Friday, April 28, 2023

One final question for medical regualtors: Will your credibility be restored or slide further?

On 25 July 2021, Scott Morrison said the government will buy another 85 million Pfizer booster doses in 2022 and 2023. That’s more than three boosters for every Australian or more than four for every adult, after their initial two-dose vaccination. Thus the government was already aware of the vaccine’s waning effectiveness against the existing strain and its likely ineffectiveness against new variants. This of course is also the understanding about annual flu vaccines: they are reformulated every year because the pathogen is unstable and keeps mutating, which in turn rules out an eradication strategy. This is why we learnt long ago to live with the flu, focus public health efforts on protecting the most vulnerable through annual vaccines and leave the rest of society to carry on with the normal routine of life. Meanwhile, the ‘safe and effective’ messaging on Covid vaccines looks increasingly suspect. Confidence has diminished in health authorities, parliaments, medical establishments and media for their manifold failures to interrogate the official claims and report on the rising toll of vaccine injuries. As from last month, the AstraZeneca vaccine is no longer available in Australia owing to the ‘rare but serious side effect’ thrombosis. On 31 March, the ABS reported there were 25,235 (15.3 per cent) excess deaths in Australia in 2022. Yet the government and opposition MPs rejected a motion from Senator Ralph Babet to hold an inquiry into this concerning phenomenon. Meanwhile from 1 April Switzerland has withdrawn all vaccine recommendations. Doctors can administer Covid vaccines only in individual cases under specified conditions and bear the risk of liability themselves.

Even if Covid had proven to be as deadly as the Spanish flu and the vaccines 90 per cent effective, coercion and mandates would still have been unethical. Revelations that authorities knew this to be false in early 2021, means there was little medical justification either. This makes the public policy scientifically perverse and ethically immoral. Social media Big Tech made it worse by actively censoring, shadow-banning, downgrading and slapping labels from self-identifying fact-checkers better described as misinformers and disinformers. (India has gone one logical step better. The government will create a fact-check body for regulating online content. Opposition parties have denounced the move as censorship and accused the ruling party of being the biggest purveyor of fake news.) On the one hand, Big Pharma and public regulators meant to oversee them colluded to hide and delay important information. On the other, they ferociously attacked independent researchers who tried various forensic techniques to ‘mine’ the relevant data and offer a counter-narrative, with the goal of discrediting and demonising anyone with the temerity to question the official ‘truth’. The Censorship-Industrial Complex was weaponised into a powerful tool of state power in an evolving system of governance that is a threat to the very survival of free society. I am not impugning doctors and researchers who put their faith in the underlying integrity of the regulatory agencies and medical establishments, even if that faith turned out to have been misplaced and abused. I too feel betrayed by the WHO and disillusioned with its patchy performance, to put it kindly.

On 5 April Maryanne Demasi published an article on Substack, republished by Children’s Health Defense, that the triumphalist 95-per-cent-efficacy narrative of the Pfizer vaccine, which would give us all an exit ramp from the coronavirus pandemic with universal vaccination, had already gone off script by June 2021. Some highly vaccinated countries like Israel were experiencing a fresh wave of infections that was fuelling vaccine hesitancy and slowing take-up. By July Israel was reporting effectiveness of 64 per cent and in August only 39 per cent. Regulatory filings show that Pfizer and the FDA had evidence already in April 2021 on waning effectiveness. This was not publicly disclosed until much later. The press release from Pfizer on 1 April 2021 announcing results of its six-month Phase 3 trial repeated claims of 91.3 per cent efficacy against the Covid disease and up to 100 per cent effectiveness against severe disease. The top authorities continued to downplay the lack of evidence to demonstrate vaccine effectiveness against viral transmission and long-term protection. While acknowledging the possibility of breakthrough infections, Anthony Fauci said on national TV on 16 May 2021, ‘When you get vaccinated, you not only protect your own health, that of the family, but also you contribute to the community health by preventing the spread of the virus throughout the community… you become a dead end to the virus. And when there are a lot of dead ends around, the virus is not going to go anywhere’. The official report from Public Health Ontario in March shows Covid hospitalisations and deaths in 2022 were 31 and 39 per cent higher respectively than in 2021, despite 76 per cent of Ontarians being double-vaccinated.

