Illustration: Michael LeunigCredit:
With the 75th anniversary of the Japanese surrender, and the end of World War II, being acknowledged on Saturday, I thought to share my recollections of that memorable day, when my family lived at Balnarring Beach, on Western Port Bay.
August 15 dawned a raw winter’s day, with a stiff southerly barrelling in off Bass Strait, but following the announcement of surrender, the locals were undeterred. They built a large, celebratory bonfire on the back beach, only 100 yards from our house. The whole district attended, partying through the night. Singing, dancing, drinking, roasting potatoes, enjoying the euphoria of the day. I was particularly excited and impressed, as it was my seventh birthday, and I thought they were all invitees. I remember asking my mother who told them? I have never enjoyed or experienced another birthday quite like the one in 1945.
Bryan Francis, Altona
Active association keeps memories alive
Tony Wright’s ‘‘last survivor’’ (‘‘‘You just have to go on’, says the last survivor of Ambon’’, 15/8) was spot on that Ambon was a war-time disgrace all round, little known to many Australians.
Two points may be added, however. First, there’s an active Gull Force Association (of which Max Gilbert is a revered member) that keeps the memories alive and does good works among the inhabitants of the island. And second, the 1990 film Blood Oath, featuring Bryan Brown and Russell Crowe, was about the war crimes trial of Japanese officers in charge of the Ambon POW camp.
My connection is through an uncle, who was one of the 300 POWs ritually beheaded in retaliation for 100 Japanese sailors who died in the short skirmish before surrender.
Peter Greig, Colac
Gilbert shows forgiveness in his longevity
Ninety-nine-year-old World War II Ambon survivor, Max ‘‘Eddie’’ Gilbert is a living, breathing saint. To have witnessed and himself survived the most inhumane, diabolical and lengthy torture and deprivation, as a hideously abused prisoner of war, is just the first miracle. To still be here to show us not only how to ‘‘forgive’’ such horrors so we can learn from his incredible staying power and resilience, is surely the most timely, example of ‘‘you just have to go on’’, we are ever likely to receive. Such a courageous life and so very well-lived.
Tris Raouf, Hadfield
More recognition for the Pacific War urged
Thank you Tony Wright for the article on Max Gilbert and the 2/21st Battalion, known as Gull Force. Sadly the tragedy and heroism of Gull Force and the many theatres of the Pacific War are largely neglected in favour of an overriding emphasis on the Gallipoli campaign in Anzac commemoration.
While not downplaying the pivotal role Gallipoli has in our Anzac legacy, it was Britain’s war not Australia’s. The Pacific War was Australia’s war when we were in a desperate fight to save our nation from invasion. My father endured the Burma rail horror and my uncle, a member of Gull Force beheaded by the Japanese, I feel we owe these men and women of the Pacific war more recognition. More articles involving our dwindling veterans would greatly help to redress this shortfall and enlighten younger generations.
Paul Wilson, South Yarra
Another doomed mission deserves recall
The article on the Ambon survivors and their ‘‘doomed mission’’ reminded me of another ‘‘doomed mission’’ perpetrated by the Australian government of the day – the fall of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. A completely inadequate force of 2000 soldiers and civilians with a few obsolete Wirraway aircraft faced an overwhelming invasion by Japanese forces on January 23, 1942. After the battle, the Japanese massacred 160 at Tol Plantation while more than 1000 were drowned in the sinking of the unmarked prison ship Montevideo Maru by an American submarine while being transported for slave labour – the greatest loss of Australian life in a maritime disaster.
John B. Quinn, Avoca
Call to resign premature
There is much talk about accountability, or lack of it, in regard to quarantine management in Victoria. To be ‘‘accountable’’ means accepting responsibility for one’s actions; honestly reporting actions and disclosing mistakes; rectifying mistakes and ensuring they will not occur again, and accepting the consequences of one’s actions. There is a constitutional convention (not always observed) that ministers should resign for presiding over serious departmental failures to which their action, or inaction, has directly contributed. Regardless of where fault lies, ministers are answerable to parliament.
Calls for the Premier and Health Minister to resign are premature, since it is not established what mistakes occurred in quarantine management, or who was responsible. There will be time for reckoning when the inquiry has reported. Meanwhile, Victorians should support the Premier and his team in their task of containing the virus and getting Victoria moving again.
