Monthly Archives: October 2020

31/10/20: Gold Coins Market is Still Hedging Residual Covid Risk

Sales of the U.S. Mint gold coins have moderated off their pandemic highs, but remain elevated by historical standards, especially controlling for higher gold prices:

Since hitting a pandemic-period high of 216,500 oz in March 2020 (the highest sales volume since April 2013), the demand has moderated through June, topped 145,000 in July and 149,000 oz in August, and has been around 91,500 through the four weeks of October. This puts October sales above the last three years' average.

Average gold weight per coin sold remains relatively elevated and is co-trending with price per oz, most likely indicating lasting FOMO effect (herding by investors). The correlation is weaker than during prior episodes of major crises and recessions, suggesting that the pandemic-period demand is probably less influenced by the herding effects than in prior crises.

Annualized data through October also confirms precautionary, but not 'flight to safety' type of demand:

As the pandemic re-accelerates, it will be interesting to see how seasonality (uplift in end-of-year sales) plays out against the pandemic-related hedging positioning of investors.

Australian Politics 2020-10-31 15:29:00


The African problem comes to Darwin

The video clearly depicts Africans

A group of out-of-control youths have been terrorising Darwin, leaving residents feeling like prisoners in their own homes.

Armed with knives and rocks, the group of children - some just eight years old - have been wreaking havoc across this city every night this week.

Over the past 24 hours cars, cafes and homes have been broken into by the same group.

Blue Taxi Company has been posting images of the carnage they've experienced at the hands of the group. Their latest post shows glass scattered across the backseat of a taxi after a window was smashed. 'And another day in the war zone,' the post read.

Blue Taxi Company owner Helen Pachos told Daily Mail Australia the crime was so bad residents felt like prisoners in their own homes. 'It's just getting more and more out of control,' she said. 'During lockdown it quietened down, I'm not sure what changed in the last week but they are out and about.

'We get told by the police that it's just a group of youths - they call them youths, I call them thugs - that are repeatedly doing it.

'What is really concerning is they've got 10 and eight-year-olds tagging along, I call them ''crims in training''.'

She said she had put additional security measures in place to deter criminals but it had't stopped them from being targeted.

'We now have cameras everywhere. 'It doesn't stop them, it just gets the evidence that it's happening, that's not what I want, I want to feel safe. 'It's very scary. We're prisoners in our own home.'

Rick Hall shared a picture on Facebook on Thursday showing his car which had the window smashed in. 'That lovely little, but growing band from Karama just smashed my car with rocks as I was going past Casaurina Square,' he said.

'When I stopped and got out about ten kids pelted me with rocks and two threw their scooters at me.'

Another horrified homeowner discovered a knife left behind in a car after it was broken into this week. 'To the people of McMinns Lagoon, the little terds are armed,' the post read. 'They raided our cars and got cash. They left their knife in there so it's now in the hands of the police for fingerprints.'

Fresh Point Co cafe was also targeted by the group, with CCTV footage capturing the brazen thief in the act. The popular cafe was broken into at 2.45am on Friday after crooks smashed in the front door. The group made off with 10 bottles of alcohol.

Can the new broom remove the feminist tentacles strangling TEQSA?

Bettina Arndt

We’ve had a very lively few days, with interesting developments in our campus campaign.

The good news is we have learnt that the new CEO of TEQSA, Alistair Maclean, might be the new broom the university regulator needs to clean up its act, given its shameful history of pandering to activists by bullying universities into setting up the regulations to usurp criminal law.

Maclean’s previous job was CEO of Victoria’s anti-corruption commission, IBAC, and he was also once senior adviser to former PM John Howard. This should be a man interested in ensuring regulators do their job properly rather than allowing universities to indulge in ideologically driven policies aimed at punishing men.

We can only speculate that this was a deliberate government decision to provide some proper oversight of this regulatory authority which has so clearly run amok. Dan Tehan must be frustrated that TEQSA chose to ignore his advice at their conference last year telling them to instruct universities to leave sexual assault to the criminal courts.

