The misinformation debate

Delivered on By Justin Pyvis

Good morning! Seventy-eight percent of the 1,500 Australian Medical Association WA doctors surveyed last week agreed with the claim that “the WA health system was not ready to deal with the inevitable Omicron outbreak if we had opened on 5 February”.

Fixing a health system is not done overnight – it’s a process that had to be implemented at various points over the past seven years of this government.

But despite the admission from the state’s doctors that the health system isn’t ready, over half still believed “the Premier should have stuck to his plan to restart quarantine-free travel on Saturday”.

We’re now in a situation where the longer Premier McGowan waits to reopen the Hermit Kingdom, the higher the odds of a disastrous dual Omicron/influenza peak that could quickly overwhelm an already stressed health system.

Reading the tea leaves

Daily % change







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Brent (bbl)



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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 up a solid +1.40%, led by gains to electric carmaker Tesla (+9.8%) after Credit Suisse upgraded it to “outperform” and Netflix (+10.3%), which was upgraded to a “buy” by Citi.

Locally, the ASX200 fell -0.24% in a mixed day with decent gains to tech, energy and real estate while financials, consumer staples and materials dragged the index lower.

The newly unified BHP (it shed its UK dual-listing yesterday) dropped -1.2%, which made it responsible for over half of the daily decline now that it commands more than 10% of the index, supplanting CBA (~8%) as Australia’s largest company by market capitalisation.

Food for thought

You won't find Neil Young on Spotify anymore.
You won't find Neil Young on Spotify anymore. Source

“Censors have a fantasy that if they get rid of all the Berensons and Mercolas and Malones, and rein in people like Joe Rogan, that all the holdouts will suddenly rush to get vaccinated. The opposite is true. If you wipe out critics, people will immediately default to higher levels of suspicion. They will now be sure there’s something wrong with the vaccine. If you want to convince audiences, you have to allow everyone to talk, even the ones you disagree with. You have to make a better case.”

So wrote Matt Taibbi in response to a growing number of artists – most prominently Neil Young and Joni Mitchell – withdrawing their music from Spotify in response to what they believe is a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation by Spotify’s star podcaster, Joe Rogan.

We tend to agree: when has censorship ever worked? Cancelling Joe Rogan – who, incidentally, draws many more viewers per episode than the competition – will only drive the ‘craziness’ deeper into the endless abyss that is the internet, where it will fester completely unchecked.

Spotify’s solution was to remove Young and Mitchell from the platform, as they requested. It also put a “content advisory” on any podcast episode mentioning COVID-19, and the CEO released a statement saying “it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them”.

It all comes down to trust. The creators of independent newsletter platform Substack felt the need to emphasise that point in light of the controversy, writing:

“This position has some uncomfortable consequences. It means we allow writers to publish what they want and readers to decide for themselves what to read, even when that content is wrong or offensive, and even when it means putting up with the presence of writers with whom we strongly disagree. But we believe this approach is a necessary precondition for building trust in the information ecosystem as a whole. The more that powerful institutions attempt to control what can and cannot be said in public, the more people there will be who are ready to create alternative narratives about what’s “true,” spurred by a belief that there’s a conspiracy to suppress important information. When you look at the data, it is clear that these effects are already in full force in society.”

Certain politicians and public health officials would do well to heed that advice. Present the costs and benefits, tell the truth and perhaps there would be fewer people marching in the streets every weekend (or as happened yesterday, Monday).

Bits and bytes

🎵 “James Blunt has joked on social media that he will release new music if Spotify does not remove podcaster Joe Rogan from the streaming platform.”

🦠 WA’s strict close contact isolation rules mean mining giant BHP has so far lost around 70 workers for up to the next 14 days after a single worker tested positive for Omicron at a mining camp in WA’s north.

🚚 Prominent WA figure Richard Goyder – chairman of Qantas, AFL, and Perth-based Woodside – is packing up and moving to Melbourne “indefinitely” because “I just feel I want to take control of my life. All my business colleagues in the east, other than restrictions that we also have here, their life is returning to normality.”

📈 Inflation is never evenly distributed. One chef complained that prices for staples such as rice, canned spaghetti and baked beans had shot up over 50%, leading the UK stats bureau to publish a set of inflation indices tailored to different income brackets.

📉 German inflation eased slightly in January to 4.9% (from 5.3% in December), although that was still above expectations and appears to be broadening, as even “prices for packaged holidays and leisure were also up significantly”.

🏉 The Western Force will relocate to the east coast for at least the first two rounds of Super Rugby Pacific due to ongoing border restrictions in WA.

🏭 Factory output in Japan fell 1.0% in December, the first decline in three months “as a decline in machinery outweighed a small rise in car production, casting a cloud over the strength of the economic recovery”.

💸 The NSW government splashed the cash again, spending $A155 million to give parents and carers a $A500 voucher for every primary school student for whom they’re responsible.

🥺 Meanwhile, NSW Treasurer Matt Kean wrote to the Commonwealth Treasurer Josh Frydenberg warning him that the NSW economy could contract by 4% without more taxpayer support.

🎶 “The CIA used the music of an Irish boyband called Westlife to torture Suleiman Abdullah in Afghanistan… even though he was a black African man, and the Suleiman Abdullah Salim they had intended to capture was an ethnically Arab man from Yemen.”

🐋 For the first time ever Orcas have been documented killing and eating the world’s largest animal, the blue whale.

🏈 NFL superstar Tom Brady has yet to officially confirm his retirement because he has at least 15 million reasons not to – $US15 million of his signing bonus is due to be paid on 4 Feb, which Tampa Bay could reclaim if he retires before that date.

🚢 Australia’s finest: The HMAS Adelaide was left “stranded” because of a “total power failure” during its humanitarian mission to Tonga following the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami.

🧪 Mining giant Rio Tinto now requires all of its Perth-based office staff to take a weekly rapid antigen test “in its bid to stave off COVID within its white collar workforce”.

🎮 Sony will purchase game maker Bungie for $US3.6 billion, “the latest in a string of big-ticket consolidation deals in the games industry”.

🏖️ Bali will reopen to all international travellers starting from 4 February, following similar moves from Thailand and the Philippines.