Wry & Dry #6 FY-24. CBA profiteering? Protected species. Israel: ignorance aplenty.

Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.

Seven stories you may have missed

  1. CBA profiteering?
  2. Protected species
  3. Israel: ignorance aplenty
  4. It seemed like a good idea
  5. Flat batteries
  6. Trumpster expects…
  7. He’s baaaaack

CBA profiteering

Announcing a $10 billion profit, the CEO of the CBA, Mr. Comyn, defended the bank against claims of profiteering in times of borrower hardship.

Really! How absurd to suggest that the CBA, or any big bank, profiteers in times of borrowers’ hardship. They profiteer all of the time.

It’s a legislated and government guaranteed oligopoly of glorified building societies. Really, and very simply, how difficult is it to lend up to 80% of the value of residential property to a borrower, the debt secured by 100% the value of the property?

And who did the CBA’s CEO think he was fooling when he said that the massive profit will “fortify the balance sheet to support struggling borrowers” Good grief, does anyone think that the CBA is going to forgive the debt of a defaulting borrower? Nuh. Interest payments may be deferred. Soothing noises made.

But, at the end of the day, the vendor advocate will be emailed, the agent chosen, the For Sale sign erected, the auction held, the bank’s coffers replenished. And the borrower down at Centrelink

Don’t pretend otherwise, Mr. Comyn.

Protected species

Speaking of protected species, at last the Minister for Qantas Transport, Ms. Catherine King has given an explanation for her refusal to allow Qatar Airways additional flights into Australia. She said it was “to protect Australian jobs” and that it “wasn’t in the national interest.”

Good grief, the running “the national interest” flag up the flagpole is straight from the Barnaby Joyce book of protectionism.

She did not explain the analysis on which she based the claim. Nor which jobs.

Nor did she refer to, or even acknowledge, the airline industry’s analysis that detailed a net economic benefit to Australia of between $540m and $778m per annum if just 50% of the extra airline seats were sold to international visitors.

Nor the extra jobs coming from the 28 extra weekly flights, bringing in some 150,000 foreign tourists per annum. Nor that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Austrade, and Tourism Australia all supported Qatar’s case.

Of course, it is mere coincidence that Virgin Australia was planning a strategic alliance with Qatar, whereby Virgin would fly Qatar’s extra international passengers to domestic airports.

Wry & Dry smells a rat.

Israel – ignorance aplenty

Albo was mostly doing so well. Consider some of his team: the Treasurer is managing the coffers with a measure of commonsense; the Defence Minister is pushing the Department of Defence to actually order kit that is both useful and works; the Foreign Affairs Minister shows up the incompetence of her predecessors at every turn; and the Minister for Trade is negotiating sensibly with both China and the EU.

And then comes along the need to calm the extreme left before the upcoming Labor Party National Conference. These are times when acute observers ponder: what sensible policy will be offered up on the altar of appeasing Labor’s extreme left wing?

Wry & Dry is not sure from whom Albo took advice. It is astounding that he declared an ignorant and appeasing policy on Israel: that the West Bank and Gaza are “occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Let Readers be clear: the appeasement is not only of those on the extreme left of Labor, but also of Iran. Any Middle Eastern policy that ignores Iran is ‘wilfully deranged,’ to quote one Middle Eastern authority.

Which is exactly what Albo has done. It is lazy and ignorant to have any policy on Israel and Palestinians without considering broader issues in the Middle East. This is a complex part of the world, and it is wishful thinking that there are easy solutions.1 That is not to say, however, that the refugees don’t have a problem.

Firstly, consider that the US and Saudi Arabia have agreed on a process for the latter to recognise Israel. Similar to the recognition of Israel by Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the UAE, Saudi’s interest is less about the plight of Palestinians than what trade deal it can negotiate with the US. And about their fear of Iran. Has Albo thought of this?

Secondly, Israel does not ‘occupy’ Gaza, it withdrew in 2005, as part of the now failed peace attempt. Once the occupation by Israeli soldiers and settlers occurred, Gaza exploded into a mini-civil war, won by Hamas, a terrorist organisation. Gaza is now governed by Hamas, a group that is quite happy to lob rockets onto civilian targets in Israel. Is Albo aware of this?

Readers will know that Iran controls Hamas.

Thirdly, the situation on the West Bank is complex. Consider the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO – the nominal government, controlled by Fatah) and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC – a self-government organisation, controlled by Hamas) are each highly factionalised. But, supported by Iran, both have denied the right of Israel to exist. If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, both settlements and soldiers, there will be repeat of what happened in Gaza, this time with both Hamas and Fatah extremists.

Y’see, the problem is that the government of Iran doesn’t give a fig about Palestinian peoples or refugees (Neither do other Arab countries, they refused to accept any of the Arabs that fled or were evicted in 1948. Hence the refugee problem). It just wants Israel destroyed.

