The secret to becoming a millionaire in Australia

….is to invest three million dollars into a business built by a real estate “entrepreneur”.

Exhibit 1 McGrath Estate Agents

John “Million Dollar Agent” McGrath has presided over one of the most classic examples of wealth destruction of our time. I think the people we should feel most sorry for are those who bought into the bull traps in 2016 and 2017. It must have been like that exhilarating feeling a surfer gets as they catch a large wave but then realise they’ve got the angle wrong and are shooting to the bottom rather than gracefully gliding across the face of the wave.

Exhibit 2 – Yellow Brick Road

It would seem others have been paying attention to Mr. Bouris too:

ASX suspension? What ASX suspension?! Yellow Brick Road’s Mark Bouris has spent the week since the business failed to lodge first-half accounts doing what he does best. That is, self-promotion.

Ah, self-promotion. That’s a common factor, isn’t it?

Those who’ve spent some time in the UK might recognise the type:

Bill’s Opinion

Australia entered a per capita recession this week. Property prices have been on the slide since September 2017.

The two examples above are both completely reliant on the health of the real estate market to return a profit. Which direction do we feel these share charts are going in the near to mid-term? At the time of writing, Yellow Brick Road shares are on their 4th business day of suspension.

In the words of Bob Dylan, “just when you think you’ve lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more“.

Forget due process, let’s convict on da feelz

Australia’s top Left Footer, Cardinal George Pell, was convicted of kiddy fiddling last week.

Actually, he was convicted weeks ago but a suppression order was in place preventing reporting. The hilarity of a situation where a judge believes the secret can be maintained after a verdict was given in open court shouldn’t be lost on us. Presumably nobody has pointed out the invention of “an interweb” since he/she finished law school?

Also, suppression orders didn’t seem to be of much interest to Australian judges during the Spycatcher debacle. What’s good for the goose….

So, the most poorly-kept secret since Rolf Harris is out now and a million column inches are able to be devoted to “whither the Catholic Church?” discussions such as this:

To be fair to Amanda Vanstone, she didn’t write the headline, nor anything near that sentiment in her opinion piece. Quite illustrative though, isn’t it, that the editorial folk decided that the readership’s feelings about the possible outcome of a legal appeal are of relevance to the case?

Helpfully, other writers have advice for Australian Catholic Church on how to stop kiddy fiddling problems arising in the future, such as this by Linda Morris, where she strongly suggests what’s needed is more women in senior leadership positions in the church.

Maybe that’s correct, or maybe it’s a call by an interest group to link a scandal to their single issue campaign. Certainly, a skip through Ms Morris’ twitter timeline doesn’t suggest any previous concerns for the health of the Catholic Church. Climate change, yes, things left footed, no.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s worth questioning the motivation behind angsty opinion pieces about a religious institution most journalists secretly despise. They might be written in good faith but they may also be cynical attempts to further their own desires for cultural revolution.

At the risk of whataboutery, has the journalist written similar opinions calling for a moderation of Wahhabism, for example?

Is Pell guilty and going to lose his appeal? I don’t know and neither do you, so how you feel about it is completely irrelevant.

Connecting the dots V2

Remembering our speculation from last week, well, it looks like it’s getting legs;

Bill’s Opinion

It must be remembered that Christopher Pyne is a happily married, heterosexual man who absolutely will have no embarrassing secrets to hide buried in his parliamentary email history which may or may not have been hacked recently.

We cannot confirm whether or not he enjoys show tunes…..

When the tide goes out we learn who has been swimming without clothes

The Lucky Country tends to lack the entrepreneurial spirit.

The reasons behind this are many, my personal view is that it’s a function of the incentives in the economy; for four decades, Australians have been rewarded by investing in property or working in industries relating to it.

The corollary to this is that there’s been few reasons and rewards for investing one’s cash or pension into stocks, shares, bonds and non-property assets.

Some people have won bigly in this environment. Fair play to them, they followed the cues and were rewarded accordingly.

Mark Bouris is one such big winner. In the 1990s he made his fortune in the mortgage finance business and has continued to go from strength to strength ever since.

