Wry & Dry

Budget: where was the fluro vest? Brexit: The Movie. ...love you in the morning

Budget 1: where was the fluro vest?

W&D thought that neophyte Treasurer Josh Frydenburg should have worn one of those 'fluro' vests often seen festooning politicians on the hustings.  Readers would be familiar with the fluro-vested political Leader in the centre of the photo opportunity, with the aspiring and furiously nodding local member earnestly looking over the Leader's shoulder, as they each gaze at the hole-in-the-ground-soon-to-become-a-hospital.

cartoon barbarians at the gate    

But Budget Josh, looking and speaking, it must be said, like the Prime Minister he wishes to become, eschewed the fluro vest.  And looked very sharp with his few remaining strands of hair shorn within a millimetre of nothingness.  But behind him the heads were nodding furiously, with the heads sometimes interjecting with helpful cries of "hear, hear!" 

He should have donned the Henry Bucks [1] fluro, though.   Such a massive infrastructure boost deserved traditional fluro-festooning.

[1]  Henry Bucks was Melbourne's leading tailor and menswear shop in the days of Robert Menzies, former PM and member for the seat that Josh now occupies.  Nowadays, gentlemen are recommended to try Moss Bros in Regent Street, and then saunter along to Wolford to purchase a compensatory, err, arrangement. 

Budget 2: lucky generals 

Readers will recall Napoleon Bonaparte (perhaps the epitome of an SMS sufferer [2]) after being criticised for winning battles simply because of luck, famously retorted: “I'd rather have lucky generals than good ones.” 

So, whilst there have been many sensible budget initiatives from Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann, perhaps Treasurer Josh can give some part of the upcoming decade of budget surpluses to three lucky generals:

1.  taxpayers moving into higher tax brackets (higher income tax);

2.  a commodity price surge (higher company taxes from resource companies); and

3.  lower government expenditure on programs linked to wage increases or price increases, or both.

The last item is often overlooked.  But Readers will instantly see that it really is obvious.  If inflation is low and wages growth is low, expenditure programs that are automatically indexed to either or both will be low.    

[2]  Small Man Syndrome.

Budget 3: does it matter?

In a technical sense, Treasurer Josh's budget doesn't matter, because in five weeks time enough of his colleagues will be down at Centrelink to ensure that Mrs Shorten's choice of curtains for The Lodge will be delivered.  

Cartoon at the polling booth

Soft launch

Last night W&D had two couch alternatives: AFL or Bill Shorten's budget reply speech.

He chose neither, and instead had a hot date with Mrs W&D.  Which was just as well.  The football apparently had moments of excitement.  And Mr Shorten's speech (watched this morning, instead) had none.  Quite the opposite, which led W&D to ponder deeply.  

Leaving aside the content of the speech, W&D is most concerned that is wasn't Bill Shorten at all. 

Allow W&D to explain.  Readers will recall some weeks ago he alerted Readers to the successful trial of a robotic newsreader in China.  Click here to refresh your memory.  Well, W&D now thinks that the Labor Party has replaced Bill Shorten with an amazing robotic doppelgänger [3].

The robot that gave the speech last night looked like Bill Shorten.  And spoke like Bill Shorten.  But it didn't have those essential elements of animation that humans have, such as natural facial movements, voice cadence, etc.

Cartoon shorten robot

W&D can only conclude that this was the 'soft launch' of two of the Labor Party's policies: a) productivity: replace everybody with robots; and b) innovation: use technology to create something that no-one has thought of.  And it must have been a successful soft launch, as people were convinced this morning that in fact it was the real Bill Shorten who gave the speech.

There is only one concern.  And that somehow One Nation party gets hold of the technology.  And creates a robotic Pauline Hanson.  And then duplicates her.  Again.  And again.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

[3] An apparition or double of a living person.

"... love you in the morning"

Readers will remember those golden words:  "We will plant one billion trees." And "No child will live in poverty ..."

There is little evidence that either of the above aspirational campaign promises succeeded.  But as they were spoken by the self-imagined Messiah-Prime-Minister, Bob Hawke, the crowds cheered at the promises.

And, rather like the oft-promised, "Of course I will still love you in the morning," (probably also uttered by R.J.L. Hawke, on more than one occasion) the outcome is different to the promise.  

An early entrant in W&D's Aspirational Campaign Promise Award is from Bill Shorten: to have 50% of new cars sold in Australia by 2030 being electric.  This is right up there with the billion trees thingy. 

As Readers know, W&D is an optimist, as evidenced by his support of the Melbourne Football Club.  But, really, there were 1,352 EVs sold in Australia in 2018.  Or 0.12% of the 1,126,666 new car sales.  Assuming that the number of new cars sold grows at the same rate as population growth, then in 2030 that is 50% of 1.4 million cars.  W&D will say that Mr Shorten's target is 700,000 EVs sold in 2030.

