Monthly Archives: February 2022

The Groundhog Day Stock Market Anomaly

Should you, as an investor, let a groundhog decide when to buy stocks in the U.S. stock market?

To many rational investors, that sounds completely crazy. But if you believe investors are irrational, and you happened to have seen a recent paper presented in Finance Research Letters, you might just consider it. Here's the conclusion from the paper by Savva Shanaev, Arina Shuraeva, and Svetlana Federova:

This study has discovered a new calendar anomaly on the United States stock market associated with the prognostications of Punxsutawney Phil on the Groundhog Day. Across 1928–2021, the S&P 500 substantially appreciated subsequent to Phil’s “prediction” of an early spring, while the returns were moderately negative after he “predicted” a long winter. The difference in buy-and-hold abnormal returns two weeks after the Groundhog Day is a statistically and economically significant 1.85%, establishing the importance of the Groundhog Day superstition to investor sentiment and market performance. There is a seemingly puzzling positive anticipation effect to an early spring prognostication equalling 1.14% over the two weeks prior to the announcement that implies either informed trading or, more likely, rational investors exploiting their awareness of the superstition and weather forecasts. The results are robust in subsamples, when controlled for a wide range of other calendar anomalies, as well as to time-varying risk premia and conditional heteroskedasticity.

The findings have implications for academics and stock market participants. For individual and institutional investors, this study has identified an exotic yet moderately profitable trading strategy. For empirical finance researchers, it has highlighted the nuanced idiosyncratic nature and persistence of calendar anomalies, showing that country-specific superstitions can have notable market specific effects. While some anomalies can have no explanations consistent with the efficient market hypothesis – like Friday the 13th effect or, indeed, the Groundhog Day effect established in this paper – they seem to exist, hence the market truly is that irrational.

In the study, the authors reviewed daily U.S. stock market data extended back to 1928, which includes 18 years in which Punxatawney Phil did not see his shadow, signaling both an early end to winter and an opportune time to invest in the U.S. stock market. That opportune time is defined as the period covering the 11 trading days preceding Groundhog Day (2 February) each year, through the 10 trading days following it.

We wanted to confirm their results for ourselves, so we tapped Yahoo! Finance's historical data for the S&P 500 (Index: SPX). This database contains daily trading data for the index beginning in January 1950, where the period since contains 17 of the 18 Groundhog Days where Punxatawney Phil did not see his shadow to predict an early spring. The following chart suggests Shanaev, Shuraeva, and Federova may be onto something....

The Groundhog Day Stock Market Anomaly, 1950-2021

For all years since 1950 where Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow, forecasting a long winter, the average value of the S&P 500 ten trading days after Groundhog Day was barely changed from its value eleven trading days before it. But in the 17 years where Punxatawny Phil did not see his shadow, predicting an early end to winter, the value of the S&P 500 rose an average 3.0% above its pre-Groundhog Day anomaly value.

So are you ready to start taking investing advice from the world's most famous groundhog? Before you do, you may want to consider the following video:

As with any scientific hypothesis, it takes only one bit of contrary evidence to debunk it. In this case, all we need to do is show that instead of being irrationally influenced by the weather prognostications of a burrowing rodent, investors in any one of the years in which Punxatawney Phil saw no shadow were instead motivated by rational considerations to bid up stock prices.

We chose 2020. The year the coronavirus pandemic would negatively impact the world's economy. The year that saw billions of people deal with the irrational fear of a deadly spreading virus amplified by responses of public officials that were often even more irrational. A year in which irrationality would seem to have abounded like no other in recent history!

The next chart shows how the S&P 500 evolved during 2020's Groundhog Day anomaly window, which covers the trading days from 16 January 2020 through 18 February 2020:

The Groundhog Day Stock Market Anomaly, 2020

So far, it seems to check the boxes for irrational behavior the Groundhog Day anomaly. We see Groundhog Day fell on a Sunday, so we set our Day 0 as Monday, 3 February 2020. We visually confirm that the preceding trading day of Friday, 1 February 2020 saw the S&P 500 bottom at 97.2% of its pre-anomaly window value. It began rising on 3 February 2020, proceeding to end the anomaly window period at 101.6% of its pre-anomaly period value after peaking at 101.9% on the seventh day after Groundhog Day.

But that doesn't consider what other information investors were considering during this period, much less what parts of that information were driving the stock market. For that, we tapped our own archives, where the clues to indicate investors were actually behaving very rationally were built into the headlines of our weekly recaps of the S&P 500's activity:

What we describe as a Lévy flight event corresponds to the decline of the index' value during the early part of the Groundhog Day anomaly window, which then combined with the realization that China's response to the epidemic would negatively affect the outlook for U.S. businesses. On 3 February 2020, U.S. stock prices rebounded slightly from that low based on strong U.S. manufacturing data with a small boost from tech stocks.

But what really caused stock prices to surge came on Tuesday, 4 February 2020, when China's central bank signaled they would initiate major stimulus programs to offset the negative economic impact of the spreading pandemic. The U.S. Federal Reserve also acted to boost liquidity in U.S. money markets at this time, but that was a much smaller act than the stimulus rolling out in China. U.S. stock prices remained elevated through the end of this period as Fed officials sought to boost confidence in the U.S. economy.

