Cartoon WD 2203 (1)

Wry & Dry #32 FY-24. Bumper post-Easter issue.

Ten stories you may have missed

  1. Meanwhile: on the grassy knoll…
  2. Solar panels: really? Part I
  3. Solar panels: really? Part II
  4. Teals: batting for the big SMSFs or themselves?
  5. Scotland: dob in a neighbour
  6. Journalism: sex, drugs and sign here
  7. Ukraine: NATO and Australia
  8. Italy: all time low for babies
  9. Magnificent Seven: now four?
  10. Warning: time to go backwards

1. Meanwhile: on the grassy knoll1

Robert Kennedy is an American environmental lawyer who promotes anti-vaccination misinformation and public health conspiracies. With an energetic blend of left-wing idealism and right-wing conspiracy theories, in his own mind he is the perfect person to challenge Sleepy Joe and the Trumpster for leadership of the free world. Which he has done.

His many university degrees will not help him as much as his name. Insert a middle initial, add a post-nominal indulgence and plain Robert Kennedy becomes Robert F. Kennedy Junior. He is (cue drum-roll)… a ‘Kennedy’.

Junior is a son of Bobby, whose 1968 presidential campaign ended badly, and nephew of John, whose sunny afternoon drive in Dallas ended early.2 And, in an imaginative appointment that brings back memories of John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running matette, Junior has appointed Ms. Nicole Shanahan as his running matette.

Ms. Shanahan’s contribution to Junior’s campaign will be in cash. Y’see, her fiscal capability seems to derive mostly from her second divorce, being from Google co-founder Sergey Brin. It was a brief marriage that, according to the Wall Street Journal, ended on account of an, err, intervention from Elon Musk.

In a third attempt at relationship bliss, in July 2023 she held a ‘love ceremony of commitment’ with Jacob Strumwasser. She described the event as a ‘handfasting ceremony influenced by Druidic tradition’. Cute.

She and Junior appear to be an ideal combination. But perhaps not for occupying the White House. A tent in the damp, open fields of Woodstock comes to mind.

The trouble for Sleepy Joe is that the dramatic duo will pinch those Democrat voters who somehow believe that Washington needs another Kennedy.

1 The ‘grassy knoll’ is the small sloping hill near where John Kennedy was assassinated. Some conspiracy theorists theorise that a second assassin (i.e. other than Lee Harvey Oswald) fired at least one shot at Kennedy from the knoll. The ‘grassy knoll’ has entered the lexicon to refer to a cover-up or conspiracy.

2 Junior is also a cousin of Caroline Kennedy, current US Ambassador to Australia and daughter of John Kennedy.

2. Solar panels: really? Part I

The comparisons had to begin. Albo finished the parliamentary session before Easter as badly as he finished the one before Christmas. The immigration-detainee fiasco showed Albo had lost control of his Immigration Minister and his Home Affairs Minister. Add these to zealots B1 (Chris Bowen, Climate Change and Energy) and B2 (Tony Burke, Employment and Workplace Relations) and Readers can see why mutterings of Whitlam-comparisons emerged.3

So, Whitlam-like responses were required. The post-Christmas rabbit-from-Albo’s broad-brimmed hat was the tax cuts. The pre-Easter rabbit, so to speak, was a billion-dollar investment to make Australia a world leader in the manufacture of… solar panels.

Solar panels? This has disaster written all over it. It’s one of those feel-good projects chosen to meet the electoral requirements of four collectives: the Greens, the Teals, the bring-back-manufacturing-no-matter-the-cost MPs, and MPs in coal mining areas.

Readers can see the first significant problem with Albo’s largesse. He has just tossed $1 billion at an industry in which Australia has zero global competitive advantage. Sure, Australia has the ingredients: aluminium frame, glass, EVA plastic and solar cells.

But wait! There’s more. Just two more ingredients and Albo is on a winner. Firstly, an efficient manufacturing labour market; and secondly economies of scale.

Australia has neither. Not even close. Albo, and We-The-Taxpayer, is on a loser.

3 Gough Whitlam was a charismatic Labor PM, who followed the abominably incompetent Liberal PM Billy McMahon. Whitlam, notwithstanding brilliant oratory and vision, had no control over some bumbling ministers, notably Cairns, Cameron and Connor. He was sacked by the Governor-General in1975 and succeeded by Liberal Malcolm Fraser, surely the least inspiring PM. Until Miracle Morrison came along.

