The prize for Australia’s post-Covid restoration is large. But fairness must be integral | Australian economy


Australia’s economy performed poorly for most of its citizens in the seven years from the China resources boom to the pandemic. I call these years from 2013 to 2019 the dog days.

Unemployment and underemployment remained stubbornly high – in the later years, well above the rates in developed countries that suffered greater damage from the 2008–09 global financial crisis. Wages stagnated. Productivity and output per person grew more slowly than in the United States, or Japan, or the developed world as a whole.

The dog days are our destination once more unless we break sharply with the policies and political culture of the early 21st century. This would be an unhappy place for Australians – more difficult than the seven years before the pandemic. Living standards would remain lower through the 2020s. Unemployment and underemployment would linger above the high levels before Covid-19 struck.

Things would be worse than in the pre-pandemic dog days because we would have a legacy of extraordinary public debt. They would be worse because business investment would be lower. They would be harder because there would be less gain from trade – due partly to problems in our relations with China, partly to slower global growth and increased protection in Australia and most other countries. They would be worse because increased unemployment has permanently devalued the skills of many Australians, especially the young; and because many of our most important economic institutions – first of all, the universities – were diminished. They would be weaker because productivity growth, already low before the pandemic, would be lower still.

The new dog days would be disrupted more than the old by the accumulating effects of climate change and by disputation about how to respond to this. Much lower immigration would hold back total output growth – but might improve the living standards of most Australians.

By contrast, the restoration of Australia would follow from an effective effort to loosen the chains that held us down in the dog days. It would reset our fiscal and monetary policy to achieve early full employment, while keeping the growth of public debt within manageable bounds. It would involve substantial reform to increase business investment in trade-exposed industries and lift productivity growth – led by a new approach to taxing business income.

It would be built around joining our main trading partners – the developed world and China – in creating a zero-emissions world economy, and realising Australia’s opportunity to be the energy superpower of the emerging world. It would build a productive approach to foreign relations in new circumstances created by the rise of China as an assertive great power with values and institutions that are different to our own: the confident assertion of our own sovereign autonomy and national interest while maintaining open trade and investment relations with the whole world to the greatest practicable extent.

Restoration will require acceptance of a high degree of income restraint by Australians, who have already endured the longest period of income stagnation in our history, through the dog days and then the Covid-19 recession. This is regrettable, and many Australians will see it as unfair, since the wealthy continued rapidly to increase their wealth and incomes through the dog days, and most also did well in the pandemic recession. Experience has demonstrated that such restraint in the public interest is possible in our Australian democracy if most people accept that the benefits are distributed fairly.

There will be widespread support for the necessary reforms only if the many people on low incomes and with insecure employment and little wealth – those who were damaged most by the pandemic recession – gain from the change. Fairness is integral to any program to lift productivity, employment and incomes. Fairness has to be achieved by means that do not block the path to higher productivity, employment and incomes. That requires reform in our personal income tax and social security arrangements, built around a guaranteed minimum income: the new Australian income security payment.

Full employment with manageable increases in debt is going to require large expansion of trade-exposed industries, to keep the growth of debt within reasonable bounds. It will be difficult to greatly increase productive investment in the trade-exposed industries. We have to lift the international competitiveness of production in Australia. That means running monetary policy with an eye to the effect of the exchange rate on competitiveness. The proposed corporate tax reform will help. It has to be supported by policy that encourages the emergence of industries of the future.

Investments now – whether in public infrastructure or private business – will be generating output later in the 2020s and beyond. By the 2030s, Australia and the world will be well on the way to a net-zero-emissions economy – or we will be facing increasing problems from climate change. Investments over the next few years will have to make economic sense in the low-carbon global economy of the future. This rules out a lift in investment and employment in the coal and gas industries that contributed a major part of total growth through the China resources boom and the dog days. The good news is that there is immense opportunity for profitable investment to build a prosperous place for Australia in the future zero-emissions economy.

Restoration will require a reset of the Australian political culture, and policy and economic structure, that emerged through the first two decades of the 21st century. Why restoration rather than reconstruction? Because the most important changes involve restoring old Australian strengths. Most importantly, restoration of the respect for knowledge and community understanding as the basis of good policy in the public interest.

