Jun 6, 2020

 What people in other forums are saying about public policy

The OZ economy

Are we in recession yet?

Not yet by the common definition of a recession, which requires two quarters of “negative growth” (econospeak for “decline”) in GDP, and we have had only one so far, in the March quarter, and that was touch-and-go – GDP fell by only 0.3 per cent.  That’s because in January and February we were hardly aware of the coronavirus, and the economy seemed to be ticking along: in fact it wasn’t until mid-March that we started to take the coronavirus  seriously. Therefore the lockdown would have influenced GDP figures for only two of the thirteen weeks in the quarter. This means either that the lockdown effect was really severe, or that the economy was already doing poorly because of the bushfires and longer-term structural weaknesses.

And while GDP fell only a little, GDP per capita, a measure more meaningful in terms of our material living standards, took a dive.  In fact per-capita GDP growth has been weak and declining since 2013 – which one with a partisan bias would point out coincides with the Coalition’s time in office.  See the graph below.

What will the June quarter GDP look like?

Almost certainly worse is the consensus, and even the Treasurer has acknowledged that we’re in a recession. But it is likely that the published figures will look more positive than our lived experience, because there will most probably be strong growth in our exports, which were down in the March quarter.  There has been a surge in iron ore prices and in copper prices as China gets back into gear and as the Brazilian economy suffers the effect of mismanagement criminal neglect of the virus.  Unless you own a swag of shares in mining companies, or are one of the two per cent who work in the industry, don’t expect to see much immediate benefit from this contribution to GDP.

The Reserve Bank – it could have been worse

In the Reserve Bank’s statement on its monetary policy decision, Governor Philip Lowe understandably acknowledged the tough times faced by the Australian economy. But he acknowledged that we have come through the shock better than initially expected:

… it is possible that the depth of the downturn will be less than earlier expected. The rate of new infections has declined significantly and some restrictions have been eased earlier than was previously thought likely. And there are signs that hours worked stabilised in early May, after the earlier very sharp decline. There has also been a pick-up in some forms of consumer spending.

Homebuilder” – jobs for Morrison’s beloved “tradies” through welfare for the wealthy

Many years ago, at one of Menzies’ town hall rallies, a lady yelled from the back “Wotcha gonna do ‘bout ousing?”

“I’d put an ‘h’ in front of it” was Menzies’ reply.

The government’s “Homebuilder” package, announced on Thursday, is hardly any more substantial.  Interviewed on the ABC RN Breakfastprogram, Anthony Albanese drew attention to its major shortcomings. Its funding –  $690 million – is trivial in relation to the downturn in the industry: it won’t support a million jobs as the Treasurer claims. The eligibility cut-offs and spending criteria for renovations are particularly favourable to the well-off. And why does this government refuse to spend a single dollar on social housing, asks Albanese. (12 minutes)

On the same program Adrian Pisarski of National Shelter also explained its shortcomings. He pointed to a 438 000 shortfall in social housing dwellings across the nation. (8 minutes).  He outlined the proposal of the Community Housing Industry Association for a Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program, that would enable the delivery of at least 30 000 additional social housing units a year, and allow for environmental upgrades for existing properties. (Electricity prices for heating and cooling are a major stress on people living in poorly-insulated public housing).

More on housing

There is a set of four half-hour talks Housing the Australian Nation by Peter Mares of the Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership, on the ABC’s Earshot program.  Each session is set in a city, but the topics are different — “Melbourne” is mainly about first home buyers and market distortions resulting from planning laws; “Hobart” is about stress on low-income renters; “Adelaide” is about the South Australian Housing Trust model and how public housing morphed into “social housing”; “Brisbane” is about community housing as a model. Common themes are the undersupply of “social” and “affordable” housing, the need for public investment or subsidy to fill this need (the market won’t), and the way tax policies favouring “investors” have contributed to housing stress.

Reconciliation week

National Reconciliation Week ended on Wednesday.

The inaugural Uncle Lewis Yarluburka O’Brien Public Lecture.

If you have a spare half hour you could spend it watching Tom Calma deliver the Uncle Lewis Yarluburka Oration at Flinders University.

Reconciliation is a task for all of us:

I invite you to think long and hard about your individual role in reconciliation. At its heart reconciliation rests with us as individuals. It is our personal commitment to a fairer, equitable culturally-enriched and accepting nation.