But it's not going to go from virtually nothing to 700,000 in one leap.  Assuming it's a straight line rate of growth (i.e. CAGR), it's about a 68% p.a. growth rate.  That means a total of about 1.7m EVs on the roads by 2030.  Economists have calculated that it will cost about a $4,500 government subsidy (directly or indirectly) to encourage the switch to EVs.  (In the US the federal subsidy is up to US$7,500, in addition to state subsidies).

So, the possible cost to we-the-taxpayer will be some $7.8 billion.  To put it into a household budget context, what are we going to give up to pay for this?   

Don't misunderstand W&D.  He is in favour of EVs.  But if the government really thinks EVs are a sensible idea rather than a feel-good idea, then the way to go is to tax fossil-fuel driven vehicles to pay for the EV subsidies.  That is 'hypothecate' a fossil-fuel tax for EV subsidies. 

Then see how popular the EV idea is.

And that is ignoring the obvious problem of how the renewable energy-driven power grid is going to cope the 1.7m cars being plugged into it each evening.  It won't.

Cartoon shorten green as grass electric cars

This Aspirational Campaign Promise is nothing more than a sop to voters wavering between the Greens and Labor.  It will go the way of Bob Hawke's promises. 

Brexit: The Movie

The bellicose belligerence continues.  W&D is losing count of the number of motions put to the anarchical folk of the House of Commons.  Some have passed, others failed.

Cartoon brexit on ice

But relief is at hand.  W&D can assure Readers of one certain outcome: there will be Brexit: The Movie.

The cast will include Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks to boost appeal to American audiences, with Billy Nighy (Jezza Corbyn), Emma Thompson (Angela Merkel), Stephen Fry (Boris Johnson), Hugh Grant (M. Macron) and Rowan Atkinson (any Italian politician) in cameo roles.  Helen Mirren will, of course, play Her Majesty and Sean Connery any Scottish politician.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, it must be the radiation 

Different parts of the world throw up weird politicians.  And W&D is not talking about Roosha, where the current Tsar used to work for the KGB.  That is quite appropriate.

No, W&D is pondering Ukraine.  Volodymyr Zelensky is a comedian whose character on television is accidentally propelled to the Ukrainian presidency.  And in real life, Mr Zelensky decided to chance his arm at running for President.  And last weekend won around 30% of the vote in first round of Ukraine's real presidential elections.  Polling suggests he will win the second (and final) round.

Ukraine is a big country - the second largest in Europe (after Roosha) with some 45 million souls.  W&D cannot imagine any other large country having a clown as its President.

Hang on a minute ... 

The ballot box strikes back

Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey has got egg on face.   He and his government have taken control of the media, taken control of the judiciary and done their best to ensure tenure for themselves.

Then along came ... the ballot box.  In last weekend's local elections, the Sultan's party, the AKP lost control of the capital Ankara and the gorgeous former capital Constantinople Istanbul.  And two of the other three largest cities. 

So what does all of this mean?  Well, it is all rather symbolic.  The Sultan can and probably will kick some of his winning opponents from office, on the usual trumped up charges. 

Like many populist leaders, the Sultan demonises his opponents, whipping up nationalist fervour where none is required.  But he runs the risk of ignoring the simple election offering that kept many African dictators in popularity: "... a chicken in every pot."[2]  Because the number of chickens in pots, as it were, in such a blessed country, is running short.  2018 GDP growth was -3%, inflation is currently 19.7%, interest rates at 18.4% and unemployment at 13.5%. 

The bigger long-term issue, as W&D sees it, is that the Sultan doesn't have the confidence of voters in the big cities, where lives the young, the brightest, the industrial elite and the middle class. 

[2] "A chicken for every pot and a car in every garage," was actually not African sourced, but part of the 1928 US presidential campaign for Herbert Hoover.  Hoover won.  But that slogan itself was stolen from Henry IV of France (1553-1610), "I want there to be no peasant in my realm so poor that he will not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday." 

China: a dragon or a panda?

Readers know that W&D has concerns about the subtle and unsubtle manner in which China is flexing its muscles.  Is it a dragon (threat) or a panda (no threat).

Over the past fifteen years, the Chinese government has invested heavily in promoting a positive international image.  Readers would be familiar with a range of foreign language news outlets and public relations campaigns, encouraging international students to pursue their education in China, and establishing a network of 'Confucius Institutes' on university campuses worldwide, offering language courses, cultural classes and celebrations to mark Chinese holidays.

Despite such initiatives, however, it seems that many Western voters maintain a significantly negative view of China and its role in the world. Someone asked people in five countries for their views.

China your economy

China the environment

China region

It looks as though Emperor Xi has a bit of work to do.  

Michelin 

In an attempt to take readers away from the perniciousness of politics, W&D considers that Readers should know that the highest ratio of Michelin starred restaurants is in the Italian Dolomites, a once-poor Alpine farming community.

The tiny village of San Cassiano currently can claim one Michelin star for every 172 inhabitants. By comparison, Paris manages one per 21,170 residents.

Be excited!

World's #1 cricket team is ... 

... not Australia.  Again.

India is comfortably #1, from New Ziland (!) and then Seth Efrica.  Oz is fourth.

