cartoon-dfat

Wry & Dry #35: 8 April 2022.

Minimising ‘ardship. Guns or butter investment. You can see Russia…

Whilst pouring your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

  1. Minimising ‘ardship
  2. Guns or butter investment
  3. You can see Russia from my house
  4. Mon Dieu
  5. Unclear on the concept
  6. Be careful to whom you send invitations
  7. On the hustings: heckling
  8. Which financial centre?
  9. History: Underarm bowling
  10. Geography: In the south-west Pacific
  11. People: fewer Russians
  12. Habits: Saudi women rally

Whilst enjoying your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Minimising ‘ardship

There is a quaint notion going around that voters care about sound economic management. Allow Wry & Dry to disabuse Readers of that thought.

Treasurer Josh claims the economic-capability high ground. Sure, he did a great job during the pandemic. But his recent cost-of-living handouts and gifts of fleets of shiploads of containers of barrels of pork to Barnaby Joyce temper the accolade.

Wannabee Treasurer Jim Chalmers leapt into the public eye this week, saying that Labor is the superior economic manager. This is a bit rich, coming from the former adviser to former Treasurer Wayne Swan. Even Labor stalwarts couldn’t keep a straight face.

The Wannabee went on to reprise the Ruddster’s invocation “this wasteful spending must stop.” Wry & Dry thinks that it was telling that he drew on the Ruddster for economic inspiration, rather than Bob Hawke or Paul Keating. Is this an omen of whose fiscal recipe book he will follow?

But… it doesn’t matter. Readers, let Wry & Dry give you the whisper: voters don’t care about sound economic management. What they want is more dosh from government. And to let someone else pay.

It’s all about getting the government to minimise personal ‘ardship. Classically, for 18-35 year-old voters, ‘ardship is an uncharged mobile phone. And the government will subsidise spending on petrol, new homes, fixing roof leaks, electric cars, retirement living, etc., etc.

If Readers want to know about ‘ardship, view this clip.1

1From the 1967 comedy series At Last the 1948 Show (forerunner to Monty Python). It starred Tim Brooke-Taylor, Marty Feldman, John Cleese and Michael Chapman.

Guns or butter investment

Wry & Dry’s fallible memory recalls an excellent speech in the mid 2000s where former Australian Treasurer Peter Costello ominously referred to the ‘arc of instability’2.

As Costello was a lawyer and politician and not a mathematician, Wry & Dry knew he was not referring to a vague geometrical principle. Or to the semi-circle of independent Senators.

Instead, Costello was presciently referring to the security challenges of the south-west Pacific, from East Timor through to Fiji, including Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

Readers will know of the influence that China has purchased in Solomon Islands and New Guinea. There will be more purchases of influence.

Leave aside for now the shameful legacy of the whimsical northern-hemispherical travels of Julie Bishop and her compliant department that ignored our neighbours…

And ask question: why hasn’t Australia purchased influence to the same degree? Would Australia be better off spending some billions on investment in relationships and infrastructure in these places, as China has done, than on tanks and other weapons that seems never to arrive?

2The term seems to have been coined by Paul Dibb, one of Australia’s leading thinkers on defence matters. He was the primary author of the 1987 Defence White Paper.

You can see Russia from my house

Readers will recall that one of the great losses to American politics was the defeat of 2008 US presidential candidate John McCain3. A thoroughly decent and immensely capable politician, he lost in the emotional swing to neophyte politician Barack O’Bama4.

McCain was not helped by the Republican powerbrokers choosing an obscure and very right-wing Alaskan politician as his running mate: Sarah Palin. This was a gift to O’Bama, cartoonists and comedians, as Palin presented as a brainless bogan. Which is what she was.

Although she never actually said that she could see Russia from her house5.

Well, she’s back. Or, rather wants to be back. She has been nominated for Alaska’s only House of Representative’s seat. And is just one of 48 candidates.

The Trumpster has given her a gushing endorsement. Which might be the kiss of death.

But death comes in many guises. A former Republican supporter of Palin said, “We actually are sort of in the time of the celebrity candidate… We have professional football players running. We have professional athletes.”

Ms. Palin may not have noted the irony.

3John McCain was an American politician, statesman, and much decorated navy officer, who served as a Senator until his death in 2018. He previously served two terms in the House and was the Republican nominee for the 2008 presidential election. He was a PoW for five years in North Vietnam.

4O’Bama had been in federal politics (a Senator) for just 3 years.

5She actually said, “…you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.” It was comedienne Tina Fay who said, impersonating Palin: “I can see Russia from my house!”

Mon Dieu!

Readers will know that French presidential elections commence with the first round of voting on 10 April. And most will have thought that incumbent Macron De Gaulle would comfortably top the poll and stroll into the second round against whomever came second in the first round.

Well, stuff happens in France. But this stuff is big: according to the latest poll, the support for Marine Le Pen, the right-wing leader of the right-wing National Rally party has surged.

