WRY & DRY #34 FY-24. Invade, but not yet. Power. Local taxes.

Ten stories you may have missed

  1. Invade: But just not yet
  2. Power: Back to the 1950s
  3. Tax: Local councils get in
  4. Electioneering: Bring on the tariffs
  5. Social media 1: Greens turn red
  6. Social media 2: Trumpster has ‘plans’
  7. Numbers: China and 5%
  8. Employment: Elon gets out the razor
  9. Warfare: Friendless in Tehran
  10. Personnel: Check the references

1. Invade: but not just yet

Last week, Albo went back to the 1950s to build an Australian manufacturing sector to compete with… China. This week, Defence Minister Marles went forward to the 2030s with a massive re-armament programme to compete against… China.

Some $50 billion of new dosh over the next decade will be spent on new toys. But the fine print is different: only $5.7 billion will be spent over the next four years. Almost no new serious capability will be delivered for at least 10 years.

Albo has been on the phone to Emperor Eleven to ask if China will hold off invading until 2035.

The biggest problem with the decade delay is twofold: the bureaucrats in the Department of Defence move at the speed of a Sopwith Camel;1 and politicians’ horizon is only until the next election. The reality is that defence kit is not available off the shelves at Bunnings. Even on a Special Order. Lead times are many years.

This defence indifference can be laid at the feet of former PMs Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. Each was consumed by the issue of the day. Rudd, Gillard and Abbott did nothing. Croesus Turnbull thought buying some submarines was all that was needed. Miracle Morrison just upsized the submarine order.

Meanwhile, Emperor Eleven got on with steadily building capability and pushing and threatening his neighbours.

At last, a Defence Minister has tackled the problems of Defence Department slothfulness and government indifference.

Predictably, Emperor Eleven reacted angrily to Minister Marles’ announcement. China posed, “no threat” to the region, his foreign ministry spokesman, Lin Jian, mouthed.1

Now that Justice Lee has finished eviscerating Lehrmann, Higgin, Wilkinson and Network Ten for lying, perhaps he should be given the chance to test Mr. Lin Jian’s truthfulness.  

1 A First World War biplane.

2. Power: back to the 1950s in Victoria

One of Chairman Dan’s last initiatives was to resurrect the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. And to toss $1 billion at it, so as to close the ‘renewable energy gap’ between what will be needed in Victoria in 2035 (Net Zero Ground Zero in Victoria) and where the current building trajectory is.

The interim CEO of the SEC, Chris Miller, said in a speech on Wednesday that the aim in closing that power gap was “to invest in areas where the market was uncertain and provide confidence to prompt more spending.”

He usefully identified that the power gap was some 5 gigawatts. Using the universal measure of power output, that’s about 5 Loy Yang Bs2 of renewable power generation and storage to be built in 10 years.

Blessed are the rent-seekers.

2 Loy Yang B is Victoria’s newest and most efficient brown coal-fired power station.

3. Tax: local council gets in on the trend

Wry & Dry doesn’t understand much about local government. Other than its role is to collect the garbage and to stop someone building a Burj Khalifa3 next door.

But the Shire of Mornington Peninsula wants to impose a ‘levy’ of 3.3% on all new developments. There’s lots of vacant land and aged building there, so much to develop. The levy will be spent on ‘social housing’.

A number of matters spring to mind. Firstly, when a new tax is imposed, history says that it will increase as time goes by.

Secondly, if the funds are to go to social housing, surely all ratepayers should pay, not just developers or owners of the developments.

Thirdly, Wry & Dry thought that social housing was the domain of the state government. Err, indeed it is.

But the biggest problem with the plan is that the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s track record at building anything is lamentable. If it applies the same red-tape to building social housing as it does to John and Betty’s house, the 3.3% levy won’t go far. And those in need of social housing will be in need of a final resting place instead.

3 The world’s highest building, located in Dubai. It really is a graceful building.

4. Electioneering: bring in the tariffs

There’s nothing like an election to bring out the best in pork-barrelling. Even if the barrel is empty.

Readers should consider Sleepy Joe’s very loud announcement that he would triple the US’ tariffs on China’s steel and aluminium imports. The tariff loud-hailer was out in Pittsburg, in an address to steelworkers. Pennsylvania and nearby Ohio are ‘swing states’ that he needs to win.

But the loud-hailer hid the fact that Chinese steel makes up only 0.6% of total US steel demand. But the steelworkers don’t know that.

5. Social media: Green turns red  

All social media platforms crave ‘content’. And all politicians do whatever they can to create content to circulate to true believers. Legendary Status in the Global Creating Media Content Hall of Fame has only been achieved by the Trumpster.

Readers only have to see his delight in all his criminal trials and the confected victimhood that his acolytes shoot around the globe to eager members of his tribe.

On Wednesday, the Australian Senate was treated to what can only be described as a D-Grade effort to emulate the Trumpster. And the wannabe Trumpster (but at the far other end of spectrum in one sense) was Senator Nick McKim, a noisy Greens Senator from Tasmania. (Tasmania is to the Greens what Queensland is to the Gnats).

