September 22, 2022 Edition
We will see the closure on the Mourning Period for QE!! In Australia tomorrow, We can then move on to the next big issue, which will surely be the progress in the Russo-Ukrainian war and the associated issues with China and Russia.
The US seems – with the rest of the world – to be moving into recession.
King Charles has now been to all his UK Realms and will now quietly let PM Trass get back to running the UK. God help her…
In Australia we have to now get on with life and the economic disaster we seem to be facing.
Oddly enough... the Queen may be the best model for an Aussie republic
Now Queen Elizabeth II has passed, the ultimate paradox may be that her extraordinary example of leadership serves as a template for a future Australian head of state.
Andrew Clark Senior writer
Sep 11, 2022 – 5.35pm
Queen Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign spanned the disintegration of the British Empire.
But through poise, decency, charm, intuition, forbearing, and, yes, beauty, Queen Elizabeth made British royalty a leading global brand, although the word fails to explain the mystery of a continuing royal influence in the digital era.
Now she has died, the question being asked, albeit, somewhat muted until after a period of mourning, is: can Queen Elizabeth’s successor, Charles III, carry that unifying mantle forward?
More parochially, will King Charles neutralise a renascent Australian Republican movement largely dormant since the defeat of the Republic referendum in November 1999?
The best of times in modern history may be behind us
Political and international editor
September 13, 2022 — 5.00am
Clare O’Neil is responsible for confronting most of the national security threats to Australia beyond the military – espionage, terrorism, foreign interference, cyberwar, criminal syndicates, smuggling of all varieties, and more.
The relatively unknown and unsung Minister for Home Affairs, whose portfolio includes ASIO, the immigration department and Border Force, has had a few months to study her new portfolio, and she has some bad news for Australia: the best of times in modern history may be behind us.
“A lot of the global discussion about what’s happening in the world has a really downbeat feel about it, and it is a bit of a shock to the system for Australians to realise that we’ve just lived through this unprecedented set of decades of prosperity and peace and that there are indications that that’s not likely to continue,” says the straight-talking O’Neil, a member of the Albanese cabinet.
The times that we thought normal and endless turn out to be an aberration. It was a time of easy travel around a world with democracy ever-expanding, incomes inexorably rising and human rights cheerfully improving. No longer. Russia has joined China in a global project to curb human liberty. And American democracy is teetering.
‘Zombie’ firms collapse as pandemic aid removed
Michael Read Reporter
Updated Sep 14, 2022 – 12.50pm, first published at 12.10pm
Uneconomic “zombie” firms are collapsing after the expiry of pandemic-era government support programs, with new data showing insolvency rates have jumped back to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Experts and the Reserve Bank say business failures are poised to increase further, as soaring costs and a Tax Office crackdown on unpaid debts heap further pressure on firms in the embattled construction and manufacturing sectors.
Company failures hit a 2½-year high in July as 717 firms entered into external administration, data from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show.
The figure was the highest level since November 2019 and more than double the lows of 2020 and 2021, when a range of government policies such as JobKeeper and temporary changes to insolvent trading laws kept a lid on failures.
Gonski’s $319b reforms fail to improve school performance: PC
Julie Hare Education editor
Updated Sep 14, 2022 – 8.11am, first published at 7.18am
The Productivity Commission says that four years into a 10-year, $319 billion injection of additional funding into schools, academic performance is still declining, including among the disadvantaged students whose prospects the system was designed to advance.
A terse interim report ahead of the next national agreement between the federal, state and territory governments, says historically high funding must be matched by improvements in student engagement and academic performance against national and international benchmarks.
The major funding injection and a reform agenda were put in place with the specific goal of lifting educational attainment of Australian students by 2031 and improving Australian’s international standing by 2025. The plan is supposed to help disadvantaged students the most.
But between 2012 and 2018 there was a statistically significant decline in both mathematics and reading, the commission’s report says.
Gonski reforms to improve teaching never implemented
Julie Hare Education editor
Sep 14, 2022 – 6.06pm
Six years after David Gonski urged a raft of reforms to lift the effectiveness of how teachers teach, none of his initiatives have been taken up.
A national teacher workforce strategy, professional development and meaningful career paths were among the changes recommended by the Gonski review.
And while annual funding increases he recommended have mostly flowed through, few of his 23 recommendations have been implemented and are the subject of ongoing debate.
Experts say the issues identified by the Productivity Commission in a report today, including a stagnation in the academic performance of Australian students on both national and international tests and growing inequality, can be solved.
But persistent barriers, including ineffective teacher education in universities, an a lak of ongoing monitoring and professional development of the existing teacher workforce, were hindering progress.
An inquisition into Australia’s great school funding rort
The challenge now is remedial action to help the disadvantaged and other low-performing students that ‘giving a Gonski’ has left behind.
Sep 14, 2022 – 5.23pm
Labor should be careful about making a federal integrity commission retrospective, because the first inquisition should be into Australia’s great school funding rort.
During the 2007 election, public sector teachers’ unions waged a highly political campaign against the Coalition’s funding of private schools, under the rubric of taking from the “rich” to better educate poorer children, that helped elect the Rudd Labor government.
That led to the Rudd government’s Review of Funding for Schooling chaired by businessman David Gonski, and to the “needs-based funding” model that has poured billions of extra taxpayer dollars into schools. The lack of return on this supposed investment in a higher quality and more equitable education system is one of the biggest public policy failures in Australia’s history.
The Productivity Commission’s report card on the Gonski “reforms” says “student outcomes have stagnated”.
Why the US will need Australia’s north more than ever
James Curran Historian
Sep 15, 2022 – 5.00am
Former George W Bush foreign policy adviser and new United States Studies Centre chief executive Michael Green predicts the US will become more dependent on Australia for its military operations and intelligence.
A shift in foreign policy focus from Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific meant that areas of Western and Northern Australia will be “critical” for the US and its allies.
