Month: November 2017

Pick your Pocahontas moments Mr President

There is a time and a place for everything. Using an event to celebrate the achievements of the Navaho ‘wind talkers’, who served bravely in WW2 in intelligence coding, by throwing in a jibe at Elizabeth Warren being ‘Pocahontas’ is just unnecessary. It is not about falling into outrage but in order to pay proper respects to people who risked their lives for America, it would be far better if President Trump just celebrated their achievements rather than used it as a platform to take potshots at his political opponents of which Elizabeth Warren isn’t much chop. It reminds of that Far Side cartoon when the Lone Ranger eventually learns what ‘Kemosabe’ means. Indeed it was a kemosabe thing to say.

ABC gives yet more reasons to be defunded

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The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has a charter to be politically unbiased. The public knows it is unashamedly partisan. Yet its overseers (aka the Government) still give funding north of $1bn to the state owned media group without calling it up for what it gets away with. What it passes for ‘free speech’ usually ends up in the climate change, asylum seekers or any other social justice cause it feels strongly about. Yet the charter is not supposed to act as a platform for disgruntled public servants to broadcast their own views on the taxpayer’s purse. The latest saga is the ABC’s JJJ station which broadcasts alternative music. It has decided it won’t be playing the Hottest 100 Countdown on Australia Day because of its political views that it is in reality ‘invasion day.’ There is no problem for each and everyone of those JJJ employees who thinks of Australia Day that way to believe that. It is another to provide a tax payer funded platform to express it.

To put it in perspective, given several Victorian local councils decided several months ago not to host naturalisation ceremonies on Australia Day, one would hope that JJJ has just woken up from the marijuana smoke haze in the studio to realize this fact. Otherwise, why has it taken them so long? Surely if the producers  were savvy enough at JJJ they could have announced their political stunt the week all of the social justice governments were announcing it.

However it is a serious issue. Why is there a need for four taxpayer funded stations in Melbourne? It is a similar story in the other states. The original purpose of the ABC was to fill in for a lack of a commercial alternative, especially for those in the countryside. Now we can all choose to stream Australian radio stations while we’re in Berlin or Caracas if we feel like it. When you look through the stats, JJJ key demographic is 25-39yo but across all time segments except ‘Afternoon’ it struggles for better than 5%. ABC Melbourne caters to pensioners. Is there a need to provide the infrastructure to supply four stations. Surely the rational argument is that a similar number of bodies must be employed to fill the same roles – the producer, technician, the script writer, the news gatherer….even the guard at the front door. Run many of these stations on commercial terms and most wouldn’t pay the cost of operating.

If one believes we must have a public broadcaster then the number of stations should be cut to one, not four. If the private sector can’t see a ‘commercial’ justification for filling the gap it would leave then it is odds on that advertisers aren’t prepared to either. On the flip side if the ABC radio presenters are desired by particular audiences then the private stations will gladly snap them up.

This is not to undermine the efforts of some quarters of the ABC. Some documentaries such as ‘The Killing Season’ or Foreign Correspondent’s expose of the Fukushima reactor were extremely well done. However it is the fact that some in the ABC think they have a right to dispense the billion plus funding on their own political and social causes. Yet who can blame them when the former Communications Minister (now the Prime Minister) is desperate to avoid courting negative media coverage? When a conservative (by name plate) PM is afraid to go on private radio stations with conservative audiences you know this problem of bias at the ABC won’t be going away for a long time, especially after the drubbing the conservatives will get at the coming election.

With a $500bn and rising debt in Australia, we can ill afford frivolous public spending, especially on broadcasting where the ABC ignores its charter so brazenly. We can chose to listen to left leaning or conservative radio stations in the commercial space. We can consume on line any form of media we choose from around the globe. With media now so ubiquitous, what is the ABC offering that is remotely ‘differentiated’ to warrant its existence? None that can be seen.

Kiwis are clessic at making ettention grebbing videos eh Bro!

