Fleeting freedoms
By Justin Pyvis – Delivered on 19 Nov 2021

Good morning! Victoria will hit the 90% vaccination milestone sometime on either Saturday or Sunday, leading the Victorian government to immediately scrap almost all remaining restrictions at midnight last night. 🙌🎉

That means for the fully vaccinated there will no longer be any:

caps at pubs, cafes, homes or restaurants;
requirement to be seated while drinking;
need to self isolate if a close contact of a positive case, provided a negative PCR test is produced; and
mask wearing, except for hospitality staff, public transport users and in high risk settings (e.g. hospitals, aged care).

Moving on, ScoMo pleaded with state governments "to step back and for Australians to take their life back":

"Businesses can make their own choices on the law but we aren't about telling them what to do or Australians what to do... They should be able to go to a get a cup of coffee in Brisbane when you're over 80% regardless of whether you've had the vaccine or not."

Honest question: how many state Premiers would agree with that statement? We suspect not many – immediately after the comment, Queensland's deputy Premier Steven Miles said ScoMo was supporting "dangerous fringe elements", and that vaccinated Australians "do not deserve to be undermined by a Prime Minister more interested in currying favour with coffee baron donors and lunatic backbenchers than the health and the jobs of Queenslanders".

Whew. Speaking of freedoms, Victoria's controversial pandemic laws appear to be dead in the water, at least for the time being. The government was forced to adjourn debate after former Labor MP Adem Somyurek indicated his intention to show up at Parliament to vote down the bill, forcing frantic last-minute negotiations with the remaining crossbenchers.

Rod Barton of the Transport Matters Party confirmed he was approached, responding with "How do I put this... you've made your bed, you can sleep in it. They excluded us. We were totally irrelevant, and now it's gone pear-shaped they want us to come fix it".

It's going to be an interesting few days. Have a great weekend!

Fully vaccinated population (aged 16+)

ACT
NSW
VIC
TAS
SA
QLD
NT
WA
Markets

Daily % change

AUD/USD

72.8

+0.1%

AUD/CNY

4.64

+0.2%

AU Yield (%)

1.81

-1.0%

US Yield (%)

1.59

-0.9%

ASX200

7,379

+0.1%

S&P500

4,706

+0.4%

Brent (bbl)

81.2

+0.6%

Gold (oz)

1,860

-0.4%

Iron ore (t)

86.3

-3.0%

Bitcoin

57,976

-3.9%

Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract. Bond yields are 10-year Treasuries. The S&P500 is a snapshot 30 minutes before close.

At the time of writing the US S&P500 was on track to notch up a fresh record high, rising 0.36% following a much stronger than expected reading from the Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index, which jumped 15 points to 39 (a 7-month high) indicating far more companies were expanding than contracting.

Locally, the ASX200 edged up 0.13% despite decent falls in the energy sector (-1.46%), which was hit hard by falling oil prices the night before after it was revealed that – less than a week after the COP26 environmental conference – China and the US were considering taking the unprecedented joint action of releasing oil from their respective strategic petroleum reserves.

Gold miners fared particularly well amid growing inflation fears and an announcement from Evolution Mining (+9.7%) that it will acquire the Ernest Henry Mining copper-gold mine in Queensland for $A1 billion.

Economy

Kiwiflation: A quarterly survey of business managers undertaken by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's showed that inflation is expected to average 3.70% over the coming year, up from 3.02% in the previous survey and the highest reading since 2010, with two-year inflation expectations increasing to 2.96% from 2.27%.

Biden's worried: US President Joe Biden wrote to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate possible "illegal conduct" by oil and gas companies that might be fuelling (sorry) surging inflation, which is hammering his approval rating.

A slow influx: ScoMo is reportedly "resisting calls by business and others" to open the immigration floodgates for fears it would suppress wages growth ahead of a federal election due to be held between March and May.

