Saturday’s good reading and listening for the weekend

Jul 11, 2021
Does she realise it’s NAIDOC Week?

What people in other forums are saying about public policy

The pandemic’s progress

Our path from here to somewhere else

If the Morrison Government hadn’t botched the supply and distribution of vaccination, and if it had heeded and acted on professional advice about quarantine, we would have enjoyed eight months of more-or-less normal lives with the virus eradicated domestically, without any lockdowns. We would now be planning for a significant opening of our economy, assured that a high level of vaccination would allow us to get on top of any outbreak without any harsh restrictions on movement or commerce.

By November last year we had the virus eliminated, but because of easily avoidable failures in border controls we have had to live with suddenly-announced restrictions, upsetting personal and business plans, and generally dampening any economic activity more complex than personal services such as food service and hairdressing. While some states have had good runs free of restrictions, nationally there has been an almost continuous series of outbreaks, as shown on the graph below.

It is understandable that many are clamouring for a way out of this mess.  Getting rid of the Morrison Government would improve the situation: a more competent and less secretive government would do better, but there is no simple path to post-Covid-19 “normal”.

It would be folly to lay down a precise n-step plan with dates and deadlines. Humans and the virus are in conflict, in what the military would identify as a truly strategic situation: each side is in a struggle to thrive and each is adjusting its behaviour in response to the other side’s behaviour. As humans block off some pathways for the virus to spread it finds other pathways. It may even decide that its best hope is to stop killing people so that humans stop trying to block it.  We don’t know.

As in any such situation we have to be responsive and should not expect that we can lay down a firm plan, but that is just what the Morrison Government, after insistence from many quarters, has done with its four-phase National Plan to transition (sic) Australia’s National COVID-19 Response. It is attracting criticism because it contains no dates, no numerical targets, no KPIs, and is replete with vague statements such as “measures may include …”. Such criticism is misplaced however. Morrison’s plan wisely avoids dates and KPIs. It would be more fitting to criticise the government for having produced anything that conveys the idea that dealing with the virus from here on is a neat four-step process.

Also the plan carries the impression that we can cope with some steady level of Covid-19 infections which can balance the infection rate against our hospital capacity. But there is no such “balance”. As with locusts and rabbits, the virus cannot be ignored just because at some stage its numbers are small.

That reality hasn’t constrained some in the New South Wales Government, such as Health Minister Brad Hazzard, from suggesting that the state may never control its current outbreak and be forced to live with the virus for good. The Sydney Morning Herald has an article (paywalled) reporting that some senior ministers are in favour of letting the virus circulate in the community. That proposal has alarmed medical professionals who warn of a state and national disaster if the virus is allowed to get out of control with our present low level of vaccination.

If Australia had 80 or 90 per cent vaccination that would probably be a reasonable proposition, but in our present unvaccinated situation it reflects dangerous thinking. If New South Wales gives up early there are two catastrophic and costly outcomes. One is that the virus rapidly spreads through the New South Wales population, while other states implement Berlin Wall-style border controls. The other, which would probably occur after a couple of weeks, is that the virus would spread through the entire Australian population. The oldest, who have had first chance to be vaccinated, may largely be spared, but among the rest there would be thousands of severe illnesses and deaths, reminiscent of the virus’s early outbreaks in Italy and Spain last year. With cases in Sydney still running at 20 to 30 per day it is hard to imagine that the virus can be brought to heel by the end of next week.

Perhaps Hazzard was using that statement to alarm people, but it certainly reflects the thinking of many in the so-called “business community”. It also reflects the thinking of far-right anti-lockdown movements.  Public officials should be very careful before saying anything that these groups can use to support their dangerous ideas and conspiracy theories about vaccination.