Governments too have a role:

Reconciliation is not something that we can do or be achieved by government decree. Government cannot force reconciliation but it can provide fertile ground for it to germinate and take root.

But, he warns, reconciliation can be impeded by a lack of political will and inaction.

A hook around the shins: have we learned nothing?

On Monday we were reminded why reconciliation is important, and how far we have to go, when we saw that video of a NSW police officer kicking a young indigenous man – someone posing no more threat than some unsavoury language – causing him to fall face-first on to a hard pavement. True to form Ray Hadley jumped in to offer his support for the police officer.

Also true to form, and in the tradition of police unions, NSW Police Association Secretary Pat Gooley offered no condemnation. The NSW Police Commissioner offered what almost read like an excuse – the unfortunate cop had had a “bad day”, and was of such delicate sensitivity that he was deeply upset by the young man’s bad language: presumably police cars and the back rooms of police stations are zones of soft, restrained language.

Fortunately there were more reasoned voices.  Patrick Saidi, former Commissioner of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission – the NSW police watchdog – said he believed the officer may have acted unlawfully, and appeared to have provoked the young man. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “we still have a long way to go in our country”, and that what’s happening in the US is “a good wake-up call for all of us”.

Speaking on ABC PM Tom Calma placed the issue in its wider context. Commenting on the situations in the US and in Australia he drew attention to their similarities and differences. “We need to address a whole range of issues around indigenous incarceration and indigenous offending, because a lot of it can stem back down to the impact of colonisation, the impact of poverty, of not being able to be presented with opportunities”. He stressed that we must keep people out of jail and invest in people’s development before they offend.  On the wider issue of an indigenous voice at the national level he expressed a degree of optimism. (7 minutes)

Rio Tinto’s contribution – blasting a 40 000 year-old sacred site to smithereens

Writing on the ABC website, Michelle Stanley and Kelly Gudgeon of ABC Pilbara describe the processes, or rather the neglect of process, that led to the destruction of 40 000 year-old sacred sites. Their account  Pilbara mining blast confirmed to have destroyed 46,000yo sites of ‘staggering’ significance reads like a history of the lead-up to the 1914-18 War: everyone knew it was coming but no-one intervened to stop it.

Black lives matter

This weekend, in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, some Australians seek to gather in “black lives matter” demonstrations. It’s a confusing attempt to merge two serious issues. One is our own “original sin”, our brutality towards the original people of this land – systematic slaughters, theft of land, separation of children, prohibition of cultural ceremonies and use of language, destruction of sacred sites, and disrespect. America’s “original sin” is the brutality of slavery and the endurance of discrimination 158 years on from Emancipation. Such merging of two different situations allows for little more than a condemnation of “racism”, a condemnation that’s so close to universal that little commitment is required.

Before calling people on to the streets, the protest organisers would do well to recall that far more aboriginal Australians died from smallpox and tuberculosis carried by the European invaders than from muskets and rifles, and that some of the most callous killings involved gifts of blankets deliberately contaminated with smallpox.

The pandemic’s progress

Few new infections, but still some community transmission

The last seven days have seen 77 new cases, down from 88 in the previous seven days.  Of these new cases, 49 were in Victoria. As at Friday evening 8 cases were classified as “community spread” and 8 others were under investigation.

Who’s trying to undo our hard work and good progress?

Most Australians are making small sacrifices to contribute to the common good. We can do without operas, rock concerts and folk festivals for now.  But the football lobby continues to beg for the privilege of opening matches to crowds, and in NSW the National Rugby League has has done a deal to allow up to 50 people in each of its corporate boxes. Money trumps public health, particularly when it’s someone else’s money, because it’s a fair bet that most of the spectators in these corporate boxes are financed from corporate expense accounts.

Joining these usual suspects are those planning to take to the streets to demonstrate, effectively giving licence to others to break public health regulations. As Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos says “Black lives do matter. We know that Aboriginal people are more susceptible to becoming severely ill if they contract coronavirus, and I urge them to heed the advice of the chief health officer to follow all of the health advice, and that is to stay home.”

