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Monday, August 29, 2011

People keep asking me ...

... "I wonder, do you do anything else besides blogging?"

Well, what about these 12 cubic metres of redwood chips? It took me hours to instruct the wife how to spread them!

Looks grand, doesn't it? And this is just along the Tradesmen's Entrance!

Now it's my turn to plant the Grevillea Gaudi Chaudi and Hardenbergia Happy Wanderer. Wonder no more!

Canberra Computer
Accounting Systems

Phone 2312304


Once at the forefront of my life, it's now on the back of my workshop door: Canberra Computer Accounting Systems' car door signage with which I drove through Canberra's streets for more than ten years.

It all started in 1985, my very own annus horribilis: I had returned from my last assignment overseas and, in anticipation of continuing from home the work for my former Saudi boss, settled in tropical Townsville.

The work never came - well, not until two years later when he offered me my own office in the Banque Des Echanges Internationaux's building on Avenue Kléber in Paris but by that time I had grown tired of the fickleness of Arabs and declined the offer.

With few other job prospects in Townsville, I hastily relocated to Sydney where I eventually took up the impressive-sounding job of "Internal Consultant" with Wormald International which required me to be 'on the road' - or rather 'in the air' as Wormald's operations were spread all over the world - for nine months of the year. After the first rush of adrenalin had passed, I remembered that I had just given up an even more highly-paid overseas job with even greater perks in order to live a 'normal', domesticated life.

I promptly resigned and moved to Canberra where I had taken my first tentative steps as a young migrant twenty years earlier. There I wrote computer software in the PICK language for a large mailorder business for the first twelve months - read more here. Personal computers were slowly making their presence felt, and I began to specialise in PC-based computerised accounting systems, selling and installing off-the-shelf ATTACHÉ, SYBIZ, NewViews, and other packages, and also writing custom-built solutions in TAS, under my registered business name Canberra Computer Accounting Systems.

# 7 Fanning Place, Kambah A.C.T. 2902

It was strictly a one-man business, just me and a telephone answering service. Those invisible girls at the answering service did a wonderful job for me as their ever-changing voices made my clients think they were dealing with a large computer software house. Only a few knew that I was working out of the spare bedroom in my house (later TWO spare bedrooms, with the wall knocked out between them).

Those were the days when an IBM computer with just 20MB of harddisk space retailed for around $8,000, when a monochrome monitor (you had a choice of green or amber display) cost some $700, and individual accounting software modules such as General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, or Inventory Control sold for close to a thousand dollars - EACH! Dot-matrix printers (remember dot-matrix printers?) sold for almost a thousand dollars and connecting several computers together with the help of LANtastic or NOVELL (those were the days before MS WINDOWS!) took hours and hours, if not days, and meant thousands of dollars in profit!

And there was very little competition as my combined expertise in accounting software, computer hardware, and networking plus a degree in accountancy wasn't matched by anybody. It took several years before accounting firms realised that there was a buck to be made by setting up their own PC consultancies.

Of course, all good things must come to an end: hardware and software prices kept dropping and with it my margins. I mean, who was going to stump up hundreds of dollars for installation and training after having bought a small-business accounting package such as 'Mind Your Own Business (MYOB)' for just $95 ?

And then came WINDOWS! Suddenly everybody was a computer expert and Canberra Computer Accounting Systems was no more! But it was fun while it lasted. Thanks for the memories!



Vote of confidence

I had to renew my driver's licence and was asked if I would like to be an organ donor. I asked, "Who would want them?"

When given the option of renewing for 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years, I took a calculated risk and opted for a 5-year licence. I hope I haven't been too overly confident!

P.S. Licences I have known:

Papua New Guinea


Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The devil finds work for idle hands ...

... and right now she wants me to get the vegie garden ready for the spring crop which means making the 2.8 x 2.8m square rabbit- and bird-proof.

A walk-in enclosure is too much work. Instead, I have divided the area into four equal-sized squares and will build a wire-netted cage of 1.3 x 1.3m for each of the squares. Three cages will be just high enough (perhaps 60cm) for ground-hugging crops, while the fourth will be 1 metre high to accommodate staked tomatoes and beans. When each square is planted, a cage is placed over it until it's time to harvest.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go. I just hope I won't hit my green thumb with the hammer!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Search of Tusitala

The Samoans, amongst whom he lived for the last four years of his life, called him Tusitala, a writer of tales: Robert Louis Stevenson.

