GASP: Red, red whine

Treasury Wine Estates' writedown woes are enough to drive shareholders to the bottle, while Coalition backbencher Andrew Laming skulls for Australia – much to Tony Abbott's chagrin.

One word describes the look on the faces of Treasury Wine Estates’ shareholders this week: pained. More pained than John Boehner in the background of President Obama’s State of the Union. More pained than Barnaby Joyce when Team Credlin informed him he was the lucky Coalition representative for ABC’s first Q&A of the year. Pained.

The embattled winemaker has now reached such a point of desperation it has enacted an all-or-nothing plan to boost its sales: deliver writedown after writedown until the bad news cycle drives its patient shareholders to the bottle. Preferably the wine bottle. Preferably its wine bottle.

It’s a risky gambit, but it does come from the same people who, before Christmas, lifted the prices of products in Australia and reduced the focus on promotion, only to cite both moves as contributing factors in a further profit writedown this week.

That latest profit warnings comes after writedowns resulting from a decline in demand for premium wine in China as well as a significant hit on its struggling US operations. The group reportedly poured more than $35 million worth of aged or excess stock down the drain last year, though suspicions are rising that the supposedly destroyed wines have found their way to the many emergency board meetings that have been convened by Treasury’s top brass over recent months.

David Dearie may soon be in good company as a former Treasury executive. On the upside, there are benefits to a liquid severance package.

A beer too far

Speaking of a tipple too many, Prime Minister Tony Abbott faced another scandal when backbencher Andrew Laming was filmed standing on his head and skulling a beer during Australia Day celebrations.

For his part, Laming was defiant, playing beautifully the role of headstrong child to Abbott’s “adult” Prime Minister. “People need to get over the issue that politicians have to be role models, not drink anything and not say anything,” he said.

That Laming – a former ophthalmology registrar and health planning specialist (you can’t make this stuff up!) – unleashed his hidden talent on the world just as New South Wales Liberal premier Barry O’Farrell got serious about tackling the culture of excessive boozing on Sydney streets is just fortuitous coincidence. For the media and the opposition, anyway.

For Abbott, it was another potential headache.

"It wouldn't be how I would choose to celebrate Australia Day,” the PM told reporters dismissively.

Unfortunately for Abbott, his concision in dealing with the Laming affair soon gave way to clumsy metaphors when pressed about the Australian Navy’s accidental incursion into Indonesian waters.

“On the high seas, all sorts of things happen,” he explained. “Test cricketers drop catches, great footballers occasionally miss tackles.”

And sometimes nations launch accidental invasions.

Here’s Johnny

Accusations of playing the gender card flew thick and fast from the opposition benches in the dying days of the Gillard government. Now Prime Minister Tony Abbott seems intent on using his own iteration for as much political advantage as possible. It seems Abbott can’t get enough of playing the Howard card.

Yes. The man, the eyebrows, the coke bottle glasses – they’re all back. The government can’t get enough of their collective endorsement.

And it’s little surprise Howard is so keen to be involved. Straight off the bat he got to take part in two of his favourite pastimes: Labor-bashing and subtly suggesting he had it right all along on industrial relations.

"The former government was told by its union masters to gut the ABCC. It was a purely ideological act," Howard chirped gleefully throughout the week. "At the very least I believe it should be re-established.”

Ah, the sweet smell of superiority.

Tweet of the week

Graph for GASP: Red, red whine

One-line wonders

  • "The ABC seemed to delight in broadcasting allegations by a traitor, this gentleman Snowden," Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
  • “It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives democracy.” President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address.
  • "I think your responsibility is to shine light but not to generate heat." Newly appointed Governor-General Peter Cosgrove on how he views the role.
  • "The only reason we're having this election is because of Mr Rudd - a man who promised to serve his full three-year term, a man who promised the world and delivered Christmas Island." LNP candidate in the Griffith by-election Bill Glasson.

The last gasp

The appointment of General Peter Cosgrove to the role of Governor-General will be a departure from incumbent Quentin Bryce in both style and focus. If his early remarks are any indication, Cosgrove is unlikely to indulge in the kind of commentary that saw Bryce court controversy last year. He will also have a far less politically sensitive environment to oversee. Not only is there no hung parliament, he bears no relation to anyone in the House. Despite these obstacles, Bryce executed her duties with knowing grace and the bipartisan support of Cosgrove suggests he will follow his predecessor’s lead in at least that regard.

InvestSMART FORUM: Come and meet the team

We're loading up the van and going on tour from April to June, with events on the NSW central & north coast, the QLD mid-north coast and in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Come and meet the team and take home simple strategies that you can use to build an investment portfolio to weather any storm. Book your spot here.

Want access to our latest research and new buy ideas?

Start a free 15 day trial and gain access to our research, recommendations and market-beating model portfolios.

Sign up for free

Related Articles