Wry & Dry #35-24. Budget spin-time. Government grants meets Hitler youth. Covid responsibility.

3 May 2024

Ten stories you may have missed

  1. Budget spin-time
  2. Government grants meets Hitler Youth
  3. Covid responsibility
  4. Who pays Trumpster’s legal bills?
  5. When AI is not artificial
  6. Leveraging Olympics to get cash
  7. Deep dive: governments picking winners
  8. When the left-wing meets the right-wing
  9. American parents vote for reproductive abstinence
  10. Wry & Dry sleeps out

1. Budget spin-time

It only comes once a year: budget spin time. Spinners opening at either end.

At the Victorian end, the spin will be in the hands of the well upholstered treasurer of Victoria, who somehow has to explain what he did with the money. Over the last 10 years.

Allow Wry & Dry to forecast some of the excuses reasons he will use for the state’s impecuniousness:

  • Covid (explains the health crisis, the education crisis, the housing crisis, [insert your crisis here])
  • Global factors (so many from which to choose: Ukraine, Gaza, Sleepy Joe, Borisconi, gas prices, etc)
  • Global warming (always on everyone’s list)
  • Reserve Bank (those nasty bankers)
  • Current federal government (“Albo’s doing a great job, but…”)
  • Former federal government (the GST sweetheart deal with Western Australia)

Will he dare mention that Victoria’s net debt to gross state product (a metric equivalent to GDP) ratio will be 25% by 2027? Probably not: in the worse years of the broken Cain-Kirner governments, that ratio peaked at 16%. Oh, dear.

Mr. Pallas has skillfully managed the timing his presentation to be the week before Grim Jim Chalmers brings down the federal budget. So, his spinning of red ink will be washed away by the media’s focus elsewhere. All that will remain after many overs of spin will be even more taxes, less bread and fewer circuses.

At the Canberra end, the spin will alternate between Grim Jim and Albo (wearing a hi-vis vest, instead of the traditional creams). The spin twins are needed as they complement each other: the first seeking to bore and confuse the batspeople with meaningless and arcane data; the second optimistically relying on spin from the hot air that he emits.

Grim Jim and Albo have been very publicly warming up the crowd and media with well flighted and tempting deliveries. Consider the words that will be tossed:

Future, vision, competitive, not picking winners, $1 billion of solar panels, $1 billion for quantum computers, budget surplus, responsible budget, addressing problems, combating [insert Readers’ concern here], fighting inflation, creating jobs for all Australians, for women, for Indigenous Australians, for students, etc.

The eternal problem remains. Like under eleven batsmen, most of the crowd will be suckered in by the spin.

And in each of Victoria and Canberra, the opposing batting will be a version of T20 cricket: impatient, seeking sixes and trying to win the crowd. And all out before lunch.

2. Government grants meets Hitler Youth

Readers know that governments toss money at big but dubious projects (Snowy Mountains pumped hydro-battery, solar panels, etc) and medium but dubious projects (Pink Batts, sports rorts, etc).

But how about this. A university academic was awarded a research grant of $837,174 over four years. That’s over $210,000 p.a, tax free. Good grief!

Wry & Dry noticed this as the recipient of the grant last week led a pro-Palestine rally at Sydney University. Nothing wrong with that. Until Readers noticed that she was encouraging children as young as five to chant “intifada” and “Israel is a terrorist state.”

Ah, the rebirth of the Hitler Youth.

3. Covid responsibility

Readers will recall that in a rare bowing to public pressure, then Chairman Dan established a body to find out what went wrong with Victoria’s seriously bungled and deadly covid quarantine fiasco.

But he was smart enough to establish a Board of Inquiry, that had no power to compel witnesses to appear nor to answer questions.

The result was that final report of Judge Jennifer Coate in December 2020 found that 99% of Victoria’s second wave of covid cases and deaths could be traced back to the private security guards who became infected in the hotel quarantine fiasco.

She also found that no-one was responsible for making any decisions whatsoever. Yes, Prime Minister Yes, Premier?

