Saturday salon 9/4

1. Whyalla in danger of disappearing from the map

You might recall Craig Emerson singing ‘no Whyalla wipe-out’ when the carbon tax was said to take it off the map. Seems it was always a lot more fragile than Emerson thought in the big bad world of open trade barriers.

Arrium’s share price has tanked in five years from over two dollars to two cents, and the company has gone into receivership. Bill Shorten has called for a national steel plan and the use of Australian steel in government funded infrastructure projects.

The Financial Review’s editorial puts the received economic view, accusing South Australian Labor Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis of piling bank-bashing populism onto old-fashioned protectionism. They wrote to me warning me of Bill Shorten’s “economic nationalism”, inter alia. Why should we care about a sub-optimal out-of-date blast furnace in a remote country town.

Mark has written a passionate and intelligent article for The Guardian as to why we should all care.

It’s a mess. There is very bad blood between Arrium and its lenders.

Matthew Stevens at the Fin Review has informative articles here and here.

There are many parts of the Arrium business, most of which are profitable, including steelmaking, but not at Whyalla.

The World Today spoke to Professor Geoffrey Brooks, pro-vice chancellor for Future Manufacturing at Swinburne University of Technology. It’s not clear, but I gather Whyalla may have a low value operation, supplying basic structural steel. It’s hard to compete with the excess capacity flowing out of China.

However, there is a serious problem over quality. Essentially no-one checks the quality of imported steel, so sooner or later expect a bridge or building to fall down.

2. Helen Clark wants to be UN Secretary General

Helen Clark, PM of New Zealand for nine years and now Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme has thrown her hat into the ring for the UN Secretary-General’s now that Ban Ki-moon is retiring after two five-year terms.

It’s an open secret that Kevin Rudd wants the job, but as yet hasn’t nominated.

Normally the candidate is selected in a backroom deal by the permanent five of the Security Council and then sent to the UN General Assembly for a rubber stamp. This time the General Assembly president, Danish politician Mogens Lykketoft, has decided to take ownership of the process. A site has been set up for the Procedure of Selecting and Appointing the next UN Secretary-General, where you’ll find the eight candidates, seven with the requested vision statement.

It is said that the next will be from Eastern Europe and a woman. Six of the eight are eastern Europeans and four of the eight are women. There would be some money on Irina Bokova, Bulgarian politician and the Director-General of UNESCO.

Rudd would be wasting his time and he may well be coming to that conclusion.

3. Banks behaving badly

Many people have been hurt by banks behaving badly. Shorten has now promised a royal commission into the financial industry if elected. The editor of the Financial Review has advised me that Shorten is just a populist who should be ignored.

At the same time Malcolm Turnbull:

But it looks as though talk is all he’ll do.

4. The battle for New York

I think it’s not until 19 April, but New York looks pivotal for both the Republican and Democrat preselection campaigns.

Bernie Sanders took Wisconsin 56 to 43, making it six out of the last seven states. Hillary Clinton may have to rely on the superdelegates sticking with her if the Sanders momentum continues. Sanders now has 1030 to Clinton’s 1280, plus 469 superdelegates.

Meanwhile they are getting snippy with each other as the tension builds.

In the other contest Cruz thumped Trump in Wisconsin, I think 45 to 38, but under their system Cruz took all the delegates. In New York it’s complicated:

    But to win all of New York’s 95 Republican delegates, Trump will need to win a majority of votes both statewide and in each of New York’s congressional districts.

    Trump’s opponents could peel off victories in spite of an overwhelming Trump win if they net at least 20% of support either statewide or in individual congressional districts.

One way or another it looks certain that the convention will be contested. The Republican bosses fear losing the presidency, the Senate and perhaps even the House of Representative if Trump were to head up the campaign.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

63 thoughts on “Saturday salon 9/4”

  1. Last night I didn’t get time to check out The Conversation on Arrium and steelmaking, where there are at least two excellent articles.

    Geoffrey Brookes and Roy Green ans John Hamilton Howard tell how we need to get smarter and produce higher value niche products .

    Geraldine Doogue talked to someone this morning who said Arrium could upgrade with an investment as small as $40 million. It’s the kind of thing most governments other than our current free market ideologues would do in a heartbeat.

    He also said we are selling ore to the Koreans at $70 a tonne and buying back steel at $10,000 a tonne. That’s the clever country!

  2. Just on banks behaving badly:

    I have been watching – and with no personal involvement whatsoever – the ups and downs of the sale of a profitable small business in an excellent location and with excellent prospects. The negotiated sale price is quite reasonable.

