Saturday’s good reading and listening for the weekend 

May 22, 2021
These could be replaced by a beautiful gas-fired power station

What people in other forums are saying about public policy

The Coalition’s war on renewable energy

The International Energy Agency’s report

Let’s be clear about the International Energy Agency. It is no tree-hugging bunch of greenies. It was established in 1974 at the urging of Henry Kissinger, among others, as a collection of oil-consuming countries, with a prime interest in the reliability and stability of energy supply.

So when it states in its press release accompanying its report Net zero by 2050, that there should be “no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects” we should realise that this is the voice of energy hard-heads, and that it will be taken seriously by corporations and financial institutions around the world.

Its vision is spelled out as “an energy sector dominated by renewables”.  This involves not only continued technological innovation, but also behavioural changes and more efficient use of energy, while still providing electricity and other forms of energy to countries still in need of improved supply. That vision reads:

In the net zero pathway, global energy demand in 2050 is around 8% smaller than today, but it serves an economy more than twice as big and a population with 2 billion more people. More efficient use of energy, resource efficiency and behavioural changes combine to offset increases in demand for energy services as the world economy grows and access to energy is extended to all.

Instead of fossil fuels, the energy sector is based largely on renewable energy. Two-thirds of total energy supply in 2050 is from wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and hydro energy. Solar becomes the largest source, accounting for one-fifth of energy supplies. Solar PV capacity increases 20-fold between now and 2050, and wind power 11-fold.

Net zero means a huge decline in the use of fossil fuels. They fall from almost four-fifths of total energy supply today to slightly over one-fifth by 2050. Fossil fuels that remain in 2050 are used in goods where the carbon is embodied in the product such as plastics, in facilities fitted with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage], and in sectors where low-emissions technology options are scarce.

In terms of Australia’s interests the relevance of this vision is not only about the idiocy and irresponsibility of building a new large gas-fired plant in the Hunter Valley. It’s also about the future of our whole coal industry and our coal-intensive aluminium industry. These are not large employers, but because of their regional concentrations they exert a hugely disproportionate influence on public policy.

And just as seriously, while Australia’s national government continues down its present path of outright hostility to renewable energy, other countries, with more economically competent governments, will leap on the economic opportunities presented by renewable energy – opportunities described in the IEA’s report. We’re not the only country with sunshine and wind.

We have only dipped into the IEA documentation. For those who want to delve into analysis and scenarios, it’s worth a look at their analysis site, where there is detail on topics such as electric vehicles, and adjustment pathways for heavy energy-intensive industries including cement, iron and steel.

Morrison’s plan – to freeze Australia’s economic structure

The simple arithmetic around the Morrison Government’s allocation of up to $600 million for a new 660 MW gas-fired plant is explained in a two-minute video presented by the ABC’s Ian Verrender. He explains that even if one disregards its environmental cost, we simply don’t need that extra peaking supply. Even before Energy Australia committed to a 300 MW peaking station in the Illawarra, the Australian Energy Market Operator said we had enough capacity to deal with the closure of Liddell, let alone an additional 660 MW on top of that.

Writing in Renew Economy, Ketan Joshi provides a more detailed description of the project, including data from its EIS  showing that it will create almost 300 000 tonnes of GHG emissions a year and will run on diesel until a gas pipeline can be connected. On the project’s supposed justification he writes:

What’s clear now is that what was once marketed as a ‘free market’ ideology was mostly rhetorical cover for extremely mundane and ideologically devoid crony capitalism. The goal isn’t to avoid market interventions; it’s to erase any market interventions that don’t explicitly enrich the fossil fuel industry.

Also writing in Renew Economy Giles Parkinson puts the project into a broader perspective, to do with the Morrison Government’s determination to override markets and economic advice to extend the life of fossil fuel industries, including oil refining, and to force the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to commit funds to carbon capture and storage projects. It is notable that energy minister Taylor is talking less about reliability and more about controlling electricity prices, even though gas is the most expensive form of generating electricity.

Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute demolishes the project on almost every imaginable criterion: Gas misfire: the Federal Government’s $600m intervention in the energy market.

