Wry & Dry

And the dummy hit the moon. Subs R Us. South China Sea Bubble.

Melbourne holiday

Many Readers will know that Friday is a public holiday in Victoria because the AFL Grand Final [1] is being played on Saturday in Western Australia. Which is why Wry & Dry and Investment Matters comes to you on Thursday.

And resident cartoonist, Patrick Cook, has penned a few extra gems, to keep your spirits up. 

[1] For reasons lost is the mists of time, the game to decide the best Australia Rules football team is called a Grand Final, not a Final. And, just as weirdly, the two games to decide which two teams play in the Grand Final are called Preliminary Finals, rather than Semi Finals. Wry & Dry indulgently observes that he is a passionate supporter of one of the teams in the Grand Final: Melbourne. The mood of the next edition will surely depend on Saturday night's result. 

And the dummy hit the moon

Last week, Wry & Dry observed the petulance of M Macron, the French President. His dummy (pacifier) spit over a French company having its construction contract cancelled was without parallel in modern history. 

 Cartoon war with france

Non. Not quite. Readers will recall that in 2019 he withdrew France's ambassador from Rome after Italian politicians supported "gilets jaune" (yellow vests) protesters in Paris. And in 2020 he withdrew the ambassador to Turkey because Sultan Erdoğan criticised him [2].  

M Macron can see no further than next year's French elections. And certainly not over the horizon to understand that Australia is in a dangerous neighbourhood. And certainly not enough to admit the French submarine contractor was ripping off we-the taxpayer at every turn [3].

Cartoon submarine

A mature leader would have expressed understanding but disappointment. And had his/ her hissy fit in private.

But M Macron wanted to show a hairy chest, as it were, as he sees himself as the heir to Angela Merkel's nominal leadership of Europe. Perhaps UN Secretary-General after that. And then the ultimate global leadership role: CEO of the IOC. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... many in the commentariat have forgotten, or ignored, that this issue is not about France, it's about China. Moreover, whilst France and China threw their toys out of their respective cots, Japan, India, Taiwan and Singapore explicitly, albeit quietly, approved. And Vietnam and Philippines would be quietly agreeing.  

When Australia's first new go-faster sub is ready, Wry & Dry suggests that it be named the AS Macron [4]. And is christened on launch with a bottle of Australian sparkling from Tasmania smashed across its bow.  

[2] The nasty words were: "What is the problem this individual called Macron has with Islam and with the Muslims?  Macron needs mental treatment."  Ouch!
[3] For example, a contract amendment to change from incandescent light globes to LED was billed at $1m.
[4] AS = Australian Ship.  By the time the first sub is ready, HMAS will be redundant: Australia will be a Republic, with Chairman Dan also President.

Subs R Us

Peter Dutton, Defence Minister and former Wannabe PM, mooted that Australia might rent a submarine or two whilst the Adelaide shipyard gets its Allen keys in order.

Consider this. Some years ago, Wry & Dry met a wealthy Australian, who described how he and some mates had hired a Russian nuclear powered icebreaker and went to the north pole.

Wry & Dry asked how was it possible to hire such a thing. The man leant forward, and said, "Son, with money, you can hire anything."

This is the answer to Australia's short-term need for nuclear powered submarines. Hire a Russian nuclear powered ice-breaker and lash one of those ageing Collins Class submarines to the side. Voilà! So to speak.  

South China Sea Bubble

As Leo Tolstoy didn’t write, all bull markets are alike; each financial crisis is unhappy in its own way. [5]  

With news that Evergrande, a massive debt-ridden Chinese property company, is on the brink of sinking like a South China Sea Bubble [6], market analysts are reaching for the analogies. Y'see, it has a scarcely believable $306 billion of debt, which equates to a full 2% of Chinese gross domestic product. It is desperately trying to sell assets. When it goes gurgle under the waves, the ripple will be felt far beyond China’s borders.

cartoon evergrande

Will this be China’s Lehman Brothers moment? [7] Nuh. Lehman Brothers was a bank, with complexity interwoven with all parts of the US financial system.

