Census 2021 is almost here — what’s changed since #censusfail? What’s at stake in this pandemic survey?


David Crosling/AAP

Liz Allen, Australian National UniversityAustralian households will begin receiving instructions on how to fill out the 2021 census from early August.

The Census of Population and Housing is held every five years in Australia — and counts every person and household in Australia. But this is the first time the count will be held during a global pandemic amid lockdowns and rising health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Census data are crucial to what we know about Australia: who lives here, and how and where people live. Data from census informs vital services and infrastructure including, education, healthcare, transport, and welfare.

Census 2021

August 10 is the official census date, but things will be done a little differently in 2021. This year, Australia’s 10 million households will receive census login information or hard copy forms in the mail from next week.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is encouraging people to complete the census as soon as they receive their instructions, if they know where they’ll be on August 10. In previous years you had to fill in your form on census night.

The 2016 ‘fail’

Australia’s last census was associated with great controversy stemming from the “digital-first” strategy (where the majority of Australians would do the census online for the first time) and bureau plans to keep names and addresses for up to four years, to boost anonymous links with other data.

This was accompanied by federal politicians saying they would refuse to put their names on the census, citing privacy concerns, and a campaign to deface census forms.

A screen shot of a blocked census form in 2016.
The #censusfail in 2016 was a huge embarrassment for the federal government.
Joel Carrett/AAP

Then came #censusfail.

Distributed denial of service attacks on census night saw the online questionnaire platform shut down and remain offline for nearly two days.

While data quality was not compromised, it was nevertheless a huge embarrassment for the bureau and the Turnbull government.

What’s changed in terms of set-up?

Lessons have since been learned and these are seen in preparations for Census 2021.

The new window to complete the census, rather than a one-night burst, will help ease online bottlenecks and external threats. It will also reduce pressure on the many Australians in lockdown, juggling paid work and home schooling.

Commuters crowd into Town Hall station in Sydney.
The 2021 Census will collect information about more than 25 million Australians.
Peter Rae/AAP

Neighbourhoods won’t be graced by an army of census workers, this time, either. The bureau is expecting the overwhelming majority of people to complete the census online, with reminders sent out by mail.

So the digital-first strategy that caused such a stir in 2016 was an important trial run for the contactless conditions necessary during a pandemic. Some other countries have postponed their national census programs (like Scotland) and even risked COVID-19 exposure by going ahead regardless (like Indonesia). But Australia’s preparations will enable a vital undertaking to continue safely.

What’s changed in terms of the questions?

According to the bureau, this year will include the “first significant changes to the information collected in the census since 2006”. (Funding cuts since the 2001 have previously prohibited questionnaire refreshes.)




Read more:
Census 2016 reveals Australia is becoming much more diverse – but can we trust the data?


2021 will see new questions about long-term health conditions and defence force service. Sex beyond the binary of male/female will be also collected for the first time for all. These new additions to census have been made possible by the removal of the household internet connection question.

Improvements have also been made to better capture language and ancestry of First Nations Australians.

Census questions still have some way to go to better reflect contemporary Australia. But any changes to the census need to be understood by all.

Sexual orientation and gender identity, living in more than one place, and ethnicity are among improvements identified by demographers and social researchers for Census 2026, for example.

What will we get out of Census 2021?

The census has the power to say much about a nation and how populations are changing. While there will be no specific questions on COVID-19, the data will provide valuable insights into the impacts of the coronavirus on Australians. With the 2016 data now five years old, more up-to-date information is needed to make plans for the future.

With so many people in Australia in lockdown, the census will gauge the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 in a way no other data undertaking has been able to achieve yet. Individuals, communities and economic activities affected by COVID-19 will be reflected.

Census 2021 is no ordinary population survey – it will lay the foundation for Australia’s post-pandemic future by informing the nation’s social and economic recovery, including measuring the success of the vaccination rollout through improved population data. It’s more important than ever that we get this census right.

Results from Census 2021 will become available from June next year.

The future of the census

A number of countries, such as The Netherlands, have moved away from traditional census taking. Instead opting for data compilation performed using routine government data collected through administrative interactions. Like Medicare and Centrelink data being compiled by government for your census submission.

The Australian Statistician David Gruen, has foreshadowed such a possibility for Australia. The United Kingdom is also thinking about it. This approach is a concern as it excludes individuals and communities from a vital participatory undertaking, and the data quality suffers as people can no longer self-report information.




Read more:
In a world awash with data, is the census still relevant?


In its current form, census data is accessible, and contributed to, by all. Australia’s census data enable everyone from researchers, to policymakers, to ordinary individuals the power to hold government to account.
It belongs to all of us.The Conversation

Liz Allen, Demographer, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Novavax is absent from Australia’s 2021 vaccination schedule. But it could be a useful booster later on


Cassandra Berry, Murdoch UniversityNovavax recently released excellent results from phase 3 clinical trials, finding its COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated 90.4% efficacy overall after two doses given three weeks apart.

The results, from close to 30,000 people in the United States and Mexico, found the vaccine demonstrated 100% protection against moderate and severe COVID-19, and was highly protective against circulating variants of interest and concern. It also has a good safety profile.

It’s important to note these results came directly from Novavax in a press release, and we’re still waiting to see the data published in a peer-reviewed journal. Once this happens, it’s likely Novavax will apply for approval from medical regulators around the world.