The Canberra Times editorial on Thursday – Gas-powered generators a bad misstep – is highly critical of the project. It notes that although planning was well-advanced, it was not included in the budget papers. (Could that have been to keep it out of the view of the ratings agencies, who don’t give strong grades for crony capitalism or soviet central planning?) The editorial also notes that it could help the New South Wales Coalition in its campaign for today’s Upper Hunter state by-election.

Helping the Coalition state government in a by-election could be a motivation, but if the Commonwealth wanted to spend $600 million to provide the people of the electorate with an enduring asset surely it could have committed to extend the M15 freeway to upgrade the major trucking route between Sydney and Brisbane that passes through the electorate.  Or it could have simply given each of the 60 000 electors a cheque for $10 000, personally signed by Angus Taylor.

Maybe this folly has been driven by a handful of obstinate climate-change deniers who hold the government hostage: if so it presents a compelling case to abandon our rotten and dysfunctional “Westminster” system of winner-take-all politics and replace it with a multi-party democracy. Or maybe it’s just crony capitalism – a means to give a few more years life to a dying industry, by over-providing capacity and spooking investors, as a means to discourage investment in renewable energy. Whichever explanation holds, Morrison has demonstrated that the Coalition is unfit to govern the country.

The budget after another week’s reflection

Forget about the budget hype: the Liberal Party intends to take us back to austerity

It is informative to cast an eye over Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy’s speech to an Australian Business Economists’ lunch last Wednesday. There is a certain amount of bragging about the way, compared with the rest of the world, we have achieved strong economic growth through suppressing the virus, and he gets through the whole speech without mentioning climate change or energy policy. Presumably he believes that businesspeople aren’t interested in these matters, but are more interested in the government’s bookkeeping, because much of the speech is about the budget deficit.

In his speech as published he states that government spending, after its current boost to 32 per cent of GDP, “is projected to remain at around 26 per cent of GDP over the next 10 years”.  That’s in line with budget papers.

But he seems to have let his guard down by exposing the government’s intentions. The ABC’s Michael Janda, presumably reporting on questions after the address, or on departures from his prepared speech, quotes Kennedy as throwing his support behind the government’s tax cap, which aims to limit revenue collections to 23.9 cent of GDP, and to close the gap between revenue and spending.

In other words, the government’s intention is to cut back spending from 26 per cent of GDP to 23.9 per cent of GDP – even lower than pre-pandemic spending, which averaged 24.6 per cent of GDP between 2000-01 and 2018-19.

Contrary to what many are saying, Frydenberg and his colleagues have not abandoned their philosophy of imposing fiscal austerity and emaciating the public sector, regardless of the cost to the national economy.

The Coalition sees no value in the public sector in itself. In the present environment, with monetary policy having failed to revive the economy, the government has reluctantly fallen back on a fiscal boost. It sees the public sector as no more than a convenient channel to spend that money, rather than as a valuable part of the economy providing services that the private sector cannot provide or cannot provide as fairly and efficiently. Also the timing of the fiscal boost is very convenient electorally.

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of the LMITO

The Low and Middle Income Tax Offset was introduced in 2018 as a temporary measure to give a small reduction (up to $1080) in personal taxes for people with incomes between $18 200 (the tax-free threshold) and $126 000.

In the budget speech Treasurer Frydenberg made much of its extension into 2021-22: in fact it took a careful reading of his speech to realise that it was merely being extended rather than being introduced as a new concession.

Writing in The Conversation a team of economists explains that it delivers help neither when nor where it’s needed. In spite of its name its benefits are enjoyed largely by middle-income rather than low-income households, and because the offset is paid as a refund at the end of the financial year, the benefits of the scheme’s extension won’t be seen until after people submit their 2021-22 tax returns.  (By the same token when people receive their LITO payments later this year they may incorrectly believe that they result from a decision in this year’s budget and rush out to vote for the Coalition in gratitude.)

The same article also presents the distributional consequences of the already-legislated “stage three” tax cuts, which are “extraordinarily highly skewed towards high income earners”. Exactly what the economy does not need.

What’s so sacred about small business?

“Small and family businesses are the engine room of our economy” said Frydenberg in his budget speech, justifying an extension of write-off provisions and other benefits.

