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WRY & DRY #15 FY-24: Voice over. Sleepy Joe’s great speech. Never mess with a nun.

Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.

Ten stories you may have missed

  1. Australia: Voice over
  2. US: Sleepy Joe’s great speech
  3. France: never mess with a nun
  4. Australia: fewer babies
  5. US: still constipated
  6. Australia: which Q?
  7. Singapore: education
  8. Victoria: tax gets DCM
  9. US: Trumpster’s lawyer pleads guilty
  10. Gaza: Greens and Hamas unite

1. Voice over

This was a thrashing that would have made Bruce McAvaney reach for the record books. This was Muhammad Ali flooring Sonny Liston in round one1, Sobers hitting six sixes in one over2, or Melbourne kicking 12 successive goals in a grand final.3

Just 39% voted Yes. Not one state in favour, not even the People’s Republic of Victoria. The 38th worst Yes vote in the 45 referenda so far held.

To whom credit for the No victory?

The Voice debacle gave rise to claims and counter claims that would make a lawyer richer than Croesus. The most risible was from journalists, newspaper-letter-writers and deniers who blamed the loss on Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.

Really? Dutton would be pleased to claim he single-handedly defeated a campaign backed by the full forces of the government, the ACTU, an overwhelming casket of cash, the major churches, large companies, universities, the major sporting codes, major industry superannuation funds and… Alan Joyce.

And Dutton persuaded those rusted on Labor voters to desert the party line and vote No. Really?

SuperDutton? Yeah. Nuh.

The hard and uncomfortable truth is that it was Albo who broke the hearts of Indigenous peoples. It wasn’t the condescension from corporate elites, the appalling campaign, the lack of transparency or the incoherent government ministers. It was Albo’s decision to allow himself to be bullied into a noble sounding idea, ignoring the problematic reality of constitutional recognition of identity politics and then casually run it as a partisan concept.

The dogs have barked. But the caravan of government moves on. Or does it? After a strong start as prime minister, are We-The-People now seeing in Albo the traits of a soft leader, where the heart rules the head and whose decisions go to the squeaky wheel, not the broken wheel? His chronic unwillingness to rein in his two most zealous and forceful ministers – Bowen (Climate Change) and Burke (Workplace Relations) – is worrying.

In each case, over the next few months he will need to try and put the toothpaste back in the tube of legislative over-reach. And show that he is his own man, and not a puppet of others.

By the way, his concession speech was the highlight of the Voice campaign. Had he presented as much grace, wisdom and thoughtfulness in the campaign as he did in that speech, the result may have been closer.

1 25 May 1965, the second World Heavyweight Championship bout between them.

2 31 August 1968, playing for Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan. The bowler was Malcolm Nash.

3 25 September 2021, defeating Footscray.

2. Sleepy Joe’s great speech

Sleepy Joe may have no idea about economics, taxes and a balanced budget. But he certainly has a good handle on what is important in global affairs. And acts. His experience is telling.

Not too many world leaders today can say they sat in the Israeli prime minister’s office with Golda Meir, or discussed dismantling Soviet nuclear weapons with Mikhail Gorbachev. In fact, none can.

His address to They-The-People of those United States earlier today was measured, clear and uncompromising. There was no sign of his usual meandering and tonelessness.

It reflected his clear understanding of America’s role in the world. Something that, for example, the Trumpster never understood, much less articulated. And still cannot.

Sleepy Joe toggled between Russia and Hamas, pointing out that while they represented different threats, each wanted to “annihilate a neighbouring democracy.” So, what are we going to do: sit back and watch? Was his unspoken question.

Of course, it remains to be seen if he can carry They-The-People with him. He should get the funding he wishes from Congress. But Americans quickly tire of trying to understand stuff outside of their own state, much less the 50 states of the Union. Support for Ukraine is decaying. Support for Israel will last longer as more Americans are directly affected.

He made it clear his four goals: ongoing aid to Ukraine, death of Hamas, keep both wars from spreading and limit death and misery to non-combatants. It is rare that a president, or indeed any leader, would be so explicit.

There is no doubt that Sleepy Joe has, so far, handled these two crises much better than expected4. And certainly much better than the Trumpster could have done.

Wry & Dry dips his lid.

4 Part of those low expectations were driven by American’s shameful and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

3. Demonstrating 101: Never mess with a nun

It was a lesson to all protesters. Never mess with a nun. Not only is it likely that God is on her side, not yours, but she also might get seriously grumpy.