But this process will take a few months. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has said it doesn’t expect to receive the final data it needs to approve the vaccine until September. And in the COVID Vaccination Allocation Horizons, information the government released this week setting out vaccine allocation until the end of 2021, Novavax is not mentioned.

So by the time Australia is ready to deliver Novavax — the country has 51 million doses on order — we may well have completed most of the vaccine rollout with the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The situation will be similar in other countries, such as the United States.

However, that doesn’t mean Novavax won’t play an important role in Australia’s fight against COVID-19.

How does Novavax work?

Novavax is designed using protein-based technology. This is different from the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is a viral vector vaccine, and Pfizer and Moderna, which use mRNA technology.

Novavax works by introducing a part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus — the spike protein — to the immune system. The spike protein used is made in insect cells and doesn’t contain any live components of the virus. It can’t replicate or cause COVID-19.

To help the vaccine generate a stronger protective response, it uses an adjuvant, which is a molecule that boosts the immune system. The adjuvant Novavax uses is based on saponin, a natural extract from the Chilean soapbark tree.

An illustration of SARS-CoV-2.
COVID-19 vaccines work by targeting the spike protein, a protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2.
Shutterstock

In some countries, Novavax could be used as an initial COVID vaccine. It will be relatively easy to distribute because it can be stored at regular fridge temperatures.

In other countries where most people will have already received two vaccine doses by the time Novavax becomes available, the vaccine could be used as an annual booster — on its own or as a supplement in formulated vaccines.




Read more:
What is Novavax, Australia’s third COVID vaccine option? And when will we get it?


A potential booster

Let’s say you’re writing a book. You write your first draft — that’s the first dose of vaccine. Then you edit and refine the final draft — that’s the second dose. You could say annual booster vaccines are like updated editions. Perhaps the original book is also translated into different languages, just as boosters could cover viral variants around the world.

In slightly more scientific terms, after the first vaccine dose, certain cells in our immune system (normal B cells) are activated and produce a primary antibody response. After the second vaccine dose, a slightly different flavour of immune cells (memory B cells) mount a stronger antibody response more rapidly.

But this immune memory can wane over time. Boosters may be needed to enhance immune memory responses to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in people who have previously been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Boosters could also be important as new variants emerge. Vaccines can often be reformulated to protect against new viral variants when original formulations aren’t working as well.

So even if Novavax isn’t the first or second COVID vaccine in our arms, it could be an important tool in our arsenal as we continue to navigate the pandemic.

A person with a bandaid on their upper arm.
Novavax could potentially be used as a booster vaccine down the track.
Shutterstock

What about in combination with the flu shot?

Novavax has recently revealed the efficacy of its COVID vaccine was roughly the same in a study where an influenza vaccine was administered simultaneously. This data, although yet to be peer-reviewed, signals Novavax could potentially be given alongside the annual flu shot.

In the future, we could even have the flu shot and Novavax combined in one vaccine. Novavax has designed and is currently testing a vaccine which combines SARS-CoV-2 and influenza spike proteins (called a multivalent vaccine).




Read more:
Can I get AstraZeneca now and Pfizer later? Why mixing and matching COVID vaccines could help solve many rollout problems


SARS-CoV-2 is rapidly evolving and we need to future-proof Australia against viral variants. As our knowledge of COVID-19 builds, we must develop strategies for more robust protection.

Rather than a fast sprint, our immune systems likely need to be primed for an ultra-marathon. Thinking about vaccines beyond the “first wave” of vaccination will be key.The Conversation

Cassandra Berry, Professor of Viral Immunology, Murdoch University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australians fear China-US military conflict but want to stay neutral: Lowy 2021 Poll


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraChina’s aggressive stands and the sharp deterioration of the bilateral relationship are flowing through strongly to produce record negativity by Australians towards our biggest trading partner.

The Lowy Institute’s annual poll for the first time finds most Australians (52%) see “a military conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan” as a critical threat. This is 17 points up on just a year before.

More than half (56%) think Australia-China relations pose a critical threat.

The poll, “Understanding Australian attitudes to the world”, was done in the second half of March with a sample of 2222. The report is authored by Natasha Kassam. The results on climate and COVID have already been published.




Read more:
Majority of Australians in favour of banning new coal mines: Lowy poll


China-Australia relations have plummeted in recent years, with obstacles currently in place against a range of Australian exports, frequent denunciations of Australia by China, and its government’s continued refusal to return Australian ministers’ calls.

Since the poll was taken, the bilateral relationship has worsened; Scott Morrison at the G7 emphasised the challenge China presented and rallied support for resisting its economic coercion.

Trust in China has continued “its steep decline” according to the poll, reaching a new low. Only 16% of Australians trust China to act responsibly in the world, a 7-point decline from last year. As recently as 2018, 52% trusted China.


Lowy Institute

Just 10% of Australians have confidence in China’s president Xi Jinping to “do the right thing regarding world affairs”. This has halved since 2020 (22%) and fallen 33 points since 2018.

While people were critical of China on almost everything they were asked about in the poll, a majority do not want Australia dragged into a military conflict between China and the United States – 57% say Australia should remain neutral in such a conflict, well above the 41% who believe Australia should support the US.

There is a big age difference on this question: only 21% of those aged 18-29 say Australia should support the US in a conflict, but 58% of those over 60 believe it should.

In one small sign of optimism about China, 72% say it is possible for Australia to have good relations with both the US and China – although this is 15 points lower than in 2013.

