Gasp: Separating the wheat from the aft

Joe Hockey is caught between acting in the national interest and the interest of the Nationals on GrainCorp, but it looks like kangaroos are allowed to fly.

Poor Joe “open for business” Hockey found himself in between a rock and a wheat belt this week as the spectre of foreign investment loomed large. He might be reluctant to unshackle the regulatory handcuffs that so restrain the national carrier, but he is willing to bend to the will of the people on this one. He just won’t be bullied on anything else. Not even GrainCorp. Wait…

Yes, in the week’s most stunning development, Hockey blocked Archer Daniels Midland’s $3.4 billion takeover bid for GrainCorp to protect the national interest.

But it’s Qantas that should be concerned. Having traded on ideas of patriotism and cultural unity for so long, the airline will be in for a rude awakening if its ownership is diluted.

Won’t someone think of the children? The young boys and girls – with fairweather voices but marketable faces – who dream of being part of the next Qantas choir. What becomes of them if the Flying Kangaroo becomes a science experiment of Roo and Panda and Uncle Sam? More to the point, what becomes of our now supremely protected wheat fields if there is no national carrier to film inspirational advertising campaigns in front of them?

Certainly no one will stomach the sickeningly beautiful shots of our wide and roaming land, nor the aching pre-pubescent chords of “I still call Australia home” if, in fact, Qantas calls 39 per cent of Australia home.

Graph for Gasp: Separating the wheat from the aft

No joy at Jimblebar

BHP Billiton learned the limits of its power this week when the combination of heat and emulsion conspired to cancel the opening of its Jimblebar iron ore mine. According to the miner, chief executive Andrew Mackenzie, WA Premier Colin Barnett, dignitaries and media were stranded at Newman Airport after an emulsion treatment applied to the tarmac failed to dry and became sticky in the scorching heat.

Ever the optimists, BHP said the cancellation, though “regrettable”, did not detract from the “significant achievement of the opening of our newest mine”.

While the “dignitaries” escaped the thrill of the opening ceremony, BHP was quick to ensure any workers travelling to the mine via Newman Airport were not waylaid.

“BHP Billiton Iron Ore is implementing alternative travel options for staff who are due to travel to the site, including the use of charter services and landing aircraft at alternative locations,” the miner said.

Clearly, Premier Newman had too many axes to grind in Canberra to accommodate a magical mystery tour of his home state.

Let them eat cherries

What do Woolworths chief Grant O’Brien and doomed French queen Marie Antoinette have in common? Both understand the placating power of food. While the exuberant 18th century queen said “Let them eat cake”, at the Woolworths AGM this week the spread was decidedly more festive.

In a move lifted directly from Antoinette’s playbook, GASP was told O’Brien splashed out on free-range leg ham, cherries and Jamie Oliver’s prawns at the retailer’s Sydney meeting and was swiftly rewarded with a resounding endorsement of his directorship and the group’s remuneration package.

Perhaps next year, David Jones should dole out some of its staples to testy shareholders as they decide whether or not to deliver the department store a second strike on remuneration. Pashmina, anyone? A crystal carafe?

The spying oxymoron

The intelligence of both Indonesia and Australia’s intelligence forces was further thrown into question this week when the two nations sought to negotiate a spying code of conduct. Yes, spying. The act of subterfuge – the pinnacle of covert affairs – is apparently not so covert that it cannot be monitored.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s fury over “illegal surveillance” resulted in his request for envoys of the two nations to collaboratively formulate a protocol for spying on one another that did not harm bilateral relations.

At least that’s what we think he said. GASP was told the line was bit crackly.

One-line wonders

  • “He seems not just the light on the hill, but the hill itself to which our eyes are ever turned.” Bill Shorten on Gough Whitlam.
  • "It's not a great model to go forward with and I would be irresponsible as education minister to implement something that is incapable of being implemented.” Christopher Pyne.
  • “When it comes to warm and fuzzy feelings, I’m not the person to do it as treasurer. If someone else wants to have a warm and fuzzy feeling, that’s up to them.” Treasurer Joe Hockey.
  • “Allowing major foreign investment in Qantas would be a bit like selling off the military.” Dick Smith.

Tweet of the week

Graph for Gasp: Separating the wheat from the aft

The last gasp

You would have been laughed out of a loony bin seven years ago for suggesting Barry O’Farrell would come to be a major player on Australia’s political stage. Yet it seems in shedding his waistline, the NSW premier has gained a whole lot of credibility.

His infamous run-in with former leader Kevin Rudd on the campaign trail, where he lashed the PM for not consulting him over a “thought bubble” to close the Garden Island naval base was seared in the minds of many voters on election day.

This week’s terse and uncompromising exchanges with Prime Minister Tony Abbott over education funding was even more dramatic, given they belong to the same party. The lack of conviction politicians has long been a criticism of modern political life, but O’Farrell’s willingness to fight for his state – even if it means taking on the leader of his federal party (and the country) – suggests conviction may yet exist, and in in the strangest of places. 

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