    The sellers are keen (both are in declining health) and have been for quite some time. The potential buyers are keen, healthy, skilled, energetic, definitely credit-worthy and with a swag of their own money, (and they have another attribute which I will not mention as it would be likely to identify them).

    This should have been a straight-forward sale of a business in a free enterprise economy …. but not in today’s Soviet Australia. The Commissars of Business Prevention (cunningly disguised as decision-makers in our major banking corporations) have done a splendid job of impeding, delay, hamstringing and obstructing this outbreak of capitalist activity between willing sellers and willing buyers. Haven’t heard of objections to the colour of the flooring but most likely that will be in next-week’s counter-attack.

    As for what’shisname’s naïve and pompous suggestion that those who are disappointed by the performance of one bank should try another: have a go, you mug!

    Royal Commission into Banking? My oath – and not a minute too soon.

  3. The good news is that Whyalla may well be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Australian’s are stereotyped as being ‘easy-going’ or ‘laid-back’ or ‘interested only in beer, pokies and football’ but if they can be stereotyped at all, then I would say ‘slow to anger’.

    Now, after being locked into the manifestly unjust so-called free trade agreement, without their informed consent, into the procurement of horrendously expensive F-35 JSF flying target, into damaging land and other productive asset sales (such as the Van Diemen’s Land Company), into the purchase of substandard products, materials and machines …. many ordinary Australians are getting very angry indeed.

    Thanks for the link to Mark’s article. I do disagree with his choice of words, “victims of free trade dogma” – and suggest, instead, “victims of free trade fanaticism” or “victims of free trade treason”.

    As for the import of sub-standard steel – why not? It will simply match all the other substandard products we happily import such as highly flammable building material and carcinogenic agricultural chemicals. WHEN buildings, storage tanks, bridges, towers, machines and the like do collapse or fly apart there will not be a culprit to be found. The skills of corporate litigation defence lawyers have been especially well-honed in Australia.

    We Australians do have one unfair advantage in manufacturing, if we choose to enhance it (or are allowed to enhance it), and that is that we prefer to make things of reasonably good quality and generally do not make things that will cause harm. So to hell with trying to compete on price in the global marketplace, let’s go for the tough long haul and make the best quality things we can. (And, no! That does not mean “build it and they will come” either).

  4. The ” substandard ” line is a furphy. Architects and engineers specify materials that comply with AS and Builders comply.

    Also if there is such a thing as ” irresponsible lending ” then ” irresponsible borrowing ” together with ” irresponsible investing ” should get 2/3rds more attentions than it does in the MSM.

    Why doesn’t it ?

  5. Could someone ask Mark about the extent and amount of the lift in living standards gained by Chinese steelworkers please.

    Morally, the improvement of 10,000 non-welfare applicable humans against 1000 reduced to the dole is a better outcome, right?

  6. Jumpy, did you read the link?

    Geoff Crittenden of the Welding Technology Institute:

    From our best estimate, talking to our members, something like 75 per cent of the steel imported into this country – fabricated steel- doesn’t meet Australian standards.


    We rely on engineers signing off on bridges, on structures.

    Engineers aren’t always qualified in welding processes, they rely on the fabricator to ensure that the building is, that the structure is made to the appropriate Australian standard.

    If it’s made overseas, it quite often isn’t.

  7. Jumpy, theoretically trade is supposed to be mutually beneficial. In the same breath they will tell you that of course there will be winners and losers.

    Most trade agreements, as I understand them, allow a country to maintain its own industries if they so desire. Generally our politicians don’t.

    I suspect the ideal situation in this case would be for our industry to produce steel in niches where we can compete, like the Swede’s do. Apparently also Bluescope has been producing colorbond competitively.

  8. Most ethicists after Bentham will tell you that it is unethical to harm the few for the benefit of the many.

  9. Brian,Jumpy, did you read the link?

    Geoff Crittenden of the Welding Technology Institute:

    From our best estimate, talking to our members, something like 75 per cent of the steel imported into this country – fabricated steel- doesn’t meet Australian standards.

    No, I hadn’t. But the estimates from the boss of the welders union doesn’t convince me.

    But he admits-
    We rely on engineers signing off on bridges, on structures.

    Engineers aren’t always qualified in welding processes, they rely on the fabricator to ensure that the building is, that the structure is made to the appropriate Australian standard.

    So it’s an accreditation/monitoring/enforcement issue not a trade issue.