China has fallen to the bottom of the Lowy Institute’s “feelings thermometer”, with a 7-point drop to 32 degrees – a 26 degree decline from 2018. This compares, for instance, with the rating of India (56 degrees), Indonesia (55 degrees), and the US (62 degrees),

Asked whether China is more of an economic partner to Australia or a security threat, more than six in ten (63%) see China as “more of a security threat” – a 22-point rise from last year. In contrast, only a third (34%) say China is “more of an economic partner to Australia”. This is 21 points lower than last year.


Lowy Institute

Some 56% believe China is more to blame than Australia for the bilateral tensions, although 38% attribute blame equally.

Having an increasingly negative influence on views of China are its investment in Australia (79%), its environmental policies (79%), its system of government (92%) and its military activity in the region (93%).


Lowy Institute

“Even in relation to China’s strong economic growth story, Australian attitudes have shifted significantly in recent years’, the Lowy report says.

“In 2021, less than half the population (47%) say China’s economic growth has a positive influence on their view of China, a steep 28-point fall since 2016”

The replacement of US president Donald Trump by Joe Biden has been wholeheartedly welcomed by Australians, the poll shows.

Some 69% have confidence in Biden to do the right thing regarding world affairs, 39 points higher than Australians’ confidence in Trump last year. More than six in ten (61%) now trust the US, 10 points higher than last year, but 22 points lower than reached in Barack Obama’s presidency.

There is strong support for the importance of the US alliance (78%), steady since last year) and confidence America would come to Australia’s defence if it were under threat (75%).

Commenting on the poll results, Kassam said “Australia’s China story has changed dramatically since 2018, from one of economic opportunity to concerns about foreign interference and human rights.

“Views of China are to some extent inseparable from the crackdown in Hong Kong, the detention of Uighurs, the disappearance of Australian citizens in China…” she said.

“A year of targeted economic coercion has clearly left its mark on the Australian public, and in a remarkable shift, now even China’s economic growth is seen as a negative. It would also appear that the uptick in China’s military incursions in the Taiwan Strait has not gone unnoticed by the Australian public, though the majority would still prefer to avoid a conflict between the superpowers.”




Read more:
Chinese-Australians have a sense of dual ‘belonging’: Lowy poll


China ‘dogged by insecurity’, says outgoing secretary of foreign affair department

China, despite being a great power, was still “dogged by insecurity as much as driven by ambition,” the outgoing secretary of the foreign affairs department, Frances Adamson, said on Wednesday.

In an address before leaving the department later this week, Adamson – a former ambassador to Beijing – said China “has a deeply defensive mindset, perceiving external threats even as it pushes its interests over those of others”.

“It is too ready to suspect ‘containment’ instead of judging issues on their individual merits,” she told the National Press Club.

“And I always find it useful to remind myself when faced with strident official representations that the pressure exerted outwards on other countries must also be felt within, at an individual level, by those subject to that system.

“Insecurity and power can be a volatile combination, more so if inadvertently mishandled. We need to understand what we are dealing with.”

Lamenting the shrinking number of Western journalists in China, Adamson also said less access and less dialogue meant less understanding.

“This siege mentality – this unwillingness to countenance scrutiny and genuine discussion of differences – serves nobody’s interests.

“It means, among other things, that China is undergoing a steep loss of influence in Australia and many other countries.” This was confirmed, she said, by the Lowy poll showing Australians’ trust in China down to record lows.

“What we tell the Chinese government is that we are not interested in promoting containment or regime change.

“We want to understand and respond carefully – for shared advantage. Not to feed its insecurity or proceed down a spiral of miscalculation.

“Nor do we see the world through a simplistic lens of zero-sum competition.

“What we are interested in, and will continue to strive for, is a peaceful, secure region underpinned by a commitment to the rules that have served all of us – China included.”

Adamson said China might hope for Australia to have a fundamental rethink of policy but such hopes would be in denial of the impact of China’s behaviour on Australia, and the broad bipartisanship of its most fundamental policy settings.

“So we approach China with confidence, realism, and an open mind.

“National resilience and internal cohesion are important when dealing with China – but that doesn’t mean we should demand uniformity of viewpoint,” she said.

“Debate about our approach is a strength, not a weakness. Indeed, in an era when political and social freedoms are being rolled back in many parts of the world, a healthy open debate is one of the hallmarks of a liberal system.

“And the best policy always comes from contestability. This is as true of the China challenge as it is of economic or social policy.”

Adamson has been appointed governor of South Australia.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Great approach, weak execution. Economists decline to give budget top marks


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Peter Martin, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National UniversityDespite overwhelmingly endorsing the general stance of the 2021 budget, only a few of the 56 leading economists surveyed by the Economic Society of Australia and The Conversation are prepared to give it top marks.

Asked to grade the budget on a scale of A to F given Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s objective of securing Australia’s economic recovery and building for the future, only three of the 56 economists surveyed gave it an ‘A’.

But a very large 41% awarded it either an A or a B, up from 37% in last year’s October COVID budget.

The economists chosen to take part in the Economic Society of Australia survey have been recognised by their peers as Australia’s leaders in fields including macroeconomics, economic modelling, housing and budget policy.

Among them are a former head of Australia’s prime minister’s department, a former member of the Reserve Bank board, a former OECD director and two former frontbenchers, one from Labor and one from the Coalition.

Of the panel members who commented on the historic stance of the budget — expanding the size of the deficit beyond what it would have been in order to drive down unemployment — all but three offered enthusiastic endorsement.

