Planning Minister, admit you have made a mistake

Credit:Illustration: Alan Moir

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Planning Minister, admit you have made a mistake

I write as the person who nominated Shell House (The Age, 16/12) to the Victoria Heritage Register. My decision was informed by my previous experience as a member of the Heritage Council and prior to that as the senior bureaucrat responsible for advising the responsible Victorian minister in relation to land-use planning and heritage matters.

My decision to nominate Shell House was, in significant part, driven by the potential to redevelop it, particularly its Flinders Lane frontage, in the manner that is now proposed. My desire was to see the “trade-offs” involved in the initial, and at the time controversial, Shell House planning approval preserved.

The issues around the frontage were well, and publicly, canvassed in the Heritage Council hearings that resulted in the listing of Shell House. These included the need to protect the Milton House environs and to create “open space” in the pedestrian link from the Spring/Flinders streets corner through Shell House to Flinders Lane and on to the top end of Collins Street. The Harry Seidler design of the 1980s achieved this and, after much public discussion led by a previous planning minister, Evan Walker, was approved.

The owners of Shell House are sophisticated property investors who are aware of the very substantial profit potential of the redevelopment of the Flinders Lane frontage, but potentially at the cost of the integrity of the Seidler design.

That the current Planning Minister should “short cut” the processes required to do so is, to say the least, disappointing. His published reasons for doing so do not stand up to informed analysis. But he is in the process of winding up his political career. If I was advising him, it would be to admit he made the wrong decision and remit the decision-making authority to the independent and well informed Heritage Council.
Jon Hickman, Hawthorn

Do we really need another empty office tower?

If Richard Wynne overrules Heritage Victoria’s advice on Shell House and Milton House, it will be a significant loss for Melbourne and these heritage-listed buildings. Shell House is the only high-rise tower designed by Harry Seidler in Victoria.

The proposed development will compromise Shell House to be seen in its intended form – from all sides – and limit the capacity of viewers to appreciate this iconic site. It will also compromise Seidler’s renowned, generous planning of public areas and his achieved vision of the development of the total site as a piece of artwork. This vision also considered and protected historic Milton House, one of the few remaining buildings with a strong link to early Melbourne in this area.

Seidler’s major works always included and prioritised the surrounding environment – external spaces, pedestrian thoroughfares, public space and the order in which internal spaces flow and are used – as part of his holistic approach.

The construction of a new tower will destroy the surrounding environment and the articulation of the whole site. Do we need another empty office building in Melbourne?
Robert Ketterer, Bendigo

We need to focus on people and place, not profit

Previous ministers/governments of the day have enabled the demolition of highest rated and highly visible buildings in the name of “best state interest”. The irreplaceable/no other examples of such art deco expressed in the D24 ballroom and theatre were demolished in Latrobe Street to enable a 32-storey tower, which funded the redevelopment of the Russell Street tower into apartments. This was culturally irresponsible and financially determined.

Yet making it worse is that lesser-rated listed buildings are being retained in areas where there is no sense of history by place or precinct (as in East Melbourne), and demolition would enable sensible, sensitive, higher-density development close to facilities and transport, ideal for our growing city.

Planning Minister, be wise. Evaluate holistically and think about people and place, not profit.
Peter Hirst, architect and town planner, Eaglemont


Our sad, dirty city

It has been almost two years since I have had a reason to visit marvellous Melbourne until this week when I saw a live play. To say I was shocked and saddened would be an understatement.

Our beautiful Melbourne, which I first knew as a child living in Brighton, to a student at a university, to a regular theatre goer, has always been an important part of my life. This week it looked shabby, tired, dirty, unloved and unkempt.

Please, Melbourne City Council, look at what you are offering tourists and visitors and begin the process of reversing this look. Otherwise I fear you will not attract anyone to return to our marvellous Melbourne.
Annie Young, Junortoun

It’s a free ride for all

Bev Touzel says “for many who use trams and buses, it seems to be a free service” (Letters, 16/12). She may be interested to know that the Sandringham commuter train provides the same competitive free service. Unfortunately the rest of us have to pick up the shortfall which is added to our fares annually.
Ken Feldman, Sandringham

Cheers to class of 2021

Having worked as a supervisor for both the GAT (general achievement test) and VCE exams, I can say I am very impressed by the achievements of the class of 2021. Adam Carey is right when he says every kid should get a prize (The Age, 17/12). As if lockdowns were not disruptive enough, adhering to COVID-19 rules meant doors and windows had to be open in exam rooms, so neither heating nor cooling was permitted.

On one day of my watch the school where I was working experienced a power outage, so there was no lighting either. This involved the disruption of a room change at the last minute but the students, much to their credit, took it in their stride and completed the exam with no fuss. Admirable, really – I salute them. They, their families, their friends and their teachers have much to be proud of. Well done.
Julie Hopper, St Helena

No need for despair

For all of you who did not get your desired or required VCE results, please take heart and do not despair. I also did not get there the first time. In the end, it actually turned out to be much more positive than I had ever thought possible.

Hold your head up high and soldier on. Do whatever you have to do to hold on to your career hopes. In a few weeks, things will seem better and everyone will have forgotten those numbers. Everything works out in the end.
Colma Ife, Camberwell

Deficits and billions

A $99.2 billion budget deficit (The Age, 17/12). I remember the Liberals castigating the Labor government for poor economic management when its budget deficit was $40 billion after the global financial pandemic.
Ken Nailon, Carnegie

When deficits mattered

It appears that the concept of debt and deficit has gone out the door. In years past, elections were fought on debt incurred by the previous government. Also, I would like to draw attention to the huge waste of money that our refugee policy has cost the taxpayer.
Marie Martin, Malvern

She’ll be right, mate

Economic optimism requires some application of judgment. What the government may be applying is wishful thinking based on sticking a sanitised finger in the breeze.
Trevor Martin, St Leonards

A lack of advocacy

Again the opposition leaves it to The Age to hold the government to account, this time regarding the fair distribution of grants funding. What have Labor parliamentarians been doing for the last three years?