She is trailing Macron 48.5% to 51.5%.

Macron is increasingly seen as, and is, an arrogant elitist. And Le Pen has gained ground from supporters of the even further-to-the-right-of-the-soup-spoon Éric Zemmour. Zemmour’s pro-Putin extremism has the perverse effect of making Le Pen look moderate.

The problem in this is that Le Pen has long-standing pro-Russian sympathies. How would her election affect the EU and NATO? What about the anti-Putin unity?

Wry & Dry’s man person in Brussels advises that the eurocrats are shaking in their bureaucratic boots.

Unclear on the concept

A full page ad in today’s daily rags proclaims manna from heaven the United Australia Party (financed by the well upholstered Clive Palmer).

Quisling MP Craig Kelly has breathlessly advertised two extraordinary election policies:

  1. Maximum home loan interest rate of 3%

Err, the current average variable home loan rate is now 3.03%. So the subsidy will immediately kick in. There are about 6 million home loan mortgages in Australia, with an average size of $420,000. That’s 2.5 trillion dollars. Every 1% increase in interest rates would cost we-the-taxpayer $25 billion per annum.

  1. Force superannuation funds to invest in Australia the current $1 trillion invested overseas

The plan is to “bring back a Trillion Dollars… to save Australia”. This is a great idea, the aim of which is to save Australia from China. Err, but where to start? More submarines?

Be careful to whom you send invitations

Oh, the embarrassment when guests ignore you. Or mistake you for the butler.

Former president O’Bama was invited to the White House, and this is what happened:

Two comments spring to mind. For O’Bama, it’s always been about O’Bama, forget anybody else in the room. For Sleepy Joe, gotta hang in there, old man. No matter who actually makes decisions for you. Just gotta last until November 2024.

Joan la Pucelle6 Kamala Harris has the removalists on standby.

6Better know as Joan of Arc. Shakespeare portrayed her (Henry VI, Part One) not as a pious maid, but a bold, scheming woman. She tries to influence the French Dauphin (later Charles VII): “My courage try by combat, if thou darest, / And thou shalt find that I exceed my sex. / Resolve on this, thou shalt be fortunate, / If thou receive me for thy warlike mate.” 

On the hustings

There’s been a bit of media this week about hecklers heckling election candidates. Especially one old man who tossed verbal hand grenades at PM Jimmy Morrison. Good grief, that’s not heckling. Allow Wry & Dry to remind Readers of former UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in the 2001 General Election.

Prescott was known as “Two Jags Prescott” as he owned two Jaguar motor vehicles. Owning such vehicles apparently was not a good look for a Labour MP.

He then became known as “Two Shags Prescott” following news of him keeping a mistress. Keeping a mistress apparently was not a good look for a Labour MP.

Then, at a campaign rally in Wales, a heckler threw an egg at Prescott at very close range. Prescott did what any modern politician from Wales would do. He swung around and punched the egg-thrower in the jaw. He then became known as “Two Jabs Prescott.”7

Wry & Dry thinks that Jimmy Morrison should try this tactic. Morrison has nothing to lose.

After all, Prescott won his seat with an increased majority and the Labor government (of Tony Blair) was returned with a massive majority.

7Pescott, ex-navy, was also an amateur boxer

Which global financial centre?

Readers must be tired of the arcane debate over which is Australia’s financial centre. But the Brits and French have never tired about which of their cities is better.

Hence the latest rankings8 were greeted with glee in London and dismay in Paris: London is still second only to New York as a global financial centre, with Paris back in 11th place.

Readers may recall 2018, with the Brexit campaign appearing to tear the UK apart, Macron De Gaulle hosted a lavish soirée at Versailles Palace. Guests were wined and dined with a three-star Michelin meal at Louis XIV’s gilded palace. Some 140 bosses of multinationals such as Goldman Sachs, Facebook and Coca-Cola were urged by Macron to “choose France”, whilst 15 senior members of government conducted ‘speed dating’ sessions.

They didn’t choose France. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.9 

8The Global Financial Centres Index 31, by Z/Yen, a London-based commercial think-tank. The rankings consider areas such as political stability, labour market flexibility, quality of life, infrastructure and innovation. This year’s report drily notes: “the performance of the Russian financial centres in Moscow and St Petersburg is likely to fall sharply.”

9The more things change, the more they stay the same.

History: Pakistan – underarm bowling

Last week, Wry & Dry noted that the Prime Minister of Pakistan, former test cricket great Imran Khan, was facing a vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly.

With the smarts learned from leading a team of eleven cricketers from eleven different tribes, Mr. Khan avoided the vote. By calling a general election. Sort of like underarm bowling.

But his tactic may be in vain. In Pakistan, it’s the army that decides what happens. And they will give Mr. Khan the DCM in due course. Democratically, of course.