McKim, The Tassie Trumpster, was Chairperson of the Senate enquiry into supermarket prices. He decided that it was time for media content creation. And chose the retiring CEO of Woolworths, Brad Banducci, as his victim.

McKim wanted to know from Mr. Banducci what was Woolworths’ return on equity (a measure of profitability). McKim actually knew that it was about 25%. And that figure was about twice that of the banks, he shouted. And therefore Woolworths was ripping off Australian shoppers. McKim was half right on the first point. And 100% wrong on the rest. The banks have massive capital constraints imposed by APRA, hence their modest ROEs. A more appropriate ROE comparison would have been with BHP (ROE: 27%), CSL (26%) or even JB Hi Fi (35%).

Of course Woolworths is profitable, but certainly not outrageously so. Did McKim really think that Woolworths was more profitable than the banks?

McKim’s ignorance was laid bare. Y’see McKim didn’t get past secondary school, much less employment in a job that involved understanding business, economics or industry. But he was undaunted, outraged, and shouted, swore, and threatened Mr. Banducci with contempt, six months in the slammer and a $15m fine as Mr. Banducci couldn’t put a figure on Woolworth’s ROE.

And later that day, his whole ‘grilling’ was uploaded on the various Greens’ social media platforms. Objective achieved.

McKim badly let down his would-be constituents (Australian shoppers) by not sensibly using the time to forensically grill Mr. Banducci on Woolworths’ pricing and supplier payment arrangements. But that would have taken some homework and thinking. Habits with which it is clear Mr. McKim is not familiar.

He once again portrayed the Greens as troglodytes, and once again disrespected the Senate.  

6. Social media: the Trumpster “has plans”

Work with Wry & Dry on this.

In 2021 the Trumpster’s unlisted company, Trump Media & Technology Group Corp (which owned his Truth Social, a social media platform established as an alternative to Twitter, Facebook, etc) announced a merger with a Nasdaq listed Digital World Acquisition Corp (‘DWAC’), a ‘Special Purpose Acquisition Company’.

A SPAC is essentially a cash-box company listed on a stock exchange and set up to find an interesting and opportunistic company with which to merge. As it has no operations and effectively holds only cash, its financial disclosures are meaningless. The benefit is that the target merger company can list on the stock exchange without doing an IPO and therefore there is no need to provide a heap of financial information before listing.

DWAC considered that a deal with TMTG would be worthwhile – the deal would work because of the magic of the Trumpster. The Trumpster liked the idea, a stock-market listing of TMTG without releasing its financials until after listing.

When merged, the new company would be owned not only by the Trumpster (59%) but also by the original investors in the DWAC.    

Investors poured into DWAC, knowing of the upcoming merger with TMTG.

The merger became effective on 26 March and DJT. DWAC became DJT, the ticker for TMTG. The price was $66.

The problem is that DJT’s financials (effectively TMTG’s) were then released. They showed the company lost $58m in 2023 on revenue of just $4.1m. Last night, DJT’s price was $33. The Trumpster’s stake has fallen by $3 billion in three weeks.

“This is the most overhyped meme stock since the meme stock mania,” one analyst reported. “In any other universe, in any other world with any other sort of name or person associated with it, this would be a penny stock.”

But, of course, the name TRUMP is magical. And he has plans: One losing investor commented: “I know good and well it’s in Trump’s hands, and he’s got plans. I have no doubt it’s going to explode sometime.”

Wry & Dry assumes that when using “explode” he meant the share price would explode upwards. Y’see, on plain reading the company will explode, but not in the meaning that the DJT investor uses.4

On Monday, DJT announced that it would undertake a capital raising, to issue 21.5m new shares to raise cash. Moreover, some 146m shares currently held in escrow, will be available for sale in September.

7. Numbers: China and 5%

Wry & Dry had always thought that the number 8 was a good thing in China. But there is also a fixation with the number 5.

That is not to suggest that China’s GDP data is, err, rigged. Readers may notice a pattern in the below chart (GDP growth for the previous 12 months, rolled quarterly).

Yes, somehow China’s annual GDP growth hovers nervously around 5%. The latest data, released on Tuesday, show a 5.3% figure for the year to March. That figure was slightly above expectations, of course.

Any figure around 5% is sort-of reassuring. But the data below the data tells a different story: a seriously lopsided economy. The economy has barbell shape: consumer spending is weak, and the property crunch is continuing. That disappointing news is balanced by booming industrial production and investment in manufacturing, as Emperor Eleven seeks to boost “new productivity forces” e.g. EVs and renewable energy equipment.

Not to suggest that Emperor Eleven is ‘dumping’ products onto the world market. But if the world pushes back, one end of China’s barbell may cause an economic wobble.

8. Employment: Elon gets out the razor

Well, it had to come. On Monday, Tesla announced that it was giving 10% of its workforce the DCM.

Readers will recall that a few weeks back Wry & Dry wrote of Elon Musk’s twin problems:

  • EV demand has waned as the early adopter-/ let’s save the planet-pool is nearly empty. The more cost-conscious buyer will only buy an EV on the basis of price. And EV prices are not coming down fast enough.
  • Massive Chinese overproduction of EVs has belted Tesla’s Chinese and European markets. The name BYD hasn’t hit But it is the world’s largest EV manufacturer, with 22% of the EV market. Tesla’s share is down to 13%.