But as Alan Kohler points out in one of his daily video clips (3 minutes), small businesses are not the source of employment growth, and they’re not planning to increase employment. That function falls to medium and large business.

“But one thing small businesses seem to be really good at is avoiding tax” says Kohler.

He shows us the difference in what taxation revenue would have been collected in 2017-18 if there had been 100 per cent compliance with tax laws and what was actually collected.  Small companies accounted for 44 per cent of the shortfall, while large companies accounted for only 15 per cent of the shortfall.

We note that these figures refer only to tax evasion. Kohler’s more general point also covers legal tax avoidance. Small businesses often use family trusts, for example, a measure not available to individuals or corporations.

Other economics

A brief economic history and a vision for the future

Ross Garnaut, in conversation with Roland Rajah of the Lowy Institute, discusses the Australian economy, essentially in a summary of his book Reset: restoring Australia after the pandemic recession.

The first part of his 37-minute session is an economic summary of the last 30 years. Initially Australian incomes rose through productivity gains and then in response to highly favourable terms of trade, but in recent times productivity has fallen and real incomes have stopped rising. We shouldn’t go back to that under-performing pre-pandemic economy.

The second part is about the need to bring fiscal and monetary policy together. Our over-reliance on fiscal policy has led to a high $A, destroying the competitiveness of trade-exposed industries. We need a set of monetary, fiscal and social security policies that encourage investment and risk-taking, and support labour-force participation.

In the third part Garnaut outlines his vision for a post-pandemic economy with green industries taking advantage of our minerals and renewable resources. If we allocate those resources wisely we can enjoy an enduring advantage in steel, aluminium and other processed products.

What is economic growth and why is it so important?

That’s the title of an article by Max Roger, who has collected a set of data on recent trends in people’s material standard of living, mounted on the Our World in Data website. You can examine his evidence from almost all the world’s countries: for example to see that that in Chad the percentage of people with electricity has risen from zero in 1990 to 10 per cent now, or that over the same period there has been a huge improvement in sanitation facilities in Fiji. The story in almost all “developing” countries is of significan material improvement.

He goes into measures of economic growth and broad measures of inequality.  For example, you can use his interactive charts to see progress by country in reducing poverty, measuring the percentage of people living on less than $X per day, where X has various values — $US30, down to $US1.90. Even in Chad there is progress, but in some middle-income countries, such as Argentina and Venezuela, there is little progress, while the figures from China and Vietnam are truly impressive.

A different approach to economics

Writing in Project Syndicate, Dani Rodrik outlines the failures of neoliberalism:

Economic policies in the US, and the West more broadly, have long been in need of overhaul. The ideas dominant since the 1980s – variously called the Washington Consensus, market fundamentalism, or neoliberalism – originally gained traction because of the perceived failures of Keynesianism and excessive government regulation. But they took on a life of their own and produced highly financialized, unequal, and unstable economies that were unequipped to cope with today’s most significant challenges: climate change, social inclusion, and disruptive new technologies.

Rather than re-writing Adam Smith and other canonical texts of economics, Rodrik’s article – Beware economists bearing policy paradigms – calls for a different way to teach economics. Instead of starting with universal theories, teachers and those seeking to solve practical problems should realise that “the keywords of a truly useful economics are contingency, contextuality, and non-universality”.  His article provides a link to a resource known as the CORE Project, which teaches economics through considering practical problems in resource allocation, and which starts with observations of real people rather than idealised “rational” economic agents.

It’s official – overwork is a killer

As a reminder that not every job is a good job, the World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation have published a study of deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease attributable to long working hours.

The study concludes that:

working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35 per cent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 per cent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.

While exposure to long working hours is concentrated among people ages 25 to 44, particularly men, premature deaths occur with a lag – generally above age 60.

What if Covid-19 had come a few years earlier?

Peter Martin, writing in The Conversation, reports on musings at a seminar on Monday where economics and policy experts were reflecting on what we have learned from our adaptation to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and how that learning has been applied to the current crisis.

Seminar members also speculated on what might have happened had Covid-19 arrived just a few years earlier, before the world was on the path to making mRNA vaccines, and before there was a basic broadband network that has allowed adaptations such as working from home and online shopping.