Averting default: According to Bloomberg, embattled Chinese property developers raised a total of $US2.4 billion in just the past 24 hours and at least $US4.2 billion over the past week.

What not to do: Turkey's central bank cut borrowing costs for a third straight month despite inflation running at almost 20%, sending the Turkish lira to a fresh record low against the greenback.

Inflation concerns: Citing increased "upside" inflation risks, South Africa's central bank raised interest rates (+25 basis points) for the first time since the pandemic began.

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Feature
Fleeting freedoms

Rising coronavirus cases have led to several European governments abruptly reversing the pandemic freedoms people were given after reaching certain vaccination milestones.

Breaking it down: Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Slovakia, Czechia and even anti-lockdown Sweden have in the past week or so reimposed restrictions on activity. In some cases it's only for the unvaccinated (passports), while others have gone further and reimposed restrictions on everyone.

At the more extreme end of the spectrum is the city of Salzburg in Austria, which will enter a full "multiple week" lockdown on Monday regardless of vaccination status and the Netherlands, where a 3-week partial lockdown (curfew, no fans at sports, work from home) was declared for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

Others have only dodged a similar fate due to high vaccination rates – according to Ireland's Taoiseach (their word for Prime Minister), were it not for the country's 89% vaccination rate for those aged 12+ "there is no doubt that we would now be in a full-scale lockdown".

Why this matters: Australia is only just beginning to reopen to the world, meaning COVID-19 cases will eventually start to pick up here given the existing vaccines aren't perfect, nor is the take-up rate 100%. What's happening in Europe could well be a test case for Australia in several months, given their vaccination rollout was undertaken much earlier than our 'strollout', and they're only now entering the colder, more virus-friendly winter months.

Looking forward: Nations with relatively high vaccination rates (upper 70% range) are faring better in terms of cases and hospitalisations than their counterparts with poor vaccine take-ups (60% or below).

Given the solid vaccination take-up in Australia so far there's no reason to think that freedoms need to be stripped away again next winter, provided the booster programme is executed properly and the nation achieves a vaccination rate in the upper-70% range (total population), which at this stage looks likely.

The Wrap Up
    🧳Tourism Australia launched a campaign to encourage Singaporeans to travel down under, now that quarantine-free travel between the nations is available.
    🎾The Women's Tennis Association said that Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai's whereabouts are still unknown despite a dubious email supposedly sent by her, weeks after she accused a former high ranking Chinese government official of sexual assault.
    WA Premier Mark McGowan was forced to indefinitely close his Rockingham electorate office "following death, rape and bomb threats against him and his staff members".
    🌊Canada's British Columbia declared a state of emergency with at least 18,000 people displaced by floods and mudslides in a once-in-500-year event. At least one person is dead and three are missing.
    🏙️A report by the University of Western Australia found that visitor levels to the Perth CBD are still 20% lower than before the pandemic due to the "hollowing out of the workforce in Perth", with people frequenting locations closer to home instead.
    🍎Apple will soon start selling parts and tools allowing people to fix their own devices, after a growing number of US states introduced "Right to Repair" legislation.
    🐸Mike Tyson claimed using Sonoran Desert toad venom as a psychedelic – which he has now tried 53 times – helped him to realise "that I'm not going to be here forever... The toad's whole purpose is to reach your highest potential. I look at the world differently".
    🙃The Vietnamese delegation to the COP26 environmental conference "visited the grave of Karl Marx, before... being fed gold-plated steak in a lavish meal speculated to cost thousands of dollars".
    📜A crypto collective has already raised $US27 million in its attempt to buy a rare early printing of the Constitution at a Sotheby's auction.
    ⚖️South Australia's deputy Premier Vickie Chapman received a vote of no confidence after a report recommended she "be found guilty of wilfully misleading parliament". Ms Chapman is the first MP in history to receive a vote of no confidence in the lower house and under parliamentary convention is expected to resign.
    🥇US President Joe Biden confirmed that he was "considering" a US boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
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