I found this book while rambling through this morning's Moruya Country Markets. Its author, Gavin Bell, retraces the voyage of Stevenson's Casco and his arrival in what is now Western Samoa which became Stevenson's island home, thereby fulfilling his own prophecy:

'Few men who come to the islands leave them; they grow grey where they alighted; the palm shades and the trade winds fan them till they die, perhaps cherishing to the last the fancy of a visit home, which is rarely made, more rarely enjoyed, and yet more rarely repeated.'

I lived and worked in Samoa in 1978 and Gavin Bell's description of Apia, its capital, brings back lots of memories:

'Apia is a colourful little town, bustling with good-natured crowds in a setting which evokes its history of traders and adventurers and squabbling colonial powers. The predominant building materials are still wood and iron, which with their tendency to rot and rust in the tropics give the place an agreeably run-down look. Its costume of once elegant colonial structures has become threadbare; in places it is coming apart at the seams, and haphazard attempts to patch it up make it all the more charming.'

Now that I have reached the age where regrets take the place of my dreams, I wonder whether I should have let the palm shades and the trade winds fan me for a little longer ...

Early Saturday morning at "Riverbend"

These misty mornings at "Riverbend" are sheer magic! I need these quiet, pensive moments: just me and my thoughts and a hot cup of tea.

While pensive poets painful vigils keep,
Sleepless themselves to give their readers sleep.

These days I need only four hours' sleep. True, I need it twice a day, but still. When I wake up in my pyjama, I know it's morning; if I'm in my clothes, it's time for afternoon tea.

In the meantime, there are chores to be done: the wild birds and the wild ducks on the pond need feeding; the battery in the tractor is flat and needs recharging; last night's rain filled the dinghy which needs bailing; and then there is the endless weeding and gardening.

All too soon, the sun will be out and it'll be too hot to do anything more than go for a drive to Moruya to visit the markets and have lunch at the bowling club.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

As I sit here on a sweeping bend of the timeless Clyde River, the soothing tranquility of the river matched by the silence of the surrounding forest, I quaff my Chateau Cardboard, gaze into the sunset, and ponder the woes of the world. And I come to the comforting conclusion that there is nothing new under the sun.

"The budget should be balanced,
the Treasury should be refilled,
public debt should be reduced,
the arrogance of officialdom
should be tempered and controlled,
and the assistance to foreign lands
should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.
People must again learn to work,
instead of living on public assistance."

So said Cicero more than 2000 years ago. Whether you call him ˈsɪsərəʊ orˈkikero, you must agree that this is good advice. I just wished our politicians would heed it.

BHP posts the biggest ever profit in Australian corporate history

Record financial results including Underlying EBITDA up 51% to US$37.1 billion, Underlying EBIT up 62% to US$32.0 billion and Attributable profit (excluding exceptional items) up 74% to US$21.7 billion.

Strong margins and returns illustrated by increase in Underlying EBIT margin to 47% and Underlying return on capital to 39%.

Record production across four commodities and ten operations.

Record operating cash flow of US$30.1 billion and gearing of 9% confirms capacity to comfortably fund the Group’s US$15.1 billion acquisition of Petrohawk Energy Corporation and extensive organic growth program.

Completion of expanded US$10 billion capital management program highlights commitment to maintain an appropriate capital structure through all points of the economic cycle.

22% rebasing of final dividend for full year dividend payout of 101 US cents per share.

Read full results.

While share and commodity markets gyrate from optimism to pessimism and back, BHP has no such longer-term qualms. BHP has a ‘through-cycles’ approach to investment. In 2008 and 2009 when all its rivals were carving into their spending, BHP invested $US20 billion. By continuing to pour capital into expanding its operations during the worst of the GFC, BHP leveraged its ability to capitalise on the return to more normal settings.

The nature of much of its investment, and the fact that a significant slab of it occurred during the immediate aftermath of the GFC before cost pressures really flared, means it remains at the lower end of the cost curve.

If China and India continue to sail along at high single-digit growth rates, BHP will continue to deliver dazzling profit and growth numbers because the rising floor of costs under the sector will ensure commodity prices have to remain high.

If, however, China were to slow and prices were to fall back, a lot of new production and potential production from BHP's competitors would quickly become sub-economic or worse, remove the higher-cost supply from the market.

Either way, BHP is in a winning position.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why prostitution and a credit card scandal is good for Australia's future!


