Passing Bull 63 – A fine miscellany for Grand Final weekend



The CBA boss makes more than $12 million a year.  (Perhaps I should say that he gets paid that much.)  A quarter of his bonus would be a lot more than what we pay our Prime Minister or Chief Justice.  It will now turn on a reference to ‘diversity, inclusion, sustainability and culture’.  Not surprisingly, some in the market thought that this formula was at best bullshit, and at worst a ruse.  The bank, in which I have shares, responded in kind – with bullshit.

CBA occupies a special role in the Australian economy and society and it is important to ensure our executive remuneration hurdles can adapt and reflect the views of a wide range of stakeholders, including employees, partners, customers and the community more broadly.

The introduction of the people and community hurdle as part of the long-term incentives for our executives does not reduce the focus on long-term shareholder interests and forms part of our social licence to operate.

We believe strong performance in this area, similar to that of customer satisfaction, leads to strong and sustainable shareholder outcomes in the long term.

Well there is a bit more to it than a licence, either social or legal.  The banks are privileged – we stand behind them, so that their executives, with no capital at stake, cart home millions in bonuses, under cover of our guarantee.

And as any partner of a law firm will tell you, if you think you can award bonuses on any criterion except money, you are stroking yourself shamelessly.

(Footnote.  The US bank Wells Fargo is in big trouble for having false accounts.  That’s not good for a bank. A Senate hearing asked why the bank had fired 5,300 employees but taken no action against executives.  The WSJ says that the CEO has now forfeited US $41 million, about a quarter of what he has earned over 35 years.  Now, here’s the question.  The bank operates on public money and it trades on public trust.  The CEO has presided over a public scandal.  How could the bank find its CEO culpable to the tune of $41 million and not fire him?  Is capitalism as we know it disappearing up its own bum?)


In The Australian, Mr Greg Sheridan said that there is a determination across the leading figures of government ‘that the immigration program should not import trouble’.  We will ‘minimise the number of Middle Eastern Muslims, especially young men, who can come permanently to Australia.’  The ‘special provision of 12,000 extra people to be taken from Syria will comprise a majority of Christians.’  And our government is doing all this ‘without breaching Australia’s long-standing non-discriminatory immigration program.  It has also done so without any minister or representative making any statement which could remotely be described as anti-Muslim.’

Even Saint Augustine or Saint Aquinas would have had trouble in explaining how we could prefer Christians to Muslims without discriminating against Muslims – but, apparently, stealth covers all.  It takes your breath away.  The shortest poem of my mate Chris Wallace-Crabbe says: ‘Whatever Christ meant, it wasn’t this.’


The State of Arizona runs posses.  That’s right – posses.  That of Maricopa County is a 1,000 person force of volunteers who buy their own uniforms and guns and sometimes their own marked patrol cars.  Its Sheriff is an 84 year-old who has been elected five times.  He calls himself ‘America’s toughest sheriff.’  In 2011, he assigned a five-member ‘cold case posse’, funded by ‘conservatives’ (= nuts) across America to investigate whether his president had faked evidence of his birth in America.  The Sheriff announced his conclusion the following year – the certificate released by the White House was a ‘computer-generated forgery.’  A federal judge has recommended that he be prosecuted for contempt for defying court orders to stop racially biased policing.

The sun is setting in and on the West.  It must have been quite a night in Honolulu when the Arizona posse descended from the sky.


The RAND Corporation has inquired into the Immigration Department. They are WBP (World’s Best Practice) bull artists.

A significant review of detention capability is under way….A departmental report is in the process of being finalised that will provide recommendations to further strengthen the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of detention operations as well as recast the role of detention into a more strategic context, connected to detention priorities and focused on the detention of higher-risk persons while enabling status resolution of others in the community.

Also being implemented are a new detention placement model and better risk assessments and management of detainees….Efforts are under way to address all aspects of the detention system.