The Kiwis are not only great at rugby, they also seem to have a kneck (knack) of making entertainment information videos. While the police recruitment video is chock full of diversity it is none the less a well thought and attention grabbing. Here are two other classics – the Air New Zealand inflight safety video and the AIG ‘tackling the risk’ video both starring the All Blacks.

If everything is so great then why is our political scene so broken?

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Queensland’s state election said it all. Both the incumbent parties lost massively even though the incumbent Labor Party looks like holding on to power. While Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party looks like it fared poorly in terms of seats it still got 13.8% of the vote from 1% in 2015. Forget the headline results but think of what the political turmoil In local, state and federal levels is telling us more broadly.

Think logically about it all. If the economy is booming, jobs are abundant and prosperity is on the march then there is little need for governments to be running deep deficits let alone facing hung parliaments and acts of desperation. Surely the incumbent governments of the day can laud their own achievements and their constituents would happily keep returning the status quo. The majority should continue to be happy. More by rights should be winners in such a world of record housing prices, steady wage growth, low unemployment and 25 years of economic growth as experienced in Australia.

Yet PM Turnbull turned on many of the traditional supporters of the conservative wing of his Liberal National Party (LNP) coalition who turned their back on him to hand Labor the victory in Queensland. Not so fast Prime Minister. They didn’t leave the party. The party under your incompetent stewardship left them. At all levels the LNP is divided. There are some quarters suggesting that the Nats may split from the Coalition in the next election in Queensland to leave the stench of the Liberal Party to themselves. This is when personal ambition trumps wish to serve a nation.

While the LNP was handed the most valuable and recent lesson of the disaster that was the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd internal factional knifing during their time in power, it completely buried its judgement and started following a left leaning press, weak poll numbers and copied Labor’s folly. Now we have a hung parliament (not withstanding the dual citizenship fiasco) with chronically weak and misguided leadership. One that tells voters that they have no clue rather than introspection that the party may indeed be the problem.

It used to be said that Australia enjoyed the most stable politics in the Asia Pacific region. That encouraged foreign investment and gave Australia low interest rates, a superior credit rating and a regulatory platform that ensured trust (important for corporations), the envy of many nations. Yet inside a decade we have had 5 (soon to be 6) prime ministers which has thrown that ‘reputation’ in the toilet. In a world where international capital is more mobile than ever and asset prices are peaking, instability in government eventually carries severe financial market penalties.

For Aussie banks, levered up to the gills with inflated mortgage books on their balance sheets, such things have negative implications for the 40% reliance on global wholesale credit markets to fund themselves in the face of a tightening US interest rate cycle. Do not underestimate the negative connotations of a federal government that has lost its way, no matter which major party is in power. Where the average Aussie can’t bear anymore on the mortgage, a third admitting they can’t pay the home loan if they lose their job for 3 months or more. Almost 1,000,000 Aussie households would be in severe mortgage stress if rates moved 150bps(1.5%). Think of the spill-over effects on consumption which would only lead to a recession and lay offs, exacerbating a cycle, all the while bashing the currency making international funding even more biting. If only we had a stable government that had a decent fiscal position to weather that storm. Oh, that is right we squandered that in 2008.

One Nation in Australia, AfD in Germany, Party for Freedom in The Netherlands, Front National in France, 5 -Star Movement in Italy, Fidesz in Hungary, FPO in Austria, the Sweden Democrats, Vlaams Belang in Belgium,  Progress Party in Norway, Trump, Brexit…these patterns aren’t random. It isn’t just populism but protest votes to establishment parties that aren’t delivering. While we are constantly told how great our lot is, sadly the gap between haves and have nots is widening globally. Politicians who are ditching political correctness and making waves on publicly uncomfortable issues are thriving. Why could that be?

Donkey (informal) votes in Australia have seen numbers soar from 2.2% in the 1950s to over 5.0% in the 2016 election. Some electorates in NSW saw as high as 14% informal votes. These are powerful messages in a country that has compulsory voting, which has slid to 90.9%.

