A threat to informers and media freedom

Credit:Illustration: John Shakespeare

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A threat to informers and media freedom

UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the US to face espionage charges on the grounds of his mental health and the regime under which he would be jailed there (The Age, 6/1). This is a relief and it reasserts some measure of faith in the British justice system.

However, her ruling that Assange had overstepped legal and ethical constraints in his pursuit of the leaked material and what he did no longer qualified as journalism for the purposes of protected speech signifies a direct threat to whistle blowers in general and to universal media freedom in particular.

Bizarrely, one could deduce that if Assange were mentally fit and not deemed to be a ‘‘substantial suicide risk’’, he could be facing up to 175 years in an American prison. His actions through the WikiLeaks’ disclosures have been in the public interest and in the interests of democracy. Governments suppress truths, manipulate information and lie with breathtaking disdain to further their own interests at the expense of their citizens. Scott Morrison should exhibit political fortitude and demand to the British and Americans that Assange be released.
Harry Petras, Caulfield South

Surely it is time to end this long-running saga

Your editorial (The Age, 6/1) persuasively argues the case for the pursuit of Julian Assange by the US and the concomitant attitude of several Australian governments to be considered for what they are: the hounding of an individual for exposing the failings of the US in its interference in other nations, which has a long and sorry history.

The fact that the previous US administration did not wish to initiate legal proceedings for many reasons should give us pause for thought. As far as I know, there has not been a single instance of anyone coming to harm over the initial WikiLeaks revelations.

Whatever we think of Assange and his motivation, this long, drawn-out saga has surely reached its end game. The big disappointment, and not for the first time, is our own government’s lack of care for one of its own citizens.
John Paine, Kew East

It is time for the Prime Minister to lead with courage

Scott Morrison will not be appealing to Donald Trump to pardon Julian Assange. It seems this is part of a pattern: minimal action on climate change, locking up refugees for years on end and failing to right wrongs, but pursuing those who uncover uncomfortable truths about government action (eg, Witness K and Bernard Collaery). When will we get a prime minister who actually leads and knows right from wrong?
Peta Colebatch, Hawthorn

Exposing crimes that leaders wanted to keep hidden

I wholeheartedly agree with your editorial. Brave journalists are the custodians of a democracy. Julian Assange exposed war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the US and its allies in the Middle East. If these countries consider such actions of a journalist are a crime, we are doomed as a democracy.

Naturally, Assange’s exposure of the crimes made a number of leaders of the so-called Free World uncomfortable. This is not surprising; they were partners and prime movers of these crimes. In a fair world, they would be facing international criminal court for their actions. Scott Morrison should read Senator Rex Patrick’s article – ‘‘PM must change his mind on Assange’’ (Opinion, 6/1).
Bill Mathew, Parkville

The women who were denied their day in court

Judicial concern for Julian Assange’s life and mental health has saved him from extradition to the US. But what about the two women in Sweden who accused him of sexual assault (which he has denied, saying all the encounters were consensual) in 2010 and their mental state? Because, for years, he failed to return to Sweden to answer those charges, Swedish authorities were finally forced to drop them as the statue of limitations on the claims had expired. This would likely have increased and prolonged any mental suffering experienced by the women.
Freya Headlam, Glen Waverley


It only takes a few seconds

A great article on drowning, Julie Power – ‘‘Summer’s silent killer’’ (The Age, 6/1). It brought to mind an incident from a long ago hot summer’s day at the beach. Our family and some friends were standing in calm, shallow water and my daughter, about two-and-a-half, was standing beside me.
She spotted a shell under the water and bent over to pick it up. Her legs were grounded straight, her face and body lying in and parallel to the water surface. I expected her to stand up after she grasped the little shell. She did not. Several seconds passed. She made no sound and did not struggle. It was difficult to comprehend.

Shocked, I realised that she was not able to get up by herself, and quickly hoicked her out. The silence, the lack of panicky thrashing, the rapidity with which it happens. This is how a drowning may occur. It is unbelievably and frighteningly easy. Watch your children when they are around water. Their lives may depend upon it.
Jan Impey, North Ringwood

Importance of floating

The regularity of drownings in Victoria/Australia is very disturbing. As children, preparatory to learning to swim, my siblings and I were first taught to float in water – fast-running rivers or still. Surely this should be a basic element of water education.