Such areas as escapees, the wellbeing of detainees (with a particular focus on the protection of children and families) and the mental health of detainees are being considered within the newly developed documentation……

Investigations are hindered by the lack of unified platforms, including integrated information technology systems…. The ongoing intelligence integration at the department level has yet to be fully pushed down to the regional commands…. Building of a single department culture has been hindered by lack of progress in the learning and development area.  Infrastructure – particularly related to detention activities – was cited as another issue requiring attention…..All of these shortfalls have a direct effect on the ability to conduct investigations in the field.

There is a risk that I’m being unfair and that some of the above may have been taken out of context, because I have taken it from a press report, but I can’t help thinking that the Soviets should have called on RAND to bless the gulag.


The markets closed higher after the first Clinton and Trump debate. Mrs Clinton was seen to have won.  Trump was thought to have done poorly.  (The Huffington Post only found sixteen lies by Trump in an hour and a half.)  Still, what would the markets know about Trump?  Look at BREXIT.  Trump is America’s answer to Sam Newman.  The more like an animal he gets, the more popular he becomes.

Martin Wolf is a conservative columnist for a conservative paper, The Financial Times.  Mr Wolf says this.

Sometimes history jumps. Think of the first world war, the Bolshevik revolution, the Great Depression, the election of Adolf Hitler, the second world war, the beginning of the cold war, the collapse of the European empires, Deng Xiaoping’s ‘reform and opening up’ of China, the demise of the Soviet Union, and the financial crisis of 2007-09 and subsequent ‘great recession’.

We may be on the brink of an event as transformative as many of these: the election of Donald Trump as US president. This would mark the end of a US-led west as the central force in global affairs. The result would not be a new order. It would be perilous disorder.

The fact that Mr Trump can be a credible contender for the presidency is astounding. In business, he is a serial defaulter and litigator turned reality TV star. He is a peddler of falsehoods and conspiracy theories. He utters racist calumnies. He attacks the independence of the judiciary. He refuses to reveal his taxes. He has no experience of political office and incoherent policies. He glories in ignorance. He even hints at a federal default. He undermines confidence in the US-created trade order, by threatening to tear up past agreements. He undermines confidence in US democracy by claiming the election will be rigged. He supports torture and the deliberate killing of the families of alleged terrorists. He admires the former KGB agent who runs Russia.

Mr Wolf therefore shares my astonishment.

I may add that in my view there is a failure of logic in a lot of the opposition to Mrs Clinton.  I entirely agree that she has form for lying and has a history that leaves her untrustworthy.  But to my mind it does not follow that therefore Mrs Clinton is unfit to hold office as President of the United States.  As presidents of the U S go since Harry Truman, Mrs Clinton would be at least par for the course – look at Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (senior), Clinton, Bush (junior), and Obama.  To my mind, the first and last of those and Bush (senior) would be the three that Mrs Clinton would have most trouble in bettering.  And all that is before you look at what is said to be the alternative.

This failure of thought is why the U S is fading as the leader of the west, and why Putin and Xi are rubbing their hands.  H L Mencken is credited with saying that no-one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.  He was speaking of tabloid newspapers that were directed at the less well educated, what Mencken called ‘near-illiterates’.  What he in fact said was:

No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

Trump is a tabloid politician who directs himself to people who think that the more lies he tells, the better placed he is for high political office.  It will be interesting to watch their faces if he wins and then turns his back on those silly enough to back him.


Meanwhile the same-sex marriage issue sputters toward moral and intellectual bankruptcy.  People are bored stiff, but the mess of this inability to govern shows exactly how far our politicians have failed us.  The mess was started by factional desperation in the Liberal Party and it is now being made worse by appalling opportunism in the Labor Party.  (The more I see Shorten, the more I think that he is as unprincipled as he is spineless, like a school prefect beetling off to the Headmaster to finger a class-mate.)