JULIA Gillard's hold on power is under more pressure in the wake of further allegations against MP Craig Thomson.

Mr Thomson faces claims he breached electoral laws in spending nearly $40,000 on his 2007 election campaign using his union credit card.

As pressure intensifies for Mr Thomson to give a detailed explanation to Parliament, The Advertiser also can reveal he embarked on a $30,000 personal spending spree using his union credit card on Qantas flights for his former wife, swank hotels, expensive restaurant meals and electronic and other retail goods.

Court documents show the MP, who is fighting allegations he misused a union credit card to pay for prostitutes, racked up $2050 on sporting memorabilia.

He also spent $1893 on whitegoods at Bing Lee and The Good Guys, $175 on Margaret River wine and $354 at Strandbags while heading up the Health Services Union.

Mr Thomson's resignation could trigger the demise of the Gillard Government,
Read more

Yes, the government would lose the by-election and - BINGO! - Australia would be without the carbon tax and the mining tax.

With no mining tax and no carbon tax we would get a much bigger Federal deficit. The bigger deficit would be negative for the Aussie dollar. And a weaker Aussie dollar is just what exporters need. It's their last hope to avoid more layoffs.

Come on, Mr Thomson, do Australia a favour - RESIGN!

Deutschland schafft sich ab

Thilo Sarrazin (born 12 February 1945) is a German politician (SPD) and former member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank (until 30 September 2010).

In his 2010 book Deutschland schafft sich ab ("Germany Does Away With Itself" or "Germany Abolishes Itself"), the most popular but also widely criticised book on politics by a German-language author in a decade, he denounces the failure of Germany's post-war immigration policy, sparking a nation-wide controversy about the costs and benefits of the ideology of multiculturalism.

Sarrazin advocates a restrictive immigration policy (with the exception of the highly skilled) and the reduction of state welfare benefits. There were severe reactions to his statements on economic and immigration policy in Berlin, which were published in September 2009 in Lettre International, a German cultural quarterly. In it he described many Arab and Turkish immigrants as unwilling to integrate. He said, among other things:

"Integration requires effort from those that are to be integrated. I will not show respect for anyone that is not making that effort. I do not have to acknowledge anyone who lives by welfare, denies the legitimacy of the very state that provides that welfare, refuses to care for the education of his children and constantly produces new little headscarf-girls. This holds true for 70 percent of the Turkish and 90 percent of the Arab population in Berlin."

He has also said regarding Islam, “No other religion in Europe makes so many demands. No immigrant group other than Muslims is so strongly connected with claims on the welfare state and crime. No group emphasizes their differences so strongly in public, especially through women’s clothing. In no other religion is the transition to violence, dictatorship and terrorism so fluid.”

Furthermore, he calculates that their population growth may well overwhelm the German population within a couple of generations at the current rate, and that their intelligence is lower as well. Sarrazin explains that his book deals with three issues. First Germany’s native born population is in decline, he said. Each generation is smaller than the one before. Second, the brightest people are having the fewest babies. And third, Germany was attracting the wrong kinds of immigrants. Instead of attracting qualified, professional people, Germany was taking in migrants from countries where educational levels were low and people had difficulty integrating into German society.

No kebabs for Sarrazin, it seems! I want to know more and have ordered the book.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Last Carbon Taxer

From The Wall Street Journal of 17 July 2011:

Carbon cap and trade is dead in America, the Chicago emissions trading exchange has folded, and European nations keep fudging on their Kyoto Protocol promises. But Al Gore's great green hope still has a champion: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who announced last week that her government will impose a cap-and-tax regime.

Her Labor Party-led coalition wants 500 of the country's "biggest polluters" to buy carbon permits issued by the government, starting next year. Canberra would then create new bureaucracies to re-allocate that money to interest groups and selected businesses, to the tune of billions of dollars annually.

The news has caused a public uproar—not least because Ms. Gillard ran and won last year on an explicit promise not to pursue such policies. She ousted her predecessor in a backroom coup after his popularity tanked because of climate-change boosterism and promises to raise taxes. But Ms. Gillard's Green coalition partners hold the balance of power in parliament and pushed hard for cap and trade. The PM caved and has now been labeled "Juliar" in the popular press.

The Gillard government estimates its plan will increase electricity costs by 10% and gasoline by 9%—increases it calls "modest." That's easy for politicians to say. In a nationwide poll taken after the announcement, 60% of voters opposed the tax and 68% said they'd be financially worse off because of it. Ms. Gillard's popularity has plumbed new lows.