The Government has also set up an TEQSA integrity unit. No, that’s not a joke! Apparently the idea is to encourage the regulator to rein in the unscrupulous behaviour exhibited by many of our universities, with the kangaroo courts coming in for particular scrutiny.

On Wednesday our campus justice group sent a long background document to Maclean, outlining the whole history of TEQSA’s shameful role in this quasi-judicial mess.

Lo and behold, the letter ended up featuring in a highly entertaining Senate Estimates session that night, where the brilliant Queensland Senator Amanda Stoker grilled Nick Saunders, Chief Commissioner of TEQSA, about TEQSA’s role in the establishment of these courts.

Regular readers may remember that last year Stoker’s inquisition left Saunders and his colleagues squirming as she waved before them one of the TEQSA documents on adjudicating campus rape cases, pointing out it contained not one word about the rights of the accused.

We’ve put together a video about all this, which starts with an extraordinary confrontation where Saunders emphatically denies that TEQSA’s initial Guidance Note to universities on this matter was intended to push them to adjudicate sexual assault. He claims he’d never heard of such a notion, apart from the letter they had received that very afternoon – which was, of course, the email from our campus justice group. Watch Saunders’ normally flushed tones turn a vivid shade of puce as he mentions the offending email!

Clearly TEQSA is not at all happy that their new CEO is being exposed to the truth about their meddling on this matter.

Anyway, please watch my video and promote it widely.

I am sure you will find the Stoker/Saunders confrontations riveting and very revealing. We need people to know about all this.

Bettina Arndt newsletter

Australia’s gas plan will push the Reef to extinction

A brainless Greenpeace emission below. Give them their assumptions and they would be right. But all their assumptions are at best dubious.

For instance, bleaching is mostly caused by sea-level fluctuations: Low level episodes in particular. They make no effort to look at that, They just regurgitate concentional assumptions

And coral is very good at regrowing so bleaching from whatever cause is never permanent. Even Ove Hoegh Guldberg noted that rapid regrowth

After three mass bleaching events in the last five years, the Great Barrier Reef is not as great as it once was. Now, as Australia attempts to rebuild from the economic fallout of COVID-19, a new threat has emerged which could threaten the world’s largest living organism even further.

Scientists have made it clear that the blame for warmer and more acidic oceans lies on coal, the number one driver of climate change. But now that the Australian Federal government is pushing for a so-called “gas-led recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of gas in the Reef’s demise can no longer go unscrutinised.

Rather than heeding the best advice of scientists and switching Australia from polluting coal and gas to clean energy sources like wind and solar, the Australian Federal Government is instead laying the groundwork to replace one destructive fossil fuel with another. If the government’s gas dreams become reality, the implications for the Reef could be cataclysmic.

In its 2019 Production Gap Report, the UN warned that in order to keep global heating at 1.5 degrees, gas production must decline by 20 percent by 2030.

“The continued rapid expansion of gas supplies and systems risks locking in a much higher gas trajectory than is consistent with a 1.5 degree Celsius or 2 degree Celsius future,” the report reads.

“These declines mean that most of the world’s proven fossil-fuel reserves must be left unburned.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impact of 1.5C of global warming found that coral reefs would likely decline between 70% and 90% if the temperature increased to that level. If global warming reaches 2C, more than 99% of coral reefs could be wiped out.

Climate change expert and researcher at the Australian National University, Professor Will Steffen, was unequivocal that gas has already damaged the Reef and expanding the industry would only make that damage worse.

“There is no doubt that climate change is the primary driver of the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef,” Professor Steffen said.

“Climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels like gas, so there is a direct link between the greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s gas industry, whether the gas is burned in Australia or elsewhere in the world, and the degradation and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Politician in hot water over ‘racist’ Chinese post

CONTROVERSIAL Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan has been accused of racism after sharing a post about Chinese LNP candidate for Stretton Peter Zhuang.

Mr Costigan shared a message from Moreton Young LNP to his personal and official Facebook pages last night opposing advertisements Mr Zhuang placed in Chinese newspapers asking for support ahead of this Saturday’s state election.