“We need access: we need purchase on the Indian Ocean and, and so geographically, in technology, in terms of military operations and intelligence, the US is going to be more dependent on Australia,” Mr Green said in an exclusive interview. “There’s no two ways around it.”
Mr Green began leading the University of Sydney’s American foreign policy research centre in May.
A never-Trump Republican, he had a prominent role in making US Asia policy between 2001 and 2005 in the Bush administration and is a member of a bipartisan American foreign policy elite that has maintained the US alliance structure in East Asia for the last two decades. A policy expert on Korea and Japan, he is also a respected academic on Japanese foreign policy and the history of American engagement in Asia.
Lowe firm on RBA rate rises despite world downturn fears
John Kehoe Economics editor
Sep 16, 2022 – 4.50pm
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe says a deteriorating global economy will make it hard for Australia to achieve a “soft landing”, but he will not be deterred from raising the cash rate further amid concern businesses are passing on bigger cost increases.
Money markets reacted to his testimony to a parliamentary committee on Friday, increasing to 61 per cent the chance of another super-sized 0.5 of a percentage point cash rate rise next month, up from 48 per cent before he spoke.
Dr Lowe said local “inflation psychology” was shifting and making it “easier for firms to put their prices up and the public is more accepting of this”, as he urged business not to gouge on profit margins and workers to limit their wage claims to help reduce inflation.
As property prices slide in reaction to higher borrowing costs, Dr Lowe told the economics committee in Canberra he would not be surprised if the national median house price fell 10 per cent from its peak, after rising more than 25 per cent over the past two years during the low-rate boom.
The politics of submarines are reaching a pivot point
Labor has inherited the likely choice of a submarine not yet designed – in an exercise supposedly about the urgency of our strategic situation.
Laura Tingle Columnist
Sep 16, 2022 – 3.43pm
The Defence publicity machine cranked into action on Friday morning. The chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, took to Twitter, noting that the day marked one year since “the announcement of AUKUS – Australia’s trilateral security partnership with the UK and US”.
“The first initiative under AUKUS is to support Australia to acquire conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines for #YourADF, while upholding the highest safety, security and non-proliferation standards,” Campbell’s Twitter thread said.
“The nuclear-powered submarine program will create thousands of jobs in Australia over the coming decades in shipbuilding & sustainment roles, from welding to advanced manufacturing & hi-tech design.”
There was a link to a slick video featuring serving defence personnel spruiking the wonders and importance of “our” nuclear-powered “submarine enterprise”.
The tricky part of this, of course, is that this “enterprise” remains a figment of imaginations and hopes rather than anything concrete.
Rate rises are crushing house prices and ‘zombie’ firms
There has only been one economic driver of this correction: the Reserve Bank’s near-record increase in the cost of borrowing.
Christopher Joye Columnist
Updated Sep 16, 2022 – 11.52am, first published at 11.22am
According to this newspaper’s economics editor, John Kehoe, national house price falls of more than 10 to 15 per cent “would likely make Reserve Bank of Australia governor Phil Lowe nervous” because of their impact on “consumer spending and housing construction”.
Many would speculate that Kehoe did not simply pull this opinion out of his behind: that is to say, this might be an accurate representation of the Martin Place mandarin’s otherwise precarious state of mind.
If that’s true, the RBA should be crapping its dacks. Based on CoreLogic’s compositionally adjusted index data to September 15, dwelling values across the five largest cities have been tumbling at a circa 16 per cent annualised pace over the past three months.
The rolling three-month, annualised rate of losses in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, is sitting at a horrifying 22.5 per cent. And in Melbourne and Brisbane, home values are plunging at a still record-breaking 14 to 15 per cent annualised rate.
Politicians go Lowe - he goes high
By Shane Wright
September 16, 2022 — 3.49pm
For months, Philip Lowe and the Reserve Bank have been kicked around by politicians like a football in the middle of the MCG.
On Friday, the RBA governor returned fire with some very pointed kicks to the shins of the political class.
The bank’s day job is monetary policy, using it to keep inflation between 2 and 3 per cent while aiming for full employment and securing the “economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia”.
Plenty of politicians reckon the bank, and Lowe, have got it wrong. Some have called for his head on a spike while both Labor and the Coalition went to the election promising the first independent review of the RBA since the early 1980s.
Facing the latest House of Representatives economics committee, where there were plenty of criticisms dressed up as questions, Lowe took the opportunity to wade into the very non-RBA world of fiscal policy.
Rates up, taxes to follow, says RBA boss Philip Lowe
10:00PM September 16, 2022
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has urged Jim Chalmers to take tough decisions on tax, spending and economic reform to tackle the budget deficit, warning Australia cannot keep using the “national credit card” to pay for unsustainable spending commitments.
Dr Lowe, in an appearance before a parliamentary committee, signalled official interest rates were likely to increase again when the Reserve Bank board next met on October 5 and said he would not be surprised’ if house prices fell 10 per cent from their recent highs.
The central bank chief said he never promised nor committed to keeping rates low until 2024, but he accepted people understood his “conditional” statements as late as last year to mean that.
Dr Lowe acknowledged that five consecutive rate hikes this year had been “unwelcome for many people, especially those who have borrowed large sums over recent times”.
He also acknowledged the deteriorating outlook for the world economy made the “narrow path’’ of taming inflation through rate rises and avoiding a recession more difficult to navigate.
Dr Lowe used his first appearance before a parliamentary economics committee since the election to highlight the “significant issue” of massive deficits at a time when unemployment was at a 50-year low and booming commodity prices had pushed the terms of trade to their highest in history.
WHO says COVID end in sight, deaths at lowest since March 2020
September 15, 2022 — 7.19am
Geneva: The head of the World Health Organisation said that the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide last week was the lowest reported in the pandemic since March 2020, marking what could be a turning point in the years-long global outbreak.
At a press briefing in Geneva on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world has never been in a better position to stop COVID-19.
“We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” he said, comparing the effort to that made by a marathon runner nearing the finish line. “Now is the worst time to stop running,” he said. “Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap all the rewards of our hard work.”
