Wry & Dry #42-24 Dutton’s Rubicon. UK election: leaders last. Real estate opportunities.

Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent review of the week in politics, economics and life. For intelligent Readers who disdain the trivial.

Ten stories you may have missed

  1. Dutton’s Rubicon
  2. UK election – leaders last
  3. Seeking property development opportunities
  4. Sleepy Joe goes to sleep – standing up
  5. Trumpster unprompted
  6. Reading between the RBA lines
  7. Bubble time?
  8. There’s that $16m in the cash box…
  9. Musings
  10. Tsar Vlad goes east

1. Dutton’s Rubicon

It’s the biggest political move since Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC. And Readers know how that ended. 1

Uncle Fester Dutton cast the die with his announcement of seven sites for nuclear power plants. It has a sort of “build it and they will come” ring about it. Except his is: “announce it and they will vote for it.”

Err, perhaps some details are missing. And so this has the making of a political and economic master-stroke, except that, aside from real estate agents getting excited about the possibilities, the detail box empty.      

Readers will remember that former Leader of the Opposition John Hewson went to the 1993 federal election with the introduction of GST as his key policy. Keating, preferring to win the election rather than continue with his meritorious tax reform, brilliantly turned Hewson to well burnt, but wholemeal, toast.

Hewson lost the unlosable election. And got the DCM.

But his successor’s successor John Howard, with Peter Costello, took a GST to the 1998 election. The tax reform was violently opposed by Labor, but Howard/ Costello held fast to that which was good. And won.

GST is now integral to the Australian tax system. Labor wouldn’t dare abolish it.

The moral, i.e. that great ideas often don’t succeed first time around, is not quite applicable here. The GST was legislated and introduced within two years. Voters could see the outcome.

But can Australian voters think well beyond their normal time horizon: how many sleeps til Christmas? Building nuclear power plants, no matter how meritorious, will require twenty years of sleeps. Not to mention rabid Labor premiers, vacillating state Liberal leaders and a weak-kneed business community.

Uncle Fester Dutton will remember the last time Albo argued a single policy to Australian voters. It didn’t end well for him.

And like Uncle Fester last year, all Albo has to do is slip lose the dogs of a negative war. He will not need to hide behind multitudinous and incoherent policies.

1 Idiomatically, ‘crossing the Rubicon’ means passing the point of no return. The Rubicon River was, with the Arno, the northern boundary of the Roman Republic (as distinct from Roman provinces). Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon from Gaul with an army under arms effectively amounted to an insurrection against Rome, that commenced the civil war.

2. UK election – leaders last

Readers will be aware that the good folk of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland go to the polls on Thursday week.

It’s going to be bizarre.

Sir Keir Starmer KC, the somnambulistic leader of the Labour Party, will probably be elected with the greatest parliamentary majority in history.2

He will also be the least popular candidate ever elected to be prime minister. He has a net favourability rating of -17.

It’s all got to do with Starmer’s charisma. He doesn’t have any. His resting expression is that of a man with excruciating piles lowering himself gingerly onto an inflatable haemorrhoid cushion.

Which is somewhat better than incumbent Rishi Sunak’s net approval rating of -51. For Rishi, all the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey.3

Land of hope and glory? Really?

2 Actually, that’s most unlikely. Labor might gain 80% of the seats. In 1931, the Conservative won 85% of the seats in the House of Commons. In recent times, Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 victory was the largest, with 61% of the seats.

3 He has a home in California.

3. Seeking property development opportunities

The real reason for Chinese Premier LiQiang’s Australian visit this week was not to ‘mend fences’, as the media portrayed. But to check out Australia’s real estate possibilities as part of Emperor Eleven’s future Southern Province of the People’s Republic of China.

Wry & Dry’s spy on the spot has obtained the premier’s Quick Notes of his southern tour:

New Zealand: Beautiful but backward country. Possible properties for Politburo members’ vacations. Convenient transit places for future Antarctica operations.

Australia: Big country. Great mineral and agriculture resources for ready integration into the Middle Kingdom. Flaccid leader. Grumpy journalists. Will need to move the capital to a place as boring as Beijing – Adelaide, Shepparton? Dan Andrews already approached to be interim leader.

Malaysia: Red carpet welcome – gotta like that. Country is desperate for our investment, takeover should be easy. Easy springboard to Indonesia. 

Early on, in Canberra, the realpolitiks4 were apparent. Emperor Eleven’s emissary grunted the right grunts with Albo, each knowing full well that Emperor Eleven couldn’t give a toss about Australia.

