Oz for Dummies: Week 41, 2021

Andreas Ortmann
7 min readOct 17, 2021

(October 11–17) Perrottet engineering an accelerated re-opening of NSW / Andrews following the NSW playbook amidst a blow-out in VIC case numbers / Marki Mark and Stacia still in denial, St Jacinda not so much but lost / The case for a federal anti-corruption commission / And the Nobel Prize in economic sciences went to …

/ Perrottet engineering an accelerated re-opening of NSW

Case numbers and hospitalization have continued to drift down after the first re-opening steps last Monday. So far there are no sign of an uptick in numbers. In fact, this weekend’s numbers (319 cases reported on Saturday, 301 on Sunday) suggest NSW might be headed towards double-digit numbers of new cases within a couple of weeks.

These numbers have allowed new nsw premier Perrottet to push hard for an accelerated re-opening. Friday, anticipating that the 80% goal of those above 15 being vaxxed would be reached this weekend (as in fact it has), he announced that vaccinated Australian citizens, residents and their families – now including overseas-based parents – will be allowed to enter NSW from next month initiating the close of a truly dark chapter in recent Australia’s history. Says Latika Bourke pointedly:

But this day never needed to come. The treatment some Australians have dished out to each other — and particularly to those overseas — has been shameful. We will not look back at this element of our pandemic management with any pride.

No other country sought to treat its own in the way that every Australian political leader chose to. Sadly, their approach was by and large supported by the public.

Perrottet also seemed to imply that the decision applied to business travellers, skilled migrants, or international students but the decision is the federal government’s to make and Morrison wasted no time to look important. Of course, that kind of posturing is just that and I bet that come November 1, Sydney Airport will see more business travellers, skilled migrants, international students, and tourists. Perrottet was treasurer for a reason and understands that this opening is the way out of the economic malaise.

Qantas has moved its flights from Sydney to Los Angeles and London, originally scheduled for mid-November, up by two weeks and Singapore Airlines followed suit immediately by putting up for sale tens of thousands of tickets for flights starting November 1. Expect carriers like Korean Airlines to follow suit.

I note that I predicted exactly this last week as one of five predictions (none of which is likely to be falsified):

… the opening of borders might come as early as early November. I take bets.

The numbers support Perrottet’s narrative: Vaccination rates are tremendous: having reached 80% of those above 15 being doubly vaxxed, my prediction remains that NSW will reach 90% fully vaxxed well before the end of the month. Cases numbers continue to fall, hospitalizations and ICU referrals do so likewise.

One major concession that the Perrottet government has made is not to allow unrestricted travel between Greater Sydney and regional NSW until November 1. This takes into account that vaccination rates in regional NSW lag behind Greater Sydney. A sensible decision that.

/ Andrews following the NSW playbook amidst a blow-out in case numbers

Last week, after VIC reported 1,965 new cases on Saturday (and a couple of days before on Tuesday a particularly irritating epidemiologist in Adelaide diagnosed “definitely a hint of peak in the air”), I wrote:

I would be very surprised if the curve would suddenly peak abruptly. Highly unlikely. It’s just not how the virus works. More likely it will move way beyond 2,000 before it will peak.

And sure enough that is exactly what happened. On Thursday, VIC reported 2,297 new cases. I also wrote last week:

Hopefully the rapidly increasing vaccination rates will counteract this trend if not in cases at least in hospitalizations and ICU referrals.

That seems true. However, the Victorian health system is clearly in duress and even though vaccination rates are higher than those in NSW at the same stage of the Delta outbreaks, it is noteworthy that the O-multiplier (the ratio of cases at the same stage of Delta outbreaks in VIC and NSW) continues to sit stubbornly in the neighborhood of 2.5, meaning that at the comparable stage of the outbreak VIC reports about 2.5 cases for every case that NSW reported (and that is not even controlling for pop size). (NSW has a population approximately 1.2 times that of Victoria.) The multiplier suggest that something is really different in VIC than in NSW and it is hard to believe that it is just rioters that Andrews and his minions are prone to blame. More likely, as I have argued here a couple of weeks ago, is an insufficient testing regime.