The group’s Facebook page has since been deleted.

In sharing the post to his followers, Mr Costigan wrote, “Anyone for Chinese? If so, vote for the LNP”.

The comments sparked a heated debate over whether the words used were offensive or even racist.

Facebook user Dennis Charters commented that the NQ First leader had invoked “racist comments”.

“Jason you must be clutching at straws,” he said.

Fellow Facebook user Peter Hood said the comments crossed “the boundaries of acceptable behaviour”.

“Racism is never acceptable and I’m now assured that the Italian, Chinese, Greek, 1st Australian and other ethnic North Queensland (First) supporters in Mackay are not happy,” he said.

Mr Costigan stood by his comments, saying “anyone who thought it was offensive is most likely sympathetic to the pro-Chinese Liberals”.

“As the son of an immigrant, who helped build the nation, from the Snowy Mountains to the Bowen Basin, I’m very proud of who I am, where I have come from and the special role that immigrants have played in the development of our country,” he said in a statement.




Median Household Income in September 2020

Political Calculations' initial estimate of median household income of in September 2020 is $65,630, rising above the initial estimate of $65,602 recorded for August 2020. This change marks the first positive month-over-month growth in median household income since the start of the Coronavirus Recession, with August 2020 marking its bottom, as expected.

The following chart shows the nominal (red) and inflation-adjusted (blue) trends for median household income in the United States from January 2000 through September 2020. The inflation-adjusted figures are presented in terms of constant September 2020 U.S. dollars.

Median Household Income in the 21st Century: Nominal and Real Modeled Estimates, January 2000 to September 2020

September 2020's estimate of median household income is 1.5% below February 2020's peak of $66,639.

The next chart zooms in on the period of the last three presidential terms to update the answer to the question "Is the typical American household better off than four years ago?"

Median Household Income in the 21st Century: Nominal and Real Modeled Estimates, January 2009 to September 2020

The main differences between this chart and the previous version we introduced within the last two weeks are the inflation-adjusted figures representing the purchasing power of the median household income from January 2009 through September 2020, which are now expressed in terms of constant September 2020 U.S. dollars. We've also updated the commentary to reflect the resumption of growth in median household income in September 2020.

Analyst's Notes

In the 30 October 2020 data release, minor revisions were made to the aggregate personal wage and salary income data we use to generate our estimates of median household income, which affects the estimates for July 2020 through August 2020.

The U.S. Census Bureau issued its Household Income report for the 2019 in September 2020, giving $68,703 as its estimate of median household income for the 2019 calendar year. At first glance, that figure would suggest our monthly median household estimates are understating the growth of median household income by a considerable margin, however the Census confirms the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. impacted its data collection in March 2020, increasing the non-response rate to its Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Supplement and skewing its reported results upward because of the disruption of the pandemic.

The Census Bureau's analysts indicate the survey's resulting estimate overstates median household income by 2.8%, also indicating they believe that if they had been able to collect a more complete sample, the figure would have only increased to $66,790. That figure is within $151 of Political Calculations' median household income estimate for February 2020 and represents one of the stronger year-over-year gains observed in the annual data since it began to be reported in 1967.

Other Analyst's Notes

Sentier Research suspended reporting its monthly Current Population Survey-based estimates of median household income, concluding their series with data for December 2019. Sentier Research ceased operating in 2020, as its principals would appear to have permanently retired after a 19 year run. In their absence, we are providing the estimates from our alternate methodology for estimating median household income on a monthly basis. Our data sources are presented in the following section.


Sentier Research. Household Income Trends: January 2000 through December 2019. [Excel Spreadsheet with Nominal Median Household Incomes for January 2000 through January 2013 courtesy of Doug Short]. [PDF Document]. Accessed 6 February 2020. [Note: We've converted all data to be in terms of current (nominal) U.S. dollars.]

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers - (CPI-U), U.S. City Average, All Items, 1982-84=100. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 10 September 2020. Accessed: 13 October 2020.

