WITH this week's reintroduction of COVID restrictions and the health minister's admission that once vaccinated you can still catch and spread the disease, what's the end game? Many in the community can't receive the injections. Anyone undergoing cancer treatment, immunosuppressed, anyone with any inflammatory disease, pregnant, breast feeding etc. There will always be people at risk so will the lockdowns and restrictions continue unabated?
Andrew Collins, Rankin Park
Budget for spin on Tuesday night
SCOTTISH historian Thomas Carlyle once described economics as "the dismal science". Economics is better described as a "social science" because it tries to describe and predict human behaviour. Unfortunately, human behaviour is hard to predict.
Anthony Albanese uses the analogy of a bus when describing the Australian economy. He has described Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as a bus driver who tells you the route, but then doesn't turn on the bus's engine. Well, the bus is careening down the street but the pandemic means even the bus driver doesn't know where the bus is headed.
On Tuesday night, Mr Frydenberg will try to tell you that he is in control of the bus. The federal budget is supposed to be an economic report card, and a blueprint of where the government hopes to take the Australian economy over the next year. In reality it is a political document designed to help get the government re-elected.
We should be suspicious and cynical about Mr Frydenberg's talk-up of his government's performance, and the much-vaunted rising employment statistics which derive from his economic statement and budget. There are three reasons. As economist Saul Eastlakes notes, closed borders mean there has been no influx of foreign job seekers. Consequently, new jobs growth of only 17,000 a month is all that is required to bring the unemployment rate below five per cent by year's end. 29,000 a month would have been needed pre-pandemic.
Secondly, GDP and employment are coming off a low base caused by the pandemic. The Australian economy declined by over one per cent in 2020. The Australian economy has recovered well in 2021, but this may end soon. Australia's vaccination roll-out is lagging, and the government may need to keep Australia closed for longer than other advanced nations.
Thirdly, there is likely to be a rise in interest rates. RBA Governor Philip Lowe hopes to keep interest rates low for four years. But Mr Lowe knows that Australian interest rates could well rise as the world economy recovers and the demand for money capital strengthens beyond our borders. If that happens, given the level of Australian consumers' indebtedness, growth in consumption, GDP and employment will all collapse.
What a dismal prospect.
Geoff Black, Caves Beach
Retail therapy is what's needed
LLOYD Davies (Short Takes, 8/5), thank you for the response to my letter. But what is unclear about the word retail?
South Australians don't pay the spot wholesale price for electricity. They pay the retail price, which is very high in SA. Everywhere around the world, the more renewables a nation has the higher their retail power costs are. Explain that.
Renewables plus storage isn't cheaper than fossil fuel power. It is only components such as solar cells that have become cheaper over time. Infrastructure including copper cabling, transmission lines, substations, and land to build it on are all more expensive.
Peter Devey, Merewether
Books demand a hard chapter
I WANT to provide some clarity on several comments being made in the public domain by some of our university's staff and students. Our leadership teams across the executive, the schools, colleges and professional divisions and our student leaders, know that our university has a unique and vital responsibility as one of our regions' biggest employers and as a valued educator of our talented school-leavers and mature-age students seeking to advance their lives through quality higher education.
Those student experiences are at the centre of everything we do. Our commitment takes many forms. It includes reviewing and optimising our course offerings to remove duplication and build flexibility into our programming and allow our academics to grow curriculums according to student demand. We are trying to build back a more resilient financial outlook to enable us to introduce new projects to deliver modern learning and research facilities - we can't do that if our finances aren't robust.
We must continue to guide our institution according to today's situation, and our publicly available and auditable finances have been clear; our spending habits of the past are not sustainable. COVID-19 did not cause this financial reality, it just fast tracked our need for action. At the height of the pandemic, there were no slashes to hundreds of jobs mid-2020 at the University of Newcastle, action that so many other organisations were forced to take. We are proud that our institution took a pause at that time and agreed together that we should support our staff to keep their jobs so that we could get through the peak of the COVID-19 lockdowns with some certainty. Many Australian businesses, institutions and corporations are not living that reality today.
Today, it's not fair or reasonable for the university to allow the situation to get worse before we respond. Our communities, regions, employment partners, high schools and industries should not accept that either. Fundamentally, our students are taught that a do-nothing attitude will leave them behind. When there is an opportunity to make changes that will make their university better, stronger, and more able to invest in their education, they embrace it. The path to this change will include their important contributions. An alternative story does not read well in the papers three years from now. We have an opportunity to make some changes before our books hit the red.
Throughout this change process we have consulted with students, invited their thoughts through their representative body and directly to all students, and will continue to do so. Based on recent feedback, we could do more, and we will. Student feedback will be considered before changes are implemented. Our proposed changes do not threaten the student experience. Rather, they allow us to build back a resilient financial outlook to strengthen our university's future and continue to deliver on student expectation.
It's important to remember that outstanding teaching isn't limited to people who have been teaching and researching for decades. We have outstanding teaching staff at all levels of academic advancement and we value this diversity. We know that our students want to understand the latest research and learn from academics with a range of industry and academic backgrounds. We are working to ensure we maintain a strong balance sheet so that we can inspire and attract students through investments in modern teaching, learning and research spaces, quality academic and research teams, and contributing to the growth and diversification of our regions.
Professor Alex Zelinsky, University of Newcastle vice-chancellor
Business as usual unless you live in the following areas; this is now the future ('Country's border to stay shut until at least 2022', Newcastle Herald 10/5). How long will this last? It will last as long as we have a positive COVID-19 new infection once and a while in the community. Possibly years into the future. This is why it is important that the majority of the population in Australia gets vaccinated. For herd immunity to occur the experts tell us that 85-95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated and possibly re-vaccinated for years to follow as is the case with influenza. It's all up to us to get vaccinated and to stay safe. Life has changed and it may last for years to follow.
Peter Selmeci, Murrays Beach
I AGREE with Bill Shorten ('Coalition challenged to scrap controversial NDIS changes', Herald 29/4). I saw his speech at the National Press Club in Canberra on ABC. In the speech he said that the NDIS should be put on the same important level as Medicare and the aged care sector. In the speech he feared that the Liberals will cut funding to the NDIS like they did to the aged care sector in the past four years.
John Barker, Norah Head
JUST a suggestion for Australian media: how about we remind the people of China that we do not feel any ill feelings towards them? We do understand that the Communist party is not the people of China and publishing rubbish stories such as that referring to the beating of war drums does not help anyone. Why does our media feel the need to behave the same as Chinese media outlets and attempt to grow hatred for China based on selling news? We are not a racist country and we love the Chinese people. There is a way to deal with this diplomatically and it does not involve putting the fear of war into the Australian people during a global pandemic.
Chris Berrigan, Minmi
THE lease of the Port of Darwin in 2015 has been described as a combination of errors. Foreign investment is the ultimate responsibility of the treasurer. Who was the treasurer in 2015?
Gary Hayward, Cardiff
REGARDING the proposed Hillsborough Basketball Stadium ('Stadium traffic access dispute', Herald 28/4), traffic entering the stadium is a massive issue; however council seems to be overlooking the parking issues and the congestion in the local streets that will be caused by a lack of onsite parking. Approximately 300 car spaces for a 4000-seat stadium? It just doesn't add up. Whether the entrance is off the bypass or Waratah Avenue, the 4000 spectators will have nowhere to park apart from the narrow local streets, where there are no existing footpaths. There is next to no public transport. Any business lodging a development application must provide parking provisions for their customers. Why is this being overlooked?