The danger of viewing this type of success from a distance is believing that it is a) due to the unique and mercurial skills of the winner and, b) that it is repeatable across industries and markets or indeed, time.

In other words, just because Mark made a large fortune from real estate in a market where everyone made small fortune from real estate, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he can continue to make money in different areas or even in his area of expertise.

Today will be interesting, therefore; Yellow Brick Road shares suspended after trading close.

Bill’s Opinion

In a rising market, everyone is a genius.

Mark Bouris’ Yellow Brick Road might be having some innocent difficulties with the regular filing requirements.

On the other hand, 18 months into a property price downturn and an environment of tighter lending, one company has to be the first major casualty.

On verra.

I looked over Jordan, what did I see?

A suitable air gap exists now between the much-hyped appearance of Jordan B. Peterson on Australia’s “QandA” TV panel show for us to review it without being trampled in the rush.

Our woke friends at the Sydney Morning Herald were exceptionally quick off the mark, publishing this review so soon after the show that a cynic might wonder whether the body of the article was already written so that a couple of specific details just needed to be added.

Certainly, the almost predictable template was adhered to; Peterson is an arrogant quack offering clichés as advice using pseudo-science as evidence, none of which I will try to refute.

Plus ça change.

Before I start my review, full disclosure; I don’t normally watch the programme. Actually, because it’s all such utter drivel, I don’t normally watch Australian terrestrial TV and was pleasantly surprised that our TV could be tuned to receive content that wasn’t over the ChromeCast dongle (this is only a slight exaggeration). 

My reasons for not normally watching QandA are as follows;
1. The format is shit. Too many people on a panel, too little time to answer a question beyond throwing in a pithy soundbite.
2. The host, Tony Jones, is an arrogant, self-aggrandising, biased fool. His body language alone (head and body leaning to one side, elbow out, hand on hip) speaks volumes.
3. The audience seems to be consistently of the opinion that, whatever the problem, the government must do something to solve it. To be fair to the ABC, I’m not accusing the channel of bias, they don’t need to manufacture this opinion; it’s pervasive in Australia.
So, 90 minutes of my life that I will never get back this week;
The already flawed format was worsened by the enforcement of a 1 minute per answer rule. Yet the questions posed were of the “is there a God?” type (seriously, that was asked!). 
The overall impression one gets is that Australians are quite star-struck by Americans (yes, I know he’s a Canuck, but that’s just another name for a quieter American). The panel were not only star-struck but also somewhat fearful of Peterson, the two politicians in particular, in the way people who make a living from obfuscating often are when confronted by those with less of a filter on expressing their opinions.
From left to right of the TV screen, here’s my summary of each person’s performance;
Tranny pensioner – agreed with much of what Peterson said, there’s never much to disagree with though, unless you’ve decided that penises can be female and zhe didn’t try that line. However, zhe mainly just rambled on as if zhey were some kind of national treasure like Australia’s version of Joanna Lumley.
Jordan B. Peterson – tried to smile a lot more than usual, got justifiably grumpy at an angry fat girl in the audience and the left wing politician (unironically) sat to his left and was interrupted with “time’s up, Mr. Peterson” every time he was about to start his second sentence. It seemed pointless him being there, frankly.
Left wing politician – presented well and was clearly scared by Peterson. Steered away from throwing too many local political rocks, which was commendable at least. She’s swallowed the equity=equality kool aid, though.
Tony Jones – he probably thinks he’s an objective journalist. Dunning and Kruger wrote a report about his problem.
Right wing politician – prepared for the performance by standing in a forest presumably, judging by his wooden demeanor. Kept talking about things we can’t talk about, which was confusing. 
Fat angry twitter woman – was fat, angry and unable to let anyone else speak more than 5 words before interrupting with sarcasm. If she isn’t single and surrounded by smelly cats, something is seriously wrong in the world.
Guest appearance – Milo Yiannopolis on a pre-recorded question.
Somebody should have cracked the old favourite:
Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Milo.
Milo who?
That’s showbusiness!
Bill’s Opinion
If you wanted to waste 90 minutes of your life for no reason and without seeing a result, consider watching a soccer match instead.
The terrestrial TV function of our TV is in little danger of being used again this year.