Neither the pharmaceutical industry nor public health agencies are releasing all the data nor undertaking the important safety studies and acting on safety signals in a timely fashion to restore trust in their good faith, competence and integrity. Independent researchers are still having to do medical detective work instead. With widely varying and contested definitions and measurements of Covid and vaccine-related deaths, they look instead for clues in all-cause excess deaths. In February, Norwegian scientists published a study which found vaccination rollouts across 31 countries in 2021 were associated with rising all-cause mortality in the first nine months of 2022. A March analysis from the Vaccine Damage Project concluded there were 310,000 vaccine-related US excess deaths in 2021 to 2022 inclusive. Professor Norman Fenton calculates the number of deaths caused directly by vaccines until 23 March 2023 to be 120,000 in the US and 16,000 in the UK. Dr. Ros Jones, a retired consultant paediatrician, examined the lagged temporal correlations in several European countries between vaccine uptakes and falling births nine months later. On 28 March WHO experts published a revised roadmap which prioritises vaccines for the elderly and people with comorbidities, relegates healthy children and adolescents down to low priority because of their low disease burden and recognises natural immunity from prior infections.

In a sign they might be awakening to the risk of cross-vaccine hesitancy because of disillusionment with Covid vaccines, the guidance acknowledges: ‘The public health impact of vaccinating healthy children and adolescents is comparatively much lower than the established benefits of traditional essential vaccines for children’.

My final question is to the public health clerisy. If you become transparent on efficacy, investigate safety signals urgently and fully and publish the findings honestly, in the long run will your credibility worsen or will you begin to regain public trust and confidence?


Australia has an immigration problem, and it’s tearing the country apart

‘The rental market right now is currently utterly f**ked,’ reads a post currently trending on r/Sydney, a Reddit board devoted to the Sydney area. ‘Our landlord wants a $300 increase, we can’t find anywhere to live.’ A similar comment posted on r/AusFinance asks: ‘Is anyone else feeling a sense of long-term hopelessness regarding housing?’ This is followed by a rather depressing comment stating ‘a regular job can’t afford a regular life anymore’.

This could simply be, as is often suggested by older generations, another case of sensitive Millennial syndrome. But the facts don’t lie. Rents really have risen 24 per cent nationally. Housing prices really did rise a record 27.5 per cent in the last few years. Inflation really is running hot at 7.4 per cent, and interest rates really have jumped more than 3 per cent in less than a year. Wages are growing on paper – but in real terms are shrinking.

Young people – typically the most exposed to economic volatility – are complaining, and they have good reason to be. As one former RBA head says, they ‘should be squealing louder’.

While the political class likes to pretend that most of these economic events are simply out of their control, the reality is that much of what was listed above is a direct result of government policy, especially immigration policy. Sadly this is still a topic that goes dangerously under-discussed, and if recent events in Europe are anything to go by, it could soon have huge political consequences.

We know that the last twenty years in Australia has seen the highest intake of migrants ever. We also know that young people today are poorer, unhappier, and having fewer children than at any other time in history. Yet for all the government reports, think-tank studies, academic essays, news articles, and comment pieces, nobody – nobody – has bothered, or had the courage, to draw a connection between the two.

And it’s not for a lack of evidence. A 2018 Grattan Institute report concedes that immigration overwhelmingly puts pressure on affordable housing, hurting younger Australians. Data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics shows a direct correlation between rising migration and depressed wage growth. Report after report shows that migration is creating a rental crisis, and a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald has suggested how rapid population growth might worsen inflation, requiring higher interest rates. It truly is the worst of all worlds.

Just this week, a Resolve Political Monitor poll showed that two-thirds of young Australians expect they will never be able to buy a house.

‘Young Australians and middle-income earners have given up on ever buying their own homes amid mounting evidence the nation’s dysfunctional housing system is destabilising the entire economy.