In its weekly report on the pandemic, the UN health agency said deaths fell by 22 per cent in the past week, at just over 11,000 reported worldwide. There were 3.1 million new cases, a drop of 28 per cent, continuing a weeks-long decline in the disease in every part of the world.
La Nina strike three: another summer of gloom and flood doom
9:41PM September 13, 2022
Australia is poised to enter a third consecutive summer La Nina event.
After months of speculation, the Bureau of Meteorology confirmed another summer of wet weather is set to lash the country’s east coast.
On Tuesday, the BOM confirmed a new La Nina event is developing in the Pacific Ocean and would likely affect Australians for the remainder of the year.
“Models indicate this La Nina event may peak during the spring and return to neutral conditions early in 2023,” the BOM announced.
“La Nina events increase the chances of above-average rainfall for northern and eastern Australia during spring and summer. ”
Royal Commissions And The Like.
No entries in this category.
National Budget Issues.
Business conditions rosy but consumers ‘very pessimistic’
Michael Read Reporter
Sep 13, 2022 – 12.55pm
Above-average trading conditions and profitability pushed measures of business confidence higher in August, but successive rate rises by the Reserve Bank are dampening consumers’ willingness to spend money on non-essentials, new data show.
Measures of business confidence increased in August, according to NAB’s monthly business survey, while measures of trading conditions, employment and profitability remained above average.
Some of the cost pressures facing firms eased in August. Quarterly labour costs grew by 3.5 per cent in the three months to August, down from 4.5 per cent in July, while purchase costs increased by 4.4 per cent, down from 5.3 per cent.
The capacity utilisation rate, which measures the extent firms are making the most of their resources, remains well above average at 86.3 per cent, suggesting extraordinary levels of labour market tightness are unlikely to soften in the near future.
NAB group chief economist Alan Oster said buoyant demand meant firms were passing higher costs through to consumers, with retail prices increasing by another 3.3 per cent in the three months to August.
“Overall, the survey indicates that demand remained strong through August,” said Mr Oster.
Jobless rate inches up to 3.5pc, still at near 50-year lows
September 15, 2022
The unemployment rate has inched higher to 3.5 per cent in August, as the economy added 33,500 jobs.
The slight lift in the key jobless measure from 3.4 per cent a month before was a result of people returning to the workforce, with the participation rate adding 0.2 percentage points to 66.6 per cent, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The underemployment rate – which measures those with jobs but who would like to work more hours – fell to 5.9 per cent from 6 per cent, the seasonally adjusted data showed.
The consensus view among analysts had been for unemployment to remain at 3.4 per cent.
There were just shy of 13.6m people classified by the ABS as employed – that is, who had worked during the survey week, or 590,000 more than pre-pandemic.
Victoria’s monkeypox outbreak grows as doctors warn symptoms mirror STIs
September 11, 2022 — 4.51pm
· More than 40 locally acquired cases of monkeypox have been reported in Victoria and doctors warn diagnosis is being complicated by symptoms closely mirroring other sexually transmitted infections.
· More than half of Australia’s 129 cases have been reported in a fast-moving outbreak of the virus in Victoria.
· There are 16 active cases in Victoria and eight people across the state have been hospitalised.
Victorian health officials are racing to determine the source of more than 40 locally acquired cases of monkeypox, as doctors warn diagnosis is complicated by symptoms closely mirroring sexually transmitted infections including syphilis and herpes.
More than half of Australia’s 129 monkeypox cases have been reported in a fast-growing outbreak of the virus in Victoria. Infections in Melbourne grew again recently, and contact tracers using genomic sequencing have determined about two-thirds of the state’s 67 cases have been transmitted locally since May.
Deal off: Ramsay Health Care, KKR talks collapse
Sep 13, 2022 – 8.09am
The year’s biggest M&A deal, Ramsay Health Care’s near $30 billion takeover, is off.
It is understood the company’s suitor, a consortium led by KKR & Co, sent a letter to Ramsay chairman Michael Siddle on Monday night, reconfirming it would not offer $88 a share all cash for the company and could not increase its alternative proposal.
Ramsay’s board, advised by UBS and Goldman Sachs, had been asking KKR to lift its bid to keep the situation alive.
So with KKR unwilling to lift its bid, and Ramsay’s board not softening from its earlier calls, it’s at a stalemate.
Ramsay is expected to explain the situation to investors on Tuesday morning.
Ramsay’s board wanted KKR to increase its offer back towards $88 a share, which is where the group was granted due diligence, however KKR and its co-investors thought the business had materially deteriorated over the past six months and wouldn’t budge.
Surgery backlog highest on record as hospitals trial shorter stays to address issue
By Mary Ward
September 18, 2022 — 5.00am
A record number of people in NSW are waiting longer than clinically recommended for elective surgery, as surgeons trial shorter hospital stays for some procedures.
There were more than 18,700 people overdue for surgery at the state’s public hospitals by June, according to the Bureau of Health Information’s quarterly report released this week, nine times more than before the Delta lockdown last year.
The waitlist included more than 1500 people who had waited over a year for a total knee replacement, and more than 600 waiting the same time for a total hip replacement. Cataract surgery had the largest number of patients waiting longer than clinically recommended, with more than 2400 people overdue.
Of the procedures completed between April and June, one in 10 patients recommended to wait less than a year had waited more than 16 months. Wait times in the more serious semi-urgent category – which includes procedures such as heart valve replacements or fracture treatment – were also longer, with one in 10 people waiting more than five months for surgery meant to occur within 90 days.
Elizabeth II: an appreciation by Simon Schama
The UK’s longest-serving monarch was so much more than a head of state — she was quintessential Britain.
Sep 11, 2022 – 1.47pm
The message due to go out from the Queen’s private secretary was “London Bridge is down”: code for the death of Elizabeth II.
When her father George VI died in February 1952, the code had been “Hyde Park Corner”. But the choice this time was more than an arbitrary pick from London topography; rather, words denoting profound collapse.