Separately, and pondering Tsar Vlad’s annexation of parts of Ukraine, Readers might not be aware that, in August 1974, Whitlam shamefully endorsed the Soviet Union’s annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Separately, and pondering survivors, Paul Keating (now aged 80) and Doug McClelland (97) are the last surviving Whitlam ministers.

3. Solar panels: really? Part II

The second, and more worrying problem is that this is another example of a government devoting taxpayers funds to industry policy.4 Australia’s success at industry policy is lamentable.

Readers will remember how We-The-Taxpayer subsidised the Australian motor vehicle manufacturing industry by billions for years. Ford, General Motors and Toyota managed their cost-bases up to the level of the subsidy. Hence the escalation of inefficient work practices that choked any chance of a viable industry. And Australians got shoddy cars to boot.

Readers will remember Croesus Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro Battery. The $2 billion cost is now $12 billion.

And then there’s Albo’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund; the $20 billion Rewiring the Nation programme; the $7 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility; and the $4 billion Critical Minerals Facility.

And don’t get Wry & Dry started on Barnaby Joyce’s gold-plated list of projects littered through National Party seats (all benevolently approved by Liberal prime ministers). Ponder for one moment the $31 billion inland rail Melbourne-to-Brisbane fiasco.

What’s got Wry & Dry in such a funk? Statism. Albo’s confidence in bureaucracy is touching, but irresponsible. Readers know that Labor is a lobby group for the public-sector middle class as much as the Liberals is a lobby group for property developers.

The latter affects the efficacy of the tax system. The former is a bureaucratic worldview that hides behind the role of government as an impetus or a “partner”. So, Albo’s well-meaning funds, programmes and facilities will continue to proliferate.

If Albo really wants “a future made in Australia” he should get his zealous Minister for Employment to undo the recent industrial relations legislation that will only reduce Australia’s manufacturing competitiveness.

4 Industry policy is organised government involvement in guiding parts of the economy by encouraging investment in targeted industries.

4. Teals: batting for big SMSFs or themselves?

To the surprise of Wry & Dry, the Teals have actually done something sensible in federal parliament.

They are lobbying to change the proposed doubling of tax on superannuation balances greater than $3m. Not that they disagree with the doubling of the tax, but just two details.

Firstly, that unrealised capital gains are taxed and, secondly, that the $3m threshold is not indexed.

Readers will know that taxing unrealised capital gains is not only unprecedented in Australian tax policy, but also is punitive for those investors who have illiquid superannuation investments.

Readers will also know that if the threshold is not indexed, what is, for example, $2m today will be $3m in five years at current growth rates.

Of course, the reality is that Albo does not need the votes of the Teals to pass the legislation in the House.

So, is it possible that the Teals’ interest is in just seeming to listen to their constituents?

Just askin?

5. Scotland: dob in a neighbour

In a boon to vexatious people, gossips, sticky-beaks, and dobbers-in, Scotland has turned 411 public amenity centres (e.g. public libraries and charities) into ‘Third Party Reporting Centres for Hate Crimes’.5


These Reporting Centres will receive complaints from Scots about other Scots’ behaviour. Yes, in a move that had Stalin sitting up in his coffin and applauding, Scotland’s Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act has not only criminalised any speech or any communication that could be construed as “stirring up hatred’, it now encourages Scots to dob in their fellow citizens. Hence the 411 Reporting Centres. So convenient for those Scots living outside the major cities.

Reports can be made for any ‘threatening or abusive’ speech of any ‘protected characteristic’. The latter covers not only race but also age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and trans-gender identity. ‘Stirring up’ hated includes ‘insulting behaviour’.

Of course, the legislative offences are offensive. But to both criminalise and create a regime for neighbour-dobbing-in is Orwellian behaviour of a most egregious kind.

This would be risible if it were not so sinister. But risible it is. Consider Police Scotland’s advertising campaign for the Hate Crime Act, which said that “hate is most likely to lurk in young men with deep-rooted feelings of being socially and economically disadvantaged combined with ideas about white-male entitlement”.

Oops. A classic quadrella of hate: a) young, b) white, c) working class, and d) men. Can Police Scotland be reported to Police Scotland for breach of the Hate Crime Act? Surely?

And sure enough, Police Scotland were dobbed in by the Indian Council of Scotland. The advertisement was removed.

5 Weirdly, a sex shop in Glasgow called Luke and Jack was nominated as a Reporting Centre.

6. Journalism: sex, drugs and sign here

It has all the making of a Netflix mini-series. Allegations of rape in parliament house; paid-for-appearing television interviews; allegations of political cover-ups; involvements of a prime minister and cabinet ministers; criminal charges; aborted trials; allegations of prosecution irregularities; defamation lawsuits; fights between two television channels, etc.