Among those who do not already own a home, 63 per cent of low-income earners and 54 per cent of those on middle incomes believe they will forever be shut out of the property market that is among the most expensive in the world.’

Young Australians today are currently being economically pincered. From below, their wages are being arbitraged to migrants from poorer countries willing to work for less, while from above, renting or purchasing a property is made more expensive thanks to increased demand.

Yet on the flipside of these policies, the economic advantages for the old and rich are hard to dismiss. For the rich, decades of low labour costs and a growing consumer base has meant record profits for corporations, with the wealth of Australia’s richest rapidly growing. And for the middle class, decades of consistent house price growth has meant that buying a simple family home in 1970 probably makes you a millionaire today, without an hour of work needed. The best financial decision you could ever make is to be born a Baby Boomer.

To add insult to injury, much of Australia’s economy and tax system today is overwhelmingly geared towards wealthier older Australians, while costs are passed on to younger working Australians.

Ours is now a two-tier economy. If you’re rich and you own assets, your net worth is likely going up with GDP. If you’re young, your net worth – and quality of life – is likely in reverse.

Remarkably few people are talking about this. Albanese, despite saying in the lead-up to the election that ‘Australia can’t rely on overseas migration’, has since lifted migration to its highest annual intake ever. The Greens, choosing to ignore the fact that rampant population growth is the single biggest destroyer of the environment, promote immigration, while simultaneously proposing rental caps – a blaring example of economic nonsense. The Liberals and Nationals say nothing, and only One Nation – to their credit – have spoken out against the current levels of migration.

The media has only just now started to whisper about the real reason for the rental crisis. After months of endlessly spruiking migration as a solution to the so-called ‘skills crisis’, they begun reporting on the inevitable harmful effects of that policy. Yet for every hundred articles churned out by ‘demographers’, ‘property specialists’, and ‘economists’, only one will even mention migration as a direct cause of the crisis. A remarkable coincidence.

Which brings forward a bigger question – if migration really is causing such huge strain on the country, why do we hear so little about it? The reason, writes Edward Smith, is because those promoting migration are seldom the ones affected by it.

‘One of the reasons CEOs, politicians, public servants, lobbyists, humanities academics, consultants and journalists — what I call protected knowledge workers — are so fond of globalisation of the labour market is because they do not experience it.

‘Protected knowledge workers face negligible competition from most recently arrived migrants who obviously lack the native cultural ‘skill’ set.

‘But for farm workers, drivers, cleaners, hospitality workers and uncertified construction workers on the other hand — manual labourers — next year’s migrants will compete directly for wages.’

These ‘protected knowledge workers’ simply don’t see what all the fuss is about when it comes to mass immigration. What’s wrong with letting a few people in? So removed are they from the effects of immigration, they fail to consider what bringing in hundreds of thousands of newcomers might mean for others. No group better represents this phenomenon than the Teals, who are quite happy to have massive new apartment blocks built on the cheap to house the rapidly growing migrant-fuelled population, just so long as it’s not in their neighbourhood.

Speaking to a friend involved in state politics recently, I asked why they think so few politicians publicly recognise mass migration as a direct cause of the housing crisis. ‘They don’t want to be called a racist. It’s as simple as that.’ Cynically, one of the biggest and most important conversations in Australia goes without discussion, out of fear of being cancelled.

Of course, this silence suits big business and the political left just fine. The conversation is kept sewn shut, with workers, politicians, families and young people harmed by mass migration left too afraid to speak out.

It’s now looking like the end result of this can only go one of two ways. We can admit the fundamental core of the issue, ignore the ridiculous accusations of racism and xenophobia, and gather enough political power to sufficiently reduce migration to a more sustainable level – or, we can continue to grow our population exponentially by bringing in 300,000+ a year, put intense strain on housing and wages, dramatically reduce our standard of living, and inevitably bringing the country to a political and economic flashpoint. It’s not as far off as you think.

‘Australia has not yet had the populist backlashes that have led to crises in other liberal democracies,’ writes Claire Lehmann in The Australian.