Responsible borrowing

Australia is on a bank-bashing roll currently. As the market (and by that we mean property market – really the only important market in the Dutch Diseased country) rose solidly over the previous decades, the national psyche shifted to one where the expectation of continued growth became pervasive.

To a certain extent, that’s a rational position to take; if everybody, lending institutions and central banks included, is predicting a double digit rise next year there’s wisdom in listening to them.

There’s a similar theory about “technical analysis” of stock charts, that it might not be based on any underlying science but, because everybody believes in “support lines” and “double tops”, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

However, trees don’t grow to the sky and no market moves in a straight line.

More importantly, if you’re going to make a bet, any bet, you better bloody well know that you can live with the wrong result should it occur.

Westpac has been hit with the first class action against one of the big four since the banking royal commission’s final report earlier this month.

Lead plaintiff Michelle Tate told a media conference in Brisbane on Thursday she and her husband Ian were ruined after the bank lent them more than $1.8 million across five properties, despite the family having just one income.

Ms Tate said Westpac trusted a loan broker who provided information about her family’s financial position, and did not independently verify the situation. She said her family would now lose all of their properties save for a block of land.

Wait, what?

They bought their first home in 2008 but decided to invest in a further three in 2013 and 2014 while Mrs Tate was a full-time mum, all funded through Westpac loans they locked in as interest only and secured against their first property.

Are you insane?

Maurice Blackburn Principal lawyer Ben Slade said Westpac was “required to comply with strict obligations which are specifically designed to protect consumers from irresponsible lending and the risk of financial hardship”.

“This case will seek to prove that Westpac failed to comply with these obligations and that this failure caused substantial losses for many consumers,” he said.

That highlighted claim reminds me of the regrettable line we all mistakenly say once in our lives;

“Honey, does this dress make my bum look fat?”

“No dear, your bum makes your bum look fat”.

Bill’s Opinion

Michelle Tate and her husband knew exactly what they were doing when then went all in on property. It was a one way bet they couldn’t lose.

Blaming the bank that lent you the money in the hope of compensation is an understandable tactic and a common coping mechanism rather than coming to terms with one’s own stupidity and greed.

But you were still stupid and greedy and you absolutely knew what you were doing.

Bitchin’

More nonsense on my Creepbook For Business timeline. This one is about “Like minded bitches drinking wine“.

A networking club which excludes people on the basis of gender? I thought we’d moved on from those anachronisms ages ago?

Oh, it’s a networking club exclusively for women. Ah, I see. It’s like the difference between Spinal Tap’s album cover being sexy or sexist…..

The comments under the post underline the rule of our time, never read the comments under articles. They are basically a bunch of sycophants saying, “you go girl!” or people wondering why anyone trying to portray themselves as professional would use the noun, bitch.

Anyway, Jane Lu is fighting the good fight for equality equity.

Here’s a photo of her team at Showpo;

Gender diversity is clearly very important to Jane.

Bill’s Opinion

Jane is simply responding to the incentives offered to her. She’s self-promoting and benefiting from the congratulations and social rewards due to those who loudly proclaim the correct messages.

It’s devoid of dignity though, which doesn’t seem to be completely aligned with the point of feminism.

Connecting the dots

Unfalsifiable hypotheses are always a bit silly, and this blog generally tries to steer clear of falling for that trap but, hey, it’s Friday and salacious gossip is fun.

Sometime ago, we brought you the Canberra insider news that has never made it into the mainstream; Julie Bishop enjoys/has enjoyed a full and busy private life and sent a fairly unsubtle shot across the bows of the free press to not go prying into MPs’ private lives.

This week, we learn that China a foreign power power has hacked into the parliamentary computer systems (by which they probably mean the email server).

And now Julie Bishop has announced an end to what was a promising political career that, by any objective view, probably still had greater heights to reach.

Curious.

Ok, let’s suspend our usual reliance on logic, reason and requirement for evidence and just have a complete punt at what’s going on….

There’s plenty of embarrassing personal information on everyone’s email history, none of us would appreciate it being opened up to the public, that’s why we don’t share our passwords.