Writing in The Conversation Adrian Esterman of the University of South Australia has a go at estimating the rough dates at which we will pass through various phases in the published plan: Australia has a new four-phase plan for a return to normality. Here’s what we know so far. Because it will be the end of the year before the adult population has received even their first dose, Phase 2, when there will likely be some moderate easing of restrictions for those with full vaccination, “is likely to kick in some time in the first half of 2022”. International travel, but only to countries that have the virus well under control, is unlikely to be permitted until late 2022.

It’s likely that there will be huge pressure for the Commonwealth to ease travel restrictions before those dates. The travel industry is already calling for earlier lifting of restrictions, and that pressure will mount as other countries ease their restrictions. Also older Australians, who are well along the AstraZeneca vaccination path, and most of whom are strong Coalition supporters, will be pressuring the Morrison Government to ease restrictions. But if the government does ease restrictions for the vaccinated, younger people struggling to get access to uncertain supplies of mRNA vaccines would be put at severe risk. In the coming months strong aged-based political divisions could develop. So far, in issues ranging from climate change to superannuation tax breaks, the Coalition has been contemptuous of the issues facing young people: will it dismiss their interests further with its vaccination rules?

Vaccination in Australia

Two charts tell most of our story.  First, a comparison of vaccination rates in OECD countries as at early July.

Second, vaccination by age group in Australia. There is a long way to go before all the green lines reach up to the top of the chart – the 80 per cent that is around most epidemiologists’ estimates of the herd-protection level. If we had reason to trust the Allocations Horizons plan (a ghastly name!) we could make a good estimate about when we will get there, but there is a veil of secrecy around the Commonwealth’s plans; even the deal with AstraZeneca is classified as a national security secret.

We note in the chart that it covers only the population older than 16. The general assumption so far has been that only older people are at most risk of catching the virus, and at risk of suffering severe consequences once they have caught it, but recent outbreaks of the Delta strain are forcing experts – and young people – to re-think that assumption, as Norman Swan explains on the ABC’s 730 Report: When should children start to get the COVID vaccine? (6 minutes).

Because “vaccination hesitancy” is concentrated among certain groups, even when there is a high level of vaccination nationally, the virus can still rip through some regions with low vaccination rates as is happening in the US.

The world

Cases are on the rise again, with southern African and South American countries accounting for much of the rise.

In the USA and the EU cases are no longer falling, but death rates are falling. In the USA states with low vaccination rates have rising cases, hinting at, but not confirming, a causal relationship between vaccination and Covid-19 cases. It is possible that those states with high vaccination are also the states with high Covid-19 consciousness where people are taking a suite of precautions.  In the EU rates are rising strongly in Portugal, Spain and Cyprus, all tourist destinations. The WHO has noted football fans’ behaviour, for example, as a factor  contributing to the virus’s spread.

One European country where infection rates are rising rapidly is the UK  (see the red line in the graph above). editor Ian Dunt attributes the rise in infections to Boris Johnson’s idiocy in opening the country’s borders to India, welcoming the Delta variant into the country. (Johnson is currently negotiating a trade deal with India.) But what is notable is that the rise in deaths has not been as sharp as the rise in cases. We expect a two to three week delay between cases and deaths, but even so the rise in deaths has been modest. We can see a similar pattern in Israel, another country with a high vaccination rate. Maybe we’re seeing the benefits of vaccination, maybe the Delta variant is less lethal, maybe treatments for Covid-19 are improving.

Data sources

See our separate web page of hyperlinks to generally reliable information and analysis about Covid-19.


Labor’s plan for post-pandemic reconstruction

In 1942, while the Pacific War was still raging but turning against the Japanese, the Curtin Government turned its attention to postwar reconstruction, developing a set of policies that were to put the nation on a path to prosperity once the hostilities ended.

There were strong echoes of that successful policy approach in Albanese’s address to the National Press Club on July 2, about Labor’s vision for a post-pandemic Australia, even to the extent of committing to a 2021 version of the 1945 White Paper on Full Employment.