‘But our good fortune may be starting to unravel. High immigration can be absorbed when the pie is growing, and opportunities for upward mobility are abundant. But the pie is no longer growing, and younger and lower-income people in particular, feel like they’ve been screwed out of a fair go.’

Could we see a populist backlash? Populist parties across the world have figured out what time it is and are capitalising on a backlash – a smart party in Australia would do the same. Finland recently went to the polls, with the right-wing populist Finns Party coming out as the major winners after forming a coalition government with the centre-right. Notably, a 2020 poll showed that the Finns Party was the most popular party among young people, especially young males.

A not too dissimilar story in Italy, where a poll showed 17 per cent of young Italians backed Giorgia Meloni’s populist-right Brothers of Italy party – the second highest for support after the politically fashionable centre-left Democratic Party on 19 per cent. Likewise in Sweden, which now boasting both its first Millennial leader, and its first leader vowing to reduce immigration. The reason for this is simple: younger people have grown up with globalism, they are now naturally reacting against it.

This fact stands in complete contradiction to the narrative that young people are becoming more left-wing. A recent article from the Australian Financial Review rightfully tells us ‘Millennials are getting older, but not more conservative’, yet fails to mention that one reason younger people aren’t becoming more conservative, might be because they’re becoming more like their European counterparts.

It’s not hard to see why conservatism failed. Australia’s ‘conservative’ movement is nothing more than the exact same reheated Howard-era hyper-growth economics. While that may have worked back then, it’s these exact policies that are today worsening the housing crisis, the wage crisis, and ruining our standard of living. It may be good for the think-tanks, corporate donors, and the upper and older echelons, but it’s not good for the young Australians who were hoping to have living standards at least equal to that of their parents.

So what alternative should young people vote for? One Nation is increasingly shaping up to become a mainstream alternative populist party, but it needs some help. If it were smart, and if it wanted to grow its influence, it would look to the success of the parties overseas in Europe, and broaden its appeal to younger voters. It would modernise, professionalise, and digitise its image and its approach. It would start leaning on the issues flowing on from immigration: namely housing, wages, infrastructure, public services, environment, and social cohesion, as well as globalisation: namely culture, social cohesion, wealth gap, and cultural Marxism. Like Meloni’s party, like Finns Party, and like the Sweden Democrats, they would encourage more involvement from younger, energised members. They would talk to younger voters, ask their concerns. Support for the major parties is at its lowest ever, and young people today are angry and looking for not just a protest vote, but a genuine path out of this mess.

Of course, the Liberal Party could do the same, but the genetic makeup of their party is now far too upper-middle-class, far too established to understand the concerns of the average Australian, let alone lead a populist backlash. Like the conservatives above, they’re likely too removed from (or dependent on) the effects of globalism to effectively rally against it. They may have in the past effectively tricked voters into thinking they’re fighting for them, but that clearly isn’t working now.

One final point. People reading this who think they can buy their way out of the effects of globalisation are correct, insofar as it only affects them. But their children, and their children’s children will have to inhabit a country far different from the one they enjoyed. Looking around, I see a lot of rich parents who were made richer by a growing population, with their kids left materially and financially poorer, culturally astray, mentally unwell, and removed from the community that the parents enjoyed. The parents wonder what went so wrong, oblivious to the obvious connection: that globalisation gave them immense wealth, while ruining the country their children inherited.

We are in a skills shortage. There is now more than ever a desperate need for talented, smart, and driven people to speak up on the issue of immigration. If politicians, media figures, unions, businesses, and others only use their voice to silence dissent, shout louder. Right now, it’s all we’ve got.


The battle to fix Australia’s broken immigration system

Today, half of all living Australians or their parents were born overseas. But for at least the last decade, Australia has been adding large quantities of migrants, without paying as much attention to the economic quality of the foreigners we have invited to live here.

Australia, one of the most desirable locations in the world, needs to attract more highly skilled migrants in the global race for talent, according to a government-commissioned review led by former top bureaucrat Martin Parkinson.