    Jumpy, theoretically trade is supposed to be mutually beneficial. In the same breath they will tell you that of course there will be winners and losers.

    The winners, should in all cases, be the seller and purchaser in free trade. The losers are the uncompetitive.

  10. Oh, you forgot to address this;

    Morally, the improvement of 10,000 non-welfare applicable humans against 1000 reduced to the dole is a better outcome, right?

  11. No, your correct Ambigulous, it was addressed.
    With what others think, I didn’t ask others.

  12. Jumpy, the claim in the link is that steel quality is essentially left as an industry self-regulating thing. You’ll need to identify who has the “accreditation/monitoring/enforcement” responsibility, that they have adequate resources to carry out these functions, and that they actually do.

    Otherwise we have every right to worry.

    Also I think it’s a bit misleading to call the Welding Technology Institute of Australia “the boss of the welders union”. Certainly they have an interest, but it’s possible they also know what they are talking about.

    For starters you could look at the Australasian Certification Authority for Reinforcing and Structural Steels and read the “Why ACRS is necessary”section and then tell me that everything is hunky dory re the quality of imported steel.

  13. ACRS is only 30 years old. We’ve been importing steel since Captain Cook.

    So what, Jumpy? If you read their stuff there is clearly a current concern about fraud and malpractice in the steel importing industry.

  14. This article from The Guardian doesn’t answer the question as to whether there should be a bailout.

    It does, however, indicate that our anti-dumping commissioner spends a lot of time on steel and is overworked.

  15. So what, Jumpy? If you read their stuff there is clearly a current concern about fraud and malpractice in the steel importing industry.

    So steel imported more than 30 years ago is responsible for all the building a bridge collapses we’ve been having, righto, seems sensible.

  16. During the mining boom the Whyalla steel plant had a real advantage. It owned the mines that supplied its ore and these mines were close to the steelworks. (Iron duke where I worked was about 60 kms away.) Now the Chinese are getting iron ore at bargain prices it may actually be costing the Whyalla steelworks more for their feed than the Chinese. In addition it is just too easy for the Chinese to dump steel on the Australian market because anti dumping laws are just so slow.
    My take is that it makes sense to keep Whyalla going on the grounds that it will be competitive again where the value of the $Aus gets back to its normal range and the price of iron ore gets back up to a level where mines are getting a reasonable return on capital.
    Keep in mind that another part of the problem was that Aurrium borrowed money to make some investments during the boom years that have turned out not to have been so smart.

  17. Morally, the improvement of 10,000 non-welfare applicable humans against 1000 reduced to the dole is a better outcome, right?

    It seems I have to go the long way around.

    Back in the 18th century Jeremy Bentham defined as the “fundamental axiom” of his philosophy the principle that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”.

    Ever since ethicists have pointed out that this is insufficient and unacceptable as it allows a smaller group to be harmed in the interests of a larger group. If you don’t think losing a job and going on the dole is harm, then I give up.

    Governments in just democracies look after the interests of minority groups.

    It seems to me that the situation is resolvable, although I lack the knowledge in the steel industry to have a firm view.

    I’ve heard that the Whyalla smelter makes low value, mass product. Indeed it even makes the steel used to reinforce concrete which is lower value than structural steel.

    There is no reason why we shouldn’t use quality assured basic steel products made overseas for mass markets with the advantages of scale. However there may be arguments as to why having that steelmaking capacity is a strategic issue. I don’t know.

    Nevertheless there would seem to be scope for making more complex products which Geoffrey Brooks said have 10 times the value of basic steel.

    They already do, I’m told, just not at Whyalla.

  18. Governments in just democracies look after the interests of minority groups.

    No, Governments in just Democracies should protect individual rights and freedoms, minority groups in a Democracy, under that, are protected.

  19. I dont understand why the remedy to another Countrys distortion of Free Trade is more distortion from us.

    That’s downward spiral shit right there.

  20. I don’t see governments assisting an enterprise as a sin against capitalism. That may not be necessary, however.

    Seems the banks were willing to tip in an extra $400 million, but not at the expense of taking a billion dollar haircut on what was already owed.

    The banks have an interest which goes beyond Arrium. They also lend money to people and businesses in the community which are there because of the Arrium spend multiplier effect.

    They did want Grant McNicholl as an administrator, however, for reasons best known to them. They had no say, because the loans are unsecured, believe it or not, and Arrium chose Thornton as a “up yours” to the lenders.

    John D’s comment about the quality of Arrium decisionmaking has been mentioned in dispatches, and is a worry.