Country curves

Below is the updated set of country curves. America’s curve is on a slow downward trend, interrupted by outbreaks: the protest gatherings will probably lead to another spike in two or three weeks. The EU countries continue to make progress: the EU as a whole has a daily infection rate of 8 new cases a day per million people. But for the influence of Sweden, where infections are running at 79 new cases a day per million and rising, the EU rate would now be down to 6 new cases a day per million. After having defended Sweden’s lax approach for so long , state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell (think of a Nordic version of Brendan Murphy) has admitted that they got it wrong.

There are press reports about outbreaks and second waves in South Korea and Japan, but these are comparatively small clusters of cases, to which there is rapid attention. You might notice that the South Korean curve is now peeking above the axis, but its situation is quite different from that of European and American countries.

Information sources

These are the same sources we have been presenting.

The WHO daily situation report;

Our Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) current situation and case numbers;

Our Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert;

A group of volunteers’ daily-updated site Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Australia;

The ABC’s daily-updated site Charting the COVID-19 spread in Australia;

The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center;

Norman Swan’s Coronacast;

The Economist paywall-free Coronavirus hub;

The coronavirus update from the Harvard Gazette;

The ABC’s The one Covid-19 number to watch, tracking the reproduction factor (R)

The ABS program of special statistical releases.

The Scientific American The Coronavirus Outbreak covering scientific aspects of the virus.

The ABC’s Digital Story Innovation Team set of graphs Charting recovery after the coronavirus crisis.

How other countries are coping with the virus

Bye-bye Brazil

On the ABC’s Saturday Extra Geraldine Doogue interviewed Marci Castro of Harvard’s Department of Global Health and Population: Latin America, the new Covid epicentre.  The story is mainly about Brazil, where the daily case rate per million people is now 210, and rising rapidly.  (By way of comparison the previous highest rate for any country was 170 new cases per day per million people in Spain, and that was only for a few days around the peak.) Castro attributes the country’s catastrophic experience largely to a failure of leadership. The proliferation of misinformation, and denigration of science, has been a deliberate strategy from Bolsonaro and his corporate supporters. Bolsonaro presents as a typical know-it-all strong man, impervious to evidence or reason. (11 minutes)

In spite of Trump, the US could prosper from the pandemic

Without mentioning the term “Modern Monetary Theory”, Sebastian Mallaby explains in Foreign Affairs how the US economy should bounce back to a new period of growth, through virtually unrestrained government spending: The age of magic money: can endless spending prevent economic calamity?  The magic is in lower interest rates which reduces the cost to government of servicing debt. As the debt rises the cost of servicing that debt actually falls.

Because central banks can print money, and governments can borrow that money from central banks, there is little constraint on government spending and borrowing. This also means that monetary and fiscal policies tend to merge.  His suggested path, however, is a Keynesian fiscal one. Rather than relying simply on cheap money to stimulate growth he suggests it would be better:

… to rouse the economy with lower taxes and additional budgetary spending, since these can be targeted at citizens who need the help. The rise of populism since 2008 underscores the case for stimulus tools that are sensitive to inequality.

That might work for inequality within rich countries with well-regulated financial systems. The magic of debt payments kept in check by low interest rates does not hold for poor countries, where the pandemic crisis is putting upward pressure on interest rates.  Therefore, in global terms, the rich-poor divide will worsen.

He acknowledges that his path to recovery depends on continued low inflation. He also tends to take for granted that the $US will remain the world’s preferred currency for trade and finance. (If it doesn’t the US economy could start to resemble Venezuela’s.)

Polls and surveys

Essential – we’re learning to live with coronavirus and with Morrison

The Essential poll shows no fall in our fear of coronavirus. If anything, there is a slight rise in our concern and fear of contracting it (all within margins of error).  Nor is there much change in our approval of the way governments have responded to the pandemic. WA leads the approval ratings, followed by Victoria, SA, Queensland and NSW well in last place among the states surveyed. In view of the high approval for the WA Government (79 per cent), her Liberal Party colleagues cannot understand why Opposition Leader Liza Harvey is strongly opposed to the government’s tough stance on keeping the border closed.

There is a little more enthusiasm for lifting restrictions but we’re in no hurry.

On other policy matters, we don’t give the Commonwealth high marks for the way it handled that little $6bn error in the cost of Jobkeeper, but 43 per cent of us feel it “does not affect the government’s credibility”.  Still on that $6bn, 45 per cent of us believe it should go to reducing the national debt, while the other 55 per cent want it spent on those in need, with fairly predictable partisan differences.