Temporary migrants living in Australia have doubled to more than 2 million people over the last 15 years, who have in effect become “permanently temporary”.

Many of them work in relatively low-skill, low-paying jobs such as hospitality and retail, and are often not matched to their qualifications and skills.

Parkinson says a better targeted migration program can help improve the nation’s dwindling productivity, enhance human capital, lift business competitiveness and mitigate the fiscal costs of an ageing domestic population.

Australia can no longer keep relying on increasing the labour force participation of domestic females, which is already around a record high.

“We’ve got an economy that can’t be supported by the size of the permanent population,” Parkinson says.

The migration system “is way too antiquated and outdated”. “It’s clear that we are being left behind by our global competitors.”

In past decades, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom were the major competitor destinations for skilled migrants. Today, Germany, Russia, Israel and Spain are among the top 10 destinations for skilled workers.

Australia’s global share of skilled migrants has slipped from third in the 1990s to sixth in 2020, or from 7 per cent to 4 per cent. Ageing populations and declining birth rates are challenging the demographic profiles of many major economies. There is a war for talent.

Younger skilled workers fill jobs and pay income taxes, easing skills shortages and propping up government budgets to pay for the rising cost of aged care, healthcare and defence.

Not a ‘big Australia’

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neill was at pains this week to emphasise that Labor’s multi-year overhaul of the migration system would not be a repeat of former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd’s contentious “big Australia”.

“It’s not about a bigger program,” O’Neill told the National Press Club on Thursday. “The likely impact of the changes that I’ve suggested here is probably a slightly smaller migration program over time.”

Despite being invited by media, she declined to a put a numeric target on Australia’s overall migration intake, saying it would depend on the state of the economy and decisions by government and business.

The reassurance that this is not a “big Australia” 2.0 comes at a politically sensitive time, as the strains of a post-pandemic resurgence in migration emerge via housing shortages and a jump in rents for tenants.

After net overseas migration went backwards during the COVID-19 border closure, a net flow of about 400,000 migrants settled in Australia last calendar year and, according to Westpac economists, a further 350,000 people are expected in 2023 – about double pre-pandemic trends.

It’s a big turnaround from the closed borders during the pandemic, when business leaders and some policymakers feared “fortress Australia” would deter foreigners from returning to Australia for years to come.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said this month it turned out those fears were wrong.

“People love coming here,” he told the National Press Club. “They want to come here and work and to study and enjoy the fantastic standard of living we’re all lucky enough to enjoy.

“So, people are coming here again and they’re coming in large numbers, they’re providing workers for firms, and we have to find somewhere for them to live.”

Suburban ‘barbecue stopper’

High migration numbers are once again becoming a “barbecue stopper” in suburban Australia, with obvious political risks for the government.

The intake has sparked warnings from Coalition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan that Australia has returned to a big Australia policy by stealth.

Acutely aware of the government’s delicate balancing act on immigration, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met state and territory leaders at a national cabinet meeting on Friday. The agenda included working together to improve housing, infrastructure and services supply for a growing population.

“You’ve got to maintain social cohesion and public trust,” Parkinson says. “Yet the numbers of migrants coming in, if the system isn’t planned properly, puts strain on infrastructure and housing or service provision.

“So, if you don’t actually plan better and engage the states in this process, you’re always going to be running to catch up to the population.”

Moreover, getting the states on board to actually deliver more housing supply, infrastructure and services will be easier said than done.

More homes needed

To avoid migration exacerbating a housing shortage and rental crisis, a government source says the states will need to increase and speed up approvals for zoning, planning and development.

That includes overcoming the NIMBY (not in my backyard) mentality of local politicians and residents to build more medium density housing in inner and middle-ring suburbs.

“Immigration and population growth is strong and rents are going up, so that does present some challenges for governments,” says Sally Auld, chief investment officer at JBWere.

People like the idea of more homes being built, just not in their neighbourhood.

