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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

News&Views, No 10, March 26 – Apri1 1.

Updated: Apr 3, 2022

The OZ, P 18, Greg Sheridan, ‘Dawn of new world order’.

‘We don’t yet know how or when this war will end, nor which changes will be long-lasting and which will be temporary or easily reversed. It’s too early for definite winners or losers.’

‘Ukraine is the fulcrum of change. It will be at least as important in global politics today as the Spanish Civil War was in the 1930s.’

‘How does that evil compare with real evil, with a Russian army which bombs maternity hospitals and attacks theatres where civilians are huddling for shelter – which levels Mariupol and shells refugee convoys.’

Paul Kelly, P 13, ‘Political race to the bottom line’.

Geoffrey Blainey, P 20, ‘Australians have a long history of honouring our heroes taken from us too soon.’

The AFR, Hans van Leeuwen in Europe, ‘Dancing in Danger.’

‘There was a subtle change in the pictures and footage coming out of war-torn Ukraine this week. There was still the relentless parade of bombed-out apartment blocks, mangled cars, injured civilians and fleeing children. But in many of the images, the springtime sky was suddenly a brilliant cerulean blue. Somehow that sky seemed to match the atmosphere inside Ukraine. Amid the horror, the destruction and death, there was blossoming hope.’ …

‘The West cannot let Ukraine lose. But it is not yet prepared to do everything it can to help Ukraine to win. Even though - … - the stakes are high well beyond Ukraine’s borders’.

‘Eventually this may push Biden and his allies into prodding the Russian bear a whole lot harder – and finding out the hard way just when it might bite.’

The Economist, March 12 – 22, P7, ‘The Stalinisation of Russia.’

‘When Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, he dreamed of restoring the glory of the Russian empire. He has ended up restoring the terror of Josef Stalin….

‘And the West can try to contain Mr Putin’s paranoia. NATO should state that it will not shoot at Russian forces, so long as they do not fight first. …

‘As Russia sinks, the contrast with the President next door is glaring. Mr Putin is isolated and morally dead, Mr Zelensky is a brave Everyman who has rallied his people and the world. He is Mr Putin’s antithesis – and perhaps his nemesis. Think what Russia might become once freed from its 21st- Stalin.’

The Oz, Monday March 28, Editorial, Budget will invest in nation building across the regions.’

‘As the federal election is likely to be called within days of Tuesday’s budget, Josh Frydenberg faces a tricky balancing act. Voters are expecting a sizeable measure of cost-of-living relief, but this must not fuel inflationary pressures, hastening an increase in mortgage rates.’

We should await budget night and its hour of Treasurer’s talk. My view is that Australia’s debt is far too large, and Scomo has continued throwing money at the punters. Obviously this is an attempt to get sufficient Coalition punters, but my feeling is that many previously Coalition punters have moved to Labor punters to end Scomo’s career.

And a few other potentially awkward problems, with loss in Coalition members. At least this excitement will deflect us a bit from the Ukraine-Russian mess. When will the Western leaders take a big breath of fresh air and end Mr Putin’s career?

AFR, March 28, P 11, Hans van Leeuwen asks ‘whether Mr Putin could be trying to build his off-ramp. Good thinking, Hans, but it seems more like a brutal ending for Mr Putin when the Western men get their act together.

AFR, Peter Kerr, P 13, discusses ‘Former BHP star takes on DiCaprio with old mine shafts’.

The star is Mark Swinnerton’. His excellent career at BHP is told, and he seems rather like Guy Debelle leaving the RBA for financial gain and new excitements.

Mr Swinnerton is brilliant. Find an old, unused mine shaft, buy ropes and heavy weights and a motor to generate electricity when the heavy weights are falling. When electricity is available in excess, pull the heavy weights to the top of the shaft and await the next shortage of electricity whose price is likely to be very high.

Mr Swinnerton. I am a bit elderly, but if you need a highly credentialed board member, I would be happy to be interviewed by you.

AFR, P 35, ‘Don’t order the sympathy cards for Morrison just yet’.

‘We’re now about seven weeks from a May 14 election and, on the face of it, the Coalition looks like it cannot win’.

‘The polls are in pretty shocking at 45 per cent-plus after preferences for the Coalition, and the punters have Labor as odds on favourite, …

Remember in the 2019 election there was a remarkedly similar. The PM squeaked home with a target focussed on blue collar families in marginal seats, while Labor wasted its swings in safe Labor and Coalition seats.

Economist, March 26, P 53, ‘New cold war, new compromises.

‘The struggle between autocracy and democracy is “the defining challenge of our time”, President Joe Biden said in December at a virtual “Summit for democracy”. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine offers evidence he was right. With missiles and tanks, an autocrat was trying to snuff out a freely elected government’.

Many examples were discussed. Then the final section of the article summed up.

‘Ukraine’s fighters have astonished their adversaries, and its people’s commitment to their freedom has inspired the world. For his part, Mr Putin was able to start his ruinous war on a whim. His flunkeys are scared to bring him unwelcome news. He seems sincerely to have expected many Ukrainians to welcome his troops. And his regime, like most autocracies, is corrupt, rendering his army weaker in the field than on paper. Budgets have been looted; Russian kit is breaking down for lack of maintenance or spare parts.

‘Yet the result of the war is unpredictable, and so too will be on its effect on global democracy.’ …

The Oz, Budget version, March 30, ‘The cost of winning.

