Scott Morrison’s covid dilemma

Pre 2020, I considered Scott Morrison a political enemy of the policies I wanted for Australia, but since then have sympathised with every attempt he has made to get Australia out of its love-affair with covid-mania. Over the fold is my take on what I think Scott Morrison’s view of the covid-period is and the dilemma that he now faces.

I see it as very likely that Morrison’s view of the last 16 months is nearly identical to that of his predecessor Tony Abbott and hence almost the same view as mine: this has been a mass-hysteria that has lead to the emergence of more nationalistic crowds that have done immense damage to themselves in a sacrificial reflex towards a minor threat. I think it likely Scott Morrison would have liked to have had the policies of Florida or Texas as they became at the end of 2020, which means to be totally open for business, to have schools and hospitals function normally, and to treat covid as no more than a severe flu.

Instead, Scott Morrison finds himself at the helm of a country with a population largely wedded to extremely destructive policies, wherein even normally sensible intellectuals are running with the modern variant of the idea that “one has to do something”, namely that not to panic was not an option they could call for. To politically survive, Morrison has had to go along with it all, teeth gnashingly increasing the national debt at a phenomenal rate, closing the borders to most students and skilled migrants, pretending not to see the damage to school children and the lonely, and ignoring the pleas of his business buddies in the airline and hospitality industries. He finds himself with a population that in various State elections rewarded a totally unsustainable set of policies that are simply making the country less healthy, less educated, and closer to bankruptcy.

So, instead of being able to open up to the world, Morrison is asked to preside over the opening up of federal quarantine camps. Instead of keeping state borders open, he has to cajole and bargain with state governments frequently doing the opposite in their own attempt to gain popularity at the expense of the actual wellbeing of their own population and the national purse. Only the unexpected 250% increase in the prices for iron ore, Australia’s biggest export product, has shielded Morrison from the full financial repercussions of the choices made, but that has proven a mixed blessing as it has also meant he has less of an excuse to stop printing money to buy off dissent.

His hopes were probably on the vaccines proving to be the wonder weapon that would allow him to declare victory and open up soon. But he bet on the wrong one and it now in any case turns out that these vaccines are not as useful as hoped for, with well-publicised deadly side-effects and the high likelihood that new mutations will arise that go ‘around’ the vaccines. He must have watched in horror as the most-vaccinated country in Europe (the UK) is seeing increased case-numbers again, during summer-time no less (though I bet he, like me, suspects a strategic change in test-regime)!

What is he to do? Play to the public and go all tough-guy, calling for national school shutdowns and the like at the first hint of anyone in the country sneezing? The danger of that strategy is that if the population comes to its senses, he is going to blamed as the top-man who did stupid things. Besides, it is bad for the country and risks locking Australia up for years to come in an unending cycle of (local) lockdowns and unaffordable subsidies for those told to stay home. It would build up even more underlying political tension. His business buddies wont like it.

What then? Go the full North-Korea and attempt in the coming years to build an economy without physical interaction with most of the rest of the world? Export iron ore in stead of bronze statues, which are the prime export article of N-Korea? The problem with emulating North-Korea is that one then gradually becomes as poor as N-Korea. Does Morrison really want to be Kim-Yong-Scott, the First of His Name, Maker of Chains, Father of Job-keeper? Surely unlikely.

Maybe go the full Florida then right after the next election and use all the powers of the Commonwealth to open up Australia, no matter what the States and opposition politicians say? The danger in that is that he and his party might then be branded as traitors and murderers. Indeed, that accusation is then pretty much a certainty, a gamble that only pays off if the number of visible covid-deaths is close to zero in the reopening years. That’s an awfully risky thing to do for someone who needs to keep his parliamentary colleagues on board. One might even say courageous. Thus politically impossible.

Muddle on, trying to resist the covid-mania on the sly, such as via media-buddies, the pronouncement of a former Prime Minister, and high-profile business buddies? That is pretty much what he has done so far and it has to be the front-runner for what he is going to do the next 12 months.

Here is thus what I think Morrison and his government will do: muddle on with vaccines so that he can’t be blamed too much either way; grab whatever can be grabbed; try to distract the population by talking up other fears (of China and such); hope the resource boom will last; hope hyper-inflation wont come, but keep printing money to pay for the impossible expectations of the population; reward the right mates who can protect him in the media and in key constituencies; and hope the population comes to its senses as it sees the fruits of returning normality in the US (which is opening up rapidly now) and parts of Europe.

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78 Responses to Scott Morrison’s covid dilemma

  1. conrad says:

    I thought Morrison’s only criterion was winning the next election. You’ll have to ask a lawyer, but he didn’t even bother to challenge the states on many of the things they did, and now he goes in the opposite direction completely.

    As for this comment:”with well-publicised deadly side-effects and the high likelihood that new mutations will arise that go ‘around’ the vaccines.”

    The fact that deadly side-effects are well published doesn’t really mean much when the odds are miniscule, and this is also true for only the AZ & J&J vaccines. Death by shark attack is well publicized too — but hardly worth worrying about. You’re more likely to die of a car accident and you may as well start worrying about death via lightening strike too. Indeed, in Aus, your odds are vastly more of getting e.g., bowel cancer (1 in 13) and that’s not stopping people getting fat and eating large amounts of red meat. etc. .

    Apart from this, most of the new studies show that the vaccines protect quite well from the variants despite the initial misgivings (look at the UK death data) indeed, the chance of you dieing after vaccination is miniscule and symptoms are vastly reduced (and hence less long-covid, and less chance of covid getting into your brain permanently). So if people get no symptoms, who cares if they still get it apart from those not vaccinated?

    On this latter point, the chance of death without one I’ll assume is .5% (you can have .3% — it doesn’t make much different for this argument). In this respect, the problem is going to be for the anti-vaccination crowd. Let’s say they’re 20% of people. Once places like Australia open up, suddenly these 4 million people are all going to catch it at a similar time because those vaccinated are not going to want to be careful nor stuck inside. This will mean the hospitals will be overloaded (hence higher death rates), and the 80% of people who are vaccinated are unlikely to have much sympathy for them.

