COVID-19 Information

Essential Information from the Australian Government

COVID-19, Flu or Cold

Australian Health Department            World Health Organisation 

Worldometer        Our World in Data   Johns Hopkins University

Federal Reserve of St. Louis

Posted in COVID-19, Public Service Announcement | 45 Comments

Plate Leap Forward

Shenzhen becomes first Chinese city to ban consumption of cats and dogs.

Posted in Cultural Issues, Innovation, International | 9 Comments

Friday Forum: April 3, 2020

Posted in Open Forum | 129 Comments

Even though mum and dad are at home with little else to do

Childcare centres to be free for parents during pandemic, Scott Morrison announces.

The Federal Government will spend an estimated $1.6 billion to fund the radical — but temporary — overhaul of the struggling sector, which has been pleading for a bailout as parents pull kids out of care.

Mr Morrison said free child care would be offered so essential workers could keep going to work, but Education Minister Dan Tehan later clarified all parents would qualify — including students and the unemployed.

“We want as many people being able to work as we possibly can, and we want them to be able to access child care as they need,” he told the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing program.

“Free.” LOL. “Temporary.” LOL. And now the government wants “as many” people as possible at work?

Posted in Politics of the Left, Wasteful Spending | 36 Comments

A Fallacy’s Heyday

Post hoc ergo propter hoc is airborne                                                                                        

EVEN though it has been mostly amicable, the circularity of debate here and elsewhere (and everywhere) about the relative deadliness of COVID-19 – especially in relation to the proportionality of government reaction – can be grating to all involved. We want to be understood and we’re struggling. In several posts, I’ve tried to make it clear where I stand on proportionality. There is a relationship between those views and the scientific/statistical question of lethality but not necessarily a direct one. That is, my criticism of fascism as prophylaxis remains the same whether or not coronavirus and bad seasonal flus are within the margin of error to each other or not. This, in turn, is not the same as arguing governments have no role to play in protecting the vulnerable and educating the public to observe a new, strict degree of hygiene (enforced by law). Additionally, there is no moral or logical obligation to pay deference to a merely “scientific/statistical” conclusion about lethality (not that there is one) vis-à-vis shut-downs of society, the economy, democracy and the rule of law. This global crisis (of body, mind and soul) is an epic case study in how ‘expertise’ cannot be left in the company of politicians unchaperoned by subjective moral judgement. For even if the CFR is closer to five percent than 0.1, of itself that tells us nothing about the value of human aspirations ruined, likely excess deaths from despair or the righteousness of causing so much damage to the living in an attempt to forestall the demise of a (usually frail) minority; a minority we are called to protect but not at the price of national self-immolation.

If the world’s authority-drunk governments want to ban something new this week – which I’m quite sure they do – they could do a lot worse than prohibit the media from publishing round-the-clock “x new cases” updates. This isn’t a test match and COVID-19 isn’t Steve Smith. Almost all of these “cases” – these people – will recover. Of those who may deteriorate, we know nothing of their overall health or circumstances. Nothing pertaining to crisis scale follows from a raw number of positive diagnoses, nor – necessarily – from a raw number of deaths attributed to coronavirus. The media is promoting dread in terms simplistic enough for an audience of average intelligence to – not understand – but experience. One corollary of this is that governments are now forced by a daily swirl of factoids and unrefined numbers – ‘forced,’ according to their own self-aggrandising psephological calculus – to take “further action.” Retired pathology professor John Lee has published an excellent piece at the British Spectator which explains how fallacy and ignorance of coronial protocols are falsely boosting death tolls and corrupting the very extrapolations driving shut-down mania throughout the world. He argues that as a new notifiable disease (flu isn’t one, by the way), coronavirus is being listed as the cause of death in patients with far more elaborate medical histories and co-morbidities – as also an atypical exposure to infectious surroundings (namely, hospitals). Filled with useful comparative statistics, Lee’s article is a must-read.

Posted in COVID-19 | 29 Comments

Concerns Grow

Last seen at a Sydney leadership forum. Answers to ‘Paul.’ Paul likes newspaper clippings, Mahler and China.

