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Prisoners of our own success

Good morning! New South Wales' Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the clamour for vaccines "is almost a sense now of The Hunger Games; of people chasing vaccine". The situation is bad in other states too, with Queensland reporting that registrations for the Pfizer jab are so intense that bookings "may not be until October or November because that is when all the supply comes in from the federal government".

So according to the NSW Health Minister, we're living in a "dystopian, post-apocalyptic nation", where "The Capitol is lavishly rich... but the districts are in varying states of poverty". Sounds about right.


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There was no market news from the US on account of the Independence Day long weekend, with the ASX200 (+0.09%) doing a whole lotta nothing ahead of an important RBA board meeting later today.

Stimmy fade: Building approvals in Australia fell again in May (-7.1%) compared to April, in what was the first full month of data without the government's HomeBuilder stimulus programme's influence. However, we're still at extremely elevated levels, suggesting there's plenty of work to be done in the construction pipeline – dwelling approvals remain 52.7% higher than in May 2020 and 24.3% above February 2020 (i.e. pre-coronavirus).

Workers still wanted: Job advertisements increased for the 13th straight month in June, rising 3.0% (down from 6.8% in May), according to ANZ. It will be interesting to see if this translates into higher wages at all, or if businesses will continue to be unwilling to raise wages and prices for fear of downward 'stickiness' when the world normalises (it's difficult to reduce salaries). In the US, around 20% of companies now offer signing bonuses as a way to get around that issue, up from 2% in March.

Retail revised up: The ABS' final retail trade data for May showed growth of 0.4% from the month prior, revised up from just 0.1% in the preliminary release. The biggest changes were in locked-down Victoria and New South Wales, where "additional time for data collection" caused the ABS to change them significantly from -1.5% to -0.9% and 0.0% to +0.5%, respectively.


Prisoners of our own success

Party like it's 1776 – life is almost back to normal in the United States.
Party like it's 1776 – life is almost back to normal in the United States. VOA News

First it was the crowds at Wimbledon, then yesterday it was pictures from the United States showing a full-blown party outside the White House celebrating Independence Day and its newfound freedom from COVID-19. While only Sydney remains in lockdown (🤞), a poor vaccination rollout means Australians will not be able to taste true freedom for at least another 6 months.

Stepping back: The "prisoners of our own success" quip was uttered by ScoMo on Friday, as he announced his four phase... high-level outline towards reopening. He's kind of right – yes, Australia's success in controlling the pandemic has come at the cost of imprisoning us in our own country (and occasionally our homes). But it's not true in the context he used it:

"...see a lot of people say, well, why should I get vaccinated? They go, there's not much COVID around in Australia. I've got more chance of I don't know, getting run over by a car than I have of catching COVID in this country. And to a sense, we're prisoners of our own success in this."

There are months-long queues of people waiting for Pfizer. The vaccine some people have a problem with is AstraZeneca, and that's due to limited domestic transmission and the government's constant mixed-messaging. Then there's the reason we were so dependent on AstraZeneca in the first place: because the government initially only backed two horses in the vaccine race, one of which didn't even finish (the University of Queensland candidate).

Why this matters: There is one overwhelming force that will shape all of the government's decisions between now and the middle of next year – the federal election, which must be held before 21 May 2022. Australia's strategy of closing the borders and eliminating the virus has seen every state Premier facing the polls re-elected convincingly, but that could change quickly as lockdown fatigue grows and reopening envy sets in.

The Wrap Up

  • 🐘 There's a new petition to deny Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk permission to travel to Tokyo "to help secure the 2032 Olympics for Brisbane". We're not sure it's in the national interest, anyway: Los Angeles is the only host city to have ever realised a profit from hosting the games, "mostly because the required infrastructure already existed".
  • 🥝 Australia's travel bubble with New Zealand reopened yesterday to residents of SA, ACT, TAS and VIC.
  • 🤏 The US fell short of President Joe Biden's goal to vaccinate 70% of adults with at least a first dose by 4 July (currently 66.7%).
  • 🛂 Japan will roll out a vaccination passport later this month and is making arrangements for it to be accepted in over 10 other nations, with holders exempt from quarantine on arrival.
  • 🦈 A parasailor hovering just above the water lost part of his foot and suffered severed tendons, torn muscles and broken bones after "a shark leaped out of the water and bit his foot in a bizarre attack in the Gulf of Aqaba".
  • 🧠 The lockdown stupidity award surely goes to the St George Illawarra Dragons, who were fined over $300k after 13 players attended a house party during Sydney's lockdown and made so much noise the neighbours called the cops.
  • 🐄 Two men in India were arrested and have been imprisoned for over 40 days, without a trial, after they posted on Facebook that "cow dung and cow urine" don't cure COVID-19.