THE LAST GASP: Palmer poppycock

Clive delivers the chuckles and David Jones the groans, but Holden has the last laugh.

The Last Gasp
brings you a wry take on the biggest stories of the week, every week. This week, Clive Palmer gets confused (again), Apple tries giving away money it doesn’t know what to do with and Holden is happy to take the cash and stay in Australia.

Short and stout

Clive Palmer drew audible guffaws from pretty much everyone this week when he reached deep into his bag of logic and accused the Greens of being in league with the US Central Intelligence Agency and part of a nefarious plot to undermine the Australian economy. The Greens took exception to the allegations, along with everyone else not living in fantasy land, and labelled the mining magnate a "crackpot” and "lunatic”. Reactions from elsewhere in politics were somewhat mixed, with Treasurer Wayne Swan calling the comments "loopy”. The Coalition took a more diplomatic route, calling Palmer a "very colourful character”, enraging the Greens who wanted the opposition to distance itself from its biggest financial backer. Since the comments, Queensland Greens founder Drew Hutton has announced plans to take legal action against the Queensland billionaire, which could drag Palmer into the relatively unfamiliar surrounds of a courtroom.

Keep Holden on

Holden has announced a $1 billion investment into the Australian automotive industry after the Victorian, South Australian and federal governments pledged over a quarter of a million dollars to the car making group. The announcement proves once again that international companies are happy to keep their businesses in Australia as long as someone else is paying for it. The partnership is likely to keep Holden in the country for at least another decade, and will see the car maker create two new vehicles locally. Holden managing director and chief executive Mike Devereux will take the debut vehicle off the production line, and told reporters the car will be perfect for anyone attempting to make a quick getaway with millions in taxpayer dollars.

The apple of investor i

A big week for tech giant Apple has seen the group finally decide what to do with the piles and piles of money it has made out of its phenomenally successful range of gadgets. The company announced that it would pay its first dividend in 15 years and buy back $10 billion in shares, sending its stock closing above the coveted $US600 mark. The move has been embraced by shareholders, and was far better received than earlier ideas of filling a swimming pool with gold coins for the pleasure of executives or giving it to the needy. Apple chief executive Tim Cook said the decision reflected the company’s loyalty to shareholders and also the difficulties he could encounter trying to fit more priceless cars into his garage.

DJs flags a different tune

David Jones got on the front foot this week, pre-empting a disappointing earnings result and an even worse profit forecast by publically backing its chief executive, Paul Zahra. Chairman Bob Savage said Zahra had the board’s "full and unwavering support”, right before the company flagged a 40 per cent annual profit fall which sent its shares down 10 per cent. Announcing a rework of the group’s strategy, Zahra told analysts David Jones had fallen five years behind the rest of the world as a result of shutting down its online business in 2003. It was a glaring error from the department store group, which is of course the only Australian company to ever regret not embracing the internet at an earlier date.

Black, white and read intermittently

Fairfax chief Greg Hywood recently told a business luncheon that the media group would begin "deliberately” cutting its newspaper circulation as a means to channel savings into its digital operations. This is opposed to Fairfax’s decade-old tactic of "accidentally” cutting its circulation by publishing content in a superseded format.

Shorten changed

In a move that surprised precisely no one, Bill Shorten has been forced to bow to pressure from the financial services industry to see his long-touted reforms for the sector finally pushed through. Changes to the planned reforms include the expected removal of a measure that would have allowed the ATO to fine financial planners over their commission structures, and the all-round unexpected removal of the muted two-year window in which planners would have been forced to re-sign all of their clients. Shorten said the move continued a strong Labor tradition of introducing brave new corporate policy before weaselling out of it when someone kicks up a stink.

Quick misses

– Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan was kicked out of parliament this week for calling Andrew Robb the nickname "Curly”, a pet moniker he has given various members of the opposition frontbench in reference to classic US comedy trio "The Three Stooges”. According to those in the area, Swan apparently spent his designated hour out of the chambers designing new, less family friendly names for fledgling speaker Peter Slipper. Loudly.
– National Australia Bank looks increasingly unlikely to sell its British assets after assessments found the arm has little to no value. The bank has expressed sympathy for the hundreds of Australian backpackers who are also broke and can’t get out of England.
– And finally, Australia’s youngest MP, Liberal Wyatt Roy, has been named one of CLEO magazine’s top 50 bachelors of the year. Barnaby Joyce did not make the list.

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