And so it came to pass that environmentalists in France were attempting to stop a religious community from building a new chapel. The protesters descended on the site in a bid to thwart the start of excavation work. They started coveting their neighbour’s ox tearing up pipes and damaging equipment.

This was too much. A Catholic nun chased and rugby-tackled an environmental protester. And slammed him into the ground. He wuz smote.

Perhaps the nun might have played for France in the current Rugby World Cup – she might have helped it qualify for the semi-finals. She didn’t and so it didn’t.

4. Few Australian babies

The ABS reports that Australian women are becoming less fertile. Well, let Wry & Dry rephrase that. They are not becoming less fertile as such, but they are becoming less willing to leverage their fecundity. So to speak.

Their fertility rate5 fell to 1.63 in 2022, down from 1.7 in 2021. As the rate of ‘replacement’ is 2.1 babies per woman, Australia relies on immigration to increase its population.

The news is not all bad: the fertility rate for Australian teenage mothers is at an all-time low.

5 Fertility rate is the number of babies a woman has. In Australia it peaked at 3.55 in 1961 – and has been falling since.

5. US: still constipated6

Readers might imagine that this would be the busiest possible time for the US ambassador to Israel. Except there isn’t one.

It is up to the US Senate to approve or reject senior diplomatic (and other) appointments. Embarrassed senators are this week attempting to put that right. And also other wrongs: there is not a US ambassador to Egypt, Kuwait or Oman. Nor a lead official for the Middle East within the US Agency for International Development, critical to humanitarian assistance in the region. Nor an approved coordinator for counterterrorism in the State Department.

All these appointments are blocked in the US Senate. But wait, there’s more: hundreds of military promotions are being held up by a single senator who doesn’t like the military’s attitude to abortion. Entrenched partisan opinions on unrelated matters are being placed ahead of commonsense decisions.

Meanwhile, in the House (of Representatives), its inability to elect a new Speaker7, something that has never happened previously, has brought the business of the US government to a grinding halt. For the second time this week, the hardline far-right candidate backed by the Trumpster was rejected by all Democrats and 20 of his own party.

The legislative body of the world’s super-power and super-economy is constipated.

Tsar Vlad, Emperor Eleven, Shah Khamenei and other despots are trying to keep straight faces at America’s writhing abdominal discomfort.

6 This article is not all Wry & Dry’s work: it is based on an article written by William Hague, in The Times and published on Tuesday.

7 The Speaker is the House’ presiding officer. He/ she is also the political and parliamentary leader of the House, and is also second in the presidential line of succession, after the vice-president. Weirdly, the US Constitution does not require that the Speaker be an incumbent member of the House, although every Speaker to date has been.

6. Which Q?

Albo seems to have imbedded Qantas as not only his favourite airline, but his only airline. Foreign Affairs Minister Wong last week announced a desire to put on repatriation flights from Israel for trapped Australians. Qantas and Virgin’s partner Qatar each offered free flights.

Last weekend, Qantas flew one flight from Tel Aviv to London. Qatar then took the passengers to Sydney, Virgin then took them to their home cities.

Albo announced at media conference on Monday, when speaking of repatriation flights: “We thank Qantas for the support it provided.”

Err, hold the phone, Albo. what about Qatar? Or Virgin? Only the sound of crickets.

Which Q, Albo?

7. Singapore’s education success

The upper echelons of academic success in the US are measured in terms of Ivy League admissions8. In the UK, it’s all about Oxbridge, i.e. Oxford and Cambridge.

In the UK, a secondary school’s Oxbridge success is the acme of academic reputation. The strange thing is that this year two Singaporean schools were in the top ten most successful in Oxbridge offers: Raffles Junior College (2nd) and Hwa Chong Institution (5th). The lauded Eton came a shoddy 6th. The top school was Brampton Manor Academy9, the first time a government school has topped the rankings.

What’s going on?

Two obvious things. Firstly, the Singaporean education system is very good. Using the global PISA10 rankings, Singapore is 2nd, behind only China. Australia is ranked 21st, with a maths’ ranking of 29th.

Secondly, the lure of Oxbridge is higher than for Singapore’s universities. Which is sort of weird; the National University of Singapore is ranked in the top 20 globally, with Nanyang Technical University ranked 36th.

8 Princeton, Harvard, Yale, U Penn, Brown, Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth.

9 Located in the east end of London, one of the poorest boroughs in the UK.

10 Program for International Student Assessment. the global rankings are for 15-year-old students.

8. A Chairman Dan tax gets DCM

The High Court has given one of then-Chairman Dan’s taxes the DCM. The Victorian government’s electric vehicle tax ($0.028 per kilometre) was the epitome of bureaucratic nonsense. Drivers were expected to submit to the paper-pushers a photo of the EV’s odometer once a year.