A new month brings in surveys on comparisons of Morrison and Albanese.  The graphs below show the net approval and preferred prime minister ratings.

These figures are hardly encouraging for those hoping to see this government out of office.  But almost lost in Essential’s tables is the revelation that 53 per cent of those who record their voting intention as “Labor” approve of Morrison’s performance. We vote for a party, not its front man or woman. No wonder Morrison is transforming Australian politics into a contest about “leaders” rather than a contest between parties. Why do the polls and the media focus so strongly on the “leader” rather than the parties and their policies?

Australia Institute – keep the drawbridges up

The Australia Institute has polled Australians on border closures, revealing that 77 per cent of us want them kept closed. In the four states surveyed (WA, Queensland, Victoria and NSW) support for continued closure is strongest in WA, (88 per cent) and lowest in NSW (70 per cent).

Poll bludger

William Bowe’s Poll Bludger has published a number of state and demographic breakdowns of recent Newspoll surveys on voting intention.  In all states there seems to be a small but statistically insignificant swing to Labor. Notably there is a whopping 62:48 lead for Labor in the 18-34 age cohort. Also women express a slight preference for Labor than men in a 52:48 ratio. (This is a much smaller gender gap than those revealed in previous polls.)  They find no difference (50:50) between parties’ support traceable to voters’ education. This too is at odds with previous surveys and post-election research, which found that the Coalition was strongly favoured by those with less education.

A reminder – Poll Bludger has a donation drive.  With so many surveys hidden behind paywalls and so many others difficult to find, Bowe’s website in a valuable resource for policy wonks.

America’s woes

Trump has relinquished office

“By having no constructive response to any of the monumental crises now convulsing America, Trump has abdicated his office.”  So writes former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich in The GuardianFire, pestilence and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over.  Reich is referring not only to the current crises – the riots and the coronavirus – but also to the way Trump has pushed aside so many other pressing issues, including reduction of global heating, background checks on firearm sales, election reforms and measures to deal with violence against women.

From a Republican loyal to the Constitution

Jim Mattis was the first Secretary for Defense in the Trump Administration, and was widely regarded as one of the “grown-ups” in the government’s top ranks.  On Wednesday, in response to Trump’s proposal to use the Insurrection Act, regardless of the wishes of state authorities, he issued a short statement, drawing on American constitutional conventions. It is  published on the CNN website. To quote in part:

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society.

From a northern neighbour

By now learned, and not-so-learned, commentators will have written and spoken millions of words on America’s woes. Let’s not forget about listening: Justin Trudeau takes 20 seconds to respond to question about Donald Trump’s handling of protests

How stands the Union?

In a tone that resonates with the prophet Ezekiel and with Martin Luther King, Harvard philosophy professor Cornel West, on MSNBC, warns about America’s moral decay and Trump’s appropriation of religious symbolism while promoting division and hate: The future of America depends on how we respond  “We must have a spiritual, moral , and democratic awakening among all of the citizens who care, recognizing that we’re going to disagree in the public square, but recognizing that we are losing our democracy.”  “We’ve got ecological catastrophe waiting for us, and if we have leaders that view it as a hoax then the whole planet goes under, and it’s all over, and all you’ve got is the cockroaches.” (11 minutes)

American hegemony and global moral authority aren’t in decline: they’re in collapse

So writes Helena Cobban, in Just World NewsAnother American first: A self-collapsing empire!

With decision after decision after decision, Pres. Trump has been cutting Washington off from having any effective ties with governments, alliances, and global institutions that previous presidents had worked hard to establish and that provided the vital underpinning for the country’s global power.

She warns that the collapse of empires involves a long period of uncertainty and risk, and often outbreaks of lethal violence – the Thucydides Trap:

Primarily, we need to watch out for the real possibility that the “Masters of the Universe” who have been running this massively sprawling U.S. empire will strike out, Sparta-style, against the currently rising power in an attempt to blunt or end its rise.

She reminds us not only of the risk of conflict between great powers, but also of possible outbreaks of conflicts throughout the world when the hegemonic order is destabilised.  And she notes a paradox of America’s political structure, a structure built on a republican design that has become de-facto imperial, but lacking the insights and self-awareness that are necessary for a country to manage as an empire.

