Oz for Dummies: Week 44, 2021

Andreas Ortmann
5 min readNov 7, 2021

(November 1–6) Cleo found / Marky Mark not missing a chance and re-assuring us / Pandemic normality in NSW and VIC and in a few months in WA, Qld, and NZ, too / COP26 blablabla, as was to be expected / Defam fest-days

So the news of the week was undoubtedly the happy ending involving a “delightful” 4-year old that had been abducted weeks ago. For a couple of days media and social media had field days, and the alleged perpetrator, and his apparent obsession with Bratz dolls, made for further fabulous fodder. There are interesting questions of race to be asked about this whole spectacle that deserve attention. Also, this:

/ Marky Mark not missing a chance and re-assuring us

For a second I thought surely Morrison would see what a fabulous photo-opp this was and on his way back from Europe descend on the family. Alas, the WA premier beat him to it and made an almost 2,000 km round-trip to visit the family. He later de-briefed us that “They [the family] were nice people. They weren’t difficult at all.” Which is indeed remarkable given how unashamedly exploitative his visit was. Even more pleasing, “[They are] very grateful for everything that the police have done … normal people that had no complaints, they had no demands.” Take that, you complainers. As one of my fabulous Facey friends noted, “How is this guy a Labor Premier?” To which another of my fab Facey friends answered, “I’lI ask myself this all the time!” And don’t we all? About Andrews and Palaszcuk, too? These are curious times and the fault-lines are confusing …

/ Pandemic normality in NSW and VIC and in a few months in WA, Qld, and NZ, too

In light of the Cleo story, it fell almost by the wayside that McGowan revealed this past week WA’s COVID-19 transition plan. Which seems to follow Tasmania’s and New Zealand’s, impressive vaccination targets and all although the actual vaccination rates continue to lag dismally (more than 20 percentage points) behind NSW’s which remain ahead of Victoria in the vaccination sweepstakes by a few percentage points. Which means, no opening of the WA borders for another three months at least.

Meanwhile cases numbers in NSW are down to an average of about 200–300 new cases a day (majority now outside of Greater Sydney), with hospitalizations and ICU referrals and deaths continuing to drift down. The fact that there is no uptick in numbers is a surprise to me (and confirms my colleague Greg Dore’s bold predictions from weeks ago.) The situation is less optimistic in Victoria where cases remain in the four-digits, and hospitalizations, ICU referrals, and deaths are increasing, and the health system seems seriously stressed.

Numbers in New Zealand are also up. Yesterday the country passed 200 daily cases of Covid-19 for the first time in the pandemic, with hospitalizations, ICU referrals, and deaths all on a somewhat worrying trajectory. The saving grace is that currently almost all cases (97%) are concentrated in Auckland. Plus the country is catching up in its vaccination. (According to the Ministry of Health, almost 90% of eligible New Zealanders have had their first dose and 78% are fully immunised. Which are numbers that place NZ way ahead of Western Australia and Queensland but still clearly behind NSW.)

/ COP26 blablabla, as was to be expected

I haven’t followed the Glasgow meeting very closely this week but it is hard not to come to Thunberg’s conclusion that the summit has been yet another failure, and that Australia’s current government is all talk and little walk (and where it tries to walk it does so clumsily and by ignoring basic economic science.) One of the very few surprises was the green pivot that former Australian finance minister Mathias Cormann seems to have undertaken. He urged world leaders to axe costly taxpayer-funded fossil fuel subsidies. Don’t expect Australia, China, and India to buy into this proposition any time soon.

/ Defam fest-days

Jordan Shanks, also known as friendlyjordies, settled the defamation case that Barilaro had filed against him. Barilaro did not manage to collect damages. Sounds like a resounding defeat to me. That leaves friendlyjordies with a mighty war-chest to defend his producer who was arrested by the NSW Fixated Persons unit under questionable circumstances.

My UNSW colleague Gemma Carey managed to attract the ire of three well-known pollies and journos. Here is how Amber Schultz summarized the situation in Crikey:

Carey published a series of tweets after Porter was accused of rape, after van Onselen, a friend of Porter, wrote in his defence, and after Laming’s history of jocular misogyny and harassing women online resulted in him keeping his job. The tweets were absolutely on the nose. One expressed concern for the women in a photo alongside the three men. One of the women is van Onselen’s wife, Ainslie. It was especially in poor taste for the couple: van Onselen has never been accused of sexual misconduct.

The tweets led to a massive twitter pile-on and eventually Carey took the tweets down. Porter, van Onselen, and Laming had Rebekah Giles (the same defamation lawyer who represented Brittany Higgins against Linda Reynolds and successfully so) issue three concerns notices (that demanded that Carey apologize and pay Giles’s costs). Carey did indeed issue three separate apologies after receiving the notices and won’t have to worry much about the costs as a crowd-funding drive seems to have taken care of them.

There is numerous interesting issues here: The nature of the Australian defamation law, the ability of people like friendlyjordies and Carey to raise more or less instantaneously remarkable funds from those that believe they have been wronged and/or that may be disgusted by the heavy-handed nature of the interventions of those that filed the defamation suits.

As to the question of the nature of the Aussie defam law, I have stored away this very helpful series of tweets by journalist and author, and honorary principal fellow at the Centre for Advancing Journalism, Uni of Melb., Margaret Simons. Could come in handy. ;-)

And that’s the wrap for week 44 of 2021. 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 …