Wry & Dry #17 FY-24: China. Keating. Anti-Semitism.

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

Ten stories you may have missed

  1. China: get married and have babies
  2. Keating: no think
  3. Gaza: anti-Semitism
  4. Canberra: no idea on the concept
  5. Qantas: grounded arguments
  6. US: “I’ll take the 14th” proceeds
  7. EU: no deal
  8. Victoria: terrorist flags okay
  9. US: crypto mogul unclear on the concept
  10. Snowy 2.0: a gigantic flat battery

1. China: get married and have babies

Readers will recall then Treasurer Peter Costello’s exhortation for Australian families to have at least three children.1 That worked only as long as the ‘Baby Bonus’ lasted.

As soon as the government wallet of cash emptied, so too did the maternity wards.

Emperor Eleven is having the same problem. China’s population has shrunk for the first time since the nasty days of the 1960s. This is not good news, so… something must be done.

But cash handouts and tax benefits to encourage Chinese women to have more babies has failed. So, Emperor Eleven has now directed party officials to influence young people’s views on “love and marriage, fertility and family.”

Speaking at the National Women’s Congress, he said “We should actively foster a new type of marriage and childbearing culture.” How will ‘party officials’ do this?

Fortunately, Albo will be in town over the weekend to provide advice.

1 2002: “One for mum, one for dad and one for the country.”

2. Keating: no think

To the surprise of, well, nobody, former PM Keating’s Relevance Deprivation Syndrome has returned.

He said on Monday that he wouldn’t sign a particular statement already signed by the other six living (obviously) former PMs2. That statement condemned the 7 October pogrom by Hamas terrorists and supported Jewish and Palestinian communities in Australia.

He said, “I can do better than groupthink.”

Well, he hasn’t said a thing since. So, it is clear he has no thoughts. Which suggests that his breaking of Former-PM ranks was not about the cause, but himself.

This is classic RDS. Where are the men in white coats?

2 Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

3. Gaza: anti-Semitism, as forecast

Last week, Wry & Dry mused that the pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the world, following the Hamas pogrom, masked the evil of anti-Semitism. From where does this come?

Allow Wry & Dry to provide some background.

Readers of history will know that those significant terrorist organisations Hamas, al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and ISIS all came from the stable of Muslim Brotherhood (MB). MB was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. al-Banna was an acolyte of Hitler, he had Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) translated into Arabic, changing the title to My Jihad. al-Banna incorporated Nazi ideals into MB, including an intense hatred of Jews.

The Palestinian branch of MB was formed by Haj Amin al-Husseini. He came to prominence as the organiser of the Arab Revolt in 1936, when he recruited an armed militia to attack Jews. al-Husseini was exiled and ended up in Hitler’s Germany, where he actively participated in the Holocaust.3 After the war, he ended up in Cairo to avoid persecution for war crimes. He was part of a Palestinian government-in-exile, but was sidelined by the Palestine Liberation Organisation. His influence in MB and in Palestine declined and he died in 1974.

Ahmed Yassin was active in the establishment of the Palestinian branch of MB in 1973. He founded Hamas in 1987 and it became a chapter of MB in 1988. His leadership of Hamas from Gaza was to direct an ongoing war littered with suicide bombings of Israelis. He ordered at least 44 suicide bombings in Israel between 2000 and 2003, costing some 440 civilian lives. Yassin was certainly primarily a nationalist, wanting “Israel to disappear from the map.” He was assassinated in 2004.

Hamas’ first charter (1988) stated that “Israel will exist until Islam obliterates it, and jihad against Jews is required until Judgement Day.” The charter was amended in 2017 to state that: “Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”

In the meantime, two generations of Hamas’ followers have been raised to practice genocide against Jews. Which explains the pogrom of three weeks ago.

And why Israel is right to seek to destroy Hamas. That is not to ignore the fact that Israel’s PM has lost sight of the obvious, that Palestinians deserve a state as much as Israel does. But as long as Hamas runs Gaza, peace is impossible. It is brutal to state the logical but sad conclusion, history shows that the loss of innocent lives is a price of peace.

3 See the testimony of Adolf Eichmann’s deputy, Dieter Wisliceny at his trial in Nurenberg.

4. Canberra: no idea on the concept

Some weeks ago, Wry & Dry suggested that the incoming head of the Productivity Commission Ms. Michelle Wood4 might get the DCM before starting her job. Her then sin was proposing an inheritance tax.

Wry & Dry mused then that perhaps she suffered from RDS. Proposing an inheritance tax certainly got the headlines.

But then on Wednesday, she again put her head above the parapet, with a quote:

“The degree of age segregation in the current tax system, where a retiree household on $100,000 pays half the income tax of a younger household on the same income, is neither defensible nor sustainable.”