They have not released much in the way of policy or offered anything constructive by way of alternatives to the government’s handling of the pandemic. They have not examined the information The Age’s investigation was based on, which was equally available to them if they had cared to look.

Even more damning, it seems to indicate that most individual Labor MPs have been sitting on their hands rather than advocating for their electorates when they apply for funding. Whatever the level of pork-barrelling, each electorate has the right to be effectively supported by elected MP.
Ken Reither, Gisborne

Inflammatory rhetoric

I was appalled by Chris Zappone and Eryk Bagshaw’s article – “Japan and Australia at flashpoint over child abductions” (The Age, 15/12). By mischaracterising and misrepresenting the facts, the article is regrettably inflammatory.

It is dishonest in implying that Japan disregards international norms, including the Hague Convention. I explicitly explained in the interview that the removal of children takes place both ways, and that out of the four cases where requests were made to Australia by Japan through the Hague Convention to return removed children to their home country, none resulted in their return.

Over the same period, in the case of requests to Japan by Australia via the Hague Convention to return removed children, out of 11 requests, four have already resulted in the return of children.

While enforcing court decisions on custody cases remains challenging not only in Japan but also in any other country, Japan has been taking concrete steps to improve the effectiveness of enforcement.

Since relevant laws were revised in April 2020, 80per cent of court decisions to return children to the country of their habitual residence have been successfully enforced through the Hague Convention. The article intentionally chose not to mention these facts.

Parental removal of children also takes place within national borders, in which case respective domestic laws of each country apply. It is a stated policy and established practice of Japan to fairly and equitably address all cases of child removal, regardless of the nationality of the parent, in order to seek a solution that is in the best interests of the child.

The article blatantly insinuates that relevant Japanese laws are biased in favour of “removing” parents and Japanese nationals. True mates recognise that there are differences between our legal systems, in the spirit of fairness, mutual understanding and respect.

It was saddening to read the article’s portrayal of me as being indifferent to the anguish of Australian parents who have had their children removed. I went through a divorce to a Japanese spouse and have had my son removed from me. I cannot imagine anything more painful than not being able to see one’s child. I know that the pain never goes away.

Yet I do contest the use of the term “child abduction” for these cases. The word “abduction” is used for the state crime committed by North Korea, which brutally kidnapped innocent Japanese men and women, including a teenaged girl, from their loved ones. This should not be conflated with the removal of children by their parents, however painful the experience is for parents and children alike, as I know myself.

The authors should understand that inflammatory rhetoric, confounded by half-truths and outright misinformation, is against the best interests of children suffering from the separation of their parents. What is most needed is hard work and constructive dialogue among all those who share a genuine wish to protect the wellbeing of the children.
Yamagami Shingo, ambassador of Japan to Australia

Follow in JFK’s footsteps

The next American ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy (The Age, 17/12), is the daughter of John F.Kennedy and is Democratic Party royalty. Her father was a renowned civil rights president. I would like to see her, on behalf of all Australians, approach Joe Biden to have Julian Assange released from Britain’s Bellmarsh Prison so that he can return to Australia in time to have Christmas with his family.
Brian Sanaghan, West Preston

Surely a major risk area

A few days ago I picked up a family member, who had been overseas, at Melbourne Airport. I was shocked at the lack of attention to COVID-19 safety. Many people in the arrivals hall were not wearing masks, and there was little social distancing. Although there were announcements about this, there was no prominent signage and nobody enforcing the rules.
Victorian businesses are required to enforce the rules, but seemingly not Melbourne Airport– and seemingly neither the federal nor Victorian government is concerned about infection from incoming passengers. Surely the international arrivals hall should be viewed as a major risk area.
Erica Smith, Ballarat


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding


With COVID cases soaring, is the government’s “let it rip” approach based on the chief financial officer’s advice?
Ron Mather, Melbourne

An extra $1.9 billion for an actual tunnel (17/12) sounds cheap compared to $1billion for the East West Link that isn’t.
Craig Tucker, Newport

Re Pavlidis’ cartoon (17/12). If we have so many expensive consultants, why do we need government? Taxpayers can’t afford both.
Anne Flanagan, Box Hill North


I’m waiting for Scott and Josh to say: “We’ll deliver a surplus earlier than Labor″⁣.
Hugh McCaig, Blackburn

Please, no tax cuts. We need health workers, hospitals, schools, roads etc. Let’s strive for a better society.
Michael Brinkman, Ventnor

COVID cases rising in NSW as restrictions are lifted. I never thought I’d say this but bring back Gladys.
Carole Ruta, Cheltenham

No doubt JobKeeper will focus on piggeries and coopers in 2022.
Ian Maddison, Parkdale

Come on, PM, protect a fellow Australian from the whims of the US. Julian’s done the time.
Robin Jensen, Castlemaine


My heart breaks for the children and parents in Tassie. It is a sad reminder that there is nothing more important than humankind.
Nola Cormick, Albert Park

Re the United Australia Party’s ads and anti-vax protesters: Freedumb.
John Shaw, Woodend

This year is annus horribilus on steroids.
Pete Sands, Monbulk

″⁣Fair catch″⁣ for a mark? Fair go, DA (Crossword, 17/12). That’s just not footy.
Dax McHarg, Wilmot, Tas

“With respect” – another worn-out phrase used oxymoronically more often than not.
Susan Caughey, Glen Iris

On Wednesday a commentator referred to the “first bat”. I was unaware cricket was born in the US.
Jon O’Neill, Waurn Ponds

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