The sad reality is that the electorate is making louder noises every election that things are not pointing in the right direction yet the muppets are still being returned to their box seats on a dwindling majority. Why? Because not enough voters are heeding the warning signs that are sounding in front of them. Of course politicians still continue to sell comforting lies backed by ever more unaffordable promises to keep themselves in power for as long as possible when we all need to be facing the unpleasant truths that will happen whether we like it or not.

Indeed those deplorables who voted One Nation might have spurned the LNP but not without good reason. In time, they will be viewed as the wiser ones. Not because they necessarily believe in Pauline Hanson’s platform but because they believe in Turnbull and Shorten’s even less. It all rings like a Premier League football coach making a litany of excuses for his team’s woeful performance that ignores the fact that the collection of individuals have absolutely no cohesion as a team. All the fans can do is bury their heads in their hands until the point they can’t bear to watch another game until the coach is sacked.

Tesla is trucking kidding itself

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Tesla has bagged 55 orders for the semi so far. Although it is no surprise that no major truck hauling companies have signed up. Funny that. To expect trucking companies who operate under strict cashflow constraints (afterall they’re businesses not wealthy consumers) to give Musk a $200,000 upfront deposit (aka interest free loan) per ‘founder series’ truck is to put in Tesla lexicon – ludicrous. Truck companies, as CM wrote in its 30 reasons why Tesla is likely to be a bug on a windshield, are conservative. They want to see the technology proven in the field before just forking over $150-200,000 and hoping for the best. Were the technology or charging infrastructure to come up short then the whole economic proposition would come unstuck.

The Tesla trucks are roughly 30% to 70% more expensive than diesel trucks which have up to triple the range on full tanks. Many new 2018 diesel models are available now at $120k vs Tesla’s $150k (300mi range) and $180k (500mi range).

If we used the $60,000 more expensive Tesla Semi can to recoup the difference then it will need to be driven 240,000 miles using the $.25/saving per mile vs diesel Tesla number. Some estimates suggest payback in 3-4 years.

One former trucking company planner wrote,

I was surprised when I saw this “two-year” payback period quoted by Musk last week and repeated on the website. Two years? Really? He had just gotten through showing us an operational cost savings of $.25 per mile over diesel.

Well if I am going to pay back the truck I need those savings to equal the purchase price in two years. Well $180,000 divided by $.25 is 720,000 miles or 360,000 miles per year. That is not even physically possible. A truck would have to drive non-stop for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at an average speed of 41 mph. Subtract out recharging time of 30 minutes every six hours or two hours per day and four hours per day for loading and unloading and the truck must average 54.7 miles per hour for every mile driven. It is impossible to do.

My big trucks ran long trips moving from coast to coast or north to south. I pulled out my records just for the fun of it and my trucks averaged 13,000 miles per month in summer months and under 10,000 in winter months because of weather and tougher loading and unloading conditions. Most trucks ran about 120,000 miles per year maximum even with driver teams. This was due in many cases to operational time limits of over-sized loads (half hour before sunrise until half hour after sunset is mandatory in many states for safety reasons).“

Whether the new Tesla Roadster or Tesla Semi this new deposit scheme is actually more telling than the vehicles themselves. This can be none other than a cash grab interest free loans to keep the thing alive. I salute Musk for his pioneering spirit but playing with the big boys is never easier done than said. Can’t wait to see the cashflow numbers in Q4 reporting early next year. If we get a worsening of this chart beware.