Most of that positive response would dissipate as the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic became more apparent by the end of February 2020, but if you follow the links above to see the contemporary news headlines, there was nothing pointing to the prospects of an early spring that would affect the trajectory of the S&P 500 during the Groundhog Day anomaly window. Unless, of course, the Bank of China's officials took their policy direction from Punxatawney Phil. Whose 2020 weather prediction for an early srping also turned out to be wrong, as indicated by this late April 2020 photo....

Groundhog didn't like the late April snow (she was in the middle of nest building when it hit). by Ralph Katieb via Unsplash -

The following video clip provides better advice for those irrational enough to follow the life advice of groundhogs:

Update: According to Punxatawny Phil, there will be no Groundhog Day-related stock market rally in 2022!


Savva Shanaev, Arina Shuraeva, Svetlana Federova. The Groundhog Day stock market anomaly. Finance Research Letters. DOI: 10.1016/ 22 December 2021.

Yahoo! Finance. S&P 500 Historial Prices. [Online Database]. Accessed 1 February 2022.

Image credit: Photo by Ralph Katieb on Unsplash

Australian Politics 2022-02-02 04:44:00


Australian navy's new ships are crap

A result of relying on the bungling British

Australia’s new $45bn Hunter-class frigates will be “substantially” slower, have a shorter range than originally intended, and could be vulnerable to detection by enemy vessels, a classified Defence Department report reveals.

The Defence “Engineering Team Assessment” of the frigates program, undertaken last November, warns the ships could also be less safe for crews, with the potential for sailors to become trapped below deck by floodwaters in “credible damage conditions”.

The 36-page report sets out an array of serious problems with the “immature” British design, which is being substantially modified to meet Australian requirements, and warns that the government’s contract with shipbuilder BAE Systems provides “very limited means … to influence contractor performance”.

BAE won the contract in 2018 to build nine anti-submarine ­frigates in Adelaide to replace the Anzac-class fleet, with the first ship due to enter service in 2033.

The company claimed its design was the most advanced and stealthy on offer. But unlike its competitors, Spain’s Navantia and Italy’s Fincantieri, BAE’s design was an unproven one.

Taxpayers could now face a drawn-out design and construction process – with escalating costs and delays – like those that dogged other recent Defence projects ­including the recently dumped French submarine program.

The report, seen by The Australian, is scathing in its criticism of the British contractor, which will be responsible for building the nation‘s nuclear submarines if Australia goes with the UK’s ­Astute-class boat.

It blasts slow feedback and “confusing and incoherent” provision of data by BAE, and says the company’s design process “does not adhere to normal system engineering practice”.

The report says Australian ­defence companies are being passed over, with BAE claiming local ­industry content requirements are “a complicating factor for system design maturity”.

The document, marked “sensitive”, warns that the inclusion of a US combat system and ­Australian-designed CEAFAR2 radar have pushed the ships’ “space, weight, power and cooling margins” to their limits, posing “significant potential risk”.

The proposed ships are now “substantially heavier” than BAE’s original Type-26 frigate ­design, which has also faced ­delays and design headaches, ­requiring a modified hull to ­accommodate the additional weight and design changes.

The report warns that the changes have caused serious ­design issues that have cascaded through the program, driving up electrical power consumption with “a negative impact on speed and range”, and causing problems with the cooling of the vessel’s combat system.

“The overall power demand of the Hunter-class frigate still ­exceeds its ­generating capacity … and is exacerbated in tropical and antarctic environmental conditions,” it says. “Vessel maximum speed at start of life will be substantially lower than comparable RAN surface combatants.”.

The report adds that the ­heavier-than-anticipated ship will face “increased fuel consumption and running costs, particularly in the 17-18 knots range”.

The shortfall in the vessel’s available power will force ­commanders to decide whether to “prioritise power allocation to ­either the CEAFAR2 Radar or the propulsion system depending on the ship’s operational requirements”, the authors warn.

The “System Design Review Exit” report says the ship’s mast design could increase its radar cross-section, and the ­additional thrust required from its propellers could breach the contract’s “underwater radiated noise” requirements, making the vessels more vulnerable to the submarines they are supposed to hunt.

The Defence engineering team says it has “low confidence” that the vessels will meet Royal Australian Navy weight-margin standards, leaving the first three ships potentially “unable to respond to technological surprise with future capability upgrades”.

It also warns that the new ­design of the ship’s topside mast is so immature that there is a risk it could destabilise the vessel “past the point where a feasible ship design is possible”.

The modified design’s ­additional displacement and draught have called into question previous assessments – based on the Type-26 – of its seakeeping performance. The need to fit in additional power and cooling equipment is reportedly degrading “the overall liveability of the ship‘s habitable space”, while the document warns of design compromises in the provision of fixed firefighting systems.

Last July, Defence Minister Peter Dutton approved a delay in commencement of construction on the first boat, from December 2022 to June 2024, but the report says this deadline is now tight.


Erratic output from renewables requires Australian government agency to spend a lot on bringing in other electricity supplies

Costs incurred by the body that keeps the lights on across Australia's major electricity systems are skyrocketing as surging levels of renewable energy increasingly challenge the security of the grid.

