Vaccine mandates
By Justin Pyvis – Delivered on 14 Sep 2021

Good morning! NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian decided to show up for the daily press conference yesterday, despite saying she was going to start avoiding them last week. It was a good thing, too, as we were given further details about how the state's reopening might look:

"The government is yet to finalise its plans in relation to what happens at 80% double dose... [but] by the time we start opening up, we would like to see that [first dose] figure at 85% or even closer to 90%.
...
I want to stress again – for those of you who choose not to be vaccinated, that's your choice, but don't expect to do everything that vaccinated people do even when we hit 80%."

By our reckoning, that means so far it's just NSW that will require internal vaccine passports and have a two-tiered system for the vaxed and unvaxed, although Victoria will no doubt follow next week. Both the ACT and SA governments have said they won't be using any kind of passports (but also won't stop businesses doing so), while the other states and territories remain on the fence.

Down in the country's other COVID-19 hotspot, case numbers in Victoria just keep rising – the state is now easily eclipsing the current NSW outbreak, despite having an arguably stricter lockdown:

We really feel for those in Melbourne, which could soon break the world record for most days under hard lockdown (Buenos Aires leads with 234). 😔

Moving across the ditch, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said lockdown "hasn't finished the job yet", announcing the extension of Auckland's full lockdown by another week. Thankfully the end appears to be in sight, as it's "clear that there is not widespread transmission of the virus in Auckland".

Markets

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ASX200

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Brent (bbl)

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Bitcoin

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Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract.

The US S&P500 gained 0.23% overnight, ending a run of five consecutive losses ahead of crucial inflation data tonight. House Democrats released a package of tax increases supposedly designed to pay for President Biden's $US3.5 trillion infrastructure plan although the hikes were smaller than many expected, falling "short of President Joe Biden's ambition".

Locally, the ASX200 (+0.25%) shrugged off Friday's big decline in the US, with gains for every sector except tech, real estate and financials. A notable mover was Sydney Airport (+4.62%), which received a third takeover bid from a consortium of infrastructure investors (mostly superannuation funds), valuing the airport at $A23.6 billion. The improved offer means Sydney Airport's share price is now back to where it was in February 2020, i.e. before COVID-19.

Economy

Transitory: According to the New York Fed, the median expectation for US inflation in a year's time rose 0.3 percentage points to 5.2% in August, a new high in the series which goes back to 2013. Over the next three years consumers expect 4% inflation, up 0.3 percentage points from July and also the highest level on record.

More supply shocks: The aluminium price hit $US3,000 a tonne for the first time in 13 years with demand especially strong in China, where the price hit its highest since 2006. Production curbs in China, political tensions in Guinea and fires in Jamaica have all contributed to the record price.

Xi Jinping's hammer: China's government plans to break up Alipay, the popular payments app owned by missing billionaire Jack Ma's Ant Group. Not only that but Alipay will have to "turn over the user data that underpins its lending decisions to a new credit scoring joint-venture, which will be partly state-owned", as well as allow state-backed firms to "take a sizeable stake in Ant's credit-scoring joint venture for the first time".

Pumped and dumped: The price of cryptocurrency Litecoin surged as much as 20% yesterday before plunging by even more, after several news outlets reported that Walmart would start accepting it as a payment, only for a Walmart spokesperson to later reveal the announcement was fake.

Feature
Vaccine mandates

Last week, US President Joe Biden mandated that most federal workers, hospitals, public schools and 80 million employees of private companies will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their jobs.

Why this matters: Australia's government ruled out a vaccine mandate, but then so did Joe Biden, the White House press secretary and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Views can change and in politics, convictions tend not to be strongly held.

Breaking it down: It's important to distinguish between a mandate and a passport. While vaccine passports – for instance, requiring proof of vaccination for entry into high-transmission venues such as nightclubs – can have some success in the initial phase of a rollout as a supply-side incentive, mandating vaccination opens a whole new can of worms.

Even ignoring whether a vaccine mandate is legal, let alone moral (both dubious), it's unlikely to work. Opponents tend to be vociferous in their displeasure, and a mandate only confirms their suspicions that it's not about health but control.

Looking forward: A better approach might be to use a combination of temporary demand (e.g. lotteries or free stuff) and supply (e.g. vaccination to travel or for 'high-risk' venues) incentives until the vaccination rate hits 80% of the total population, at which point COVID-19 is treated as endemic and they're no longer required.

That's essentially what Denmark did, and now it has done away with restrictions and passports entirely – other than at airports and anywhere health-related, not even masks are mandated.

The Wrap Up
  • ✈️ The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission blocked a planned link-up between Qantas and Japan Airlines, arguing that the airlines failed to prove "the public benefits would outweigh the harm to competition".
  • 🛂 Australia is trailing a vaccine passport for international travel in "the form of a QR code linked to real passports to prove vaccination records".
  • 🧅 Why... just why was this ever even a thing needing a fact check. "Inhaling onion fumes does not kill COVID-19, experts say."
  • 🧳 Live in South Australia? Register before the end of tomorrow to enter the ballot for a $A100-200 tourism voucher, courtesy of the state government.
  • 🎾 Emma Raducanu, who went from qualifier to US Open champ (worth $US2.5 million), just three weeks ago said her goal was to win enough prize money to replace a pair of lost AirPods.
  • 🤦‍♂️ A Californian elementary school cut lunch time to just 14 minutes because at 15 minutes, stricter state guidelines for quarantine kick in if there's a COVID-19 exposure.
  • 🔥 An Ontario, Canada school board said that it "regrets" burning books to use as fertiliser in "a gesture of openness and reconciliation".
  • 💩 A plane had to make an emergency landing in Austria after "one of its passengers refused to leave the toilet".
  • 🦠 China's latest COVID-19 outbreak has been traced to a man who completed 21 days of mandatory quarantine who only tested positive 37 days after entering China.
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