Ten stories you may have missed…
- Canberra: brainless and invertebrate
- Elections: “Keep it up-vibe…”
- Trusts’ tax: the hares have been set running
- GDP: improving
- Defence: creative thinking
- Croesus Turnbull: RDS returns
- Hong Kong: Emperor Eleven’s new problem
- Trumpster: money out and money in
- Dates: Advance Australia When?
- Royal Navy: how not to park a ship
1. Canberra: brainless and invertebrate
It’s obvious. The Prime Minister doesn’t have a spine. And the Leader of the Opposition doesn’t have a brain.
If Readers hadn’t already drawn this conclusion before spending the summer swimming in the pristine waters of Port Phillip Bay or safely in Sydney Harbour, then the new year’s emissions of cant and idiocy from these two icons of incompetence will have settled any doubt.
Albo entered the arena with a clear need to (a) retain the Labor held seat of Dunkley in the upcoming by-election1 (its loss would put Labor just one seat away from minority government); and (b) restore his and his government’s popularity (a 50/50 pre-Christmas poll wasn’t what he wanted from Santa).
The seeming rabbit from his rural hat was to break an election and oft repeated promise, and provide income tax cuts to low and middle-income earners at the expense of higher income earners.
A vertebrate politician would (a) keep the election promise and pass-up the opportunity for cheap and short-term political gain; and (b) undertake to undertake a serious review of the labyrinthine and failing tax system.
But Albo understands that most people understand as much about the ‘progressive income tax system’ as the Trumpster does about honesty. And believe that ‘bracket creep’ is a pesky and uncomfortable inter-positioning of underwear.
So not much thought is required for anybody to be delighted at the words ‘tax cuts’. No further thinking necessary.
And the ‘no further thinking’ approach was taken by Uncle Fester Dutton. His knee-jerk reaction that he would reinstate the tax cuts for higher income-earners was daft beyond belief.
A brained politician would, certainly, have attacked the breach of promise. But then also (a) take the high ground by undertaking to undertake a serious review of the labyrinthine and failing tax system; and (b) point out that there is a bigger problem on the other side of the balance sheet: the government’s massive spending.
Sigh. What a way to start a new year. An invertebrate battling a brainless opponent.
1 A seat surrounding the Melbourne bayside suburb of Frankston, held by Labor with a 6.3% margin. It was a safe Liberal seat, held by the popular Bruce Billson, until Croesus Turnbull dumped Billson from his ministry to make room for one of his (Turnbull’s) mates. Billson had other fish to fry. He resigned, and was succeeded by the indolent Chris Crewther, who fell at the first hurdle. And lost the seat to Labor in 2019.
2. Elections: “Keep it up-vibe and interesting…”
“Keep it up-vibe and interesting” were the famous words used by the late Richie Benaud to the Nine cricket commentary team before each day’s play.2
Which is exactly what US political commentators are doing as the Republican Party undertakes its six-month and absurd search for a candidate for the US presidential elections.3 Notwithstanding the efforts of the talented and vertebrate Nikki Haley, the Trumpster has the nomination in his back pocket.
So why is Ms. Haley continuing her quixotic battle against the Trumpster? She says she will stay in the race until ‘Super Tuesday’4. It certainly seems that all she wants to do is to keep on getting under his skin. And that’s no easy task, giving its thickness. But he is being forced to spend more time and money on belittling her at every opportunity. So, she is essentially volunteering for over a month of total personal wreckage: spiteful ads, injurious claims, ridicule: the brutality, the darkness.
And the media love it. It helps keep the public’s interest in what is a massively one-sided contest.
And so does the world: Ms. Haley is the only thing saving it from a full year of media mediocrity of just Trump versus just Biden. Sigh.
It could be that Ms. Haley’s story is this: (a) she moves from getting under his skin to getting inside his head – and he spectacularly blows up; and/or (b) the long arm of the US justice system finally invites him into a room somewhat smaller than any he has at Mar-a-Largo. And without windows. But it comes with all-inclusive food. And a wardrobe of monochromatic clothes that would match the colour of his tan.
