Slowly and in secret

Delivered on By Justin Pyvis

Good morning! Early voting kicked off yesterday at prepoll centres, with the Parliamentary Library estimating that this year somewhere around half of all votes might be cast before the election day, up from 40% in 2019.

While certainly convenient, the high early turnout – yesterday saw more than double the number of votes cast than on the first day of early voting in 2019 – and large number of postal votes, which won’t be counted on election night, may result “in a drawn-out count”.

Yayyy 😓

Introductory image.

Reading the tea leaves

Daily % change







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Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract. Bond yields are 10-year Treasuries.

The US S&P500 plunged -3.20% overnight, hitting a 13-month low as the selloff carried into a new week, with tech down nearly 4%, Bitcoin falling to its lowest since July 2021 and the CBOE volatility index (VIX) hitting its highest level for two months.

Locally the ASX200 declined -1.18%, dragged down by the big mining companies (materials were -2.13%) as iron ore futures traded in Singapore were smashed following reports that the Chinese government was tightening its lockdown in Shanghai, which is now into its seventh week.

There wasn’t much relief anywhere else, either, with only energy (+0.5%), consumer staples (+0.2%) and healthcare (+0.1%) managing to eke out gains. A notable mover was Westpac, which added 3.2% after reporting impressive profits and cost cuts of 10%, with more planned through to 2024.

Food for thought

We may have to wait until June 2024 for the "independent evaluation" to conclude but we already know the outcome.
We may have to wait until June 2024 for the "independent evaluation" to conclude but we already know the outcome. Source

Just how rotten is the United Nations (UN)? If this NYT article is even remotely indicative of how the wider organisation operates, extremely:

“At the United Nations, two officials had a problem. The little-known agency they ran found itself with an extra $61 million, and they didn’t know what to do with it.

Then they met a man at a party.

Now, they have $25 million less.”

Essentially a couple of ambitious, unelected officials “who wield huge budgets with little outside oversight” decided to expand their mission from being “one of the UN’s less glamorous: a kind of general contractor to the world”, into “a revolutionary in-house investment firm”.

Then they met a British man at a party, entrusted him with “the agency’s entire investment portfolio at the time [$US22 million]”, along with $US3 million for his daughter “to produce a pop song, a video game and a website promoting awareness of environmental threats to the world’s oceans”.

The man then used the money to pay off his other loans and his daughter pocketed much of her $US3 million through antics such as convincing singer Joss Stone to record a song “for free because she believed it was a fund-raiser for the UN”.

So far no heads have rolled, with the top official involved resigning only a few months before she planned to retire anyway, with the second-highest-ranking official “placed on administrative leave” (no doubt with full pay). That’s because:

“…the UN is a place where accountability often comes slowly and in secret. It was unclear when, if ever, the UN would release the results of the investigation that it said this past week had been completed.”

The report may never materialise but never fear! According to the NYT, an “independent comprehensive evaluation” of this specific UN office is due in June 2024. That’s not a typo – it’s going to take over two years to evaluate this specific agency, after which no one will care and the staff involved, if they haven’t retired, will probably have been promoted into a different agency.

For those curious as to Australia’s stake in the UN, the government contributed $US677.4 million to it in 2020, making it the 14th largest donor.

No wonder Elon Musk wanted “your current & proposed spending in detail so people can see exactly where money goes” before donating to the UN after an official claimed he could “solve world hunger”!

Chewing the fat

Bits and bytes

🤔 Putin’s big Victory Day speech contained little about the situation in Ukraine other than stating the invasion was necessary to prevent the supposed “invasion of our land, including Crimea”.

📺 Putin’s speech was also hacked, with Russian satellite TV displaying the following message on screens as he spoke: “You have the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of dead children on your hands. The TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”

📈 Due to soaring inflation the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) will ask the Fair Work Commission for a minimum wage increase of 5.5% this year, up from its original request of 5%.

🏡 “Preliminary data from CoreLogic shows big falls in auction clearance rates (vs year ago) in Sydney and Melbourne”, which were at their lowest all year last week.

📉 Westpac’s CEO Peter King said “Demand for housing has already shown some signs of easing and rising interest rates are expected to contribute to a moderation in house prices next year.”

✈️ China’s People’s Liberation Army confirmed that it “carried out another round of drills near Taiwan last week”, after Taiwan claimed dozens of aircraft entered its prohibited air defence zone.

🐗 “Picnics have been banned and bins fenced off in a large swathe of northern Rome as health authorities move to contain the wild boar population.”

👩‍🎓 A study by Harvard University researchers “found that districts that spent more weeks in remote instruction lost more ground than districts that returned to in-person instruction sooner… [and] remote instruction had much more negative impacts in high-poverty schools”.

💱 Asked about the current GST distribution, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said his party has “no plans to change the arrangements that are in place”.

🧳 Queues at Sydney airport once again stretched outside the airport causing major delays, with only 6 out of 17 security screening stations open by 10.15am.

🚢 China’s imports were flat and exports grew just 3.9% in April, the weakest pace since June 2020, “as worsening Covid outbreaks cut demand, undermined production and disrupted logistics”.

👨‍🌾 Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned “amid mass protests at the government’s handling of a deepening economic crisis [of its own making]”.

❌ The EU won’t ban ships from carrying Russian crude oil to countries outside the region, “After a weekend of negotiations and strenuous pushback from Greece.”