Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Seven stories you may have missed
- I’ll take the 14th
- No, really, I’m okay
- Unclear on the concept
- Thucydides’ trap
- Ukraine in the EU?
Qantas’ Infrequent Flyer Scheme
The competition regulator (ACCC) yesterday parked a tank on Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s front lawn. And spun the turret so that the barrel was aimed at the front door.
Inside, Mr. Joyce barricaded the door with sandbags filled with 24,000,000 dollar coins (his retirement compensation). He was on the phone to Qantas’ Chairman, Richard Goyder, when Wry & Dry’s listening device switched on:
Goyder (timorously): Alan, good morning. Err, I hear that the ACCC says that we have been, um, selling tickets on flights that didn’t exist. Can this possibly be true?
Joyce (yelling): Don’t patronise me, you obsequious turkey, Dick. Of course we sold tickets on flights that didn’t exist.
Goyder (apologetically): Err, what a great business model. Why didn’t we do it earlier?
Joyce (angrily): Ssshh. We’ve been doing it for years. It’s genius; getting people to pay for something that doesn’t exist. It rakes in the cash, locks in airport slots that we don’t use, and artificially increases our load factor. Internally, we call it our Infrequent Flyer Scheme. The more customers we book on flights that have been cancelled, the more points our managers win.
Goyder (happily): Wonderful. Infrequent Flyer Scheme. I love it. [Pause] But, err, are we now in a bit of trouble?
Joyce (strongly): Of course not. We’ll blame IT systems, incompetent staff, industry chaos, etc. And, in any case, I’m finishing in two months. I’ll be long gone. Vanessa1 can manage it. I just need to make sure that her flights to meet with the ACCC actually exist.
Goyder (relieved): Well, that’s good news. But, I remember that some years ago, the banks were charging fees to dead customers, or charging customers for advice they never received. And they were forced to pay billions in remediation fees and costs.
Joyce (forcefully): You know I don’t give a stuff about customers, Dick. The aim is for me to make as much money as possible. Always has been. Now go and get on with running the AFL.
Phone line goes dead.
Wry & Dry’s question is simply: why do people keep flying Qantas?
And the eggs-on-faces goes beyond Qantas. Albo and his ministers’ decision to illogically (Albo himself, King, Chalmers and Jones) and incoherently (King) take Qantas’ corner in the Qatar disapproval matter makes them all look like Joyce’s puppets.
Albo is probably remembering the quote: “Events, dear boy. Events.”2
1 Vanessa Hudson, Qantas’ incoming CEO.
2 Former UK PM Harold Macmillan, when asked what the most troubling problem was of being Prime Minister.
Maps: Emperor Eleven expands
On Monday, China expanded its territory. Without firing a shot.
Can you believe it: it’s National Mapping Awareness Publicity Week in China? And Monday was Surveying and Mapping Publicity Day. So exciting!
What better way to publicise the importance of maps than to use one to expand the borders of China?
To much excitement, the Ministry of Natural Resources did so by releasing The 2023 Standard Map of China.
This Map has now taken on a papal infallibility. It incorporates Emperor Eleven’s claims over Taiwan and a large part of the South China Sea that is also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. The Map also incorporates two parts of India, Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.
Tsar Vlad should have thought of this – an easier way to validate claims over Ukraine: The 2023 Standard Map of Russia.
I’ll take the 14th
Most Readers will know of three famous amendments to the US Constitution. The First protects free speech, the Fifth prohibits self-incrimination (i.e. the right to remain silent) and the Eighteenth prohibited the sale of alcohol.3
The hitherto little-known 14th Amendment has now come into view. Front and centre. The excitement is that this amendment might bar the Trumpster from running for president.
A number of activists in New Hampshire believe that his actions on 6 January 2021 disqualify him under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. This section bars people from holding office if they took an oath to support the Constitution (which he did, at his presidential inauguration) and later “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” (this is the tricky bit).
Wry & Dry’s spies in the US have discovered that a duo of law professors studied the matter for more than a year. And have concluded that the Trumpster is ineligible to hold office.
Lawyers love nothing more than this. And the excitement that “this could go all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Those spies also confirm that other experts suggest that it’s a moon-shot.
But, well, they got to the moon.
3 Which ushered in the era of prohibition. The amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. The last Amendment, No 27 (Congressional salaries), became effective in 1992, just 202 years after it was first introduced.
No, really, I’m okay. [long pause] Really.
To freeze on camera the first time is a misfortune. To do so a second time, a month later is, well, embarrassing. Especially if you are the Senate Republican Leader in the US Congress.
Mitch O’Connell is no longer a sprightly 81. He has been a Senator for almost 40 years. Such a gerontocracy.