These strengths were present in earlier successful periods of Australian democratic economic reform and development. Here, I am thinking especially but not only of the reform era from 1983 to the end of the 20th century. This laid the foundations for Australia’s productivity boom in the 1990s, and for the longest period of economic expansion unbroken by recession ever in a developed country, which ended in 2020.

Other developed economies performed better than Australia between the GFC and the pandemic recession, but still poorly by the standards set in the second half of the 20th century. Developing countries as a whole did well in the 21st century before the pandemic. The whole world economy has been battered by the pandemic, and recovery is shaped first of all by the trajectory of the disease itself. China has made an early return to strong growth, as it did after the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis and the GFC. Other north-east Asian economies, Australia and New Zealand have been successful in containing the disease. The immediate path ahead is not so clear for other developed countries. Bigger questions hover over the future of many developing economies, as they have been severely disrupted by Covid-19 and lack the resources to get back onto a path of strongly rising incomes in an era of stagnation in global trade.

Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election of November 2020 changes the global context. The opportunity for change was reinforced by the Democratic victories in the Senate election reruns in Georgia in January 2021. The United States – for a number of years – will give priority to full employment through fiscal and monetary expansion over historically low inflation. Much of the fiscal expansion will be directed towards investment in a low-carbon economy. In this way, the US joins the European Union, the UK, Japan, South Korea and China. That creates a congenial environment for Australian restoration policies. It will isolate us if we opt to stand aside from the new momentum towards decarbonisation of the world economy.

The prize for post-pandemic restoration is large. We would achieve full employment by 2025, after reaching pre-pandemic labour conditions by 2023. Prices and wages would rise in the marketplace once we achieved full employment. From that time, economic growth plus inflation would begin to reduce the weight of the recently accumulated public debt, without lowering the standards of living of ordinary Australians. Businesses would generally do well in an expanding economy.

An Australian income security payment would provide a guaranteed basic income for all Australians and reduce the anxiety and democratic constraints on reform that would otherwise accompany the income restraint and structural change required for restoration.

The October 2020 budget indicates we are yet to make a choice between the alternative futures. That choice will be made explicitly or implicitly over the year or two ahead.

This is an edited extract from Reset: Restoring Australia after the pandemic recession, (Latrobe University Press)

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Corowa vet and large animal specialist Rowley Bennett retires after half a century | The Border Mail