Following another year in which record amounts of renewable energy were added to the national electricity mix, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is pushing for a big hike in funding to oversee one of its key jurisdictions.

The agency wants $156.2 million over three years to 2025 — a 66 per cent jump on the previous period – to operate the main electricity market in Western Australia.

In a submission to WA's economic watchdog, the AEMO said it needed the extra funds to help cope with the increasing complexity and volatility in the market as more and more renewable energy flooded onto the system.

"While the growing level of variable renewable generation is helping the [WA system] transition towards clean, low-cost generation, it can pose operational challenges," it said in its submission.

The proposal mirrors the AEMO's actions in Australia's biggest power system — the National Electricity Market (NEM) – where the organisation has faced steeply rising costs to stabilise a grid that services almost 10 million customers.

As part of its most recent snapshot of the market, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) noted the AEMO was spending tens of millions of dollars on contingency measures to ensure the NEM did not run short of power at vulnerable times.

Much of the outlay was on back-up capacity — provided either by power plants that could generate electricity or major users who could scale back consumption when needed — for times when the grid was "under stress".

The AER noted that the so-called reliability and emergency reserve trader scheme had been in place for a number of years but had rarely been used until recently.

It said the scheme had now been invoked in all the biggest states, including South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, while its total cost between 2017 and 2020 had reached $110m.

On top of this, the regulator said the AEMO was having to intervene in the normal functioning of the market by calling on more expensive power plants that could help with the stability of the grid.

The regulator noted these interventions had "risen sharply in recent years" as the AEMO ordered some generators, such as gas-fired power plants, to stay on while telling others, including wind and solar farms, to back off at certain times.

These interventions had come "at significant cost to consumers", the AER said, with the AEMO shelling out $50m in 2018 and 2019 to compensate affected generators.

Despite efforts to control these costs, the AER noted they were higher still in 2020 at $66m.

"Aside from formal compensation, the use of constraints or directions penalises consumers by driving up wholesale electricity prices," the AER said in its report.

"For example, by restricting wind or solar output that might have zero marginal costs, AEMO directions may lead to dispatch from synchronous (coal- or gas-fired) generators with higher costs."

The AEMO said the growing challenges of keeping the lights on were highlighted in its latest snapshot of the market, which showed record volatility in the three months to December 31.

Minimum demand for electricity from the grid fell to new lows in SA, NSW and Victoria as cooler weather subdued demand and growing amounts of rooftop solar pushed out fossil fuel-fired generators.

Across the NEM, the average output of renewable energy also increased from 31.6 per cent to 34.9 per cent, with maximum output reaching as high as 61.8 per cent for a short time on November 15.

The AEMO said the combination of factors helped to push wholesale power prices into negative territory, where generators have to pay someone to take their electricity, a record number of times.

At the same time, the market body noted its own costs "remained elevated" for the quarter as it scrambled to ensure there was enough back-up to meet demand when renewable generation fell away or when there were other shocks to the system.

Synergy, the WA state-owned power provider that would be up for the biggest share of the AEMO's cost increase in the west, declined to comment.

The Australian Energy Council, which represents big electricity providers, said the AEMO's spending plan reflected the "dramatic shift in the energy mix and significant government reforms".

But the council also said it was critical to ensure the AEMO's spending was transparent to ensure it was kept to a minimum.

"WA's Economic Regulation Authority … plays an important oversight role [in the WA market] and we expect to make a detailed submission once the ERA has released its draft determination," a spokesman said


Many lessons to learn in improving education

Australia’s low ranking in education performance is one of the greatest dangers to our long-term national prosperity as we enter a new skills-based industrial ­revolution.

This national danger has triggered much-needed efforts to reform curriculums. But the NSW Productivity Commissioner Peter Achterstraat’s research reveals an even deeper problem: our systems of recruiting and training teachers are simply not working and he recommends fundamental change.

The Achterstraat plan concentrates on NSW but the teacher recruiting and training mistakes he isolates are duplicated around the nation.

The Achterstraat conclusions were publicised last year but over the new year break the NSW commissioner sent me a personal copy of his massive document entitled “rebooting the economy”. And to make sure I understood what was happening he highlighted key sentences!

And while I was looking at the education sections that dominate Achterstraat’s 370-page productivity document, across my desk came an article from Malcolm Elliott, the president of the Australian Primary Principals Association. Elliott was criticising NAPLAN but the thrust of his remarks showed that those at the top of the teaching profession do not recognise the validity of Achterstraat’s warning.

Accordingly, we are headed for a nation-changing debate that will determine our future. I hope both major political parties address the education crisis at the next federal election.

Around the nation many parents don’t have Achterstraat’s research but recognise that something is wrong in the way their children are being taught the basics.

Some are paying large sums to buy dwellings in selected catchment areas so they can send their children to a government school that they believe has attracted excellent teachers who excel in teaching the basics – reading, writing, science and mathematics. Others with the same view send their children to selected private schools.