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Perhaps we can also find some amusement in Tesla’s competitor (Nikola) tweets

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Houston we have a housing problem

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Yes, Australian banks are the most levered to the Home mortgage market. Over 61%. Daylight comes second followed by Norway and Canada. US banks are half the Aussies. Of course any snapshot will tell us that prices are supported by immigration and a robust economy. However when Aussie banks are c.40% exposed to wholesale markets for credit (Japanese banks are around 95% funded by domestic depositors) any turn around in global interest rates means Aussie banks will pay more and eventually be forced to pass it on to tapped out borrowers. The Reserve Bank of Australia kept interest rates flat while tacitly admitting its stuck

A study back in March showed that in Western Australia almost 50% of people with a home loan would be in stress/severe stress if rates jumped 3%. Victoria 42% and bubbly NSW at 38%. I can’t remember bubble Japan property (as dizzy as it got) experienced such stress. A recent ME Bank survey in Australia found only 46 per cent of households were able to save each month. Just 32 per cent could raise $3000 in an emergency and 50 per cent aren’t confident of meeting their obligations if unemployed for three months.

The Weekend AFR reported that according to Digital Finance Analytics, “ there are around 650,000 households in Australia experiencing some form of mortgage stress. If rates were to rise 150 basis points the number of Australians in mortgage stress would rise to approximately 930,000 and if rates rose 300 basis points the number would rise to 1.1 million – or more than a third of all mortgages. A 300 basis point rise would take the cash rate to 4.5 per cent, still lower than the 4.75 per cent for most of 2011.”

The problem for Aussie banks is having so many mortgage loans on their books backed against lofty housing prices means that we could face a situation of zombie lending. The risk is that once the banks mark-to-market the real value of one house that is foreclosed upon the rest of the portfolio then starts to look shady and all of a sudden the loss ratios blow out to unsustainable levels. So for all the negative news flow the banks cop for laying off staff while making billions, note net interest margins continue to fall and when confidence falls out of the housing market, the wholesale finance market will require sizable jumps in risk premiums to compensate. Indulge yourself with the chart pack from the RBA on pages 29 & 30 where net margins are 50% lower than they were in 2000, profitability under pressure, non performing loans starting to rise back toward post GFC levels…call me pessimistic but housing prices to income is at 13x now vs only 7x when GFC bit, how is that safety net working for you?

Some may mock, but there is every chance we see a semi or total nationalization of the Aussie banks at some point in the future. Nobody will love the smell of napalm in the morning but then again when the Vic government is handing out interest free loans to the value of 25% of the house price for first home buyers you know you’re at the wrong point in the cycle. Maybe TARP is just short for tarpaulin.

When feminism goes too far

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Any “person” who is rightfully comvicted of sexual assault should have the book thrown at them with full force. No arguments. However when Teen Vogue journalist and feminist Emily Lindin wrote that there is no problem throwing innocent men out of jobs and destroying their lives through false allegations that takes some beating. Indeed CM warned that the #METOO campaign might indeed turn into a witch hunt ruining the futures of innocent men forced to defend themselves.

Lindin justified her stance by saying “First, false allegations VERY rarely happen, so even bringing it up borders on a derailment tactic. It’s a microscopic risk in comparison to the issue at hand (worldwide, systemic oppression of half the population),

The benefit of all of us getting to finally tell the truth + the impact on victims FAR outweigh the loss of any one man’s reputation…If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.

Indeed “what” price are you actually paying Emily when it is those innocent men who will actually pay it on your behalf? That’s right she is paying zero. In the process perhaps the innocent man ( and sole breadwinner) who is jailed for sexual assault loses the family house, wife and 3 daughters. That’s right Ms Lindin, you’ve scored 4 own goals in the process.

Perhaps Lindin could have written that she will visit these innocent men and thank them personally for doing jail time all the while she celebrates her feminist buddies committing perjury.

Any person that willingly makes a false allegation should equally have the book thrown at them. Indeed perhaps she should read up on sexual violence committed against men (hugely underreported) but that would run against her loony narrative.

We should be glad she has said this though. Free speech is wonderful in that she expresses such a stupid position that the exposure to sunlight becomes the best disinfectant. Way to go Emily. May more people like you expose how stupid victimhood becomes when you go actively searching for it. To that end there can be no doubt you’ve never been a true victim of sexual assault to say something so preposterous. No real victim of such a crime would ever back what you wrote. After all why would any innocent person who had that stolen from them want anyone else to experience what they did?