Provided, of course, that the iron ore kept being shipped. And both tacitly understanding that Emperor Eleven’s legion of spies and faux spies would still infiltrate all levels of Australian life. The coercion of members of the Chinese Australian community will continue.

Here’s what Tuesday’s China Daily actually wrote about the visit:

“China and Australia vowed on Monday to work toward a mature, stable and constructive comprehensive strategic partnership while consolidating the current positive development momentum, and to jointly uphold regional and global peace, stability and prosperity.”

Really? Spot the adjectives, adverbs and the only full stop.

Albo deservedly won a kangaroo stamp for his mostly sensible management of difficult diplomatic meetings. He might have had more testicular fortitude a couple of times, but Readers shouldn’t lose perspective. Without China, Australia would be a third-world country.

4 Realpolitik is conducting diplomatic policies based on practical considerations rather than ideological, moral or ethical considerations. The term was coined in the 19th century, but the practice evolved from Sun Tzu and Machiavelli through Bismark to Lee Kuan Yew. Americans thinks that realpolitik started with Nixon (who had no morals) and Kissinger (who had no ideology). 

4. Sleepy Joe goes to sleep – standing up

In a scientific breakthrough worthy of a Nobel prize-worthy investigation, Sleepy Joe actually fell asleep whilst standing up.

At a fund-raising event in Los Angeles, his body stopped moving after he had spoken. And he stared blankly over the crowd. After an increasingly embarrassing pause, former president O’Bama came to his rescue, and tugged his wrist to wake him before leading him offstage.

Readers may wish to see this extraordinary event in action:

And then, be excited about the first presidential debate next Thursday (11am Friday 28 June, Melbourne time). Will former president O’Bama be on hand to take Sleepy Joe’s hand? Just in case he falls asleep, mid-sentence.

5. Trumpster unprompted

Meanwhile, at a fundraiser in Las Vegas, the Trumpster’s teleprompter died. The man was left floundering midway through an assault on clean energy. As any speechmaker knows, when one loses the teleprompter and has to ad lib, one is liable to take the speech down a path from which it is difficult to return.

The path the Trumpster took was about the weight of batteries. And then… electric boats… and then the battery weight would make them liable to sinking…and then:

“What would happen if the boat sank from its weight and you’re in the boat and you have this tremendously powerful battery, and the battery is now underwater, and there’s a shark that’s approximately 10 yards over there?”

And so he went on.

At next week’s presidential debate there will be no teleprompter from which the Trumpsters can read. Will the shark get a mention?

Ah, American democracy: it’s all about choice:

6. Reading between the RBA lines

Statements from the RBA are usually as transparent as the shower curtain in Psycho.5

But Tuesday’s statement following the announcement that interest rates would remain unchanged, for now, threw back the shower curtain to:

  • Interest rates will rise if needed; “damn the torpedoes.”6
  • The fight against inflation is not being helped by big-spending federal and state governments: “damn their eyes.”7
  • Artificially lowering inflation by energy rebates is futile.

Ms. Bullock’s unsubtle comments caused Treasurer Grim Jim much discombobulation: a media conference was hastily arranged. Grim Jim came out with a today-I’ll-shoot-myself-in-the-foot line: “I don’t tell [Ms. Bullock] how to do her job, and the governor doesn’t tell me how to do mine.”

Ms Bullock wasn’t telling Grim Jim how to do his job. She was telling him that he wasn’t doing his job.

Wry & Dry is not thinking that RBA governor Michele Bullock is a latter-day Janet Leigh… but the thinking of the RBA is now plain for the world to see. This year interest rates are more likely to go up than down.

5 The shower curtain (covering Janet Leigh) in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ is probably the most famous of all movie shower curtains.

6 Probably the most famous quote in U.S. naval history. Attributed to Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay, during the American Civil War, in 1864. Torpedoes in those days referred to mines.  

7 An archaic 19th century insult.

7. Bubble time?

Younger Readers will remember, March 2000, when Microsoft was surpassed as the world’s most valuable company. The new #1 was Cisco, a networking equipment company.

On Tuesday, Microsoft was once again surpassed as the world’s most valuable company. The new #1 is now Nvidia, the behemoth chips designer and supplier, especially of AI chips and software.

Cisco today has a market cap of just US$185 billion. Nvidia’s is US$3.3 trillion.

Nvidia is more than the new black; AI has captured the word’s imagination and the company’s chips are the essential workhorses for everything AI.

But there’s a problem. It is estimated that the industry invested $50 billion into Nvidia state-of-the-art chips last year, but the investing companies brought in only $3 billion in revenue. That’s a massive imbalance.

