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Wry & Dry #30 FY-24 AUKUS. Sleepy Joe goes all in. Feeding the chooks.

Ten stories you may have missed

  1. AUKUS: no deposit?
  2. Budgets 1: Sleepy Joe goes all in
  3. Budgets 2: feeding the chooks
  4. Photography: Where’s Kate?
  5. Gaza: the idiocy of Hamas
  6. Women’s Day: Glass ceiling
  7. Entertainment: Noth Korea
  8. Drugs: Melbourne leads the way
  9. Property taxes: Victoria 16, other states 5
  10. Ukraine: bank error in your favour

1. AUKUS: no deposit?

The sound of the unwrapping of the French-equivalent-of-Ikea packaging in Adelaide should have commenced this year.

And Croesus Turnbull probably would have been there. With a bottle of cheap French champagne on hand, he would have turned the first Allen key to piece together the first of the French- designed submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.

But not to be. In one of the very few decisions that Miracle Morrison got right, the French submarine catalogue was tossed into the WPB. And the contract for the more exciting nuclear-powered alternative was signed in 2021.

The AUKUS deal included the delivery of three Made-In-The-USA submarines from 2032. For this to work and to meet the US’ own defence requirements, an average production target of 2.3 vessels per year was required.

Sleepy Joe’s 2025 defence budget, announced this week, allocated enough money for just one new submarine commencing each year. Albo, Defence Minister Marles and even Uncle Fester Dutton were quick to point out that we-the-Australian-people shouldn’t worry. The US plan was to ramp up production over the next few years.

Of course, Croesus Turnbull couldn’t help himself, “We are bobbing along as cork in the maelstrom of American politics.” And he should know all about maelstroms of politics, having knifed Tony Abbott and then been stabbed in the front by Uncle Fester Dutton and then in the back, two days later, by Miracle Morrison. His revenge knows no sunset.

Wry & Dry is confused. Why is the building of Australia’s submarines a budgetary problem for the US? It’s to Australia’s account. Or has Australia failed to pay the deposit?

2. Budgets 1: Sleepy Joe goes all in

It’s that time of year: budgets. Grim Chalmers will bring down Australia’s in May. And this week, Sleepy Joe sent his budget to Congress.

There’s a 95% chance of Grim Chalmers’ budget coming into law. There’s a 0% chance of Sleepy Joe’s.

Y’see, Sleepy Joe’s budget has to pass the US House of Representatives, an increasingly ornery body of capricious and moderately corrupt politicians, more and more controlled influenced by the Trumpster. The Trumpster has no intention of making life easy for Sleepy Joe.

Sleepy Joe’s problem isn’t only with Congress, it is with the credit rating agencies. His budget boosts the US budget deficit to 6.1% of GDP, which will cause US government debt to reach 102.2% of GDP in 2025, up from 97.3% in 2023. And that includes massive tax hikes for billionaires and companies.

The problem is as usual: the Republicans want tax cuts, not increases. The Democrats want spending increases, not decreases.

The likely outcome: a further credit downgrade. Fitch stripped the US of its AAA rating in August last year. In November, Moody’s lowered its credit outlook to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’. S&P lowered its rating to AA+ in 2013.

A credit downgrade would be a kick in the shins for Sleepy Joe. A stable credit rating is an imprimatur of fiscal commonsense. The fact that Congress is complicit in the process as much as Sleepy Joe won’t matter in an election year.

It’s his head that is in the noose.

3. Budgets 2: Feeding the chooks

Jo Bjelke-Petersen, the former Queensland Premier, a Legend in the Gerrymandering Hall of Fame, used to call his leaks and ‘background’ conversations to journalists “feeding the chooks.”

The tradition of feeding the chooks continues. And this week’s big feed came from Treasurer Grim Chalmers. He wants to set the scene for his second full budget, although it’s two months away. The chook feed is sort-of-predictable: the recently announced spending on defence, tax-payer funded parental leave, remote housing and dosh for South-East Asia.

There will be the usual token give-aways that will allow members in marginal seats to spruik. And probably one “no-child-will-live-in-poverty” item.1

His budget has three objectives.

Firstly, to calm the nervous e.g. rumour-mongering journalists and financial markets.

Secondly, to short-circuit last minute ambit- or desperate-spending claims from profligate ministers, of which there are many.

Thirdly, and most importantly, to lay the ground for Albo’s tilt at getting his rent-free lease on the lodge extended by another three years. To hold a simultaneous House and half Senate election, polling day must be on or before 24 May 2025.

So, the upcoming budget will likely be the last before the next election. So, it will make it clear that Albo is a fiscally responsible leader. It will be up to Grim Jim to convey the message.

Albo is keen redo the curtains in The Lodge. Hence the early move of his bursar to feed the chooks.

1 Famously said by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke in an election speech in 1987. It was an electrifying promise. But his government didn’t get close. Neither did his successors.

4. Photography: Where’s Kate?

The UK tabloids have got their mojo back. All thanks to a photo.

Y’see, there has been a bit of a fuss that a woman named Catherine Middleton, aka the Princess of Wales, had not been seen since her alleged abdominal surgery some months ago. So all of those royal photographers have had nothing to do.