The factional desperation of the Liberal troglodytes looks to be driven by religion on this issue.  It is at best ironic that these are the same reactionaries who fret so much about fanatics in another faith, and the inability of subscribers to that faith to keep their religion out of politics.

As Gough said to a minder at a function where someone got his name or office wrong, ‘Comrade, we are surrounded by savages.’


Finally, here’s some good news.  Do you remember the hysteria when we bought Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles?  And the bullshit – ‘my five year old could do better.’  According to the AFR, we just insured it for $350 million.  Gough paid $1.3 million for it – about one tenth of the annual package of the CEO of CBA.

Note: after the poem there is set out the current book catalogue of the author.


Poet of the Month: Ibsen




The last, late guest

To the gate we followed;

Goodbye — and the rest

The night-wind swallowed.


House, garden, street,

Lay tenfold gloomy,

Where accents sweet

Had made music to me.


It was but a feast

With the dark coming on;

She was but a guest —

And now, she is gone.


Book Catalogue

Five books printed

  • The Journalist’s Companion to Australian Law
  • The Arbitrator’s Companion
  • Law for Directors
  • The Making of a Lawyer
  • The Common Law – A History

Twenty-six books on line

History (16)

  • A History of the West: (Five volumes: 1. The ancient West; The medieval world; 3. The West awakes; 4. Revolutions in the West; 5. Twentieth century West)
  • Parallel Trials
  • The German Nexus: The Germans in English History
  • The English Difference? – The Tablets of their Laws
  • Terror and the Police State: Punishment as a Measure of Despair
  • A tale of two nations – Uncle Sam from Down Under
  • Looking down the Well: Papers on Legal History
  • Some History Papers: Essays on Modern History in England and Europe
  • Listening to Historians: What is Truth?
  • Events in France 1789 to 1794
  • Some Men of Genius

Autobiography (4)

  • Confessions of a baby boomer
  • Confessions of a barrister
  • Summers at Oxford and Cambridge
  • Up your North

Literature (3)

  • Windows on Shakespeare
  • Some literary papers: Tilting at windmills
  • Top shelf, or what used to be called a Liberal education.

Philosophy (2)

  • The Humility of Knowledge: Five Geniuses and God
  • Different Minds: Why are English and European Lawyers so different?

Language and logic (1)

  • Passing Bull

10 thoughts on “Passing Bull 63 – A fine miscellany for Grand Final weekend

  1. Mr G, enjoy your writing immensely. You never disappoint. Have followed you since discovering your articles on the Essendon saga.

    • Keep the faiths – both of them! It is I think common ground that economics were not Gough’s strong suit. (He thought he was above them, and I don’t blame him.) But on Blue Poles he got a better return for us than Keynes got for Eton or Cambridge.
      There is a pearler of a line from a South (Sydney) supporter in the AFR today: ‘The only problem with being in this grand final is that to win you have to shoot Bambi.’

  2. Dead ideas and old beliefs which have no vitality but cling to us all the time. Ibsen Ghosts Probably wrongly quoted from my agent memory

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Dead ideas and lifeless old beliefs cling to us all the time Ibsen Or something like that O

    Sent from my iPad

  4. Sorry about that , sent it twice , think it was Ibsen but was enjoying GF result

    Sent from my iPhone

    • I sent a note to my daughters:
      Some girls and boys in the west could see their luck change tonight. There could be an uptick in maternity in nine months out there.
      I only watched the last ten minutes but I gather it was the best GF in years. The AFL must be very relieved. The presentations were excellent. The former players on TV are genuine enthusiasts.
      Well done to everyone – especially Peter Gordon. It’s good to see a good lawyer doing good in the world at large.
      That is enough populist wins this weekend.

  5. Cavafy , The Barbarians .At the gates.
    His didn’t but in the USA they are certainly there .
    Do we need them ?Have we invented them .?
    The nice young Liberal wants to sell Blue Poles to reduce the national debt and support private schools as they have better values.
    Keep well

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