Emeritus Professor Sue Richardson of the University of Adelaide commended the government for at last turning its back on a “debt and deficit” mantra, that was “never justified”.




Read more:
Exclusive. Top economists back budget push for an unemployment rate beginning with ‘4’


Professor Richard Holden praised the “watershed”. In due course there should be increased attention paid to the structure and quality of spending, but for now we should applaud the “Frydenberg Pivot”.

Saul Eslake said the strategy of providing further stimulus to push unemployment down to levels not seen consistently since the first half of the 1970s was the right one. It meant the Reserve Bank and the treasury would no longer be working at “cross purposes” as they had been for most of the past two decades.



The Conversation, CC BY-ND

But Eslake said the budget fell short in the A$20 billion it devoted to tax concessions for small business in the mistaken and unfounded belief it is “the engine room of the economy” and in housing measures that failed to heed warnings from history about the risks of ultra-high loan-to-valuation ratios.

Rebecca Cassells of the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre said the claim that 60,000 jobs would flow from extending the temporary loss carry back and full expensing tax concessions was “a stretch,” with the connection quite tenuous.

Bucks, but not the biggest bang

Consultant Nicki Hutley said a bigger boost to the JobSeeker unemployment payment would have achieved much more than the $7.8 billion one-year extension of the “lamington” low and middle income tax offset.

Economic modeller Janine Dixon said while spending more to get more people into work was the “right setting for the times,” Australia had to ensure its workforce was ready to supply the extra aged care and child care and disability services it had funded by delivering the right training, especially in the absence of migration, which has traditionally been used to address workforce shortages.

Labour market specialist Elisabetta Magnani said measures to boost wages in the caring occupations could have achieved the double bonus of drawing more workers into those occupations and shrinking the gender pay gap, given that more than 80% of the workers in residential aged care are female.

Little for net-zero

Michael Keating, a former head of the prime minister’s department, said restoring high wage growth would require big investments in education and training, which sits oddly with the cuts in funding for universities. The extra funding for apprentices and trainees only makes up for past cuts.

Professor Gigi Foster said the $1.7 billion spent on childcare subsidies was only “surface-level fiddling with the sticker price”.

“Where is the supply-side intervention required to make childcare services sustainably accessible and of high quality?” she asked. “Childcare should be viewed as social infrastructure. Instead, when we heard infrastructure, it was mainly code for transportation.”




Read more:
Fewer hard hats, more soft hearts: budget pivots to women and care


Margaret Nowak of Curtin University said a budget that really “built for the future” would not have focused on the “infrastructure of the past”. Professor Richardson lamented that most of the infrastructure spending was on traditional “roads and ports” when the future was net-zero emissions.

“There is little in the budget that supports this transformation,” she said. “It is an extraordinary lost opportunity.

Nicki Hutley said retooling the economy for zero emissions would have brought forth “more jobs, higher wages, more growth and private sector co-investment”.

Some concern about debt

Former OECD director Adrian Blundell-Wignall said a much-greater investment in vaccinations would have helped “get the economy back to work and the borders opened sooner which, in turn, would have saved unemployment benefits, tourism, aviation support and the need for the extension of temporary measures”.

And he was concerned that a jump in US inflation might cause international interest rates to rise faster than expected, forcing Australia to cut its projected budget deficits in order to stabilise net debt.




Read more:
Frydenberg spends the bounty to drive unemployment to new lows


Former International Monetary Fund economist Tony Makin, a critic of government spending during the global financial crisis,
described the budget spending as a “knee-jerk primitive Keynesian reaction” to the COVID recession.

Unease about going into debt to keep and create jobs aside (and very few of the economists surveyed shared Makin’s unease) the criticisms of the economists surveyed relate to execution and details. If Frydenberg had been judged on his approach, most would have given him an A.


The Conversation

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition has large lead in NSW as Nats easily hold Upper Hunter at byelection


Darren Pateman/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneA recent Resolve poll of New South Wales voters for The Sydney Morning Herald has given the Coalition 44% of the primary vote, Labor 28%, the Greens 12% and the Shooters Fishers and Farmers 4%. This is the first nonpartisan poll of NSW state voting intentions since the last election.

At the March 2019 election, primary votes were Coalition 41.6%, Labor 33.3%, Greens 9.6% and Shooters 3.5%.

No two-party estimate was provided by Resolve, but analyst Kevin Bonham estimates this means 56-44 to the Coalition, compared with 52-48 at the election. The poll was conducted with two federal Resolve polls in mid-April and mid-May from a sample of 1,228.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian led Labor leader Jodi McKay as preferred premier by a massive 57-17 margin. Half of those polled thought Berejiklian likeable, while 17% were negative. Meanwhile, 13% thought McKay likeable, while 21% were negative (this includes don’t know and neutral responses).

Nationals easily win Upper Hunter byelection

There was a byelection in the state seat of Upper Hunter on Saturday. With 84% of enrolled voters counted, the Nationals defeated Labor by a 55.7-44.3 margin, a 3.1% swing to the Nationals from the 2019 election. Primary votes were 31.2% to the Nationals (down 2.8%), 21.3% to Labor (down 7.3%), 12.3% to One Nation, 12.0% to the Shooters (down 10.1%) and 12.9% for two independents combined.

The total vote for the major parties fell 10.1% to 52.5%, but with a large field of candidates, the National and Labor candidates were certain to finish in the top two after preferences, especially given NSW’s optional preferential voting system.