Fourthly, any recognition of the borders of Israel must be agreed by negotiation. Until the leaders of the peoples occupying Gaza and the West Bank agree to the right of Israel to exist, as their representatives have continually failed to do, there is little chance of recognition. Their ongoing truculence is at the expense of not only peace, but also of their peoples.

So, where does this leave Albo? He could leave in place the Australian government’s legacy policy, and then fight and win his party’s policy battles with the extreme left on the floor of the National Conference. But that seems all too hard. Albo’s new position is an encouragement to Iran. And does nothing for the Palestinian peoples.

It is virtue signaling of a sentiment that has no virtue.

1 Some history. In 1947, the UK (which had the ‘mandate’ over Palestine following the First World War) requested the UN to decide on the future of Palestine. Some 32% of the then population was Jewish, 58% was Muslim and 10% Christian. The UN, in Resolution 181 (II), decided on a two-state solution: one Jewish, the other Arab, with an ‘international city’ around Jerusalem. Neither the Jews nor Arabs were happy with the solution. The Jewish community in Palestine accepted the declaration, as it considered that something was better than nothing. The Arab community in Palestine, and more broadly, did not accept the declaration. The British withdrew its forces and made no effort to manage the ‘international city.’

On the expiration of the British Mandate on 14 May 1948, the State of Israel came into being. On 15 May 1948, armies of Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded. An armistice was signed between the belligerents in 1949, with Israel successfully defending its assigned territory.

Readers will be aware of a number of wars since then. And offers of peace from Israel.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Last week, Wry & Dry mused that it was only a matter of time before the Italian government again changes. Then, it was all about the plan to roll back the ‘citizens’ income’ plan. The natives, especially Neapolitan natives, were getting restless.

And then, wooshka, on Monday night, in a fit of Robin Hood comes to Rome, the government announced a 40% windfall tax on Italian banks. On Tuesday morning, the share prices of Italian banks fell by up to 9%. That was entirely predictable, a stock market will always over-react.

But the government lost its nerve, and on Tuesday night partially rolled back the tax.

This was unlike when the then Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison in 2017 announced a one-off bank levy to raise $6 billion. His response to the outcry was “cry me a river.” The government didn’t have much opposition to its levy, except from the banks.

Back in Rome, the problem with the windfall tax was not the tax itself. But that it was presented as just a good idea by the country’s infrastructure minister. PM Meloni and Finance Minister (i.e. Treasurer) Giorgetti were absent from the media presentation. And about to go on vacation.

Pundits suggest that Meloni was trying to recover votes lost in the citizens income rollback by beating up an unpopular sector.

She failed.

Flat batteries

Tasmania had promised the world that it would become the ‘renewable battery of the nation.’

Well, the wheels have fallen off that bunny. The state has run out of money to finance squillions of new wind farms. So, the government has told Tasmanian industry that there is no further power for upgrades and expansions.

In the meantime, the government has fired up a gas-powered generator to put power into the grid.

How embarrassing.

Speaking of embarrassment

Sleepy Joe was announcing a new federal monument area in the Grand Canyon. He then said that the Grand Canyon was one of the nine wonders of the world.

Close. But no cigar.

There are many seven wonders. The initial seven were of the ancient world,2 then there were seven engineering wonders of the modern world.3 And then the seven natural wonders.4

And, of course, there is the greatest wonder of all. What possessed the Liberal Party to elect Scott Morrison as leader?

2 Great Pyramid of Giza, Colossus of Rhodes, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Lighthouse at Alexandria, Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Statue of Zeus, Temple of Artemis.

3 Channel Tunnel, CN Tower, Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, Itaipu Dam, Zuiderzee Works, Panama Canal.

4 Aurora, Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Rio de Janeiro Harbour, Mt Everest, Paricutin volcano, Victoria Falls.

Trumpster expects…

…to again be indicted. Very soon. This time for the very exciting charge of ‘racketeering.’

Racketeering charges are usually reserved for Mafia types. Imagine the pleasure the Trumpster will get!

Technically, the charge, if it comes to this, will be for breach of the state of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act (RICO). This is about the Trumpster seeking to influence senior folk in Georgia to ‘find’ the additional votes that he needed to win the state in the 2020 presidential election.

RICO works like this: if a prosecutor can show that there is an organisation of people who commit crimes together on a recurring basis, then a member can be prosecuted for the crimes the group committed.

It seems clear that allies of the Trumpster all around the US tried a range of tactics to keep him in power.

RICO announcement pending.

He’s baaaack

The Ruddster returned to Planet Canberra yesterday. Not to white ant Albo. Or give him advice. But for the unveiling of his official portrait. What more could a narcissist want?

It’s a throwback to those 15th, 16th and 17th century portraits, where items are scattered around the portraitee on the canvas, each having a special meaning.