The plan is economically damaging enough that even the normally timid business lobby—many of whose members originally supported climate-change legislation—is speaking up. Opposition leader Tony Abbott slammed the plan as "socialism masquerading as environmentalism," and he has a point. The government plans to use some of the carbon tax receipts to triple the income threshold before the income tax hits. In other words, this is in part a scheme to redistribute income from energy users to Labor voters. It is an odd kind of tax reform that narrows the tax base.

All of this for negligible environmental benefits. Australia emits 1.5% of the world's greenhouse gases. Even if the country cut its emissions to zero, the move would do little to reduce global emissions. Australia's per-capita emissions are high compared to other developed nations because it's a sparsely populated continent blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Aussies have developed profitable, world-class natural resource and energy businesses that have lifted incomes at home and helped supply developing countries like China and India. This is bad?

It is if you believe in the theology that loathes carbon fuels and wants government to allocate the means of power production. In a speech Thursday, Ms. Gillard vowed to press forward with cap and tax and said that her convictions are "very deeply held." We'll see if her government can survive them.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another Friday and more of the same: PANIC !

BHP is down to $37.50 - again! - from its recent high of $49.55
on 11 April 2011

Equity markets are again in retreat as the weight of global debt crushes the world’s wealth. This is a perfect recipe for Bernanke to start the engines running on QE3, in whatever form that may take. It’s almost a given the Fed will try to do something. Their masters over on Wall Street will be demanding it. There will be little concern that the Fed’s last two attempts have amounted to nothing.

What's driving the sell-off? Who knows? Markets do crazy things. More than 60 per cent of total volume is done by high-frequency computer trading using brainless algorithms. But a few things stick out.

The past two weeks have understandably shaken confidence. Fearful of GFC2, investors have been fleeing the market. The worry du jour is that the US and European economies are heading into new recessions.

In the meantime, Germany’s Chancellor has reached the limit of her country’s generosity. Where will the next bailout come from when German voters are at breaking point about being asked to foot the bill for the rest of Europe? As one German taxpayer put it - and you’ll have to imagine the accent:

‘Ausländern wird Geld in den Hintern geblasen und das meiste Geld geht zu selbst verschuldeten Ländern wie Griechenland obwohl Deutschland auch schon hoch verschuldet ist.’

Loosely translated: ‘I could slap my Lederhosen ten times with a Frankfurter that Foreigners are getting our money blown up their backsides, and that most of the money is for self-indebted countries like Greece, even though Germany is highly indebted itself.’

Don't let any of this push you into panic. This too will pass, and those with a patient, long-term outlook will win. On the bright side, we're closer to the bottom than we were yesterday.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nelligen waterfront property for sale

You have to live somewhere - it may as well be Paradise!

Here's a bit of an advertisement on my own behalf: the sale of our 7-acre-plus property "Riverbend" with almost 400 metres of absolute waterfront near Batemans Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales. For more information go to www.nelligennet.com.

It's the sort of property that is usually passed down the family as there are only a few like it on the Clyde River. I have been here for 18 years and for me it's time to move on - regrettably! - as we plan to live for part of the year in Kalimantan (Borneo) in Indonesia which makes it near-impossible to also maintain such a large property this far south.

The price - for those who can afford it - is very realistic as nearby unimproved waterfront blocks just 1500 square metres in size and with as little as 19 metres of waterfront have recently sold for $750,000. By contrast, "Riverbend" consists of eight titles, comprising approx. 29,200 square metres (see map), is on sale for $2 million, lock, stock and barrel. For those who feel a little financially challenged, I can offer very substantial vendor's finance on below-bank finance terms.

If you're interested, contact me by email to


Monday, August 15, 2011

State of the market

Property # 21, marked FOR SALE, sold for $900,000 in December 2010
Property marked 2 sold in May 2006 for $925,000
Property marked 3 sold in March 2006 for $750,000
Property marked 5 is FOR SALE at $1,990,000

The state of the market - no, not the share market but the real estate market - has become topical again after the recent Bali trip. A relocation to Bali - at least for part of the year - looks quite tempting but only if and when "Riverbend" is sold. Is "Riverbend" 's price of $2,000,000 still realistic in today's market?