Private health insurance and private health care

Covid-19 has been the obvious focus of health policy, but as we cautiously and slowly emerge from the pandemic we will have to face the problem of a high-cost and dysfunctional private health insurance industry. Before the pandemic it was losing its younger low-risk-low-cost customers, while gaining older high-risk-high-cost customers. That is not sustainable.

Stephen Duckett and Greg Moran of the Grattan Institute have written a paper Stopping the death spiral: creating a future for private health, describing and analysing these problems. It’s a reasonable analysis of the problems faced by private insurers, covering the ground contributors to Pearls and Irritations have been covering for many years.

It has one major shortcoming, however, in assuming that private hospitals are necessarily linked to private health insurance. The very term “private health” in the title indicates that the authors have not differentiated between private hospitals, which are useful and important establishments providing health care, and private insurers, which are intrinsically high-cost financial intermediaries, distorting the allocation of health care resources, contributing to moral hazard, and violating principles of equity and accessibility. There needs to be a way in which private hospitals can break their dependence on private insurance – a high-cost industry which should go the way of coal mining.

Human rights

How Australia supports the oppression of Tamils in Sri Lanka

Writing in Jacobin, Barathan Vidhyapathy describes Australia’s complicity in the Sri Lankan’s Government’s oppression of Tamils – a complicity that goes back to 2009. He writes about the Sri Lankan Government’s mass killings of Tamils in that country’s conflicts in 2009, even after they had surrendered to government forces.

He describes Australian military cooperation with the Sri Lankan Government, Australia’s deportation of Tamil asylum-seekers, and Australian help rendered to the Sri Lankan Government to “deter and disrupt” asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia.

Jacobin isn’t the only foreign voice drawing attention to our treatment of Tamil asylum-seekers. Britain’s BBC has a major article on the Murugappan family, better known as the Biloela family, who have been locked up on Christmas Island since 2019. Biloela family: locked up by Australia for three years.

Timor-Leste and a secret trial

The Australian Government spied on Timor-Leste. As a lawyer Bernard Collaery has taken on the case of “Witness K” the former intelligence officer who exposed that wrongdoing. Collaery has been charged with conspiring with Witness K under secrecy laws. The Commonwealth is seeking to ensure that the trial is held in secret.

They’re the bare facts of the case against Collaery, who is seeking to have all or part of his trial held in open court. But, as Kieran Pender of the Human Rights Law Centre explains in the Canberra TimesThere is no place for secret trials in Australia – the secrecy provisions are being used to shield the Commonwealth from having to admit openly that it spied on Timor-Leste. “This deception, and the secrecy that enables it, has no place in our democracy” he writes.

Foreign affairs


Last week’s Saturday Extra is entirely directed to foreign policy. Two of the four sessions are about Australian diplomacy, with a focus on our diplomatic relationships with China.

John McCarthy, former ambassador to several countries, describes the profession of diplomacy. The diplomat has three tasks – to get to know the country to which she or he is posted, to represent Australia’s interests in that country, and to feed back to Canberra on one’s perceptions of the country. This last task is particularly hard when local Australia media are presenting their own, not necessarily informed, presentation of that country, and when there are politicians in Canberra making “superfluous statements at a political level which cause us damage” and who create phobias for domestic political purposes.

Unlike some other countries, Australia does not have a long history in international relations. Until the 1940s, our foreign relations were handled by a foreign country (whose interests rarely aligned with ours). Unlike some other countries where politicians are often immersed in foreign policies, Australia’s politicians generally lack a deep understanding of foreign relations. That said, he praises the achievements of the Hawke-Keating Government and Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, who made significant contributions in relation to Cambodia and the Antarctic Treaty. (20 minutes).

For an understanding of the development of Australian diplomacy McCarthy recommends Allan Gyngell’s book Fear of Abandonment, updated in 2021.

More specifically on our relations with China Geraldine Doogue asks four people to summarise why they believe the words used in diplomacy matter. (30 minutes)

James Curran of Sydney University observes how Australian governments, Coalition and Labor, have placed our country at the front line of aggressive language against China, in an attempt to ensure that the US can come to our side, pressing the Americans to keep up their regional engagement. Our government uses language that not even Washington uses. Our bloated rhetoric is out of line with our interests and way out of proportion to our capacity to influence world or regional events.