    • Conrad
      I believe all you’ve said is true , however if I had bought into elimination as the goal would what you’ve said make any difference ?

      • Conrad says:

        I never thought you could eliminate it — indeed now it has spread to hundreds of millions of people (and quite possibly other animals too), many of whom live in places with corrupt or essentially no governance, it’s clearly impossible with current technology and distribution systems. The only reason Sars-I was eliminated is because is was probably not as infectious, it broke out in places where people dealt with it better, and it was also contained very early.

        So given I don’t think elimination is possible, I think it wouldn’t make any difference.

        • I wasn’t thinking about those who never believed that elimination was possible , rather about those who thought it possible: in their case would what you said make any difference?

    • paul frijters says:

      Hi Conrad,

      thanks and agreed with (nearly) all of that. The post is about the optics and the politics of the situation.

      • conrad says:

        The optics are obvious — the media sensationalizes everything and foolish people listen without thought and any sensible discussion degenerates (as can be seen from the response to CM below!). For example, today we are now finding out that absolutely miniscule numbers of people might have got heart inflammation from the Pfizer vaccine (no deaths) — less than 1 in 1 million. That’s of course vastly less than would happen from standard influenza and many other viruses and bacteria. No doubt this will now go into the crazy book of anti-vaccination advice.

        • paul frijters says:

          btw Conrad, have you seen this one:
          which has a line that reminds me of our earlier conversations:
          “we observe that the spatial distribution of several targeted bat species (i.e., Coronavirus species hosts) overlaps the distribution of countries with low COVID-19 incidence.”

          One does wonder what the spatial distribution of particular bats in Australia looks like?

          • conrad says:

            No I haven’t thanks.

            • conrad says:


              It looks like in Aus, we don’t know very well. I suspect that given our low population density and where the bats mainly live (excluding fruit bats which are all over the place in some cities), it is unlikely much of the population would get cross-immunity from them even if they could (one might wonder about other species too I guess).

              • Agree apart from the varieties of fruit bat the chances of Australians being close enough to bats to gain some kind of immunity seem vanishingly small

              • paul frijters says:

                mwah, too soon to make such calls. Similar things go for those African and Asian places: bats are not pets. There can be many steps inbetween the bats and humans.
                The point about bats is that they fly and can thus be an international delivery mechanism. Locally, there are plenty of rodents that have been shown to be able to be covid carriers (such as mink and cats) so they might be the intermediaries. Hence maybe indeed Australia has been lucky with the right bats. Who knows? Something truly for specialists in that field. I do think we’ll get to the bottom of this eventually.

                • Conrad says:

                  There’s really two different things here:
                  1) Whether you get cross immunity from being exposed to animal viruses that don’t go far. This is certainly true with influenza because you find, for example, people who work with poultry a lot often get resistance to forms of avian influenza that other members of the population don’t (this is well documented). However, these remain contained because they don’t typically mutate into something humans can then transmit easily. You can imagine lots of people get some resistance like this in places everyone has poultry running around where they live. I don’t think you would get it from bats in Australia unless fruit bats can spread it (perhaps I am the lucky one – I had a fruit bat crap on me once, and it makes a mess, so I guess I got 100% exposure 😊 – maybe I don’t need by vaccination after all..). But most people in Aus don’t come in contact with them much so it is hard to see people getting resistance with a virus that doesn’t transmit easily. In places where people are living close to bat populations where they do interact with them enough, I don’t see why they wouldn’t get some resistance from similar viruses. I also don’t see why you wouldn’t potentially get some resistance from coronavirus you get from other animals — clearly humans have some resistance to covid given other variants like SARs were far worse if you caught it.
                  2) Whether other species get human coronavirus and can give it back. I think that’s certainly true, but apart from a few now known ones (minks), we don’t know if that commonly includes things people in Aus come in contact with. We also don’t know whether the spread from the other animals back to humans is easy as it is from humans to humans.

                • What east Asia and Australia seem to have in common is that we all blocked arrivals early on, and were left with the’ what now ‘ conundrum.
                  The number of Australians who spend time in or near the rock shelters ,caves , old barns and the like where bats roost …

              • Conrad re the Flying fox(s) they do get around more- they are significant long distance cross-pollinators- and are closer to primates than other bats, guess you’d could not rule them out?

      • It seems ,going of reports from the UK, that vacation is effective re greatly reducing infection severity but less effective at reducing transmission.
        Hence my question about people and or policy that was either explicitly or implicitly based on elimination as a goal.
        For myself I doubt that what Conrad has said (while to my mind atleast undoubtedly true )would make any difference to a mindset that was not based in reality in the first place.

        • paul frijters says:

          yes, that is my understanding too. Side-effects are rare, but under-reported and don’t forget that they occur among young people with many more years to go than those succumbing to covid. So in terms of years of life lost, the numbers are much close than if you look at incidence, particularly if one considers a scenario with frequent extra vaccinations.
          The finding that people can still get infected is indeed important. It means the circus will go on.

    • Chris Lloyd says:

      “suddenly these 4 million people are all going to catch it at a similar time because those vaccinated are not going to want to be careful nor stuck inside.” That’s natural selection against the Fuckwit gene right there. Problem is other folks who need the hospital will die and the Fuckwits probably already have kids.

      Is there going to be ANY point where non-vaccinated start paying the cost of their imposing externalities? Focusing lockdown restrictions only on them would be a great start IMHO.

  2. Jerry Roberts says:

    Congratulations Paul. I could not have put it better myself. The German Corona Committee is building up a treasure trove of information on this disaster. Quite a few of the interviews are in English, including the session with Luc Montagnier. I have watched them on and I have also been most impressed by American cardiologist Peter McCullough who appeared before the Texas legislature.