Seventy-two per cent of people support encouraging more homes to be built in new suburbs outside city centres, according to a Resolve Political Monitor poll published this week by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Support fell to 51 per cent to relax planning rules to allow more homes outside a person’s local area. This dropped to 41 per cent if laws were eased to allow more homes in a person’s own suburb.

Maintaining public confidence in the migration system also extends to ensuring that lower income workers don’t feel their wages are being suppressed by cheaper migrant workers and risk-based compliance program that tackle the “exploitation” of migrant workers by a minority of employers, Parkinson says.

One of the most immediate changes, effective from July 1, will be lifting the minimum pay threshold for temporary skilled migrant workers to $70,000. It has been frozen at $53,900 since 2013.

The new higher Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold reflects what the cut-off would be if it had been indexed to wages over the last decade. O’Neill says this will stop the so-called “skilled” program being a “guest worker” program.

Up to 21,000 foreign workers already here will either need to get a substantial pay rise to meet the $70,000 test, or face losing their right to work and live in Australia as their current visas progressively expire from July 1.

Labor and the unions – who wanted a $90,000 TSMIT – hope the higher minium pay for temporary skilled workers sponsored by employers will boost wages – not only of migrants, but also of domestic workers competing in lower-paying jobs.

The flipside is that hospitality and retail businesses will face higher wage costs, making it harder for some marginal businesses to survive or forcing them to raise prices for customers.

There remains an open question if Australians are prepared to fill roles such as cooks, chefs, retail and hospitality managers, and some modest-paid automotive and construction jobs.

Restaurant & Catering Australia chief executive Suresh Manickam says the change will worsen the “skills shortage crisis faced by small businesses in the hospitality industry”.

The government says there will still be foreign visa holders who will be permitted to work in crucial lower-paid industries such as aged care and childcare where there are severe shortages of workers. Students and backpackers will also retain part-time work rights.

But O’Neill wants to raise the barriers to entry and lift the minimum standards for foreign workers. International students and education agents have used study as a backdoor way to permanently reside in Australia in lower-end jobs.


Australia closes oldest coal plant, pivots to renewables

Here come blackouts on windless nights

Australia's oldest coal-fired power plant was shuttered Friday, as the country -- a once-notorious climate straggler -- prepares for a seismic shift towards renewable energy.

The Liddell power station, a three-hour drive north of Sydney, was one in a series of ageing coal-fired plants slated to close in the coming years.

Built in 1971, Liddell provided about 10 percent of the electricity used in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state.

Liddell's owner AGL said it would take about two years to demolish the hulking facility, which would free up the site for new clean energy projects such as a hydrogen power plant.

"More than 90 per cent of the materials in the power station will be recycled, including 70,000 tonnes of steel -- which is more steel than there is in the Sydney Harbour Bridge," the company said.

For decades, coal has provided the bulk of Australia's electricity, but University of New South Wales renewable energy expert Mark Diesendorf told AFP that stations such as Liddell were fast becoming unreliable "clunkers".

Besides being inefficient, highly polluting and expensive to repair, the continued widespread use of coal-fired power plants would make Australia's climate targets almost impossible to meet.

Australia has long been one of the world's largest coal producers and exporters, and a series of governments have resisted pressure to scale back the industry.

But the centre-left Labor Party elected last year on the promise of climate action has pledged that 82 percent of the country's electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030.

This demands a drastic overhaul -- while world leaders such as Norway produce more than 90 percent of their power through renewables, Australia currently sits around 30 percent.

"The plans are for a fairly rapid phase-out," Diesendorf told AFP. "These stations are overdue for retirement and there's no economic argument for replacing them with new coal."

- 'Right direction' -

Under growing public pressure to address the climate crisis, many Australian fossil fuel companies increasingly prefer to shutter old coal plants than keep them online.

Australia's largest coal-fired power station, the Eraring facility in New South Wales, is scheduled to close in 2025 and a handful more will follow over the next decade.

While these closures will test whether renewables are ready to fill the gap, a government report released Friday indicated Australia was heading in the right direction.

The Australian Energy Market Operator found that record levels of renewable electricity -- mostly solar power -- were already driving down both emissions and household power prices.




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