The Shooters won three seats at the last state election, but will need to come to an agreement with One Nation not to contest the other party’s target seats at the next election.




Read more:
Little change in post-budget Newspoll; Liberals win Tasmanian majority


This is the lowest primary vote for the Nationals in what was a safe Nationals seat before the rise of the Shooters and One Nation. For Labor, it is their second lowest primary vote, beating only the 17.9% at the 2011 Labor annihilation.

Overall preference flows from all third party candidates were 20.5% to Labor, 16.3% to the Nationals and 63.2% exhausted. Including exhausted ballots, two party vote shares were 39.0% Nationals (down 0.9% since 2019), 31.0% Labor (down 5.0%) and 30.0% exhausted (up 5.8%). That’s the lowest Nationals share by this measure.

The byelection was caused when former member Michael Johnsen was accused of sexually assaulting a sex worker — he denies any wrongdoing. Other factors that would normally be expected to drag the Nationals vote down are the loss of Johnsen’s personal vote, having a federal government of the same party, and the ten-year age of the current NSW Coalition government.




Read more:
Has a backlash against political correctness made sexual misbehaviour more acceptable?


The byelection result and the Coalition’s big lead in the state NSW poll are both dire for NSW Labor. And it’s another example of sex scandals not impacting actual votes.

At the last election, the Coalition won 48 of the 93 lower house seats, one more than the 47 needed for a majority. They have lost two members to the crossbench, so winning this byelection still puts them in minority government with 46 seats. The Coalition is in no danger of losing a confidence vote.

Federal Resolve poll

In the federal Resolve poll for the Nine newspapers, conducted April 12-16 from an online sample of 1,622, primary votes were 39% to the Coalition (up one since April), 35% for Labor (up two), 12% to the Greens (steady) and 2% to One Nation (down four). From these primary vote figures, Bonham estimates Labor is in front, 51-49, a one-point gain for Labor since April.

It is likely One Nation’s large drop reflects Resolve adopting Newspoll’s methods on the One Nation vote, and they are now only asking for One Nation in seats they contested at the 2019 election.




Read more:
Great approach, weak execution. Economists decline to give budget top marks


More than half (53%) gave Prime Minister Scott Morrison a good rating for his performance in recent weeks, and 38% a poor rating; his net +15 rating is up three from April. Labor leader Anthony Albanese was at 32% good, 45% poor, for a net of -13, down seven points. Morrison led Albanese by 48-25 (compared to 47-25 in April).

On economic management, the Coalition and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 46-20 (43-21 in April). On handling COVID, the Coalition led by 46-20 (42-20 in April).

Resolve had far stronger approval for the budget than Newspoll. More than half (56%) rated it good for the country and just 10% poor (for a net +46). Meanwhile 35% rated it good for their personal finances and 17% poor (net +18). Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had a +31 net rating, while Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers was at -3.

Newspoll and the budget

In additional Newspoll questions, released last Tuesday, more voters trusted a Coalition government led by Morrison over a Labor government led by Albanese to guide Australia’s COVID recovery (52-33 voters, compared to 54-32 last October).

Of those surveyed, 60% of voters thought the government was right to stimulate the economy despite increased debt, while 30% said it should do more to rein in spending. During Labor’s last period in government, the Coalition ranted about debt and deficit, but now 71% of Coalition voters support increased debt.

The Newspoll also found many voters thought Labor would not have delivered a better budget (46-33). Bonham says the 13-point margin is typical by recent standards after the 49-33 result following the 2020 budget.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Little change in post-budget Newspoll; Liberals win Tasmanian majority


AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted May 13-16 from a sample of 1,506, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, unchanged from the last Newspoll published three weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (down two), 12% Greens (up two) and 2% One Nation (down one). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

58% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (down one), and 38% were dissatisfied (up one), for a net approval of +20. Anthony Albanese’s net approval was down four points to -7, his worst ever net approval. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 55-30 (56-30 three weeks ago).

Newspoll has asked three questions after every budget: whether the budget was good for the economy, good for you personally, and whether the opposition would have delivered a better budget. Results for this last question are yet to appear, and it would be disappointing if that question has been cancelled.

44% thought last Tuesday’s budget was good for the economy and 15% bad, for a net rating of +29. On personal finances, 19% thought it would be good and 19% bad, for a net zero rating. Voters have consistently been better disposed to budgets on the economy than the personal.

The Poll Bludger says this budget is the eighth best on personal finance and the sixth best on the economy since Newspoll started asking these questions, which I believe was in 1988. Analyst Kevin Bonham says this budget has the best net score on the economy since 2007’s +48. However, the Coalition under John Howard lost the 2007 election after that budget.

Most budgets have little impact on voting intentions, and this is confirmed by voting intentions remaining unchanged on two party preferred in this Newspoll. Exceptions were the very unpopular 1993 and 2014 budgets. After both those budgets, the government lost much support.

The drop in Labor’s support, and the rise for the Greens, is probably due to left-wing voters who are unhappy with Albanese. Morrison’s consistently big lead over Albanese as better PM likely encourages some voters to perceive Labor would do better if led by someone more left-wing than Albanese. I posted about the flaws in this logic in my last Newspoll report.

In an additional Newspoll question, 73% thought Australia’s borders should remain closed until at least mid-2022, or the pandemic is under control globally. Just 21% thought borders should open as soon as all Australians who want to be are vaccinated.

