It’s okay not to like William Wordsworth’s Daffodils or any of the other accepted classics for that matter

All I remember reading Daffodils (aka I wandered lonely as a cloud) when I was about 17 and thinking, “I don’t get it. It’s a poem about a guy remembering seeing some daffodils and being happy about it. So what?”

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could nay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
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 Now at that age, it’s a pretty common response to a lot of poetry. And I was reasonably exceptional for my age and that I liked poetry and went on to major in English university. But Daffodils left me cold.
One of the things about poetry, is you have to read quite a lot of it to be able to understand it, so there’s a fair amount of stumbling around in the dark.  It is particularly true of Shakespeare.
Nearly 60 years, later I still haven’t changed my opinion of Daffodils.
 It’s not that I haven’t tried with Wordsworth, ( I’ve rendered The Prelude widely regarded as Wordsworth’s greatest work.)  and I have read a lot about the Romantics, the movement that Wordsworth belonged to and which included Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Byron, none of whom really do much for me.  AlthoughOzymandias is pretty good

Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats

 The Romantic Movement which swept Europe towards the end of the 18th century was very much about art, music literature getting in touch with nature in the broadest sense so making an emotional response to daffodils was very much part of the genre. But for me this poem is purely descriptive and I don’t find it particularly satisfying.

Will a straight banana be better, cheaper banana?

Last night, Craig Reucassel presented the first of three of his excellent program War on Waste on the ABC

One of the interesting, entertaining and quite thought-provoking segments of the program was about bananas. There were two aspects. The first was the cosmetic aspect of the presentation of the fruit in supermarkets and the second was the horrendously high waste of perfectly good fruit at the point of production where up to 40% of perfectly good fruit is discarded.

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 Craig examines a cosmetically unacceptable banana

Reucassel quite rightly poses the question of whether the so-called cosmetic selection of fruit is in response to consumer demand or through some artificially imposed standard of the supermarkets. That will probably remain a moot question.

 The more important question is whether the consumer will accept slightly ” imperfect ” bananas. Apparently, lady finger bananas are meant to be straight, curved ones are unacceptable, whereas in other types of bananas the reverse is the case.

Reucassel points out the absurdity of the situation and questions why the perfectly good but slightly regular fruit can’t be brought to market as it is in some small niche supermarkets.

 The answer is probably quite simply that there is no economic imperative or reward for the major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, to do so.

 But stop and think for a moment what would happen if the 40% of discarded, but otherwise perfectly edible fruit, found its way onto the shelves of the major supermarkets.

 Let’s assume that, at present, there is pretty much a sufficient supply of bananas to meet demand at the current price. That is, that everybody who wants a banana can afford a banana.

Now this is probably not quite true as there is probably a section of the population who can’t afford bananas at the current price so increasing the supply of bananas and hence lowering the price would make bananas more available to a slightly wider market

 But it is highly unlikely that there is enough demand to soak up an extra 40% banana supply.

 So if the currently discarded bananas come onto the market one of two things will happen.

The first, and highly unlikely, is that all bananas will be lumped in together at the same price.  But because they don’t look quite right, the supermarkets probably won’t be able to sell them all and then the supermarkets will have to be the cost of disposing the unsold ones.

 The second, and much more likely scenario, is that the market will be differentiated between nice-looking and cosmetically appealing bananas and irregular bananas, which will be priced accordingly.

 This means that the big supermarket chains run the risk that the upper end of the market will be cannibalised by the less expensive low-end of the market, particularly as consumers become more savvy and realise they can get good bananas for less money.

 In either of these cases, it is unlikely that the supermarkets will be selling many more bananas. They will be selling roughly the same number but for less they will probably  and  they will probably endeavour to maintain their profit margins by cutting the price they pay farmers for the “lower quality” bananas.

 Under this scenario, farmers will be shipping the same volume of bananas, but instead of sending 100% cosmetically perfect bananas, they will now be sending 60% cosmetically perfect and 40% imperfect. And they will be making less money on the 40% of imperfect bananas

In addition, they will still have 40% of their production that the supermarkets will be not being able to sell and they will have to dispose of.

But now that 40% will be the cosmetically perfect bananas.

 So if the producer is able to ship their imperfect fruit to the supermarkets, it may mean that the consumer will get cheaper less perfect fruit but it won’t stop waste on the farms.

 Bananas will still go to waste, they will just be better bananas

Is it time to question the competence of Peter Dutton and his department?

Peter Dutton and his department have been in the news quite a bit recently. But not in a good way.

 Has this minister ever achieved anything that is creditworthy?

 First, there is the news that the detention centre on Manus Island is about to close bringing to an end one of the more disgraceful periods in Australian domestic and foreign policy.

It is not particularly good news for the detainees on the island, as they will be forced to return to their country of origin if they have not been granted refugee status. The unfortunate aspect of this is that Dutton’s department, which does not have a particularly good record of sensitivity in the handling of human matters, is in charge of this operation.

The second matter was the Four Corners program on the ABC which featured a documentary on the illegal importation of Glock firearms into Australia by a small group of petty criminals.

The Glock 26 will fit in your purse and fires 17 rounds of ammunition

One member of this group had already been convicted of the illegal importation of firearms and should have been on a watch list but wasn’t for some inexplicable reason.

The program was essentially a documentary about the fundamental failure of border security. This particular group of petty criminals were hardly criminal masterminds and one wonders what a group of better-organised criminals would be able to do. One of the group was also the postmaster at an Australia Post post office. The leader of the group got a lengthy prison sentence while the other two will be back on the street within two or three years, no doubt looking for honest jobs.

The bulk of the illegally imported firearms have not been recovered and remains in the hands of criminals throughout Australia. These guns are capable of being converted into handheld machine guns capable of firing 50 rounds within approximately five seconds.