U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Table 2.6. Personal Income and Its Disposition, Monthly, Personal Income and Outlays, Not Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly, Middle of Month. Population. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 30 October 2020. Accessed: 30 October 2020.

U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Table 2.6. Personal Income and Its Disposition, Monthly, Personal Income and Outlays, Not Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly, Middle of Month. Compensation of Employees, Received: Wage and Salary Disbursements. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 30 October 2020. Accessed: 30 October 2020.

Goldilocks, Market Cap, and Aggregate Dividends

We're experimenting with using the relationship between a company's market capitalization and its aggregate dividends as a tool for assessing the Goldilocks quality of its stock price. By Goldilocks quality, we mean whether the value of a company's stock price is too low, too high, or just right, which would correspond to an investing decision to buy, sell or hold.

Stock Market Chaos!

Why use market cap and aggregate dividends for assessing the value of a stock? We've already established that there's a useful relationship between price per share and dividends per share when dealing with stock indices, but the increase of stock buybacks over time makes that direct approach a dicier method for evaluating individual stocks. Using market cap and aggregate dividends can eliminate the potential for a company's management to artificially dress up its "per share" financial metrics with buybacks, letting us use the next closest thing to share prices and dividends per share in determining whether it makes sense to buy, sell or hold its shares.

We've developed the basic method for evaluating an individual firm's stock valuation using General Electric (NYSE: GE) as our experimental guinea pig, but we have been seeking another publicly traded company to evaluate.

We've found a candidate: Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM). IRM is a documents management company that is set up as a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), which is perhaps best known for archiving the paper records of hundreds of large corporations, but which has been expanding into digital records management.

That's a boring, but lucrative business, where the company is currently paying an annual dividend of $2.47 per share. With a closing share price of $26.33 on 29 October 2020, that's a dividend yield of nearly 9.4%.

By contrast, the dividend yield of the S&P 500 was 1.75% back on 30 September 2020.

That large difference makes IRM an interesting stock to consider. An relatively outsized dividend yield can be both an attractive stock for investors seeking dividend income and a potential harbinger of future dividend cuts, which is the kind of stock investors would generally seek to either sell or avoid.

Which is IRM? Here's a chart showing the relationship between IRM's market cap and aggregate dividends from 2010 up to 29 October 2020, where we've focused on the periods approximately coinciding with Iron Mountain's dividend declaration dates.

Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM): Market Capitalization vs Forward Year Aggregate Dividends per Share at Dividend Declaration Dates, 2010-2020

Overall, we find there's a moderately strong relationship between IRM's market capitalization and its aggregate annual dividend payout, which currently sits at $0.71 billion with a market cap of roughly $7.59 billion.

In considering how investors have historical valued the stock at dividend declaration dates from 25 February 2010 through 5 August 2020, we find the current valuation is below the typical range we would expect given its history, which means one of two things: it's either a serious candidate for a dividend cut, or its shares are currently on sale for investors looking to pick up relatively easy money.

In August 2020, Action Biased made the case that the stock is due for a dividend cut, which our method suggests could be on the order of a 33% reduction from its current $2.74 annual dividend per share. The argument supporting a significant dividend cut recognizes the dividends the REIT paid in 2019 exceeded its Funds From Operations (FFO) by a significant margin, which is a consequence of the company having loaded up on debt to expand its digital records management operations. Cutting its dividend to cope with its debt could be advisable if it remains elevated.

Since then, presentations the company has made to investors have focused on the steps it has taken to restructure its debt at today's lower interest rates, which would make its current dividend level more sustainable. Analyst Mark Roussin picked up on that strategy in his argument that the company's stock is currently undervalued, which our analytical method suggests could provide up to a 20% gain given its current dividend payout and how investors have historically valued the firm.

So which is it? If you're looking for ideas of where to invest, you'll ultimately have to make that call for yourself, but you won't have long to wait to find out which potential view of the future will prevail. Iron Mountain will announce its 2020-Q3 financial results early on 5 November 2020 and will host a conference call for investors later that day.