    In Australia we still have the ABC acting as thought police but surely people will start to wake up. We are both speculating about Morrison’s thinking but I agree with your interpretation. He appears to be constantly frustrated in his efforts to open up. Here in Western Australia our State Government has pursued policies of extreme isolation and has been rewarded with a massive majority from a fearful population. The iron ore price is crazy and to cap off the lucky country label our farmers have good rains and promising grain prices.

  3. Dana says:

    If Australia is a UN/WHO member, isn’t it obligatory that their protocols be followed in a pandemic. Is it true that the Health Minister or the Chief Medical Officer forbade doctors to prescribe ivermectin or HCQ, i.e. using these drugs for early stage covid19. Apparently the zelenko protocol in the US and also Prof. Dr Raoult in Marseilles have had high success with re-purposed drugs in early stage of this flu illness.

    • Jerry Roberts says:

      Thanks Dana. Pierre Kory and Peter McCullough are eminent clinicians in America addressing the cause of hundreds of thousands of horrible, unnecessary, lonely deaths from Covid-19, namely the failure to provide protocols for out-patient treatment. On the Internet Kory is interviewed by Bret Weinstein and McCullough appears before the legislature of Texas and is interviewed by Tucker Carlson. I am familiar with politics but even so, the Carlson interview with McCullogh left me gasping.

      • Chris Lloyd says:

        Hmmm. If you get interview by TC, I am not going to listen and I wonder about your motives. The Fox conspiracy theorists are already going to believe anything unorthodox about vaccines. Wouldn’t a serious player try to get on the MSM?

        And I listened to the Weinstein program this week on Ivermectin and side-effects of mRNA vaccines. I have to say that all three of them sounded like completel nutters. hardly a sober comment for a whole hour.

        • ianl says:

          >” … conspiracy theorists …”

          This silly phrase has become as popular as *FAKE NEWS*, and basically for the same reason – using it avoids actual discussion.

          And in using it, you appear not to know the difference between theory and hypothesis.

  4. P says:

    I don’t know why you’re so keen to talk down the effectiveness of the vaccines. If you want us to become the Florida of the antipodes and open up again, then this is dependent on us getting similar vaccine coverage to them.

    The UK government is betting that their high vaccine coverage has broken the connection between case numbers and hospitalisations/deaths. So far this seems to be true, with a much smaller proportion of people needing hospital admission than in previous waves. The government is under a lot of pressure to postpone the full reopening planned for mid-June, but so far they’ve doubled down on the bet that the vaccines will continue to work. This seems like the kind of policy you would support – isn’t it what most of the COVID-contrarian crowd have been advocating for since the vaccines became available?

    “the high likelihood that new mutations will arise that go ‘around’ the vaccines.”
    I don’t know what data feeds into your judgement that the likelihood of this is ‘high’, but so far none of the variants identified have been shown to ‘go around’ the protection provided by the vaccine against hospitalisation, severe disease or death. There are a handful of small studies suggesting reduction of protection against mild/asymptomatic disease in specific populations (eg. some South African studies of the AZ vaccine) but these haven’t been reproduced in larger samples (eg the UK ONS surveys). So far the vaccines are holding up very well against variants. The likelihood of mutations arising in the future which do produce significant vaccine escape is a function of the amount of virus idly mutating around the world, and the best way to reduce the total amount of virus is with vaccines and NPIs. My scientific hunch is that the likelihood of any significant immune evasion is fairly low, given that the virus does not have a segmented genome and the major changes required to escape a vaccine are unlikely to be possible within the narrow mutational range available to this particular virus.

    • Jerry Roberts says:

      The vaccines are effective but dangerous. There should be no question of administering them to children or women of child-bearing age. I have just spent Sunday morning watching 3 hours of Bret Weinstein talking to Robert Malone, the inventor of mRNA vaccine, and Steve Kirsch, an entrepreneur researching adverse reactions. Luc Montagnier, who knows more about vaccines than anybody, says the vaccines should be withdrawn. My layman’s objection to the spike protein vaccines in Australia is that they are smart-arsed solutions to a complex problem and I don’t trust smart-arsed solutions. In more elegant terms, Montagnier and Weinstein are making the same point. Human biology is a complex system. Scientists veering too far from nature are playing God. Hubris is a name for this condition.

      • Lt.Fred says:

        This is all just factually wrong of course. The vaccines are some of the safest and most effective drugs available to be proscribed by a doctor. The biggest issue is our stunning incompetance at getting them into people. It’s been a full year since scientists developed them (in just three months) and only now do we bother to start the process of planning manufacture and delivery. In my mind we should have started producing them in April 2020, and our failure to do so is a crime. Many, many heads should roll, but won’t.

      • Chris Lloyd says:

        Sorry. I listened to this as well. I listen to lots of BW but this was the worst program ever and I had to switch off with 15 minutes to go. The guests, especially Malone, sounded liek a complete lunatic, just rattling off claims and scientific jargon in a highly excited voice, as if everyone must realise what is really going on here. I realise he is an eminent person, but they can lose their minds as well.

        • Jerry Roberts says:

          Viviana, one of the interviewers on the German Corona Committee, made an interesting comment about Germans having experienced Hitler and Honecker and thus being quicker to spot the danger of the police state in the Covid-19 mania of our times. I gather that most of the writers and commentators on Club Troppo are economists. They do not need to be subject to the regulatory capture that has destroyed the medical profession and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Bret Weinstein’s remark about losing trillions to make billions ties in with the economic analysis of Paul Frijters and Cameron Murray. Evidence will tell the story on the vaccines. I hope they are not as dangerous as I suspect but I will not be partaking.

  5. Nicholas Gruen says:

    For roughly the reasons summarised by Conrad, my feeling is that a good time to transition to open is when we can say with a straight face that everyone’s had a chance to be vaccinated. We should be nearly there but then it’s not a race — or at least our Federal Government hasn’t thought so. We should have been trying like hell to vaccinate the population as soon as possible.