And just four days before a judge was to hand down his verdict on the most sensational legal decision this century, an urgent appeal by one of the television channels to reopen the case because of alarming new evidence. So this week Readers read of just how journalists get those ‘scoop’ interviews. Cocaine, Thai ‘massage therapists’, $350 steak dinners, etc.

Toss in corporate in-fighting, admissions of more than 20 alcoholic drinks a day being consumed, illegal use of credit cards, etc and the opportunity is clear.

But wait! There’s more. Readers can rest assured that not only were the media present in court. But also that note-takers from the tax office attended every day of every trial. Will the cocaine be claimed as a tax-deductible expense by one television channel? And the massage therapists: will the $10,315, err, service fee be reported as assessable personal services income?

And there are, of course, the workplace health and safety issues for the television-show producer. Was the hotel room where the sex, drugs and whatever rolled took place a workplace within the meaning of the legislation? Were workplace safety regulations adhered to?

This has more melodrama and sub-plots than early seasons of Neighbours. The genesis of this soap opera has been forgotten in the tsunami subsequent events. The screen writers are already working overtime. It’s up to four-seasons. So far.

7. NATO: Ukraine and Australia

Readers will know that NATO was 75 years old yesterday. It was formed in 1949 as a mutual defence pact (against, well, perhaps, maybe… the Soviet Union) with 12 members (10 European countries plus Canada and the US), to which has now been added 19 more European members and Turkey. Sweden and Finland both joined in the wake of Tsar Vlad’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Notable European non-members are Ireland (apparently Russian missiles can’t go that far), Switzerland (that’s where Tsar Vlad keeps his loot, so he’s not going to bomb Zurich) and Austria (Tsar Vlad has a soft spot for the birthplace of Hitler).

Essentially, NATO’s raison d’etre is collective security. Its Article 5 requires member states to come to the aid of any member state subject to an armed attack. Or, put, colloquially, “all for one and one for all.”6 Article 5 has been used only once, after the 11 September attacks on the US; after which troops were deployed in Afghanistan.

Tsar Vlad used Ukraine’s desire to join NATO (first expressed in 2002, and increasingly affirmed since then) as one of his excuses for invading its neighbour. NATO this week pledged to negotiate a further US$100 billion military aid programme for Ukraine, in an attempt to shield Ukraine from the “winds of political change.” Those winds of change being a delightful euphemism for the Trumpster.

Speaking of Ukraine, early on Australia was the largest non-NATO supporter of Ukraine. As at January 2024, Australia’s military and humanitarian aid, as a percentage of GDP was 0.04%, behind only non-NATO donors Japan and South Korea. But ahead of some niggardly European countries: Malta (0.01%), Ireland (0.03%) and Hungary (0.03%).

Still speaking of which, the latest US proposal for aid for Ukraine, was proposed by Sleepy Joe and approved by the US Senate in February. It would have passed in the House, but House Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to proceed with the bill, on orders from the Trumpster.

Sort of weird, isn’t it. The Trumpster has decided that he doesn’t want money to go to Ukraine. So, in a banana republic imitation, an out-of-power ex-president is in effect dictating American foreign policy on behalf of a foreign dictator.

NATO: be afraid, be very afraid.

6 …to quote Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, written in 1844. Sigh: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

8. Italy: all-time low for babies

Just 379,000 babies were born in Italy in 2023, the fewest since Italy’s unification in 1861. This is not good news.

Twenty years ago, there were some 13.8m women of child-bearing age in Italy. In 2023, there were 11.4m.

The obvious problem with each passing year is two-fold. Firstly, there is a declining number of women of child-bearing age and, secondly, those women are having less babies (average fertility rate of 1.2, today) which means fewer mothers in the future.8

The consequences are both fiscal and social. Fiscally, there are fewer and fewer people to pay increasing taxes to pay for increasing government debt (also driven by more funds needed to pay for medical care for the aging population). Socially, rural communities are emptying. Hence the abundance of one-euro home sales.

A stabilisation of the population (excluding immigration) will require, it is estimated, a fertility rate of about 4 babies per woman for a generation. Good grief!

How is this going to happen? Err, it won’t.

As has been shown, government incentives just do not work as expected. And those efforts in Italy have been directed at getting the fertility rate back to 2.1 (i.e. the population replacement rate), much less back up to 4.

But Wry & Dry has every confidence that the enthusiastic women of Italy, with the close attention of its testosterone-charged men, will rise to the challenge.