He started with the Morrison Government’s failures (doing well in his ability to compress them into 7 minutes). His over-arching criticism is that while the Morrison Government is spending hundreds of billions to support economic activity through the pandemic, none of this spending is directed to building a stronger and more resilient post-pandemic economy. All that lies ahead is a return to pre-pandemic mediocrity with low productivity, stagnant wages, and neglect of the opportunity to restructure the economy to deal with climate change.

The rest of his 30-minute presentation is about Labor’s plan for a full employment economy, covering the whole field of public policy, with an emphasis on structural adjustment. It is clear that his experience as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport has given him an understanding of the investments Australia needs to support national reconstruction and growth, and of the need for independent assessment of those needs. Importantly he commits Labor to a National Integrity Commission.

Politicians’ speeches are carefully prepared; it’s in their handling of questions where they are put to the test, and in the 40-minute question and answer session Albanese demonstrates that he is well-prepared for the job as prime minister.

At least some journalists are starting to realise that the next election may not produce majority government: Albanese’s responses on how a Labor government would relate to the Greens, independents and the opposition reveal a strong difference in style to the Morrison Government’s combative relationships with the same groups. In promising to make any such relationships open he also draws attention to the secret deal between the Liberals and Nationals.

The media were there for the presentation – it was after all at the Press Club – but where was their coverage?

Slow wage growth

For the first 13 years of this century real (CPI inflation-adjusted) wages were growing at around 1.0 per cent a year. Since 2013, however, real wages have been growing at only 0.4 per cent a year, and have stagnated or fallen among some groups.

The McKell Institute’s report Stuck in neutral: The policy architecture driving slow wage growth in Australia by Edward Cavanough goes into the detail of slow wage growth. He demonstrates, for example, that men have been particularly hard hit by wage stagnation.

The fall in wage growth starts with the Coalition’s current period in office. The report finds this is due in large part to 7 deliberate policy decisions. To quote:

  • support for a reduction in penalty rates;
  • overseeing a surge in work visas for low-paid temporary migrant workers;
  • inaction on wage theft and underpayment;
  • opposition to increases in minimum wages;
  • public sector wage freezes;
  • allowing the growth of the gig economy without sufficient regulation; and
  • changes in the composition of the Fair Work Commission .

Immigration and wages

Judging by the stability of monetary policy one may have the impression that the Reserve Bank hasn’t had much to do recently, but Governor Philip Lowe and the analysts supporting him have been busy in providing economic commentary and analysis.

In a speech to the Economic Society, The labour market and monetary policy, Lowe talked about the problem of low wage growth.

In all of the last eight years, wage growth has been lower than Treasury had predicted in preparing each year’s budget. Higher labour force participation was a contributing factor: he noted the growth in part-time labour force participation and underemployment. The other significant factor has been temporary immigration – seasonal workers, students, short-term visitors. The industries benefiting most from these wage-suppressing supply-side factors have been the food trades, hospitality, and retailing. He didn’t mention award non-compliance or other forms of wage theft.

Will these small business-dominated industries keep on grizzling about labour shortages and keep on demanding that the government open the borders, or will they start paying decent wages?

The Reserve Bank’s monthly meeting: no worries mate!

Unsurprisingly the Reserve Bank Board in its July meeting decided to keep the cash rate at 0.10 per cent. It also re-affirmed that it is retaining the same rate as a target for the three-year bond target. It is continuing its bond purchase program (aka “quantitative easing” or “printing money”), although it is signalling that it will be purchasing less in coming months, such is their assessment of the strength of the economy’s recovery.  Further details are in Governor Philip Lowe’s speech.

The Reserve-Bank’s press release has reference to the housing market, in ever-so-genteel language:

Housing markets have continued to strengthen, with prices rising in all major markets. Housing credit growth has picked up, with strong demand from owner-occupiers, including first-home buyers. There has also been increased borrowing by investors. Given the environment of rising housing prices and low interest rates, the Bank will be monitoring trends in housing borrowing carefully and it is important that lending standards are maintained.