Sixteen pages of budget content, all of which I read!

Paul Kelly graced the front page, and wrote ‘Balanced measures targeted at voters’. I should also praise the lovely picture of the Treasurer gazing into the reader’s eyes.

To Mr Kelly: ‘This is a “we listen, we care” pre-election Liberal budget made possible by the revolution in Australia’s Labor market’.

‘Josh Frydenberg has balanced the economics and politics better than many analysts expected’.

[My guess is that the main reason for this outcome was two years without the previously welcome new people into the Australian economy.]

‘Surging revenues have given Frydenberg the scope to offer a wide range of concessions to middle Australia and cushion cost-of-living pressures while making a far bigger contribution to reducing the budget deficit.’

‘This budget won’t inspire partisan rejection of its measures. Indeed, it is guaranteed to fuel partisan agreement’.

The regular Australian lead with ‘Red alert after China deal’ on the Solomon’s deal with China. Greg Sheridan says: ‘Pact is a disaster for Australian security in South Pacific.’

There is one bit of good news: Danny Kemp says: ‘Ukraine retakes gateway to Kyiv’. Rumours say Mr Putin is backing off, although the hard men point out he is just confusing people.

AFR also has a special budget special, in its case with 20 pages headed by Cash splash dash to the polls’.

Mostly the same approach to that of the Oz, but John Kehoe was possibly more critical when he headed his article (or a special operator did) ‘Should have been better, but could have been worse’ on P10.

Laura Tingle on P11 was even more critical, as usual when ‘praising’ the Liberals, ‘Fistful of dollars just short-term largesse' as little changes, but of course 'opinionators' rarely change their spots, correction views.

The Oz, March 31, P12, Editorial, ‘Budget repair under way as deficits shrink in larger pie’.

‘Recovering from the financial ravages of the pandemic will result in plenty of red ink in budgets for years ahead. But as the budget headed down on Tuesday showed, Josh Frydenberg’s competent, systematic approach to tackling debt and deficits is beginning to bear fruit.’

This is good news, but as we all know there is a long way to banish debt and deficit. Some will say ‘no problems’ as relative to other nations our deficit will be eaten away and even now the ratio of debt to GDP is at the low end of the herd.

There is another problem. What is intended as the fixation of a relatively high level of productivity. Thirty years ago, Australia’s productivity was quite good. Then productivity in each of the decades became worse, and lately it has been close to zero. Almost no-one discusses how to increase productivity, and so there is virtually no new productivity. Treasury needs a clearly defined productivity unit and each year the budget needs to outline how greater productivity will be created.

Robert Gottliebsen worries about inflation. Goods and Services inflation, gentle readers, Asset inflation is a more complicated matter.

As Robert says, ‘Australian has much at stake if inflation surges’.

‘The Treasury and both major political parties are bracing their policies on the assumptions that the global inflation breakout was an “aberration” and that the world will come back to a situation closer to what we have been enjoying in recent years’.

And what happens if productivity remains near zero and Goods and Services inflation remains high. Any reader that produces a coherent answer will receive a Henry Thornton prize.

AFR, Chris Richardson, P 51,

‘It’s the Baywatch budget, or that is what the government hopes – that the electorate ignores the flimsy plot and settles for being dazzled by all the stunning figures’.

Here is Chris’ list of stunning numbers,

· Unemployment is heading down to depths not seem for a long time. Deloitte says 3.5 % by June

· If coal and iron ore stays at current high levels, it will add $5bn to national income, of which the government grabs $1 bn

· Treasury is on good ground when it believes (based on job data) that wages will reach more than 3%.

· But there is more and better news. ‘The most stunning figures weren’t the most striking. Treasury now thinks that the economy is set to exit Covid-19 permanently stronger that it entered it.’

Do read Chris Richardson’s detailed remarks about this stunning idea.

My question remains. Where does greatly improved productivity fit into this wonderfully nice outlook. I can agree that little old Australia may well keep doing better than other nations, even the USA, but I need to know what is going to create a productivity boom.

The Oz, April 1, P1, Ben Packham, ‘Remember MH17, Zelensky tells MPs in historic address.

President Zelensky yesterday spoke to Australian politicians to great standing applause. His presentation was by screen from Ukraine was moving and with lessons for us all. He at one point reminded us of the catastrophe when a planeload of people, including 38 Australians, crashed. All were killed.

His speech was wider than that of course. He thanked us for our assistance so far and asked for more help.

Our Prime minister spoke sympathetically and with promises of further assistance. ‘Mr President, the people of Australia stand with Ukraine in your fight for survival. Yes, you have our prayers, but you also have our weapons, our humanitarian aid, our sanctions against those who seek to deny your freedom, and you also have our coal. And there will be more.’

Greg Sheridan added. ‘Zelinsky rightly linked Ukraine security to Australia’s security. If you buy oil from Russia, you are financing the destruction of Western security.’ (More on P 8.)

Friday’s AFR, in it’s weekly Review, A world of Issues, ideas & opinions. Pages 4R and 5R discuss ‘Five possible endings for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.’

Here are the summaries.

· A bloody stalemate

· Partition of Ukraine

· Decisive victory

· Peace agreement

· Black Swan event

Do read the full discussion. It is of great interest.


Fiona Prior brings us the movie 'Kompromat', a film of great insight into Russia's FSB (the modern KGB). More here.

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