And then there was a release to the media of a family photo on [UK] Mother’s Day, showing her with her children.

It took a nano-second for news agencies to retract the photo from global distribution “because at closer inspection, it appears that the source had manipulated the image in a way that did not meet … photo standards.”

The photoshopping was clumsy, apparently. With numerous errors.

What’s going on?

Y’see, Kate was abducted by aliens some time ago. And the photo was an attempt to show that all was well.

The aliens had originally sought to kidnap, Meghan Markle. But discovered that she would bore them witless with tales of her woes, worries and victimisations. So, instead, they chose Kate.

5. Gaza: the idiocy of Hamas

Wry & Dry remains stupefied by the behaviour of Hamas. Maybe he shouldn’t be. Imagine that Israel might eliminate all of Hamas fighters but one, who would raise the Hamas flag and claim victory.

Readers should be reminded that there is nihilism in Hamas’ leadership – whether civilians died or not was not something they thought mattered.

The Financial Times, quoting Israeli intelligence assessments, states at 18 of Hamas’ 24 battalions have been dismantled as organised fighting forces and about half of its 40,000 fighters have been either killed or wounded. The summary is that Hamas as an organisation has been dismantled, but it exists militarily.

And that is the problem. Active Hamas fighters have melted into small guerrilla cells. And these cells are the ones firing rocket propelled grenades, placing explosives and sniping. Apparently, they have retreated to the southern city of Rafah and to refugee camps. They will continue to fight until Hamas’ ceasefire terms are met.

Those terms include permanent ceasefire and full Israeli withdrawal, in return for the release of hostages. Israel rejects those terms, for two reasons.

Firstly, it would be impossible to set up a political authority in Gaza that isn’t Hamas. If the Palestinian Authority or local Gazans tried to do so, they wouldn’t live for long. Secondly, Hamas would reconstitute its military force as Hezbollah did in Lebanon after the war with Israel in 2006. And do what it has promised to do: repeat the attacks of 7 October “a second, a third, a fourth” time2.

And the West would be smart enough to understand that its ideal of a ‘two-state solution’ if not already dead, would certainly be buried as Israel would never agree to a Palestinian state in the West Bank if it risks resembling Gaza.

The heartache in all of this is that thousands of Gazans have been killed, injured and displaced. The reality, and sadness, of urban warfare is that it is exceptionally costly. Consider, as the New York Times pointed out this week, Iraqi forces, with the aid of foreign air forces3 spent nine months in 2016-17 in urban warfare to effectively flatten Iraq’s second largest city to defeat the monstrous ISIS. The results were worse than Gaza today. By the way, Readers probably weren’t aware of that battle, in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed, much less that there were no calls for a cease-fire.

The other reality is that instead of sheltering civilians in its immense network of tunnels, Hamas uses them to shelter itself. With entrances under hospitals and schools. Go figure.

Hamas could stop the war tomorrow. But will not. It will fight until the last Hamas fighter flies the Hamas flag, declaring victory.

2 Ghazi Hamad, a senior member of Hamas’s political bureau, told Lebanese TV channel LBC on 28 October 2023 that Hamas “must remove” the Jewish state and that Hamas was prepared to repeat its 7 October operation “a second, a third, a fourth” time.

3 Those of US, UK, France, and Turkey, as well as some 560 American troops, 80 Australian special forces soldiers, as well as those from France, UK and Canada.

6. Women’s Day: Glass ceiling

Wry & Dry, a feminist at heart, is pleased to advise Readers that International Women’s Day is not a global version of that glossy magazine: Women’s Day. It is “a global day4 to celebrate the social, cultural and political achievements of women.”

With that in mind, Wry & Dry, presents the ‘Glass Ceiling Index’, a chart produced by the Economist. The chart shows the output of 10 indicators, from labour-force participation and salaries to paid parental leave and political representation, that shows the ranking of countries where women’s professional opportunities are greatest relative to those of men.

Readers can draw their own conclusions. And ask some questions, such as why have Hungary and Israel fallen so sharply? Or why have Switzerland, Turkey, Japan and South Korea remained at the bottom of the list?

The chart doesn’t show each country’s opportunities for women compared to men, which might be a more useful indicator. For example, it might be that in Iceland and Sweden women have more working opportunities than men. Or that in Australia (#10) women have 87% of the opportunity as men, but in Austria (#11) the opportunity is 77%, much less than a single ranking difference would indicate.

Leaving that aside, pleasingly, Australia’s women, compared to other OECD countries, have very good working conditions.

Australia does very well in percentage of women in managerial positions and on boards, labour force participation, gender wage gap and in higher education.

Australia does poorly, especially poorly, in net child-care costs (6th worst) and paid maternity leave (worst except for Ireland).

Time for Albo to show some ticker on important matters.

4 Is there any other kind?

7. Entertainment: North Korea

To the delight of television binge-people around the world, North Korea’s state-run television, KCTV (but not to be confused with the American channel of the same name based in Kansas City) is now live streaming.