Without the investment in chips producing the revenue required, an event happens… Spot the P/E outlier:

Apple 33, Facebook 29, Google 27, Microsoft 39, Nvidia 80, or Tesla 47.

8. There’s that $16m in the cash box…

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the matter of Alan Joyce’s final bonus has reappeared. Readers will recall that the former CEO of Qantas had an inglorious exit last year. He gave himself the DCM and left with his tail well between his legs, before the sluggish board got around to doing it.

Readers will recall that the first week of September last year was a shocker for Qantas, its hapless chairman and its evasive CEO. There were, inter alia, the $570m of flight credits that were to be cancelled on 31 December and the Qantas’ sale-of-tickets-on ghost-flights scandal.8

Qantas’ new chairman has appointed former consultant guru Colin Carter to make a recommendation as to the fate of the $16m as yet unpaid. It’s sitting in unmarked bank notes in Qantas’s cash box.

Wry & Dry’s view is that not only should Joyce not be paid his final bonus, but that he should be placed in stocks outside Qantas’ HQ, with a plentiful supply of ripe tomatoes on hand.

8 Which caused Qantas’ lawyer to submit to the world that Qantas doesn’t sell seats on a particular flight, its sells customers ‘a bundle of rights’. Magnificent!

9. Musings

There has been a massive surge in short-sightedness in East Asia. A report in the Economist published the below chart. By way of comparison, the average incidence of myopia in Europe and the US is believed to be about 40%.

Why is it so? Theorists theorise that it could be either too much time spent looking at screens/ books or a lack of exposure to daylight.

Either way, Readers can see an opportunity, similar to a country where the people don’t wear shoes…

10. Tsar Vlad goes east

Key people from 92 countries around the globe attended last week’s Ukraine peace conference held in the mountain-top resort of Buergenstock, Switzerland.

Tsar Vlad didn’t get a guernsey.

He was planning his trip eastwards, to the Hermit Kingdom. Y’see, Rocketman Kim Jong Un has sent the invitation for a you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours meeting.

This week’s trip will be Tsar Vlad’s second time in North Korea; the first was 24 years ago at the start of his presidential career, when Rocketman’s father, Kim Jong Il, was still supreme leader.

Tsar Vlad will notice that nothing has changed since his last visit. North Korea represents 0.01% of the world’s economy and its GDP per capita of about US$1,500 is ranked 180th in the world.

But beyond that, this lurv fest is all about security of supplies.

Tsar Vlad wants ammunition, bovine construction workers, even volunteers to go to the front line in Ukraine.

Rocketman wants Russian produce, as well as technological help for military goals, including its long-range missile programme ultimately to be within striking distance of the US.

Both backs will be well scratched.

Snippets from all over

1. Fertility down

Birth rates in the world’s rich economies have more than halved since 1960 to hit a record low, according to a study that urged countries to prepare for a “lower fertility future”. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: The fertility rate has fallen from 3.3 in 1960 to 1.5 in 2022, the OECD said. It has a lot to do with the female employment rate:

2. Another EV start-up fails to start

Fisker, a much-hyped startup that sought to mimic Tesla’s success, has filed for bankruptcy, roughly a year after releasing its first electric-vehicle model.  (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: This was not the first bankruptcy rodeo for Fisker’s CEO, Henrik Fisker. Fisker Automotive died in 2013, after its first 300 ‘Karmas’ were lost in a hurricane in 2012.  

3. LSE back on top

The London Stock Exchange once again became Europe’s biggest equity market as political turmoil in France spooked investors in Paris. (The Economist)

Wry & Dry comments: A sandpit fight. Who cares?

4. Rape of 12-year-old Jewish girl

The alleged rape last weekend of a 12-year-old Jewish girl by boys who hurled antisemitic abuse at her has ignited simmering tensions in France over attitudes toward the largest Jewish community in Western Europe. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: This is sickening. Police have indicted two 13-year-old boys. 

5. Ukraine support

Ukraine has won the support of an international summit for its territorial integrity and part of its vision for ending Russia’s invasion, but major nations including India, Brazil and South Africa declined to sign up. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: A joint-statement was inked by 80 of the 92 countries attending. Notable non-signatories included some that rely on Russia for stuff: India, Brazil and South Africa. Saudi Arabia sat on the fence.


  1. Australia: The Chief Teller of the Reserve Bank left interest rates unchanged.
  2. UK: Inflation fell to 2% in the year to end May.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

Political courage is not political suicide.”

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California, former world champion body-builder, occasional movie star.

Well, not necessarily.


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


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