The nursery-rhyme prompt seems apt, since the nation now feels itself orphaned. It matters not how long anticipated the death of a mother figure might be; the time can never be right for her actual passing.
In this case the shock of reality is especially acute, because Elizabeth II seemed to embody in her personal longevity the reassuring continuity of British history; of the four-nation United Kingdom and, beyond, of the Commonwealth.
Elizabeth II was Global Britain personified
The Queen oversaw the country’s transition from an empire to a post-imperial power.
Gideon Rachman Columnist
Sep 11, 2022 – 7.59am
The death of Elizabeth II is an event that has resonated far beyond the shores of Britain.
All flags at US government buildings will be flown at half mast until the Queen’s funeral. The EU has also lowered flags at its buildings. Even distant Brazil has declared three days of national mourning in response to her death.
Just a few days ago, Liz Truss, Britain’s new prime minister, was unable to say if President Macron of France is a friend or foe.
But Macron responded to the Queen’s death with a heartfelt tribute, saying that she had embodied the “warm, sincere and loyal partnership” between the UK and France.
This international outpouring demonstrates the Queen’s success in transcending politics and easing international tensions.
Wartime economics comes to Europe
We’re getting a real-time lesson in the realities of economic policy. You can’t – indeed, shouldn’t – always let markets rip.
Sep 9, 2022 – 11.46am
The West isn’t exactly at war with Russia. However, it isn’t exactly not at war, either. Western weapons have helped Ukraine to stall Russia’s invasion and even to counter-attack, while Western economic sanctions have clearly created serious problems for Russian industry.
Russia has retaliated with a de facto embargo on exports of natural gas to Europe. This shows how Vladimir Putin actually thinks the war is going. After all, this will have huge long-run costs: nobody will ever again consider Russia a reliable trading partner.
But Putin appears willing to bear those costs in an attempt to bully the West into reducing its support for Ukraine – which he wouldn’t do if he were confident about the military situation.
In any case, the embargo has raised the economic stakes. Six months ago, there was a lot of discussion about whether Europe could, or should, stop importing energy from Russia. Well, Russia has in effect made that decision on Europe’s behalf.
And Europe seems set to respond by doing what democracies always do when confronted with wartime inflation: imposing windfall profits taxes, price controls and (probably) rationing.
Russian nationalists rage after soldiers flee Ukraine
Sep 12, 2022 – 8.27am
London | Russian nationalists called angrily on Sunday for President Vladimir Putin to make immediate changes to ensure ultimate victory in the Ukraine war, a day after Moscow was forced to abandon its main bastion in north-eastern Ukraine.
The swift fall of Izium in Kharkiv province was Russia’s worst military defeat since its troops were forced back from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in March.
As Russian forces abandoned town after town on Saturday, Mr Putin was opening Europe’s largest ferris wheel in a Moscow park, while fireworks lit up the sky over Red Square to celebrate the city’s founding in 1147.
In an 11-minute-long voice message posted to the Telegram messaging app, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally whose troops have been at the forefront of the campaign in Ukraine, dismissed the loss of Izium, a critical supply hub.
But he conceded the campaign was not going to plan.
Dismantling our castles in the air
September 12, 2022 — 5.00am
We are, remarkably, still only at the beginning of what already seems an endless parade of royal imagery, printed or broadcast or tweeted. There are days of pageantry ahead, of solemn ceremony, public tears and worn prose, of personal recollections of the time a certain face was glimpsed. Because this is all about the passage of time as much as it is about a person, it makes sense that the most enduring image for me, so far, is one I heard described on that quaint and enduring medium, AM radio. Half a million people crowded Sydney’s foreshore in 1954, an expert said. When the young Queen’s foot touched Australian soil for the first time, there was perfect silence.
Of course this isn’t true. People make quiet jokes, they gasp, they complain or notice something else and comment on it. They are people. And I may be misrepresenting the expert. Perhaps there was a caveat or two, and in fact I suspect the word “perfect” was not uttered. I haven’t found the audio, and I won’t look for it because I prefer the image in my mind, its concise expression of both scale and awe, its nearness to fable or fairytale, with its simplicity and reference to a royal shoe. Mostly, though, I like its contradictions – the way it is both true and not; the way the crowd is both silent and not; the way the crowd is both human and not – because in these ways the crowd is made to mirror the qualities of the Queen herself.
What has most struck me about the thousands of words I have now read on the subject – of the many million there must be – is how confused we seem to be about the Queen. This confusion does not manifest, as it does with most topics, in arguments, but in consensus: most people (or most of those who feel they must speak) are confused in exactly the same way.
Beware of a wounded Putin
By Marc Bennetts
September 12, 2022
The scale of Russia’s military collapse in the northeast of Ukraine has prompted celebrations in Kyiv but a wounded President Vladimir Putin is likely to be even more dangerous.
A lightning counteroffensive by the Ukrainian army has forced Russia to abandon key towns such as Izyum and Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region and amounts to arguably the biggest setback for Moscow in the war.
Ukraine has also seized a large number of Russian armoured vehicles and tanks. On Sunday General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Ukrainian commander-in-chief, said almost 3108km of territory had been recovered since the start of the month, a third of it in the past 24 hours.
Russia had been tricked into sending forces to the southern Kherson region to counter an expected Ukrainian campaign there.
Russian rout fuels dissent against Putin
Campbell MacDiarmid and James Kilner
Sep 12, 2022 – 8.27am
Kharkiv | President Vladimir Putin has drawn flak from nationalists and at least one of his key military supporters, after Ukraine’s rapid liberation of occupied territory in the country’s north-east and the apparent collapse of Russian defences.
Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who has sent thousands of his fighters to the front, criticised Russian authorities for failing to prepare the public for the sudden apparent reversal. “Mistakes were made,” he said in a rambling late-night Telegram post on Saturday (Sunday AEST).
“If today or tomorrow changes aren’t made to the strategy of the special military operation, I will be forced to contact the leadership of the defence ministry and the leadership of the country and explain the real situation on the ground,” he said.