Australians should be horrified that the total failure of border security has left the Australian public that such risk.

And then on top of all this comes the announcement that Border Security is spending $250m upgrading its offices in Canberra, probably with a beautifully lavish office for the Minister. Wouldn’t it be better to be spending this kind of money on upgrading the capabilities of our customs services and upgrading the facilities at our custom centres in an effort to stem the flow of illegal firearms or making some effort to recover the illegal handguns in hands of criminals rather than providing more comfortable offices for desk-bound bureaucrats in Canberra?

But this is a question for Minister Dutton.

 Meanwhile in Canberra on the gun running issue

When asked whether the Government would bring the legislation on for debate in the Lower House, Justice Minister Mr Keenan said the Coalition would continue trying to convince the Senate to back minimum sentences.

Opposition spokesperson for justice Clare O’Neil said “The only thing standing between these tough new laws and getting gun traffickers put away for life is the Government’s unwillingness to bring this back to the House of Representatives.

Budget bounce is a dead cat

The latest Guardian Essential poll.is consistent with polling undertaken by Newspoll, ReachTel and Ipsos, voting intentions post-budget have remained fixed, and Labor remains well ahead of the government on the two-party-preferred measure, 54% to 46%.

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Derived from the idea that “even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height”,[2] the phrase, is also popularly applied to any case where a subject experiences a brief resurgence during or following a severe decline.

Still sniping – Tony Abbott shows he won’t go away

You’ve got to hand it to Tony Abbott, he never gives up and he never misses a chance.

Tony Abbott says Coalition can’t govern with one eye on the polls

The implied criticism that this budget is a budget of convenience and expediency rather than simply a good budget.  “The former PM said the Senate had made the government produce a “taxing budget” rather than a “savings budget”. He said the Senate had shown, in its implacably hostile reaction to his first budget in 2014, that it did not like savings budgets.”

He is still trying to rewrite history.  In the view of the electorate and most of the Parliament, the Abbott/Hockey budgets were unfair to the vast bulk of Australians, they weren’t  simply “savings budgets” and Tony Abbott is wrong to keep arguing so.

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Ironically,  68% of people polled supported the new $6bn budget levy, 61% supported an increase in the Medicare levy to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and 58% supported borrowing to fund infrastructure, however, both Newspoll and Ipsos have Labor ahead of the government on the two-party preferred measure, 53% to 47%.

With the likelihood of a significant battle in the Senate to pass some of the budget measures, it is likely that the gains that the Coalition has made in the polls will erode.  But one thing is certain, if the Coalition has any chance of retaining government, it will be by moving away from the deeply unpopular financial both positions of the Abbott and Hockey era and trying to capture some of the ground that Labor is so successfully occupied.

And Tony Abbott is certainly not the man to do that.

 

 

 

 

 

What can the banks do about Scott Morrison’s bank levy?

Scott Morrison has really thrown the major banks a curveball. The banks know they’re not popular with their customers and Morrison’s playing on that.

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But he’s hit them with a $1.5 billion tax per year and you can’t take that lying down.   In the normal course of events, we can expect them to mount a campaign similar to that which the miners mounted against the mining tax.

That campaign was very clever.

It showed lots of pictures of handsome young engineers, both male and female, the Kimberleys, building Australia’s future. Lots of emotive images.

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All designed to show what a terrible thing the mining dictionary. It was bullshit but it was very effective bullshit.

But the banks won’t have the appealing graphics that you can get from the mining industry. Pictures of bank tellers and accountants aren’t quite as appealing as big trucks and trains full of coal.

The mining industry campaign was also helped by the fact that it had the Opposition leader Tony Abbott campaigning stridently against the mining and carbon taxes.

The banks don’t have any of these advantages this time round. The Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, is no friend of the banks. He wants a Royal Commission. The other opposition leader, Tony Abbott would probably love to join in shouting “great big new tax” but is probably feeling a bit hamstrung at the moment.

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And this just highlights another major problem for the banks: they don’t have any allies in this fight: not the opposition, not the public, probably no other industry groups, certainly not the government.

Their major advantages that they do have good narrative namely that the government is simply shifting responsibility for taxation onto the banks’ shoulders, that they are shirking their responsibility and this is not fair.

Someone is still going to have to pay for this, you can’t simply conjure $1.5b out of thin air.

To say that it is going to be “the banks” is disingenuous because the banks represent all of us, everyone who has a deposit, a mortgage, a loan, shares in a bank or who belongs to superannuation fund (and that includes everybody who is or was working). So when push comes to shove, everybody is going to pay this levy.

The challenge for the banks is finding some way of convincing the general public that this is the case.  This is going to be difficult because the counterargument will be that this is simply the banks passing their costs on to the consumer the way they have always done.

This argument is unfair, it’s simplistic, it’s glib but it’s effective.

Jessica Irvine wrote an interesting piece in The Age today entitled Let banks eat humble pie.

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Irvine argues that the bank levy is good policy and that the levy is a reasonable trade-off against the bank deposit guarantee which is the way the government guarantees the banks’ borrowings.

She also argues that banks are essentially a low-risk  investment and that their returns are disproportionately high so a reduction would not be an appropriate. It’s an interesting article and worth reading if for no other reason that it indicates that there is some informed opinion that supports Turnbull and Morrison’s actions.

So what  should  the banks do?

Well, one clever thing would be to cop it sweet. They are hiding to nothing on this one.

So stand up and say, “Okay, lifters and leaners. We are prepared to be lifters. Good citizens. Shoulders to the wheel. Doing our share. Making Australia great again.”

Take a page from BHP’s notebook, from today’s AGE.

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And then pass on all the levy costs, plus a small premium for the ad campaign.