It depends on where you begin

It depends on where you begin

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There’s still a year to go

I know it’s been a lousy decade, but the worst part is that, in spite of many suggestions to the contrary, it still has another year to go.

It’s not as if we haven’t been through this before. Perhaps we can spend the coming year planning to do better next time.

Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

It’s not set in stone

Some recent correspondents have expressed a somewhat haughty conviction that the new decade does not begin until 2021.

What defines a decade (indeed any historical period) is not set in arithmetic stone, but defined by convention – and there are competing conventions. But there is some logic in taking a decade as beginning with a zero year.

When a child turns one, they have already been alive for a full year. So on the day of their first birthday they begin their second year. Likewise, the first day of 2021 is the start of the second year of the 2020s, thus making this Wednesday the first year of the 2020s.

Geoffrey Marnell, Gardenvale

It starts with zero

There is a simple difference between counting and measurement, but it leads to considerable confusion.

Counting in ancient times had little use for zero, as it would represent nothing, and therefore be easily ignored if counting such things as stock or money. Why record something that does not exist? The invention of zero as a number by the Arabic world enabled measurement of quantities and enabled a blossoming of applied and theoretical mathematics. How many tape measures do we see that begin on 1 centimetre?

People who claim the decade begins at 2021 and ends at 2031 are counting years. Those that see the decade begin on the first instance in 2020, and ends 10 years later, are measuring time.

Personally, I would go with the Arab mathematicians and use zero, rather than the shepherds counting their flock.

Rob Ward, Lake Tyers Beach

The endless decade …

Every day is the end and start of a decade, but, since the next 10 years will probably be referred to as “The Twenties”, this New Year’s Day is the start of that decade.

Christine Weatherhead, Glen Waverley


Who did they ask?

So the paid CFA staff and the paid Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria staff have told the paid emergency services minister that unpaid CFA volunteers who lose time and money working in horrendous conditions saving the government and the state billions of dollars every year somehow don’t want to be compensated for their lost time and money. May we see the results of the survey they conducted of CFA volunteers to get this information?

It seems to me the logical option would have been to support the scheme and allow those who want or who need compensation to apply for it. If volunteers don’t want compensation then they can simply either not apply or donate the money to some worthy cause like fire victims.

I am guessing this is the act of a totally out of touch CFA management making decisions about volunteers without bothering to consult volunteers, yet again.

Doug Steley, Heyfield

It will be a millstone

I agree with the NSW firefighter who said the paying of NSW volunteer firefighters will be a “millstone around the government’s neck” and that “spending money on protective equipment or subsidising employers to give people leave would have been more effective.” Hasn’t our Prime Minister got any experienced advisers ?

Susan Munday, Bentleigh East

It’s no cost to him

The headline “Morrison to repay firefighters” (29/12) gives the misleading impression that the Prime Minister is generously providing largesse from the goodness of his heart out of his own pocket as though it was his own private gift when it has only happened because he was forced to and is “given” with lots of provisos.

Joan McColl, Drouin

Opportunity knocks …

Possible cessation of the Overland train service between Melbourne and Adelaide (27/12) exemplifies the dearth of progressive planning in this country. Not only would such a loss further isolate western Victorian towns such as Stawell and Horsham, but the alternative travel to Adelaide by road or air is environmentally a step backwards.

Perhaps as we gawk at the cricket, tennis and football over the next 12 months a team of engineers funded by Chinese capital could produce a very-fast-train service. We seem to be short of funds to link our capital cities with fast, environmentally efficient land-based services to aid commerce, tourism and defence.

Russell Harrison, Sandringham

Just answer the question

With 2020 almost upon us, can I suggest to all politicians that among any other resolutions they may make for the New Year, they commit to answering journalists’ questions directly, openly and truthfully?

I know I am not alone in feeling more and more frustrated, irritated and fed up when politicians persistently, and quite deliberately, avoid giving straight answers to legitimate questions.

We are not interested in hearing the day’s political “talking points” repeated endlessly; we are interested in proper answers to valid questions.

Richard Yates, Albert Park

It really is up to us

When God-fearing folk such as Scott Morrison or Barnaby Joyce opine that climate change and global heating are somehow God’s will and that there is nothing we can do about it – it reminds me of the joke about somebody fleeing rising floodwaters. They get progressively higher until they’re on the roof while proclaiming their certainty God will save them. Having refused help from people in boats and a helicopter and finally drowning they meet their God and ask why he didn’t save them – he says that he tried to save them and sent help in the form of boats and a helicopter but they refused their assistance.

God has apparently given humanity a superior intellect, which scientists have used to inform people of the damage we are doing to our planet’s fragile ecosystems for the past 40 years. We have also been informed about what we have to do to mitigate the damage.

Yet somehow religious people all over the world throw up their hands in a pathetic helplessness and put their trust in a supernatural being.

These same people are “governing” our country.

Jackie Sherwood, Point Vernon, Qld

Not-so-smart phones

I think smart phones are the curse of a modern world (“A phone resolution to ring in new year”, Comment, 30/12). I do not own one, and probably never will.

The last time I was in town, I was swamped by an avalanche of commuters, all intent on their phones, while I struggled to reach my destination. It was sobering to realise that I was invisible to this horde, a danger to themselves and everyone around them.

Helen Scheller, Benalla

A good investment

Australia’s strategic fuel reserves are just two-thirds of the required value of 90 days. Denmark (997 days) and Netherlands (431 days) hold reserves which are 16 and 7 times required values respectively.

Not only does it give them greater fuel security, it may also be a good national investment since it could be traded for profit, selling when prices are high and replenishing stocks when prices are low.

Can our creative accounting government think strategically and treat fuel reserves as a national reserve fund?

Kishor Dabke, Mount Waverley


The sporting life

Tim Paine: seven catches, one stumping, 79 runs, great captaincy. How is he not man of the match?

Geoff Warren, Anglesea

It’s time Steve Hocking went back to Sleepy Hollow and left the rules alone.

Michael McKenna, Warragul

The fires

Many holidaymakers ignore advice to leave, but still expect fire services to protect them.

Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick

If you live in a fire-prone area as we do, the motto is “Leave and Live”. We do not have the right to endanger the lives of firefighters to save our worthless property.

Barry O’Neill, Menzies Creek

Our Kiwi cousins

We may have beaten New Zealand in the cricket, but they have hit us for six in the zero emissions challenge.

Greg Curtin, Blackburn South


The trouble is that we’ve had plenty of politicians, but we haven’t had a statesman in decades.

Les Aisen, Elsternwick

Go, Gael Barrett (Letters, 30/12), you got it absolutely right. Succinctly summed as to what the masses need to do right now. I’m half way through my list as we speak.

David West, Strathmore


OK, OK, enough already. Every year is the end of a decade.

Ann Ritchie, Bellfield

Jen Gladstone, from the time a person is born until they turn a year old is the first year of their life. Therefore 2020 is the first year of the decade.

Heather Butler, Bairnsdale

In the midst of reports and articles on what happened in the past decade, a futile reminder that decades, centuries and millennia actually end in years ending in zero – December 31, 2000, 2010 and 2020. Still a year to go.

Bob Stensholt, Glen Iris

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