The week was blend of holidays, announcements, bankruptcy and election boredom. Oh, for the still, small voice of calm. Consider…
- Albo’s holiday snaps
- Trumpster gets back in the ring
- FTX bankruptcy circles
- Medical: sperm count down
- EV workers down
- Chairman Dan and history
- Speed limit
…and more. Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Albo’s holiday snaps
Albo’s holiday photo album must be bursting after his trips to Cambodia (ASEAN) and Indonesia (G-20).
Albo now has Polaroid snaps with:
- M Macron
- Emperor Xi
- Sleepy Joe
- Rishi Sunak
- Jacinta Woke
- Fumio Kishida
- Narendra Modi
Critically, Albo kept the peace with Emperor Xi, the latter being on his best behaviour. It was all glistening teeth and sleek hair. But no change in the Emperor’s world view of naughty Australia. “Just keep shipping the iron ore,” he said. “But nothing else.”
And then Albo met Sleepy Joe. In fact, it was Sleepwalking Joe, who had a fixed smile, rather like those plastic clowns at the village fair. Albo had to pretend for the cameras that there was a conversation going on. And almost pulled it off, until Sleepwalking Joe’s chin hit his chest.
Elsewhere, Canada’s PM, I’m Just Woke, had privately questioned Emperor Xi about Chinese interference in Canada’s elections and reported to the Canadian media that he had raised the question.
And there was no pretence about Emperor Xi’s anger, scolding I’m Just Woke in front of cameras for allegedly leaking details of their private conversation. And he wasn’t happy when I’m Just Woke spoke back.
Emperor Xi wants obedience and obedience, no matter from whom.
Mrs Trumpster pulls on the pants
To nobody’s surprise, Mrs Trumpster has decided to again stand for sitting in the White House. She will be supported by the Trumpster.
Reading between the lines, she now has the Trumpster by the nose. This is a big turnaround. The mood of the meeting used to be that as soon as the power left him, so would she. Nuh, she soon came to realise that the Trumpster needed and needs her more than her he.
She has been the ideal consort, rather like a younger, more glamorous Camilla. But without the Hunter Wellys and Cordings’ tweeds.
However, Charles was always going to wear the crown, regardless of who was on his arm.
Across the pond, the Trumpster’s chances of again sitting in the Oval Office would be an oval number without Mrs. Trumpster. She has a pre-nup contract and a marriage contract. And now there’s a new political contract. With a sort of Lady Macbeth clause.
And with the Trumpster’s daughter Ivanka stating, “I do not plan to be involved in politics,” that’s one less princess in the castle.
Mrs. Trumpster is now back to being her own woman. Readers will remember in 2005, when a newlywed, she was asked whether she would be with her husband if he wasn’t rich. “If I weren’t beautiful, do you think he’d be with me?” she answered.
She’s shrewd. And has moved from being Queen Consort to Queen Bee.
FTX crypto circles
The FT (Financial times) is the world’s leading financial journal. Just add an X and one might get an impression of money (tick), trading (tick) and certainty (tick). Which is why Sam Bankman-Fried chose the initials FTX for his crypto currency toy.
FTX was, 10 days ago, the worlds’ Nth largest crypto currency trading platform (where N = a number between three and six) with an owner worth $Y billion (where Y > 25).
Today, the money’s gone, there’s no trading and the only certainty is of an increasing number of forming circles.
Where it all began
The very least of the problem is this: FTX’s own terms of service said it would not lend customers’ assets to its trading arm. Yet of $14 billion of such assets, it had reportedly lent $8 billion worth to Alameda Research, a trading firm also owned by Mr. Bankman-Fried. In turn, it accepted as collateral FTT, its own digital tokens, which it had conjured out of thin air.
The sharks are circling: the regulators from ‘at least dozens’ of jurisdictions want to show the world and their paymasters that they have not been asleep at the wheel. Good luck with that.
The lawyers are circling: whereas the sharks are circling for blood, the lawyers are circling for blood money. Where there is corporate crime, there are the criminals and the defrauded. Where there are the criminals and the defrauded there are lawyers. Choose your sides, ladies and gentlemen. And book your overseas trips well in advance. There are over one million creditors.
The wagons of Sam Bankman-Fried and his now ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison are now tightly circled. But there is no cavalry. The future diet will involve porridge.
Investors in FTX’s crypto currency, FTT, had already formed a circle when they first invested in cryptocurrencies: a circular firing squad.
As one wit wrote, “Who could’ve predicted that an asset with no intrinsic value would become worthless?”