    This story on Norway raises the prospect of something I asked on this blog when vaccines became available. That is, given the availability of vaccines, the optimal strategy is to lockdown, eliminate and then chase out any recurrences while one waits for the vaccine to arrive. Then vaccinate like hell and then open up. It seemed that that would give you a better health result and based on that a better economic result than the Swedish strategy. Anyway, the Nordics do give us some interested natural experiments around that scenario.

    The incompetence of the Victorian Government and I suspect even more the Australian Government prevent Australia from being another good case study. New Zealand has also been slow to vaccinate.

    • Lt.Fred says:

      The vaccines were finished – functioning, proven – by April 2020. It took until November 2020 to get them to the final stage of the sclerotic medical trials process, proving the thing actually works. It was then approved in most countries immediately – no rush in Australia of course, where the alternative to vaccinations is a just mere trillion-dollar bloodbath lockdown, so we got ours signed off at last in January. At that point we started to think about manufacture and distribution. Both processes were predictably marked by error, both from the top and the bottom.

      I want to know if anyone, anywhere, in the bureaucracy suggested starting vaccine manufacture development in April 2020, or even in November 2020. Even if it’s a bust, that’s a few million down down the drain compared to the squillions we’re now wasting on a glacial rollout. Did anyone in the entire federal bureaucracy consider this?

      • Chris Lloyd says:

        “I want to know if anyone, anywhere, in the bureaucracy suggested starting vaccine manufacture development in April 2020.” I am sure that would ne, “no”. Using a vaccine that early in development woudl carry a risk of serious side-effects and you can imagine the political cost to whoever approved it. Not that I am saying that a reasonable case could not have been made to take the risk.

        • Lt.Fred says:

          You misunderstand what I’m saying. Just producing them and stockpiling them, not actually injecting them. Then when you do get approval you’ve not only got like 5 million or something, you also have worked out all the manufacturing kinks and can already produce x million every y weeks. Much quicker than producing your first vaccine after they’re approved for use.

          • Chris Lloyd says:

            OK. Fair point.

          • ianl says:

            The problem with that is the inability to tell which one(s) will eventually attract approval. The early Q’ld one is a case in point – lots of salivating enthusiasm about a homegrown Aussie solution which then fell in a heap.

            Aus simply does not have the overall manufacturing capacity to deal with multiple possibilities.

            And yes, the bureaucratic/political fear of endorsing a vaccine with minimal testing that turns out to kill or maim people was, and still is, paramount.

    • Chris Lloyd says:

      Agree with everything Nick. But people are not getting vaccinated at high rates (unless stirred to action by the miniscule chance of catching it here in Victoria). Surely there has to be MAJOR incentives established to be vaccinated. The most obvious is (a) you can travel wherever you like in Australia and also come back form OS (b) you are subject to only MINOR restrictions during further lockdowns.

      I have rung Virginia all last week to make this point and have not got on. I wrote letters to the Oz and Age and they were not published. There seems to be some injunction against saying anti-vaxers should suffer any repurcussions of their actions. Though I did hear Tony Blair making the same case on the BBC. Seems like it helps to be a religious extremist and war criminal ;like Blair to get your message out there.

      I will try again tomorrow.

      • Nicholas Gruen says:

        Well I spoke about people having the chance to be vaccinated, not being vaccinated.

        And announcing opening up with publication of expected infection rates should be enough to concentrate the minds.

        I still think that Australia is mild on the vaccine scepticism spectrum and that the reason we’re so slow is that that’s fairly rational when there’s little of it about — that was my reason for being slow. But I smartened up my act when the virus came calling.

        If I was in a place with no COVID, I’d sure as hell get vaccinated ahead of any opening up.

        • Chris Lloyd says:

          Chicken and egg. They cannot announce opening up until vaccination rates are high, or trending high. I think you have really made my case for me. Why get vaccinated when there is no Covid?

          So why did i do it? (1) I figured there would be a stampede at some point and I hate queues. (2) I figured that the govt will eventually incentivise vaccination as I have suggested.

          There is another issue of course. By what right does the govt lock me down once I am vaccinated and hardly any threat to anyone? I think it will be time for some serious mass civil disobedience if they call lockdown 5 in a couple of months. Indeed, if may be illegal for the govt to impose this under the biosecurity act which I think includes the phrase “proportionate measured”. if I am not infectious, it is not proportionate.

          Finally, the MAJORITY of my friends and extended family range from hesitant to hostile.

          • Gather that in the UK vaccination has greatly reduced the rate of serious illness and death but has not been so good at reducing the rate of new infections.
            If Victoria was to continue to aim for Zero risk it therefore seems likely that the restrictions will continue for god knows how long, no?

          • conrad says:

            What’s high? I mean, say, 80% is pretty high, and as Nick and I have suggested, the threat of opening up is sure to make people more enthusiastic. Once the hospitals clog up with people coughing their lungs out (of the 20% left that get it first), it seems reasonable to suspect enthusiasm will turn to desperate enthusiasm.

            Apart from this, once you have most of the population vaccinated, lock-downs are going to be politically very difficult, as will trying to get people to not spread it via voluntary measures. Are we going to have fines for not cleaning our hands, walking around a sniffle etc.?

            Another problem for the unvaccinated will be massive pressure from rich and well connected groups to reopen up at this stage too. So not only will there be more public support to stay open, but there will be lots of pressure from political funders with deep pockets as well.

            Finally, for those people that want to calculate the costs of the trade-off, clearly if 80% of the population gets no serious harm anymore, then the cost/benefit ratio changes markedly too. One might imagine here what would have happened here if Covid had only done 1/5 the damage it has done.

  6. ianl says:

    [>” … Only the unexpected 250% increase in the prices for iron ore, Australia’s biggest export product …”

    Actually, both steaming (thermal) and coking coal have had large price increases as well, despite baleful Chinese efforts. Increases of up to 30%. This comment is in brackets because I’m aware those on the left side don’t want to know this.]