Achterstraat does not make detailed evaluation of curriculum issues but says NSW needs to ­redesign and modernise its curriculum, providing strong foundations for lifeline learning. It needs to cut “inessential teacher workloads” so teachers can focus on the core of their jobs: teaching our children.

The NSW experience shows that simply spending money on education does not solve the problem.

Federal and state governments increased spending on each NSW student by 22 per cent in the decade to 2018-19 but not only did NSW performance decline but states like Victoria, where less money was spent, performed better than NSW.

The proportion of NSW students failing to achieve minimum standards across the three PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) domains has risen from 32 per cent in 2006 to 42 per cent in 2018. Achterstraat believes these bad educational outcomes are surface manifestations of fundamental flaws in teacher recruiting and training.

He emphasises that the quality of our schooling system ultimately rests on the quality of classroom instruction by our teachers and school leaders. Learning is usually determined by how teaching is delivered in classrooms and how the curriculum is conveyed to students.

I isolate some of the areas where Achterstraat says the system is failing and then summarise some of the Achterstraat solutions which would revolutionise Australia’s teacher recruitment and training. The faults:

* Australia has introduced waves of reform demanding that new teachers must meet increased academic requirements to enter initial teacher education programs.

But these more onerous and longer qualifications for new teachers have unintentionally raised barriers for talented people entering the profession.

Worse, the evidence suggests that the educational gains from longer teaching pathways are minimal or even nil.

* Some teachers realise that they are poorly suited to teaching only upon entering the classroom and extra university training delays this discovery. The messages from their bad experience adversely impacts teacher recruitment.

* Like any other worker, a teacher cannot improve “without setting goals, striving to achieve them and receiving insightful, regular and constructive feedback plus correctional help”. But currently goals and benchmarks are often poorly defined, making it very difficult to identify relevant evidence and measure performance against them. A teacher with relatively low-performing students may be driving strong improvement while a teacher with high performing students may not be contributing much to their performance.

* Australia is not matching the world in high-performing education systems to supplement standardised teaching, with indicators that help show what teachers and schools are contributing to student learning growth.

* In many areas of Australia, including NSW, teacher standards and teacher accreditation has seen weak implementation and there is only a loose link between creditation and teacher effectiveness. It becomes difficult to identify relevant evidence and measure performance against them.

The solutions:

* Given the teacher entry system is not working as planned, it needs to be reviewed to make it less onerous, but identifying better teaching prospects and broadening the source of quality teachers with employment-based teaching pathways.

* Systems of classroom observations including peer-to-peer and supervisor observations need to be implemented.

* A separate set of aims should be established for school principals that reflect their unique role and makes them accountable for improving school teaching. They must report annually on the implementation of these performance measures.

Australia’s problem is that we have a substantial number of teachers who have not been trained along these lines and will vigorously oppose it.


Britain's backdoor tax on Australian wine

Because Australian wine tends to be more alcoholic than other wines, the British want to tax it more

Treasury Wine Estates, the largest producer of Australian wine bound for the British market, has begun lobbying for the British government to reconsider a new tax regime for wine imports – one the company says will wipe out any benefit from the free trade agreement.

In a submission to British Treasury officials, TWE chief executive Tim Ford writes that the company supports the objectives of the new tax system – an attempt to simplify complicated alcohol duties – but says the result will largely penalise Australia for its climate, soil and grape ­varieties.

Mr Ford also warns that the current proposal is not workable in practice because the alcohol content in Australian wines can shift several times a year, making measurement and labelling ­difficult.

Australian winemakers are warning that the overhaul of alcohol duties, increasing the tax paid on drinks with an alcohol content higher than 11.5 per cent, will make their products more expensive and drive away British consumers. Britain is the largest export destination for Australian wines.

The submission notes that 62 per cent of TWE’s sales by volume have an alcohol content of between 12 and 15 per cent. Euro­pean wines have a far lower alcohol level. TWE, whose global brands include Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Lindeman’s, says that the new regime is unfair.

The submission states: “Environmental conditions largely determine alcohol content in wine and are not readily modified after grapes are harvested. Hence, unlike some other beverage types that can innovate towards lower alcohol content, an increased duty burden placed on higher alcohol still wines (is) inherently a tax unavoidably borne by Australian producers.”

“Under the current proposal … the average price of Australian wine imports to the UK will rise, and to such an extent that the forecast price drop for Australian wine resulting from A-UKFTA will be completely reversed,” it reads. “A standard bottle of almost any Australian wine would be more expensive in the UK, not cheaper, as had been hoped by TWE when A-UKFTA was first proposed.

“TWE believes that further work needs to be done to modify the proposed new duty tax system to ensure that non-tariff, ‘behind the border’ measures do not distort the impact from the reduction in tariffs and retail prices that would result from A-UKFTA’s introduction.”

TWE has engaged CT Group, previously Crosby Textor, for advice during the consultation process, as it considers how to lobby British parliamentarians. CT has extensive links with both the Morrison government and Boris Johnson’s administration in ­London.

Under the British proposal, the tax impost would increase with every 0.5 per cent increase in the alcohol by volume. In its submission, TWE argues that this should be increased to every 1 per cent – meaning wine producers would pay on average 10p per bottle less for every band increase.