It’s hard to understand the RBA’s relaxed attitude to house prices. After a brief retreat towards sanity during the peak of the pandemic, capital city house prices hit a new record in the March quarter, with particularly strong rises in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Hobart, as shown below. Why is the Reserve Bank so trapped by the arbitrary distinction between commodity price inflation (bad) and asset price inflation (of no concern)?

More evidence that open offices suppress performance

Some Australians who have been working from home, using a shared kitchen table and having to attend to children’s demands, will welcome a return to their regular workplaces. Others, however, who have had the opportunity to use a spare room or a home office, may dread a return to the distractions of the open office.

Libby Sanders of the Bond University Business School, writing in The Conversation, reports on how office noise affects people’s cognitive performance, physiological stress and mood –  Open-plan office noise increases stress and worsens mood: we’ve measured the effects.

Hers is not the first study confirming that open-plan offices in most situations suppress people’s work performance. (They are appropriate only in a few situations such as when a team of designers have to work together.) Her study comes at an opportune time, however, as companies and government agencies plan to plan for a situation when in the long-term “Covid-normal” means fewer people are working in one place, with some working from home, when people have to be separated more, and when ventilation and air-conditioning systems have to be re-designed. As Sanders points out, partitions are inexpensive.

Is it possible that many managers aren’t particularly concerned about the opportunity cost of open offices? A hierarchy of working space, ranging from a desk in a crowded open office through to a sumptuous office with sweeping views, reinforces the symbols of authority and intensifies competition for spaces where people can work without being driven to insanity. If companies are serious about productivity they have to work on workplaces.

Australian politics

Morrison’s winning ways

On Monday’s 730 Report former Liberal MP Julia Banks gave a 20-minute account of the reaction when she quit the parliamentary Liberal Party after the 2018 Morrison-Dutton putsch against Turnbull. It’s an account of one who has been treated with disrespect and who has been patronised by others in the Liberal Party, particularly Scott Morrison.

Some media have focussed on her description of a minister groping her during a party gathering. Such unwanted and gauche sexual advances are serious. It is unfortunate, however, that this event may distract attention from her account of Morrison’s behaviour. Banks says that rather than responding to the issues her departure represented – the increasing dominance of the hard right in the Liberal Party – Morrison launched a personal attack, backgrounding the media to give the impression that she was an unfortunate woman who was emotionally overcome by the events around the coup, lacking the resilience to hold herself together, and that he had offered her comfort and support.

There is no reason to disbelieve her: she has her reputation as a corporate lawyer to uphold. Morrison’s behaviour as she describes it is consistent with the way he has dealt with other women who have been mistreated in Liberal Party ranks: present them as weak creatures deserving of sympathy but not of respect. That’s gaslighting.

Julia Banks’s book Power play: breaking through bias, barriers and boys’ clubs was published on Wednesday. In Women’s Agenda Tarla Lambert has a short review of Power PlayScott Morrison’s time in the sun is over, thanks to women. We hope she’s right.

In defence of cronyism

Perhaps as a topic in an Oxford Union debate one side could be given the challenge of mounting a moral justification for blatant pork-barrelling in the distribution of infrastructure funds, but it is hard to imagine such a justification in real life.

But we found a real-life justification last Saturday when Finance Minister Simon Birmingham responded to a question by Insiders host David Speers about the National Audit Office report on carpark funding (“pork and rort” to use Albanese’s term). Birmingham’s response: “The Australian people had their chance and voted the government back in at the last election”. Furthermore he gave every indication that the Morrison Government will do the same at the next election.

There has been no shortage of media commentary.  Daniel Hurst, writing in The Guardian, takes readers through the background of the carpark rorts and Birmingham’s response. The Sydney Morning Herald has published letters to the editor in response to Birmingham’s exposure of the government’s modus operandi: It’s official – rorting is okay if you win the election.  “Could this be a cunning new kind of political marketing which assumes that the sheer volume of faults and the level of public weariness will have achieved national amnesia when it comes to buying the product again?” – asks Gillian Appleton.