Andrew Crockett, Hawthorn
So inexcusable and inexplicable mistakes were made by medical experts in NSW Health in the Ruby Princess debacle that killed more than 20 people, but no one is responsible. Not the head of the service nor the minister that NSW Health reports to. This whole conga line of incompetence and negligence goes right up to the Premier. I have yet to read of anyone losing their job or resigning over this ineptitude. It is even more galling when the people responsible pontificate that they did everything they could possibly do. These people are servants of the public; we pay their salaries and some accountability should swiftly come their way.
Ken Boddington, Mount Eliza
Old world thinking
Gas mining in the Great Australian Bight would sacrifice our last near-coast ocean zone. It must not be turned over to commercial interests even if spruiked as being ‘‘in the national interest’’. ScoMo’s rush to rebuild Australia’s economy post COVID-19 based on gas and led by mining leaders is straight out of John Howard’s song sheet from the late 1990s.
Mining gas as an energy solution denies its pollution impacts and would lay waste a non-renewable marine environment. The rush into fracking has already done irreparable damage to our landscapes and arable farming lands. New sea bed oil drilling must not be added to this fake energy solution. Old world economics. Old world politics. Old world thinking.
Michael Oxer, Fitzroy North
True and untrue
Craig Reucassel’s new TV program The Fight for Planet A: Our Climate Challenge presents facts that are true and untrue at the same time. While it is true that Australians emit more CO2 per person that any other nation, it is also the case that Australia as a nation emits only 1.3 per cent of the global CO2 emissions. So even if every Australian household reduced it emissions by 50 per cent immediately, that would amount to no more than 20 per cent of Australia’s emissions (as most of the country’s emissions are transport, energy and farming) and the worldwide decrease would be minuscule. Until China, India, the US and Europe reduce their emissions significantly, any effort by Australian households, however worthy, are immaterial.
Robert Smallwood, Coffs Harbour
Time ripe for bold reform
Retiring federal president of the Liberal Party, Nick Greiner, believes that the COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity for the Morrison government to make bold reforms (‘‘Our straight man in Trumpistan’’, 15/8). While some of his ideas are worthy, including a federal anti-corruption commission, he appears to have a narrow vision of bold reforms, focusing on an increased GST and reduced income taxes.
The Prime Minister has the political capital to introduce some truly bold reforms and leave a legacy to remember. Components could include: measures such as carbon pricing to foster faster adoption of renewable energy; encouragement of new industries using Australia’s advantages in natural resources such as iron ore and solar and wind power; increased taxation of the exports of our finite natural resources so that Australians benefit, and not just multinational corporations; acceptance of the Uluru statement, the teaching of Aboriginal history and culture in our schools, and working in partnership with our First Nations peoples; and abandonment of the harsh policy of indefinite detention of asylum seekers and re-establishment of the Fraser-era approach of working with our neighbours and the international community to quickly process asylum claims.
Andrew Trembath, Blackburn
Instead of all the end of year pontificating by the usual suspects, this year, could we just have a published hard copy of all the best cartoons for the year, starting with Leunig’s take on the farce of aged ‘‘care’’ from Saturday? Funds raised from sale of said hard copy to go towards relocatable, accessible, solar-powered homes for bushfire victims and aged relatives.
Bernadette George, Mildura
In March and April the government assured us there would be at least 7000 ICU beds with ventilators available to deal with any coronavirus surge. Elective surgery was halted. Private hospitals were co-opted in to ensure adequate capacity. In the event, daily figures have shown that even on the worst days, about 1000 patients have been in hospital with COVID-19 at any time, with fewer than 100 in ICU.
Despite these admirable arrangements, a decision was made to treat infected residents in aged care homes rather than admit them to hospital. This, despite the vulnerability of residents, the difficulty of maintaining strict protocols with many confused and demented people and a constantly changing, low-paid workforce. This situation is like storing tonnes of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse and keeping your fingers crossed.
Peter Barry, Marysville
The irony of the government paying JobKeeper to private schools to keep their staff while denying the scheme to university employees. Where will those private secondary school students enrol for further education, when there will be few staff left running tertiary education?
Olivia Manor, Coburg
Lack of independence
‘‘Independent schools go on JobKeeper to keep staff’’ (16/8) reveals how the privileged look after their advantages. Far from cashing in some of their many assets or drawing on cash reserves, they have their hands out to the taxpayer. So much for independence.