Readers will have seen the Ruddster’s serious countenance beaming out from this morning’s daily rags. Notice the chess set, the Chinese porcelain, the passing cat. But a portrait is not about the accruements. It’s about the face, clothes and demeanour.

The visage is interesting: an earnest man, pleading to be understood. Smartly attired, but not too smart (e.g. no tie, buttoned cuffs – not linked). But he seems to be dominated by his surroundings. In all the other PM’s portraits there is sense of authority with the subject dominant.

Readers may wish to visit The official portraits of Australia’s prime ministers – in pictures | Australia news | The Guardian to compare the characters. Dare I observe that John Gorton’s portrait captures the person more than all others.

Of course, portraits don’t tell the story of the success or otherwise of the subject. Perhaps Scott Morrison should allow the passage of much time before he considers sitting. But knowing of the man’s self-awareness, he’ll be on the phone the day after he leaves parliament.

Happiness in America

Occasionally, Wry & Dry comes across some interesting charts. So, be excited. Last month, Sam Peltzman, of the University of Chicago, published a research paper on “The Socio-Political Demography of Happiness.”5 It makes for compelling reading. To whet Readers’ appetites, below are some of the conclusions.

The short story is that in the period 1972 to 2018, in the USA:

  • Americans are less happy
  • Women’s happiness has steadily declined, men’s is recovering
  • Married people are significantly more happy than those who are not, and increasingly so
  • White Americans are increasingly unhappy, black Americans are increasingly happy
  • Happiness increases with income
  • Happiness increases with education
  • Conservatives (right wing) are significantly happier than Moderates (centrists), who in turn are significantly more happy than Liberals (left wing)
  • Happiness increases if Americans live in the suburbs rather than a city

And here is a most interesting pair of charts. The red line is the average for all Americans.

Wry & Dry’s conclusion: a single, high-school educated, lower income earning, liberal, white American living in the city is most unhappy.

5 Peltzman, Sam, The Socio-Political Demography of Happiness (July 12, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Snippets from all over

1. No US hi-tech to go to China

President Biden escalated his confrontation with China on Wednesday by signing an executive order banning American investments in key technology industries that could be used to enhance Beijing’s military capabilities. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: The order will prohibit venture capital and private equity firms from pumping money into Chinese efforts to develop semiconductors and other microelectronics, quantum computers and certain artificial intelligence applications. Sleepy Joe sees it as a sensible defence matter. China will see it differently.

2. China’s other problem with inflation

China recorded falling price growth last month, raising fears that the world’s second largest economy is at risk of slipping into a prolonged period of deflation. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: This is a problem: the government does not want a mega stimulus package, as that means another debt hangover. Good luck with your projects, Emperor Eleven.

3. Germany’s right moves further right

The right-wing extremist Alternative for Germany party is increasingly open about its rejection of democratic principles. But public support is soaring nonetheless. (Spiegel)

Wry & Dry comments: Extremists thrive on uncertainty. In Germany, the extreme right wing is very well organised and coordinated. The extreme left are splinters of extreme Greens, extreme Socialists, and single-issue groups.

4. French women having fewer babies

France’s birth rate is continuing to decline according to findings by the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) for the first half of 2023. In the first six months, 314,400 babies were born, 24,000 fewer than in the first six months of 2022, a 7% decrease. (Le Monde)

Wry & Dry comments: The number of births in France now almost matches the number of deaths each year.

5. European gas up 40% on Australian strike fears

European natural gas prices surged almost 40 per cent on Wednesday as the potential for disrupted global liquefied natural gas supply from Australia spooked traders betting on further price declines. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: The increase was triggered by reports that workers at LNG plants in Australia were planning strike action. Sigh.

6. £1 million of handbags

A Russian mogul’s wife led a court on a “merry dance” trying to hide £1 million of handbags in a bitter divorce battle over the division of assets.

Ms Khayrova failed to include her sizeable handbag collection in evidence. It has now emerged this comprised 150 bags worth £943,095. (UK Telegraph)

Wry & Dry comments: That’s over £6,000 for each handbag. Imelda, come back! All is forgiven.


  1. Australia: building approvals in FY-23 were 18% lower than in FY-22.
  2. US: inflation rose to 3.2% in the year to July.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

The “shocking and totally unexpected” loss by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team to Sweden is fully emblematic of what is happening to the our (sic) once great Nation under Crooked Joe Biden. Many of our players were openly hostile to America – No other country behaved in such a manner, or even close.

“WOKE EQUALS FAILURE. Nice shot Megan, the USA is going to Hell!!! MAGA.”

Donald Trump, Wannabe President of the US, airing his view on the loss by the US’ women’s football team to Sweden. Megan is Megan Rapinoe, a very public supporter of LGBTQ rights.

So, it’s Sleepy Joe’s fault that the US women’s football team lost? Will the Trumpster again bring that logic to the White House?

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


Anthony Starkins

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