This week leaves little doubt that we live in interesting times. Consider:
- If the Brits could do it, why couldn’t we?
- Albo was doing so well…
- India’s revenge
- Bring out the sausage sizzle
- Amazon down to a trickle
- Infrastructure: toilets
- Sleepy Joe’s left wing flaps appeasement
Enjoy Wry & Dry. A cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
If the Brits could do it, why couldn’t we?
Liz Truss was poleaxed after 45 days as UK PM. A masterful display of pragmatic political assassination1 to end a period of government chaos not seen since the last days of the Roman Empire.
Such pragmatism could not be said for the Australian Liberal Party. Case study: Scott Morrison.
William Shorten lost the 2019 election, the outcome of which was Scott Morrison remaining in the top gig. He had been an accidental PM for just nine months. Readers will recall the Liberals couldn’t choose between three candidates:
- Julie Bishop, who exemplified the Peter Principle2 and whose idea of a government overseas trip was one to the boutiques on the rue Saint-Honoré in Paris
- Peter Dutton, who chose a numbers’ man who couldn’t count
- Malcolm Turnbull, who has only been exceeded by Andrew Peacock in the Pantheon of the Vain.
So, they chose Scott Morrison, a political weathervane.
For those who voted for Morrison at the election, the happiness of having him turned to buyer’s regret after about 18 months. His self-image as the latter-day Moses who would lead Australians to a land of milk and honey in reality became a public image of a tin-eared, bullying, narrow-minded misogynist beholden to the weird whims of Barnaby Joyce.
And then, some 12 months out from the 2022 election, polls started showing that Morrison was circling in a primitive desert enclave with Barnaby and that the women had fled the tent. And that the land of milk and honey was still 40 years away.
Where was the Liberal equivalent of a 1922 Committee3 to tap Morrison on the shoulder? And to tell him that he should give himself the DCM? Well, Wry & Dry can reveal that in August 2019 there was discussion in Canberra to do so. But courage failed the plotters.
The penny has now dropped that the 2022 election outcome may not have been any different: the decay of the Coalition began in John Howard’s last term as PM.
1 Winston Churchill, speaking of the Conservative party leader “…he must be sustained, he must be supported when he stumbles, he must not be awoken if he sleeps, but if he is no good, he must be poleaxed.”
2 A person will rise in an organisation to his/her level of incompetence.
3 A committee of the backbench of the UK Conservative parliamentary party. It oversees the election of party leaders, or any Conservative party-led vote of confidence in a current leader. It was its chairman who most recently told Borisconi and then Liz Truss that each had lost the confidence of the backbench and needed to give themselves the DCM.
Albo was doing so well…
…and then Grim Chalmers presented his budget.
In the preceding weeks, he had been in the media more often than Eddie McGuire in his heyday. He had presented all the challenges: inflation, out of control spending pressures, rising energy costs, inherited bad policy decisions, significant structural deficits – especially NDIS, rising interest rates, etc, etc.
It was a political textbook case of warming up the audience of how bad it was all going to be. And priming we-the-people for the announcement of how he was going to manage, or solve, or present a path to solving, the problems.
In his first budget, Grim Chalmers then announced… nothing. Yes, he did swap Liberal/National party pork barrelling for Labor Party pork barrelling. But no hard decisions. Not a reforming muscle flexed, much less strained.
Hang on. There was one. Grim Chalmers had the audacity to state that the hard decision was not to spend the very short-term windfall the budget will receive from a temporary increase in tax receipts.
So, not spending a revenue windfall was a hard decision?
Good grief. As Hawke and Keating showed, Labor is at its best when leading change and reforming.
Albo and Grim Chalmers have already shown they are not cut from the same cloth.
As Liz Truss was taken from 10 Downing Street to Buckingham Palace to tender her resignation, like an aged dog being taken from home to the vet for the last time, her former 10 Downing Street home was changing to accommodate a new top dog.
Rishi Sunak is the first non-Anglo UK PM and the first to be born of two non-Brit parents since Bonar Law in 1922. Law was born in Canada of Canadian parents. Before that, it was the Duke of Wellington, whose parents were Irish. Although, then (1760s), Ireland, albeit then named the Kingdom of Ireland, was a British realm, governed from London. 4
Is Sunak India’s revenge for the mortal sins of the East India Company?5
4 Winston Churchill had an American mother, his father was English. Had it been the other way around, perhaps Teddy Roosevelt would have had a serious rival.
