Wry & Dry #37-24 The Agony and the Agony. UN vote for votes. Like a mafia funeral.

17 May 2024

Eight stories you may have missed

  1. The Budget: The Agony and the Agony1
  2. UN vote for votes
  3. “Rather like a mafia funeral
  4. Meanwhile, the real men meet in Beijing
  5. An indulgence: portraits
  6. Germans’ relaxed work ethic
  7. Covid journalist vanishes
  8. Emperor Eleven on tour

1. The Budget: The Agony and the Agony1

There must be people out there who actually believe the words and figures in The Budget. As a former Treasurer once said, “The figures are rubbery figures.” And the words, oh, the words. Thousands of words of fantasy.

How else can Wry & Dry explain The Budget’s massive media coverage. Rather like the death of a Queen or a Collingwood grand final loss2, nothing else gets a mention.

Consider the arcane coverage: from where Albo will get the dosh and to whom or what. Down to the last dollar. And to the exact year. Prime time news coverage or the most abstruse detail; newspaper wrap-arounds and lift-outs full of charts and call-outs; social media accounts presenting absurd winners and losers down to the very person. And so it goes on.

Oh, the Agony. Death, where is thy sting? Really, have Readers otherwise encountered such nonsense?

Allow Wry & Dry to relieve Readers of the agony. And focus on one number. Readers’ views on all the rest depends on their political views/ age/ sex/ salary/ tax-bracket, etc. And whether to donate their $300 energy rebate to the charity of their choice.

That one number is 26.6%. That is Albo’s expected spending as a percentage of GDP in FY-26. Aside from periods of economic distress, covid, etc, this is the highest in almost 40 years.

It simply shows that Readers’ lives will increasingly be polluted, diluted and strangled by the government.

1 Originally “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, a biographical novel of Michaelangelo by Irving Stone. A film of the same name was made in 1965, with Charlton Heston in the lead role.

2 Collingwood is an inner-suburban enclave of rabid followers of the local Australian Football League team. The very happiness of its supporters, if not reason for being, depends solely upon the success of their team. And a loss in a Grand Final is the ultimate depressive and traumatic event. Innocent cats will be kicked; lifetime friendships broken; relationships destroyed; and teeth, if available, will be gnashed. Sigh.

2. UN vote for votes

Readers will be aware that last Friday, Albo directed Australia to vote for a UN resolution concerning Palestinian recognition. The vote was in favour of calling on the UN Security Council to bestow full UN membership to the state of Palestine.

However, Foreign Minister Wong said that the vote was not about recognising Palestine as a state.

Hmm, run that past Wry & Dry again.

No, don’t bother. Of course, the vote wasn’t about recognising Palestine as a state. It was about votes in Western Sydney and marginal Labor seats under threat from the Greens or ‘community based’ independents.

To be clear, both Liberal and Labor sides of politics have for centuries thrown pork from well laden barrels to win votes.

Miracle Morrison’s GST deal that will now gift Western Australia an extra $50 billion over the next decade is the exemplar. The idea was to hold marginal seats: the Liberals lost four seats. The Victorian Labor government’s sweetheart deals with the CFMEU (a building union) ensure rivers of gold in Labor’s coffers at the expense of billions in Victoria’s infrastructure costs. The National Party has Hall of Fame status in rolling out the barrel. And Albo’s budget on Tuesday night was testimony to the unbroken run of using taxpayer’s funds for ballot box gains.

But the vote in the UN was a vote to compromise Australia’s settled and bipartisan policy on Palestine for the sake of marginal Labor seats. Albo traded away Israel’s rights and Australia’s reputation.

3. “Rather like a mafia funeral

Keen followers of the Trumpster’s criminal trial in New York, would have noticed that the public gallery has been festooned with a rotating cast of Trumpster acolytes. Who are also politicians. Who are also vying to be the Trumpster’s ‘running mate/ matette’ or beneficiaries of his anointment with either words or dosh.

Wry & Dry’s New York criminal trials’ court reporter reports the presence of Vivek Ramaswamy, JD Vance and Doug Burgum amongst the Veep wannabes. No mention was made of any of them actually being interested in the trial, just the photo op.

This is what the mobsters of the early/ mid/ late twentieth century used to do: (a) show fealty to the man in the dock; and (b) intimidate witnesses and jurors.

By the way, where’s Melania?

4. Meanwhile, the real men meet in Beijing

Yesterday and today, Tsar Vlad will be in Beijing to meet with Emperor Eleven. There will be the usual formal dinners, formal toasts and formal inspecting of the formal guards.

Already, the usual communiqué has been issued: “… the leaders would exchange views on ties and international issues and regional issues of common concern.”

Exchange view on ties? Really? Ascot, bow, string, or Western?

5. An indulgence: portraits

This piece is an attempt to divert attention away from:

  • The Budget
  • Sleepy Joe/ the Trumpster
  • Tsar Vlad/ Emperor Eleven
  • Albo/ Uncle Fester Dutton
  • Other pestilence

Indulgently, when Wry & Dry is in Canberra (a rare event), he visits the National Portrait Gallery. The aim is to marvel at how artists capture the essence and persona of their subjects. An art which, in itself, is now seemingly lost in dustbin of entries in the Archibald Prize.

His favourite portrait is that of then Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (now Queen Mary).

Equally, when in London (more frequent than Canberra), its National Portrait Gallery is invariably on Wry & Dry’s agenda. The character of the subjects is compelling enough for frequent return visits.