The scale of the Russian defeat around Kharkiv is only just emerging, but videos and photos uploaded online show scores of abandoned tanks and other equipment. Body armour and rifles, rations and clothes were also discarded by the fleeing Russian army.
The Ukraine war has reached a turning point
The prospect of Russian defeat is real and exhilarating. But Ukraine’s advances also open a new and dangerous phase in the conflict.
Gideon Rachman Columnist
Sep 13, 2022 – 7.23am
The sight of Russian troops in headlong retreat in Ukraine is stunning — but it should not be surprising.
This war has gone badly for Russia from the outset. Vladimir Putin failed to achieve the lightning victory that he was aiming for on February 24. By April, the Russians had been forced into a humiliating retreat after making incursions towards Kyiv.
The limited gains Russia has made over the past six months have come at a terrible cost. The original invasion force mustered by the Kremlin was around 200,000 troops. The US estimated last month that 70,000-80,000 of that force has been killed or wounded since the beginning of the invasion.
Unwilling to acknowledge that Russia is at war, Putin has refused to institute conscription. By contrast, Ukraine has mobilised its entire adult male population. As a result, Ukraine now probably has more troops on the battlefield than Russia.
How the Ukraine offensive will shift the market narrative
Attitudes toward events in the war have been inconsistent since the beginning. A little humility is in order.
John Authers Contributor
Sep 13, 2022 – 9.43am
The Ukrainian armed forces appear (and I emphasise appear) to have taught the rest of the world yet another lesson in the need to be cautious about knowing what we know.
If the reports of the last few days are correct, then the chances of a Ukrainian “victory” have risen sharply, just as have the chances that the war’s aftermath will at last lead to the downfall of Vladimir Putin in Russia.
The odds on a lengthy stalemate that can mostly be ignored by the rest of the world (a sort of wider-scale version of the situation that had adhered since Russia’s first incursions into the Donbas in 2014) do appear to have been reduced.
The question is whether in narrowly economic and financial terms the outcomes that now appear to be growing more likely will be better or worse. And that answer isn’t clear.
Ukraine’s wins will start reshaping the politics of this war
Russia had hoped to break Ukraine with a gas war on the West. Now it looks as though the battlefield will be decisive.
Ross Douthat Contributor
Sep 12, 2022 – 1.44pm
The summer of war in Ukraine, while brutal for soldiers and civilians on the front lines, has been experienced from afar as a stalemate, depressing enough in its grinding sameness to slip out of American headlines for a time.
The northern hemisphere autumn and winter will be different, supplying answers to the two questions that will determine the war’s duration. First, how much territory can Ukraine liberate from Russian occupation? Second, how grim and desperate will the European winter be with normal Russian energy supplies cut off, and what political consequences will follow?
We are at the beginning of both stories. The long-promised Ukrainian counteroffensive is finally underway; at one end of the front line, a sudden and dramatic thrust eastward from around Ukrainian-held Kharkiv, and at the other, a slower advance toward occupied Kherson, Russia’s only major beachhead west of the Dnieper River. The Kharkiv offensive has seemingly thrown the occupiers into disarray, liberating important towns and territories and sowing dismay and fury on the Russian side.
As Russian losses mount in Ukraine, so does criticism back home
Sep 13, 2022 – 4.57pm
Moscow | More than 40 local elected officials across Russia signed a two-sentence petition on Monday that ended with: “We demand the resignation of Vladimir Putin from the post of president of the Russian Federation!”
The petition, pushed by opponents of the Ukraine invasion, had no practical impact, and it was roundly ignored in Russia’s state-controlled media. But it was striking in its very existence, showing that despite the Kremlin’s extraordinary crackdown on dissent, Ukraine’s counteroffensive successes have left Mr Putin’s opponents newly emboldened – and his supporters looking for someone else to blame.
Pro-war commentators and politicians have pointed to the military leadership or senior officials, saying they have not waged the war with sufficient decisiveness and competence, or have not delivered all the facts to Mr Putin. Longtime Kremlin critics have seized on that discord, and Russia’s setbacks at the front, to take the risk of speaking out against Mr Putin.
“There is now hope that Ukraine will end this war,” said Ksenia Torstrem, a member of a municipal council in St Petersburg who helped organise the petition and called Ukrainian advances an “inspiring factor” for it. “We decided we needed to put pressure on from all sides.”
Ukrainians have shown they can fight; they just need more weapons
As Europe steels itself for a winter with emergency energy market interventions, the sooner Ukraine wins the war the better.
Misha Zelinsky Special correspondent
Updated Sep 14, 2022 – 8.26am, first published at 8.25am
After the most consequential phase of the war since the Battle for Kyiv, Vladimir Putin is on the ropes for the first time.
Ukraine has just recaptured thousands of square kilometres in the north-east, while successes also being reported in the critical battle for Kherson, in the south.
More stunning than vision of Ukrainian flags being raised across dozens of liberated townships has been the sheer speed of Russia’s military rout.
Russia is admitting little, and the retaliation could be brutal, but President Vladimir Putin knows what happens to Russian regimes that lose wars. The Bolshevik revolution was triggered by First World War, while the Soviet Union collapsed after its inglorious defeat in Afghanistan.
Fed’s best-case scenario in fighting inflation is dead
The big takeaway of August’s CPI report is that inflation remains high and broad-based – and that is likely to keep the Fed relatively aggressive.
Sep 14, 2022 – 3.45am
The latest reacceleration in underlying inflation just took the US Federal Reserve’s best-case scenario off the table, and that may help explain the market’s violent sell-off in the wake of the data: the central bank is not likely to suspend aggressive interest-rate increases soon.
But the base case for monetary policy – a 4 per cent terminal fed funds rate by late 2022 or early 2023 – remains very much intact despite all the market hysteria.
The core consumer price index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, jumped 0.6 per cent in August and accelerated to 6.3 per cent from the period a year earlier.