Apparently, North Korea is a country of endless military parades and news bulletins of a worthy peasant undertaking extra work to show his love for Kim Jong-un. And Kim Jong-un himself is omnipresent, as well as being omnipotent.

There was a show about factory work, with an accompanying hymn, sample: ‘I love my machine, a friend of mine – here I work with all sincerity to provide us with a happy life.”

Wry & Dry can visualise Emeritus Chairman Dan subscribing to KCTV and then sitting in front of his telly, transfixed by images of what might have been.

8. Drugs: Melbourne leads the way

Melbourne has retained its title as Australia’s heroin capital. New data showed that Victorians account for nearly 50% of Australia’s annual consumption of 999 kilograms.

Does this go hand-in-hand with Melbourne being the sporting capital of Australia?

9. Property taxes: Victoria 16, other states: 5

Not to beat up the Victorian government too much. But on Wednesday, someone5 added up the property taxes that the Victorian and local government gouges from investors. And came up with 16. Wry & Dry has searched the interweb and found 13. Consider:

  • Stamp duty
  • FIRB tax
  • Land tax
  • Property fixed surcharge
  • Covid-19 levy
  • Council rates
  • Windfall gains tax
  • Cladding rectification levy
  • Developer agreements tax
  • ‘Growth area infrastructure contribution’
  • Absentee owner surcharge
  • Vacant residential land tax
  • Built-to-rent special land tax

On the same day, the Victorian Parliamentary Budget Office announced that the cost of building and operating Suburban Rail Loop (SLR) East and SLR North was now $216.7 billion. A figure that the Transport Infrastructure Minister, Danny Pearson, said was, “wrong.”

But Danny Boy refused to say how much the government now thinks it will cost. However, Readers: do not despair. He said that the government won’t calculate the cost until after the 2026 election.

Readers can join the dots.

5 The Financial Review,13 March 2024.

10. Ukraine: Bank error in your favour

Accountants at the Pentagon have found $300m in a budget that was presumed to have been exhausted. The money has been quickly spent: on military equipment for Ukraine.

How can anyone lose $300m?

They didn’t. The $300m probably came from the same hollow log that was used to finance mysterious happenings at Area 516.

6 Area 51 is the common name of a highly classified US Air Force facility that itself is within the Nevada Test and Training Range. Area 51 is administered by Edwards Air Force Base and is officially called Homey Airport or Groom Lake. It was purchased by the CIA and USAF in 1955, but was only acknowledged as existing in 1998.

Snippets from all over

1. Friendless Nippon Steel

Joe Biden said he opposed a proposed takeover of US Steel by Nippon Steel. Donald Trump, Mr. Biden’s rival in the presidential election, has said he would “block it instantaneously”. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Perhaps the Trumpster meant that he would “block it instantly.”

2. TikTok gets the DCM from the US

America’s House of Representatives approved a bill that would force TikTok’s Chinese owner, Byte Dance, to sell the app to an owner of another nationality. Otherwise it will face a ban in America, TikTok’s largest market.  (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: The worry is about Emperor Eleven gathering American’s personal data. The sale requirement is fatuous. TikTok runs on codes and algorithms. That IP is owned by TikTok’s parent company, Byte Dance. Emperor Eleven’s consent is required before they can be licensed to others. Selling TikTok to an American owner without the underlying code would be like selling a Ferrari without its engine.

3. Cathay Terrific

Cathay Pacific Airways has finally shaken off the lingering effects of the pandemic, reporting a record operating profit. Operating income more than tripled to HK$15.1 billion ($1.9 billion) in 2023. (Bloomberg)

Wry & Dry comments: Cathay kowtowed to Emperor Eleven during the 2019-2020 anti-mainland protests. Beijing (which is a shareholder in Cathay) ordered Cathay to suspend any employees who participated in the protests. Cathay chairman John Slosar responded, “We employ 27,000 staff in Hong Kong doing all sorts of different jobs… we certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something.” He soon saw the writing on the wall and resigned, soon after Cathay’s CEO, who also supported protesting employees.

4. Vinyl makes a comeback

Britain’s Office for National Statistics added vinyl records to the inflation basket, which is intended to reflect consumer’s spending habits. Records were taken out of the basket in 1992, but have become more popular in Britain in recent years. Other additions include air fryers and edible sunflower seeds. Hand sanitizers and hot rotisserie cooked chicken were removed. (The Economist)

Wry & Dry comments: Soap still hasn’t made it into the English inflation basket.

5. Trumpster: not a penny more

Following his visit to Mar-a-Lago last week, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s autocratic prime minister, told Hungarian state media that, as president, Donald Trump would “not give a single penny” in support of Ukraine “therefore the war will end”. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: This is the Trumpster’s malevolence at its worst.


  1. US: inflation increased to 3.2% from 3.1%.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

Honestly he has never stepped foot in that shipyard, he’s never gone to the job creating programs where we are building up capacity every single day, so I think that the reality is not one that’s mugging anyone.”

  • Joe Courteny, Democrat congressman, responding to Croesus Turnbull’s comments that Australia was “being mugged by reality…” with the US defence budget, that reduced next year’s submarine build.

Croesus Turnbull has once again been mugged by the reality that he is a prat.


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


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