Wry & Dry #17. SMSF demonisation. COP-27 is in Asia. Peak crazy avoided.

US mid-term elections have aroused emotions. But the list of emotional events is longer. Consider…

  • SMSF demonisation
  • COP-27 is in Asia
  • Peak crazy reached
  • Crypto blues
  • We’ll always have Paris. But not the trains
  • Victoria’s secrets
  • Visit Victoria votes are in
  • Couldn’t be less interested

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

SMSF demonisation

Over the years, there have been many federal ministers who had no idea about their portfolio. Whether Liberal (Scott Morrison, Prime Minister), Labor (Jim Cairns, Treasurer) or National (Barnaby Joyce, any portfolio), the list is long.

But in these modern times, Readers would expect deeper talent, especially in matters fiscal. Err, no. Consider the Assistant Treasurer and Financial Services Minister: Stephen Jones.

Mr. Jones (co-convener of the Left Faction in parliament) has had a career of advocacy for social justice causes. But little on matters fiscal. In the ongoing battle to reduce superannuation tax concessions (some of which is justified, it must be said), he said at a conference this week:

“Mercer1 estimates that the tax concessions on a single $10m self-managed super fund could support 3.1 full age pensions.”

Either Mr Jones is quoting Mercer out of context. Or he doesn’t know about what he is talking. Or, most likely, both.

Yes, a $10m SMSF could support 3.1 full age pensions. So, too, could a $10m industry superannuation fund. But Mr. Jones wouldn’t bring himself to say that.

His issue is with SMSFs. Why? Well, of course, it’s all about choice. He doesn’t want we-the-people to have any, other than between industry superannuation funds.

And if his issue is with the size of some superannuation funds, then he might consider that the $10m SMSF to which he refers may have 6 members, each with a balance of $1.7m. Is this so egregious?

Time for Mr. Jones to do his homework. Or find another job.

And time for some journalists to also do their homework.

1 A consulting company, specialising in, inter alia, superannuation matters.

COP-27 is in Asia

The annual global climate talkfest is underway, with the media reporting that it is being held in Africa.

Err, no. Sharm el-Sheikh, whilst in Egypt, is located in Asia, on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.2

Some 36,000 people are expected to attend and listen to over 2,000 speakers. Err, that’s an average of 18 listeners in the audience per speaker. But that’s not the main point.

It’s not for Wry & Dry to be cynical about this talkfest. But, really, almost 80% of the world’s carbon emissions come from just 10 countries, with the top four accounting for 60%.

Wry & Dry suggests locking the leaders of these countries in a room. And not giving them food or water until they take decent action.

2 Sharm el-Sheikh was a tiny fishing village until the Egyptian government decided in 1982 to develop it as tourist resort with strict environmental restrictions. Its main attractions are sandy beaches and clear waters. It has an average of 2.2 days of rain per annum.

Peak crazy avoided

It seems that the US has reached the limit of crazy.

And the Trumpster is crying. Well, actually, shouting. Reports suggest that he is screaming at everyone in his inner circle. And even blaming his wife for the lack lustre Republican results in the US mid-term elections.

Like many modern maniacal autocrats (think of an Emperor, a Tsar or a Sultan), the Trumpster craves power. The ultimate power for him is to see his full removal truck pulling up to the White House.

So, most galling for him was not the modest showing of Republican candidates across the country but the outstanding result in one state.

His main rival for president in 2024 is the governor (i.e. state premier) of Florida: a lad named Ron DeSantis. In 2020, DeSantis won Florida by only 0.5%. On Tuesday he smothered allcomers by some 20%. Florida is famously a swing state (older Readers will remember Al Gore lost the presidency on the Supreme Court’s view of ‘hanging chads’ in Florida) and if DeSantis can swing voters to the right in that state, imagine what he might do nationwide.

Mind you, DeSantis is termed a thinking man’s Trump, which is doubly worrying.

The Trumpster was widely expected to announce on Tuesday his candidacy for 2024. Expect dissembling bluster.

Sleepy Joe’s party lost control of the House and maybe the Senate, but he did better than both O’Bama and Clinton in mid-term elections. Spoiler alert! He now has a new surge of youthful vigour. Which is a big worry.

Summary: Americans are fed up with the Left but don’t trust the Right.

Crypto blues

One of the world’s biggest crypto currency exchanges is hurtling towards bankruptcy.

Readers may not have heard of FTX, but it was the world’s third largest crypto exchange. And its founder, the hippy-looking Sam Bankman-Fried, has gone from hero to zero in two weeks. Below is the task facing liquidators and law enforcement agencies. It’s TTX’s corporate structure (source Financial Times):

FTX was founded only three years ago when Bankman-Fried was aged just 27. It now handles some $620m of crypto payments each year. Earlier this year, Forbes magazine stated that Bankman-Fried was worth about $20 billion.

Today he is worth maybe, well, close to zero.

FTX’s problems, caused by a run on the tokens it issued, have cratered the price of crypto currencies. Bitcoin is now down to about US$15,000 – that’s a 65% fall this year.

And crypto currencies? What are opening lines of that Frank Sinatra song?? Something about doing things his way? “And now…”

We’ll always have Paris, but not the trains

Just as M Macron was preaching to telling attendees at COP-27 that he was a great defender against climate change, Paris’ subway system went pear-shaped.

Half the Metro was closed yesterday as French labour unions called a one-day strike, seeking higher wages and retention of the retirement age at 62.

On his return, will a tanned and relaxed M Macron cave-in or show spine?