In last week’s Essential poll, taken before the budget, Morrison’s net approval surged to +26 from +17 in mid-April. With women, his net approval rose 17 points to +21; with men, it was up two points to +31. While there is still a gender gap, many women appear to have forgotten or forgiven the sexual misbehaviour in March.

Liberals win Tasmanian majority as sex-compromised Liberal wins, then resigns

At the May 1 Tasmanian election, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 lower house seats (steady since the 2018 election), Labor nine (down one), the Greens two (steady) and Independent Kristie Johnston won the last seat. Vote shares were 48.7% Liberal (down 1.5%), 28.2% Labor (down 4.5%), 12.4% Greens (up 2.1%) and 6.2% for independents.

In party terms, there were two electorates where the result appeared uncertain in my post-election article: Clark and Bass. With five seats per electorate, a quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. In the Hare-Clark system, candidates compete against other candidates in the same party, as well as other parties’ candidates.

In Clark, there was some doubt on election night as to whether the Liberals would win a second seat. But former Labor MP Madeleine Ogilvie, who had sat as an independent in the last parliament, and joined the Liberals at this election, won the second Liberal seat in Clark.

Ogilvie was 342 votes or 0.03 quotas ahead of fellow Liberal Simon Behrakis at the second last count. At Behrakis’ exclusion, final standings were Ogilvie 0.95 quotas, Johnston 0.93 and Independent Sue Hickey 0.82. Ogilvie and Johnston were elected to the final two seats.

In Bass, Labor benefited from leakage of Premier Peter Gutwein’s surplus and preferences from other sources. Labor easily defeated the Greens and Liberals for the final seat for a three Liberal, two Labor result.

The day before the election, Liberal Braddon candidate Adam Brooks was accused of impersonating to enter a sexual relationship using a fake driver’s license. Tasmania still requires early voters to complete a declaration that they cannot vote on election day, so most votes were cast on election day.

Brooks was still elected after a close race with two other Liberals in Braddon. With the final two seats to be filled, Jaensch finished on 0.934 quotas, Brooks 0.931 and Ellis 0.904, with Ellis missing out. Brooks had been 0.046 quotas ahead of Ellis after Liberal exclusions and surpluses, with his lead reduced by sources outside the Liberals.




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The Braddon result was finalised Thursday. On Friday, Brooks resigned his seat after Queensland police charged him with firearms offences. Brooks’ seat will definitely go to a Liberal on a countback (not a byelection), likely Ellis. The Liberals will be relieved at not requiring Brooks’ vote to maintain a majority.

In the upper house, the Liberals gained Windermere from a retiring conservative independent, while Labor held Derwent. In Windermere, the Liberals defeated Labor by 54.1-45.9, from primary votes of 37.8% Liberal, 27.0% Labor and 21.3% for an independent. In Derwent, Labor defeated the Liberals by 55.7-44.3, from primary votes of 49.1% Labor, 40.9% Liberal and 10.0% Animal Justice.

The Tasmanian upper house has 15 single-member electorates with two or three up for election every May for six-year terms. Current standings are five Labor, four Liberals, four left independents and two centre-right independents.

Poll gives Nationals 51-49 lead for Saturday’s Upper Hunter (NSW) byelection

A byelection will occur in the NSW Nationals-held state seat of Upper Hunter this Saturday. This seat has been Nationals-held since 1932, but at the 2019 NSW election, the Nationals had their lowest primary vote of 34.0%. Labor had 28.7%, the Shooters 22.0% and the Greens 4.8%.

Excluding exhausting preferences, the Nationals defeated Labor by 52.6-47.4, with 24.2% of total votes exhausting under NSW’s optional preferential system.

A YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph gave the Nationals a 51-49 lead over Labor in Upper Hunter based on respondent preferences. Primary votes were 25% Nationals, 23% Labor, 16% Shooters, 11% One Nation, 6% Greens and 10% combined for two independents. The poll was conducted May 11-13 from a sample of just 400.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

No ‘bounce’ for government from big-spend budget: Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraThe government has failed to get any electoral “bounce” from last week’s budget, despite it being widely seen as good for the economy, according to Newspoll.

Labor retains a two-party lead of 51-49%, although there was a 2 point fall in its primary vote, to 36%. The fall was matched by a 2 point rise in support for the Greens, to 12%.

The Coalition was stable on 41% primary vote.

Publishing the results, The Australian reported it was the most well-received budget since the Howard-Costello days, with 44% saying it would be good for the economy, and only 15% believing it would be bad. This was the largest margin since 2007.

But voters found it harder to get a clear fix on what it would mean for them personally. They were evenly divided, with 19% each side, on whether they would be personally better or worse off financially from the budget.

A record 62% could not say whether they would be better or worse off.

While the budget contained tax cuts for low and middle income earners and a child care package, much of the big spending was directed to particular areas, such as aged care and mental health, rather than affecting the financial position of people more widely.

Both leaders’ personal approval ratings worsened somewhat in the poll, although Anthony Albanese took more of a hit than Scott Morrison.

Dissatisfaction with Albanese increased 3 points to 46%, while his satisfaction rating decreased a point to 39%. His net rating is minus 7.

Satisfaction with Morrison fell a point to 58%, and dissatisfaction increased a point to 38% His net approval is plus 20.

Morrison led Albanese as better prime minister 55% (down a point) to 30% (stable).