But, all was well. Victoria’s Worksafe was on the case. And in September 2021, via the Office of Public Prosecutions, levied 58 criminal charges against the Department of Health. On Wednesday, days out from the County Court trial commencing, the court tossed out evidence from the Board of Inquiry. And the OPP abandoned the case.

 A health department spokesperson said: “We’re pleased to see this matter resolved, avoiding a lengthy and costly trial in circumstances where there has already been a public inquiry.” Thereby beautifully sidestepping the issue.

This is the final nail in the coffin of someone, or even something (i.e. a government department) being held responsible for one of the worst disasters in Victoria’s history.

Well played, Victorian government. The responsibility for the deaths of 768 people is now buried. Alongside them.

4. Who pays Trumpster’s legal bills?

Wry & Dry dips his lid to the Trumpster’s supporters. Not only do they turn up in all sorts of weather to hear him hectoring whomever caused him a sleepless night last night, they donate money to him. Surely they know the funds are going to pay his legal fees.

This takes tribal loyalty almost to the level of organ transplants, e.g. offering their kidneys or corneas should either of his own fail. And all of this in full knowledge that the Trumpster is billionaire enough to pay his own legals.

Y’see, the Trumpster faithful have paid more than $76,000,000 for his legal fees since January 2023. His court battles are draining cash from his election campaign. And leaving him far behind Sleepy Joe in the cash for campaigning race.

And that was before any of his trials had commenced.

There will come a point when the Trumpster will have to take out his own credit card.  That point will be when the legal costs going out are higher than donations coming in.

He can control neither factor (unless he wishes to plead guilty and not contest the civil claims against him).

And the donation tank might run dry – the early fanatics have given their silver. And his ability to broaden his cash-willing donor base is being compromised by greater awareness of his sociopathy.

Perhaps his supporters should form a MAGA Transplant Team, and see who will volunteer to donate their brain to him.

Hang on! That might make things worse.

5. When AI is not artificial

Artificial Intelligence is such a good idea. Why bother with Real Intelligence when a faux version can be used and accessed by those too slow to think for themselves.

AI is the new black. Everything is now a product of AI. Or uses AI. Wry & Dry’s daily coffee comes from an AI machine. His home security relies on AI. Really?

The most recent and public example of the Potemkin Village1 that is AI, is the latest AI model of Meta (Facebook). Someone asked it to produce a list of Australia’s best prime ministers. The list was, in order: Whitlam, Hawke, Gillard, Turnbull and Albanese.

Even Wry & Dry’s modest-sized Real Intelligence could see that this was not AI, but BI (Biased Intelligence) or just plain BS. Wry & Dry was amazed at Meta’s AI’s intelligent response. As soon as a complaint was made about only left-wing PMs making the top five, Meta added Menzies to the list.

Wry & Dry’s curiosity was aroused, and he searched the academic literature2 for lists of the best PMs. Whilst there was no unanimity of ranking, the following five dominated the lists: Chifley, Deakin, Curtain, Menzies, and Hawke. Howard and Whitlam were leaders in the second tier.

All of this confirms in Wry & Dry’s mind that RI is probably preferable to AI.

1 Potemkin village is a construction (literal or figurative) whose purpose is to provide an external façade to a situation, to make people believe that the situation is better than it is. The term comes from stories of a fake portable village built by Grigory Potemkin, a Field Marshall and former lover of Empress Catherine II, solely to impress her during her journey to Crimea in 1787.

2 Variously: 300 political scientists and historians; six historians; fifteen historians and political commentators; and 145 Australian politics and history academics.

6. Olympics’ leverage for cash

It was an outcome that surprised no-one. The French government’s long-standing tradition of collapsing in the face of militant union action continues.

The back story: M Macron wanted to tackle France’s pension funding crisis. The retirement age for French train drivers is 52, and 57 for other railway workers.3 He therefore wanted to bring the railway folk out of the 19th century into the 21st. And to raise the retirement age by… two years.