    Yes, Oz is now a heavy victim of the fear and panic about C-19 within its’ population.

    Morrison is as much a victim of this as you and I. Despite PF’s flickpass of States’ powers, it is just that which keeps the fear bubbling along, smashing everything in its’ wake. It is the very nature of the Federal Constitution. It should also be noted that the Constitutions of the various States are not written, merely referred to by practice and unwritten tradition, Essentially, if a State Govt declares a state of emergency for some reason, it can, and does, then do anything it wishes. The discipline of elections has shown that those State Govts whicht heighten fear and panic, then implement the harshest of regimes as a control response are relected with unheard of majorities. The recent WA election not only had the incumbent relected, but opinion polls (which I detest as nudge propaganda) gave the relected premier a 95% approval rating !!

    Fear and panic are constantly inflamed by the MSM. Eager for clicks and traffic, the denizens of the meeja are also motivated by powerlust and their own impenetrable vanity. If resistance is observed, these people will deliberately smash it, not stopping until no credibiity remains. Not “conspiracy” blah, just an everyday observation. It is this that Morrison is frightened of. And yes, it is destroying the country.

    [I might add for PF that the apparent puzzle of Taiwanese low rating C-19 cases is resolved. It was the regulatory combination of international border closures, contact tracing and quarantining of those measured to be infected. This allowed no lockdowns to be needed. Now they have made a big enough mistake: carelessly allowing border controls to be breached (o/s air pilots etc) and being most lax in implementing vacc programmes. The measured infection rate is now climbing almost vertically. Not much pre-developed immunity there, PF.]

    • paul frijters says:

      Hi Ian,

      yes, agreed coal has gone well too.
      On what happened in Taiwan, a Swiss policy website nearly summarises the current state of play (

      “There are only a few Asian outlier countries remaining, such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the Mekong countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In these countries, the coronavirus has been circulating at a low level, but there have so far been no major, nation-wide outbreaks.

      Whether this is because of some elusive “pre-existing immunity”, or because of a lower basic reproduction number (similar to Western children) – maybe due to genetic or metabolic factors (e.g. very low obesity rate, possibly far fewer aerosol ‘super spreaders’) or cultural factors (e.g. naso­pha­ryn­geal lavage) – continues to remain one of the major unsolved mysteries of this ‘strange pandemic’.”

      There now appears a study underway in Asian countries that does exactly what I have been calling for, namely to chase of this prior immunity hypothesis, as it has already been found relevant for places in Africa:

      However, the post is not about the medical issues themselves, but politics, so let’s save another medical discussion for another day, another post!

  7. john snowy bowyer says:

    Conrad, you think if twenty per cent of people refuse vaccination they will all get Covid? That is preposterous. The UK health secretary posited that only 30% of people “Could” get Covid and most would show no symptoms. This whole scare is loaded with fraud and dishonesty. When some slimy politician, media scumbag or public servant loses one dollar from their wage I will take this seriously. This was purely to bring down working people and small business in favour of politicians and the rich.

    • Conrad says:

      Get covid = get the virus. Lots or people will be more or less fine, as is the case now. You can just calculate what might happen easily. If the death rate is .5% and 20% remain unvaccinated, then then that’s about about 20K dead and choose your own number for seriously ill (say 400K at 10%). Of course, if people who are not vaccinated started dropping off in reasonable numbers and clog up the hospital system, there will be lots of nasty pictures on TV, and presumably there will be a rush to get vaccinated so the 4 million will probably quite a bit less.

  8. John Street says:

    How many people have to die to make you change your mind?

  9. paul frijters says:

    Cameron Murray is bravely putting the same view as mine and Gigi Foster on Q&A at this moment. He knows this will mean a lot of abuse will go to him, so well done on his civic spirit. I am watching the twitter feed that mentions him, essentially as a barometer of the ongoing depth of the covid-mania in Australia. It is also interesting to see that with Cameron, just as with Gigi and of course myself, many covid-maniacs tell him to ‘shut up’, be humble, listen to the science, etc., hence basically saying he is not allowed to have a view that disagrees with covid-mania. Below the content of the 50-or so comments as they have appeared so far. They are negative to positive by 46-4, and pretty much all the negative ones are aggressive, demeaning, and insulting. Big respect for Cameron!

