THE LAST GASP: The Dam Busters

This week BHP Billiton falls into a hole, politicians trip all over the mining boom and Qantas restructures a few dreams.

The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s news, every week. This week, BHP arrives a little late for Olympic puns, Qantas grounds a fleet it hadn’t even bought yet and Clive shows he’s been a true humanitarian all along.

Dammit. Or don’t, whatever

Surprising a grand total of absolutely no one, BHP Billiton confirmed the mining industry’s worst kept secret this week when it admitted it would miss the deadline on the expansion of its Olympic Dam project. The decision came as the mining giant posted a 30 per cent fall in profit, which came on the back of consistent economic and commodity market volatility. BHP said it would now look for a less capital intensive way to expand the massive South Australian project – the kind of way, one imagines, which does not involve spending a hell of a lot of capital. Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham called the decision the biggest blow to SA business confidence in since the state bank disaster of the 1990s. It’s a massive call from the Senator, given how depressing it must be to actually live in South Australia.

Digging deeper

Once the news had settled in, the most important part of such a decision became clearly apparent: whose fault it was. In a change of pace, Opposition Leader Tony Abbot blamed the mining tax, directly contradicting BHP, which said in a statement the MRRT was not to blame. The same release Abbott had claimed he had read, minutes earlier. The ever-humorous muddle came despite despite claims from Shadow Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane that his leader was given a ‘very good briefing’ on the BHP story. No doubt he received another particularly thorough briefing from his Liberal colleagues in the wake of this latest gaffe.

Confusion boom

If BHP’s decision proves one thing, it’s that the mining boom is alive and well. Doesn’t it? The federal cabinet wasn’t so sure this week, which led to Prime Minster Julia Gillard stepping forward to clarify that, in the government’s mind at least, it was still going strong. The PM said Resources Minister Martin Ferguson was simply making a point about commodity prices when he succinctly declared the boom was ‘over’. Because the two are so easily confused.

The limping kangaroo

Also getting smashed this week was Qantas Airways, which not only swung to the first annual loss of its history but did a damn good job of it. The national carrier sank to the tune of $245 million, and announced plans to ‘restructure’ its commitment to 35 Boeing 787-9 aircraft, much in the same manner as chief executive Alan Joyce has chosen to ‘restructure’ his bonus payment for this year. The cancellation is expected to save Qantas around $8 billion, which the company will allegedly try its hardest to keep out of the hands of its workers.

Gummy bears

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has slammed the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s voluntary code of conduct, labelling the set of guidelines used by the banking sector "toothless" and calling for immediate changes. Wilkie wants to rules brought in line with other banking codes from around the world, which are clearly much more powerful and effective.

The weekly Clive

Clive Palmer joined the long list of surprises this week when he announced he would not be running for Liberal Party preselection for the next federal election. The billionaire said it was a humanitarian decision, as he simply could not support the coalition's stance on asylum seekers. And not anything to do with the fact he was shut down by the party at every turn. Elsewhere, Palmer has defended the right of Chinese companies to renegotiate lower prices for Australian mining deals. The comments are believed to have nothing to do with Palmer's current negotiations with China's CITIC Pacific on the Sino Iron mine, which could see him pocket $500 million in annual payments.

Look, a distraction!

In news that shows the greatness of banking, Firstmac, one of the lenders at the heart of the low-doc banking scandal, will reportedly no longer provide borrowers with access to their loan application forms. The mortgage lender is at the centre widespread concerns surrounding fraudulently manipulated loan documents. The move is a solid strategic one from Firstmac – the best way to convince people you are not hiding something is to not let anyone take a look.

Pass the bucks

Parliamentary secretary Mark Dreyfus claims a coalition plan to outsource federal policymaking to state bureaucracies is simply a means to allow further public sector cuts. The Liberal Party has slammed the suggestion, claiming the party is not associated with public sector cuts anywhere in Australia. Except Queensland. When asked for comment, the Liberal party directed all questions to somebody state level.

Just like the other one

The Australian newspaper recognised this week that it had been way too long since the public had an engrossing political scandal to distract it from the real issues at hand (at least weeks), so it stepped forward with a phenomenal amount of muckraking that culminated in complete fallacy. That paper was forced to apologise and retract a story late in the week that claimed the PM was a signatory on an application for a union ‘slush fund’ in the mid nineties. Experts have suggested if the paper’s distribution was as large as its imagination, it could one day even be profitable.

Quick misses

ASX chief executive Elmer Funke Kupper believes charging for certain high-frequency trades is the best way to combat problematic behaviour on the local market. Plus, he said, even if it doesn’t work, the bourse is sure to make a buttload of money out of it.

– The Queensland government is refusing to rule out selling the state's passenger rail businesses, and has also admitted considering outsourcing its air services. It was reportedly poised to announce further plans before the media unit which announces such information was sold.

– And finally, the National Rugby League spent days patting itself on the back this week after securing a $1 billion broadcast deal. Unfortunately, no amount of money will ever make that vile game entertaining.

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