8 Of the 204 countries for which data is collected by the UN Population Fund, only 26 have a fertility rate above 4; all are in sub-Saharan Africa. The countries with the lowest rates are 202nd Singapore (1.0); 203rd South Korea (0.9); and 204th Hong Kong (0.8). Australia’s fertility rate is 1.6. No data was collected for the Vatican City.

9. Magnificent Seven: Now four?

The US stock market rose by about 10% in the first quarter. But without any positive contribution from Apple and Tesla.

Source: Wall Street Journal. Nvidia is the maker of super-fast AI chips, Meta is Facebook, Alphabet is Google.

It might be that Apple is just running out of ideas in a market that is increasingly saturated. And its almost secret project for entry into the EV car market has been given the DCM.

Meanwhile, Tesla is also struggling. The unhappy blend of massive oversupply of EVs from China and decreasing demand of EVs generally has pushed both Tesla’s car prices and sales downwards. In the March quarter, Tesla shipped 8% fewer cars than the same quarter 2023.

Chairman, President, CEO and salesman, Elon Musk, said that Tesla is “between two growth phases.”

It’s just a matter of when the second phase will commence. Meanwhile, the short-selling wolves on Wall Street are licking their lips.

10. Warning: Time to go backwards

It was an announcement that delighted all of those companies that made squillions from the so-called YK2 bug.9 One second will be subtracted from the year 2029, according to a paper published in Nature, a science journal.

The rotation of the Earth had previously been gradually slowing down. But Readers will have noticed that the Earth’s movement is now speeding up. And has been doing so since the late 2010s. The change could necessitate the introduction of a “negative leap second” in order for Readers’ clocks to remain accurate.

This will be a boon to those same IT companies, as they persuade the world that massive investments must be made to ensure that the world will be safe from time going backwards.

And Readers should be alert for alarmist activity from fringe groups such as fundamentalist religious organisations, survivalists, cults, anti-social movements and those that attract conspiracy theories, such as the Trumpster and Barnaby Joyce.

9 Y2K (Year-2-thousand) was arguably the greatest hoax of all time. IT gurus persuaded the world that because many computers represented four-digit years with only the final two digits, the year 2000 would be indistinguishable from the year 1900. Or 1800, etc. Billions were spent on making IT systems Y2K safe, but those systems that had no pre-emptive remediation survived.

Snippets from all over

1. Chinese property developer’s woes worsen

The homes sales of Country Garden Holdings, China’s troubled property developer, fell by 83% in the 12 months to end March. (Bloomberg)

Wry & Dry comments: Country Garden is a massive property developer that has turned to custard. It is the epitome of Emperor Eleven’s failed growth-by-property-development plan.

2. Nato plans to sidestep the Trumpster on Ukraine

Nato is drawing up plans to secure a five-year military aid package of up to $100bn, in an attempt to shield Ukraine from “winds of political change” that could usher in a second Trump presidency. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: “Winds of political change” is a delightful euphemism for the capricious nature of the Trumpster mind.

3. Iranian general killed in airstrike

A senior Iranian general has been killed in a suspected Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: The general was Mohammad Reza Zahedi. He certainly wasn’t waiting for a visa. He was the boss of Hezbollah, the Iranian proxy, and he gave orders to Syria’s Assad regime as well. Zahedi was responsible for Iran’s weapons transfers to Hezbollah. 

4. Trumpster’s media stocks crash

Donald Trump has suffered a $2bn blow to his wealth after shares in his company Truth Social plunged by almost a quarter. (UK Telegraph)

Wry & Dry comments: prices of shares in Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) tumbled after revealing it lost US$58m (£46m) last year on revenues of just $4.1m. That compares to a market value of $6.3bn. The company also warned of a “substantial doubt that TMTG will have sufficient funds to meet its liabilities as they fall due”.

5. French unions threaten strikes during Olympics

French public sector workers who staff hospitals, public transport and museums are threatening to strike during the summer Olympics, setting up a showdown with Emmanuel Macron’s government. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: As certain as the sun rising.


  1. Australia: Inflation in the year to end February was unchanged at 3.4%.
  2. Eurozone: inflation in the year to end March fell to 2.4%.
  3. China: Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) expanded to 50.8, the highest reading in 2024.
  4. UK: PMI rose for the first time in two years, to 50.3.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

I’m more likely to see thylacine on my front lawn than I am to read that the RBA has hiked rates again.”

  • Saul Eslake, independent economist, when asked whether the RBA would raise interest rates.

Saul is a resident of Tasmania, hence has a great interest in the thylacine.


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


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