TWE has also asked for labelling to allow for a wider variance from the alcohol content in the bottle – permitting up to 1 per cent rather than the proposed 0.5 per cent. By increasing the margin for error in labelling, producers could more easily fall into a lower taxing band.

The TWE submission points out that the proposed 0.5 per cent band is in keeping with strict European Union standards, which it says is out of step with the rest of the wine-producing world.

A labelling tolerance of 0.8 per cent was agreed to under the Australia-UK free trade agreement. This is already lower than the amount permitted in the Australian market: 1.5 per cent.

The submission states: “That the UK would want to simply maintain an approach more akin to the EU’s wine regulations, and for no perceivable benefit, seems antithetical to the stated objective of the current duty reforms.”

Australia is the clear market leader for British wine imports, with a 23 per cent share in the year to September 2021. Italy follows with a 13 per cent share.

Because much of the Aussie wine exported is in bulk and later bottled in Britain, TWE argues that by making life harder for Australian producers, Britain could be hurting its own manufacturing industry.

This is point not lost on the British Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

In its January submission to a British committee inquiry it noted: “Australian wine is the number one ‘country of origin wine’ on the UK market by volume, supporting an extensive range of jobs throughout Britain, from bottling and logistics to marketing and retail. It is a vital import to the UK economy and worth £1.5bn in UK sales.”




Median Household Income in December 2021

Political Calculations' initial estimate of median household income in December 2021 is $72,933, an increase of $580 (or 0.8%) from the initial estimate of $72,353 for November 2021.

The latest update to Political Calculations' chart tracking Median Household Income in the 21st Century shows the nominal (red) and inflation-adjusted (blue) trends for median household income in the United States from January 2000 through December 2021. The inflation-adjusted figures are presented in terms of constant December 2021 U.S. dollars.

Median Household Income in the 21st Century: Nominal and Real Modeled Estimates, January 2000 to December 2021

December 2021's estimated median household income of $72,933 is $633 higher than the previous April 2020 inflation-adjusted peak of $72,300 in terms of constant December 2021 U.S. dollars. That compares with a non-inflation-adjusted increase of $6,445 from April 2020's nominal estimate of $66,488. Which is to say that inflation has eroded over 90% of the estimated nominal increase in median household income between these months.

Analyst's Notes

The BEA adjusted its estimates of aggregate wage and salary income for October 2021 and November 2021 upward by 0.22% and 0.36% respectively in its latest data release.


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: 28 January 2022. Accessed: 28 January 2022.

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: 28 January 2022. Accessed: 28 January 2022.

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: 12 January 2022. Accessed: 12 January 2022.

Australian Politics 2022-02-01 02:46:00


Brisbane's Citipointe Christian College defends demanding parents sign contract on student gender identity, homosexuality

Why is this controversial? There are plenty of other schools the sexually abnormal can go to. Let them choose a school that accepts them and leave Christians free to obey the repeated statements in the Bible about sexual deviance being an abomination to God. See Romans chapter 1. It's not as if anybody is compelled to go to that school.

And the limits the school imposes could well make it popular with many parents, Christian or not. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle many parents would want for their children.

Up until relatively recently, the American Psychological Asociation categorized homosexuallity as a mental illness -- until Leftist pressure got that expunged. The long term adverse consequences of homosexuality remain, however. There have always been homosexuals in my social circle and I have seen the sadness that eventually comes to them. Women, by contrast, have always been a source of happiness to me.

I sent my son to a Catholic school precisely because I thought he would get Christian teachings there. He did. Even under Pope Francis, church teachings on homosexuality have remained unwavering in opposition to it

Citipointe Christian College on Brisbane's southside sent families a contract last Friday and said parents must sign the contract or unenrol their child from the school.

More than 26,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the college recall the enrolment contract, with organisers arguing the school is "using their religious beliefs to openly discriminate against queer and trans students".

In an e-mail to parents on Friday, principal Pastor Brian Mulheran said the new clauses in the enrolment contract were included to "ensure that we retain our Christian ethos, which is the foundation of what has made the College what it is today".

The contract states "the college will only enrol the student on the basis of the gender that corresponds to their biological sex" to maintain consistent with the college's "Christian Ethos Requirements".

The contract goes on to state that the college "acknowledges the biological sex of a person as recognised at birth and requires practices consistent with that sex".

Another clause states the college has the right to "exclude a student from the college" should they not adhere to the "doctrinal precepts including those as to biological sex".

To keep their child enrolled at the school, parents must agree with a set of "religious beliefs" laid out in a "Declaration of Faith" attached to the contract.

Part of the declaration states that "any form of sexual immorality (including but not limited to; adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, bisexual acts, bestiality, incest, paedophilia, and pornography) is sinful and offensive to God and is destructive to human relationships and society".

'We weren't given any warning that this was happening'
A parent, who is also a teacher at Citipointe and did not want to be named, said she was "saddened that students who are struggling or going through their journey of finding out who they are were going to be encased in more vocabulary of them being 'other' and not accepted".

"As an educator whose priority it is to look after a child, and as a parent wanting to bring up a young [child] to be a functioning member of this society, I knew I was in trouble as to whether I could sign this document," she said.