And then Ms. Haley does a Bradbury.5
2 A mythical comment made famous by The Twelfth Man’s mischievous and very funny parody on Australian sports’ commentators.
3 Presidential primaries and caucuses are used to select delegates to each major party’s National Convention to determine that party’s nominee for the presidential election. They are held between January and June.
4 On 5 March when 874 Republican Convention delegates (of a total of 2,429) are chosen from 16 states.
5 Bradbury won both the semi-final and final of the men’s short track 1,000m event at the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games, when the lead competitors in each race all crashed and he gently skated through to victory.
3. Trusts’ tax: the hares have been set running
Whilst the world was either getting enraged by or cheering about the income tax changes, Wry & Dry noticed the subtle commencement of another tax hike movement.
Work with Wry & Dry on this.
The way governments massage voters’ opinions is to quietly run a policy up the flagpole. And see who salutes. With tax changes, it might start with one of those regular but little noticed announcements from the ATO that it is “going to crackdown on X”, where X is a tax loophole or rort, as defined by the ATO.
Favoured journalists and academics would be briefed on the cost to the public coffers and how dastardly it all was.
Comments would be then sought from practitioners, and industry associations. And then the government would present vague comments along the lines of “protecting the integrity of the tax base,” and “we will seek the view of the ATO,” etc.
Finally, talkback radio hosts would be presented with ‘background’ briefings, which would show how everybody would be a winner if the tax rules on X were changed.
Traction is then achieved. The government has then set the hares running.
The superannuation tax changes commenced this way.
Readers should now watch out for an assault on trusts. The ATO has already announced “a crackdown.” No mistake, the end game is legislative change. Articles have commenced appearing in the financial media. A large feature in the weekend media will be next.
The hares have been set running.
4. GDP: to be better
The boffins at the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have increased their forecast for Australia’s 2024 GDP growth to 1.4%, up from its previous forecast of 1.2%.
That 1.4% seems anaemic. Well, it is. But it is better than that of most of developed countries, with the exception of the US. Sleepy Joe’s massive fiscal stimulus (directed at industry, not individuals), which is more and more looking like an economic success story.
Looking at some selected economies, Tsar Vlad’s empire surprises on the upside.
5. Defence: creative thinking?
Risible moment of the year to date arose with news that Australian soldiers won’t be protected from attack drones (the unmanned mini-aircraft, not the Defence Department) for at least eight years.
An army briefing document reveals that the Defence Department is considering a variety of anti-drone options in the meantime, including “…birds of prey, and nets that can be fired into the air.”
Perhaps Spiderman could be engaged to shoot webs into the air.
6. Croesus Turnbull: RDS returns
Croesus Turnbull’s Relevance Deprivation Syndrome has, sadly, returned.
In another very public display, he agreed to participate in a television documentary. In the documentary he unloaded on former Prime Ministers and former colleagues alike.
It was fortunate that the documentary was on the ABC, so there were not too many viewers.
7. Hong Kong: China’s massive Evergrande teeters
If a person owes $10 to his bank and cannot pay, the person has a problem. If the person owes $1m and cannot pay, the bank has a problem.
Now consider China Evergrande, once China’s largest property developer. It owes over US$300 billion to lenders. And so those lenders have the problem.
And so does Emperor Eleven and his court. They would have been surprised, if not shocked, when on Monday, Hong Kong’s High Court ordered the liquidation of Evergrande.
Y’see, the problem is not that Evergrande owes that US$300 billion to lenders and that its realisable assets are less than 10% of that. That is a problem for its lenders.
The problem is that it apparently has over US$400 billion of contracts to build over 1.5 million apartments in China, for which the full price has already been paid (unlike Australia, apartment buyers must pay the full price upfront). The apartments have either not been completed or not even commenced construction.
So, there are millions of grumpy Chinese families and probably as many contractors and sub-contractors who have lost/are going to lose squillions.
Emperor Eleven’s plan to build the Chinese economy on property seems to have gone pear-shaped.
8. Trumpster: money out and money in
Trumpster’s pocket has just been picked for US$83m.