    why is Stan Grant referring to Cameron Murray about anything
    Just when I thought #QandA couldn’t lower the economist bar any further with Gigi Foster…
    @ABCaustralia has a responsibility to avoid false balance. Giving air time to the inane comments of Cameron Murray and publishing supporting tweets is indeed false balance.
    Has Cameron Murray got worms?
    The arrogance with which Cameron Murray comes across belies the points he tries to make.
    Regardless of who he is, Cameron Murray has dead eyes.
    Cameron Murray, a mediocre property economist. We should be grateful that he is in charge of nothing whatsoever.
    Ok it’s really now time for Cameron Murray to be marched off
    Cameron Murray, economist specialising in property markets. In other words, nothing of importance.
    I can just imagine Cameron Murray and Christian Porter drinking at a Canberra bar on a Wednesday night
    Cameron Murray is yet ANOTHER living proof why (most) Economists should shut their stupid mouths when it comes to dealing with a deadly pandemic!
    Cameron Murray should contact me…I will give him my sisters phone number in Sweden..She has 2 teenage daughters living in fear.. Flabbergasted at this fool
    Cameron Murray presents ‘materialist point of view’
    Who is the Mr Intense Gaze Loony on #qanda ?
    I don’t know who Cameron Murray is, but surely no one can be worse than Adam Creighton
    Cameron Murray just needs to listen to public and indigenous health experts. Lack of experience in the field is really showing
    Had to turn #QandA off as Cameron Murray was Face vomiting
    Why TF does 1950s economist Cameron Murray get to have a long & drawn-out opinion regarding Covid, handling the pandemic, vaccination & lockdown?
    Cameron Murray is yet another in a line of overconfident and under equipped to critically think economists. He’s out-Creightoning himself.
    There are two broad ways for panel members to interact on #qanda. Polite and respectful, and Cameron Murray.
    Cameron Murray seems to be besotted by his own opinions, talks over the top of others and has more knowledge of COVID management than epidemiologists and doctors.
    What a know-all. #auspol
    I’m very glad Cameron Murray is not in charge of the pandemic response
    Cameron Murray get back in your box
    Cameron Murray is a fucking crank
    Cameron Murray arrogant prick
    Wow. Cameron Murray. What a whiney knob. With some pretty wacky ‘opinions’ Argues with science. Loser.
    Cameron Murray puts economic growth before community health
    Cameron Murray comes across as a lightweight whingey whiner.
    That so called princess ‘Economist’ Dr. Cameron Murray must be from the deep south of Alabama. He’s a complete dickhead. This also begs the question about all suspect ‘Economists’ who make 13th century economic witchcraft claims.
    Is Cameron Murray an #IPA member and/or is he auditioning for @SkyNewsAustralia the most dishonest and unreliable source of information?
    Cameron Murray is a bombastic arrogant prick. Give others a say, you have had yours and it was appaling.
    Cameron Murray. since you haven’t worked it out yet; Dead people = bad.
    Cameron Murray needs to cease talking over people
    Can someone boot Cameron Murray’s stooge ass out and sever his vocal cords. It’s not his show. Self centred moron. Nothing of substance to say but he’s gotta say it. Talking over people. His voice sounds likes he’s taken too many barbiturates.
    Cameron Murray interrupts the public health experts
    unbelievable self centred on that 40s male cohort Cameron Murray
    I’m impressed Cameron Murray is also an epidemiologist! Stay in your lane mate
    Q+A so unimpressed with Cameron Murray. Money above life.
    who is this toe-rag Cameron Murray? Why are our airwaves being polluted by his gibberish?
    Where had Cameron Murray been all this time? Finally an alternative viewpoint.
    Good to hear an alternative viewpoint put forward by Cameron Murray – groupthink has been taken to the extreme on covid.
    Cameron Murray is he for real or another LNP laggard
    Two prominent Medical experts v an economist who has no idea about viral infectious outcomes. Respect please Cameron Murray.
    Could the Muppet Called Cameron Murray stop Mansplaining!
    We must be cautious. Cameron Murray is NOT a public health expert
    Cameron Murray is a brilliantly softly spoken gaslighter.
    Cameron Murray is way off the truth. We have saved so many lives, which is obviously not his priority.
    Poor Cameron Murray had his feelings hurt
    Who is this Cameron Murray clown?
    unbelievable idiot Cameron Murray

    • Jerry Roberts says:

      I too saw Cameron Murray and was delighted to hear someone talking sense. I considered joining Facebook or twitter or both but you hear about so much defamatory stuff that I considered it too risky. Thanks for this feed, disgusting though it is. Australia is in big trouble. Our hospitals are receiving minimal demand but even so, we have ambulances “ramped” up at their entrances waiting for beds to be made available for patients. How on earth are we going to cope when we do cop the virus? The problem appears to be managerialism.

    • Chris Lloyd says:

      I assume this was on FB and not on the TV feed.

  10. Patrick Brosnan says:

    “well-publicised deadly side-effects”
    I broadly agreed with your arguments however I do think that it’s more credible to be sceptical without being polemical (ok maybe a bit of polemic) so a phrase like the one quoted should say, IMHO, “well-publicised [but rarely seen] deadly side-effects”.
    What’s difficult to understand about the reaction to the virus is why the reaction has been so vigorous and long lived, particularly in AU.
    Personally I believe that it’s an admixture of fear of being seen as not doing enough (negligent in a legal sense) and suffering the legal and political consequences. This has been inculcated into political practise for years. Combine this with a ravenous media cycle that lives by the old “if it bleeds it leads” maxim and a shrinking media workforce that relies credulously on prewritten government, corporate and public institutions’ press releases. Oh and throw in good old historical Aussie xenophobia and racism as an activating agent. In essence, there is not single motivating reason ala conspiracy, no one really benefits, Australians are basically a cosseted atavistic people, the anthem should be ‘Fuck off we’re full’.

  11. Tony says:

    International students could well have been brought into the country. However, every serious plan proposed by universities to bring students back and isolate them on campus has been nixed by the government.

    There are 120,000 international students wanting to return to Australia. There is no reason we couldn’t have had students from virus-free China isolate on campus en masse. We could have reasonably housed hundreds of students per fortnight at Christmas island. Etc Etc.

    Lack of international students is either a deliberate, malicious choice by the LNP or a lack of ability to plan and execute ideas.

  12. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Yes, I’ve found the utter disregard for getting Chinese students back here extraordinary. Likewise our failure to establish a bubble with China.

    • Chris Lloyd says:

      Have to disagree Nick. I think this is a strategic national security move. Even though a fair bit of my salary comes from these students, I think their number has to be permanently reduced by an order of magnitude. Unless you spend time on campus, you probably have no idea of how dependent UoM is.

      • Nicholas Gruen says:

        Fair enough

        I don’t see us making the heavy payments in reduced national income to reduce our dependence on China elsewhere, and I’m not sure how much it makes sense, but my suggestion certainly ignored that issue. If we want to take it into account, we should do so systematically, not as a way to avoid optimising the value of bubbles.

        So do you support reducing Chinese tourism in the future if it’s a large share of our market for incoming tourists?

  13. Harry Clarke says:

    The comments on Cameron Murray seem to be borderline stupid (economists entirely focused on money, doctors on human lives etc) and but they illustrate a few things.

    Economist claims that “human lives saved” (from death or disease) have a finite value and hence can be assessed along with other less direct costs and benefits have low community acceptance. Many people regard a comprehensive approach to assessing the effects of policy measures – social cost benefit analysis that accounts for all direct and indirect costs and benefits – as less useful than a narrow medical view that focuses on avoiding deaths and disease.

