Recent articles

The challenge of running large R clusters on an AMD 3990X Threadripper in Windows 10

Disease modelling is a computationally intensive and challenging task. Monte Carlo analysis is a necessary part of the modelling when addressing variability and uncertainty. Building fast Monte Carlo models in the R language (the go to language for many statistical and modelling tasks) on today’s multi-core processors has its challenges, particularly in a Windows environment. This article addresses some of them! 

COVID-19 Will there be a second wave in Australia?

In a recent article published in the Financial Review, Sam Lovick reviews whether there will be a second wave in Australia. He concludes not as Australia will strive to keep infections low by keeping its borders low. He sets out his concern that this will be much more costly than recent analysis by the OECD suggests given the importance to the economy of foreign tourism and foreign students.

Where to from here with COVID-19.

In a recent article published in the Financial Review, Sam Lovick reviews whether the costs and benefits of Australia’s current approach to the COVID-19 pandemic stack up. This longer paper provides more information on the disease modelling that we used to understand what the best mode of intervention in the pandemic might be.

A managed spread of COVID-19 may be best

In a recent article published in the Financial Review, Sam Lovick reviews whether the costs and benefits of Australia’s current approach to the COVID-19 pandemic stack up. Based on our modelling, which links dynamic disease modelling and broader economic modelling, we conclude that there are alternative modes of intervention that would have a much lower cost per life saved than continuing with the aggressive social distancing measures that are currently in place.

Managing the economics of COVID-19

In a recent article published in the Financial Review, Sam Lovick estimates how much Australia is likely to spend for each life saves under the current COVID-19 interventions. He arrives at the somewhat alarming figure of $6m, much more that we are typically willing to spend to prevent an avoidable deaths.

The health benefits of early pandemic intervention with a partially matched pre-pandemic vaccine

Sam Lovick Consulting presented the following at the 7th International Conference on Infectious Disease Dynamics. It addresses the health benefits that could arise in the US from a vaccine available at pandemic onset which is not precisely matched to the circulating strain. The modelled vaccine is sufficiently closely matched to provide some level, albeit a lower level, of protection against infection.

Influenza vaccine: good for you, good for your economy

Australia has just gone through, and the northern hemisphere are in throws of, one of the most severe influenza seasons for some years. One of the reasons is that one of the flu strains in circulation, A(H3N2), is particularly virulent. These events are costly. They burden the health system from the GP office to intensive care. On top of the costs of treatment and care, there are the indirect costs of absenteeism; due to illness, for prophylactic reasons, or to care for one’s relatives. But there is an influenza vaccine. Perhaps if more people were vaccinated, we would do better?

Do we need net neutrality?

The Federal Communications Commission in the US recently announced some rule changes that will end net neutrality. What is the ‘neutral’ net? Simply put, under net neutrality, internet service providers (ISPs — the businesses that provide internet services to you and me) are not allowed to prioritise one form of internet traffic, say Netflix, over another form, say Foxtel. Should we care?

Extracting inside information from superannuation

Last week I set out the case for greater rather than less involvement of unions in superannuation. It is not that unions are without fault, but rather that there may be a better alignment of interests between unions and investors than between independent trustees and investors, the main alternative that is on offer. If so, governance based on greater involvement of unions should result in better outcomes for investors; for which there is some empirical evidence. This week, I elaborate on a problem that I glossed over last week, information asymmetry and the principal/agent problem.

We need more union involvement in superannuation

Over the last three years there has been a growing clamour to increase regulation of superannuation funds. A central element of the proposals, at least under the last two governments, is to replace union trustees at industry superannuation funds with independent trustees. The Productivity Commission is broadly supportive. Both are misguided.

Regulation and the price of privatised infrastructure

A leading commentator on electricity markets recently accused Josh Frydenberg, Minister for the Environment and Energy, of a Trump moment. Minister Frydenberg, it seems, did not agree with the Full Federal Court’s decision on the regulation of electricity distribution and said so. The Australian Competition Tribunal (‘ACT’) had overturned an original decision of the Australian Energy Regulator (‘AER’) that would have markedly reduced the revenues that NSW distributors could earn and the prices that they could charge. The AER appealed. The court rejected that appeal, correctly given the law. Minister Frydenberg’s outburst was hardly Trumpian. After all, the end result of this tortuous process is that electricity bills will go up, surely a matter for Ministerial concern. But leaving aside the specifics and the legal niceties, maybe we are missing the big picture when it comes to regulated prices.

Previous authored and co-authored articles

CSL Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee

In May 2015, the Commonwealth Government proposed to establish the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), designed to provide a significant and stable supply of funding for medical research in Australia. In July 2015 CSL made a supportive public submission to the Senate inquiry into the MRFF. Sam Lovick was the principal author.

Defining acceptable epidemiology ranges in plasma donor populations

A study using a Monte Carlo simulation model to estimate the risk of virus contamination of a final product resulting from virus contamination of plasma pools for fractionation. The model was run for both source and recovered plasma at various donor infection incidence rates for the three viruses to determine virus loads in minipools and fractionation pools resulting from donations with virus levels below test sensitivities. The model was able to estimate, for a theoretical worst case plasma-derived product, the contamination risk in a vial of finished product for a given manufacturing virus reduction capacity and yield.

Applying the Hilmer Principles on economic regulation to changing energy markets regulation and the price of privatised infrastructure

A paper co-authored by George Yarrow and Synergies Economic Consulting commissioned by the Energy Networks Association (ENA) addressing whether the structurally separated model for the regulation of participants in the electricity market remains the best suited of the realistically available alternatives in meeting the long term interests of customers, or whether it needs to evolve.

A little economics could have stopped a punch-up

A paper co-authored by with a colleague at Synergies Economic Consulting when a town meeting came to blows over parking meters. The shop keepers thought that newly installed meters were undermining their businesses. Could some economics have sorted it out?