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ROWLEY Bennett had never even met a vet when he went away to university to study veterinary science. Growing up on the family farm in remote Brewarrina in north-west NSW, it was strictly Darwinian theory: survival of the fittest. The nearest veterinary clinic was 380 kilometres away. “Our dogs lived or they died,” he says, matter-of-factly. “I remember one of our neighbours took their dog to Dubbo, 300 miles away, and it nearly made front page news. “That was pretty extraordinary!” Yet that must now seem like a world away to the quintessential country vet who has covered hundreds of thousands of kilometres over five decades in his quest to give quality care to creatures, however great or small. With ABC Radio for company, Rowley clocked up 70,000 kilometres a year at the peak of his working life. Now 71, it’s somewhere more in the order of 40,000-50,000 kilometres. “It’s not very hard to do 300 kilometres in a day,” Rowley says. “I used to have a lot more remote clients so the kilometres have come down over the years.” Having chalked up 42 years at Corowa Veterinary Clinic last year, Rowley has well and truly earned his stripes, particularly as a large animal specialist, on-call to farmers and horse owners throughout the southern Riverina. By all accounts, he is a rare breed himself. Browns Plains mixed farmers Graeme and Beth Fisher, Emohrou, who have been Rowley’s clients for the long haul, will always remember a house call that went above and beyond the call of duty. Mr Fisher says one Christmas morning, he found a cow in real trouble, wretched, unable to calve. “I had the usual farmer’s job of trying to help her but I couldn’t manage to get it,” Mr Fisher recalls. “On the off chance he’d come, I rang Rowley at 10am on Christmas Day. “He said he’d be there in half an hour and sure enough, he turned up at 10.30! “It’s his nature to help anybody he knows who would only ring him when they’re in a major situation. “I wasn’t looking forward to the bill, but it turned out to be no different to any ordinary bill!” IN OTHER NEWS: Within two years of arriving at Corowa, Rowley took over the country practice outright; later expanding the service with branches at Howlong and Chiltern. He made it his business to nurture his large-scale patch, even when that involved long and often unpredictable hours, sometimes seven days a week. With a dogged determination derived from his hard-working father, Rowley did not like to let any situation get the better of him. A vet at his dad’s behest, Rowley still wouldn’t have had it any other way. “My father said: ‘You’re going to be a vet; there’s no money in farming!’,” Rowley recalls. “My father was very ambitious and he was very ambitious for me. “It was tough love when you’re only 11 or 12. “But I’m a reasonably determined person and I was brought up by a determined man. “I hate failure and not achieving what I set out to do; if you don’t try hard you’re only striving for mediocrity.” To build a healthy veterinary practice over more than four decades, Rowley evolved the business to cater for the growth in “small animal work”. Yet often the large animals do leave the lasting impressions. “When the Billabong Creek flooded a few years ago, there were horses trapped in water at Walbundrie,” he recalls. “(Late horseman and actor on Return to Snowy River) Graeme Fry and I walked into the water, waist-deep, to get those stallions out. “They hadn’t had a lot of handling; it probably wasn’t very veterinary-wise but we managed to get them out!” Armed with more than enough anecdotes to write a book, Rowley will retire on Monday, knowing he’s covered a lot of ground, made life-long friends with clients and cared for their animals to the best of his ability. Now undergoing treatment for cancer, Rowley will move to Canberra immediately to start the next chapter of his life with his teacher’s aide partner. His Fernhill Angus stud at Corowa will keep him coming back to the region. A father to Karl and Rex and grandfather of five, Rowley says his health and relationships will be his priorities, but he will come to miss his veterinary practice. “I actually still really like the work and after 50 years of doing it, that’s good!” he quips. “The thing that grieves me most of all is that I feel I have to retire because of my age and the health aspect; I get tired easier and that’s reasonable at 71. “I still really enjoy the work and I’m committed to my clients and doing the right thing by them and their animals. “Not in any way trying to sound ostentatious, but I would hate to think that by not being available an animal wouldn’t get the care it needed like a cow in trouble calving or a horse with colic or a dog hit by a car.” Finding it difficult to sell his veterinary clinic, Rowley believes a vet shortage is nigh. “The shortage of vets, in my opinion, is catastrophic, specifically large animal vets,” he says. “Successive governments have underfunded tertiary institutions, which have had to rely on overseas students who pay up front and then chuff off home after they graduate. “We have 850 vet graduates a year and in spite of that we’re barely keeping up with demand. “The government has let down the profession and it will take a long time to turn it around. The public is demanding more and more vet care and there seems to be less and less care available.” Even more alarming, Rowley says the suicide rate for vets is four times that for other occupations. “It’s a pretty stressful occupation and you’ve got to be mentally tough to cope with the hours, the challenges and the disappointments.” Despite that, Rowley is widely regarded for his compassion and optimism. “He’d never say there’s no chance,” long-term client and friend Mr Fisher says. “We respect him as a vet and as a friend; we will certainly miss him. “We’ll never have another country vet like him.”

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Vanishing act – Large numbers of pupils are no longer enrolled in America’s schools | United States


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Three skiers missing after large avalanche in Colorado | US News


Three skiers are missing after getting caught in a large avalanche in Colorado.

A group of seven back-country skiers were on a slope located between the towns of Silverton and Ophir, in an area known locally as The Nose, when the avalanche was triggered on Monday.

Four people were caught and fully buried by the snow, although one person was later found with minor injuries.

The remaining three are still missing.

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Rescue efforts have been paused. Pic: Office of Emergency Management, San Juan County Colorado

Search and rescue operations continued into Monday night and throughout Tuesday, but were suspended in the evening due to the risk of another avalanche.

Efforts will resume as soon as it is safe, the Colorado Avalanche Information Centre said.

The identities of the three skiers is “still pending per San Juan County Coroner’s Office investigation”, the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management wrote in a Facebook post.