She said she was "extremely angry" about the timing of the contract's release because students were starting school today. "I felt very much backed into a corner," she said.

"We, as the staff, weren't told about [the contract amendments]. I only found out about it because I was a parent."

She said she was now looking for another school for her child because she was unable to sign the amended enrolment contract.

"I am having to ask [the child] now to leave their friends through no fault of [their] own. We weren't given any warning that this was happening, and we've been told you either sign it or you have two weeks leeway to go," she said.

"I feel like my options are very, very limited."

She also said this would have a wider impact on the community at Citipointe.

"It is going to be so divisive in the school. It's going to separate people. And that's not my understanding of what the Christian faith is all about," she said.

A 2018 Citipointe alumnus Bree Leitch, who identifies as bisexual, said she was "pretty floored" when her parents received the amended contract on Friday.

She said her brother has been attending the school and he was supposed to start Year 12 today.

"I'm worried about what my brother is going to do and how he's going to get his education and graduate this year, and I'm really wanting to do something about it," Ms Leitch said.

Ms Leitch said she came to terms with her bisexuality when she was in Year 12 at Citipointe.

"I remember when I was in school, I would always think, 'If I was gay, I would never come out' … that would just be so hard. So scary," she said.

"And you just don't know what would happen, whether you'd get kicked out, there was just so much fear there.

"And having to just keep that part of me completely silent, and question it alone without being able to talk to anyone about it is pretty scary."

Ms Leitch said the amended contract was a "horrible thing" but "it means that it's something we can fight directly."

"It's something that's there and it exists, and it's black and white. And we're able to be say 'this is not OK'… we have a platform to build off of now," she said.

Ms Leitch said she wanted queer students at Citipointe, and other schools, to know they were not alone.

"You're valid and these things they're saying is not true. Don't let it change how you see yourself and don't let it make yourself think that you're not worthy. This whole community of people will stand behind you and support you, and we're doing to do everything we can to change this experience for you."

School has 'certain freedoms' under law to include clauses
In a statement to the media, Principal Pastor Brian Mulheran said the college "does not judge students on their sexuality or gender identity and we would not make a decision about their enrolment in the college simply on that basis".

He said the college wants to give parents and students the right to make an "informed choice" about supporting the school's approach to Christian education.

"We have always held these Christian beliefs and we have tried to be fair and transparent to everyone in our community by making them clear in the enrolment contract," he said.

"The college, through the freedoms afforded to it by law, has outlined our common beliefs and practices, so that parents can choose for their children to be educated at Citipointe and join our faith-based community."

Mr Mulheran said the school had sought legal advice in amending the contract, and argued it had "certain freedoms under international law and under Commonwealth and state legislation" which allowed it to include the new clauses.

Independent Schools Queensland chief executive Christopher Mountford told ABC Radio Brisbane independent schools were "their own entities" and could "deliver their own enrolment contract".

"The schools are being transparent and up-front in their enrolment contracts around the issues and beliefs that they have as a school, and that's consistent with other independent schools as well, and those contracts are legal under the current legislation," he said.

"The question of whether or not the school should or could do these things, is best answered by thinking through 'what are the school's ethos and processes they're putting forward to the community?' Is it reasonable and legal, what they're putting forward, and then can parents choose to engage in that school or not?"

He said it was important to have diversity across schools to allow parents to send their child to a school that "aligns with their beliefs and values".


Queensland scientists discover previously unknown genes linked to depression

Queensland researchers have discovered 23 more genes linked to a person's risk of developing major depression, in a breakthrough they hope will further reduce any stigma associated with the condition.

The findings take the number of known genetic variants associated with depression to more than 100, with the scientists also hopeful that understanding more about the biological basis of the psychiatric condition may pave the way for better treatments and early intervention.

Scientists analysed the DNA of more than 13,000 people who participated in the Australian Genetics of Depression Study, comparing their genes with a similar number of volunteers who had no history of psychiatric illness.

Researchers found evidence that genes implicated in brain development also played a role in major depression, with their findings published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

'Depression is not something to feel ashamed or guilty about'
The study's lead researcher Brittany Mitchell, from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said people with the highest number of known genetic markers linked to the common mental health condition were 6.5 times more likely to have experienced major depression than those in the lowest 10 per cent of biological risk.

She said they were also more likely to have developed depression at a younger age and to have had multiple depressive episodes in their lifetime.

"Mental health disorders are still really highly stigmatised and that needs to change," Dr Mitchell said.

"We really hope that this research sheds light on the fact that depression has biological causes and it's not something to feel ashamed or guilty about — it's just like heart disease or cancer."

Dr Mitchell, who conducted the research as part of her PhD, said the study suggested unique genetic risk profiles were associated with different types of depression, such as seasonal affective disorder, but more research was needed to pinpoint the key genes involved.

No 'one-size-fits-all answer' to depression

University of Queensland-based statistical geneticist Enda Byrne, who was also involved in the research, said it showed depression was a complex condition with no "one-size-fits-all answer".

"This research could one day allow for future gene-mapping technology to deliver a more personalised and targeted treatment plan and potentially assist in developing new drug treatments or a repurposing of current drugs for better outcomes," Dr Byrne said.