The market is getting grumpy with Elon: Tesla’s stock price fell 6% on the DCM news.  In 2024, its share price has fallen 35%.

Has Elon reached peak Tesla?

9. Warfare: friendless in Tehran

Iran sent 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles aimed at Israel, broadly defined. This in revenge for a precision strike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus that killed seven Iranian military advisors who directed Iran’s military proxies against Israel.

Iran’s bombardment was indiscriminate and not limited to military targets.

What the Australian media missed was that top military advisors from Israel, the US and Arab countries had met in Egypt to discuss coordination against Iran. Jordon and Saudi Arabia then joined Israel, the US, UK and France is shooting down all bar one of the drones and missiles.

In the aftermath of the attack, a source connected to the Saudi royal family charged Iran with instigating the Gaza war to stop the normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Iran is 1-319. Israel’s best response is to join the world in mocking Iran. The only people who died are those who died of laughter.

By the way, Wry & Dry scoured the media to see where Albo or Ms Wong had called in the Iranian ambassador. Surely, a dressing-down was needed in view of Iran’s attack on Israel, Australia’s ally in the Middle East. Alas, no such media report could be found.

Perhaps the Iranian ambassador was on vacation.

10. Personnel: check the references

Wry & Dry will not trespass upon the minefield that is the Lehrmann/ Higgins/ Network 10/ Wilkinson ‘omnishambles’. Other than to reflect upon a couple of Justice Lee’s sharp-elbowed reflections.

And in so doing ignore his assessment of Network Ten (its ‘political cover-up’ allegation was “short on facts, but long on speculation and internal inconsistencies”) and of Lisa Wilkinson (“…the absence of any solid, verifiable material… demonstrates her willingness to engage in speculation”).

It was clear that Mr. Lehrmann and Ms. Higgins were joined at the hip in one regard…

Mr. Lehrmann was “a wild and undirected liar.”

Ms. Higgins was “an organised liar whose deceit was targeted and calculated.”

Both witnesses were employed by the then Liberal government. Which raises the question: did the Liberal Party have the same policies it applies to choosing political candidates as it did for employing political staffers?

Snippets from all over

1. Tsar Vlad’s next victim

Georgia, supposedly an aspiring member of the EU, is slipping towards authoritarian rule, and with it the possibility of reabsorption into Russia’s sphere of influence. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Tsar Vlad’s proxy is Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire who made his fortune in Russia in the 1990s and served briefly as prime minister of Georgia in 2012-13. He runs the minority government from the shadows. He wants Georgia to be in Moscow’s orbit, not the EU’s.

Watch this space. Tsar Vlad is flexing his oft-displayed pecs, lats, traps, biceps and triceps.

2. UK’s potholes

The AA motoring organisation was called out to 631,852 “pothole-related incidents” in 2023, the most in five years. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: A delightful epitome of the country.

3. Samsung’s begging bowl

The U.S. government is granting Samsung Electronics up to $6.4 billion to build chip-making facilities in Texas, the latest in a string of major subsidy awards from the Biden administration aimed at reviving semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: So, the only way to revive US semiconductor industry is to give $6.4 billion to a massively profitable South Korean company?  

4. Purple Paris

Fans will be seeing purple at the Olympics when athletes try to set records at this summer’s Paris Games. In a move away from a more traditional red-brick clay colour, an Olympic track is going purple for the first time. (Le Monde)

Wry & Dry comments: So, what colour will Brisbane choose? Something to match the white-shoes, perhaps.

5. China’s capital markets in a slump

Activity on China’s equity capital markets on the mainland and beyond has slumped to multi-decade lows, highlighting how the loss of momentum in the world’s second-largest economy has weighed on investor confidence. (Weekend Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: And that on top of Emperor Eleven’s latest news blackout announced over the weekend: China will no longer publish live investment flow data from Hong Kong into the mainland Shenzhen and Shanghai exchanges.


  1. Australia: unemployment rose to 3.8% in March, from 3.7% in February.
  2. UK: Inflation fell to 3.2% in the year to March, down from 3.4% in February.
  3. Germany: sales of EVs fell by 29% in the year to March.

And, to soothe your troubled mind, a trio of quotes…

“Iran’s message was clear: we’re crazier than you realise.”

  • An unnamed Iranian insider, quoted in the Financial Times, after Iran launched a massive strike of drones and missiles on Israel.

That part of the world seems to have more than the usual number of crazies. Speaking of which…

“Never underestimate the extent to which Bibi can make a bad situation worse.” [‘Bibi’ aka Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu]

  • An unnamed Israeli insider, quoted in The Economist.

The sooner he is given the DCM, the better.

“Having escaped the lions’ den, he went back for his hat.”

  • Justice Lee, drily speaking of Bruce Lehrmann’s decision to launch a defamation case, having had a rape case against him not proceed. Lehrmann’s defamation case failed.

The lions were waiting.


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

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