Not clear on the concept
The boffins at the Melbourne City Council still do not understand the difference between virtue signalling and effective policy.
This week the council put out a consultation paper, the aim of which was to increase housing supply in the municipality. The methods: cap the number of short-term stays to 180 nights per annum.
And Wry & Dry cannot see how this will increase long-term accommodation supply. It’s based on the assumption that a landlord will forgo 180-days of rent (on the lowest rental days of the week) to obtain 365 days of much lower rent. And with the latter constrained from rental increases and other efficiencies by state government regulations.
And not to mention the sheer economic inefficiency of having an income producing asset idle for 50% of the year.
Why can’t the council just pick up the garbage, clean the graffiti and manage the traffic?
Thucydides’ trap and China4
Many people consider that the greatest challenge facing the Western world, so to speak, is China and the “Thucydides’ trap.”5
Readers will recall the ancient historian’s observation that the real cause of the Peloponnesian War6 was the growth of Athenian power and the fear that this caused in Sparta. The Spartans were a grumpy lot. Albeit with good abs.
The modern version of Thucydides’ trap is simply when one great power threatens to displace another, war is almost always the result.
So, China is threatening to displace the USA as The Great Power. Hence, war will result. Really? Maybe not. It is entirely possible, and heretical, that the challenge faced is not China’s rise, but its relative decline.
Wry & Dry is not suggesting that China is a failed state, such as Russia in 1989. But the submerged logs that are China’s economic problems are now coming to the surface. It’s not only its falling population. It has exhausted the easy gains from moving workers from farms to factories. Its attempt to sustain growth through real estate investment (now 30% of its economy) has led to overbuilding and over-indebtedness. Increasing amounts need to be spent propping it up. China will grow old before it grows wealthy.
Allow Wry & Dry to run with his thesis, with two thoughts.
Firstly, China’s misfortunes are not our good fortunes. Australia is China’s quarry. But for China, Australia’s budget would have turned to custard 15 years ago.
Secondly, don’t assume competent economic management. Emperor Eleven is not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer. Yes, he does hold the sharpest knife, but his concern in life is power. And to be seen to be doing something every time a problem occurs. The ongoing fumbling attempts to artificially boost the economy, or parts of it, every time a problem occurs portrays short-term thinking.
Wry & Dry imagines a massive room somewhere in a Mao-era building in Beijing: China’s economic control room. And one wall is a mass of yellow post-it notes. On another wall is a massive mosaic of white boards, each with a hand-drawn upward-sloping chart. On the third wall is a floor-to- ceiling mural of The 2100 Standard Map of China.
The room is crammed with a whirling mass of rushing clerks, each with alive mobile phones, taking down yellow notes and replacing them with others. And then racing to the white-board wall to add another upwards-sloping line to one of the charts.
Oh, and the fourth wall? One item. A photo of a benevolently smiling Emperor Eleven.
Emperor Eleven will have to choose where he devotes his country’s energies. The Chinese people are not bovine acceptors of their lot, as might have been Russia’s. They are very proud of their country and its achievements. They are also entrepreneurial – increasing centralisation of power and bureaucracy are problems they will soon shun.
They would rather see employment, modest economic security and modest health services than millions killed in a war with Taiwan. The sooner Emperor knows this, the better. Better to avoid the Thucydides’ trap.
4 Wry & Dry acknowledges the genesis of this article was a piece in the New York Times this week, by Bret Stephens.
5 The term was coined by the Harvard political scientist Graham Allison, in his 2017 book Destined for War.
6 The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) was an ancient Greek war between Athens and Sparta for hegemony of the Greek world. Sparta won, with the support of the Persian Empire.
Ukraine in the EU? Nuh
Big sentence of the week: “… the EU should be bold and accept new members by 2030. And Ukraine should be chief among them.” So said Charles Michel, president of the European Council this week.
Let Wry & Dry give Readers the whisper: the European Union7 will not be bold. Australia has a better chance of joining the EU than Ukraine.
Firstly, the EU is as generous as Uncle Scrooge. Imagine the squealing as its development aid budget was diverted into what would be its (by far) poorest member. Tsar Vlad’s economic and bomb damage is massive.
And the squealing would reach Sharapova levels when Wry & Dry comes to the EU’s largest budgetary item: agricultural subsidies. Ukraine has one of the largest agricultural sectors in Europe; 55% of its land is used for arable farming. Its farmers would be entitled to a huge slice of Common Agricultural Policy cash – mostly at the expense of France, the farmers of which are not known to quietly take subsidy diminution.
Secondly, the bigger, but unspoken issue is, well, power. Germany and France have effectively ruled the EU since the beginning. Ukraine would become the fifth largest member of the EU by population, giving it immense power in the qualified majority system within the bloc.8 It would be the Thucydides’ trap without Thucydides.
