A special place in hell

Ah, the EU. With comments like this from EU Co-President Donald Tusk it sure feels like a warm and embracing place to return to. Supposedly the 17.4 million Brits that voted to leave the EU are equally deserved of a reservation in hell too. His comments perfectly sum up the manner in which the EU thinks of sovereign democracy. It doesn’t. It proves yet again to the British as to why there is absolutely no need to be part of this unelected federation by the back door.

Leaving without a deal is the best outcome because it is the one which the EU least desires. It is the one which outwardly shows other sovereign nations within the EU that the grass is greener outside. Such a scenario puts massive pressure on Brussels to reform, which is what it should already be doing.

Project Fear continues to make the case for the dangers of No Deal. Even the Bank of England has brazenly promoted the idea that GDP would fall 8% in such a scenario. It is concerning that the central bank could credibly put its name to such shonky projections. Ironic that former BoE Governor Mervyn King believes the opposite.

Do we not question as to why PM Theresa May – who should have already resigned – heads back for the umpteenth time to the renegotiation table, the EU has flatly rejected within 5 seconds of an amendment proposal being floated? So much for open dialogue and discussion. Recall the first version of Brexit was signed off by the EU inside of 45 minutes.

Why would the Brits want to be part of a body that flatly refuses to yield any ground on anything? Anyone with common sense can see that locking the UK inside the customs union is not only a betrayal of democracy but a sure fire way to trade itself into a worse position than it began with. It’s like requesting the EU to lock them in prison, hand the keys over to the Brussels guards and believe they will be let out when they’re ready to go.

Not what you think

In the age of identity politics this hiring advert from McDonalds Sweden is on the money.

The fine print says “We hire individuals. We don’t care what your surname is. Because ambition and determination have nothing to do with your nationality.”

Good on McDonalds for bucking the insidious virtue signaling that pervades so many corporates today.

”We see the good in men”

The Egard watch company took the opposite view of the Gillette campaign. So much for equality!

Stemming the cycling casualty cycle

A cyclist colleague asked CM to look at the stats behind road fatalities of pedal power in Australia. The stats highlight some of the issues.

On the face of it, the authorities would look to the achievements of a reduction in cyclist fatalities and pat each other on the back. 35 cyclist deaths in 2018 is down on the 2013 peak of 50. On balance cyclists are around 2-4% of total road fatalities. Between 2005 and 2009 cyclist fatalities were 2.3% of total and 2010-2014 that rose to 3.2%. In bike friendly ACT, the figures were 2.5% and 7.4% respectively. Total road fatalities fell from 1,600 to around 1,200 over the same period.

A 2015 BITRE report showed that cyclists were 16% of hospitalizations from traffic accidents. The extent of non-fatal crashes is not reported. Note that “fatalities” are only statistically counted when the death occurs inside 30 days. Die in 30 or more days and the stat is not tallied as a road accident.

In 2005/6, 4,370 cyclists were hospitalized nationwide. In 2011 that rose to 5,393 (+23%).

Speed a factor? 45% of crashes according to BITRE happened sub 50km/h. 42% between 50-60 km/h. Of course cyclists aren’t allowed to use dual carriageway which would skew accidents to urban areas.

Cars are responsible for 96% of casualty crashes involving cyclists. 25% of accidents involving a bike and car happen at intersections. No surprises there.

One can get drowned in the analysis but the question is how do we cut the deaths of cyclists if there is a concerted effort to increase their use?

The ‘Australian National Cycling Strategy 2011-2016’ aimed to double cyclist participation. In 2013, another national survey showed cycling numbers drifted down. So if the plan remains to increase usage, it makes sense to allow more shared off-road infrastructure and or dedicated bike lanes.

The question arises on how to tackle the casualty problem. As a motorcyclist it is not hard to be frustrated to see drivers with mobile phone in hand. Cyclists would concur. Whether texting while driving or failing to note a traffic light has changed to green. It is dangerous and frustrating for other road users. Can a social media reply wait 5 minutes? It is often impulsive to pick up the phone and tap away. The punishment for phone use while behind the wheel remains too soft. If drivers don’t focus 100% on conditions then is it any wonder that accidents occur?

ADAS or advanced driver assistance systems (lane guidance, auto braking or wing mirror warning devices) are helping drivers become more alert but at the same time some are becoming too reliant on these devices being failsafe. How often have we seen Tesla drivers crash when the systems don’t work properly? They’re there as a last resort, not a first. Look at the fools who take videos of their Tesla autopilot in action.

It is not to say that cyclists shouldn’t ride with due caution. There are no stats on rogue bikers chopping up cars. We’ve probably encountered an overzealous bike courier who gives the rest a bad reputation. It is fair for drivers to feel frustrated if a cyclist jams himself at speed into a tight gap. Yet it doesn’t justify some drivers whizzing past cyclists in close proximity through pure frustration. Many videos, including those of the late cycling advocate Cameron Frewer, show how selfish some drivers can behave.

Is lowering speed limits the only answer? Perhaps speedo gazers trying to avoid fines create a dangerous loop. Is there an argument to install mobile speed warnings signs that allow drivers to keep eyes glued to the road rather than the speedo needle? At what cost?