Michael Shoebridge of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) is not concerned with language. He emphasises what he sees as a risk of major conflict in our region. He does not see Australia as an outlier in this context, and dismisses the idea that the defence establishment is deliberately building up the perception of risk in order to command more resources.

Gareth Evans fears that emotion is trumping reason and self-interest. Australia is being deliberately and unnecessarily offensive towards China, on issues that justify pushback but not stridency. There are too many voices in the media and in bodies like ASPI that are in the business of stirring up controversy. Talk about going to war can be dangerously self-fulfilling and our squawking child role in relation to China simply increases tension in our region. Furthermore the language used by our government can alienate the 1.2 million Australians of Chinese extraction.

Yung Jiang of ANU is puzzled by the language about “war”. Why is Australia’s talk more strident than America’s, Korea’s or even Taiwan’s? Is some of this talk, such as Pezzullo’s address, about pitches for power by interest groups within the Australian bureaucracy? Those who talk of “war” need to think through what they hope might be achieved through armed conflict, how it may play out, and what may be the terrible consequences of war in our region. She concludes by reminding us of the times when, in a fit of xenophobia, we interned good citizens of German and Italian origin as supposed traitors. Are we headed down the same path in relation to Australians of Chinese origin?


Ramona Wadi, writing in Eureka Street, analyses the Labor Party’s symbolic recognition of the State of Palestine – a departure from “the more common Australian political rhetoric that builds upon ‘shared values’ with Israel”: Palestine remains embroiled in the quagmire of politics and legitimacy.

In doing so she takes us back to the original 1947 Partition Plan, that “can be considered the foundation for decades of Israeli occupation, land dispossession and unequal treatment of Palestinians”.

Even if legitimacy is on the Palestinians’ side, politics serves Israel’s continued expansion. She wonders whether Labor, if elected, will be able to put the principles from its (non-binding) party platform into practice.

Writing in The Conversation, Annabelle Lukin of Macquarie University describes how journalists are reporting on the conflict. The standard form of reporting, with its emphasis on perspectives from both sides, tends to convey a notion of moral equivalence, even though in this conflict there are massive asymmetries in casualties and access to weaponry.  Also, in the interest of objectivity, journalists tend to sanitise the violence.

Her advice:

For the journalists who report this violence on our behalf, there is nowhere to hide. There is no neutral, objective mode. Your choice is to stand so far back from the “conflict” that you obscure its brutal irrationality and, in so doing, unwittingly or otherwise, put your support behind the most powerful belligerents.

Or you can come in close and show mutilated and traumatised children, and suffer the journalistic ignominy of “biased” reporting.

Other politics

Could you imagine him wearing a baseball cap?

Remembering Ming

Was Prime Minister Menzies a liberal? Was he a conservative? Was he a nationalist or an internationalist? What would he make of the federal Liberal Party of 2021?

On Late Night Live Phillip Adams discusses Menzies with Stephen Chavura, co-author of The forgotten Menzies: the world picture of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister. They agree that no one adjective adequately captures Menzies’ political philosophy. He was conservative on many social values, but had a progressive view on what Australia could become. He was neither nationalist nor internationalist: rather he was psychologically attached to the British Empire, even though it had been on the way out since 1942 and had formally disappeared by the time he retired in 1966.

Although he was strongly anti-socialist, he would not have approved the Liberal Party’s attachment to neoliberalism and its callous indifference to economic inequality. And as one who valued learning, he would have been horrified by the current Liberal Party’s anti-intellectualism and hostility to liberal education. Chavura and Adams believe that, like Whitlam, and unlike Abbott and Morrison, he brought gravitas and dignity to the office of Prime Minister.

The pandemic’s progress

Australia – where the bloody hell are we?

Our vaccine progress is still pathetic. Only 13 per cent of the population, or 3.4 million Australians, have received their first dose, and we don’t have any official figures on how many people have received their full two doses.

Why aren’t we eagerly lining up for vaccination? Why does the Age/Sydney Morning Herald Resolve Strategic poll reveal that only 22 per cent of Australians, not so far vaccinated, count themselves as “extremely likely” or “very likely” to get vaccinated?  Why does the same poll reveal that half of those hesitating to get vaccinated cite a fear of side effects? How has that miniscule risk dulled attention to the risk of Covid-19?  Why are we unaware of our collective risk with a largely unvaccinated population that is tired of taking public health precautions?