And that is not going to change.
7 There is often confusion as to who’s what in Europe. For the avoidance of doubt:
- EU is an economic bloc, of 27 member states in Europe
- NATO is a military alliance, of 31 member states in Europe, plus Turkey, Canada and USA
- Eurozone is a currency bloc, of 20 member states of the EU, plus four European micro-states and Montenegro and Kosovo, that use the euro as their currency
- Schengen Area is a visa- & passport-free bloc, of 23 member states of the EU, the four European Free Tade Association members (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and three micro-states that mutually have abolished passport and visa controls
8 Whilst there are many issues that require unanimity in the EU Council (such as membership, taxation, foreign policy and defence), generally a ‘qualified majority system’ applies. This means, essentially, for a proposal to pass both (a) 55% of countries and (b) representing 65% of the EU’s population must be in favour.
Sargeant Schultz defence
The Senate’s enquiry into Chairman Dan’s decision to cancel the Commonwealth Games this week descended into an episode of Hogan’s Heroes.
Consider former Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula. He said, “On Friday, I received a letter from the premier of Victoria… It says, “the following classes out of which you may be asked to give evidence is protected from disclosure by public interest immunity or intergovernmental immunity and the Senate committee has no power to compel the disclosure of information in these classes”.”
Consider the participating Commonwealth Games officials, who declared that confidentiality agreements meant they could not reveal any information concerning the $380m settlement that Chairman Dan paid.
Consider consulting firm EY, which worked on the original business case, one partner of which said that it “took its confidentiality obligations incredibly seriously.” And so declined to say anything.
Readers may wish to click here:
Wry & Dry’s spy in Mar-a-Lago, Florida stole into the Trumpster’s home office and peeked into his 2024 desk diary. The following items were scrawled in red:
- 3 March: spray tan, hairdresser (remember eyebrows, nose & ears)
- 4 March: my criminal trial #1, Washington (trying to stop left-wing rioters attacking Congress)
- 23 March: spray tan, hairdresser (remember eyebrows, nose & ears)
- 24 March: my criminal trial #2, New York (payment of baby-sitting fee to Stormy Daniels)
- 19 May: spray tan, hairdresser (remember eyebrows, nose & ears)
- 20 May: my criminal trial #3, Florida (mishandling of classified documents I declassified)
- ? ? 2024: my criminal trial #4, Georgia (just trying to clarify election results)
“A kiss is just a kiss…” Or so sang Sam in the movie Casablanca. And Luis Rubiales, the chief of Spanish football, thought the same.
Unhappily, for many reasons, the vice-like clamping of his hands on either side of the head of Jenni Hermoso, the captain of the winning Spanish women’s football team, and planting his lips on hers was more than just a kiss. More like the ever-drunk uncle at the family wedding trying to insert his tongue down the throat of a bridesmaid. Or bridesmaids.
As the crescendo of outrage began to rise, Señor Rubiales was defiant: “I’m ready to be vilified to defend my ideals. I don’t deserve this manhunt by false feminists.” Err, would he have been more apologetic if the manhunt was by real feminists?
And what are his ‘ideals?’ Perhaps to drag by the hair a world-winning female athlete behind him as his trophy for the war he had just won.
Far be it for Wry & Dry to intrude on the arcane processes of the Spanish football fiefdoms. But he will. And he suggests that Señor Rubiales be placed in stocks in the middle of Plaza Mayor9 and the members of the women’s team given bags of ripe tomatoes with which to practice their throwing.
And sell the movie rights to Netflix.
9 The Plaza Mayor is the major public space in the heart of Madrid. It was once the centre of Old Madrid.
Don’t waste money on virtue signalling
[The following piece was written on Monday, before other events occurred that led to Qantas being in the headlines].
Wry & Dry is normally a calm reflective gent. So, please work with him on this.
Last Friday, he and Mrs. Wry & Dry, and others from his office, attended a fundraising event for a wonderful charity: Brainwave. Brainwave provides logistic support for families of children that have brain injuries. It receives no government support. A small team of volunteers make an amazing difference to these disadvantaged children and their families.
This is no different to so many small charities across the country. The struggle to raise funds is an ongoing one.
This is now where Wry & Dry loses his calm reflective self. What the #%*# are Qantas and similar companies doing by donating $3m or more to support a case in the referendum, such donations being nothing more than virtue signalling. Aside from the arrogance of using shareholders’ funds for such a campaign, such money is not going to shift the dial on helping reduce indigenous disadvantage.
A small charity such as Brainwave could make a bigger difference in its objectives than Qantas will in its virtue signalling.