Posted in Public Service Announcement | 27 Comments

Paying twice the price to get 3% of the electricity

Approaching 10pm.  South Australia is importing power this evening after exporting a trickle for most of the day. 2% SA power from wind at present and across the NEM it is exactly 3%.

As we approach sunset and the peak of daily demand for electricity the wind across SE Australia is providing a tick over 3% of the power. In case you want a hot dinner, lights and TV this evening almost 97% of the electrons will come from conventional sources, overwhelmingly coal. Providing the other three per cent has doubled the price. A remarkable achievement.

5GW of coal capacity is not being used. That is almost as much as the sun and wind were providing at their peak for the day and that is not counting unused gas and hydro capacity.

Of course the wind could pick up and it might provide 10 or 15% on a remarkably good wind day. So what? Remember it is the choke point that kills the grid.

If the RET is not one of the victims of the crisis then we are really stuffed.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe | 12 Comments

Government burns the economy: how to douse the flames

In appointing Stephen Kennedy as the Treasury Secretary, the government selected the bureaucrat behind Turnbull’s potentially disastrous carbon tax.  He was also a player in Kevin Rudd’s spendathon following the 2008 global financial crisis; unsurprisingly he has gone for a “Full Ruddy” stimulus, contrary to Treasury’s former role as being the Praetorian Guard over politicians’ spending ambitions.

Australia’s spending now totals $320 billion, 14 per cent of GDP and among the most irresponsible in the world.

The stimulus effect will be ineffective but the resultant debt will be a Sword of Damocles hanging over the economy, squeezing the availability of investment funds for decades. Countering this with clearing away regulatory detritus is essential if we are to restore income-enhancing growth.

As for paying back the $320 billion debt and easing consumer cost impacts, we have the option of rescinding many policies that continue to slug the economy.  Three of these are:

  • The Murray Darling Basin Plan, which has reduced farmers’ irrigation water by some 20 per cent. Cancelling remaining funds and re-selling the water lost to agriculture would provide some $7 billion, a massive dividend in restoring the prosperity of the region, while boosting national food production.
  • The renewable energy program comprising Commonwealth budget spending at $1.6 billion a year on energy subsidies through the waste from program acronyms like CEFC, ARENA, GCS; and the consumer imposts through renewable energy regulations at $2.7 billion a year. Over 10 years, terminating these programs saves $43 billion.
  • Abandoning the diesel retrofit of the French nuclear submarine – a choice designed to appease greens, that was originally to cost $50 billion but is now $225 billion.  A sensible alternative would save at least $100 billion.

Will a government that has to date proved unable to wind back excessive regulatory spending or resist arguments from its advisers for excessive spending prove capable of such reforms?

A full version of this is in The Spectator  here

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments

Cryoeconomics: how to unfreeze the economy

My RMIT University colleagues (Darcy Allen, Chris Berg, Aaron Lane, Jason Potts) and I are frantically writing up our next book:

Cryoeconomics: How to unfreeze the economy.  

The Australian government, like many governments around the world, wants to freeze the economy while it tackles the coronavirus pandemic. This is what the Commonwealth’s JobKeeper payments and bailout packages are supposed to do: hold workers in place and keep employment relationships together until mandatory social distancing ends.

Easier said than done. We are in completely uncharted territory. We’ve never tried to freeze an economy before, let alone tried to thaw it out a few weeks or months later. That’s why our new project, cryoeconomics, looks at the economics of unfreezing an economy.

Posted in COVID-19, Economics and economy | 12 Comments

Who knows what will come next?

I would like to discuss a previous thread by one of our anonymous posters who wrote “about the only thing of note that I haven’t mentioned is the hysterical meltdown of those on the libertarian side of things to just about any government reaction to the current crisis” and I stress the word “any”. Peter Hitchens is apparently “one of the very worst offenders”, someone whom I have quoted a couple of times, “an hysterical female-like counterpoint to his deceased brother”. He is apparently “dancing around with his hands in the air in mortal abject terror of any government imposed change to his daily routine whatsoever” (my bolding). You can read the whole thing for yourself here.