Australia’s democratic deficits

Our descent into crony capitalism – the Covid-19 Commission

Stephen Long reports on an interview with Justice Margaret White on the Covid-19 Commission: Government’s coronavirus response slammed for “alarming lack of oversight” by retired judge.  (The Covid-19 Commission is the government-appointed group, heavily representative of the fossil fuel industry, recommending major subsidies for the gas industry in order to shut out the renewable sector.)  She points out that it’s been set up by executive government, without parliamentary approval. “It doesn’t appear to be underpinned by legislation, and I would have thought it would be something the Government would be keen to do to legitimise this committee”.

The same lack of accountability around the Commission has come to the attention of the Centre for Public Integrity.  They have issued a joint statement “calling on the prime minister to establish greater transparency and integrity measures for the opaque and unaccountable National Covid Coordination Commission”. Their priority is for parliamentary involvement in the process, including the need for enabling legislation.  They have also re-published an article National Covid-19 Coordination Commission scrutinised by Mike Seccombe, first published in the Saturday Paper. It goes into details about the Commission members’ business interests and their links to the gas industry.

Australia is sliding into authoritarianism at an alarming rate

That’s a quote from an article by Witness J in the Canberra Times: Secrecy, sure, but they have erased me: Witness J on his anonymous reality.  (Witness J, we might recall, is a former intelligence officer, a decorated Duntroon graduate, subject to a secret trial and a secret imprisonment for breaking security laws in 2018 – so secret that even the ACT Justice Minister didn’t know Witness J was incarcerated in an ACT jail.)

I have trouble believing this is the country I once had so much faith in; a country whose flag I wore as a soldier at war; a coat of arms that was stamped on to my passport when I worked abroad as a spy. We are being marched into the shadows and towards something that the lessons of history warn us should be avoided at all costs.

He has written a book Here, there are dragons, describing what it’s like for one who has served his country to be living among paedophiles, rapists and murderers in prison.

The colonial cringe lives on

One hundred and nineteen years after independence, there lingers in our land an attitude that we are still somehow subservient to a foreign monarch in a foreign country. Jenny Hocking has been struggling for years to have the National Archives – the Australian National Archives – declassify the correspondence between the Governor-General and the Queen of England around the time of the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975. (See her entry in Pearls and Irritations on Monday.)  But in spite of her successful challenge in the High Court, the National Archives are stalling, claiming that they need 18 weeks to consider their release, and may still apply exemptions. (Perhaps they are hoping that in that time monarchists in the Liberal Party will be able to restore the UK Privy Council with authority over our own High Court, or perhaps they simply suffer from colonial nostalgia?)

As John Warhurst explains in the Canberra Times, We’ve never been truly independent – and the Palace letters will show it.

Safeguarding our Democracy

Next Friday, 12 June, at 11 am, the Australia Institute is hosting a webinar Safeguarding our democracy, with Helen Haines, the Independent Member for Indi, and former Supreme Court Judges David Harper and Margaret White. See the Australia Institute website for registration and information on other webinars in its Economics of a Pandemic series.


Back to a golden age

Consider a philosophy that rejects materialistic capitalism and that draws on the teachings of Hindu, Christian and Sufi mystics. You might imagine that it belongs towards the “left” end of the political spectrum or at least “New Age”.

But if you listen to Geraldine Doogue on Saturday Extra interviewing Benjamin Teitelbaum of the University of Colorado you will discard any notion of a “left-right” spectrum. Teitelbaum, author of War for eternity: the return of Traditionalism and the rise of the populist right, describes the movement known as Traditionalism (with a capital “T”), a radical conservative movement. Traditionalists reject any notion of progress; rather they have a cyclical view of history. The Enlightenment is behind us – that was a transient phase – and we are now entering an age of darkness, before we emerge once again into a glorious “golden age”, an age of benign theocracy, in which family values will reign, without the corruption of secular governments, liberalism or pluralism.

Among the adherents of Traditionalism are Steve Bannon, and Aleksandr Dugin (Putin’s Rasputin), and the political elites of Brazil, Iran and Turkey.  (Neither Doogue nor Teitelbaum mentioned Tony Abbott. Is he something of a Traditionalist?)