Evergrande is mostly an enormous property developer. It has 1,300 developments in dozens of cities. It has 200,000 employees and hires 3.8m people to work on project development each year.

Emperor Xi will not let Evergrande metastasise into systemic instability. The most likely scenario is that Evergrande’s shareholders will be blown out of the water and big lenders will suffer big but manageable losses. The profitable parts of the business will be broken up and swallowed by rivals.

But make no mistake, the Chinese property market has been one of the great drivers of the global economy for years, sucking in raw materials from around the world. Such as Australian iron-ore mining companies.

[5] Tolstoy actually wrote, as the first words of Anna Karenina: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The simile, if that is what it is, is not Wry & Dry's, but of a journalist.
[6] Not to be confused with the South Sea Bubble of 1720, the second great financial bubble (after the Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637).
[7] The US government's or its agencies' unwillingness to bail out Lehmans accelerated a financial crisis that was unavoidable. Readers should watch "Too Big to Fail" to get a credible account of what happened in September 2008.

Melbourne comes alive

The shifting of the AFL Grand Final to an inaccessible place far, far away meant that Melbourne was bereft of excitement in the last week in September.

But the gods of mischief conspired to change all of that.

Chairman Dan outsourced the 'End of lockdown roadmap' to a medical institute, which was so conservative as to forecast an outcome 10 times as bad as the actual experience of Denmark under similar circumstances. But Chairman Dan was not one for turning. The bubbling grumpiness was turned up all over Victoria.

Chairman Dan gave construction workers a week to get vaxxed (he gave aged-care workers 10 weeks) or they would be banned. In a confusion of consultation (which resulted in the government's top construction industry adviser quitting in protest) and appalling communication, construction workers got very grumpy, got very mindless and very bovine. And took to the streets, gathering a following of lunatics looking to bash anybody. And causing mayhem at the Melbourne HQ of the CFMEU. [8]

Cartoon demonstrators

Jacinda Ardern, the Kiwi PM, decided that it was time to get noticed. As so she arranged for ''tectonic plate pressure' from New Zealand to cause a modest 5.9 earthquake in Melbourne [9], the worst on record. The minor damage that hit the television news was "more caused by poor building workmanship than the earthquake," as one seismologist put it.  

Cartoon CFMEU

Wry & Dry is surprised that the Greens Leader didn't blame the quake on climate change, Peter Dutton on the Chinese or Barnaby Joyce on the Greens.

[8] The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union.
[9] Wry & Dry lived in Japan for two years: "5.9.  You call that an earthquake..."

Mr. Morrison went to Washington

PM Jimmy Morrison cranked up the Qantas points this week. And met with Sleepy Joe and Borisconi in Washington to toast (in American sparkling) the AUKUS submarine deal. Wry & Dry's man person in the White House overheard the private conversations. Wry & Dry can reveal, exclusively, that the meeting was all about how to stop the French from whining.

Q. What was the preferred pacifier they decided to give to M Macron?

a. Borisconi offered up Scotland

b. Sleepy Joe offered up Donald Trump

c. Jimmy Morrison offered up Western Australia

d. All offered up first dibs on the next solar-powered submarine order 

A. Close, but no cigar, the correct answer is d. The innovative solar-powered submarine meets the critical requirement of a modern weapon: pollution free. It will also be almost silent. The fact that it cannot travel underwater for great distances doesn't matter.   

Unclear on the concept

The building workers (and then some) demonstrators in Melbourne were anti-vaxxers. The irony of not wanting injections to poison their bodies whilst displaying square metres of tattoos might have been lost on a number of them.

21 days is a long time

Prince Andrew, now #9 in the line of succession for the top UK gig, has got 21 days to file a response to claims that he acted in a most ungentlemanly manner towards a, err, somewhat younger lady. If he doesn't, judgment might be entered against him, which means (a) handing over vast amounts of dosh and (b), in the harsh court of public opinion, more-or-less admitting guilt. 