The situation is not helped when tourism lobbies talk about some optimised trade-off  between their commercial interests and deaths from Covid-19. No wonder people want to keep the drawbridge on fortress Australia closed.

There is no shortage of good epidemiologists who can explain what we need to know about vaccination, but apart from the occasional short exposure to the media – mainly old media – they don’t have a voice. We need to be doing something much cleverer, preferably something at arms’ length from the Commonwealth Government.

The rest of the world

Worldwide, reported cases are falling. Because India still accounts for just on half of all cases, the graph below shows world cases and world cases excluding India.

As each country goes its own way with vaccination and partial and periodic lockdowns, there aren’t many clear patterns based on regions or indicators such as per-capita GDP. The only pattern is the unsurprising fact that many islands (Australia, Malta, New Zealand, Taiwan as examples) have an easier task than countries with relatively porous borders.

When thinking about what’s happening in the rest of the world, here is a number to keep in mind. It’s 140 –  the peak daily infection rate per million people in Melbourne during its wave of infections last August. That may help provide some perspective to the following numbers relating to countries that have been prominent in the news – comparative figures of daily infection rates over last week:

Sweden, now the highest in the EU – 361;

Brazil – 300, rising;

India – 210, although their figures are probably significantly understated;

Malaysia – 137, and rising, leading to a lockdown

European Union – 130, with most countries between 100 and 250, almost all falling;

USA – 94;

World – 87, also probably understated, falling;

Japan – 46;

UK – 23, slowly falling;

South Korea – 13;

Singapore – 7, but rising, and cases are difficult to trace, leading to a lockdown;

Malta, now the lowest in the EU – 7;

Australia and New Zealand – <1.

Before we start talking about India’s situation as catastrophic, we should recall that at their peak in January the US and the UK had daily infection rates between 800 and 900 cases per million population.


For vaccination, Israel leads the pack among sizeable countries, with 56 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, but their progress is stalling. The US and the UK have 38 and 31 per cent respectively fully vaccinated with no sign of easing up. Some other countries with high rates of full vaccination include Bahrain (40 per cent) and Chile (40 per cent). In our region Singapore is the only country with a significant, and rising, rate of vaccination (25 per cent).

Raina Macintyre, writing in The Conversation, draws our attention to the Seychelles, where around 71 per cent of people have had at least one dose of vaccine and 62 per cent have been fully vaccinated. Yet there has been a surge of cases, and 20 per cent of hospital cases are people who are fully vaccinated.

She offers several plausible reasons. It is possible that with low efficacy vaccines (the Seychelles are using the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine and the British-developed AstraZeneca) a 62 per cent national level is still well short of herd immunity. More worrying is the possibility that these vaccines are not effective against variants, particularly the South African B.1.351, that have recently emerged. She concludes that we need to use high-efficacy vaccines to achieve herd immunity, and she points out that vaccinating the world is the only way to end the pandemic.


See our separate web page of hyperlinks to generally reliable information and analysis about Covid-19, including the ABC’s vaccine tracker. Norman Swan’s two most recent Coronacast posts call on listeners to give their ideas on how to get Australians vaccinated.  The Harvard Gazette has on-the-ground observations on what is happening in India from population health and geography scholar Chan Subramanian. He points out that the situation in India is much more complex than is presented in the media.

Polls and elections

Chile – The Pinochet era is finally over

Late last year, following a wave of protests in 2019 against President Sebastián Pinera’s programs of privatisation and austerity, Chileans voted by a large majority in favour of a new constitution to be drafted by a body of elected delegates.

In the election for constitutional delegates, held last weekend, Pinera’s centre-right coalition scored poorly, winning just 21 per cent of the votes. Because changes in the constitution require a two-thirds majority, Pinera had been hoping for at least a 33 per cent vote so that they could block any proposed liberal reforms. According to Deutsche Welle,   independents, and candidates aligned with parties of the left, have won at least 70 per cent of the vote.