Tony Haydon, Springvale
Time to change tack
Each day the press pack pursues the Premier, asking – if, when, how many ADF troops were on offer? It is time for our media to change tack and focus questions on how we will prevent future outbreaks from harming the community. We know hotel quarantine was bungled. For now, changes have been made, and in time the judicial inquiry will reveal the details.
But under our strategy of ‘‘aggressive suppression’’ such outbreaks are to be expected, and should be suppressed. By focusing exclusively on ADF and hotel quarantine we miss a key point – what went wrong tackling this outbreak once COVID-19 jumped from hotel quarantine into the community?
Is ‘‘aggressive suppression’’ still fit for purpose after Victoria’s second wave has starkly demonstrated our inadequacies in suppressing outbreaks? We must be better prepared and we must ask better questions.
Dr Aaron Bloch, Brunswick
Put compassion at the core
In the words of Hubert Humphrey: ‘‘The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and handicapped.’’ When it comes to aged dare, disability care, mental health care, caring for the homeless, would our government pass the test?
Might we imagine a time when we live in a society, not an economy: where the economy serves people, rather than people serving the economy: where Thatcherite ideology is ‘‘dead, buried and cremated’’. Might there be a time when compassion is a core value of our society? Might there be lessons we could learn from this pandemic?
Gillian Crozier, Malvern
Know your rules
Further to Ashleigh McMillan’s article ‘‘Council grilled over barbie ban’’ (16/8), I urge all ratepayers to inspect the local bylaws to which their own councils hold them subject. Bayside’s document is a mere 168 pages. A council document designed to regulate behaviour and compel conformance with council’s interpretation of our long-lost common sense.
I hope that Chloe and Astrid Bocci, as they help dad ‘‘tend that beloved wood-fire pizza oven’’, appreciate that those dancing flames are one of the last remaining primal links we have with our ancestors who tamed fire.
Ronald Elliott, Sandringham
Elusive inner peace
Of all Waleed Aly’s COVID-19 articles, his rhetorical plea in ‘‘Can we find inner peace again?’’ (14/8), hits the mark best. As he warns, we are guilty of being overstimulated by technology and the ubiquitous way it invades our lives, even before lockdown. We now seem to be reliant on it to make up for real stimulation from personal contact, which is denied us.
Aly’s figurative homo covidicus will be an admirable, even heroic character if, through this pandemic experience, he can emerge more empathetic, kinder and more compassionate. These are some of the ingredients for that elusive inner peace.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
AND ANOTHER THING …
Cannonballs fired at Dan, feather duster treatment for Border Force.
John Johnson, Richmond
Leadership, understanding, strategic, integrity, compassion. I am so grateful for our Premier.
Marg Welsh, Abbotsford
We don’t want more heartfelt apologies from our leaders, we want less bungling by their governments.
Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick
Offensive barbecue ‘‘emissions’’ (16/8)? Let’s know where they are, so we can suck ’em up, mask permitting.
Bernd Rieve, Brighton
You also breathe through your nose. So please cover up that little feature on your face and one day we may all be able to smell the roses.
Myra Fisher, Brighton East
Sounds like Border Force is in charge of borders except when they’re not.
Joan Segrave, Healesville
Memo Mr Morrison: If I’m sick enough to need hospital care, I expect to get it regardless of where I live. I’m 80, I’m old enough to vote.
Janet Gaden, Daylesford
There are many more people than the Health Minister Jenny Mikakos who have been ‘‘unlucky’’ to have landed in a pandemic.
Mark Martakis, Melbourne
It appears that not commenting on ‘‘on-water matters’’ has continued into Scott Morrison’s prime ministership by disallowing comment on the Ruby Princess.
Alan Inchley, Frankston
Adequate and enforceable levels of trained staff is an imperative need for aged care.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood
So New Zealand is jumping on the ‘‘blame Melbourne’’ bandwagon.
Marie Nash, Balwyn
Perhaps it is time to recreate the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital.
Melanie Bennetts, Templestowe Lower
Thanks Michael Leunig for holding up the mirror to all of us (15/8).
Ivan Gaal, Fitzroy North
To submit a letter to The Age, email [email protected] Please include your home address and telephone number.
Source: Read Full Article