Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Seven stories you may have missed
- The number numbness set in early
- Trumpster: another first
- Hurt feelings
- Unclear on the concept
- Sleepy Joe’s numbers
- Couldn’t build a canoe
- Unintended coronation consequences
The number numbness set in early
Well, it didn’t take too long for number numbness to set in. It was at 7.36pm. At that point, on Tuesday’s alternative-to-sorting-out-the-sock-drawer, Treasurer Grim Chalmers tossed his first use of ‘billion dollars’ into what was a Thermomix1 of a budget speech. As best man Tom said of his speech at the second of four weddings that were made into a movie, “there’s a little in it for everyone.”
It got worse, the word ‘billion’ was sloshed around a further 25 times, swirling around like smarties in that expensive and all-in-one hybrid of blender, scales and cooker. In some ways, that was hardly surprising, after all, it is a budget speech. And budgets are about, well, billions.
Wry & Dry must observe that it wasn’t the spend-a-thon that many had expected. There were some sensible policy actions. But a bit of a-wing-and-a-prayer stuff about inflation falling. And hard decisions were kicked down the road. Moreover, the future credibility of the sudden and early return to a budget surplus depends solely on Willy Shorten’s NDIS administrative reforms saving billions.
However, in amongst all the ‘billions’, Treasurer Grim failed to mention the word ‘trillion’. Perhaps he should have so done.
Because Australia’s federal government debt is now over one trillion dollars.
1 Thermomix is an amazing cooking appliance, much favoured by Mrs Wry & Dry. The device is designed and manufactured by Vorwerk SE & Co, since 1971. The company is a family business, based in Wuppertal, Germany.
Trumpster: another first
The Trumpster likes the concept of being first. Well, sometimes. Amongst other firsts, he was the first US president to:
- assume office without having any prior public service experience, military or political;
- be a billionaire prior to assuming office;
- to have children from three different wives;
- never receive an approval rating of over 50%;
- be twice impeached; and
- be indicted by a grand jury.
To his resume he can now add the first US president to be found by a jury to have sexually abused and defamed a woman.
And the resume will expand with three other significant, and criminal, cases underway, the income from which his lawyers expect to earn has boosted the price of ski lodges at Aspen. But legal costs are the least of his troubles.
It is now clear to the world that the Trumpster’s bluff, bluster and obfuscation might work in the world of Nuremberg style rallies, on Twitter or on CNN interviews, but fail in the quiet contemplation of courtrooms.
Are Readers seeing the beginning of the end? His only possible electoral saving grace, it seems, is if Sleepy Joe doesn’t change his mind. And decides to try and retire in the White House. The Trumpster needs Sleepy Joe as the Democrat contender. He has to do whatever he can to ensure that Sleepy Joe stays alive.
See more, below.
In the jungle of the business world, ruthlessness doesn’t always indicate a thick skin.
Take the outgoing CEO of Qantas. Alan Joyce is well known for his uncompromising focus on managing shareholder wealth. Readers will recall that he shut down the airline in 2011 over a pay and conditions dispute with three unions. The grounding of an entire airline took cajónes.
But it would seem that he is also a bit of a snowflake: last week he pulled the Financial Review from Qantas’ airport lounges and digital distribution. All because he didn’t like the critical coverage of him given by that newspaper’s Rear Window column.
Readers will recall that in 2014 he pulled all advertising from the Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald after a front-page article calling for his resignation appeared when the company announced a $2.8 billion loss.
What’s going on?
Wry & Dry sees parallels with some autocrats. Woe betide anyone who dares criticise Emperor Eleven2 or dared so to do to Idi Amin. Whilst not a psychopath of those extremities, Mr. Joyce’s narcissistic tendencies expose a glass-jaw not unlike that of former PM Bob Hawke. There are also parallels in the virtue-signalling trait, which reflects a need to be seen to be benevolent.
Not that Mr. Joyce is going to seek out and destroy journalists or toss them into the slammer for an indeterminate period. But look out if he decides to enter politics.
Eponymous political parties are flourishing; consider Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. When will Readers see Alan Joyce’s I-Didn’t-Mean-To-Cancel-Your-Flight Party?
2 XI (Jinping)
Unclear on the concept…
… of clear English.
“The club does not support booing, particularly champions of the game.”
- Collingwood Football Club, in its response to the booing by Collingwood supporters of a Sydney Football Club player.
There are two problems here. Firstly, it’s not clear if the club is against booing. Is its position one of Swiss neutrality? Secondly, why the qualification about champions of the game. Surely, in this epoch of equality, all players should be treated equally.
A smarter media release would have been: “The club deplores the booing of players and umpires.”