The rail unions threatened to crash Macron’s Olympics’ party. And so a deal was done. Believe the following: the retirement age would rise by two years, but the workers could choose to stop working 30 months before the higher retirement age and continue to receive 75% of their pay.

But wait! There’s more. The rail workers will also receive a cash bonus of EUR1,900. Just for doing their normal job.

3 Private sector workers have to wait until between 62 and 64 to retire.

7. Deep dive: governments picking winners

It’s timely that this morning’s Financial Times published an article on industrial policy (IP), i.e. governments investing in or providing subsidies to companies to assist them or the economy. The timeliness relates to Albo’s programme of massive tax-payer funding of projects such as (so far) solar panels and quantum computing.

The article noted the significant increase in subsidies for IP globally in 2023. But the trend started before then. Leaving aside China’s massive DNA of IP, it was the Trumpster that started the modern fashion with huge trade tariffs in 2017. Sleepy Joe’s so-called Inflation Reduction Act is IP on a sector wide basis by another name.

Does IP work? The short story is…

There are two types of IP. There is an important difference between policies that try to create growth by shielding domestic companies from foreign competition and those which help those companies compete more effectively on the world stage. 

The first is effectively import substitution. And, as shown by Australia’s IP for the domestic motor vehicle industry, it actually undermines long-term growth by creating and sustaining excessively coddled, inefficient industries.

By contrast, the second variant of IP aims to make industries more competitive externally in an export-oriented model, while worrying less about imports. This approach is what drove the east Asian miracle, and is what creates sustained growth, the data4 suggests. Australia’s implicit encouragement of overseas university students is an example.

So what?

The answer is to place a framework over each of Albo’s forays into IP. Solar panels should be forecast as $1 billion down the gurgler. News on other Future Made in Australia projects await release.

A $1 billion investment in quantum computing can be put in a third category: moonshot. Readers should remember Apollo 13.

4 Reda Cherif and Faud Hasanov are economists at the IMF. In 2019 they published a seminal paper: with the (slightly) sarcastic title: “The Return of the Policy That Shall Not Be Named: Principles of Industrial Policy”. Last weekend, they presented a paper, “Pitfalls of Protectionism”, at Cambridge’s Bennett Institute: The pitfalls of protectionism: import substitution vs export-oriented industrial policy (

8. When the left-wing meets the right-wing

The recent rise of anti-Semitism is now reflected in both extreme ends of the political spectrum. The extreme left wing has joined the extreme right wing in an unholy and unspoken of alliance.

Imagine the straight line of the political spectrum with the extreme ends bending to form a circle.

And now consider some right-wing nutters in Germany.

Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss, aged 72, is not a name that Readers would discuss over coffee. However, Heinrich is the man for the job, according to the Reichsbürger Group (Citizens of the Reich). The job? To rule Germany.

What’s going on? Well, this group, which preach anti-Semitism and a host of conspiracy theories, was plotting a putsch to overthrow the German government. The plan was to storm the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament) in 2022, and resurrect the Second Reich of 18715. Expect the words Fourth Reich to appear.

The putsch fell at the first hurdle, when German security people found out and arrested Heinrich and many others. Heinrich goes on trial this week.

Similar to Hitler, Heinrich XIII’s interest in the putsch reflected his own far-right-wing views, but also revenge. After the reunification of Germany in 1991 he sought to have his family’s extensive land holdings and castles restituted. These, and all the attendant styles and titles, were lost in 1919 with the establishment of the Weimar Constitution. He’s been bitter ever since.

As comical as a putsch seems, the Reichsbürger Group forms the basis of the far-right’s political success, especially in eastern Germany.

5 ‘Reich’ means empire or realm. The First Reich was the Holy Roman Empire (800-1806; neither holy nor Roman, it was an empire). The Second Reich (1871-1918) arose from von Bismarck’s consolidation of German states and died after the First World War. The Third Reich (1933-1945) was Nazi Germany.

9. American parents vote for reproductive abstinence

It’s the ultimate fear of Americans: raising children in a country that is stupid enough to have a 79-year-old man and an 84-year-old man battling it out on Zimmer frames for the presidency of the Free World.