Dr Mitchell said the next step for the research was to identify more genes involved with major depression and to understand more about the genetic pathways involved in different types of the condition.

But Dr Mitchell said the scientists needed to recruit more people with depression into research studies to increase the power of their findings.

The Australian Genetics of Depression Study is the local arm of an international scientific collaboration aiming to identify genetic risk factors associated with depression. It receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Adults with a history of depression interested in participating in further research can visit the Australian Genetics of Depression study website.


Speaking up about abuses actively discouraged in Queensland

A former senior media adviser to the Palaszczuk government has alleged he was forced out of his job after raising concerns about “unethical, immoral and at times potentially illegal behaviour”.

Neil Doorley, who worked for four cabinet ministers between 2015 and 2018, has backed calls for a commission of inquiry into political interference with watchdog bodies, alleging a “dark culture” that discourages public servants from speaking out.

The veteran Nine Network reporter, who later worked for News Corp, sued the state for compensation over his dismissal by the Premier’s office in 2019, believing his penchant for speaking up on alleged bad behaviour cost him his job.

The state government is understood to have settled the case in 2020 and awarded Mr Doorley compensation.

Before being sacked, he challenged, among other things, the use of ministerial resources that he believed at times were “outside the scope of official duties”.

After putting some concerns in writing, Mr Doorley was told his emails were not “helpful”.

He says several ministerial staff decided to leave quietly rather than commit “career suicide” by complaining.

Premier Annastacia Palas­zczuk continues to resist calls for a commission of ­inquiry into integrity after the heads of two Queensland statutory bodies alleged interference in their offices. Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov tendered her resignation last week while former state archivist Mike Summerell revealed he was pushed out of his job by the government last March.

Both have backed calls for an inquiry.

Dr Stepanov, who has made a formal complaint of alleged interference in her office, at the weekend took to her LinkedIn page to encourage people to “continue to be brave” and speak openly.

In a separate development, Crime and Corruption Commission chair Alan MacSporran also quit last week after a bipartisan parliamentary committee gave a scathing assessment of his organisation’s performance.

Ms Palaszczuk said her cabinet would on Monday consider launching an inquiry into the structure and powers of the CCC, but indicated it did not plan to extend the scope more widely.

“Queensland has robust mechanisms and checks on integrity and accountability in this state,” she said.

“We have the CCC, which is a standing royal commission.”

She said a routine five-year review into the Office of the Integrity Commissioner was finished last year and is being examined by a parliamentary committee.

Concerns about interference raised by Dr Stepanov and Mr Summerell are being considered by the CCC and Ms Palaszczuk said she could not comment ­further.

She said despite integrity concerns raised this week, public servants should be comfortable coming forward with complaints.

“We should have a public service that can give fearless, frank advice. I have always had that opinion,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Mr Doorley said he was “buoyed” after Ms Palaszczuk implored public servants with complaints about her government to come forward, as “the dark arts practised behind closed doors continue in ministerial ­offices”. “The concept of acting in the public good at all times as a guiding principle has been seemingly long lost.”

“I’m more than happy to help the Premier “do better” when it comes to her government’s track record with integrity and accountability,” he said.

“I’ve no doubt my offer will be quickly dismissed – unlike the growing push for her to make this government responsible for its actions and the consequences of those actions – a fundamental part of healthy moral practices and making sure there’s a clear line between what’s right and wrong.”

Mr Doorley - who worked for Ministers Steven Miles, Mick de Brenni, Leeanne Enoch and Craig Crawford - said he was weighed down by the guilt of failing to make a formal complaint.

“I just had no confidence it would go anywhere,” he said.

His concerns echoed those raised by Mr Summerall last week who alleged he was pushed out of his job because of his stance on integrity and independence.

“For many senior public servants in Queensland the concept of an impartial, apolitical and professional public service is career suicide,” Mr Summerall said.

Dr Stepanov, who will continue in her role until July, made complaints to the CCC last year after officers from the Public Service Commission went to her office and seized a laptop without her knowledge.

She had earlier made requests to the PSC and the Department of Premier and Cabinet for a forensic examination of the laptop, which she suspected had highly sensitive material transferred onto it during the 2020 state election.

In her social media post, Dr Stepanov said integrity in the public sector was achieved through” robust public discourse”.

“Part of the obligation and responsibility that comes with independent roles like mine is the need to be frank and fearless, at all times,” she wrote.

“The public expects no less; nor should they.”

Dr Stepanov said media reporting on integrity issues had created a public ‘space’, for issues and strengths in governance and public administration to be raised and more discussed openly.

“We change by learning about how we can do things better, in the public interest. When we don’t square up and face things head on, we miss our chance to bring about meaningful change.”

“Let’s continue to be brave and to have those conversations.”


Why good news on Covid goes unreported by journalists of the left

Twitter is a good window into the private views of journalists. Many have used it to slam the Morrison government for every pandemic failing – real or imagined – while defending every action by Labor premiers, even the indefensible.

It is little wonder Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce was hammered for telling the ABC’s new RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas on her first day in the job on January 24 that no one was dying with Omicron.

Karvelas, rightly, pulled him up and he corrected his error. The Twitter pile-on exploded.

