The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest news, every week. This week Gunns goes out with a whimper, not a bang; the government puts its own crappy finger painting on the fridge and Suncorp gives credit where even it admits it is not due.
Did it even make a sound?
In case you hadn’t noticed amid the painful abundance of Gunns-related puns this week, the long-struggling Tasmanian timber group has finally thrown in the towel and called in receivers. It was an abrupt ending for the company, which had hoped to implement a restructure before the banks finally drew a line and called on their dues. Not everyone was heartbroken by the result, however, with Greens leader Christina Milne crowing, in probably the best day of her life since Bob Brown finally retired. Gunns blamed the timing of the collapse on its lenders, which it said had refused to allow it funds it needed to operate. Gunns sources were scathing of the banks, accusing them of really leaving the company stripped and cut off at the base.
By any other name
The federal government was happy to roll the red carpet out for itself at the start of this week, boasting of a 2012 budget deficit that was less than the ALP’s own forecasts. Which would have been extremely impressive, had the result not still been the third largest budget deficit on record. Unfortunately for the ALP, a massive hole that you dug which turns out to be a little bit smaller than you expected is still a bloody massive hole. Treasurer Wayne Swan expressed confidence in returning the budget to surplus in Labor’s long-promised timeline, and said the government had a proven track record of finding savings – but only savings that "accord with Labor values". This is believed to translate roughly to "without upsetting those big mean companies”.
Cut that out
If anyone was going to call the government on its self-congratulation, it was the opposition. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey duly delivered, pointing out that despite the ‘good’ result, Labor has delivered an accumulated deficit of $173 billion since 2007. He also took a swipe at the government for holding off the booking of a $500 million Reserve Bank dividend until next year, to help the look of that budget, when the National Audit Office had told them to take it in fiscal 2012. This saw Hockey accuse Labor of fudging its own numbers, which later led to an awkward phone conversation with Clive Palmer. Hockey said that if Australia were a company, the government, as the board, would have been sacked for incompetence. It’s a just comparison given, as everyone knows, Australian companies never reward mediocrity among directors.
Except for this director
Despite admitting its latest result was below what the company would like to be delivering, Suncorp has still gone ahead and given its chief executive Patrick Snowball a pay rise in the area of 50 per cent. The $8.27 million pay packet makes Snowball one of the highest paid chief executives in Australia. Gee, if Suncorp ever met profit expectations, his salary might really …snowball.
Some of them are just jerks
It was a big week for analogies, Tony Abbott and Abbott-led analogies, with the opposition leader comparing a lot of apples to oranges on his various travels. First, he compared the coup that saw Julia Gillard installed as prime minister in 2009 to the Unites States political scandal that became known as Watergate, and then, clearly struck by monetary genius at a fishmarket, said the government’s carbon tax was a lot like an octopus. Abbott denied getting carried away with his metaphors, before comparing the mining tax to a rampaging rhinoceros and likening Peter Garrett to a rabid walrus.
Stick to the teacup
It’s been a while since there was some particularly stomach-turning news come out of the banking sector, an oddity considering the cavalcade that we saw during the Libor scandal a month or so ago. Luckily for everyone, the Storm Financial trial started this week, and it was made clear that before its collapse, the company consciously preyed on elderly homeowners who had little knowledge of the stock market. Nice guys. Speaking of Libor, the British Bankers' Association council formally gave up responsibility for setting the interbank borrowing rate this week. It would appear to be an extremely genuine gesture from the lenders, if their power was not almost certainly destined to be outlawed anyway.
The seat of your big boy pants
Hoping to make a bigger mark on the world stage, (and bolster some credibility before Abbott gets his chance to ruin it next year) Labor wants a serious seat on a serious council. The government is bidding for a spot on the United Nations Security Council for 2013-14, but even the foreign minister admits it will be an uphill battle. Bob Carr told media this week that the vote would be so tight that even a promise of support from foreign ministers would not necessarily guarantee that country's vote. If only the government had realised that before it blew 40 bazillion dollars on a World Cup bid.
This was supposed to be our secret
The Australian Financial Review put the government offside this week when the newspaper got its hands on memos and briefing notes detailing information on subsidies handed to international automotive groups earlier this year to keep them in the country. Labor claims that some of the documents were mistakenly released, and that their publication could damage Australia's international relations and reveal commercially sensitive material. This is believed to translate roughly to "it might upset those big mean companies”.
– Aussie Home Loans finally admitted to destroying client loan applications during the global financial crisis this week, despite continued denials from senior executives. The group said its concern for the privacy of its clients was behind the practice, which is a genuine worry for most lenders, especially with all those nosy regulators snooping about.
– Labor MP Ed Husic this week said that Australian politics needed to liberate itself from the party line pantomime it has succumbed to. He later insisted that he was misquoted, and that what he really meant to say was that Tony Abbott was an unfit leader and the government is really awesome.
– An ageing factory ship could reportedly put Japan's whaling season in doubt this year. Suck it, Japan.
– And finally, one of the biggest political stories in the world this week came from comments made by pop singer Madonna, in another sign that democracy simply doesn’t work.