According to analyst Rida Morwa, Iron Mountain may also announce a change in its dividend at that time. He's betting on it being a dividend increase, which for our method, would suggest the potential for a greater than 20% gain.

See? Interesting! Who knew a company in the record storage business could present so many possibilities for investors to weigh?

Australian Politics 2020-10-29 15:43:00


Football association bans the Australian national anthem from major series

The NRL has abandoned the national anthem for the game’s biggest showpiece event, the State of Origin series.

It will be the first time in 40 years the anthem will not be played before the kick-off when the series begins in Adelaide on Wednesday night.

The independent commission made the controversial decision at a meeting on Wednesday after consultation with the chairmen of the NSW and QLD organisations.

The explanation given was that the event is not a contest between international countries.

However the NRL has confirmed the anthem will remain for grand finals and Test matches.

The anthem became a huge issue in the NSW camp last year when Blues stars Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr spoke out before the game about their refusal to sing.

The Daily Telegraph understands the NSW Rugby League was against scrapping the anthem but bowed to the wishes of the NRL.

While Indigenous Blues opted against singing the anthem last year, NSW stars including captain Boyd Cordner, Jake Trbojevic and Damien Cook said they would sing the Australian national anthem “loud and proud”.

NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler had vowed to support any indigenous Blues players who wish to remain silent for Advance Australia Fair in 2020, saying: “Our anthem, it definitely needs work”.

Earlier this year, the ARL Commission scrapped the national anthem at the annual All Stars match on the advice of the game’s indigenous players.

Coronavirus: Sad side-effect is our meek acceptance of Premiers’ power grab

And so the recovery begins. Lily-white Victorians are emerging from their homes, their forearms shielding themselves from the sun as they take tentative steps. Young children are discovering there is another world outside their five kilometres radius.

Cafés and restaurants on Carlton’s Lygon Street are chockers, families amble through the botanical gardens, crowds flock to St Kilda beach, and in the city’s south-east region marauding gangs will once again commit home invasions and carjackings.

Normality will not be restored overnight, however. Paradoxically, the absence of circling police drones will keep many awake who are accustomed to hearing their sound. Likewise, it will be a disconcerting experience for motorists to drive without stopping at checkpoints to produce papers. People will chat with their neighbours over the fence as opposed to reporting them to the authorities. East Germany made the transition, and surely Victoria can. Assuming of course there is no third wave.

Artists, musicians, and poets are probably writing peans for the Andrews government. You can expect soon to hear actor Magda Szubanski will be narrating the upcoming production “Dan, the Musical” in honour of the Victorian Premier.

The official Victorian version of the state’s recovery will make for amusing reading.

Yesterday Health Minister Martin Foley claimed the state’s contact tracing system had withstood the “stress test of the real world”; while Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton maintained it was the best in the country. Spare us. This is the same department which only two months ago was using spreadsheets, pen, paper, and fax machines for contact tracing.

It would be premature to talk of Australia having beaten COVID-19, but not so to talk about the virus’ legacy. Sadly, it is a depressing one overall. To begin with, it has shown how ill-suited a federation is to deal with the crisis. Unlike New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who presides over a unitary system of government, the preferred approach of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his cabinet largely meant naught when it came to the issue of a co-ordinated response.

Even calling our country a federation is a stretch. We are at best a confederation. Apart from NSW, the states have become fiefdoms. Almost overnight, being an Australian meant nothing if you attempted to cross a state border. South Australia, for example, at one stage was denying entry to Victorians in border towns who needed lifesaving medical treatment in Adelaide, while at the same time making plans to fly in 800 foreign students to its three universities.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein even ordered all non-Tasmanians to leave the island in March, declaring “I make no apologies for working hard to keep Tasmanians safe”.

Presumably he does not plan to expel GST allocation, which makes up 40 per cent of the state’s revenue.

A panicked response that leads to an arbitrary closure is one thing. But premiers playing to populist sentiment in closing their borders is another, as demonstrated by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in her re-election campaign. As someone with a reputation as a vacillator and a mere figurehead, she seized on the virus to portray herself as a resolute leader. In doing so she shut out far north NSW residents, many of whom are dependent on Queensland hospitals for treatment.

