Are you dead? Call 1300 “CROAKED” to let us know

Australian insurer and provider of post-life financial services, (advertising tagline; “Everyone plans for retirement, but life doesn’t have stop afterwards*“), have started to make amends for some local difficulties they experienced in 2018. Namely, charging customers they knew were dead already for financial services. How many? 3,124 stiffs.

What form does this attempt to recover a little reputation make things right take?

A telephone number.

Not just a regular telephone number though, but a traffic cone hotline. No, hang on, that’s something else. No, they’ve implemented a hotline where dead people can call in to notify AMP that they no longer require their financial services due to a lack of breathing.

Ok, the grieving relatives can call too.

Bill’s Opinion

This seems to be solving the wrong problem; presumably, if 3,124 people who AMP knew were dead already were still being charged, the problem wasn’t so much an issue of notification but of doing the right thing with that information afterwards?

Hotblack Desiato famously took a year off, dead, for tax reasons.

One can imagine the transcript of the call with his accountant during that period;


“AMP death hotline, my name is Kylie, how can I help you today?”

“Hello, this is Norbert Young, of Young and Earnest Accountants. I represent Mr. Desiato, one of your clients. I’d like to inform you that, although he is recently deceased, it’s only a temporary condition and therefore would like to continue with his current arrangements with your organisation”.

“Oh, erm that’s not on my information sheet workflow. Let me check with my supervisor, (…..long pause), thanks for holding, Mr. Young. My supervisor says Mr. Desiato will need to inform us of this personally. Could you put him on the line, please?”

“Yes, of course. Handing the phone over now.”

(Very long silence)


Congratulations AMP, this is definitely the shot in the arm the share price needed.

* “Biologically, yes it does. The value of your investment may fall as well as rise.

Your property may be at risk if you secure a loan against it.

AMP is regulated by the Australian Regulator of Spiritualist Enterprises.”

Someone needs to be accountable

Thousands of passengers were left stranded after the Sydney Trains network fell into chaos overnight.

For those who are unaware or disinterested in the clusterfuck that is Sydney Trains, this was quite predictable. After all, it was judged to be the fourth worst for operational efficiency of any metropolitan network in the world, whilst also being the most expensive. Not to mention the previous iteration of the agency and its minor difficulties with corruption.

If you were relying on Sydney Trains to get you home after midnight on New Year’s Eve during an electrical storm, the expression ”Plan B” should be firmly in your vocabulary.

Even the most die-hard fans of fireworks must be prepared for a masterclass in stoicism once the last rocket has been fired.

How bad was the latest train-related problem?

Delays of up to three-and-a-half hours were felt across the grid, with many New Year’s Eve revellers taking to social media to vent about the havoc that occurred after the midnight fireworks.

Jeesh, that’s a long post-midnight wait to get home or, more likely, to where your car is parked to then get you home. Not the best start to 2019.

Let’s look at an example;

Tania Holt had a similar experience after spending New Year’s Eve at Barangaroo Reserve with her family, including her five-month-old nephew Jenson.

Wait, what? You took a five month old baby to the middle of Sydney to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks? What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, maybe this (highlighting added);

“My nephew started to get extremely distressed and started to panic as many of the crowd were drunk and abusive as we passed through,” she said. “My brother and his fiancée were so upset by the end as they were just so worried about his safety; it was completely incompetent planning and appalling service.”

Yes, it certainly does look like a case of incompetent planning, taking a 5 month child to a very crowded New’s Year celebration when a storm is forecast.

Bill’s Opinion

“Accountability” is the mot du jour in Australia; from cricketers being accountable for cheating, to bankers being accountable for charging fees for no service, everyone wants to know who is/was accountable.

In true doublespeak though, what it tends to mean is, “someone else is accountable“. Hence why it’s not the fault of the parents of a young baby that they found themselves stuck in the middle of a boisterous and unhappy crowd long after midnight in a thunderstorm.

Against the envy of less happier lands

Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt gives the following speech in Richard the Second on the subject of Britain’s natural defences;

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall,

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Consider then, the current UK Home Secretary’s strange assertion on the problem of illegal immigrants paddling across the 21 miles of sea from France;

Bill’s Opinion

Au contraire, Mr. Javid; there are several historically-proven easy answers;

1. Have the British Navy patrol the limit of the UK’s territorial water between England and France (12 nautical miles?).

2. Tow any vessels illegally entering the territorial waters back to the nearest French port.

3. If the French authorities complain, robustly suggest that they consider doing their damn job in future.

It would seem there are easy answers to the problem of maintaining national borders, after all.

Update; thanks Sam Vara for the correction to Javid’s job title.

New South Wales’ half pregnant drug policies

Obviously this is political rubbish but one suspects they’ve not really thought this through.