Gather ye faithful and spread the virus

On the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Report Andrew West interviews Massimo Faggioli of Philadelphia’s Catholic Villanova University about a document An appeal for the Church and the world to Catholics and all people of goodwill: The Pope, his enemies, and the pandemic.  On face value the document urges Catholics to come together in prayer, but its message is that there is a secular conspiracy, taking advantage of the pandemic as a means of attacking religion, such as through directions that places of worship be closed or subject to limited numbers.

This document is not the work of some fringe right-wing group: its first signatory of many senior church figures is that of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Vatican ambassador to the US. Its signatories are representative of a group who, in disagreement with Pope Francis, believe the Catholic Church is exempt not only from the jurisdictions of nation states but also from the findings of science.  Pope Francis has specifically said that Catholics should follow the medical advice of their governments.  (7 minutes)

The bumbling messiah

Last week we gave a link to an article about evangelical Christians mobilising to support Trump. Sue Caldwell has pointed out a podcast in the same publication, The Intercept:  Coronavirus and the radical religious right’s bumbling messiah. The web page is headed by a picture of the bumbling messiah himself in a faux prayerful pose. The podcast, hosted by Jeremy Schill, is a series of quotes from “the chosen one” and his followers, particularly those demanding that the economy be “opened up”, interspersed with interpretations by Jeff Sharlet. Sharlet is author of The family: the secret fundamentalism at the heart of American power , C Street: the fundamentalist threat to democracy, and most recently This brilliant darkness: a book of strangers.  The podcast is just over an hour: there is also a transcript but it lacks the richness of the messiah’s exaggerated New York accent and the strident voices of his disciples.

How a virus spreads – within minutes

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology has studied the dissemination of disinformation about Covid-19 through social media, finding that most of it originates in coordinated networks of pro-Trump and QAnon clusters: Pro-Trump accounts coordinated spread of China bio-weapon COVID conspiracy theory:

Politically-focused coordinated retweeting of coronavirus topics almost exclusively promotes the interests of far-right wing parties and governments, including Turkey’s President Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s regime.

Their full report describes the phenomenon of automatic re-tweeting, and suggests ways of countering the spread of disinformation. It’s a difficult challenge for public policy to counter the phenomenon without inadvertently amplifying the disinformation and without encroaching on civil liberties.

Post-school education

There has to be a better way to fund vocational education and training

The Productivity Commission has published its interim report on VET – National Agreement for Skills and Workforce review. It finds: that the allocation of subsidies, costing governments $6 billion a year, do not necessarily align with normal economic principles of public interest; that principles guiding VET funding do not align with those applying to funding for other forms of higher education; and that government subsidies for the same courses in different states vary widely.

Its main suggestion is that subsidies should be more directly allocated to students rather than to providers so that students can choose courses that more closely align with their needs.

What would be your recommendation to a young person?

On Saturday Extra Geraldine Doogue interviewed John Buchanan, head of Business Analytics at the University of Sydney and Daniel Walton, National Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union: Where the jobs will be.  Perhaps the producers were hoping for the traditional choice between advocates of “academic” and “practical” courses, but both guests argued that post-school education should equip students with generic skills, unsurprisingly including STEM skills. Walton stressed the value of a manufacturing sector as a repository of skills.  (17 minutes)

Is this the end of cash?

Over the last few years the use of cash has been in steep decline. Reserve Bank Assistant Governor Michele Bullock reports that last year only 25 per cent of consumer transactions were by cash, and that was before the Covid-19 reactions which have seen many merchants and consumers avoiding cash for hygiene reasons – Panic, pandemic and payment preferences. Since the pandemic outbreak ATM withdrawals have plummeted.

She discusses some of the policy issues of the move to cashless payments, but does not cover the informal economy of buskers, pocket money, CWA cake stalls, poker games, shared shopping, to name a few. And if cash goes out of fashion, does that mean the local business who offered a discount for cash, or a penalty for electronic payments, might have to start declaring income and paying tax?

What to do when you’re in a tough spot : “lie and blame your spouse”

Britain’s Dominic Cummings didn’t come across too well when he confronted the camera and microphone. He could have acquitted himself a little better.

Saturday’s Good Reading and Listening is compiled by Ian McAuley

Watch out tomorrow, Sunday, for Peter Sainsbury’s Sunday environment round up.

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