The Insiders segment, linked above, runs for 16 minutes. In the first 13 minutes Birmingham gives his boringly predictable responses to a series of questions on vaccines, Julia Banks’s revelations and other issues. The carpark rorts discussion takes the last three minutes.

We might recall Birmingham’s enthusiasm when he was promoted to become Minister for Education and Training when Turnbull displaced Abbott in 2015. The Birmingham we saw last Saturday night looked like someone worn down by the soul-destroying task of defending the indefensible incompetence and corruption of the Morrison Government. Or was his defence similar to the sarcastic “confessions” made in Stalin’s show trials, by those whose only remaining channel for protest was to make the most absurdly unbelievable confessions.

Politics after the pandemic

The latest Quarterly Essay Exit strategy: politics after the pandemic – is by George Megalogenis.

His path to considering post-pandemic politics starts with the evolution of economic policies of successive governments, Coalition and Labor, in the years since 1945, gradually leading up to the obsession with the fiscal balance – an obsession dramatically dismissed last March with the onset of the pandemic. His account leads to the dismal conclusion that most Commonwealth governments, particularly Coalition governments, have seen public spending almost entirely in the context of counter-cyclical spending, rather than as an expression of interest in the value of government services themselves. It’s a public-choice model of government rather than a public-economic model.

He tackles the job of making sense of Morrison’s policies and political strategies – a difficult task because Morrison seems to have no political vision and no political strategy other than keeping himself in office. He doesn’t even seem to be particularly concerned with the tasks of public administration, such as running a vaccination program. “Morrison has no political interest in talking about the future”, largely because he believes the post-pandemic Australia will be and should be the same as the pre-pandemic Australia. Morrison does pay a lot of attention to electoral strategy, however. Megalogenis explains how Morrison’s anti-intellectualism and contempt for learning ties in with his view of his power base in the resource-intensive western and northern regions, rather than in the southern and eastern regions.

Australia’s mates in Afghanistan

John Howard can hardly be considered as a soft liberal on immigration matters: we might recall, for instance, his statement in 1988 that the rate of Asian immigration should be “slowed down a little”.

So we should take seriously his statement that we have a moral obligation towards Afghan interpreters and other staff who worked with Australian agencies, and who are now struggling against bureaucratic delays to get visas to come to the safety of Australia. He probably would not have felt a need to speak out unless he was fairly sure that the government is deliberately making it difficult for these people to be granted visas.

Shifting powers in the Australian federation

For  the 119 years from Federation, power tended to flow from the states to the Commonwealth. The Curtin wartime government and the Whitlam Government both took over powers from the states and in following years, although some Coalition governments talked about states’ rights, there was no reversal of this shift.

Then came Covid-19.

On last week’s Saturday Extra Geraldine Doogue discussed with Pru Goward, now of Western Sydney University, and Greg Craven of the Australian Catholic University, the way Covid-19 has brought the states back into prominence. Is this a passing phase that will give way to an established pattern of centralisation once the threat of Covd-19 passes? Or has this opportunity to exercise more power emboldened the states to be more assertive against the Commonwealth in the future?

Morrison and his ministers may be unhappy with the path states have taken – as William Bowtell writes in The Conversation Morrison’s preferred approach to Covid-19 would probably have been more like Boris Johnson’s – but he is constrained politically. People are generally strongly in support of their state governments for having taken strong measures against Covid-19: if the Commonwealth tried to override the states it would suffer severe electoral consequences.

In this context the panellists reminded us of Morrison’s political debt to far-right forces in the Coalition camp – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party. Both are spreading stories about 210 people who had been vaccinated and later died, implying that vaccination is dangerous. It’s the old post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, or in plain language bullshit: people die. But Morrison, lacking moral gumption, dare not alienate the far right.