Some people have taken drugs at music festivals and have died so the government should test illegal drugs to check that they are safe.

Of course, there’s the usual instinctive dividing line between right and left going on here; “hard on crime” versus “the government must do something“.

There more to be had though. One of the easiest fallacies to fall for is the slippery slope fallacy, but the reason it is so tempting is that, quite often, there really is a slippery slope.

Let’s look at what might be involved in the New South Wales’ state government providing testing facilities for illegal substances at music festivals;

1. A pre-agreed list of drugs that will be tested. Will they be testing ecstasy, speed, ice, smack, Charlie, etc.? Does anyone still supply and take lysergic acid diethylamide?

2. A method of testing for each that can confirm the levels of all relevant substances. Chemical-based drugs (as opposed to organic drugs like weed) can be “cut” with all kinds of weird and wonderful rubbish from warfarin to toothpaste. It also needs to be a method that doesn’t destroy half of the pill or powder otherwise people won’t use the service.

3. Definitions of what “safe” levels of all of the possible danger factors might be.

4. Legal protection from the consequences of mistakes in the testing process. For example, if 19 year old Jaxson takes a pill to the government testing tent and is told it contains safe levels of amphetamine sulphate but, an hour later, he keels over and dies, is the NSW taxpayer suddenly on the hook for a massive compensation claim from his parents?

5. Legal protection from the consequences of capacity issues; what if Jaxson dies at a location not served by the government tent with folks in white coats?

Bill’s Opinion

The calls for illegal drug testing services at music festivals seems poorly-thought through and, instead, look like a thinly-disguised move towards legalising and regulating recreational drugs.

That’s a debate that really needs to be had in the open. There are many strong arguments for and against legalising and regulating recreational drugs but these are not being presented here. Instead, there’s a risk of a semi-legal, semi-regulated fudge of a compromise occurring, with a lot of unintended consequences later.

For what it’s worth, my view is that recreational drugs should be legalised, regulated (for quality and ensuring strict non-supply to minors) and taxed. There’s a large economy out there that law-abiding citizens could be benefiting from financially.

The Kouk; troll or fool?

One of the Australian Labor (sic) Party’s advisors on matters economic is a shy and retiring character by the name of Stephen Koukoulas, AKA “The Kouk”.

I don’t tend to waste spend much time on social media these days but, in between large meals and long walks, I came across this provocative tweet by the person who, should Bill Shorten become Australia’s next Prime Minister for the obligatory 18 month term, will be whispering sage advice to the highest office in the land;

If, like me, you aren’t a professional economist, you will be wondering why this claim simultaneously seems to make sense but also seems like it shouldn’t be correct.

We’ll explain why it’s wrong shortly, but first, let’s recall an old brain teaser that used to go around in the school playground in various versions;

Three friends decide to split the bill after a meal at a restaurant. The waiter says the bill is £30, so each guest pays £10.

“Later the waiter realises the bill should only be £25. To rectify this, he takes £5 from the amount to return to the group.

“On the way to the table, the waiter realises that he cannot divide the money equally. As the customers didn’t know the total of the revised bill, the waiter decides to just give each of the three friends £1 and keep £2 for himself.

“Each guest got £1 back: so now each guest only paid £9; bringing the total paid to £27. The waiter has £2. And £27 + £2 = £29 so, if the guests originally handed over £30, what happened to the remaining £1?

If you haven’t come across this puzzle before the explanation is here.

It’s a classic misdirection.

Which is precisely what The Kouk is doing with his tweet.

The explanation as to why his statement is incorrect can be found here in an excellent and highly-recommended free PDF of a classic and easily read lesson on economics for mere mortals such as you and I. Treat yourself to a quick education before opening the next festive bottle.

The mistake or misdirection Koukoulas is guilty of is, helpfully, described in the very first chapter. In it, Hazlitt re-explains Bastiat’s Broken Window Fallacy and the concept of “opportunity cost”.

The explanation is so precise and economic (pun intended) in its use of words that I won’t recreate it here, but hope you follow the link and see it for yourself.

Bill’s Opinion

It is almost inconceivable that a professional “economist” is not aware of this fallacy (the first in the book!).

I can think of three possible explanations; either The Kouk is playing a festive game of trolling OR he’s deliberately misdirecting his followers for some other reason OR he’s not a very competent economist.

Of course, economics is a pseudoscience anyway. For proof of this, one only need look at the history of the so-called “Nobel Prize” for the subject; it was created as an effort to lend the subject some scientific credibility.

That would be what we pay you for then, n’est pas?

The unfortunately named Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, has suggested that Britain would be less safe after a “no deal” Brexit because, well, there would be some more paperwork to complete to extradite suspects from overseas.

To be fair, that’s not quite what she said but it wasn’t far off;

Ms Dick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the UK’s policing co-operation with the EU was based on a framework of “legal instruments” which would have to be replaced after its exit.