Yes, really. In this digital age, with EVs carrying more technology than imaginable, drivers were expected to take out their Box Brownie camera11 and take a happy snap of their car’s odometer. And then pop into the post to Spring Street.

In a bizarre statement, a nameless government spokeswoman said, “We’re focused on… incentivising the purchase of electric vehicles…”

So, you wished to incentivise the purchase of EVs by taxing them? How does that work?

11 A very cheap Kodak camera that democratised photography, in much the same way as the Model T Ford democratised the car .

9. Trumpster’s lawyer pleads guilty

Just as the Trumpster was deciding which side to back in the Middle East, his chances in successfully defending one of his law cases shrunk.

Readers will recall that he and 17 other perps have been charged with criminal offences (including the delightfully named ‘racketeering’) relating to his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. One of these was his lawyer.

Sidney Powell has agreed a plea deal. She gets six years probation and a nominal fine. The prosecutors get an accommodative, and probably truthful, witness. She is the second defendant to enter a plea deal.

Readers should wait for an outburst of Trumpster invective directed at Ms. Powell.

10. Greens: unclear on the concept

If Readers believe comments from Greens’ politicians in the media and in federal and state parliaments then a bizarre union has been revealed.

The Greens, a faith-hating collective that advocates for LGBTQ people, now stand should-to-shoulder with religious fundamentalists, a malevolent genocidal group who would execute LGBTQ people and force women into the “darkness of illiteracy and childhood marriages.”12

Perhaps an extreme example of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

12 In Palestine, the child marriage rate is 24%. But in the Gaza Strip 30% of women aged 20-49 were child brides. Source: UNFPA Palestine.

Snippets from all over

1. Tesla charging down

Tesla has posted its lowest profit in two years as the world’s biggest electric car maker feels the impact of a price war in China and the US. (Bloomberg)

Wry & Dry comments: Sales of BYD, China’s largest EV manufacturer, are expected to exceed Tesla’s in 2023.

2. Panama Canal competitor

Mexico’s government is reviving a railway between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean that had been in decline for more than a century, in a bold bid to steal container traffic away from the Panama Canal. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Managing this project would be an ideal next-job for ex-Chairman Dan. With his massive experience at infrastructure projects, it would only be a matter of time before the project would be cancelled half-way completed. With billions to be paid in cancellation costs.

3. Poland leans to the centre

A pro-EU coalition led by Donald Tusk, a former EU president, won a majority of votes in Poland’s election, according to partial results (The Economist)

Wry & Dry comments: This is much to the relief of the EU. Poland’s recent right-wing experiment had led to much gnashing of teeth.

4. UK jails full up

British nationals sentenced to jail in England and Wales could be transferred to prisons elsewhere in Europe under radical legislation to address the crisis in the penal system to be announced. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Sigh, transportation again.

5. Trump gagged

A judge imposed a limited gag order on former President Donald J. Trump on Monday, restricting Mr. Trump from making public statements attacking the witnesses and specific prosecutors or court staff members involved in the federal case concerning his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.  (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Not before time.

6. Italy keeps shrinking

The number of young people (i.e. aged 18-34) in Italy has dropped by nearly a quarter in the past 20 years owing to the declining birth rate. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: There are now 3 million less Italians aged 18-34 than in 2002. Perhaps the Pope was correct when he said, “Italy needs more babies and fewer pets.” Perhaps he should have widened his comment: since 2002, the EU has lost 16.6 million people in that age group.


  1. Australia: unemployment dropped to 3.6% from 3.7%.
  2. US: average 30-year fixed rate mortgages reached 8%, the highest since 2000.
  3. UK: Wages grew at 7.8%, higher than the rate of inflation (6.7%).
  4. New Zealand: inflation fell to 5.6%, a two-year low and lower than the expected 5.9%.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

“If anything, it’s increased the interest in people coming to Melbourne and Victoria.”

Brendan McClements, CEO of Visit Victoria, giving testimony at the Upper House inquiry into Chairman Dan’s cancellation of the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Unarguably the best example this decade of a bureaucrat trying to argue the unarguable.

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

PPS Patrick Cook, Wry & Dry’s resident cartoonist and lampoonist is taking a vacation. His amazing wit will return on Friday 3 November. In the meantime, it is possible that the odd magnum opus might reappear.


Anthony Starkins

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