In Queensland selling the budget, Morrison said on Sunday: “The recovery cannot be taken for granted. The recovery can be lost. The hard won gains of Australians, particularly over these last 18 months, can be lost unless we keep doing what’s working. And this is working.”

Also in Queensland, Albanese said: “Quite clearly, Scott Morrison has a plan to just get through the next election and then we’ll see cuts, because we know from this government, just like we saw in 2014 when it first came to office, that they will make cuts, they will return to type.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Money for telescopes and vaccines is great, but the budget’s lack of basic science funding risks leaving Australia behind


John Shine, Garvan InstituteThe story of the past year has been the pandemic: from the first outbreaks in early 2020, the identification of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and methods to detect it, through to lockdown and quarantine measures, vaccine development, testing and finally distribution. The pandemic is not over, but the recovery has started.

At each stage, it has been scientists and researchers at the forefront of a rapid and successful national and global response to the pandemic. A nation’s capacity to respond to threats like a pandemic does not exist in a vacuum. It depends on scientists. You can’t research a solution without researchers.

In Australia, the higher education sector performs the vast bulk of research, including basic foundational research. This sector has been hit extremely hard by the pandemic, losing billions in revenue leading to the loss of research capacity — the very capacity we need to continue to respond to the pandemic and recover.

For this reason, the lack of recognition for science and scientists in the federal budget, and in particular for the foundational capacity in basic discovery science, is perplexing indeed. Such science capability underpins Australia’s resilience, not just against pandemics but also against natural disasters, economic shocks, technology disruption, the needs of an ageing population, and cyber warfare – many of the government’s stated priority areas.

There is some new funding in the budget, which is welcome. Initiatives such as support for the Square Kilometre Array radiotelescope, supporting women in STEM, climate adaptation, clean energy and government digital resources are essential additions to the Australian scientific landscape. The proposed patent box system promises to stimulate investment in Australian science in medical technologies and clean energy.




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Much of this funding is for incremental, short-term, focused technology programs. But such mission-directed science, while worthy, does not substitute for discovery science. If the government wants these missions to be effective, it must invest in basic science too.

If universities are being asked to pivot away from over-reliance on international student income, and towards research commercialisation, there must be a basic science pool to help fuel this translation of research findings into commercial outcomes. At the risk of mixing metaphors, the pivot will be ineffective without a pipeline.

More importantly, the budget does nothing to stem the loss of university science jobs. Failure to act on university funding before the start of the 2022 academic year will mean more university job losses – and it is clear from the decisions already taken at ANU (in science and medicine), Melbourne, Macquarie and Murdoch that these cuts will come from science research.

Medical manufacturing capability

While the government has not revealed in the budget how much money it has committed to onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing, it is welcome news that there is commitment to developing this capability that will serve the nation well for decades.

The Australian Academy of Science is pleased the government has heeded our advice to future-proof Australia by developing this capability. It will allow Australia to build resilience against future pandemics and potential biosecurity threats that require us to have the onshore capacity to mass-produce vaccines.

Australia will require significant capability development alongside a manufacturing facility. A pipeline of knowledge will need to be developed, from fundamental to applied research related to mRNA vaccines and therapeutics. Australia will need a nationwide consortium of multidisciplinary expertise, in everything from data science to materials engineering, to become a world leader in this new technology.

Building our research capability in this area will allow us to continue solving existing challenges with mRNA vaccines. That’s why the science sector must be included in the scoping and investment in this new capability.




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When I was appointed president of the Australian Academy of Science in 2018, I spoke about how it can take decades to translate the outcomes of basic research into something of real value for the community. This remains the case. It has always been the case.

Often, our political leaders want instant answers to the big questions. Australia’s science and research community delivered when it came to COVID-19, but it must be supported and funded to continue making fundamental discoveries if it is to deliver again. The future prosperity of our nation depends on it.The Conversation

John Shine, President, Australian Academy of Science; Laboratory Head, Garvan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

No vaccine ‘targets’, but Australians could still be vaccinated by end of year


Driss Ait Ouakrim, The University of Melbourne; Ameera Katar, The University of Melbourne, and Tony Blakely, The University of MelbourneThis week’s budget assumes Australians will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the year, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the government has no vaccination targets, modelling or forecasts.

Australians are eagerly watching the pace of the rollout, given this underpins a further budget assumption: international borders could re-open from mid-2022.

So are all Australians likely to be offered two COVID-19 doses by the end of the year?

Previous targets

In January, the government was aiming to vaccinate 80,000 people per week. It wanted 4 million Australians vaccinated by the end of March and the entire adult population vaccinated by October.

So far, we have only delivered 2.83 million doses.

The initial vaccination road map was derailed in part due to poor logistics, but more so due to lack of supply and sheer bad luck. Prioritising the AstraZeneca vaccine, with its local manufacturing capacity, seemed like a good bet but this was derailed by the rare — but real — possibility of blood clots.




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The announcement overnight of 10 million doses of Moderna mRNA vaccine this year, and 15 million next year, suggests we will see AstraZeneca quietly shuffled off stage and replaced with Moderna. However, it is unlikely to impact the current timeline.

Could we meet an end-of-year target?

In theory, yes.

Studies suggest around three-quarters of Australians are willing to have a COVID-19 vaccine. If we aim to have 75% of adults fully vaccinated with two doses this year, around 15 million Australians will need to receive 30 million doses over the next seven months.