While she hoped the two sides would end up with “something very similar”, she accepted that if the UK left without a deal, this would be “very difficult to do short term”.

Newsflash for Ms. Dick; the referendum was in 2016, you’ve had 2 years to plan for a “no deal”. You are surely not suggesting that this planning has only just commenced, or worse, hasn’t yet started, are you?

Also, please could you explain how a delay to an extradition makes the British public less safe? Thinking this through, an extradition request generally requires a crime to have been committed already so, in the case of a violent crime, the victim is already lying in a hospital bed or worse. It matters less that the perpetrator is languishing a little longer on the Costa Del Sol before facing a trial.

Bill’s Opinion

Either mature plans are already underway for the “no deal” option and Ms. Dick is deliberately scaremongering for political purposes, or plans are not in place and she and her colleagues are guilty of extreme professional negligence.

In the meantime, perhaps she could divert resources from investigating hurty tweets and towards the current knife crime crisis.

Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat

….except when there’s a chance you’ve made the establishment look stupid.

The couple wrongly accused of the Gatwick drone chaos have spoken out about their treatment at the hands of Sussex Police, saying they feel “completely violated”.

Paul Gait, 47, and Elaine Kirk, 54, criticised the way officers searched their home and revealed that they are receiving medical care after being arrested late on Friday evening.

Just to be clear of the order of events here;

1. Reports of a drone “buzzing” the runway and control tower of Gatport Chavwick resulted in the UK’s 2nd busiest airport being shut down for 2 days and thousands of shaven-headed, heavily-tattooed Sarf Lahdahners having their Christmas getaways disrupted.

2. Police investigated, the army were called in, more reports were received of drone activity.

3. Eventually drone reports stopped, the airport was reopened.

4. The police notified the press that two arrests had been made and, remarkably, the media managed to work out who the suspects were.

5. An army of media researchers and curious internet folk investigated everything in the public domain that the couple had ever done, including interviewing friends, family, employers and anyone else with half an opinion.

6. The couple were released without charge after 36 hours in custody which, coincidently, is the exact length of the first extension the UK police can request from a judge for serious crimes.

Bill’s Opinion

Our Legacy Media (c) have lost their moral compass, if indeed they ever had such a thing. The UK police too.

Being arrested for a crime is not the same as being convicted of a crime or even having a body of evidence suggesting you had any relationship to the crime.

Somehow, the names of the couple arrested with regards to the drone activity at the airport were discovered by the press and were published, along with an amazingly detailed level of detail about their lives.

Contrast this with the reluctance to name the “Australian entertainer” arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse some years ago.

It is a dangerous game to play when we accept the “outing” of mere suspects of a crime, particularly in this age of social media and highly-interconnectedness. Within minutes, the world knew intimate details of the couple’s lives, such as Paul’s military record and the identity of his ex-partner and their child.

Be prepared to learn of some unrelated crime or socially-disapproved aspect of their lives in the coming days and weeks. After all, in the words of Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s security administrator, “Show me the man and I will show you the crime“.

Finally, one doesn’t need a drone to see that every cloud has a silver lining; I flew into Gatport Chavwick two days later and, thanks to the disruption to the car hire companies’ fleets, was handed the keys to an upgraded car several levels above the one booked and paid for.

Merry Christmas!

That’s funny

Kathy Griffin has criticised the lack of women on Forbes magazine’s latest list of the world’s best-paid comedians.

The Emmy Award-winning comedian tweeted the top 10 of Forbes’ list along with the words: “No Women.”

Here’s the list;

She’s quite accurate in her observation; none of the 10 highest earning comedians in 2018 were women (or even, to comply with the modern parlance, “men with vaginas“).

The responses to her tweet were quite amusing and seem to fall into two distinct camps;

1. This is outrageous and damning proof of an oppressive patriarchy operating in the comedy industry, or

2. It’s a list of the comedians people choose to spend their own money on, the ten most competent comedians active in 2018, in other words, you unfunny and stupid woman.

Only one of those world views can be correct.

Bill’s Opinion

Comedy is a brutal job to choose. Nobody makes it to the top of the tree without learning their craft through thousands of hours of effort, failure, perseverance and continuous improvement.

During that time, your pay very closely matches your success rate at making people laugh. It’s a reasonably efficient market, in other words.

There is another interesting distinguishing factor between the comedians on the list above and many of the names suggested by the nutters in the “its duh patriarchy” camp, such as Amy Schumer, Samantha Bee, Lesley Jones, and Sarah Silverman; their recent material has deprioritised the comedic quality of their work in favour of attacking Trump supporters or men. That’s their choice but they perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that men and Trump supporters don’t choose to pay money for that type of act.

