Wry & Dry

NAB nano-second. Village idiot. US rates up. Gas.

NAB nano-second: noun.  The time between an excuse for NAB to raise interest rates and NAB raising interest rates.

Well, not quite.  Readers will know that a nano-second is 10^(-9) of a second.  But there wasn't much time between the US Fed yesterday raising its official rate by 0.25% points for the NAB to follow the direction (up) but not the magnitude (0.07% points) of rates on owner-occupied home loans, and matching the increase for investor home loans.  Wry & Dry hears readers ask, "What have US rates got to do with Australian home loan rates?"  The answer is that it's not so much the Fed Funds rate that matters, but the US 10 year bond rate, which has been increasing for some time.  Australian banks borrow a lot of their dosh offshore.  And so will readily pass on increased costs of funds to borrowers.

Elsewhere, as the week has gone on, the revolving door of political hysteria spat out Pauline Hanson and sucked in Shadow Treasurer Andrew Leigh, Green's Leader Richard Di Natale and new ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus.

The latter has already been excoriated by the media, business, government and even William Shorten for saying that it was okay to break the law.  

Sigh.  So much to do.  So little time. [1]

Last week's baton of Village Idiot Of The Week has been seamlessly passed from Pauline Hanson to Greens leader, Richard Di Natale. 

Four day week

Dr Di Natale wants Australians to have a four-day working week; a six-hour working day and a guaranteed adequate income. "If you can dream and not make dreams you master..." [2]

W&D is not concerned by such aimlessness.  But rather Dr Di Natale's ignorance of the operation of Australian economics, business and tax, which matches that of the hapless Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh (see below).  Di Natale wants to introduce an inheritance tax on the 'super wealthy'.  

Hello!  There is already an inheritance tax, Doc.  It's called capital gains tax.  Beneficiaries inherit not only the asset but also the cost base of the testator (there are exceptions, such as the family home), which means when the asset is sold it is subject to CGT.  

But W&D thinks that the good Doctor just wants an inhertience tax because wealth-envy is one of the rallying calls for the earnest and humourless but taxpayer-funded-far-left-university-types that populate the electorates in which the Greens gain most of their votes. "Tax the rich" will be the cry.  Oh, dear.  

Speaking of misunderstanding the finer points of matters fiscal, ambitious Labor front-bencher, shadow assistant treasurer Dr Andrew Leigh has got egg all over his face.  This man has more degrees than a thermometer, but somehow issued two of the most extraordinary media pieces this week.

Firstly, he said that high income earners were getting a massive tax cut on 1-Jul-17 and how terrible this was when.. [cut to video of struggling mother holding semi-starved child, with aggrieved voice-over...oh, W&D just can imagine it].  Err, wrong.  What is happening is the so-called 'temporary budget repair levy' (i.e. the three-year 2% tax on incomes greater than $180,000) expires on that date.  To characterise the end of a tax increase as a tax cut is, well, somewhat far fetched.

But wait, there's more.  Separately, he opined, that five investors - HSBC, JP Morgan, National Nominees, Citicorp and BNP Paribas - are the biggest owners of Australia's largest companies.  He said, "these five faceless investors had a majority stake in the biggest players in our 20 largest companies..."

Err, no.  These organisations are custodians, that hold investments as nominee on behalf of major investment managers and superannuation funds.  

How embarrassing for Dr Leigh.  If he doesn't understand the difference between a custodian and a beneficial owner of a security, W&D suggests he finds a comfortable seat nearer the IQ-lite back stalls of the Opposition benches.

But IQ-liteness is not confined to the Opposition benches.  Readers will be aware that the federal budget is 'brought down' on Tue-9-May.  And in the weeks leading up to this over-rated, B-Grade theatrical event, the senior members of the government's fiscal brains' trust run wacky ideas up the fiscal flagpole to see who salutes.

This year is no exception.  For some weird reason 'housing affordability' is now the responsibility of the federal government.  Which means that somehow, sooner or later, we-the-taxpayers' dosh will be tossed at some fanciful scheme that sounds like a good idea, but probably achieves the opposite.  Such as the various First Home-Owners' Grants schemes (which W&D skewered last week).   Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar ran the government's latest thought bubble up the flag pole and unfurled it: allowing the electorally-magnetic First Home Buyer to dip into their superannuation to help finance a home purchase. 

Aside from the glaringly obvious point that First Home Buyers tend to be young people, and that young people tend not to have too much in superannuation; the aim of superannuation is not as a honey pot for desperate governments.  It's to provide an income in retirement, once the wage/ salary income ceases.  The idea is that by retirement the couple would own their home, debt free.

Maybe First Home Buyers should abandon credit cards.  W&D, always thinking of readers' wallets, is a bit of a consumer-activist.  Have readers ever wondered about the merit of credit card 'points'?  "Oh, I get the miles."  Hmm.  Just consider the following:

Credit cardYour benefit on using your credit card is about 0.5%.  So why pay a 1.5% credit card fee, or more, when buying an item?  Obviously there is benefit if your vendor doesn't add on the fee (which means it's built into the price).  Otherwise, W&D says pay cash.

So when you see the headline advertisement 'Win 20,000 [insert an airline name here] points', just replace the 20,000 points with $100 and then ask is it worth it?

W&D exits this week with a comment on the 'gas crisis'.  W&D originally thought that a gas crisis was a medical condition brought about by curried eggs.  But no, it seems that SA's rush toward renewable energy has meant that it cannot, itself, power the state all of the time.  

SA Renewables cartoon

Sometimes the wind doesn't blow.  But when it does, the SA government wants to install a bank of batteries to store 100MW-hours of power, for when the wind doesn't blow.  Sadly, 100MW-hours will supply the state with about 4 minutes of power. But, as W&D writes, tenders are being prepared.

So, Plan B.  The S.A. government wants to speedily build a gas fired generator (and install massive diesel generators) ready to supply the state next summer if the wind doesn't blow.  And so wants to draw gas from Queensland that has already been sold for export.  It's a bit of a dog's breakfast.  

But Croesus Turnbull has stepped in with an innovative plan to crank up the energy output of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electricity Scheme.   There is something romantic about this idea.  The Snowy Mountains have a sense of purity and environmental friendliness that a gas-fired generator doesn't.  And the Snowy Scheme itself brings fond memories of the 'nation-building' and skilled-immigrant-bringing the v 1.0 had in the 1950s and 60s.

Of course, just as the lads get the tunnel boring machines ready, the Greens will find an endangered worm that will prevent the whole project from proceeding.

Like motherhood and apple pie, it will be a winner.  Even if it doesn't work. 

As an aside, ASX-listed Stemcell United rose 3,800% on Wednesday.  The reason?  Medical cannabis.  Stemcell has not even entered the medicinal cannabis business yet. It has merely appointed a Nevil Schoenmakers (the 'King of Cannabis') to help the company "assess opportunities in the medicinal cannabis sector".  Prior to the appointment, Stemcell was involved in the traditional Chinese medicine plant extract business.  An example of the 'Greater Fool Theory' [3].

Nice work, if you can get it.

Elsewhere, Alitalia's 10 year record of losses looks like continuing.  No surprises there.  And a European election update.

And, of course, Miscellany, to soothe your troubled mind.  


[1]  "So much to do and so little time", The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

[2]  "If".  Rudyard Kipling.

[3]  An investor buys a stock without intrinsic value today hoping that a fool greater than he will buy it from him tomorrow.