This is not only RDS in its finest form, but also sheer ignorance right up there with a Barnaby Joyce utterance.

Three matters:

Firstly, the difference between the income tax paid by the Retiree and by the Younger results from the types of income. The Retiree is earning investment income. He/ she has already paid income tax on its source. The Younger is paying income tax, presumably, on ‘personal exertion’ income.

Secondly, if the income for the Younger were, in fact, sourced from investments, then compared to the Retiree, he/she will pay more tax as he/she doesn’t have the superannuation concessions of the Retiree. But then the Younger hasn’t paid tax on the source of the capital. Perhaps as the capital was inherited, won or stolen.

Thirdly, Ms. Wood will be head of the Productivity Commission. How does taxing older Australians increase productivity?

4 She puts her heels under the desk on 13 November.

5. Qantas: grounded arguments

Readers will recall that the ACCC is suing the airline that calls Australia home for selling tickets on ‘ghost flights’ i.e. flights that it represented as existing, but in fact had existed. But were cancelled.

Qantas’ lawyers have responded in a novel, one might say ludicrous, way by stating that a passenger, whom shall be called, say, Peter Allen, doesn’t, in fact, buy a ticket from A to B on X date at Y time. Peter is buying a “bundle of services” that is defined as a group of contractual rights that obliges the airline to “do its best” to get Mr. Allen from A to B.

So as long as Qantas is a good Boy Scout and does its best, all is well. Err, no.

The law is quite clear. It’s about what Peter thinks he is buying, rather than what Qantas thinks it is selling. It is now up to the courts to agree with Wry & Dry.

By the way #1: Qantas’ argument fails the ‘pub test’. The introduction of that subjective and nationalistic test at the highest level of government was the singular and sole contribution made by former PM Scott Morrison to the life of Australia and Australians.

By the way #2: Qantas has its Annual General Meeting today. One absentee will be the former CEO, Alan Joyce. Rather than having the courage to face the ire of shareholders at what was planned to be his valedictory AGM, he gave himself the DCM some weeks ago. But he will be there in spirit, as his net worth will depend on what happens. That’s what he saw as The Spirit of Australia.

By the way #3: Internal Qantas documents leaked to the Financial Review show that its brand trust by consumers had fallen to 49%. The “so what?” is that Jetstar’s is 47%. Ouch. Virgin’s is 59%. Double ouch.

6. US: “I’ll take the 14th proceeds

It was in early September that Wry & Dry alerted Readers to the possibilities for They-The-People-of-the-US of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The possibilities have now taken on lives of their own.

The possibility is that the Trumpster would be barred from standing for the top gig as he has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” 5 The dastardly deeds were those surrounding the riots in the Capitol in January 2021, which were all about election deniers. Allegedly led by the Trumpster himself.

This moonshot legal bid started in earnest6 on Monday in a courtroom in Colorado. It will be a five day hearing. A similar hearing commenced yesterday in Minnesota, with upcoming lawsuits already filed in New Hampshire and Michigan.

The Colorado case is still proceeding. Predictably the Trumpster’s lawyers sought to have the case thrown out of court. Predictably, they lost. Each side has constitutional gurus aplenty. The judge, Sarah Wallace, says she will give her decision “before Thanksgiving.”

Regardless of the outcome at first instance in this state district court, this will go all the way to the Supreme Court. The lawyers have already put down the deposit on the second ski lodge.

5 Section 3.

6 Readers know of the importance of being earnest.

7. EU: no deal

Until recently, Trade Minister Senator Don Farrell was best known for the curious appointment of one of his mates to a government job. The job was as envoy in Australia’s San Francisco trade office. The lucky person served one term as a Labor backbench senator after 32 years as a shopworkers’ union official in Queensland. And had no trade investment experience and did not apply for the job when it was advertised.

Ah, jobs for the boys, Wry & Dry hears Readers cry. Indeed. But JFTB is a political art made a fine art by, for example, Barnaby Joyce.

Wry & Dry digresses. Minister Farrell hit the news again this week. But for a better cause. A potential trade deal between Australia and the EU was torpedoed when the minister didn’t bow to some of the terms that were favourable to the EU’s plush and protected farming sector at the expense of Australia’s more open market.

The EU seems to have shot itself in its collective foot. It needs Australia’s critical and rare earth minerals to reduce its dependency on Emperor Eleven.

Back to the drawing board, which will be in 2025, as next year is EU election year. And politicians don’t like to give anything away in an election year.

8. Victoria: terrorist flags okay

Readers will have noticed that on Wednesday the Victorian government announced that bikie gangs would be banned from wearing club colours, patches and symbols or flying their clubs’ flags.