But, yes; “no funny women”, eh, Kathy;

What did the Romans ever do for us?

UOW academics, including visiting fellow Sarah Keenan who handed in her resignation, woke on Monday to news the university had signed a deal with the Ramsay Centre to establish the country’s first degree in Western Civilisation.

Under a deal signed on Friday and made public on Monday, The Ramsay Centre will pay for 10 academics to teach the three-year degree, and give 30 students a year more than $27,000 each towards their living expenses while they study.

The background to this is that part of the fortune of the late Paul Ramsay was bequeathed to setting up a course on “Western Civilisation”. It’s caused several universities more than a little heartache; on the one hand, funding for a degree course in 2019 is very welcome, particularly in the current funding climate. On the other hand, universities have gone down the rat hole of SJW lunacy and are hostage to utter nutters with the title, “Professor”, as we have seen previously.

As with all of these political minefields, the people shouting the loudest are usually the ones operating with a low resolution view of the underlying facts.

In all of the coverage of the conflicts between activist academics and the Ramsay Centre, not one column inch has been dedicated to explaining which part of the proposed curriculum they take most offence from.

To assist the readership of his organ, here is the proposed curriculum;

Shocking stuff, eh?

Personally, I’m outraged that Malthus, Marx, Engels, Rousseau and Foucault are given the oxygen of publicity on a course supposedly on the subject of “civilisation”. I assume that’s the position of the offended academics too?

Bill’s Opinion

The proposed curriculum looks like an extremely interesting and balanced course. The reading material doesn’t, Prima Facie, scream “white supremacy”, does it? In fact, it even includes the godawful 60s French nutters, which we’d all be better off forgetting, frankly.

As for those who object to the course, we only need look at what they do for a living;

Dr Keenan, who is based at the Birkbeck School of Law, resigned as a visiting fellow at the university’s Legal Intersections Research Centre  because she would not support an institution that leant its name to the Ramsay Centre.

This is the LIRC’s work;

And this is Dr. Keenan;

In fact, one need only look at that joyless face to know that anything she dislikes is probably going to be a lot of fun.

To hell with your intersectional law.

Brexit BATNA

The suggestion that Brexit negotiations are going poorly for the UK is a difficult one to refute.

By any objective measure, the “deal” Theresa May has been touting as the best possible outcome clearly doesn’t implement what the voters demanded she implement; The United Kingdom would still be subject to the majority of rules and regulations of the EU institutions but without the current ability to influence (albeit fractionally) the creation and amendment of said rules.

Negotiation is a very specific skill requiring a thoughtful strategy, access to as many relevant data points as possible and the maturity and strength of character to compromise or hold to key principles.

Many professionals earn a good living from undertaking the role of negotiator on behalf of clients; depending on the transaction one is undertaking, a lawyer, for example, is acting as your negotiator.

However, the one aspect a professional negotiator or, in the case of Brexit, a huge army of negotiators, can’t control is the competence and moral character of the “client”.

Imagine, for example, if the Prime Minister and cabinet were firmly of the opinion that the British public had chosen the correct option in the referendum and that the EU was a corrupt den of anti-democratic authoritarians who couldn’t be trusted to negotiate in good faith. The Brexit negotiations’ timeline might have looked something like this;

– 24th June 2016 – Article 50 delivered to the EU along with a telephone number printed on a business card with the words, “Your call is important to us. Please do let us know if you have an offer which you feel may be of interest to the people of the United Kingdom. Please note, this number will only be staffed between 2pm and 3pm on the first Tuesday of each month“.

– 24th June 2016 – The “Direct Debit” arrangements from all UK government bank accounts to the EU are cancelled.

– 24th June 2016 – The responsibility for the detailed planning for a move to WTO rules on 24th June 2018 is delegated to the relevant agencies and peak industry bodies. Note; delegated not micro-managed, as this is what they get paid for.

– That’s it. If the EU offered any deal that improves on WTO arrangements whilst still resulting in the UK leaving, a separate team would be tasked with reviewing and comparing it. However, work on the WTO option would continue at full speed.

That this, or a version thereof, wasn’t the approach tells us (and, more importantly, told the EU negotiation team) one crucial fact. The UK government has never had a credible BATNA. There was no palatable Plan B ready in case the EU negotiated in bad faith, nor was one even contemplated.

The EU haven’t played this particularly well, they didn’t need to, the UK negotiators were hamstrung from the start by a clear requirement from the “client” that a deal must be done at all cost…… which is the equivalent of trying to negotiate the price of an ice-cream while you have a crying child with you.

Bill’s Opinion

In years to come, Theresa May’s incompetent handling of the negotiations will be seen as a case study in what not to do.

That statement assumes, of course, that she really did intend to implement an exit from the EU, its rules, regulations and institutions.

Many observers might question that assumption.