Victoria’s secrets

Those fine folk at the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission have announced that Victoria ranked first of Australian states and territories in the per capita consumption of…

  • methylamphetamine
  • heroin
  • ketamine

…and second for…

  • cocaine

Readers will remember that on many occasions Chairman Dan has said that he took responsibility for everything in Victoria…

Israel’s back to the future

Binyamin Netanyahu is back as Israel’s PM. Well, sort of. His party easily won most seats in last weekend’s election. But because Israel has an extreme proportional representation voting system (no party has ever won an outright majority), Bibi has to negotiate with small parties that have, well, extreme views.

So, Readers should watch out to see how the haggling concludes, especially with the far-right bloc called Religious Zionism (now the third largest bloc in the Knesset). Within this bloc is a party called Jewish Power, led by a Mr. Ben-Gvir. Mr. Ben-Gvir is fanatically anti-Arab. And in exchange for his support of Bibi he wants to be appointed in control of Israel’s police. Readers can join the dots on how that might end.

By the way, Mr. Netanyahu is still facing corruption charges.

Visit Victoria votes are in

Most Victorians believe that Chairman Dan’s $15m sponsorship of the Australian Netball Team (the Lockdowns) won’t boost tourism.3 Only 18% said it would actually make a difference.

Captain Obvious, really.

3 Survey of more than 1,000 voters, published in the Australian Financial Review 9th November.

Young couldn’t be less interested

Going back to the land of the free and the brave, Readers will know that voting is not mandatory. So voter turnout tends to hover about 65-70%.

But the data shows that young people are just not interested.

What’s going on?

Maybe the increasingly partisanship of political debate has pushed young voter’s interest to shallow end of the pool. Alongside social media.

Unclear on the concept

“To independent-minded voters: … I recommend voting for a Republican Congress…”

Elon Musk, in a tweet on Twitter.

Habits: independence

Readers will be aware that Albo’s highly contentious industrial relations bill is being rushed through parliament. In the Senate, ACT independent Senator David Pocock (whose vote is vital if the legislation is to pass) is showing his spine and his brain by parsing the legislation. And demanding less rush, more discussion with industry and less ideology.

Meanwhile, last night, in the House, the bill passed 80-56. Two of the so-called Teal federal MPs, who campaigned on being independently minded, Victorians Zoe Daniel and Monique Ryan, sided with Albo and the Greens without so much as a whimper. Teals Sophie Scamps, Allegra Spender and Kate Chaney voted against Albo.

Teal Kylea Tink showed she didn’t care. And abstained.

Pursuits: crypto fraud

Readers have to hand it to the US Internal Revenue Services (equivalent to Australia’s ATO).

It thought that a certain James Zhong, aged only 32, of Gainsville, Georgia, was up to no good in the murky world of Bitcoin.

In a 2021 search of his home, the IRS found Bitcoin then valued at $3.3 billion located on a single-board computer that was hidden in a popcorn tin in an underground floor safe.

Who would have thought to look under the popcorn tin?

Mr. Zhong this week pleaded guilty, owning up to a series of fraudulent transactions on the infamous dark web marketplace.

The value of his heist had diminished to about $1 billion. But the IRS doesn’t know who owns the Bitcoin. So the government is seeking its forfeiture.

Of course.

Snippets from all over

1. Kiss-and-tell

The former mistress of Juan Carlos has claimed that Spain’s former king presided over a “court of miracles” in which he would be “happy as a five-year-old” receiving “bags full of cash”. (The Times).

Wry & Dry comments:  Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, 57, having kissed, now tells… of allegations of corruption that revolved around the reign of Juan Carlos, now 84, before he abdicated in 2014 and fled to Abu Dhabi amid financial scandal.

2. Don’t mention the war. Just hang up.

Journalists from Russia’s Vazhnye Istorii news outlet last week called up about a dozen sons and sons-in-law of Russian political heavyweights, prompting many to hang up immediately when asked if they would answer the call-up from Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. (UK Telegraph)

Wry & Dry comments: Readers will recall that the Trumpster evaded the US draft.

3. Turn around

Twitter, having laid off half its staff last Friday…is now contacting dozens of employees who lost their jobs and asking them to return. (UK Telegraph)

Wry & Dry comments: As noted last week, there’s a difference between breaking the eggs to scramble (Tesla) and unscrambling the eggs (Twitter). And new Twitter CEO, Elon Musk, now requires all Twitter workers to work at work. Now there’s a concept.

4. No Apple pie

Weeks after expressing optimism about the global economy and its business, Apple warned that its sales would fall short of expectations because a key iPhone factory in China had been shut down by a coronavirus outbreak (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: In mid-October, Apple’s largest iPhone manufacturer closed its primary plant as covid cases spiked. And walled 200,000 workers inside its grounds.

5. Facebook facing pain

Facebook-parent Meta will become the latest tech firm to scale back its workforce, with plans to layoff thousands of employees this week. (Le Monde).

Wry & Dry comments: Twitter’s jitters are spreading.

6. Hyperlooped

Sir Richard Branson is preparing to sell off Virgin’s stake in a US hyperloop start-up as interest in the technology envisioned by Twitter billionaire Elon Musk fades. (UK Telegraph)

Wry & Dry comments: The Hyperloop is a theoretical alternative to high-speed rail, where pods fly through steel tubes at up to 1,200 KPH. The technology was first proposed in 2013 by… Elon Musk.


  1. US inflation slowed to 7.7% in the year to October, much less than expected.
  2. Australians’ life expectancy at birth increased, to 85.4 years for females and to 81.3 for males, gains of about one month for each.
  3. Consumer confidence levels in Australia dropped to below GFC levels.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

We’re all working for the Trump White House.”

  • a Twitter employee, describing the feeling of watching Elon Musk tweet new company policies”

Once upon a time, there was a man named Goebbels….

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


Anthony Starkins

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