Japan – they don’t want the Olympics

The New York Times reports on a poll conducted by the Asahi Shimbun, revealing that 83 per cent of Japanese don’t want the Olympics to go ahead in July: 43 per cent of respondents want the games cancelled, and 40 per cent want the games to be deferred by another year.

Newspoll – not much to see

William Bowe’s Poll Bludger reports on the post-budget Newspoll.  If there was any movement in parties’ political support following the budget, this poll isn’t revealing it, because all movements are within the poll’s error of estimate, and the TPP vote remains at 51:49 in Labor’s favour. In other words unexciting.

Newspoll also included questions on the budget:

19 per cent said they would be personally worse off, 19 per cent said they would be personally better off, 62 per cent were unable to say;

44 per cent expected it would be good for the economy; 15 per cent said it would be bad.

The only inference we can tentatively draw from this is that unless promoted by a scare campaign, most people don’t care much about the budget deficit.

Resolve Strategic poll

William Bowe reports on the second voting intention poll by Resolve Strategic, published by The Age/Sydney Morning Herald. Its results, while appearing to be slightly more favourable to the Coalition than other polls, are starting to show the same general story of high approval for Morrison, low approval for Albanese, and only a small improvement for Labor since the 2019 election.

This poll’s primary voting results (with Newspoll results in brackets for comparison) are Coalition 44 per cent (41 percent), Labor 35 per cent (36 per cent), Greens 12 per cent (12 per cent), One Nation 2 per cent (2 per cent).

Unlike its initial survey, it shows a significant gender gap in voting intention. That’s in line with other polls: women don’t like the Morrison Government. The budget scores well.  And 59 per cent of voters oppose an early election.

In the same post Bowe reports on Newspoll questions about whether people think Labor would have presented a better budget and if they would be steering a better path to recovery. People have a strong faith in the Morrison Government on both counts.

ANU poll – the situation is more fluid than other polls suggest

Most opinion polls suggest that the political situation is fairly stable: Morrison holds a high approval rating, the two-party vote remains locked at around 50:50, and in spite of its corruption, inept administration and a record of economic mismanagement, we forgive the Morrison Government for its failures so long as it keeps the external borders shut.

George Wendell has drawn our attention to survey data collected by the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, which suggests the situation is more fluid. There has been a large decline in confidence in the Commonwealth Government over this year so far, and over the same period there has been a three-point fall – from 40.3 per cent to 37.3 per cent – in the percentage of people who say they would vote for the Coalition. At the same time confidence in state governments, and in the public service, although having fallen a little, is much stronger. The loss in confidence in the Commonwealth Government, and the decline in voters’ support for the Coalition, seems to be more pronounced among women than men.

The surveys also probe people’s attitudes to sexual assault. A large majority – 77 per cent – of Australians believe that “Men getting away with committing sexual harassment or assault” is a serious problem. Unsurprisingly, a person’s own gender tends to affect people’s views on sexual assault. More surprisingly is a conclusion that people’s belief in the seriousness of sexual assault and harassment seems to be a stronger predictor of dissatisfaction with government and voting intention than gender itself.

Webinars and events

Australia Institute webinars

Tuesday, May 25, at 13:00 AEST, a webinar “to give you the inside story on what’s going on in Canberra and what the public actually thinks—not what politicians say they think”, with Katharine Murphy of The Guardian and Pete Lewis of Essential Media.

Wednesday, May 26, at 15:00 AEST, “On the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, with Sharon Burrow of the ACTU, Helen Durham of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Marianne Hanson of Abolish Nuclear Weapons Australia.

Friday, May 28, 13:00 AEST “Artificial Intelligence: Can Australia chart a different course on AI?”, with Ed Santow of the Human Rights Commission, Pete Lewis of the Centre for Responsible Technology, and Lizzie O’Shea of Digital Rights Watch.

To enrol in any of these, go to the TAI seminar series website.

Note that their site also provides YouTube links to some of their recent seminars.

A post-politics career for Angus Taylor

Surely Angus Taylor could do a more convincing job than Arnold Schwarzenegger as a car salesperson – “If it burns gas, we got it”.

See Michael West Media for more analysis of these and other economic and political issues, and watch out for Peter Sainsbury’s Sunday environment round up.

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