But the core version of the personal consumption expenditures price index, which the Fed uses for its 2 per cent inflation target, is likely to slow to about 4.3 per cent, according to Anna Wong, Bloomberg Economics’ chief US economist, who adjusts the CPI basket to match the PCE’s weights.
Ukraine’s victories have earned it our full support
Railroading Kyiv into talks, or anything less than wholehearted support, would seem like betrayal after Ukraine’s feats of arms this week.
Updated Sep 14, 2022 – 9.19am, first published at Sep 13, 2022 – 6.13pm
Ukraine has now posed its supporters and allies such as Australia a welcome new problem – what to do if Kyiv starts winning? Vladimir Putin certainly never considered the possibility his aggression might fail. Yet, Russia’s chief route so far to winning the war, by encircling the Ukrainians in the key Donbas region, has been smashed by Ukraine’s clever counter-punching in Kherson and now Kharkiv over the past week.
Mr Putin may yet escalate his way out, hitting Ukrainian civilians even harder, ordering general mobilisation of all Russia forces, or even going beyond the pale with tactical nuclear weapons. He will be under great pressure to do so from ultra-nationalist allies much further to the right, such as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. They could become a volatile and even more dangerous internal opposition to Mr Putin.
But Ukraine has won a critical, heartening victory on the battlefield just as Ukraine’s western European supporters prepare to face their own harshest winter since the 1940s as Mr Putin turns off the gas. European governments are borrowing wartime levels of spending on energy price caps and subsidies to shield populations and economies as prices inflate and growth is crushed.
Mr Putin is throwing away his biggest energy market and source of revenue in the hope the Europeans will blink first and pull their vital backing for sanctions. These are huge upheavals, hard to reverse. The politics have yet to be felt, but European governments have so far put Ukraine first, figuring it is better than having to appease Mr Putin and submit to him dictating Europe’s security.
‘Your body, our choice’: Republican senator slammed over national abortion ban bill
September 14, 2022 — 5.53am
Washington: Women in every US state would be prohibited from having an abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy under a proposed national ban designed to galvanise Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.
Three months after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in America, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, an ally of Donald Trump, has introduced legislation for a federal ban, claiming that such a move would get the nation into a position that was “fairly consistent with the rest of the world”.
The legislation would include exceptions for cases involving rape, incest or risks to the life and health of the mother.
And while it has no chance of receiving a vote in Congress while the Democrats currently have a slim majority, its aim is largely to activate Republicans and pro-life forces to vote in the midterms on November 8, in order to shift the balance of power.
“If we take back the House and Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on the bill,” said Graham, speaking at a press conference alongside pro-life groups at the US Capitol on Tuesday (US time).
Ukraine fears western supporters are nervous of humiliating Putin
Volodymyr Zelensky now wants weapons that do more than soften up Russian lines and wreck ammunition depots. Ukraine’s president knows only total victory will do.
By Roger Boyes
From The Times
September 14, 2022
In any armed conflict there are always two wars under way: the one of blood and blunder, and the one we are allowed to talk about, full of necessary lies and myth-making. These worlds are now colliding in Moscow. Thanks to a bracing counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine, it has been a black week for Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s high command failed to spot signs of a Ukrainian military build-up in the northeast, the humiliation is being aired publicly, opinion pollsters sense a shift in mood, the propaganda messaging is going adrift and there is a breakdown of trust between the Putin elites. Russians, many of them previously indifferent to the fighting across the border, are talking like losers.
And the Ukrainians, who have during the past 200 days developed a language of resistance, are daring to talk of victory, of “deoccupation”. That’s down partly to the western-supported reinvention of their army as a nimble Israeli-style force that can outwit a clumsy Russian military commanded by officers who won their spurs bombing civilians in Syria six years ago.
The deliberate drawing of Russian forces towards the south, the Kherson region, exposed their weaknesses of defence in the eastern Donbas. Ukrainian military analysts compare their lightning grab with Operation Gazelle in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war when the Israelis bamboozled the Egyptians and seized bridgeheads on the east and west of the Suez Canal.
Why horror US inflation data panicked markets
Investors are waking up to the reality that the US Federal Reserve hasn’t even started to bring down core inflation, and a new regime for markets has arrived.
Updated Sep 14, 2022 – 12.17pm, first published at 10.01am
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The release on Tuesday night of the most important set of economic data in the world, US monthly inflation, was predicted to be a pretty benign affair.
Sure, core inflation (which excludes food and petrol prices) would remain pretty sticky, but headline inflation would fall a little, giving hope that the little rally of the past week could keep rolling.
Instead, we got a nightmare on Wall Street.
Instead of falling month-on-month, headline inflation actually rose by 0.1 per cent, taking the annual rate to 8.3 per cent.
But worse – much worse – was the reading for core inflation; the predicted 0.3 per cent rise actually came in twice as high at 0.6 per cent, with the annual pace of change surging from 5.9 per cent to 6.1 per cent.
Putin has a new opposition, and it’s furious at defeat in Ukraine
A loose coalition of far-right ideologues and militant extremists are spreading a dangerous “stab-in-the-back” myth to explain Russia’s crushing defeats.
Sep 15, 2022 – 8.00am
A new Russian protest movement is coalescing, but it’s neither pro-democracy nor anti-war. Instead, it’s the most extreme of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s supporters, who have grown increasingly furious at the unfolding military disaster for Russia in the six-month-long war in Ukraine.
They want Putin to escalate the war, use more devastating weapons, and hit Ukrainian civilians even more mercilessly. And they’ve openly attacked the Russian military and political leadership for supposedly holding back Russia’s full might – even as they rarely mention Putin by name.
Their push to escalate the war, including widespread demands to use nuclear weapons, is dangerous in itself. But by creating a fantasy world in which a supposedly all-powerful Russian army is being defeated by domestic enemies – instead of by superior Ukrainian soldiers fighting for their own land with modern tactics and Western weapons – the movement has potentially disturbing implications for a postwar and possibly post-Putin Russia.
