is going to be anxious to get the answers “right” because that is what you do in a test, isn’t it?

She has been brought up to feel that she is OK just as she is. She is not a problem. The therapists who help her are routine, friendly faces. Now she will be put on the spot, trying to make out that she is just fine, while receiving the unspoken but clear message that she is not fine at all. It breaks my heart.

The reason for this overhaul? Some people get better assessments because of where they live or how much they can afford to pay. Surely the obvious solution for fairness would be to provide better care for those who are missing out. It appears that the money will instead be spent on bad assessments for everyone. The people administering the standard questionnaire – a very blunt tool – will not have expertise in the variety of disciplines applicable to each client. The goal, it seems, is not fairness.
Maggie Duncan, Montrose

Diminishing a generous, principled scheme

In a child’s early years, providing timely support is essential and the NDIS needs to be more agile to fulfil its duty. When my seven-year-old daughter can sit comfortably in a chair, she can better concentrate on learning to speak or feed herself. She needs the chair now. Meanwhile her standing frame (no longer required) gathers dust in the shed.

If Scott Morrison is worried about the sustainability of the NDIS, he should be asking questions more broadly about the design and implementation of equipment manufacture, procurement and distribution. Currently there is no way of passing on this highly specialised, expensive equipment (eg, standing frames and wheelchairs) to others. These items are usually manufactured overseas, cost thousands of dollars to purchase and the wait for them can be many months.

It fills me full of fear that the NDIS, so generous and principled in its inception, could be diminished by “cutbacks” because of a lack of built-in sustainability measures. Does National Disability Insurance Agency chief Martin Hoffman know of a child who is waiting for a standing frame? They are welcome to use ours in the meantime.
Amanda Carroll, West Footscray

Fear that disability wellbeing will deteriorate

Why is government focusing on costs to NDIS, when the Productivity Commission focused on the economic benefit of disability support? People with disability, their families and disability workers are taxpayers too. Reducing supports risks poverty and reduces contribution. What economic and human future is there for under-supporting a disabled child’s therapy?

The disability sector even assisted the COVID-19 economic recovery with many jobs sustained. The voting disabled, their families, allied health, medical professionals and support workers are deeply concerned that disability wellbeing will deteriorate with this government’s ill-considered changes.
Shirley Humphris, Geelong

A failure to understand that no means no

It appears the federal government has difficulty understanding a “refusal”. There has been a unified voice from disability advocacy organisations, the NDIS’s original designers, NDIS recipients and spokespeople for allied health workers saying “no” to the current proposal of independent assessments.

I have two family members on the NDIS. The current assessment process for both has been thorough and manageable. Last year we were asked to take part in the independent assessment pilot and then we seemed to be forgotten. Seemingly they were not interested in what we had to say and were proceeding with the implementation of independent assessments. We are now being asked to be part of the pilot and they will pay us to consent to this. Really.
Jenny Harrison, Footscray


Importance of triaging

The Victorian Ambulance Service is in disarray. It seems the telephone operators are not trained to triage effectively. Why are they sending ambulances to non-emergency calls such as discoloured faeces (The Age, 7/5)?

My husband has life-threatening, anaphylactic reactions to jumping jack ants. (There are many in our suburb.) The first time he was bitten by one, my then 16-year-old daughter called the ambulance and was told to call Nurse On Call. He nearly died. Obviously there are other problems with the system but this seems to be an obvious place to start.
Kerry Bail, Beaconsfield Upper

Democracy, ALP style

I see little difference between branch stacking allegations against key figures, including Adem Somyurek, in the state Labor Party, the new “stability deal” – which carves up seats and shares power between the major factions – and the move by Labor’s national executive, under the direction of Anthony Albanese, to order the selection of a candidate for the new seat of Hawke by Friday (The Age, 7/5).

All aim to deny democracy to ALP members by preventing them from choosing their preferred candidate.
Adrian Tabor, Point Lonsdale

Lack of empathy

Missing from John Hewson’s piece – “Faithful Morrison says one thing but does another” (Age Online, 5/7) on the juxtaposition of Scott Morrison’s faith and his policies was his treatment of refugees. Otherwise it was a good article. To me, Mr Morrison’s Christianity should mean a more humane approach, not a complete lack of empathy.
Judith Dunn, Bentleigh East

Vital communication

China’s decision to suspend the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue (The Age, 7/5) creates serious concerns for the unsteady relationship between the two nations. The less communication, the fewer solutions can be found.

Any time dialogue fails in international relations, power devolves to the executive. I fear that Scott Morrison is unable to bargain with Xi Jinping. The question then becomes, is China setting a stage on which it has more power? In trade, we need it more than it needs us. I do not know how these two very different nations can keep the peace, but I do know that communication will be crucial.
Michael Puck, Maffra

When China needs us

Australia meekly continues to export its high-grade iron ore to China which has blocked many of our other exports for no commercial reason. Why not impose an export tax on all iron ore going to China to subsidise our blocked exporters? China cannot easily find other iron ore sources for the volumes it needs for its continuing expansion.
Mark Toner, Brighton

Our magnificent building

I was surprised on reading Michelle Griffin’s article that having a jab could be described as “joyful” (Opinion, 5/5). However, this week I too had my COVID-19 vaccination and I too felt a sense of joy. Joy when, arriving early, I strolled through Carlton Gardens gazing up at the exterior of the truly magnificent Royal Exhibition Building.