Swimming is also very important, but if someone is caught in a rip in the ocean, they need to understand there is no need to panic. The rip goes straight out, but is only at top strength for a relatively short distance.

If the swimmer can simply float for a short while and not fight the current, once the power of the rip fades in deeper water, they can swim away, parallel to the beach, and await rescue or return themselves to the beach. I also believe the number of drownings influenced by alcohol consumption should be published as a warning.
Ann Leith, Canterbury

The end of Trump is nigh

In his leaked conversation with Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, about ‘‘finding’’ enough votes to overturn his defeat, Donald Trump forgot to mention looking under the cushions on the couch. Besides a small number of coins, I am sure he will find those votes that he thinks have been misplaced.

You cannot demand 11,780 votes be found just because you want them. That is not how democracy works in any free country. This nightmare only has a fortnight to go, although it will be an eventful two weeks full of claims, confusion and chaos, but the future looks brighter.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill

The carnival continues

Is there such as thing as ‘‘too ironic’’? When Donald Trump arrived at his Georgia rally, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son was blasting over the PA: ‘‘I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no’’. The circus rolls on …
Colin Howard, Hawthorn East

Just let me try, please

‘‘If you have the money on hand, the challenge is delivering it in a useful form to the myriad places that need it. It’s a lot harder to spend billions in practice than it is in theory, or at least billionaires often say it is,’’ writes Christopher Ingraham (Business, 5/1). Please give me the problem.
Tania Hardy-Smith, Mitcham

Listen to border towns

Our business manages 25 short-term holiday rentals, six of which are on the ‘‘wrong side’’ of the Murray. The cancellations we have processed in the past four days are worth close to $70,000.

The summer trading period produces 25 per cent of our business’ annual income, and the income for our home owners, all of whom live in Melbourne. This summer was much anticipated and is now no longer. Mortgages may be defaulted and the mental health of those affected is significant. The ripple effect is huge for every business, including in Echuca. Moama is a ghost town.

Sadly, the Victorian government is unlikely to offer assistance to the NSW border towns. If it does, it will not touch the sides of the losses, or keep our businesses open. I think it is accurate to say NSW border residents from Yarrawonga west to the SA border consider ourselves Victorian. We shop in Victoria, travel daily there and spend 90per cent of our income there. Victoria must stop making blanket decisions. The input of our local representatives must be acted on and respected.
Kye Andersen, Echuca/Moama

Unworthy of assistance

Considering the costs for future generations, I am not sure I can sanction ongoing government support for tourist operators. I have spent the past few weeks on the Bass Coast and was astounded to encounter five restaurants/bars/takeaways closed over this, the busiest season of every year, let alone during the huge demand due to our current extraordinary circumstances. The lack of enthusiasm to make a dollar did not engender my support for ongoing taxpayers’ support. If there is genuine need, good government assistance is necessary, but in this instance one has to wonder.
Jennifer Grimwade, Richmond

Take a national approach

What is COVID normal? Politicians promote this expression but surely it should not consist of closing state borders every time there is a small outbreak of coronavirus. This disrupts the live of hundreds of thousands of Australians and the economic consequences are enormous. Mental health should also be paramount in making decisions, and continually living with uncertainty makes life very difficult for many. We need Australia-wide policies on travel restrictions, mask wearing, numbers allowed to attend in various different scenarios etc, so that we can get on with life. There has to be a better way of coping with COVID for as long as it lasts.
Jennifer Monger, Benalla

A double punishment

The Victorian government made a rash, shambolic decision to close our borders to NSW. Our family was forced to return from an overwhelmingly deserved holiday in a warm, safe, green-zoned NSW location. Unable to comply with the eight-hour window we were given to leave (through no fault of our own – the tyranny of distance that the size of NSW brings), we are now required to isolate for 14 days despite having tested negative. In fact, we are surrounded by COVID exposure sites at home, whereas there were none in our holiday location.
Bridget Meldrum, Middle Park

The workers pay the price

Have any of those travellers who did not follow advice not to travel interstate spared a thought for the personnel who are manning the Victoria/NSW border crossings? Police officers recalled from leave and accommodated in tents and with what facilities? Likewise, COVID-19 screening centres staffed by overworked health workers in all conditions – rain, shine, wind and unending complaints? No. I did not think so.
Helena Kilingerova, Vermont