There are seventeen waterfront properties down Sproxton Lane which is a cul-de-sac, at the end of which is "Riverbend". These seventeen properties are each less than 2000m² and on average 1500m² in land area, whereas "Riverbend" comprises close to 30,000m².

Here is a list of recent sales in Sproxton Lane:

# 25 sold in March 2006 for $750,000.
# 19 sold in May 2006 for $925,000.
# 3 sold in March 2007 for $800,000.
# 9 sold in October 2010 for $970,000.
# 21 sold in December 2010 for $900,000.
# 33 sold just now for $950,000.

Two properties are currently for sale:

# 23 is FOR SALE at $1,600,000.
# 27 is FOR SALE at $1,990,000.

The property nearest to "Riverbend", # 33, a cosy timber cottage on 1900m² of land, has just now been sold for $950,000. Compared to it, "Riverbend", or # 35, with its substantial two-storey brick house and other improvements on almost 30,000m² of land, seems a bargain at $2,000,0000.

Come on, all ye bargain-hunters!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ever wondered why Germany is the most prosperous EU country?

Of course, this is my totally unbiased personal opinion.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Charles Ferguson's documentary, INSIDE JOB, explores the reasons and the effects of the 2008 world-wide financial downturn, starting with an examination of the problem in microcosm - in the small country of Iceland, which was a model community until the banks were de-regulated.

Like others before him, Ferguson claims the beginning of the problem was in the 80s when President Ronald Reagan deregulated the American banking industry, but he goes on to demonstrate that executive greed and dishonesty have been rampant in recent years.

Ferguson's really well made documentary makes at least some of the puzzle clearer. There are graphs and charts and graphics and numbers galore, but the bottom line is that the poor old punter has been taken for a ride by greedy corporate business tycoons who have been hand-in-glove with government departments.

It's a horror movie, in a way, one designed to make you angry and want to do something about it.

The frightening thing is that the same people who were advising Bush and Clinton are now advising Obama and the bonuses keep on getting bigger and millions and millions of lives have been decimated, destroyed by these people and they are just making as many billions of dollars for themselves as they used to.

I think this is a film for our time. Everybody ought to see it and get angry.

London ablaze

If you spoil a child with excessive gifts and pampering, what will happen when you stop?

That’s right, it will have a tantrum… screaming and demanding more of the same – “I don’t want economic austerity, I want a lolly and a new train set.”

As a parent you’ve got two options: cave in and keep spoiling the brat. Or put up with the tantrum until the child realises things have to change.

Those that argue governments should keep on spending are really saying they want to keep spoiling the child. The result?

A generation of brats who believe they’re entitled to something they haven’t earned or don’t want to pay for – “I don’t want economic austerity, I want free healthcare and welfare payments.”

I bet none of those youngsters shown in those disturbing newsreels have ever worked. As a friend in London emailed me:

"When I saw all those rioters on Tottenham High Street, I knew I had to find somewhere safe to hide so I went into The Job Centre".

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The bloodbath continued ...

... until mid-afternoon today, 9th August 2011, when BHP reached a low of $34.81 from which it recovered to close at $37.05.

What a drop from its high of $49.81 on 11th April 2011!

It will be a long climb back up again, and perhaps we won't see it back in the high $40s until the end of the year. The announcement of another share buy-back would certainly help.

Elsewhere, things are going from bad to worse. If this global crisis continues at the present rate, by the end of this year only two banks will be left operational ..... the Blood Bank and the Sperm Bank! And before you know it, these two will merge, and the whole place will be full of bloody wankers.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Back home at "Riverbend"

As I shiver through an early morning here at wintry "Riverbend", my thoughts go back to Bali and the expats I met there who chose to make it their home.

I am reminded of Louis Becke who once wrote about life in the South Seas, "Return? not they! Why should they go back? Here they had all things which are wont to satisfy man here below. A paradise of Eden-like beauty, amid they wandered day by day all unheading of the tomorrow. Why - why, indeed, should they leave the land of magical delights for cold climate and still more glacial moral atmosphere of their native land, miscalled home?"

Life in Bali is gentle and cheap: $500 A MONTH affords you a comfortable Western lifestyle. Compare that to the $1000 A WEEK in Australia as suggested in this article.

Are you interested in living in Bali? Read this ebook, published by www.baliexpat.com, to get you started.

Here is the postcard from Bali I never had time to send you ...

Click on image to view the card

... even though it was all stamped and ready to go, so stop watching your mailbox!

Anyway, here it is: "Wished you were here" and all that ...