Alphabetically weak Zimbabwe finished 10th (i.e. last).  

Snippets from all over 

1.  Down at the car wash 1

Lyft, the 'other Uber', last Friday listed its shares on New York's technology laden Nasdaq stock exchange.  At a price of $72.  Its shares are now trading at $70.  Someone has noticed that Lyft lost $682m in 2016, $688m in 2017 and $911m in 2018.

W&D comments:  As one analyst put it; "There is a better chance of a person landing on Mars than Lyft turning a profit."[3].  And Lyft is not an Amazon.

[3] Dan Ives, managing director at Wedbush Securities.

2.  Down at the car wash 2

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to the lowest level since 1969, according to data released yesterday.

W&D comments:  This is either a data blip or sign that the US economy is a lot better than expected.  The US unemployment rate is now 3.8%.

3.  US government - focusing on the big issues

The US Department of Justice has sent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the movie-Oscar people) a letter expressing concern about potential changes to requirements for the awards.  Limiting the eligibility of Netflix and other streamers could spark antitrust (i.e. anti-competitive) concerns.

W&D comments: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn [4].

[4]  Also spoken by the charming Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) in a brutal and final rebuttal of yet another plea from the capricious Scarlett O'Hara (Vivienne Leigh) in the classic Gone With The Wind.

4.  Australia 1

The Chief Teller at the RBA announced on Tuesday that, after reading of the entrails of bats and frogs, decided to leave interest rates unchanged.  At 1.5%.  

W&D comments: Sometime soon (but on the first Tuesday of a month), the entrails will suggest that interest rates are lowered by 0.25% points.  At which the major banks will lower their mortgage rates by something less than 0.25% points.  

5.  Australia 2 

Australia achieved a record trade surplus of $4.8 billion in February, largely because of higher iron ore prices.  

W&D comments:  Bank the savings!. 

Tool of the Week 

Podium finish goes to ... Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.  "I have met in my life two big destroyers: Gorbachev, who destroyed the Soviet Union, and Cameron, who destroyed the United Kingdom (because he instituted the referendum on Brexit)".

Cartoon juncker

Whaaat, no thanks for Gorbachev destroying the USSR?  He should study history and see how disastrous the USSR was when Gorby took over.  Any political reform was never going to be easy.  And ditto economic reform.  People just do not realise how bad things had become by the 1980s.  Gorby did an okay job, but the task was monumental.  And his final failing was as much the result of the hawks in George Bush Senior's government wanting to see Russia on its knees before helping.  One outcome of that was the rise of Yeltsin.  It was he who gave away Russia's wealth. 

Readers will know that in May, 2008, Juncker attended and spoke at a celebration of Karl Marx’s 200th birthday, where he defended Marx's legacy and unveiled an eighteen-foot bronze statue of Marx donated by the Chinese government. 

Say no more.

Deepak, W&D's Uber driver... 

Didn't turn up.  Again.   

And, to soothe your troubled mind ...

Miscellany 

Last words ...

“I'm not inclined to hand over my tax returns.”

 -  I-Wanna-Trump, responding to a formal demand from the (US) House (of Representatives) Ways and Means Committee that the IRS (equivalent to the ATO) turn over six years of personal and business tax returns.     

Arguably the most subtle response I-Wanna-Trump has given to any demand/request/comment by the Democrats, the media or, indeed, anyone. 

First Samuel client events calendar

Events for 2019

Eat Street

Invitations sent on Tuesday 2nd April

21st May 2019 - The Sofitel Hotel

NGV Viewing and Cocktail Night

Invitations not yet sent

25th June 2019 - NGV 

Contact Jess at responses@firstsamuel.com.au to RSVP


Some lightly salted absurdities from all over ...

At the extreme left-hand end of the Bell Curve

Bradley Bower, 55, of York County, Pennsylvania didn't like the way the checkout chick person was bagging his groceries.

So he tried to strangle her.

(fox43.com)

Apparently, she placed a canned item on top of a bag of crisps, thereby threatening to crush the crisps.

Guess why?

Viewers of a Denver TV station, 9News, complained about the weather girl (Becky Ditchfield) being pregnant while doing her job.

Why were they complaining?

a.  She threw up on air; 

b.  She belched on air;

c.  She spoke about here baby rather than an upcoming snowstorm; or

d.  Her belly is "blocking too much of the weather map."  

Close.  But no cigar.  d. is correct.  Viewers have emailed her and her employer saying that her belly is “blocking too much of the weather map.”            

(Yahoo.com) 

Quite right, too.  The only way to see if it's snowing outside is to see all of the weather map on TV. 

Only in Mexico

Thieves stole a front-end loader, drove to the local bank, knocked down a wall and chained the safe to the machine.

Safe

And then tried dragging it away. But nothing in the driver's brain said, "Hmmm, once I have the bank safe chained to the front-end loader, how do I quietly get away, unnoticed?"

(New York Post)

He didn't either ask that question.  Or, indeed, get away, unnoticed.

Cheers

Anthony