In his maiden speech to Western Australia’s Parliament in 1996, a young Mark McGowan made much of his background as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy, a role in which presumably he put aside provincial yearnings. “It was Labor that successfully led this nation through the darkest days of both World Wars,” he said, lauding in particular the leadership of Prime Minister John Curtin.

As leaders, both Curtin and McGowan shared a couple of traits. Both were elected by the citizens of WA, but neither was born or raised in that state. That is where the similarity ends. Curtin was a principled man who unified the country under his leadership. Conversely, McGowan has opportunistically used the greatest threat to Australia since World War II to pick a fight with the rest of the country, having closed WA’s borders since March, even to residents from states and territories that have long recorded no cases of community transmission of the virus.

McGowan has insisted he is acting on health advice. But being a parochial braggart, he gave himself away earlier this month with his audacious declaration that opening WA to South Australia and the Northern Territory would bring no economic benefit. “All we would do is lose jobs, were we to open to those states,” he said. “They’re only saying all this for very self-interested reasons because we have higher incomes and people who are more used to travelling and therefore we will have more tourists from West Australians go to the east.”

As they say, if you wish to ascertain a man’s character, give him power.

Every Australian has a constitutional right to cross state borders, but that means little if the federal government does not act against those who would infringe it.

By and large, the Morrison government has only made token efforts to defend this right, instead relying on a proxy, that being mining billionaire Clive Palmer, who has initiated proceedings in the High Court against the WA Government.

According to Attorney-General Christian Porter, the Commonwealth simply wanted to realise “moderate middle ground” when it intervened when the matter was before the Federal Court, but he later withdrew from proceedings. It was both pusillanimous and disheartening. As such, any subsequent protest by Morrison against state closures merely emphasises his government’s impotence.

But only a fool would leave it to governments to protect civil rights, and this is an area where Australians have let themselves down badly. This virus has proved the anti-authoritarian element no longer exists in the Australian psyche. We have largely accepted questionable restrictions on our liberty but have condemned journalists who have insisted leaders account for these decisions. As evident in polling regarding support for border closures, premiers such as McGowan and Palaszczuk have delighted in our malleability.

And it is not just the politicians who increasingly exercise control over our lives. Thanks to the creeping effect we largely accept that officials in the form of anti-discrimination tribunes and human rights commissioners will regulate our behaviour. Now the virus has accelerated the rise of the bureaucratic class. Who could forget Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young, who, having blocked interstate relatives from attending funerals, decided to admit Hollywood actor Tom Hanks because “entertainment and film bring a lot of money into this state”. Excuse me?

That is not to say that everything that follows this virus is bad. For example, it is refreshing to see people have little time for the climate change evangelists and rent-seekers. Yes, I am talking to you, Zali Steggall, the federal MP and self-proclaimed “climate leader” who is desperately seeking relevance. And for us OCD types, it is joyful to see the proliferation of automatic soap dispensers.

But perhaps the most evident legacy is the burgeoning government debt, which is expected to rise to $1.5 trillion by the end of the decade. We simply cannot continue this taxpayer-funded largesse. Instead we need innovative ideas to instigate an economic recovery.

On that note, it is vital when deciding that issue to utilise those parts of industry that have been dormant because of the virus. My big idea is to lobby Parliament to allow the deportations of non-citizens in cases when the person commits an offence that results in six months or more imprisonment (currently the minimum is 12 months).

This could be the answer to Qantas and Virgin’s recovery. Just think: we would need to commission an entire fleet of planes for the trans-Tasman route alone. I am not sure what is the most attractive proposition: the recovery of our airline industry or the thought of Jacinda losing it. What is your big idea?

Lloyd's insurer Apollo to stop underwriting Adani coal mine from Sept. 2021

Adani is big enough to self-insure

Lloyd's of London firm Apollo has written insurance for Adani Enterprises' Carmichael thermal coal mine which expires in Sept 2021 but is not planning to provide any further insurance for the mine, according to a memo seen by Reuters.