Or is it a case or enforcing all vehicles to install drive recorders? In the US more police are wearing body cams to help prove cases against them for excessive force. It wasn’t long ago that dashcam footage helped jail a motorist for 15 years for deliberately ramming a motorcycle. Drive recorders are cheap. Insurance companies would surely approve. Cyclists would do well to wear cameras too.

It ultimately comes down to mutual understanding. While drivers may limit injury through airbags and seatbelts, bikers don’t have that luxury if hit by negligent drivers.

That is not to make cyclists devoid of responsibility but simply having a “Safe System” approach which is a big picture idea of better roads, better conditions and more active/passive safety systems in cars won’t overcome inattentiveness and those keen to check Twitter while moving.

Before we rush to bash the bankers!

Bankers have worked hard to stay one rung above lawyers. Yet is anyone surprised? Before we embark on a “bash the banker” tirade, at what point do we cast aspersions on the regulators? If you leave a child unattended with a box of matches don’t be surprised if the house burns down.

None of this is new. Before the housing crisis engulfed America, a group of certified home appraisers raised the alarm in 2003 by signing a petition to present to Congress. They claimed many unqualified assessors were in cahoots with mortgage brokers to jack up property appraisals because of the higher fees that were attracted. What was done by the authorities? The square root of jack. So the $750,000 mortgage taken out was actually against a $500,000 property. $250,000 in negative equity before the new home owner moved in. Regulators could have clamped down but didn’t.

Charging dead people fees is of course a bit much and gouging advisory fees without actually offering service is poor form. However at what point does the customer bear some responsibility to accepting the status quo? Getting access to lower cost providers is/was always there but the opportunity costs were such that many just sucked it up. It wasn’t enough to devote time to when the half yearly check up came around.

CM was one of the ones that questioned the big bank superannuation advisor’s usury fees. So poor was the explanation that after minimal effort, a new advisor was found with fees cut in half and investment flexibility rising exponentially. We shouldn’t have been hanging out for a Royal Commission to whump the banks.

Indeed, should any laws have been broken then the perpetrators deserve to have the book thrown at them. If boards willingly accepted that certain divisions were deliberately acting in unethical ways then they deserve to be accountable.

Corporate governance is not helped by hiring a majority of independent directors. The US experience has shown that to be a failure. It is all about corporate culture. If boards have not been setting the highest standards why should we be surprised if the underlings follow suit. We only need look at the debacle that was Cricket Australia or the recent shenanigans at the ABC to see examples of a poorly run board leading to a culture beneath that ends up seeing staff “cheat” or making decisions that flagrantly contravene the charter.

Do we jail bankers for 25 years? Depending on the extent of actually “breaking the law” that maybe a deterrent. WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years based on nine counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and false regulatory filings to the tune of $11bn. Enron’s former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was convicted on 35 counts of fraud, insider trading and other crimes related to Enron and sentenced to 24 years prison and fined $45 million. Madoff 150 years, Stanford 110 years jail. This has not necessarily stopped corporate crime but it should throw a flag in the minds of those considering it. If the consequences are too soft then clearly the risks profile diminishes for the perpetrator.

Look at the advent of whistleblower laws in America. The SEC now encourages whistle-blowing by offering sizable monetary awards (10 to 30% of the monetary sanctions collected). Successful enforcement actions as a result of whistle- blowing has led to awards as high as US$30,000,000. As a result the SEC has seen a 10 fold increase in claims over the last few years. Would boards be more inclined to act ethically if whistleblowers were granted protections?

Plenty of ways to improve what has transpired but what the Royal Commission should make painfully clear is that consumers need to wise up and become more savvy about how they make choices. We can’t forever complain and wait for governments to rescue us when it is them in the first place not acting responsibly to ensure good behaviour.

The free market should be the first to benefit from filling this clear void. Tying up banks in more red tape and onerous regulation isn’t the way forward. All it will do is drive costs for compliance higher which will ultimately hit the consumer. The larger the institution, the easier such regulations will benefit their ability to squeeze the little guy!

Making the punishments for bad behaviour enforceable and putting the onus on boards to act ethically will make all winners.

The flip side of Crypto coins, literally!

When crypto currency pundits laud security as a key tenet, surely this is not what they had in mind.

ABC protects one of its own

Good to see the ABC true to form in allocating our tax dollars to look after its own. So if money is so tight, why would it allocate those precious dollars on Clementine Ford who has ‘left’ Nine? What value could she add to convince us to crank up funding? CM wrote a piece on ABC funding and its inefficiency. It’s diabolical.

Ford’s only claim to fame is radical feminist profanity. She has an uncanny ability to call fellow journalists and politicians ‘c*nts’, tweeted “All (non compliant) men must die” among other balanced rhetoric worthy of taxpayer funding.

The ABC has proved that it was already shockingly run under the recent leadership. Now without anyone at the helm it’s open season. To the ABC’s credit, these decisions are made in good faith that the incoming government will grant more funds and any mishaps will he quickly forgotten. Impartiality and ABC are mutually exclusive terms.