5The East India Company was an English, and later British, company founded in 1600 and dissolved in 1874. It seized control of large parts of the Indian subcontinent, colonised parts of Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. At its peak, the company was the largest corporation in the world. It even had its own army, of about 260,000 soldiers, twice the size of the British army.
It not only looted wealth from India, its monopoly on trade impoverished the local economies. And its monopoly was global. It’s control of American tea imports over colonial American tea importers led to the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773, which was one of the incidents that led to the independence of the American colonies.
Bring out the sausage sizzle
It’s back to sausage-sizzle-fund-raising for Australia’s netballers.
Whatever happened to the sport being bigger than the player? So, one person’s victimhood of comments made 40 years ago has derailed a fiscal rescue of her competition. Readers might recall that Netball Australia’s auditors had issued a ‘going concern’ notice after it had lost $7.2m in the past two years. Not really a position of strength.
Is there a sense in this person’s mind that sponsorship money just turns up?
Yes, those 40-year-old comments were vile. But how far back in history does a person go to be today aggrieved by yesteryear’s wrongs?
Wry & Dry’s concern about this matter is that the player in question may have been set up and used by external activists. Extreme advocates of grievance and victimhood are now more abundant than rain on a Sydney weekend. They seem not to care about the methods or people used to prosecute their case. Nor the outcomes.
And, by the way, it’s your money, Gina.6
Some 70 speed cameras in Sweden have been stolen in the last two weeks. What’s going on?
Well, the conspiracy folk, of which there are many, say that Russian operatives are stealing them. To place in Tsar Vlad’s spy drones.
This sounds perfectly plausible. Except that traffic cameras are set to take still photos at a distance of 15 metres.
Perhaps Russian spy drones fly at 15 metres.
Amazon down to a trickle? Faceplant?
Big Tech is somewhat smaller this week.
It’s company profit ‘reporting season’ in the US. And some reports were as crisp as a linen shirt fresh from the dryer.
Last night Amazon’s share price fell 20%. It had forecast significantly lower revenue. A surprise? Really? Its revenue from its online store has been declining for four successive quarters. Last night’s tanking was on top of an already 35% fall this year.
Investors also belted Facebook’s (known as Meta on stock exchanges) share price, by 22%. Is it just getting old?
September quarter net profit fell 52%. Competition and privacy concerns have slashed revenue.
Mark Zuckerberg’s (it’s CEO and founder) vision to move to be a ‘metaverse’ company is sucking capital, profits and management energy. Just when focus is needed on fixing the current problems.
Notwithstanding its appeal to an ageing demographic, Facebook has yet to adequately deal with content problems: fake news, conspiracy theories, copyright infringement and hate speech. Yesterday, it was fined $25m for “repeated, wilful violations of campaign disclosure laws.”
The tech mini-wreck was even wider. Alphabet (Google’s parent) was down 9.1% and Microsoft down 7.7%. Is there something else going on?
Well, nothing new. And that’s the problem: the big tech companies haven’t found a new, very profitable idea in years. Google and Meta still rely mostly on ad sales, and the iPhone, 15 years after launch, still drives Apple’s profits.
Disclosure: Wry & Dry has no clue what a ‘metaverse’ is.
A toilet in San Francisco’s Noe Valley Town Square is making news.
Well, not quite. It’s a toilet that is not yet built. When it is built, it will have cost $1.7m (A$2.2m). And that is singular: one toilet. And it won’t be ready until 2025.
A spokesman said that costs include “planning, drawing, permits, reviews, public outreach and construction management.”
Wry & Dry has been pondering Chairman Dan’s decision to exhume the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. And use SECV II to build a big battery and do other things to replace Victoria’s fossil fuel power generating industry.
The capital injection from we-the-taxpayer will be $1 billion, to take a 51% stake in SECV II. With superannuation funds investing the balance.
A few matters.
Firstly, one billion dollars doesn’t go very far these days. It has been estimated that $180 billion will be needed to drive net zero in Australia.
Secondly, the superannuation funds will want a commercial return. But Chaiman Dan says, “Those power stations won’t be for profit, they’ll be for people.” Err, run that past Readers again.
Thirdly, Chairman Dan’s government’s record on infrastructure construction is, well, appalling. There are cost blowouts and delays on almost every project: Westgate Tunnel, Metro Tunnel, North East link, etc.
Fourthly, if SECV II turns out like SECV I, it will be a gravy train of featherbedding for bureaucrats.
All of this suggests in Wry & Dry’s mind that Chaiman Dan’s seeming intention of renewable-energy transition has been conflated with a desire to retain seats at the upcoming state election.