But, then again, this is Collingwood.
Sleepy Joe’s bad numbers
They-the-People seem to have woken up to the role that the left-wing nutter Bernie Sanders played in the 2020 presidential election Democrat primaries. Readers will recall that Sanders’ price for dropping out of the primary race in favour of Sleepy Joe was the latter agreeing to Sanders’ further-left policies. This turned Sleepy Joe’s moderate-left wing agenda into an extreme one, especially on the economy, criminal justice and immigration.
And They-the-People are not happy. Sleepy Joe’s approval rating has just hit a new low of 42%3. This is the lowest at this stage of tenure (842 days) of any president since Harry Truman, with the exception of Jimmy Carter and, not surprisingly, the Trumpster. Those two and Bush Senior, Gerry Ford and John Kennedy were the only not to be re-elected. In fairness, the latter was not re-elected as, through no fault of his own, he didn’t qualify for re-election.
Of those 13 presidents, only the approval ratings of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton rose from sub-50% lows to above 50% at the end of their first term.4
Moreover, it will get worse for Sleepy Joe. Y’see, the submerged log for him is illegal immigration. The so-called Title 42 border restrictions ended yesterday. These restrictions were a Trumpster-initiated illegal immigration measure dressed up as a ‘communicable diseases’ (i.e. covid) prevention measure. Sleepy Joe has decided not to extend them.
Last year, southern border apprehensions exceeded 2.4 million. The Mexican side of the border is, as Wry & Dry writes, an emerging tsunami of optimistic and intended US citizens, about to surge onto the shores of the Promised Land. Centre and centre-left voters may like Sleepy Joe’s other policies. But they do like people to get off their front lawn.
Sleepy Joe is doomed.
3 This is the average of all polls of all registered voters undertaken by legitimate polling methods.
Couldn’t build a canoe
In 2018, massive UK defence contractor BAE Systems was awarded the tender to build nine Hunter-class frigates5 for the Royal Australian Navy, with the first to be delivered in 2031. The frigates would be built in Adelaide (from whence came the Liberal Minister for Defence Procurement) and would cost $30 billion.
The federal government’s National Audit Office this week released a report on the project. Oh, dear. The cost will now be at least $45 billion and delivery now to be in 2032, if not later.
Meanwhile, the navy has purchased nine used patrol boats from McHale’s navy and retro fitted depth charges on each. That should keep the enemy at bay until 2032.
5 A frigate is a sort of baby destroyer, generally with anti-submarine capabilities.
Italy ousts Belt & Road
Emperor Eleven’s Belt & Road Initiative (‘BRI’) took a beating this week with the news that Italy will probably give it the DCM.
Italy’s Prime Minister, the conservative, nationalist Giorgia Meloni, wants to make it clear that she is pro-NATO, pro-Atlantic, pro-Ukraine.
For Italy, it will not make much economic difference. And will bring Italy back into the G-7 fold, as it were. But for Emperor Eleven, it would be a slap in the face.
The Emperor doesn’t like rejection. He will either offer massive fiscal incentives to keep Italy inside BRI or threaten massive fiscal pain if it chooses to leave.
The choice will be keenly watched as a signpost of China’s attempt to reduce its ‘wolf-warrior’ diplomacy.
And it came to pass…
… that the cat got out of the bag.
Wry & Dry #24 of 3 February (back from vacation) drew Readers’ attention to a tiny holiday AFR article (published mid-January) where it was quietly revealed that:
“…the Tax Practitioners’ Board deregistered a PwC [the global accounting firm] partner for sharing confidential documents detailing government tax policy plans. That partner shared the confidential information with other PwC personnel, who in turn shared it with clients.”
It took a while for the rest of the world to pick up Wry & Dry’s scoop. And then the story gained a momentum of its own. The tax partner concerned had resigned over summer. The AFR and now a Senate committee has been following up internal PwC emails. And last week PwC’s CEO was effectively given the DCM (from the CEO role). And yesterday, two senior PwC partners ‘stood down’ from their leadership positions. It seems that as many as 30 PwC partners may get their knuckles rapped.
What is curious in all of this is that regulatory bodies can only take action against individuals, not against PwC. Y’see, PwC, like many professional services firms, is a partnership not a company. Therefore, for example, ASIC cannot take action against it.
However, the government might withdraw PwC as a supplier on accounting and audit work. This is going to get messy.
…to actor Robert de Niro, on the birth of his seventh child. He is aged 79.
He is waiting for the flood of endorsement offers from a variety of pharmaceutical companies for promoting, err, enhancement drugs.