The Prince's accuser, now aged 38, will need to prove "on the preponderance of the evidence" [10] her allegations. This is not the same as "beyond reasonable doubt", which is the level of proof required in criminal charges. 

However, there is a view that the higher the stakes, as it were, the more compelling the evidence required. That is not to say a higher the burden of proof required. It's a question of evidence.

In this case, the court will consider the credibility and reliability of witnesses, which, in view of the circumstances of the allegations, might boil down to 'she said...' and "he said..."

As one British writer put it, the Prince is between a rock and many hard places. As his accuser, Ms. Virginia Giuffre, might once have been.

[10] This is the US wording. In Australia it is termed "on the balance of probabilities". It's a sort of > 50% likelihood of the claim being true.

RDS

It is indeed disturbing to Wry & Dry, and will be for Readers, that a serious outbreak of RDS [11] has occurred.

Former PM The Ruddster has penned an article for Le Monde, a leading French newspaper. In it, he modestly opines:

"...given the Australian government’s gross mishandling of its submarine replacement project with France, as well as the importance I attach to Canberra’s strategic relationship with Paris, I believe I have a responsibility as a former prime minister to make plain my own perspective on this most recent and extraordinary foreign policy debacle by the current Australian government.”

He seems to base his extraordinary criticism of the Australian government based on his own nationwide research:

"The cavalier manner in which it has been done does not represent the views of the vast majority of Australians towards France.”

These two extracts from The Ruddster's article sadly confirm in Wry & Dry's mind that The Ruddster has lost his. Wry & Dry is sure that the men in white coats will soon come knocking on his door.

Cartoon rudd and napoleon

[11] Relevance Deprivation Syndrome.

Petals

The English cricket mandarins have cancelled the English cricket team's upcoming tour of Pakistan not because of possible interference from across the western border but because of "worries about the mental health of the players."

And this on top of the players worried about quarantine rules for the Ashes tour in a couple of months.

Poor petals.

Snippets from all over 

1. Two Chinas

Taiwan has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major transpacific trade pact just after a week after China filed its own membership bid, pitting the two adversaries against each other in a race to join.

Wry & Dry comments: This is the art of diplomacy at its peak. The World Trade Organisation has both countries as members. But Beijing frequently pressures third countries as well as international organisations, non-governmental bodies and commercial enterprises to help isolate Taipei and deny it any participation in international affairs in its own right.

2. Election results 

Canada's Justin Trudeau retained minority government, losing just one seat to the opposition. 

Wry & Dry comments: But his quest for a majority government failed after calling the election two years early.

3. No more coal

President Xi Jinping yesterday announced that China would stop building coal fired power plants overseas.

Wry & Dry comments: Within is borders, China is planning to build 43 new coal-fired power plants and 18 new blast furnaces — equivalent to adding about 1.5% to its current annual emissions.

4. US debt ceiling

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the government through December 3rd and suspend the debt ceiling limit until the end of 2022.

Wry & Dry comments: It's all a game. The outcome of which will be a US government deficit bigger than the Ruddster's ego.

5. Gas up

The price of natural gas continues to climb and is up 46% on the week, to a record US$27.185 mBTU. A lack of North Sea wind, Russian supply bottlenecks and a running down of reserves after a cold northern winter are the culprits.

Wry & Dry comments: This is a worrying trend, especially for Europe. A few weeks ago, Wry & Dry commented on the situation in the UK. But UK is not the only country that relies heavily on natural gas. And the longer prices are at these levels, the more stress it will create in various parts of Europe, effectively like an interest rate hike. Europeans should hope for a warm and windy winter, and a cooperative Tsar Vlad.

Chart Europe gas

And, to soothe your troubled mind...

Last words...

"Prenez un grip and donnez-moi un break"

 - UK PM, Borisconi, commenting on M Macron's response to the AUKUS submarine deal.

A delightful mangling of both languages. Essentially he told M Macron to "get a grip", which means make an effort to control your emotions and behave more calmly.

 

PS A reminder that the opinions in Wry & Dry do not necessarily represent those of First Samuel, its employees or directors.

 

Cheers

Anthony