This is the award a jury made in favour of a woman whom the Trumpster had defamed. He defamed her by making comments about her after he was found, in a civil trial, to have raped her.
Wry & Dry mused how long it would then be before the auctioneer’s board went up in front of Mar-a-Lago.
But then he noted that the Trumpster was indicted four times in 2023. Indictments require lawyers. Lawyers mean legal bills. Lawyers in the US are not cheap. So, his bills were massive. And rising with each passing utterance.
The problem is that he paid for those bills by using money donated for his election campaigning.
And the legal bills’ bottom line was… US$52m. That’s just for 2023. Imagine how much he will have to spend in 2024?
Just wait until he gets his hands on the funds of the US Treasury.
PS: The New York Attorney General is seeking US$370m in penalties from the Trumpster in his fraud trial. Decision pending.
9. Holiday: Advance Australia When?
The Federal government gazettes national holidays. One of these is Australia Day, gazetted to occur on 26 January6 in each year.
It is clear that Albo wants to change the date. This is not difficult, after all he bestrides the world like a Colossus. He simply has to gazette a new date. But remember that Albo is an invertebrate. So, he relies on third parties to do the spade work for him, e.g. the captain of the Australian cricket team.
But, well, really. It is ridiculous for Albo to say he wants to keep the date, except for those people who want to change the date.
6 Except if it falls on a weekend, in which case the holiday is taken on the next business day.
10. Royal Navy: How not to park a ship
“Well, I just put the lever in D. And then we, sort of, went backwards.”
Trouble was that the vehicle was a vessel. And so His Majesty’s Ship Chiddingfold smashed into HMS Bangor.
This unhappy incident happened in Bahrain. Thus, the Royal Navy’s contribution to defending the world from nasty people in the Middle East is reduced by one ship.
At least the Royal Navy has ships enough to devote to the task. The Royal Australian Navy couldn’t even send a kayak.
Snippets from all over
1. US central bank sits on its hands
The Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged, as widely expected, at a range of 5.25 and 5.5%—the highest in 22 years. (The Economist)
Wry & Dry comments: The question on everyone’s lips: “when will interest rates begin to fall?”
2. German economic dismay
Germany is on the brink of recession as manufacturing and property crises engulf the eurozone’s biggest economy. Its economy shrank by 0.3pc in the final quarter of 2023. (UK Telegraph)
Wry & Dry comments: The German economy shrank by the same 0.3% over the entire 2023.
3. Musk’s bonus scheme shuttered
Elon Musk’s $55bn pay package from Tesla has been voided by a Delaware judge, who ruled that the unprecedented remuneration was improperly approved by the electric-car maker’s board of directors and had short-changed the company’s shareholders. (Bloomberg)
Wry & Dry comments: It’s complicated, but in 2018 Tesla’s board offered Musk a $55 billion payout if he hit certain performance targets. He accepted. Shareholders lawyered up.
4. French farmers revolting
Hundreds of tractors laid siege to Paris on Monday as farmers furious at French and European rules said they intended to “starve Parisians.” (UK Telegraph)
Wry & Dry comments: Just in time for the Olympic Games.
5. Brain implant
Elon Musk said the first human patient had received a brain implant from his Neuralink company and that the initial results were “promising”. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Rumours that the recipient was Barnaby Joyce have been discounted.
- Australia: Inflation slowed to 4.1% in the year to December, down from 5.4% in September.
- EU: GDP grew at 0.2% in 2023, boosted by Spain and Italy, but burdened by Germany and France.
- Australia: retail sales fell 2.7% in December.
- UK: ‘shop price’ inflation fell to 2.9% in the year to January, down from 4.3% in December.
- USA: GDP grew at 2.5% in 2023, up from 1.9% in 2022.
- China: population declined for the second consecutive year, by 2.08 million.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“Never incorporate your company in Delaware.”
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, in a post on X on Tuesday, after a Delaware court ruled that he had to forfeit a possible US$55 billion share bonus.
Musk, predicably, spat the dummy, and last night announced that Tesla’s corporate registration would move to Texas from Delaware.
The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.