Err, why hasn’t the Victorian government banned the wearing or waving of symbols or flags of a terrorist group, namely Hamas?

Just askin’.

9. New York: crypto-mogul unclear on the concept

The fallen cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried told a court in New York on Tuesday that he “regretted not asking more questions about the apparent loss of $8 billion dollars” by his trading company.

But not as much as his clients. Who have lost the $8 billion.

More history: between November 2021 and November 2022, the cryptocurrency market lost roughly $2 trillion in value, or two-thirds of its total. Since then, 95% of so-called nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, have become worthless. Shares of Coinbase, the only crypto exchange to list its shares on a U.S. stock exchange, have plunged 74 percent since it went public in 2021. 

Breaking news: “FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted by a New York jury in a landmark criminal verdict that is likely to condemn the former crypto tycoon to years in prison.” Financial Times. 

10. Snowy 2.0: A gigantic flat battery

Readers will remember that the Snowy Hydro scheme was one of those ‘nation building’ projects. It consists of sixteen major dams; nine power stations; two pumping stations; and 225 kilometres of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts. All were constructed between 1949 and 1974. It is the largest engineering project ever undertaken in Australia.

It also brought thousands of skilled migrants to Australia. It was all about electricity generation and irrigation.

It was a great success.

And, then in 2017, a bright spark in Croesus Turnbull’s government (it might have been the man himself) suggested that the whole thing could be turned into a giant battery. The aim was to supply 2.2 gigawatts of hydro-powered electricity (i.e. water running downhill to drive turbines) when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

When the sun shines and the wind blows, excess generation capacity from solar and wind power would be used to pump the water back up the hill. The water would then be ready again to cascade down the hill, again generating electricity on cloudy and windless days. All using the very same drops of water. Marvelous. Cost: about $4.3 billion, with benefits of about $5.5 billion.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, everything. For example, one of the tunnelling machines got, err, bogged underground. And toxic gases were released from ‘mud stabilisation remediation.’

The short story is, that it’s now going to cost $12 billion.

But wait! There’s more. In a sleight of hand that would make Emeritus Chairman Dan proud, Energy Minister Bowen and Finance Minister Gallagher now say that the benefits are estimated to yield $15 billion.

What a great process: as the costs treble, so, too, the benefits. Minister Bowen, who has always stressed the value of transparency, has refused to release the latest cost-benefit analysis as it is ‘commercial in confidence.’

Snowy Hydro: a gigantic battery that was flat from the start.

Snippets from all over

1. Let Ukraine into EU

Germany has called for Ukraine to begin formal talks by the end of the year on joining the European Union. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Good luck with your projects, Miss.

2. Rotten Apples

Apple is suffering its longest revenue decline for more than two decades after posting its fourth quarterly sales drop in a row. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: It’s all about declining sales in China.

3. S&P correction phase

The S&P 500 stock index has fallen more than 10 per cent from the high point it touched earlier this year, meeting the popular definition of a market “correction” as investors fret about interest rates, geopolitical risks and mediocre third-quarter company results. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Don’t panic.

4. Chinese housing crisis

After being stuck in a housing downturn for two years, cities across China are giving real-estate developers the go-ahead to cut prices on new homes to revive sales. They are quickly running into resistance from existing homeowners who don’t want to see the values of their properties go down. (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: Strict government price controls have long been used in China to help prop up real-estate values. Official home-price indexes for major Chinese cities have continued to climb despite a deep slump in new-home sales..

5. Iran highjacking pro-Palestinian protests

Iranian agents are creating unrest in Britain by stoking Gaza protests, senior UK police have said. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Why are Readers not surprised?

6. Borisconi’s legacy

The head of the UK civil service accused Boris Johnson of “Trump levels of mad and dangerous” behaviour. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: This is all about the upcoming UK inquiry into the response to Covid. Borisconi had dismissed warnings about Covid.


  1. US: the Federal reserve left unchanged its benchmark interest rates at the range of 5.25% to 5.5%.
  2. Australia: the ASX entered a technical ‘correction’ on Monday, being down more than 10% from its previous peak (February).
  3. Germany: GDP fell by 0.1% in the September quarter.
  4. China: manufacturing activity unexpectedly contacted in October, to an index of 49.5 from 50.2. Anything below 50 is a contraction.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

“We’re a major organisation — a massive real estate organisation. Yes, I’m pretty sure I understand we have financial statements. Absolutely.”

Eric Trump, son of Donald, testifying yesterday in a fraud case against the family firm.

Readers would hope that he understood that the company had financial statements. After all, it is a ‘massive real estate organisation’...

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


Anthony Starkins

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