Carmichael has provoked controversy in Australia because it would open up a new thermal coal basin at a time of growing concerns over global warming, in a region that is in need of jobs.

Adani has begun construction at Carmichael, which will start by producing 10 million tonnes of coal per year together with an associated rail project, and expects first production in 2021.

"We participate in one construction liability policy in respect of Adani Carmichael...this particular policy terminates in September 2021 after which we will no longer provide any insurance cover for this project," chair of Apollo Syndicate Management Julian Cusack said in the memo.

"We have recently declined to participate in an additional policy relating to the port and rail extension and have agreed that we will not participate in any further insurance policies for risks associated with this project."

Cusack confirmed to Reuters via LinkedIn that he had written the memo. Adani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many insurers, mainly in Europe, have scaled back their exposure to coal.

Lloyd's of London, which has more than 90 syndicate members, does not have an overarching policy on coal, though the Stop Adani campaign says 17 Lloyd's insurers have ruled out insuring the mine.

"It is encouraging to see that 27 major insurers, including those which have previously underwritten this disastrous project - like Apollo - are now refusing insurance to Adani," said Pablo Brait, campaigner at Australian action group Market Forces.

"The project will help open up a massive new thermal coal basin in the midst of a climate crisis...any insurer that provides coverage for Adani's coal operations in Australia is seriously risking its reputation."

Australia defies international pressure to set emissions targets

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will not be dictated to by other governments' climate change goals, declaring he is not worried about the future of Australia's exports despite four of the country's top trading partners adopting net-zero emissions targets.

China, Japan, Britain and South Korea, which account for more than $310 billion in Australian annual trade between them, have all now adopted the emissions target by 2050 or 2060, ramping up pressure on Australia's fossil fuel industry. Coal and natural gas alone are worth more than 25 per cent of Australia's exports, or $110 billion each year.

"I am not concerned about our future exports," Mr Morrison said on Wednesday. "Australia will set our policies here. Our policies won't be set in the United Kingdom, they won't be set in Brussels, they won't be set in any part of the world other than here."

As the Prime Minister spoke in Canberra, the South Korean President Moon Jae-in was addressing his own parliament in Seoul announcing his country would also pursue a net-zero target by 2050.

"Transitioning from coal to renewable energy, the government will create new markets, industries and jobs," Mr Moon told the National Assembly on Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a phone call on Tuesday encouraged Mr Morrison to take "bold action" on climate change and "emphasise the importance of setting ambitious targets to cut emissions and reach net zero".

Responding to the UK government's version of the phone call, Mr Morrison said Mr Johnson understood that Australia would make "sovereign decisions" on the targets it set.

"It shouldn't come at the cost of higher prices for the daily things that our citizens depend on," he said.

"One thing the British Prime Minister and I agree on is that achieving emissions reductions shouldn't come at the cost of jobs in Australia or the UK."

Major Australian export companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP, major agriculture groups and multinational food companies are pursuing carbon neutrality, which experts say is a move to avoid being stung with trade tariffs or charges by countries that have set net-zero targets.

The Morrison government has argued it will comply with the terms of the Paris climate agreement by reaching net zero by sometime in the second half of the century but has not set a firm target.

Mr Morrison claimed on Wednesday that Australia's emissions had fallen by 14 per cent since 2005, compared to 1 per cent for New Zealand and 0 per cent for Canada. The comparison of emissions reduction between different countries has been disputed with differences over methods and the use of carryover credits. Mr Morrison said the world would "not really make a lot of progress" without widespread renewable technology to ensure developing economies like India and Vietnam could also reduce emissions.

"Our record on this speaks for itself. When we make commitments in Australia's interests then we will meet those commitments as well," Mr Morrison said.

But top scientists contend that for Australia to honour the Paris agreement - which requires countries to follow the best available scientific advice on how to limit global warming to less than two degrees — the country must reach net-zero emissions before 2050.

The federal government’s opposition to commit to reaching the target by 2050 also puts it out of step with all states and territories, which are pursuing carbon-neutral goals.