When my time came, there were no queues and the staff could not have been more helpful or friendly. The required, 15-minute wait afterwards was the greatest joy of all. It involved sitting silently in the magnificent Great Hall and gazing up at the ornate ceiling, filled with a sense of peace and awe.
Alison Davies, Surrey Hills

More action, less talk

Diplomacy is a horrible weakness of this government. In the last week, the Defence Minister and his senior officer have kept people awake over perceived conflict between China and Taiwan, when numerous assessments have been, “why now as it’s no different than it has been for the last 70 years?” Followed by the Health Minister announcing the travel ban with India and the jailing and/or heavy fine for anyone trying to circumvent the closure. It is better to get on with business rather than making it a breast-beating exercise about how tough you are.
David Anderson, Geelong West

Vaccination is the key

It is easy to blame patents for low availability of vaccines in poorer nations (The Age, 7/5), but patents are largely irrelevant to current circumstances. The World Trade Organisation agreement covering intellectual property already provides for limitation or forced licensing of patent rights for public health purposes, although a full waiver would simplify the process.

It is likely the pandemic will be over before COVID-specific patent rights are granted. In the meantime, vaccine production is limited more by supplies of ingredients and other high-grade consumables that are produced in only a handful of countries.

And the skills, equipment and know-how that are needed to manufacture safe, effective vaccines are mostly not covered by patents, but are largely controlled by the same large pharmaceutical companies. The pandemic will not be ended by international trade discussions about patent rights. What is required is for wealthy nations and companies to commit resources and money to the goal of achieving global vaccination.
Mark Summerfield, registered patent attorney, Northcote

A plea for compassion

In response to Peter Hendrickson (Letters, 6/5), he should note that the travel ban is in regard to Australian citizens trying to return to their own country, not “travellers from India”. And regarding his question as to how much risk should the community assume to assist fellow Australians in danger, I hope he is never in a situation where he would need to ask this for himself. If we all thought like him, I suspect he might not like the answer.
Simon Bennett, Hawthorn East

Just bring them home

The remaining 10,000 Anzacs were evacuated from Gallipoli over two nights more than 100 years ago. Surely, in this day and age, Scott Morrison can arrange to fly home 9000 Aussies from India. Thank heavens he is not running a war.
Barry Murphy, Pipers Creek

Premier’s fine example

Congratulations to Premier Investments for its decision to pay back the JobKeeper “net benefit” it received for the first half of the 2021 financial year to the Australian Tax Office (Business, 4/5). This is a start and I am sure it will repay the rest in the next few months. I will continue to support its retail stores like Portmans, Just Jeans and Peter Alexander.
Sandra Ashton, Beaumaris

Call for climate action

We need emergency action on climate change and other tipping points. The EU has foreshadowed a carbon tariff on countries lagging in climate ambition which is certainly applicable to Australia. The lack of a carbon price here since 2013 has slowed necessary adaptation in the gas sector.

For domestic consumption, electrical heating and cooking options are now price competitive and becoming cheaper. A carbon price would increase the price of gas and assist in driving change. It would also support long overdue economic reform by incorporating damaging externalities in prices.

Although the government regards technology and gas as transition measures to deal with climate change, these alone are inadequate. In the interim, no new gas should be provided in new residential developments, thus enabling a more rapid reduction on local emissions.
Keith Altmann, Woodend

Towards social justice

Congratulations to Liberal senator Gerard Rennick who is advocating for permanent tax cuts for low-income earners and to make the tax offset permanent (The Age, 4/5). And congratulations to both him and Nationals senator Matt Canavan (The Age, 4/5) who want to allow income-splitting so families are taxed on total income rather than having income taxed separately. This will benefit stay at home mums (or dads). These are good social justice measures. I hope the Morrison government will listen.
Pam Jones, Highton


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding


What is the miracle that will make it safe to bring Australians back from India on May 15, but not now?
John Green, Beaumaris

Lockdowns are bad but lockouts are good. An intriguing difference.
Brian Rock, Beechworth

Is a preparedness to make decisions in a partisan way a new ministerial responsibility?
Joan Segrave, Healesville

Surely this isn’t the first time Michael Slater has been unhappy with an inconvenient Border declaration.
Michael Spillane, Torquay

I’m not spending all my time at bars. I’m being socially responsible and “hotel quarantining”.
Keith Robinson, Glen Waverley

The government’s handling of the India ban brings to mind the image of an elephant trying to be Fred Astaire.
Barrie Bales, Woorinen North


If Bob were alive, he’d draft a memo of support for the campaign, “A woman for Hawke” (7/5).
Leon Zembekis, Reservoir

How apt it would be to select a woman for the seat of Hawke. He loved women.
Glenise Michaelson, Montmorency

So, we have upset the world’s two most populace countries. Prepare yourself, America, we have you in our sights.
Don Hyatt, Dingley Village

Jacinda being published as the “Queen of Woke”(7/5) must be a first for the The Age.
Martin Newington, Aspendale


Re the Melbourne Storm’s Josh Addo-Carr (7/5). The last time I saw “six of the best” was on the wrong end of my headmaster’s cane 60 years ago.
David Price, Camberwell

Australia Post selling insurance beggars belief. How about just delivering the mail in a timely manner?
Roger Foot, Essendon

If war breaks out, will the hawkish politicians and defence officials be on the front line or, as Blackadder once famously said, “about 35 miles behind”?
Tim Douglas, Blairgowrie

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