Wry & Dry’s meanderings on this subject come to land with the release of the first portrait of King Charles. The furore is similar to that of the portrait of Churchill given to him on his retirement from office. Churchill tossed that one onto a bonfire.

Charles will probably not do the same with his. What would Readers do if they were Charles?

Wry & Dry would hang it in a place of prominence. It tells so much of the man. There is so much for Readers to interpret…

6. Germans’ relaxed work ethic

Wry & Dry always thought the Germans to be hard working. Well, maybe they are, but they don’t put in the hours.

It’s now got to the stage where the government is looking at tax breaks and welfare reforms to encourage more Germans to work more.

The problems, it seems, are a relatively high share of German women who are in part-time work and an increasing preference for leisure time.

The former is an outcome of tax disincentives to work longer hours, the latter an increasingly global problem.

Australia is in the middle of the pack of developed countries, at 1,707 average hours worked.

7. Covid journalist vanishes

Well, it had to happen.

Zhang Zhan, the Chinese journalist who was jailed for reporting on the initial outbreak of covid, has vanished. Her family has said that it “was not convenient” to reply to requests for information. Which is code for “speak to anyone about this and you’ll end up being food for pandas.”3

Readers will recall that Chinese authorities at first denied the scale of the pandemic. And took action against doctors who spoke about it. Zhang herself toured Wuhan, filming the overflowing hospitals.

She was sentenced to four years in the slammer, for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” with a release date of last Monday.

Emperor Eleven would say that these are internal matters, and of no business of outsiders. Hmm, perhaps the business of outsiders is not only about human rights, but also about the real source of covid.

3 Noting, of course, that pandas are herbivores.

8. Emperor Eleven on tour

Emperor Eleven needed to spend some expiring frequent flyer miles. And chose a flying, so to speak, trip to Europe. It’s been five years since he was last there, so what better time than last week?

What was interesting was his destination choices: France, Serbia and Hungary.

France was the key destination: He needed to get a stronger handle on whether M Macron’s seeming indifference to the US was merely French aloofness (ref. any French president), or a genuine pathway to reduced engagement (à la Charles de Gaulle). And to get a sense of the EU’s lens on China.

He would have been disappointed: the EU is not happy with any or all of: China’s support for Russia (re Ukraine), China’s dumping of exports into Europe and China’s treatment of repressed ethnic minorities.

On the other hand, Serbia and Hungary are happy to be useful idiots for Emperor Eleven to use to divide the EU. His churlish revisiting of the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy by the US (25 years ago, in the Kosovo war) as proof of NATO’s aggression was expected.4

And the image of unnamed Chinese security men confiscating Tibetan and Taiwanese flags in the crowds in Belgrade spoke volumes about China’s intolerance of protest, even overseas. And Sebia’s acquiescence.

Serbians should look forward to the Cyrillic script being replaced by Hanzi.

4  In May 1999, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, five U.S. Joint Direct Attack Munition guided bombs hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese journalists and outraging the Chinese public.

Snippets from all over

1. Tsar Vlad’s spring cleanout

Russian security agents detained a senior general early Tuesday, widening a purge of the country’s sprawling Defense Ministry amid President Vladimir V. Putin’s broader shake-up of his government. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: corruption is a perk of serving in a high post in Russia. So the question is: what other wrongs did this man do?

2. Boeing, Boeing…

The [US] Justice Department said Boeing violated a settlement reached three years ago over its employees’ role in two fatal jet crashes, exposing the company to potential criminal prosecution over one of the biggest crises in its history. (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: Boeing avoided prosecution over air-safety lapses arising from the two 737 MAX accidents, by paying of $2.5bn settlement. The company has failed to meet its agreed obligations. Doubtless more to come.  

3. Miracle drugs

Novo Nordisk [the Danish pharmaceutical company that makes Wegovy, an Ozempic lookalike] is trialing its weight-loss drugs to explore if they can reduce alcohol intake and treat alcoholic liver disease, as it seeks to expand the uses of the blockbuster treatments. (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: These drugs will soon cure everything, except maybe political incompetence.  

4. Sleepy Joe goes protectionist

The Biden administration announced it would introduce new tariffs on imports from China. The tariff rate on EVs will quadruple to 100%, and in some cases taxes on imports of steel and aluminium will be tripled. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: nothing at all to do with the upcoming election. Of course. 

5. BHP’s knock back

Anglo American, a British mining giant, rejected a revised takeover proposal from BHP, an Australian competitor. BHP lifted its offer to £34bn ($43bn) after Anglo American rejected a £31bn offer in April. (The Economist)

Wry & Dry comments: Anglo American has gone further, with an announcement that it will break-up itself, principally by selling De Beers, its diamond mining and distribution company.


  1. Australia’s unemployment rate rose to 4.1% in April, up from 3.9% in March. As hoped by homeowners.
  2. Japan: GDP fell 2% in the year to March. Worse than expected.
  3. USA: inflation rose 3.4% in the year to April, better than expected6. Market rallied.
  4. UK: wages and salaries grew by 6.2% in the year to March.

6 A user warning about ‘expectations’: Wall Street economists and pundits issued April CPI forecasts and then later forecasted that April CPI would beat their initial forecasts.  So, stocks and bonds rally on the nonsensical ‘beat’ and Wall Street is happy.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

Trump doesn’t get the basics. He thinks his tariffs are being paid by China. Any freshman econ student could tell you that the American people are paying his tariffs.

  •  Sleepy Joe, 11 June 2019, speaking on the Trumpster’s imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods. This week he imposed a 100% tariff in EVs imported from China.

It was different, then. Of course.


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


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