Oz for Dummies: Week 39, 2021

(September 27–October 3) Having skillfully navigated the treacherous COVID-19 waters, Berejiklian hits the ICAC rocks / Andrews can do no wrong (he thinks) / the endgames of ACT, Qld, WA, and NZ remain unclear / Myanmar a reminder of what matters in the grand scheme of things

A week when the number of new cases in NSW continued to drift down ever so gently, when even the number of hospitalizations and ICU referrals steadied (and also drifted down ever so gently), when vaccination rates approached 90 percent in 1st jabs surpassed 65 percent in 2nd jabs for those over 15, when now half of the kids aged 12–15 have been vaxxed, and when the light at the end of the NSW lockdown tunnel became so bright that it was time to wear shades, NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) lobbed a (long-awaited) grenade that led within hours to the Gladyator’s resignation.

The new ICAC proceedings (actually, the continuation of old proceedings against Berejiklian’s dud of a former loverboy [Daryl Maguire] and disgraced NSW parliamentarian with whom she had a secret relationship even after he had been forced to resign from parliament) did not come as a surprise. They had been topic of at least one presser and I lost a bet over it made weeks ago with someone who clearly is better connected than I am. The fact that Berejiklian resigned both her premiership, and her seat in parliament, indicates that she knows she is in trouble. I anticipate adverse findings against her; ICAC would not risk its reputation had it not done its homework, as it clearly did in the Maguire investigation.

Meanwhile, Berejiklian deserves credit for having taken on courageously the insane Aussie COVID-19 exceptionalism, for having acknowledged that zero COVID-19 was not an option for a beast that is generally considered endemic (lest you are one of the pathetic demagogues haunting social media), for — together with Dr Chant and her health team — having navigated the treacherous waters of public opinion, and for having laid out a promising road map that will set us free — to some extent— in little over a week. It will allow NSW citizens to embark on international travel as early as next month. Prague and Paris, here I come.

Berejiklian deserves the credit for all of this (and then some; see also this excellent summary of the immigrant success story she undoubtedly is). Her handling of the pandemic — today being the 100th day of Sydney lockdown — has been exemplary in my view and this seems to be increasingly acknowledged even by political opponents. Whoever her successor is, the safe and sensible roadmap she laid out will not suddenly be torn up just because there will be predictably more shrill lamenting, and fearmongering and no-trade-off-isms, of the kind we have seen for months now.

Berejiklian is the third NSW premier that ICAC has taken down (see also Kate McClymont on this issue) and it is a stark reminder of the urgent need for a federal ICAC with comparable bite. It is also a reminder that the Morrison-Joyce government has yet to deliver on the promise to create some such, which Labor has committed to. Last but not least it is a timely reminder that the current financial dependence of ICAC from the state government is a counterproductive arrangement that ought to be changed rather sooner than later. There is certainly enough for ICAC to look into. The “asset recycling scheme” of the LNP government, including questionable transactions such as the privatisation of the land and titles registry (which happened on Berjiklian’s watch), being among them.

/ Andrews can do no wrong (he thinks)

Meanwhile case numbers sky-rocketed in Victoria, with an increase to 950 new cases reported on Wednesday followed by an increase to 1438 on Thursday, 1143 on Friday, 1488 yesterday, and 1220 today, validating my prediction from early in the week:

On a per-capita basis, these numbers top NSW’s numbers during the current Delta wave and I fear we have yet to see the peak of Victoria’s current Delta wave. The O(rtmann)-multiplier (the ratio of cases at the same stage of Delta outbreaks in VIC and NSW) is now above 2.5 indicating that new case numbers remain a run-away train that can only end in a train-wreck a few weeks from now. Given the poor state of the Victoria health care system, it will get much worse down south, I fear, before it will get any better. What I find amazing is that the same delusional characters and DanFanboys who babbled — and continue to babble — about NSW mockdowns here and LetsRipItstan seem to be immune to facts such as the O-multiplier. I wonder how many more hard numbers they need to understand that the Andrews government is under-performing?

Predictably Andrews blamed private parties for the sudden surge and while that may have been a contributor, surely the relatively low testing rates in Victoria are an important part of the question. The later you catch the virus the longer you allow it to circulate in the community. Simples. It’s not rocket science. The increasing positivity rate of tests in Victoria indicate that Victoria Health and the government have lost control in ways NSW never did.

Talking about incompetence, WorkSafe Victoria has laid charges against Victoria Health, itemizing 58 breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in relation to Victoria’s initial hotel quarantine program. That program already was the subject of the Coate Inquiry which miracuously could not identify reasons for its failure. You would think that Andrews at some point would accept that the buck stops with him. Alas, he refuses to take responsibility (when clearly he should).

As coincidence has it, Victoria’s IBAC, the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission, announced on 30 September 2021, that it will hold hold public hearings into allegations of serious corrupt conduct involving Victorian Members of Parliament. No names yet but we should know soon. Proceedings are scheduled to last ten days and to start 11 October 2021.

/ the endgames of ACT, Qld, WA, and NZ remain unclear

Meanwhile the end-games of ACT, Qld, WA, and NZ remain unclear. The ACT government reported 52 new cases on Friday and Saturday which puts it into NSW — Victoria territory on a per-capita basis. These numbers are astonishing given that the ACT has worked for many weeks to eliminate the virus. The saving grace is that ACT has vaccination rates comparable to those of NSW (and way ahead of Victoria which is doing comparatively poorly on that count.)

Qld and WA (and NZ) also lag substantially in their vaccination attempts, one of the consequences being that they are unlikely to open up for international, and even domestic, air travel any time soon (and surely not before early 2022).

/ Myanmar a reminder of what matters in the grand scheme of things

And that’s the wrap for week 39 of 2021. All facts, no spin. Oz for Dummies. Feel free to share and consider following me here,

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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 …