The 16-minute segment is titled Federalism in crisis?, but the speakers are simply talking about the shifting loci of power rather than any idea of crisis. Covid-19 has, however, brought to our attention some of the absurdities resulting from our arbitrarily-drawn state borders: here is one of them.

Writing in Inside Story Frank Bongiorno takes up a similar theme about a shift of responsibilities back to the state governments. He sees the Commonwealth’s inability to administer a vaccination program in terms of a loss of the Commonwealth’s capacity to handle anything other than a few transfer programs, contrasting the present incompetence of the Morrison Government with a time when the Commonwealth was able to “hold the hose”, providing competent administration – A little jab, now and then.

Public ideas

Stan Grant on the yoke of history

Stan Grant delivered the 21st Manning Clark Lecture: How history may yet be the death of us.

Any summary of his presentation would not do it justice: his theme unfolds over a  40-minute carefully-crafted narrative. At the end, if you have stayed on for his answers to questions, you will understand what he means when he says he prefers to be a Desmond Tutu rather than a Walter Benjamin.

Following Grant’s ideas will be helped by downloading Paul Klee’s painting Angelus Novus and the photograph of Jimmy Governor taken after his capture.

Please stop dropping bombs

“Just in the past 20 years, Western powers have dropped 326,000 bombs in the greater Middle East/North Africa region. By contrast, the total number of bombs dropped in inter-state conflicts in East Asia in the past 20 years is: Zero!”

That’s Kishore Mahbubani’s introduction to his piece, Asia, say no to NATO. Mahbubani is no peacenik: he acknowledges that there are series tensions in Asia, and that in recent times western countries have abstained from their historical belligerence towards one another. But he is no admirer of NATO, which has done little of any use to the world since Soviet communism collapsed in 1990. In fact it has probably fuelled Russian paranoia about the west, thus solidifying Putin’s position. It has walked away from conflicts it has started; and it has used excessive military force in Libya and the former Yugoslavia. If NATO expands into our region it may do even worse, because it is unfamiliar with Asian cultures and the ASEAN record of preserving peace.

Re-designing capitalism

The Marxist left wanted to do away with capitalism, but all that Soviet-style communism achieved was state capitalism. Social democrats wanted to tame capitalism, and through unionisation and the formation of successful political parties they succeeded until the late twentieth century. But for the last 40 years the left has been in retreat while the ideas of the right – neoliberalism and small government – have dominated.

That order is now failing: wages are stagnating, poverty is increasing, financial crises are destabilising national and global economies, and governments are failing to attend to structural problems.

Writing in The Guardian Andy Beckett describes The new left economics: how a network of thinkers is transforming capitalism. These people with diverse backgrounds and ideas, mainly from the US and the UK, are posting their ideas in websites such as Opendemocracy (UK), Jacobin (US), and Novara Media (UK). They are not seeking a return to the 1970s, and they do not see the future in terms of extended state power in the traditional measures of income redistribution and social security. Rather they are seeking a democratisation of economics. “The new leftwing economics wants to see the redistribution of economic power, so that it is held by everyone – just as political power is held by everyone in a healthy democracy.”

Polls and surveys

Essential: Morrison’s charm is wearing off

The latest Essential Report has a huge swag of questions, mainly about Covid-19 issues, but it starts with approval ratings for Morrison and Albanese. Morrison’s approval rating continues to slide, but not to the benefit of Albanese, and Morrison’s rating as preferred prime minister remains consistently ahead of Albanese’s.

Essential has broken up the Preferred PM figures by gender. Women have never warmed to Morrison, and the gender gap is widening.  The impression from the poll is that while men have a strong preference for Morrison, women are unenthusiastic about both Morrison and Albanese.