About half of these people are 50+ or priority populations, and the other half are under 50. So that means 15 million doses before September 30 (assuming we continue using AstraZeneca), and 15 million doses from October 1, when greater stocks of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine become available in the fourth quarter of the year.




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From now until September 30, we have 100 weekdays left to deliver 12.2 million vaccine doses, or 122,000 per day.

This is twice as many doses per day as we achieved in the past week. But it’s doable if we ramp up our vaccination capacity.

From October 1 to December 24, we have about 15 million doses to administer to vaccinate 75% of all remaining adults. This will mean 250,000 vaccinations per weekday, so doubling the daily number again in the “sprint”.

Again, this is doable if we get all our mass vaccination hubs well-oiled and efficient before then. And probably use weekends, too.

Where it gets more challenging is if many people 50 and over elect to wait for Pfizer or Moderna, meaning an even bigger “sprint”. That would require an extremely reliable supply of these two vaccines before Christmas, well-oiled delivery systems and mass vaccination sites to deliver in excess of 300,000 doses per weekday.

This implied goal of offering vaccines to all adults by the end of 2021 is ambitious, but not impossible.

So when could we open borders?

Australia will still not have COVID-19 resilience (or “herd immunity”, or something approaching it) by the end of 2021.




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If 25% of Australian adults are unvaccinated, plus 100% of children, some 40% to 45% of the population will remain unvaccinated, which is likely too low to achieve herd immunity.

Wholesale opening of our borders then is not possible – the virus would still spread with substantial disease and death.

To meet a mid-2022 target for substantially loosening border restrictions, we will need children to be vaccinated and further vaccination of adults hesitant in 2021.The Conversation

Driss Ait Ouakrim, Research Fellow, Population Interventions Unit, Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne; Ameera Katar, Data Analyst and Research Coordinator, The University of Melbourne, and Tony Blakely, Professor of Epidemiology, Population Interventions Unit, Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Budget package doesn’t guarantee aged-care residents will get better care


Shutterstock

Stephen Duckett, Grattan Institute and Anika Stobart, Grattan InstituteThe big investment in aged care announced in last night’s federal budget – an extra A$17.7 billion over five years – is a welcome response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. But even an investment of this scale does not meet the level of ambition set by the royal commission.

The government has committed A$6.5 billion for more home-care packages (about A$2.5 billion more for home care per year when fully implemented), and A$7.1 billion for residential-care staffing and services (about $2.4 billion more for residential care per year when fully implemented).

But the government has failed to outline a clear vision of what older Australians should expect of their aged-care system.




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Immediate fixes with no guarantees

The budget includes funding for 80,000 extra home-care packages over two years. The current home-care packages program has numerous problems, including nearly a 100,000-strong waiting list.

But the government has not explicitly promised to clear the waiting list and bring waiting times down to 30 days, as the royal commission called for.

The budget has some good news for people in residential aged care. The Basic Daily Fee (for services including food) will be increased by A$10 per resident per day, as called for by the royal commission.

And there’s more funding for better staffing, with mandates for an average of at least 200 minutes of care for every resident every day (40 minutes of which must be by a nurse) by 2023.

This is a good start, given nearly 60% of residents presently get less than this. But residents will have to wait two years – not one, as recommended by the royal commission – before they get more care hours.




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The budget also provides additional funding to improve the aged-care workforce. The government will subsidise the training of new and existing aged-care workers, including 33,800 places to attain Certificate III.

But the government has not gone far enough in supporting the workforce. It stopped short of guaranteeing that every staff member providing care for older Australians will be trained to a minimum Certificate III level, and that all residential aged-care facilities will have a registered nurse on site 24 hours a day.

The budget commitments appear to be a once-off, with workforce funding plummeting to only A$86.5 million in 2024-25, compared to A$293.3 million in 2022-23. And there is no commitment to lift carers’ wages.

Residents won’t have access to a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
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Small steps towards a better system

The royal commission made it clear the aged-care system needed to be reformed from top to bottom. The government’s announcements foreshadow a shake-up of the system over five years. But the extent of reform is yet to be determined.

The budget papers show funding will be up by about A$5.5 billion per year once most reforms are in (see the chart below). That’s not enough to create a needs-driven, rights-based system, called for by the royal commission and the Grattan Institute.


Federal budget paper 2

The government has committed to a new Aged Care Act, to be legislated by mid-2023, though the details are yet to be filled in. This Act must put the rights of older Australians at its heart.

The government has also committed to designing a new home care program and will provide a single assessment process for both home care and residential care.

More home-care packages will be available but there won’t be enough for all those currently on the wait list.
Shutterstock

A local network of health department staff will be embedded in the regions, and there will be a network of 500 “care finders” to help older Australians get the support they need.

But the biggest risk to achieving real structural change is governance and transparency. Here, the government has fallen short.




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The government does not support the establishment of an independent aged care commission. Most disappointingly, it is pumping A$260 million into the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which the royal commission found had demonstrably failed.

While some transparency will be provided through public reporting of staffing hours and star ratings to compare provider performance, clear transparency measures will be needed to ensure the additional billions don’t end up boosting providers’ profits.

The good news from budget 2021 is that the journey has begun. The government has made a substantial down payment to allow development of a new aged-care system. We must hope that more will follow, so the neglect ends and every older Australian can get the care and support they need.The Conversation

Stephen Duckett, Director, Health Program, Grattan Institute and Anika Stobart, Associate, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.