    A predominant view in Victoria is that Health Victoria does not have enough doctors/epidemiologists and that this has led to its poor performance. Perhaps too it also lacks health economists who can present more balanced advice to governments. Doctors are ill-equipped to take a social view of the consequences of an epidemic.

    The difficulty is that economics has a poor public image in the eyes of the uneducated public. Economists too force politicians to consider policy measures that fly in the face of public disdain for economics and rational thinking,

    • Cameron says:

      Did I say any of that?

      Please point out the stupid comments

      Yes, some were said in frustration. Doesn’t make them stupid,. Indeed, government advice is not to vaccinate children, but you wouldn’t know that from the comments of the “experts”.

      • Saupreiss says:

        I think you misinterpret what HC said.

        He did not refer to your comments but comments on you/what you said.

        As PF pointed out, and as you pointed out in response to that Quiggin bully, the overwhelming number of the comments were beyond the pale.

        • Cameron says:

          I did. You are right. My apologies Harry.

          “comments on Cameron Murray”

          I slipped in a “by Cameron” in there. Having been repeatedly misrepresented outrageously in the past couple of days I am now a bit too eager to call it out.

          Again, sorry for the gruff response based on my misinterpretation. And thanks for what is a thoughtful comment when read correctly.

  14. Chris Lloyd says:

    I think your take on ScoMo is mostly correct. He had been grudging of rerstrictions and semi-critical of all the Premiers while realising he cannot say what he really thinks because of their incredible popularity. The least popular is Gladys who has been least fear-mongering. But ScoMo is surely naturally hostile to the government intrusion of lockdowns.

    What I cannot understand is his lack of urgency in acquiring and delivering vaccines. Surely if you want to avoid lockdowns and start piling pressure onto the Premiers the only way to do it is for mass vaccination. So, I am completely confused about what his aims and end game are.

    Please let me know if you can see any coherence in his response.

    • Scomos response might be linked to :
      “The least popular is Gladys who has been least fear-mongering. “ and she has led the most actually effective government re covid.

    • On reflection
      If you have bought the elimination zero risk package it means no vaxination too risky , regular lockdowns and never ever opening borders , no ?

    • paul frijters says:

      yes, the vaccine thing doesn’t quite make sense from any usual angle. From my perspective too, mass voluntary vaccination is a no-brainer. They have risks but on my reading the risks are lower than the benefits for the vulnerable. Certainly much lower risks than lockdowns, particularly if they are voluntary. I am having my second shot this Tuesday. I want to travel so can’t escape them.

      All kinds of things could be going on behind the scenes. Maybe a ‘mate’ whispered to Morrison they could make money spending on another vaccine. Maybe someone is making money installing cooling facilities. Maybe they got confidential advice that the risks were greater than thought. Maybe they calculated that Australians wouldn’t support opening up even if vaccinated. Maybe they are waiting to see what the superior vaccination recipe is (recurring jabs, a combo, targeted jabs). Who knows?

      • Be very surprised if any of it was ‘deliberate’.

        The logistics of vacation of the whole nation are huge.
        We did a rough calculation that if each frontline person needed about seven support staff and also allowing for time off ,sick leave etc we’d need about 8,000 people working shifts nonstop to achieve a fair result by late this year.
        And I’d guess that the usual fed state divides would be a factor.

        RNs and GPS need to be diverted from their normal duties to supervise injections- very small but real risk of anaphylaxis means somebody who can administer adrenaline if needed must be present .
        (Guess that the restriction of OS arrivals is also exacerbating prior shortages of RNs and ENs )

        Our governments bureaucracies are not that good at efficiently running real things. And it’s not the sort of thing we have had to urgently do on a national scale since, WW2?

        Supply distribution also seems to be a problem.

        Hesitancy must surely also be a factor and given all the media hype can’t blame some for that.

        For myself Anne and I had our first shot on Friday, both of us felt a bit headachy and tired afterwards but by now feel fine.

      • PS
        “The least popular is Gladys who has been least fear-mongering”
        NSW has had one statewide lock down things are going quite well Victoria is in its fourth lockdown with no prospects that it will be its last .
        That probably true statement about ‘our Gladys’ says much about the real politics, emotional zeitgeist of the times.

    • Saupreiss says:

      Conrad said it at the very beginning of this thread.
      Morrison is only interested in surviving at PM. Everything it takes he will do. Including taking his photographer to Cornwall.
      The miserable handling of the vaccination just reflects his, and his government’s, basic incompetence.

  15. Harry Clarke. says:

    Try reading the first line I wrote slowly and carefully, Cameron, while taking a deep breath. I was referring to the comments made about you in Paul’s comment.

    My subsequent remarks concerned public attitudes to economics and to the cost benefit analysis philosophy. I expressed no view on the accuracy of your claims.

    • Cameron says:

      I did misread. You are right. My apologies Harry.

      “comments on Cameron Murray”

      I slipped in a “by Cameron” in there. Having been repeatedly misrepresented outrageously in the past couple of days I am now a bit too eager to call it out.

      Again, sorry for the gruff response based on my misinterpretation. And thanks for what is a thoughtful comment when read correctly.

  16. paul frijters says:

    [quick note to self:

    it is interesting how peak covid-insanity is reserved for the UK, Victoria, and NZ: basically the Westminster political institutions. One wonders what it is about that system to produce completely insane policies on this topic. Is it the trust of the system in supposed experts that make it so hard to get out of the insanity once locked in? Is it some extreme penchant of the population to believe they can be ‘lead to safety by authority’ that is innate to the posturing that comes with the Westminster system? Is it something to do with the media that one gets with that system? Or is just coincidence that peak-madness happens to be concentrated this time round in Westminster systems?

