Oz for Dummies: Week 43, 2021

(October 25–31) Pandemic normality in NSW and VIC / The shine’s coming off the Gladyator / Morrison catching up — ever so slowly / Science is self-correcting. Occasionally.

/ Pandemic normality in NSW and VIC

With case, hospitalization, and ICU numbers continuing to drift down in NSW, and seemingly having peaked (at least in cases) in VIC albeit at a level of almost an order of magnitude higher, life is normalizing and deaths are finally being accepted, as they should have been from the very beginning. It is astonishing how the narrative — notwithstanding the off-side fussilades of increasingly irrelevant OzCagers and OzRagers —has changed within weeks. The credit goes to former Premier Berejiklian and her CHO, Dr. Chant.

Her successor has implemented their NSW roadmap, and has done so at a somewhat accelerated pace. Perrottet single-handedly has forced Morrison’s hand in allowing international travel to restart within days and without quarantine for those that are doubly vaxxed. His campaign —tourism enticements as well as a subsidy package for airlines — is helped by extraordinary vaccination rates, now approaching 90 percent fully vaxxed and 95 percent single vaxxed of those above 15. For comparison, VIC is still behind by about 10 percentage points for fully vaxxed, while Western and South Australia and Queensland are behind by 20 percentage points or more.

Given those numbers, and in particular the fact that VIC has case numbers almost an order of magnitude larger than NSW it is astonishing to see that, from 6pm Friday, Melburnians were able to travel to regional Victoria and interstate, while Sydneysiders were still prohibited from traveling to regional NSW. Given the case numbers in VIC and NSW that seems curious at best.

/ The shine’s coming off the Gladyator

This week was the second week of the ICAC proceedings against former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian. Throughout the first couple of weeks of hearings it has become clear that Berejiklian seems guilty as charged and that there can be no question, and there seems to be no doubt in the mind of any of the witnesses that ICAC paraded, that she should have revealed her affair with disgraced former MP (and her loverboy) Darryl Maguire. Alas, she didn’t and Friday was the day where she had her chance to explain why she is not guilty as charged. Notwithstanding her continued claims that she had done nothing wrong, it seems fair to say it did not go well.

The kind of resolve, steeliness, and stubborn-ness that served her — and NSW — well while she navigated the treacherous seas of OzCage and OzRage bullies over the last few months are now her undoing. Unable to adjust to the circumstances, she seems to have bought into the Gladyator narrative and has not noticed — even though she had almost ten days to see what transpired at ICAC — that her attempts at shaping the narrative (all the way to the patently silly suggestion that it should be her to determine what defines the threshold of the significance of a relationship) could not possibly fly.

To everyone who listened to the proceedings, or at least read the key transcripts, there will be no doubt that Berejiklian messed up. None of her claims pass whatever pub test you want to run. Pretty much every witness attested to ICAC that, had they known about the relationship, the funded projects would likely not have been funded. That list includes her former deputy Barilaro, the premier preceding her (Mike Baird), a former chief-of-staff (Sarah Cruickshank), and various government officials (e.g., Baird’s former advisor)

Berejiklian’s defense seems to be that she treated everyone else (in particular other MPs whether backbench or not)like her dud of a loverboy. That, for example, she would sack for everyone else bureaucrats she could not stand. That for everyone else she would tell “Dom” — former treasurer and new NSW premier — to find funds for their pet project (and that Dom would do what she’d ask him to do). That’s a daring defense strategy and if ICAC would accept it, or for that matter, the punters on the street, it would mean there would be no limit to pork-barreling and other forms of gift-exchange.

Alas, even many hard-core LNP members and functionaries confessed being appalled and shocked by what they have heard. One MP was reported as having said that anyone who was not disturbed by the evidence “has a warped sense of reality,” adding: “I’m so sick of the way it paints us all.” Once again, Berejiklian seems to have misread the sign of the times and public sentiment.

The current ICAC, and IBAC, proceedings make clear how desperately the country needs a federal ICAC to clean up the self-serving incestuous mess that is the political duopoly of Labor and LNP. (And let’s make no mistake here: As unsavory as Berejiklian’s behavior apparently was, it was amateur hour compared to the revelations of industrial-scale branch-stacking and diversion of public funds that IBAC has revealed, or the various rorts that the current fed government seems to engage in routinely.)

The proceedings continue Monday and it does not look good for Berejiklian. Her carefully constructed image has been shredded. It is easy to predict that some of her testimony will become memes that won’t be easily forgotten.

/ Morrison catching up — ever so slowly

Meanwhile Morrison, our prime marketer, is off to Europe (with a posse including his personal photographer), and the Copenhagen Summit, after a couple of weeks of political theatre (that hardly qualify as masterclass) where he, and his considerable marketing team, tried to reposition Morrison as sensible environmental activist. An obviously planted story in the Sydney Morning Herald told us how Morrison discovered Bill Gates’s How To Avoid A Climate Disaster while perusing Amazon. Right. We learned that Morrison bought a copy in February and “immersed himself in it for days. He has regularly quoted large slabs back to advocates and critics of stronger action on climate change since.” As a bonus we even were shown a photo of underlined sections of the book. How cute and fluffy can it get.

It is worth remembering that after the 2010 federal election, the Gillard government was able to get the Carbon Pricing Mechanism (CPM) passed into law as part of the Clean Energy Futures Package (CEF); it became effective on 1 July 2012 and showed its mettle within months. Emissions from companies subject to the scheme dropped 7% upon its introduction even though then-Opposition leader Tony Abbott had indicated since before the introduction of the scheme that he intended to repeal “the carbon tax”, and regulated organisations hence had little incentive to respond, with very few investments in emissions reductions being made. Indeed, the Abbott government canned the mechanism 1 July 2014 leading to almost a decade of missed opportunities of collecting low hanging fruit by ptting a price on carbon.

The very belated acceptance by the LNP of a net-zero-emissions target by 2050, i.e., about ten elections down the road, suggests strongly that the LNP will not walk its talk effectively. (They could have easily re-vived the Carbon Pricing Mechanism, or some variant thereof, were they serious about it.) On the positive side, the continued inability of the LNP to see the need for drastic steps — in Germany actually forced on the Merkel government by way of a Federal-Court verdict a couple of months ago — will help a slew of independent candidates for parliament at the upcoming elections. Many of these candidates will have as top planks of their platforms environmental protection and a federal integrity commission.

Of course it matters only so much at this point what the government does. The states, as also in the pandemic response, have taken charge of the political process in all things environmental, have become — such as South Australia or for that matter NSW — global leaders, and are supported by considerable parts of the industry. And surely that is not because of altruism on the part of the industry. Shifting to renewable resources makes economic sense.

/ Science is self-correcting. Occasionally.

“Ivermectin has become a controversial potential medicine for COVID-19. Some early studies suggested clinical benefits in treatment and prevention of infection. However, the body of evidence includes studies of varying quality. Furthermore, some trials have now been identified as potentially fraudulent.”

The authors of this study (which has not yet undergone peer review)

present a sub-group analysis, “to assess the effects of stratifying by trial quality on the overall results.” The results are captured in the following brilliant graph which suggests that the significant effect of ivermectin on survival was dependent on largely poor quality and potentially fraudulent studies.

And that’s the wrap for week 43 of 2021. Feel free to share and consider following me here,

on twitter [@aortmannphd], or

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

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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 …

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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 …

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