Well, it had to come. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s has said that “Victoria’s fiscal position over the last few years has been the weakest S&P has seen, and we have been dealing with the states since the 1980s.”
Whaaat! Worse than 1992? Good grief.
S&P said that there were three reasons for the fiscal disaster:
- a 60% increase in public sector wages overseen by the Andrews’ government in pre-pandemic years
- the fiscal shock of covid and the protracted lockdowns
- the size of the government’s ‘Big Build’
The problem now is that, unlike 1992, there is nothing left to sell to reduce debt. Perhaps Emperor Xi might have an emperor’s shilling or two to spare: a Belt and Road initiative?
Just as Emperor Xi was smiling broadly at Sleepy Joe and Albo and muttering polite noises, London’s Financial Times revealed that Chinese police had established ‘Chinese police stations’ outside China.
The stations’ duties range from helping compatriots with paperwork to “gathering intelligence” and “resolving disputes among overseas Chinese”.
“All venues are provided by overseas Chinese compatriot groups, and the volunteers are warm-hearted local Chinese compatriots. They are not Chinese police officers,” China’s foreign ministry wrote.
Perhaps the reality is that Beijing is using extralegal pressure to force citizens to return to China.
There are at least 45 Chinese police stations across the globe. Locations include New York, Toronto, London, Frankfurt, Paris, Vienna and Tokyo. Stations in Dublin, Amsterdam and Rotterdam have been forced to close.
Here is a sign outside the recently closed Chinese police station in Dublin:
Emperor Xi’s long arm is getting longer.
Medical: sperm count down
Wry & Dry touches on a wide range of matters. And this week brings to the attention of Readers the alarming finding that there is a global decline in sperm count.
The analysis, carried out by Professor Hagai Levine of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Professor Shanna Swan at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, found that the average sperm count globally has more than halved between 1973 and 2018.
The research included the sperm count of Australian men.
Apparently, sperm count is not only a reproductive concern, but an indicator for other health problems in men, and is used as a predictor for male longevity. Men with poor sperm count tend to have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and even early death.
Sadly, Wry & Dry cannot blame Chairman Dan for this disturbing statistic. Although…
EV workers down
A world of electric vehicles has excited climate change believers, battery makers, miners of battery components and solar panel makers.
But not so auto workers.
Making EVs will require 40% fewer workers than building vehicles powered by petrol, according to the CEO of Ford Motor Company, Jim Farley on Tuesday.
But like all industry transitions, other employment doors open. In the case of EVs it will be in battery production, electric motors and technology, most of which will be part of an EV company’s vertically integrated supply chain.
Memories of Henry Ford, who owned forests, iron mines, limestone quarries and even a rubber plantation in Brazil to wholly control the company’s supply chain.
Chairman Dan and history
Wry & Dry is confused.
Chairman Dan is so far ahead in the polls (Sportsbet has him $1.05 to win) he doesn’t have to lie to win the state election. So why does he do it?
Consider the following.
In his campaign speech, he lauded his own decision1 to disinter the State Electricity Commission. He said that the SEC Marque I had failed, profits had gone offshore, privatisation was the devil’s work, etc. Some facts, if Wry & Dry might:
Before privatisation, the coal-fired power stations under the SEC were inefficient and ran at about 70% of capacity. As more power was needed, the Cain/ Kirner Labor government decided to build new coal-fired power stations.
After privatisation, efficiency improved, and capacity increased to about 95%. And so no new coal-fired power stations were needed.
B. Avoid bankruptcy
Had the Kennett government not sold the balance of Loy Yang B power station (Kirner sold the first 51% as she realised the coffers were empty), as well the balance of Victoria’s other generation, transmission and distribution assets, Victoria would have had to soon either default on its massive debt or go cap in hand to the federal government for help.2
C. Chairman Dan himself has sold off assets
In 2018, Chairman Dan sold Victoria’s share of Snowy Hydro (for $2 billion) to the federal government.
They are the facts. But does Chairman Dan need to lie if the election is in the bag? He’s a smart politician – he could come up with plenty of other reasons to disinter the SEC.
1 An inalienable right of all politicians, it must be said.
2 Source: Bob Officer, former state and federal government auditor, quoted in the AFR, 15-Nov-22.
Not only does any invader of Australia have to invade between the flags, but it must also now invade at a speed less than 40kmh and only on public roads.
Australia’s new fleet of ‘Hawkei’ tactical vehicles have had operational limits imposed because of a significant braking fault. They are being built in Bendigo by Thales, a French company.
