Oz for Dummies: Week 42, 2021

(October 18–24) Freedom day in Victoria / After Andrews and Ardern, Palaszczuk now also following the NSW playbook / NSW (and VIC) opening to international travel / IBAC and ICAC public inquiries continue while the Obeids and Sir-Lunch-A-Lot finally face the music / Past alarmist predictions, crowd-sourced, and other attempts to revisit the pandemic past

/ Freedom day in Victoria

In the night from Thursday to Friday, after VIC reported yet another 2,000+ new cases (and before it reported yet another 2,000+ new cases), with the O-multiplier — the ratio of cases at the same stage of Delta outbreaks in VIC and NSW — robustly above 2, and there being discussions about whether the peak has been reached, the lock-down in Victoria ended and it was party-time for many. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the days ahead.

Greg Dore (one of the more creditable infectious-diseases specialists in the country) made a bold prediction: “cases won’t increase next 2–3 weeks & may even decline as community-level vaccine immunity reaches higher levels”. I love testable predictions, especially when they come from a trusted UNSW colleague, but would be surprised if this is correct. Victoria still lags NSW significantly in first and second jabs (about three and ten percentage points respectively) for those above 16 and in NSW the last couple of days numbers numbers have moved, now for more than ten days after its opening, sideways and remain in the 300–400 range. Given the current trajectory of cases, hospitalizations, ICU referrals, and deaths, I am puzzled by claims that Victoria is not opening as quickly as NSW. For all I can tell it is opening quicker than NSW and surely at a much higher level of cases.

/ After Andrews and Ardern, Palaszczuk now also following the NSW playbook

After Andrews and Ardern abandonned their zero-covid strategy and adopted broadly the NSW Berejiklian — Chant playbook, Queensland’s Palaszczuk has now followed suit. Way to go though for a state which lags NSW in first (by almost 20 percentage points) and second jabs (by almost 25 percentage points), pretty much in sync with Western Australia where Marki Mark is the remaining defender of the zero-covid strategy in Australia. I fear it will cost Western Australia dearly. It already does, as Qantas’s decisions in early October illustrate.

/ NSW (and VIC) opening to international travel

When, a couple of weeks ago, talk was still about a slow opening of the borders for stranded Aussies, I predicted “In fact, the opening of borders might come as early as early November. I take bets.”

Unfortunately no one took me up on the bet. A pity. Because earlier in the week Qantas announced it would bring forward the restart of flights from Melbourne and Sydney to destinations including London, Singapore, Bangkok and Johannesburg. So much in fact that Qantas stated that the reopening of state and international borders in the coming months meant “all 11,000 employees who remain stood down would be back at work in December — something not expected until June next year.” Other airlines have already followed suit and even UNSW now allows (flexible) bookings of international travel by its academics. Can’t wait for Korean to join the crowd. Actually I am puzzled it has not already. Korean seems to leave a lot of money on the table right now.

/ IBAC and ICAC public inquiries continue while the Obeids and Sir-Lunch-A-Lot finally face the music /

The public inquiries into Labor branch-stacking in Victoria and Berejiklian continue. IBAC is prying open a veritable cesspit of industrial-scale misconduct. ICAC is building a case against Berejiklian. Berejiklian is scheduled to appear next week and I have to agree from the transcripts I have read it does not look good for her. The bloke at Kangaroo Courts of Australia has asked who is paying her legal costs. Fair question that. Presumably there is some blind trust that will raise to the occasion.

Meanwhile the Obeids and their side-kick, Ian MacDonald (Sir-Lunch_A_Lot), have finally been sentenced to years of jail and are indeed in the slammer now. Whether the Crime Commission should go after their ill-gotten gains and the real-estate portfolio that they built with those gains is an ongoing debate.

We can thank Kate McClymont for these thugs being sent to jail. She is one of Australia’s most fearless investigative reporters (and one of the few reasons with which I can justify my subscription to the Sydney Morning Herald). She commented dryly:

Ann Davies also had her share in this saga, and she argues persuasively why the case of the Obeids and their side-kick is a good example why we need a federal anti-corruption commission with teeth.

In only seemingly unrelated news it was revealed earlier in the week that the Auditor General found that over the last four years almost half of the more than 100,000 federal government grants, with a total value of $60 billion, did not go through a competitive open tender process. Stunning numbers.

Each of these grants has the potential to generate the kind of revelations that we have seen this week from IBAC or ICAC. Because if there’s no competitive open tender process there’s a good chance that there is some unsavory reason for it. Corruption and pork-barreling are about as endemic as the SARS-CoV-2 virus is. Which reminds me: I haven’t heard from John Pork-Barrel-aro this week. Hi Jordan, how about an update?

/ Alarmist predictions, crowd-sourced, and other attempts to revisit the pandemic past

Early in the week, a columnist at the AFR took aim at three economists that are still defending the ill-devised JobKeeper scheme. You have indeed to be a particularly conflicted nitwit to call it “bloody beautiful” after the evidence is becoming clearer with the day that it has led to massive redistribution to the haves.

Also early in the week, a study that was used to justify the outdoor face-mask mandate in Victoria was revealed to be seriously flawed. To no one’s surprise its authors are the usual cast of alarmist characters.

In midweek, Sascha Callaghan posted a brilliant tweet asking folks for examples of their favorite disaster forecasting in Tweets. And wouldn’t you know it, the flood gates opened. Many people apparently have done their fair share of screen-shooting over the last few months and it is to be hoped that these collections are eventually put to good use. The responses (and responses to responses) to her tweet make for fascinating, and often depressing, reading. In a world where people get away with ridiculously alarmist predictions without having their reputations terminally shot, we have a real problem.

And that’s the wrap for week 42 of 2021. All facts, no spin. A couple of testable predictions. Feel free to share and consider following me here,

on twitter [@aortmannphd], or

on Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/ImpartialSpectator/]

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Andreas Ortmann

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 …