In fact, the narrative sounds a lot like the Dolchstosslegende, the German “stab-in-the-back” conspiracy theory that blamed the country’s defeat in World War I on nefarious enemies at home, including Jews. This narrative of military defeat became an integral part of the propaganda that brought the Nazis to power.
Ukraine’s wins make war with Russia more dangerous
Sep 14, 2022 – 1.25pm
Ukrainian forces have reconquered more than 3000 square kilometres of territory over the past week – more than all the territory Russia had added to its occupation in the six months since the start of the war.
The Ukrainian flag is suddenly flying again over numerous towns and villages, and the offensives in both the north-east and the south are pushing the Russians back. Abandoned Russian tanks and trucks are littering the roads.
Is this a pivotal moment in the war? What is Vladimir Putin’s next move?
At a tactical level, the results on the battlefield are important but not definitive. While the Ukrainians have moved swiftly to bloody Russia’s nose, the Russians can simply fall back into defensive positions, consolidate their forces, and defend their gains in Donbas and the vital land bridge to Crimea that runs through Mariupol.
As the Russians shift from offence to defence, their military position will get stronger – in military parlance, “defence is to offence as three is to one”.
Europe unveils its imperfect plan to survive winter
Senior business columnist
September 15, 2022 — 11.05am
The Europeans have finally come up with a plan to respond to the soaring energy prices and likely energy shortages flowing from Russia’s decision to cut off most of its gas supplies into Europe in retaliation to the sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine.
The plan is imperfect because it responds to the price impacts of Russia’s throttling of its gas exports into Europe rather than the fundamental but more difficult issue of energy supply.
The Europeans, however, are more focused on surviving the looming northern winter than the longer-term ambition of completely replacing their former energy dependence on Russia with new sources of supply.
On Wednesday the European Commission detailed its proposed response to Europe’s energy crisis. The plan has a number of elements, the first of which is to reduce demand.
Xi has concerns over Ukraine war, says Vladimir Putin
Sarah Zheng and Philip Glamann
Sep 15, 2022 – 11.30pm
Uzbekistan | Russian President Vladimir Putin told his counterpart Xi Jinping he understands Beijing’s “questions and concerns” about his invasion of Ukraine, as the Chinese leader said the two countries could “inject stability and positive energy to a world in chaos”.
In their first in-person talks since the war began, Putin hailed “the balanced position of our Chinese friends on the Ukraine crisis” and offered to “explain in detail our position” on Ukraine. In short televised comments at the start of the meeting, the Russian leader also blasted what he called “provocations by the US and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait”.
Calling Putin “old friend”, Xi said, “China is willing to work with Russia, display the responsibilities of the major powers, and play a leading role to inject stability and positive energy to a world in chaos.”
Their meeting came as both Russia and China face growing pressure from the US and its allies over the war in Ukraine and Beijing’s increased military activity around Taiwan. Xi has resisted Washington’s call to condemn Russia’s invasion, while Moscow has pledged its “solidarity” for Beijing over Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China claims as its territory.
Ukraine’s ‘insanely risky’ fightback relied on speed
Ukrainian forces threw orthodoxy to the wind by ripping up both Western and Soviet military rule books for a plan most generals would have dismissed as insanely risky.
Roland Oliphant and Dominic Nicholls
Sep 16, 2022 – 8.03am
“AMMO!” screamed the man on top of the vehicle as it charged headlong across the east Ukrainian plain. “Give me ammo!”
A colleague below misheard, and handed up an anti-tank rocket launcher.
Without time to argue the gunner took it, fired it at his target, and repeated his demand for more 50-calibre rounds – only to be handed another rocket.
The episode, captured on the English-speaking gunner’s body camera, provided a comic, frightening and, as yet, rare glimpse of the fast-moving battle for Kharkiv region last week.
It also embodied the elements that seem to have made last week’s remarkable offensive possible: speed, aggression and a good deal of improvisation.
Suddenly, Ukraine is winning the war
After Ukrainian forces’ remarkable offensive in the Kharkiv region, there is now talk of defeat on the Russian side. But while Moscow is losing, it has not lost yet.
Sep 16, 2022 – 5.00am
As with bankruptcy so with military defeat. What appears to be a long, painful grind can quickly turn into a rout. A supposedly resilient and well-equipped army can break and look for means of escape. This is not unusual in war. We saw it happen with the Afghan Army in the summer of 2021.
We have been witnessing a remarkable Ukrainian offensive in Kharkiv. We have the spectacle of a bedraggled army in retreat: remnants of a smashed-up convoy; abandoned vehicles; positions left in a hurry, with scattered kit and uneaten food; miserable prisoners; and local people cheering on the Ukrainian forces as they drive through their villages.
The speed of advance has been impressive, as tens of square kilometres turn into hundreds and then thousands, and a handful of villages and towns liberated turns into dozens.
It would be premature to pronounce a complete Ukrainian victory in the war because of one successful and unexpected breakthrough, but what has happened in recent days is of historic importance. This offensive has overturned much of what was confidently assumed about the course of the war.
Global recession looms as interest rates rise, World Bank Says
Sep 16, 2022 – 3.34am
The global economy may face a recession next year caused by an aggressive wave of policy tightening that could yet prove inadequate to temper inflation, the World Bank said in a new report.
Policymakers around the world are rolling back monetary and fiscal support at a degree of synchronisation not seen in half a century, according to the study released in Washington. That sets off larger-than-envisioned impacts in sapping financial conditions and deepening the global growth slowdown, it said.
Investors expect central banks to raise global monetary policy rates to almost 4 per cent next year, double the average in 2021, just to keep core inflation at the 5 per cent level. Rates could go as high as 6 per cent if central banks look to wrangle inflation within their target bands, according to the report’s model.
The World Bank study estimates 2023 global gross domestic product growth to slow to 0.5 per cent, and contract 0.4 per cent in per capita terms that would meet the technical definition of a global recession. After record expansion in 2021, this would cut short recovery well before economic activity has returned to its pre-pandemic trend, it said.