Let the vaccinations begin

Because of the delay by the federal government in obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine, perhaps the Victorian government could independently obtain vaccine supplies. A mass inoculation program for Victorians needs to be started before the end of January.
Geoff Richards, Emerald

Everyday use of ‘girting’

The word ‘‘girt’’ has its uses. The other day we told our neighbours that their dog had been in our yard. ‘‘What makes you so sure?’’ they asked. We replied: ‘‘Our gnome is girt by pee.’’
Andrew Raivars, Fitzroy North

Dollars before our trees

I applaud Clay Lucas’s article (The Age, 4/1) on the drastic loss of trees due to infrastructure projects. Regional towns, with their treed horizons, shady roads and abundant wildlife which genuinely increase quality of life, are being devastated because of the greed of ‘‘pack ’em in’’ developers. They lack flexibility, vision and an appreciation of the natural environment, and exterminate almost every living thing, substituting generic, unresponsive planning and immature plantings.

Can the road go round the trees in the empty paddock? No. Even significant trees and vulnerable and protected species are razed along with every other skerrick of vegetation and topsoil. And it is all legal. Ask the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Ask the paid ‘‘experts’’ who gush forth their detailed reports supporting every aspect of this carnage and who, no doubt, live in leafy inner suburbs. I protest. My community protests (except those who see a dollar in it for themselves somewhere along the way).
Jeannie Haughton, Drouin

Let’s vote independent

Bronnie Hattam – ‘‘A fait-accompli plan’’ (Letters, 6/1) – is on the money. Our parliaments need a healthy body of independent members to represent the needs and wishes of the people they represent. Melbourne is made up of suburbs with their own special character. For goodness sake, our national game is made up of teams that represent their particular suburb’s characteristics. Some of the planning approvals threaten to turn our marvellous city into a boring collection of treeless, ego-driven masonry.

The decision-making of the two major parties is weighed down by obligations to factions and well-funded lobby groups. The simplest way to undermine these mostly pecuniary influences and make ministers more accountable to the responsibilities of their portfolios is to elect independent representatives. This, by the way, seems to be a growing trend.
John Mosig, Kew

Seeking peace and quiet

Can we please ban leaf blowers until next autumn? I live in a block of flats, surrounded by other blocks of flats, and they all have cleaning contractors who work on different days and use incredibly loud leaf blowers when there are hardly any leaves lying around. Put them away until autumn, please, and let us enjoy some quiet summer mornings.
Carolyn Evans, Elwood



I’ve just endured lockdown 3. My local sourdough bakeries closed over the holidays and only reopened this week. Now that was tough.
Cade Amos, Brunswick East

Is Gladys in Hawaii?
Hans Paas, Castlemaine

Carp season has begun, judging by the complaints from the Opposition and its supporters.
Bill Walker, St Andrews Beach

It looks like money is more important than lives where the Sydney cricket is concerned. Why it can’t go ahead without crowds is beyond me.
Margaret Sullivan, Caulfield North

When Americans can stand in line for 10 hours to vote, I can wait four hours in my car for a COVID test.
Steve Melzer, Hughesdale

The state governments are delivering a moving COVID feast and the only thing on the menu is a dog’s breakfast.
John McKenzie, Wangaratta


Georgia On My Mind should be retitled Georgia Does My Head In.
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

Is Trump distinctly less orange than previously?
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East

Proof? You don’t want proof if you believe Trump.
Peter Johns, Sorrento

When I looked up the definition of ‘‘sore loser’’ in the dictionary, it said: ‘‘See under Trump, Donald’’.
Chris Burgess, Port Melbourne


‘‘Summer’s Silent Killer’’ (6/1) provided crucial information for Australians of all ages. Julie Power, your facts and instructions on drowning will save lives.
Julienne Gleeson, Malvern

Bob Whiteside (5/7), having Morrison open for Australia would certainly strengthen the side. He’s a brilliant exponent of spin.
Nick Barton, Hillside

The Age news supplement inside the furniture catalogue is getting smaller every day.
Roderick Carmichael, St Kilda

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