Readers will remember that the Suburban Rail Loop was announced as a $35 billion project, with fanfare but little fiscal underpinnings, just before the 2018 election. That has turned to a $125 billion project with a cost recovery of minus $0.50 in the dollar (estimated by Victoria’s’ own auditor-general).
Watch SECV II grow.
Readers may have read that Grim Chalmers plans to spend $350m and work with superannuation funds to build one million homes in five years.
Hmm. That’s $350 per home. Really.
Sleepy Joe’s left wing flaps appeasement
The history of the United States Congress is littered with evidence that its members have little idea about foreign policy. Wry & Dry’s operative in Washington overheard the following in the men’s toilets:
“Well, Hank, waddya think we should do about Yoo-crane? Invade?”
“Heck no Wally. We’re on the same side. It’s the Rooshuns we are against.”
“Oh. Well then, should we invade Roosha? I thought we made peace with Gorby.”
“Wally, Gorby’s dead.”
“Oh. Well then. I’m going back to the bar to meet a man with a brown paper bag.”
Now, a small cluster of House Democrats to the left of Sleepy Joe want him to negotiate directly with Tsar Vlad “…to reduce harm and support Ukraine in achieving a peaceful settlement.”
Really? Do these neophytes really think that Tsar Vlad is going to listen. And in any case, surely it should be up to Ukraine to negotiate. Which it has said it will do, once the Russian army returns to barracks.
Or could it be that there are upcoming elections, and any headlines are good headlines.
A Reader saw the below in a newstand in country Victoria.
Snippets from all over
1. Hey, dude…
Germany’s health minister has presented a plan for the “most liberal legalisation of cannabis in Europe.” [The] plan proposes that cannabis and the active substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are no longer legally classified as narcotics. (The Times).
Wry & Dry comments: If passed, it would mean that Germany would be the second EU country after Malta to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. In Netherlands it is tolerated, but is still illegal.
China’s introduction of trade sanctions on some Australian products in 2020 has resulted in unexpected benefits, with the latest economic statistics showing exports booming for the resource-rich country as it has been forced to shift its focus to other markets.
Wry & Dry comments: China’s share of Australia’s exports had dropped to 29.5% by August, the first time it had dipped below the 30% mark since October 2015.
The Albanese government will enshrine the tax treatment of bitcoin into the tax law, confirming that it will be taxed as an asset and not a currency. (Australian Financial Review)
Wry & Dry comments: This means that CGT applies. Those who bought high and are now in fiscal pain can sell and take a tax loss. Or wait for the fairy godmother.
4. UK confidence returns
Yields of UK government bonds (‘gilts’) have fallen to the levels they were before last month’s tax-cutting mini-budget in a boost for Rishi Sunak. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Lower bond yields are a good thing for taxpayers.
5. Democrats at Centrelink?
Republicans are pressing their advantage deep into Democratic territory in the closing stretch of the 2022 campaign, competing for an abundance of House seats amid growing signs that voters are poised to punish President Biden’s party even in the bluest parts of America. (New York Times).
Wry & Dry comments: Republicans need just five seats to flip the House. They might get 20 more. The reasons: inflation and illegal immigrants from Mexico.
6. Chinese burns
China’s yuan tumbled to a 15-year low against the dollar this morning, with investors spooked after President Xi Jinping tightened his grip over the Communist Party. (UK Telegraph)
Wry & Dry comments: The market is not the only thing being spooked. The Golden Dragon index of Chinese companies listed on the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which includes giants like Alibaba and Baidu, fell at one point by 20% on Monday, reaching levels not seen before Mr Xi took power ten years ago.
- US GDP grew at 2.6% in the year to end September.
- The European Central Bank raised interest rates by 0.75% points.
- Australia’s inflation leapt to 7.3% in the year to end September, the highest in 32 years.
- China’s GDP was reported to have grown by 3.9% in the year to end September.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“My chief-of-staff tells me he advised Senator Thorpe’s chief-of-staff the issue should be raised with Senator Thorpe. He has also told me that after a subsequent conversation between the two chiefs-of-staff, my chief-of-staff understood that the issue had been addressed. He did not inform me of these matters at the time, and I wasn’t aware of these matters until the media raised them,”.”
- Adam Bandt, Federal Leader of the Greens, trying to explain why everyone else knew about Senator Thorpe’s, err, arrangements, but he didn’t.
This is masterful stuff. Rather like “the dog ate my homework.”
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.