So, they have voted with their, err, reproductive abstinence. American women are giving birth at record-low rates:

Readers will know that the population replacement fertility rate is 2.1 babies per woman. Well, the US’ fertility rate fell to 1.6 in 2023, a 2% decline from a year earlier. It is the lowest rate recorded since the government began tracking it in the 1930s.

But, it’s okay. The population growth of the US will be driven by immigration, which, if the Trumpster gets his way, will come solely from Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

10. Wry & Dry sleeps out

Readers, please indulge Wry & Dry…

Last year, when walking to work, early, Wry & Dry was confronted by the sight of a homeless man. The man had been stabbed, and was lying on the footpath under the railway viaduct. Blood was, well, everywhere. Wry & Dry called an ambulance and tended the man until the ambulance arrived (20 minutes…).

That’s the short story, for Wry & Dry. For the homeless man, the story will be longer, and may not end until… his end.

That incident prompted Wry & Dry to put his aged body to good use. And to raise dosh for Vinnies, to help the homeless.

So, he’ll be ‘sleeping out’ on Thursday 20 June, taking part in the Vinnies’ CEO Sleepout to raise money for the St Vincent de Paul Society . ‘Sleeping out’ is a hitherto unfelt experience for Wry & Dry. If he can rough it for a night, Readers can consider donating for the enjoyment of his suffering! Photos will be available.

He has a target. And Readers can make a difference. But it’s not only about the cash, it’s awareness about the homelessness.

All Readers need do is click his fundraising page: and donate what Readers can afford and what is a fair price to have Wry & Dry sleeping uncomfortably, cold, damply and vulnerably.

Snippets from all over

1. Tsar Vlad’s gas company reports net loss

Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas giant, reported a net loss of 629bn roubles ($6.9bn) in 2023, its first annual loss in around two decades. (Wall Street Journal

Wry & Dry comments: Tsar Vlad will not be losing sleep.

2. Microsoft invests in Indonesia, wither Australia

Microsoft said it would spend $1.7bn in Indonesia over the next four years, its biggest-ever investment in the country. (Economist)

Wry & Dry comments: Microsoft will train 840,000 people in Indonesia. Perhaps Microsoft should have tipped some dosh into some well-connected Australian lobbying pockets and received a $1 billion subsidy from We-The-Australian-Taxpayer.

3. The Trumpster in contempt of court

The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s hush-money trial fined the former president $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order. (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: The judge also warned the Trumpster that he could face time in the slammer if he continued to post insults about potential witnesses and the jury.  

4. EU budget rules broken

Eleven EU countries including France and Italy are set to be reprimanded by the European Commission over excessive government spending once new fiscal rules enter into force this year. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Reprimanded? Really? A slap on the wrist.

5. SNP chaos

The Scottish National Party is facing a bitter leadership contest after Humza Yousaf resigned as Scotland’s first minister in a move that could bolster [Labour’s] Sir Keir Starmer’s hopes of entering No 10. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Yousaf was dealt a bad hand by predecessor Queen of Woke Nicola Sturgeon and then played it monumentally incompetently. Scotland will remain a part of the UK for the next X years, where X is a large number.


  1. USA: the Fed left US’ interest rates unchanged, in the range of 5.25% to 5.5%.
  2. Australia: inflation fell to 3.6% in the year to March. But rose to 1% in the March quarter, up from 0.6% in the December quarter.
  3. USA: GDP grew at 1.6% in the year to March. Well below expectations.
  4. USA: inflation increased to 3.7% in the March quarter. Interest rate cuts will be delayed.
  5. Germany: inflation increased to 2.4% in year to April, up from 2.3% in March. Interest rate cuts will be delayed.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

“Although I am keenly aware of, and protective of, defendant’s First Amendment rights, I will jail Mr. Trump if necessary and appropriate.”

Justice Juan M. Merchan, presiding judge in the case: The People of the State of New York against Donald J. Trump.

What percentage of the globe would love to see the Trumpster eating porridge?


The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.


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