/ Marki Mark and Stacia still in denial, St Jacinda not so much but lost

Nothing has changed from last week really, only that Ardern is increasingly confronted with the reality that is Delta: numbers are drifting up, 65 new cases were reported on Saturday for Auckland of which about half had been in the community for at least some time. It will be a major challenge for Ardern to change her narrative of the last 18 months given how successfully she instilled irrational fears in major parts of her nation.

Meanwhile it seems that McGowan and Palaszczuk continue to pursue their zero-covid strategy — a strategy considered unsustainable by knowledgeable and trustworthy people — with all the consequences that entails. No flights into, and out of, Perth and Brisbane any time soon. Western Australia and Queensland remain pathetic laggards in the vaccination sweepstakes, with both states still being about 20 percent behind NSW both in 1st jabs and 2nd jabs.

While NSW rejoins the world, McGowan and Palaszczuk, and Western Australia and Queensland, will continue to be side-lined, notwithstanding Palaszczuk’s continued sniping and her unfathomable treatment of Queenslanders caught up in her cyncial policies: “There are estimated to be hundreds of people stuck in the border zone between NSW and Queensland; many living as though homeless, reduced to accepting donations from the community; locked out, helpless, displaced and desperate.” Another dark chapter in Australia’s recent history, for sure. How is any of that legal?

Here is the puzzling thing: What is her friggin exit strategy? Surely is has to be the same vaccination game that NSW and VIC are playing. But Queensland will take at least a couple of months to catch up and at some point they will have to admit (as Ardern was just forced to do about ten days back) the obvious: The elimination strategy is not sustainable.

/ The case for a federal anti-corruption commission

Federal ICAC anyone? Car park rorts? Sports rorts? Implementation of Royal Commission recommendations?

The ongoing revelations about industrial-scale branch-stacking in the Victorian Labor party in front of IBAC have been nothing but shocking. Byrne’s confessions were cut and dried and it seems to me that Michelle Grattan’s assessment of Albanese’s failure to take action are on target. Says she, “after this week’s evidence Albanese should have had Byrne’s endorsement for the 2022 election withdrawn. Indeed, he should have gone further and insisted he go to the crossbench.” Whether Andrews knew is everyone’s guess but it is had to believe that he did not. With weeks of IBAC hearings still ahead of us, Andrews might therefore get caught up in it. Similarly to how Berejiklian, for very different reasons, got caught up in the ICAC proceedings against her dud of a former lover. These proceedings start this coming week and surely they will make for hearing as riveting and shocking as the IBAC hearings so far.

IBAC has to play its cards smartly here. Accusing Andrews when it does not (yet) seem to have a compelling case, would backfire. Meanwhile, the proper place for scrutiny about whether Andrews ignored the goings-on is indeed in the media, the Parliament, the community and ultimately at the ballot box.

The federal Integrity Commission proposed by the Morrison government has not just drawn (fierce) criticism from experts, crossbenchers, Labor, and Greens but last week also from Liberal MPs. That puts Morrison into a real quandry. He knows quite well that any truly independent anti-corruption commission on the federal level would represent a major problem for him and the LNP, especially if it were to be modelled after ICAC or IBAC. Right now it looks as if we might get dragged to it the way he got dragged to the Royal Commission in the banking industry. Hesistantly, very hesitantly.

Transparency and accountability are just not Morrison’s forte.

/ And the Nobel Prize in economic sciences went to …

Earlier in the week the Nobel Prize Committee awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences to David Card, Josh Angrist, & Guido Imbens. Card received his half of the prize for his work, among other topics, with Alan Krueger on the minimum wage. Angrist & Imbens received their half of the prize for having provided the statistical tools for teasing insights out of “natural experiments”.

A couple of years ago I reviewed the literature on the living — minimum wage controversy; you can read up on it here. (I have to warn you, this is a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong read. ;-)) David Jaeger from the U of St Andrews had this very readable (and short) piece in The Conversation.

Josh Angrist himself has seven fairly short videos; I recommend you start with this one. Guido Imbens has a cute and insightful video that features him being questioned by his kids about this work.

And that’s the wrap for week 41 of 2021. All facts, no spin. A couple of testable predictions. Feel free to share and consider following me here,

on twitter [@aortmannphd], or

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Andreas Ortmann

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 …