A prominent politician is no different, particularly if they’ve been a little indiscreet in the past.

If you had evidence that your email was one of the hacked ones and you had something to hide, or at least feel a little regretful about, a simple solution might be to drop out of the public eye. It doesn’t completely prevent the leaked information making it into the news but yours wouldn’t be the most pressing for the media to report on at that point.

Bill’s Opinion

China seems a little less-enamoured with Australia these days. The best we can hope for is a Wikileaks type data drop of all the naughty little secrets about politicians’ petty personal lives.

Unfortunately, blackmail and coercion is more likely.

If you wanted Bill Shorten’s recipe for Pavlova, you could have just asked

Apparently, China or Russia “a sophisticated state actor” hacked into the Australian Parliament IT servers last week.

Shocking stuff. We are truly fighting a new Cold War, thank goodness George Lazenby is still alive.

We are also told that it is too early to know the motivation or what information was accessed.

However….. here at William of Ockham, we have a handy little blade that can slice away all that is irrelevant to reveal the most likely explanation.

Let’s quickly dismiss the possibility that a foreign power was hunting for an important secret of state; if there is anyone reading this who believes Australia has any secrets China, Russia, Indonesia or even bloody Swaziland don’t already know, I have a harbour bridge I’d like to sell you. And anyway, there are better IT systems to hack to gain Australia’s secrets.

In addition to Australia’s defence secrets not being worth the candle, how many of them are likely to be divulged to MPs, or even the Defence Minister and Prime Minister? Given that that last role is only ever a casual appointment, it’s doubtful the security services go through the bother of setting up a userid and password for each new appointee.

So what information could possibly be of interest on the parliamentary servers?

The more I think about this question the more certain I become that they will have learned about just one topic: who’s shagging with/has shagged whom?

Bill’s Opinion

There’s a Federal election this year (there’s a 33% chance of that statement being correct at any random time though), which means Australian politics might finally become interesting.

Imagine the fun we may be about to have with Wikileaks drip-feeding prurient tittle tattle about the sordid details of the sex lives of, say, Julie Bishop, Sarah Hanson-Young, Barnaby Joyce or Richard Di Natale?

Maybe chuck in some scandals involving expenses being used to fund lavish lifestyles or questionable morality and perhaps some unparliamentary language on emails referring to voters as sheep or worse.

Finally, an election we might actually enjoy!

Write down the NBN? Write the whole thing off

We’ve spoken before on the utter disaster that is Australia’s National Broadband Network and how it was unlikely to ever achieve its stated goal and also cost significantly more than budgeted.

Well, things just got a whole lot worse for the beleaguered Australian taxpayer as it would seem reality is starting to rudely impose itself on the business model, such that it is: The NBN will need to write off a huge chunk of value, if that’s even possible now.

Crikey (in the vernacular), who ever could have predicted that?

Oh yes, everyone.

From the article:

It is self-evident that you can’t write $20 billion off a $10 billion (or less) equity base.

Ya reckon?

Rue made the point that when people called for a write-down, what they were actually calling for was a dramatic reduction in wholesale prices. It’s a mechanism, not the objective.

There are alternatives to a write-down that could lower wholesale prices, although they would involve heavy costs for government.

Hold on one second, sunshine…. heavy costs for whom?

The government? Nope, don’t think so. The government only has money for one of the following reasons:

1. Taxes paid by citizens (yes, that includes corporation tax – who do you think buys their goods and services?)

2. Borrowing on behalf of the public….which will be repaid by, yep, taxes

Read this with that in mind:

If the federal government were to cash out the $7.4 billion of subscriber payments and buy out the lease agreement, it would effectively inject more than $20 billion of value into NBN Co by carving those payments from its cost base and boosting its cash flows.

The substantial change in its economics would enable NBN Co to pass through the savings to retailers without damaging its ability to generate a positive IRR.

Or, in English; if the government spent more money it would make the NBN company seem like it was less of a turd.

Bill’s Opinion

The lesson every generation of voters always has to learn the hard way is, if you really want to fuck something up, and I mean really fuck something up and stay fucked up for a bloody long time, get the government to do it.