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Can large fluid-filled spaces in the brain help identify those at risk of dementia? — ScienceDaily


People with enlarged fluid-filled spaces in the brain around small blood vessels may be more likely to develop cognitive problems and dementia over time than people without these enlarged spaces, according to a new study published in the January 27, 2021, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Perivascular spaces are involved in clearing waste and toxins from the brain and may be associated with the brain changes associated with aging.

The study involved 414 people with an average age of 80. Participants took cognitive tests of thinking and memory skills and were assessed for the presence of dementia at the beginning of the study and every two years for eight years. The participants had MRI brain scans to check for enlarged perivascular spaces in two key areas of the brain at the start of the study and then every two years for eight years. The top quarter of the people with the largest number of enlarged perivascular spaces, designated as severe cases, were compared to those with fewer or no enlarged spaces.

“Severe perivascular space disease may be a marker for an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia,” said study author Matthew Paradise, MB.Ch.B., M.Sc., of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. “More research is needed to understand how these enlarged spaces develop, as they could be an important potential biomarker to help with early diagnosis of dementia.”

Researchers found that people with the largest number of enlarged perivascular spaces in both areas of the brain were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia during the study than people with fewer or no enlarged spaces.

A total of 97 people, or 24%, were diagnosed with dementia during the study. Of the 31 people with severe cases in both areas of the brain, 12 people, or 39%, were diagnosed with dementia.

The people with severe enlargement of perivascular spaces in both areas of the brain were also more likely to have greater decline four years later on their overall scores of cognition than the people with mild or absent enlargement of spaces.

The results persisted after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect either scores on tests or the development of dementia, such as age, high blood pressure and diabetes. The researchers also took into account other signs of disease in the small blood vessels in the brain, which can also be a sign of risk of dementia.

“These results suggest that there is an independent mechanism for the perivascular spaces as a biomarker of cognitive impairment and dementia apart from being a general marker of disease in the small vessels,” Paradise said. “For example, enlarged perivascular spaces may be a biomarker of impaired waste clearance in the brain.”

Paradise noted that the study does not prove that enlarged perivascular spaces cause these thinking and memory problems over time; it only shows an association.

Limitations of the study include that cognitive test data was only available over four years and that imaging data could have missed some enlarged perivascular spaces in the brain.

The study was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the Josh Woolfson Memorial Scholarship.

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Materials provided by American Academy of Neurology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Large haul of stolen tools recovered at North Albury property | The Border Mail


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Albury police officers are seeking the owners of stolen power tools after a large number of items were recovered. Detectives raided a North Albury home last month. They recovered drills, drill bits, wireless circular saws, a stereo, batteries and more which are thought to have been stolen. Brands include Makita, Dewalt, and Milwaukee. MORE NEWS FROM COURT: “Investigators are now appealing for the owners of the property to come forward, so the property can be returned,” a spokesman said. “If you or anyone you know believe the depicted tools in the photographs are yours, please make contact with Constable McDonald from the Albury Proactive Investigation Unit on (02) 6023 9299.”

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Half of people aged 45 and older have abnormal lung function, says large study


Almost 50% of people aged 45 years and above have abnormal lung function, results of the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI) released on Wednesday say.

LASI, Wave 1, carried out in 2017-18, covered a baseline sample of 72,250 individuals of age 45 or older and their spouses from all states and Union Territories other than Sikkim.

Of these, 55,186 people underwent spirometry tests to check the health of their lungs. Only 51% reported normal lung function values, while 40% showed evidence of a restrictive lung disease pattern, indicating small lungs. This was slightly more prevalent in urban areas than in rural areas.

Nine per cent reported the presence of obstructive airways diseases such as asthma/COPD; this was somewhat more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas.

The report was released by Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on a virtual platform. The study was funded by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and was carried out by the International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS) in collaboration with Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, University of Southern California, National AIDS Research Institute, and Chest Research Foundation, Pune, among others.

The goal of the study is to provide reliable and continuous scientific data on the health, and social, mental and economic well-being of India’s older adult (aged 45 and above) population. The aim is to continue for the next 25 years, with respondents surveyed every two years, principal investigator Dr T V Sekher told The Indian Express.

