The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest stories, every week. This week, Whitehaven’s plight proves business journalists simply should not be trusted, Stephen King provides a scary understatement and the Greens know a good joke when they see one, even one that costs investors millions of dollars.
Shame on us
Somebody got the media good this week, and the simple PDF tomfoolery saw more misery piled on long-suffering shareholders in Whitehaven Coal. The company’s stock price plunged after reports that major Whitehaven lender ANZ had pulled its financial support for the group’s flagship Maules Creek project, sending investors running for the door. Most came stumbling back in when it became apparent that the release was a hoax, and not in fact from ANZ, but just some hippy in dire need of a shave. The saga was an embarrassing one for all parties involved and another great advertisement for the strength of media reporting in this country. It was, however, nothing to do with Nathan Tinkler, the first of its kind to hit Whitehaven for some time. Despite the revelation that investors were misled, the Australian Securities Exchange has refused to cancel the trades that occurred in the aftermath of the release, claiming rules prevented such a move as the stock did not fall far enough. The move raises questions over where one arbitrarily draws a line for the appropriate time to reconsider large-scale financial transactions made based on the lies of a loony. Not at this point, clearly.
You won’t be needing those
Despite some apparent indifference to the plight of Whitehaven shareholders, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission seemed determined to look into the ordeal, and set its sights on environmental activist Jonathan Moylan, the perpetrator of the hoax. Moylan, who claimed the scam was aimed at informing the public of the environmental consequences of Whitehaven's actions, had his phone and laptop confiscated by the watchdog from his camp in northern New South Wales as part of its investigation. Presumably because he doesn’t have a house. Both electronic devices reportedly contained nothing of any significance, save, presumably for several creepy pictures of Bob Brown and a subscription to Crikey. Depending on the result of the investigation, Moylan could face a large fine or even jail time, and he said he expected to be taken in for questioning. Which he is reportedly fine with, as long as he doesn’t have to shower.
Around the edges of reason
Opinion polls suggested that the general public considered the ‘prank’, despite its murkily noble intentions, largely irresponsible at best. This belief was, evidently, not shared by the Greens. They thought it was great. The leader of the Australia’s number three party, Christine Milne, called the hoax "part of a long and proud history of civil disobedience", which presumably includes Milne herself placing pro-recycling stickers on cars in the parking lot of parliament house before sprinting off with her hands in the air, giggling. Her comments followed a tweet by her colleague Senator Lee Rhiannon, who congratulated Moylan for exposing ANZ’s investment in coalmines. The stance led the coalition to label the Greens the epitome of extremism, before they suggested changing the electoral rules in order to prevent young, lazy people from voting for the left.
This is not a test
Taking it upon himself to express what a lot of people were thinking, competition expert Professor Stephen King this week gave a frank assessment of his thoughts surrounding Commonwealth Bank of Australia's recent takeover of Aussie Home Loans, clashing with claims from Aussie founder John Symond that the group would continue to compete with the big banks. King warned that Aussie’s independence will be tested by the deal, and said he would be surprised if the group did not come under pressure to push CBA products over time. Experts agreed with the comments, noting it was likely that the situation would resemble the time Poland’s independence was tested following its takeover by Germany.
I've got hurt feelings
A joint submission from a number of Australian media companies this week has questioned proposed legislation from the federal government which would make it illegal to offend or insult people as part of reforms to discrimination laws. The long awaited, overdue and utterly justified laws will protect those last remaining precious innocents out there and fills a loophole where mean words were able to circumvent current laws requiring citizens to be completely wrapped in cotton wool. It’s hoped the new legislation will finally bring an end to filth like satire and sarcasm in our everyday lives. It’s a victory for the whole of Australia! Well, except for the people offended by the very concept of having free speech crushed in the name of overbearing political correctness. But they don't count, right?
– In a massive missed opportunity for this column, billionaire Clive Palmer ruled out any potential political alliance with independent MP Bob Katter this week.
– Several Pie Face franchisees plan to launch legal action against the parent group, claiming the rapidly-expanding pastry chain misled them on costs and profit forecasts when they signed up. Owners have expressed surprise at the reality of their results, claiming the shock was like being hit in the face. By a pie.
– NBN Co was accused of trespassing this week, with rivals claiming the government-backed group has been using infrastructure belonging to other groups to lay cables while rolling out its product like some kind of bizarre telecommunications hermit crab.
– And finally, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has called for laws to allow employers to discriminate in favour of Australian residents over temporary foreign workers when making redundancies. Because, given casual racism is so prevalent in Australian worksites anyway, why not properly institutionalise it?