This what the army ordered:
This is what the army got:
The Auditor-General has severely criticised the Croesus Turnbull’s government’s decision to award the ‘Hawkei’ project to the French company without a competitive tender.3
Readers may remember that Croesus Turnbull’s government also awarded a weird contract to a French company to build a fleet of submarines. And within minutes of the ink being dry on the contract problems were encountered.
Of course, Wry & Dry is not suggesting that there was any bias toward the French companies in either contact assessment by Croesus Turnbull’s government. Of course not.
3 “Defence has not clearly demonstrated that the acquisition provides value for money, as it did not undertake robust benchmarking in the context of a sole-source procurement.”
Habits: tax gaps
Readers may not be excited by the concept of ‘tax gaps’. But the ATO is. And so is one Reader (an accountant), who gave Wry & Dry this lead.
Essentially, the tax gap is an estimate of the difference between the amount of tax the ATO collects and what would have been collected if every taxpayer was fully compliant with tax laws.
The most recent ATO Tax Gap reports that out of 11 key market segments only three had a so-called gap of less than 4%, with SMSFs being one of them coming in at 2.1%.
All other entity groups except one came in with much higher tax gap scores. For example, ‘high wealth private groups’ had a tax gap of 6.7% and ‘large corporate groups’ had a tax gap of 4.2%.
So, SMSFs are the second most compliant of the 11 major ATO segments.
Perhaps Minister Stephen Jones should try another goose from which to pluck feathers.4
4 In a 1766 letter from the French economist and statesman Anne Robert Jacques Turgot to the Scottish philosopher and economist David Hume, Turgot wrote “… taxation is the art of plucking the goose without making it hiss.”
Pursuits: father of the bride
The Trumpster walked his daughter Tiffany down the aisle last Saturday. Tiffany is the daughter of the Trumpster and his second wife Marla Maples.
And is the only adult Trumpster child who isn’t being sue for fraud or is under investigation for participation in an attempted coup.
Snippets from all over
1. Swallow this
The wife of a prisoner who swallowed four mobile phones to smuggle into a Delhi jail has pleaded with surgeons to operate, fearing her husband may “explode”. (The Times).
Wry & Dry comments: Ramesh Saini, 28, a convicted robber, continually set off metal detectors when he travelled to and from further court hearings. An Apple a day…
2. No need for frequent flyer points.
Six nations spent lavishly at the [Trump International] hotel during periods when they were seeking to influence the Trump administration, according to a breakdown released by the House Oversight Committee (New York Times)
Wry & Dry comments: The governments were of Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and China. Condé Nast lists the top 15 hotels in Washington DC. The Trump International is not on the list.
3. Life in prison
A Dutch court on Thursday convicted three men with ties to the Russian security services of murder and sentenced them to life in prison for their role in shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 above separatist eastern Ukraine in 2014. (New York Times)
Wry & Dry comments: None of the accused was in court and Russia has refused to extradite them, meaning they are unlikely to be detained or imprisoned unless they travel abroad.
4. Channel crimes
French investigators have revealed that the victims [in the 2021 drowning of 27 illegal migrants] called for help numerous times, but French rescue services waited for them to pass into UK waters and no help was sent. (Le Monde)
Wry & Dry comments: Since January over 40,000 illegal migrants have crossed the Channel in small boats.
5. Leapfrogging backwards
London has been stripped of its crown as Europe’s largest stock market after being leapfrogged by Paris, as recession jitters hurt UK stocks. (UK Telegraph).
Wry & Dry comments: London’s combined market capitalisation is $2.821 trillion compared to $2.823 trillion for French stocks. Margaret Thatcher will be revolving in her grave.
6. Qatari beer ban?
Only three days before kick-off, the Qatari hosts were last night putting pressure on Fifa to perform a U-turn on the beer policy at the World Cup and stop selling Budweiser at the eight stadiums hosting matches. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Surely a policy of only selling Budweiser is a beer ban.
- Australia’s unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, its lowest in 48 years.
- UK inflation rose to 11.1% in the year to September, its highest in 41 years.
- UK business confidence has plunged to its lowest level since 2009.
- The Earth’s population hit 8,000,000,000 this week.
- Australia’s wage growth in the year to September was 3.1% up from 2.6% in June.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“Both men spoke through interpreters so they could understand each other.”
- Matthew Knott, journalist for The Age, reporting on the meeting between Emperor Xi and Albo.
Err, why else would one use an interpreter?
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.