    The UK really is on an historical journey of self-harm. It is stunning what damage it is now continuing to inflict on itself. Think of the huge health damage via the disruption to the NHS, a 9% GDP drop, a 20% debt increase, an explosion in mental health problems, a large birth drop, the destruction of the tourism and hospitality industry, a looming break-away from Scotland and N-Ireland, probably over a million skilled migrants that have left, etc.
    The place is in total free-fall and still the government is continuing on its path, supported by the population. I don’t recall a previous occasion in UK history where such damage to the nation was inflicted so willingly. And government institutions themselves have warned about this damage and are recording it. It is one for the history books.]

    • Martin Wolf a while back suggested that what linked the nations with the worst record on covid was how much their politics was dominated by ‘performance’ rather than substance, or something like that. It’s certainly true that our Victorians do love a press conference…

      • paul frijters says:

        yes, it does seem that way. These unitary system steeped in their own bs seem to have no way to find the exit.

    • Nicholas Gruen says:

      Thanks Paul,

      I feel your pain.

      Those counterfactuals sure can be pesky. Imagine if you had your view of the world but thought that polities would react convulsively once it started looking like you needed to start up field hospitals.

      At least the UK illustrates the idea I’ve been running with which is that if you do lockdowns, you do them properly, not in the form of taking an occasional breather from the worst the pandemic can dish out.

      And Norway and Denmark seem to illustrate the superiority of serious lockdowns to get on top of things compared with Sweden but you’ll know the details better than me.

      I wonder what your advice would have been to the UK if you were a policy advisor and they told you that you couldn’t have your option of the population embracing what you regard (and many with as much or more expertise than you don’t) as perfect rationality.

      They told you that once infections start growing wildly in the community, a dramatic action will be required by the public. What’s your advice? Mine is to adopt the policies that Australia has adopted (except for our fecklessness in vaccine rollout).

      • paul frijters says:

        Hi Nick,

        thanks for the sympathy.

        I find your rationalisations on this topic fascinating, but pretty much in the same vein as I find Norse mythology fascinating.

        I have wondered what you would experience if you were to return to the mindset of the Nick Gruen I thought I knew in 2019. Tears came to my eyes when I thought of how painful that would be for you. Should that ever happen, my friend, be a little forgiving towards yourself.

      • What if lockdowns can only work if starting conditions ( that are largely outside the control of a government of the day) are just right?

    • conrad says:

      I think it’s the fact the policies in Aus and NZ worked really well, as perceived by the public. The UK is not similar here because their disaster was led by Boris, whereas Australian policy, which worked very well apart from in Victoria, was led by the states (which is unusual for important things) and Scomo was largely ignored. Why wouldn’t they think it is a good idea?

      There is also a good lesson to be learned here from HC’s post above — of course people don’t care about economists. They don’t understand them, they never will understand them, and economists don’t agree with each other anyway. So what you’re really asking is that they should believe in economists that agree with your opinion versus the other ones they also hadn’t heard of before this, despite the fact their main source of information is that they didn’t die of covid and you are suggested in case they did everyone would be better off anyway. Perhaps you are right, but think of the average person who last did maths in Year 11, has the average IQ of 100 and doesn’t think sacrificing themselves for others is a good idea.

      The reality of the situation in Aus is that the proximal threat, which is the most important one for most people (death by covid), was dealt with well, especially when compared to Euroland and the US (the standard and poor comparison groups for Aus). Things like distal consequences with costs spread across the population ignore the fact that (a) most people don’t care as much about what happens at the group level compared to what happens to them; (b) there are winners and loses at the group level; (c) you are asking people to imagine alternative futures about something that is non-tangible; (d) even with alternative futures under the assumption that the policy was bad, some economist will tell you it doesn’t matter and MMT or whatever will solve the problem anyway.

      • murph the surf says:

        And now it looks like a V shaped economic recovery , certainly on employment measures.
        Not a single economist predicted this in the hue and cry of what to do- ery.
        I think this comment of Conrad’s clearly explains quite a few features of our public debate, particularly as it relates to the public’s capacity for rational decision making.
        The wellness sensitive economists if they can be grouped as such , have useful and considered issues that should be thought through probably more than atvthe beginning of the outbreak when there were vastly more unknowns.

      • Saupreiss says:

        Yes, the policies in AU and NZ worked really well, as perceived by the public. As perceived by the public now.

        Which poses the interesting question how it will be perceived a couple of years down the road when the consequences of millions (four millions to be precise) having dipped into their superannuation accounts, debt having blown out (with all the consequences for the wiggle room that fiscal policy then has), more people having been pushed into insecure “contractor” work (not captured by un[der]emploment figures), dramatically increased mental health problems, pandemic hangovers overwhelming an already-stressed health systems,
        massive human capital formation losses, and so on, start to play out. All the indications are that a few years down the road, inquality will have grown further and this increased inequality will be very gendered.

        I guess you call those distal consequences. But they will play out as very real consequences and they will then pose a very proximal threat to significant parts of the population. As a matter of fact they have started playing out already.

        I do agree that (self-anointed leading) economists have sadly contributed to silly narratives such as debt does not really matter, and other claims of there being no trade-offs to worry about. I am amazed that they got away with it.

  17. KT2 says:

    Saupreiss says at 6:15 am “As PF pointed out, and as you pointed out in response to that Quiggin bully, the overwhelming number of the comments were beyond the pale.”

    Paul, please correct the record above where your sloppy referencing leads the casual reader with the incorrect impression that the comments you posted were from Q&A and were in fact from the bottom of the barrel – where from please???
    paul frijters says: June 10, 2021 at 7:33 pm
    “…I am watching the twitter feed that mentions him”…

    It astounds me you – PF & NG let above bully ref go by…
    “A negative judgment gives you more satisfaction than praise, provided it smacks of jealousy.”
    — Jean Baudrillard

    Dont worry saupreiess, we are not perfect.

    And +1 to my abusive apologetic retractor, commrade JLW – I loved your comment re initial conditions driving success of lockdowns. Well done.

    And PF, it is not Nic G who has changed, juat your perceptions. It is your cognitive dissonance. Peace and thanks.

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