Geography: in the south-west Pacific

Wry & Dry was reminded of Tacitus10by one of his Readers. Tacitus noted that the Ancient Britons, over time, became fascinated with the Romans in Britain, proudly emulating them in every way, from fine buildings and epicure11, through to replicating dress styles. Tacitus quipped, however, that what Britons naively saw as being part of “civilization” was in fact the beginning of “servitude”.

In signing a security pact with China, have Solomon Islanders commenced down the path towards servitude?

10Publius Cornelius Tacitus (c. AD 56 – c. 120) was one of the greatest Roman historians. The surviving portions of his two major works – the Annals and the Histories – examine the reigns of the emperors Tiberius, Claudius and Nero. His Annals are the earliest extra-Biblical reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

11The British epicurean culture must have got lost over the centuries.

People: Fewer Russians

Tsar Vlad’s legacy of his Ukrainian folly will have many consequences. Not least of which will be that in future there will be fewer Russians to hear of it.

Since 1965 Russia’s total fertility rate (number of children born to each woman) has been below the replacement rate of 2.1 and is currently 1.6. Net migration has failed to make up the difference.

In 2021, Russia’s population fell by 1 million, its largest peacetime decline in recorded history; being a blend of covid excess deaths, net emigration and a declining birth rate. The life expectancy of the average Igor also fell, to 65 years, ranking 113th in the world, just ahead of North Korea.

And then Tsar Vlad invaded Ukraine.

It has been estimated that about 200,000 Russians emigrated in the first 10 days of the invasion. Most of these are more highly educated and younger Russians. Destinations included Armenia, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey; countries that admit Russians visa-free.

Tsar Vlad wants to increase the number of Russian citizens. Clearly, if this doesn’t happen biologically, it must come through other means. Annexing Crimea added 2.5 million people. Perhaps steal of few from Ukraine?

Habits: Saudi women rally

Saudi Arabia, one of those countries where it is not good to be female, is easing the bias. In desert rallying.

It all started in 2017 when The Sheikh’s father12 first allowed women to drive. And now the kingdom’s first female-only desert rally, The Jameel (which means beautiful), has just been held.

Thirty four two-women teams (over half of which had at least one Saudi) from 15 countries, including Britain, Germany, Oman, Spain, Sweden and the United States, covered the 1,100 kilometres across the Arabian desert.

Sadly, the winner weren’t locals, but pro-drivers from Sweden. Both second and third places were filled by teams that had a Saudi driver.

Looking at the rally videos when the cars were driving on-road, it seems that roads in Arabia are in much better repair than those in Wry & Dry’s electorate, where the voters are still waiting for an election pork barrel to fall from heaven.

12 The Sheikh is Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, effective ruler of Saudi Arabia. His father is King Salman Al Saud.

Snippets from all over

1. New marionette in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee resigned Wednesday as he announced plans to enter the race to become the city’s next leader. This is two days after Carrie Lam announced her retirement. (South China Morning Post)

Wry & Dry comments: Lee is a hardline former security chief who played a critical role in cracking down on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Emperor Xi will approve.

2. Australia gets hypersonic

The United States, Australia and Britain announced that they were bolstering their cooperation on developing new hypersonic weapons, an expansion of an agreement reached last year to build new nuclear-powered submarines. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Soon to come: a hypersonic submarine.

3. 65,000 electric cars

Swedish electric car maker Polestar has struck a roughly $3bn deal to provide rental group Hertz with 65,000 electric cars over the next five years. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Polestar is owned by Volvo, which in turn is owned by Geely of Hangzhou, China.

4. Unionisation

Baristas at Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery in New York City have voted 46-36 in favor of forming a union as labor campaigns intensify across the country. (CNN)

Wry & Dry comments: Last Friday, Amazon lost efforts to stop unionisation at one of its warehouses, marking the first-ever union foothold at the retail giant’s U.S. operations. President Biden has also promised to be the “most pro-union president in American history.”

5. Musk on Twitter

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, has built a 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him one of the social media company’s biggest shareholders. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: A sales medium for Tesla?

Data

  1. The RBA left interest rates unchanged, but strongly hinted at near-term increases.
  2. Turkish inflation hits 20-year high of 61%.
  3. UK new car sales fall to lowest level since 1998, as chip shortage bites.
  4. The cost of insuring $10m of Russian debt increased to $4.3m from $2.8m this week.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

“We have always found, where a government has mortgaged all its revenues, that it
necessarily sinks into a state of languor, inactivity, and impotence.”

David Hume, the 18th century Enlightenment philosopher, economist and historian.

Just a Wry & Dry reminder to Treasurer Josh and Wannabee Treasurer Jim Chalmers.

Easter

Next Friday is Good Friday and Wry & Dry will not be published. And no matter what child of Abraham you are, may the gift of Christ be a blessing to you.

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

Cheers!

Anthony

Share this article

Share on print
Share on email