Qantas does not donate funds directly or indirectly to indigenous causes.10
Qantas apologists (a now threatened species) might well point to Qantas’ Regional Grants programme as evidence of actual dollars going out to the community. Yes, indeed, Qantas has undertaken to give as much as $2m per annum for the next five years in ‘regional grants.’ Err, perhaps $2m is not significant in view of Qantas’ annual expenses totalling over $10 billion. That is the princely amount of 0.02% of total expenses.
And these sums being somewhat less than the remuneration of the outgoing CEO.
If Qantas really wanted to assist reducing indigenous disadvantage it should do so directly. It could do worse than donate funds in partnership with, say, the National Indigenous Australian Agency, which is a federal government body the aim of which is to ensure that indigenous peoples are “heard, recognised and empowered.” Last year, the NIAA had expenditure of almost $3.8 billion.
Qantas’ vacuous virtue signalling is an insult to indigenous Australians, offensive to good governance by a listed public company, wasteful of shareholders’ funds and disrespectful for those small charities that work so hard to raise funds for a cause that makes a difference.
10 Wry & Dry does applaud Qantas’ work in indigenous employment initiatives and use of indigenous suppliers, however modest these are.
Weights and measures
It is a requirement of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office that perps tell the sheriff their height and weight.
When the Trumpster was arraigned last week, he advised the Sheriff that he came in at 190 cm and 97 kg. Wow, what a physique! Those are the measurements of an elite US quarterback.
It’s amazing how time enhances measurements. His New York driving licence shows a height of 187 cm. A White House medical examination in 2020 showed a weight of 111 kg.
If Readers believe in a measure called Body Mass Index, that means he had a BMI of 31.7. Which puts him in the ‘obese’ category. At his age, that is in the top 15% of overweight men in the US.
But, all is well. He’s got it down to 27 for the arraignment, which is only ‘overweight.’ Whew.
Either way, a few years in the Fulton County jail will see his BMI shrink to below 25.
But, wait! There’s more.
Earlier this month, the Saudi-backed LIV golf tour had a tournament at Bedminster in New Jersey. Tough course… only four players managed a round of 67 or better on the 72-par course.
On Saturday the Trumpster took to social media to boast of him winning a Seniors Tournament at the same course. With a score of 67.
Unclear on the concept
Commonsense would suggest that if one were hosting a global sporting event that the town in which the event was to be held would have an interest in the sport.
The Victorian regional town of Morwell was chosen to host the Rugby Sevens events at the now abandoned 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Morwell doesn’t have a rugby union team or a rugby league team.
Snippets from all over
1. 6 January rioter gets 17 years
Two leaders of the Proud Boys were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on Thursday for their roles in the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with a top lieutenant in the far-right group, Joseph Biggs, given 17 years, and another key figure in the attack, Zachary Rehl, getting 15 years. (New York Times)
Wry & Dry comments: One more higher-up person needs to be convicted.
2. Poison chef
Canadian police have charged the “poison” chef Kenneth Law with 12 more counts of aiding suicide for those as young as 16. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: He is linked to 88 deaths in the UK, and others in the US, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.
3. French ban
France bans wearing Islamic abaya dresses in schools (Le Monde)
Wry & Dry comments: The reasoning? “You enter a classroom, you must not be able to identify the religion of the students by looking at them.”
4. Cardboard drone
A cardboard drone that its makers claim is easier to build than an Ikea flatpack has reportedly destroyed at least four Russian planes. (UK Telegraph)
Wry & Dry comments: A Melbourne-based company, SKYPAQ, makes the drones. And it has to be easier to construct than an Ikea flatpack – there are no Allen keys.
5. Down the drain
Drinkers’ fading appetite for French wine has left farmers with a glut that the government is planning to spend €200mn destroying. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: It’s called ‘crisis distillation aid.’ The A$336m equivalent going down the plughole is almost as much as Chairman Dan squirted against a wall for cancelling the Commonwealth Games.
6. Chinese profits
Profits at China’s industrial firms fell for a seventh consecutive month, decreasing by 6.7% year on year in July. Industrial output was affected by heavy rains in many parts of the country. Companies were also squeezed by weak demand amid slowing economic growth. (The Economist)
Wry & Dry comments: The wheels are slowing down, but not falling off.
- Australia: inflation fell to 4.9% in the 12 months to July, from 5.4% in June.
- USA: GDP rose 2.1% in the year to June, from 2.0% in March.
- Germany: inflation fell to 6.4% in the 12 months to August, from 6.5% in July.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“These credits and vouchers will never expire. We’re doing this because we’ve listened.”
Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, reversing a decision that the $570m of flight credits would expire on 31 December 2023.
Well, that’s a lie. He has been compelled to do so by the ACCC.
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.