I cannot speak for Peter, but will speak for myself. And I am already all too aware how readily all too many are prepared to throw away their freedoms at the mere whiff of some socialist grapeshot. You want to hear the sound of hysterical, try this:

Our responsibilities at the moment are to sit tight and do our best to not add to the problem. Yes we are suffering some discomfort. Yes, we are also taking a financial hit. Yes, some people are taking a bigger hit than others, either due to their own unpreparedness or suffering the ill fortune of this being very bad timing. But what are governments supposed to do? Take everyone’s individual circumstances into account? Even if they could, which they cannot, exactly why should they?

Our great handicap is that so many of us are conditioned to looking to government to solve our problems. So that when a very big event such as this happens then our only recourse is to scream and shout that something must be done or must not be done as the case may be. But the situation is not normal and screaming at the sky is beyond useless. What we must do is batten down the hatches and rely on ourselves and family and communities first. We must find ways to get things done.

I never classify myself as a libertarian, but I do line myself up ideologically with F.A. Hayek who is, like myself, a classical liberal, a conservative using today’s mode of classification. On Hayek’s attitude to governments in a crisis, Steve Hayward went into that just this morning: HAYEK ON EMERGENCY POWERS OF GOVERNMENT. This is a direct quote from Hayek’s Law, Legislation and Liberty. The bolding this time is from Steve Hayward.

The basic principle of a free society, that the coercive powers of government are restricted to the enforcement of universal rules of just conduct, and cannot be used for the achievement of particular purposes, though essential to the normal working of such a society, may yet have to be temporarily suspended when the long-run preservation of that order is itself threatened. Though normally the individuals need be concerned only with their own concrete aims, and in pursuing them will best serve the common welfare, there may temporarily arise circumstances when the preservation of the over-all order becomes the overruling common purpose, and when in consequence the spontaneous order, on a local or national scale, must for a time be converted into an organization. When an external enemy threatens, when rebellion or lawless violence has broken out, or a natural catastrophe requires quick action by whatever means can be secured, powers of compulsory organization, which normally nobody possesses, must be granted to somebody. Like an animal in flight from mortal danger society may in such situations have to suspend temporarily even vital functions on which in the long run its existence depends if it is to escape destruction.

The conditions under which such emergency powers may be granted without creating the danger that they will be retained when the absolute necessity has passed are among the most difficult and important points a constitution must decide on. ‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded – and once they are suspended it is not difficult for anyone who has assumed such emergency powers to see to it that the emergency will persist. Indeed if all needs felt by important groups that can be satisfied only by the exercise of dictatorial powers constitute an emergency, every situation is an emergency situation. It has been contended with some plausibility that whoever has the power to proclaim an emergency and on this ground to suspend any part of the constitution is the true sovereign. This would seem to be true enough if any person or body were able to arrogate to itself such emergency powers by declaring a state of emergency.

Speaking for myself, I feel in many ways I am already living in a police state. Very benign for the moment, but they are only just starting to get used to the idea of using the police to take away our historic rights. What has amazed me more than anything in this latest episode is how few people actually seem aware of how much is at stake. There are a handful of deaths from the coronavirus but we are not in the middle of the Black Death. What we may well be in the middle of is the death of our personal freedoms. There are plenty around who would like to take them from us already and who they are ought to be visible to us all since they never stop threatening us for going out to take a walk in the park. Once you are used to that, who knows what will come next?

Posted in Classical Liberalism, Conservative politics | 12 Comments

Never let a good crisis go to waste – Winston Churchill

TAFKAS is not an AFL fan.  He is not from Victoria and it does not really float his boat.  But that is inconsequential to the following.

Writing in (where else but) the Guardian, Rana Hussain, a diversity and inclusion specialist, a writer and a member of the Outer Sanctum podcast says the following about AFL in a post WuFlu environment:

Given a chance to rebuild, let’s create an industry that is equitable and an environment where elite athletes exist in the same reality as their colleagues in other roles across the industry. Let’s rebuild this industry so that it truly reflects the society to which it owes its existence. Rebuild it with people of varying intersections, class and experiences inside headquarters and at clubs, as well as in the stands.

No commentary from TAFKAS is required, but the emphases are his.  Just read it again and let it sink in.

Posted in Uncategorized | 27 Comments