LASI in India is the world’s largest longitudinal ageing study in terms of sample size and reach, Dr Sekher said. Similar studies have been carried out in 41 countries; in Asia, China, Korea, Japan, and Indonesia have taken up the exercise.

The high burden of abnormal lung function (49%) reported in the study is worrying, said Dr Sundeep Salvi, former director of Chest Research Foundation, and head of Pulmocare Research and Education (PURE) Foundation.

“This needs to be taken seriously to find the causes and associated risk factors,” he said. Dr Salvi and his team trained field workers across India to perform spirometry, carried out quality assurance of all the reports, and helped in data analysis and report-writing.

The burden of obstructive airways disease is more prevalent in the northern states. This seems to correlate with high levels of ambient air pollution in these states, Dr Salvi said, adding, however, that more analysis of this aspect was needed.



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Warning issued for damaging winds, large hailstones and heavy rainfall | Goulburn Post


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The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has issued a warning for damaging winds, large hailstones and heavy rainfall in the Southern Tablelands and Southern Highlands. According to the BoM severe thunderstorms are likely to produce damaging winds, large hailstones and heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding in the warning area over the next several hours. Locations which may be affected include Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Gosford, Sydney, Wollongong, Nowra and Goulburn. READ ALSO: The State Emergency Service advises people should: We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here for the Highlands and here for the Tablelands. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

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Severe thunderstorm to hit Sydney, large hail, damaging winds and heavy rain expected



Much of eastern NSW including the Sydney region faces another round of severe thunderstorms over the next few hours, with flash flooding possible.

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The U.S. Navy Wants Two Large Drone Submarine Prototypes


The U.S. Navy is moving quickly to build two new undersea large drone prototypes to launch from a submarine, surveil the undersea, locate enemy mines, subs, and surface ships, and coordinate targeting for torpedo attacks. 

Naval Sea Systems Command just released a request to industry to submit proposals to build two prototype Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (LDUUV) to begin construction next year. The LDUUV program is intended to complement a sweeping broader scale Navy unmanned system effort intended to deliver as many as twenty-one new large drone boats within just the next five years. The LDUUVs could be launched from submarine missile tubes to engage in long-dwell undersea reconnaissance missions and use various kinds of data gathering and transmission technologies to inform submarine commanders of relevant combat information. 

A December 2020 Congressional Research Service report, called “Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles,” cites the LDUUV program as one of a number of high-profile undersea vehicle prototype programs likely to transform the undersea domain.

“UVs are one of several new capabilities—along with directed-energy weapons, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and cyber capabilities—that the Navy says it is pursuing to meet emerging military challenges, particularly from China. 2 UVs can be equipped with sensors, weapons, or other payloads, and can be operated remotely, semi-autonomously, or (with technological advancements) autonomously,” the report states. 

As computer algorithms continue to become more advanced, undersea platforms such as the LDUUV can increase levels of autonomy, thereby expanding mission scope and adding new abilities to respond to emerging circumstances and make adjustments while performing operations. 

For example, AI-enabled algorithms could help an undersea drone identify specific classes of mines, enemy ships or submarines by bouncing new incoming sensor images off of a vast database to perform analyses, make discernments and offer optimal courses of action for submarine commanders to consider. Payloads can be sonar detection systems or other kinds of undersea reconnaissance and weapons applications. 

“The LDUUV will achieve full integration with Modernized Dry Deck Shelter and Payload Handling System-equipped submarines. Initial vehicles will be designed to support Intelligence Preparation of the Operating Environment missions,” a NAVSEA report states. 

The Navy is acquiring the new drone, called Snakehead, on an expedited, massively fast-tracked basis to meet pressing, even urgent, needs for long-dwell undersea surveillance. A Snakehead could, for instance, conduct much longer reconnaissance missions in high-threat areas near enemy coastline without needing to return a manned crew. 

“Snakehead is a long-endurance, multi-mission UUV, deployed from submarine large open interfaces, with the capability to deploy reconfigurable payloads. It is the largest UUV intended for hosting and deployment from submarines, and has been designated a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition,” the NAVSEA report states. 

The NAVSEA solicitation reports the service intends to award a deal to a single contractor to build two LDUUV prototypes next year. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.



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