Oz for Dummies: Week 37, 2021

Update on the Porter affair at the end.

(September 13–19) Different models make different predictions — who’d thunk it! / No-trade-off econs and public-health alarmists united, again / NSW still leading the way, with Victoria still following the NSW playbook, time-delayed by about 4–6 weeks / Porter finally on the ropes / How to max the number of enemies in one brilliant strike / Lies, damn lies, and ABS statistics

Even before the week had really started, an interview Sunday morning on Insiders ABC, “Australia’s Australia’s flagship political discussion program”, made a considerable splash. Said Waleed Aly, one of Oz’s more sensible public intellectuals and talking heads: “The politician’s job is not to follow health advice. Their job is to take health advice, consider it, place it in its proper context.” That apparently was news to many. As maybe it had to in world where every premier hides behind “health advice” but somehow the adopted policies widely differ. Cue NSW and Victoria on the one hand, and Queensland, Western Australia, and New Zealand on the other.

/ Porter finally on the ropes

Former Attorney General, and current industry and science minister, Christian Porter, who tried to weasel his way out of historical rape allegations (which he strenuously denied), and then decided to go after an ABC investigative journo with a defamation suit (since settled) only to learn that discovery processes can turn very ugly indeed, updated this week the parliamentary register of MPs’ interests, revealing that he accepted major funds from a “blind trust” to help him pay his legal bills. He also claimed that he had no idea who was behind the generous donation which is unbelievable and demonstrates, once more, that Porter specializes in bad judgement. The general public outcry that followed, had Morrison order his department to see whether this arrangement breached the ministerial standards code. It’s telling but not surprising at all that this government needs that kind of advice when it should be obvious that any such arrangement is indeed an affront to transparency. One wonders how far Morrison is willing to go … surely the political damage here is not worth it?

/ How to max the number of enemies in one brilliant strike

Morrison, #ThatFellaDownUnder, had another carefully crafted marketing opp — many flags and virtual shoulder to shoulder with the heads of US and UK — somewhat deflated when Biden seemed to forget his name during the press conference in which the AUKUS pact was announced, a clear attempt to send a strong signal to China’s supreme leader, Xi Jinping, that his various micro aggressions have duly been noted. Apparently Morrison committed Oz to buy at least 8 nuclear-powered subs (rather than the dozen diesel-fuelled ones contracted with France). Much has been written about the AUKUS announcement (good commentary here [Crowe] and here [Hartcher] and here [Shields] and here [Knott] and here [Murphy] and here [CNN] and here [Hurst]) and its repercussions. The French were predictably snubbed and not amused which, given they lost tens of billions of dollars of business (and took a humiliating hit to their reputation), was to be expected. It was also predictable that China would not like the idea, and it is predictable that this new submarine agreement, while possibly just a poking of the aquatic bear, will further torpedo agricultural and educational export markets. Which probably does not help the Morrison government’s standing with those sectors. Since, in contrast to the federal politics editor of the Daily Telegraph, I never took a high-school class in geo-politics, I won’t add to the commentary that exploded in the wake of the announcement and remain agnostic about the merits of this development. It is quite possible that the deal was designed to win Morrison the election, as Michael West has argued. Alas, that — while appropriately cynical — seems too simplistic a take.

/ Lies, damn lies, and ABS statistics

Despite a 146,000 drop in the number of people in work around the country, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday that the official jobless rate fell by 0.1 percentage points to 4.5 per cent last month. Allegedly this is the lowest jobless rate since November 2008. This followed a(nother) reported drop by 0.3 percent the month before. Seriously? That anyone takes these numbers serious boggles the mind, as does the fact that a bunch of well-paid bureaucrats get away with that kind of utterly useless data. I suspect the RoyMorgan un(der)employment estimates of 9.2 (8.2) percent are much closer to the truth. They certainly seem to capture the reality better in my neck of the woods (Darlinghurst — Surry Hills) where the devastation is on shocking display that the most recent three months of lockdown have wrought.

EconProf: I post occasionally on whatever tickles my fancy: Science, evidence production, the Econ tribe, Oz politics, etc. Y’all r entitled to my opinions …