Unintended coronation outcomes
- Fitness videos. A range of fitness videos hosted by Penny Mordaunt, the woman who, unaided, held upright the 3.5 kilogram Sword of State for 58 minutes6. The videos will have Handel’s Zadok the Priest as the music and be filmed on the yellow carpet in Westminster Abbey. The focus will be on strengthening viewers’ triceps, biceps, lats and obliques. All for a fee, which will go to pay-off her visa card bill for the cost of her impressive coronation dress.
- Sales campaign. Queen Camilla was clearly suffering during the entire service, her woebegone countenance suggested an, err, internal system’s failure. So, she has agreed to a sales campaign for Prunelax.
- Rumours. There was a moustachioed and transfixed gentleman in the congregation. The man’s long moptop hair, moustache and glasses led some to believe that it was really someone else in disguise. But it wasn’t. It was legendary Welsh composer Sir Karl Jenkins, who has now been overwhelmed with endorsement opportunities from hair product and grooming companies.
- Tsar Vlad. Wry & Dry’s spies in the Kremlin confirmed that, following the success of the coronation, Tsar Vlad has decided that the Tsardom will return to the country to be renamed The Russian Empire. And that he, naturally, will be crowned as Tsar Vladimir III.7
- Netflix. Prince Harry has agreed with Netflix to make a documentary of his 26-hour stay in the UK for the coronation. Sponsored by British Airways.
6 This was in her role as Lord President of the Privy Council. Her day job is a Conservative MP.
7 He would be preceded by two Vladimirs. St Vladimir I (958-1015) at one stage had over 800 concubines. He later converted to Christianity, and is considered a saint in Orthodox churches. St Vladimir II (1053-1125) had as his first wife Gytha, daughter of Harold, King of England, who got an eyeful and fell at Hastings in 1066. He is also considered a saint by Orthodox churches.
Snippets from all over
1. South Africa arms Russia
The United States has accused South Africa of arming Russia despite claiming neutrality in the Ukraine war. (The Times).
Wry & Dry comments: South Africa needs all the money it can get, even if that money is roubles.
2. Trumpster on the fence
Donald Trump refused to say if he wants Ukraine to win the war against Russia. (UK Telegraph)
Wry & Dry comments: He shamelessly spoke in a CNN ‘town hall’ forum. When will people realise that he is the Russian version of the Manchurian candidate? One commentator noted: “Here’s what CNN did tonight: They produced a global television event for an unhinged pathological liar in front of an audience of sycophants and called it ‘news’. Well, no surprises there: this is the USA, after all.
3. Cautious Berlin
Berlin is preparing for the possibility that Donald Trump could beat Joe Biden in the next election. That outcome would likely be a disaster for Ukraine, NATO and the looming climate crisis. Diplomats have begun establishing contacts with the former president’s camp to avoid being blindsided as they were in 2016. (Spiegel International)
Wry & Dry comments: It is not possible to prepare for a President Trumpster. Except that stroking his ego goes a lot further than statements of logic, self-interest or global interest.
4. Sleepy Joe’s woes
Voters are broadly dissatisfied with President Biden’s job performance and are opposed to re-electing him, according to a new Washington Post/ ABC News poll, but they don’t like their top Republican alternatives either, reflecting a deep disconnect between what Americans want and the options available to them. (New York Times).
Wry & Dry comments: In polls of Sleepy Joe versus each of the Trumpster and DeSantis, Sleepy Joe was the loser. Will he do a Lyndon Johnson (who, in 1968, tossed in the towel during the primaries)?
5. Emperor Xi’s worries
Chinese President Xi Jinping called on top officials to step up efforts to maintain an “appropriate” birth-rate and population level, after data in recent months showcased an intensifying demographic headwind for the world’s second-largest economy. (Bloomberg)
Wry & Dry comments: China’s population fell last year, for the first time.
6. Buffett sells
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway sold billions of dollars worth of stock and invested little money in the US equity market in the first three months of the year, a signal the famed investor saw little appeal in a volatile market. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Which brings its cash holding to $136.6 billion. Which would pay off about 13% of the total of the federal government’s debt.
- Australia’s new housing approvals fell to the lowest level in 2 1/2 years.
- German industrial output declined by 3.4% in March, significantly more than the 1.3% fall forecast.
- US inflation dropped to 4.9% in the year to April, well down from the 9.1% recorded last June.
- The Bank of England raised interest rates to 4.5% from 4.25%.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“A grand spectacle, protester arrests and a historic day under perfectly British rain.”
- France’s leading broadsheet, Le Monde, with its tongue only slightly in its cheek.
The graciousness was clear: it was ‘British rain’, not ‘English rain’.
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.