Putin and Xi meet to solidify partnership against ‘ugly’ West
By Eryk Bagshaw
September 15, 2022 — 11.54pm
Jeju: Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have met in Uzbekistan, solidifying the partnership between Moscow and Beijing as Russia haemorrhages territory in Ukraine.
In his first visit overseas since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Chinese President used the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) forum in Uzbekistan to draw Central Asia closer to China and whittle down support for the US-led world order.
Xi did so as Russia bombarded a dam in the central city of Kryvyi Rih and shelled Zaporizhzhia in the southeast as it pushed back against a week of losses to Ukrainian resistance. China has had to balance its own diplomatic goals with escalating fears about the territorial ambitions of Moscow in Central Asia, where former Soviet Socialist Republics including Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have long memories of Russian occupation.
In a concession to Beijing’s disquiet about the ongoing trajectory of the war, Putin said he understood China’s “questions and concerns” before thanking Xi for China’s “balanced view” on the “Ukraine topic”.
Modi rebukes Putin over war in Ukraine
Sep 17, 2022 – 7.51am
Challenged bluntly and publicly by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would strive to stop the conflict “as soon as possible”.
But then he accused Ukraine of refusing to negotiate, although Putin ordered the invasion and his troops are still occupying a large swath of Ukrainian territory.
Putin made the remarks during an appearance with Modi in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where they are attending a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
In a stunning public rebuke, Modi told Putin: “Today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this.”
The rare reproach showed the 69-year-old Russian strongman coming under extraordinary pressure from all sides. Internationally, he is facing calls to end the war not only from his traditional critics in the West, but also from Asian partners whom he cannot paint as beholden to the US.
How this machine is ‘making oxygen out of thin air’ on Mars
Sep 16, 2022 – 10.18am
Millions of miles away on Mars, in a barren crater just north of the equator, a rover is wandering around, carrying a gold-coated gadget the size of a toaster. The machine inhales the Martian air and strips away contaminants. It splits the atmospheric gas into constituent parts, takes what it needs, and then reassembles that blend to create something that is in very short supply on Mars: oxygen. Real, breathable oxygen, the kind you took in as you read these sentences.
After a bit of analysis, the machine puffs out the oxygen, harmlessly releasing the molecules into the Martian environment. The act makes this very sophisticated toaster, situated in the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover, the closest thing to a small tree on Mars.
And according to the researchers behind the little machine, it’s a pretty good tree. Every time they’ve run it, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment – MOXIE, for short – has successfully converted Martian air, which is almost entirely made of carbon dioxide, into oxygen gas. “We’re not far from being able to produce oxygen at the rate that would sustain a human being,” says Michael Hecht, a planetary scientist at MIT’s Haystack Observatory who leads the project. “A small dog would be just fine at the rate that we produce.”
MOXIE is a clever chemistry experiment. It is also a remarkable event in the history of space exploration. If human beings want to build a long-term home on Mars, they’ll have to make use of the planet’s natural resources instead of lugging everything they need all the way from Earth.
Putin warns of escalation as India, China distance from Russia
Anton Troianovski, Mujib Mashal and Julian E. Barnes
Sep 17, 2022 – 10.57am
Underlining Russia’s widening isolation on the world stage, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India told President Vladimir Putin on Friday that it is no time for war — even as the Russian president threatened to escalate the brutality of his campaign in Ukraine.
The televised admonishment by Mr Modi at a regional summit in Uzbekistan came a day after Mr Putin acknowledged that Xi Jinping, China’s leader, had “questions and concerns” about the war.
Taken together, the distancing from Mr Putin by the heads of the world’s two most populous countries — both of which have been pivotal to sustaining Russia’s economy in the face of Western sanctions — punctured the Kremlin’s message that Russia was far from a global pariah.
“I know that today’s era is not of war,” Mr Modi told Mr Putin at the beginning of their meeting, describing global challenges like the food and energy crises that were hitting developing countries especially hard. “Today we will get a chance to discuss how we can move forward on the path of peace.”
Nowhere to hide as inflation swamps everything
Updated Sep 18, 2022 – 8.02am, first published at 7.39am
Central banks tipped to make all-out assault on inflation
The US Federal Reserve and other central banks will launch a rapid-fire attack on inflation in the coming week as their commitment to bringing consumer prices under control gets ever more resolute.
Three days of central-bank decisions are expected to deliver interest-rate hikes adding up to more than 500 basis points combined, with the potential for a bigger tally if officials opt for more aggression.
Starting the onslaught will be Sweden’s Riksbank on Tuesday, with policymakers anticipated by economists to accelerate tightening with a 75 basis-point move.
That’s just a prelude to the main event, when US officials are expected on Wednesday to raise borrowing costs by the same amount to keep up the pressure on resurgent inflation. After another consumer-price index report topping forecasts, some investors have even bet on a mammoth 100 basis-point hike.
Thursday will see the most widespread action. Central banks in the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan are all expected to raise rates. The focus then shifts to Europe, with hikes of half a point or more predicted from the Swiss National Bank, Norges Bank and the Bank of England. Further south, the South Africa Reserve Bank will continue the efforts with a 75 basis-point move expected, and Egypt may act as well.
Xi Jinping’s quest to re-define democracy
By Eryk Bagshaw
September 18, 2022 — 6.00am
In late 2021, as winter dawned on Beijing, a group of Chinese theorists, ministers and spin doctors came together to set out their plans for a new era of government – one they hoped would allow the Chinese Communist Party to remain in power forever while giving it the international respect it craves.
They were annoyed at the optics of China being snubbed from US President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy, had grown frustrated at China’s economic power not being matched by its diplomatic clout, and were anxious to avoid the endless cycle of rise and fall that has bedevilled China’s empires for millennia.
China’s President Xi Jinping was preparing for his crowning achievement at the National Party Congress this October – a third term in office – a feat not achieved since the death of Chairman Mao Zedong in 1976.
In meetings in the capital, the officials at the State Council Office sharpened their line of attack on the West’s version of democracy. They argued it was full of selfish politicians, broken campaign promises and fragmented societies.
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