On Covid-19 related issues:

  • there is a continuing rise in the proportion of people who say they would never get vaccinated – it now stands at 16 per cent, and is 26 per cent among people aged 18 to 34;
  • our evaluation of governments’ response to the pandemic has fallen over the last few months: the federal government has taken a big hit, while states have generally fared better;
  • Victorians and Western Australians believe Morrison has treated New South Wales better than their states;
  • New South Wales respondents generally believe that the pace of current lockdowns has been about right, but there are strong and predictable partisan differences (two weeks ago health experts were warning that the reaction was far too slow);
  • most people (71 per cent) believe control of international borders and quarantine are Commonwealth responsibilities.

On vaccine hesitancy there are partisan differences. Over the whole sample there is 14 per cent agreement with the statement “I would not be willing to get either the AstraZeneca vaccine or the Pfizer vaccine”. By party affiliation the agreement levels are Coalition 11 per cent, Labor 10 per cent, Greens 19 per cent, other 32 per cent. This may match the stereotype of “other” voters, but it does not fit the stereotype of Green voters as highly-educated community-conscious élites.

The poll has a set of questions on economic expectations post Covid-19. Respondents aren’t optimistic. It also asks how people think various groups have fared during the pandemic: it’s been pretty bad for small business and the average Australian, but OK for big business and our families. (Hard one to figure.)

In recognition of NAIDOC Week it has a set of questions on indigenous issues. About two thirds of us support action on “close the gap” targets for health, education and employment, aboriginal recognition in the constitution, and an indigenous voice to advise Parliament.  We note that Liberal Senator Andrew Braggstrongly supports the ideas of constitutional recognition and an indigenous voice to Parliament.

Women swing against the Coalition

David Crowe, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports on a Resolve Strategic poll, that shows a swing of voters away from the Coalition and towards Labor, indicating a 39 per cent primary vote for the Coalition – down from 41 per cent in the 2019 election. (Other polls show the Coalition vote holding at about the 41 per cent level.) It also indicates a rise in support for independents and minor parties, and a significant fall in female support for the Coalition. Although Crowe’s article mentions Julia Banks’s allegations, it’s clear from the article that polling was completed before her appearance on the ABC.

There’s not a great deal of useful information to be gleaned from this article, which presents a few specific findings that seem to have been chosen at random to provide colour to the text rather than any useful information. For example, it does not even reveal the Labor primary vote.

William Bowe in his Pollbludger has a cautious report on the poll, and provides a link to an article written by Murray Goot of Macquarie University in Inside Story: The Resolve poll that resolves very little. Goot casts a critical eye over Resolve Strategic’s and other pollsters’ use of attitudinal polls. Survey questions are often framed in ways that trigger respondents’ biases in decision-making, often have overlapping or incomplete categorisation, and often ask questions on issues about which most people would have scant knowledge.

War Memorial redevelopment

We think it’s still in pretty good shape

The Australia Institute has surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1 006 Australians about the $500 million redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.  Most respondents thought the money could be far better spent: 26 per cent nominated veterans’ support services and 49 percent nominated government services such as health and education. Only 13 per cent chose redevelopment of the War Memorial. Men were more in favour of the redevelopment than women (the redevelopment takes the memorial towards a war museum and away from its role as a place of remembrance), and Coalition supporters were much more in favour of the redevelopment than were supporters of other parties.

When the project was in its early planning phase in 2000 the vast majority of submissions to a parliamentary committee on the project, including submissions from architects and heritage spokespeople, were opposed to the redevelopment. The Morrison Government has gone ahead with the redevelopment anyway.

Coming events

Australia Institute webinars

Wednesday 14 July, 1100 AEST: Sally McManus “The broken bargain: Australia’s growing wages crisis”.

Thursday 15 July, 1800 AEST Margot Wallström in conversation with Andrew Scott (two authors of The Nordic Edge): “Feminist foreign policy”.

Both are free, but registration is essential. See the Institute’s seminars webpage.


A short clip from the Bangarra Dance Theatre – Spirit – best in full screen.

If you have comments, corrections, or links to other relevant sources, we’d like to hear from you.  Please send them to Ian McAuley — ian, at the domain name

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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