Yet Joyce had a point, even if some enmeshed in Covid catastrophism may struggle to see it.

Separating domestic pandemic numbers out to before and after Omicron reveals some interesting facts about the variant and its predecessors here.

On December 1, there had been a reported 211,654 cases and 2011 deaths since early 2020.

By Australia Day last week, case numbers had blown out to 2.29 million and deaths stood at 3230. So, an extra two million cases and 1200 more deaths, all compressed into less than two months.

As doctors have noted, it is likely many more people during the Omicron wave have been infected than the reported total. Most will have been people who remained asymptomatic.

Yet even using the official federal department of heath total, the fatality rate stands at 0.14 per cent across the pandemic. Over the past two months that rate is about 0.06 per cent.

The US Centers for Disease Control says flu deaths over 20 years to 2019 averaged 1.8 per 100,000. In a bad season, flu can kill more than 1000 people in Australia, which was about the annual Covid fatality total pre-Omicron.

The danger for the media in over-hyping Omicron risks? So many people have now had Omicron that Australians are waking up: this is not the catastrophe many journalists are pretending. Many of us have seen family members and friends test positive only to be fit and well again a day or two later. It might not be the vibe in newsrooms, but at the dining tables in country NSW where I spent the silly season, it is what people are saying.

While the sheer numbers of cases have produced high absolute numbers of hospitalisations and deaths compared with previous waves of the virus, there has been far too little media focus on the good news: that for healthy vaccinated people, especially those who have had a third booster shot, Omicron is not much of a threat.

How then to judge the extreme hostility to Morrison of “lockdown luvvie” journalists who insist he is personally responsible for a “let it rip” strategy that is destroying the nation’s health system and needlessly killing Australians? Sure, as this column remarked last week, the federal government has made mistakes and been slow to learn some lessons, especially in aged care.

But opening up after reaching double dose vaccination targets of 80 per cent was part of a national plan that state and territory governments agreed to with the federal government. The Labor states of Queensland and Victoria have stuck with the plan and opened at a similar pace to the Coalition states of NSW and South Australia.

Many journalists who had tweeted support for every Covid restriction, however ill-advised, by the Andrews and Palaszczuk governments during 2020 and 2021, have avoided highlighting the high infection numbers, hospitalisations and deaths in Victoria and Queensland since the states’ reopening. Only Morrison is blamed.

Yet while turning a blind eye to infection rises in the two Labor states that have opened, they continue to heap praise on WA Labor leader Mark McGowan for keeping his state shut to protect his citizens.

This is blatant politicisation of the pandemic by journalists of the left. It is no different from the politicisation of Covid by some medical professionals who just bat for team Labor. Every journalist and every doctor had known for months the national agreement was to open up and learn to live with Covid.

The truth is, despite obvious mistakes, Australia has done better than most of the world. We have moved up the Worldometer global table since Omicron and last Friday sat at 29 because case numbers have risen tenfold. But the nations near us on the table in total infection numbers all have much higher death totals than the 3000-odd recorded in Australia.

Switzerland, Japan, Portugal and Israel have similar total cases to Australia, but deaths at 12,751, 18,559, 19,703 and 8513 respectively. On the key deaths per million indicator, we sat at 128, Switzerland at 1457, Japan at 147, Portugal at 1941 and Israel at 913.

Yet on Ten’s The Project and on much of the ABC, Australia’s pandemic performance is reported as a disaster. High-profile journalists continue to advocate for harsher restrictions.

No one knows how the pandemic will pan out, but as this column suggested before Christmas, we may end up thinking Omicron was a blessing that, together with third vaccine doses, improved national immunity. Remaining closed forever will not prevent the disease eventually hitting, as Hong Kong, and to a lesser extent Taiwan, now seem to be finding out.

Nick Coatsworth, infectious diseases specialist and former federal deputy chief medical officer, made the sensible point on Twitter on January 21: “Delay WA opening until 80 per cent boosted, which will occur some time around May, to coincide with the winter flu season, which may well be worse this season due to lack of, you guessed it, immunity from recent infection. Courageous indeed.”

Journalists have known for at least 18 months that most people recover from Covid and those who don’t are overwhelmingly the elderly and those with severe comorbidities. Such deaths are a tragedy but the fact remains the average age of all Covid deaths here before Omicron was slightly higher than average life expectancy of 82.9 years.

Australia reports an average of 160,000 deaths a year, or about 440 a day. The main killers remain heart disease, stroke and cancer. So since the first Covid case here, about 320,000 Australians have died over two years but only about 3200 with (rather than necessarily from) Covid.

The media focus on Covid does not help the lives of the vast majority of Australians for whom better diets, more exercise and less alcohol and tobacco would be the most beneficial changes they could make. And getting a third dose of a Covid vaccine.

Back to Twitter for a sensible last word. Professor Greg Dore, of the Kirby Institute, wrote on January 25: “Lazy optimism — ‘hopium’ – is problematic. Lazy pessimism – constant worst-case scenarios, selective bad outcome posting and riding uncertainty for all it’s worth – also a huge problem, particularly given the community fear and anxiety it generates. Optimistic realism’s the go.”