  21. Jumpy: Sadly, the allegations about dumping substandard material and components in Australia are not furphies at all.

    Architects and engineers can specify compliance until the cows come home but unless they test or analyse each and every component or batch of material – and just think of the cost of that! – the substandard stuff slips through.

    The basic problem is that we Australians are famous for being a very soft touch when it comes to procurement. If you want a glaring example of that, just compare the quality of the stuff on sale in bargain shops here with similar goods on sale in similar bargain shops in the EU or in hundred-yen shops in Japan.

    Prevention of dumping substandard stuff is the key – and that won’t happen until we stop using awfully nice eunuchs and geldings to do our buying or else giving top office people an expenses-paid Asian holiday with a bit of paper-signing thrown in. What we need are paranoid sceptics, fanatical stickybeaks, aggressive bullies, ex-prisoners with a long record of assault&battery or business fraud to do our buying – ones who have undergone intensive language and culture training and who have been given detailed and targeted commercial intelligence briefings too.

    We need, too, the guts to put a shipment of substandard stuff straight back on a ship, return-to-sender and to hell with the cost. Do that a few times and the message will get through.

    Anyway, in this wonderful magic pudding that is supposed to be the global marketplace, why the blazes are we still behaving like members of the British Empire and buying our stuff from only one or two suppliers, or, worse yet, buying at the lowest price. When it comes to poor quality, think of the old soldiers’ grim joke, “Remember, you rifle was made by the firm that put in the lowest tender”.

  22. Jumpy:

    I dont understand why the remedy to another Countrys distortion of Free Trade is more distortion from us.

    That’s downward spiral shit right there.

    If you do nothing the result is that Australian industries shut down and the initial trade distorter’s products replace Australian products. You cannot switch steel plants on and off depending on what the current distortions are.

  23. Brian: Reinforced steel and rails are cheap because they don’t cost much to produce. Whyalla would not necessarily be more competitive if it produced more expensive products. Keep in mind that Whyalla is a very small steel operation with only one blast furnace.

  24. A former head of the Whyalla steel plant had this to say about what went wrong:

    “The problem now is that the company has taken on board too much debt and it’s not sustainable,” he said.

    “The company was always a difficult business, it’s a cyclical business and in my opinion it’s a business that can only be sustainable through the cycle with a fairly low level of debt.

    “That acquisition [of iron ore mines] and others were all debt funded and I think that’s what’s led to the high level of debt, that has now as the cycle’s changed and commodity prices collapsed, has left the company in an unsustainable position.”

    Mr Every said without government and financial intervention, it would be difficult to save the company given the current market conditions.

    “There’s a hell of a lot of debt there that needs to be serviced and I think what has to happen now is it has to be worked through in a careful way with respect to the employees to come up with a structure that is sustainable and internationally competitive,” Mr Every said.

    “Exactly what shape that takes I don’t know.”

  25. Material compliance certificates from Chiba and India are highly likely to be false. These countries are very good at printing documents which someone signs and rubber stamps (usually several times) to make them look authentic.

    I have one machine here which was “certified” to have an accuracy of plus or minus 2 microns. It has completely the wrong ball screws in it to achieve that repetitive postional certainty. I only found out when I bought an instrument accurate enough to show what the machine was achieving. So someone at the factory in China filled out a completely bogus accuracy inspection report, signed it and shipped it with the machine.

    I don’t do tool making on that machine so it does not affect the usability of the machine for me, but it highlights the nature of what we are dealing with. The machine is a US branded machine, by the way.

  26. Yes BilB, China is basically ungovernable. Occasionally they execute someone to concentrate the mind. India is notorious for corruption.

    John D, that was a good comment by Bob Every, who was CEO of the whole company, not just the Whyalla works.

    I went back and found a comment I’d heard when the story first broke. It’s by Whyalla Mayor, Tom Antonis:

    Let’s make this clear, the steelwork has been making a profit. In the last six months it made $100 million profit. It is not the steelworks that’s been the problem – it’s the mining.

  27. At 13mtpa iron ore export Whyalla is the sort of small mine that will be struggling at current iron ore prices. Even more so given that the exports were achieved by replacing low cost hematite feed to the steelworks with magnetite concentrate which is almost certainly higher cost per iron unit. It may all have made sense when the price of iron ore was high but now?My guess is that the steelworks are still making an operating profit and would yield very little if the steelworks were shut down.

  28. How buot the admins sell the lot, crap bits close, good bits learn and improve.

    It’s all a thang because economic basket case SA is important to the election only in the Senate. Noone gives a shit of thousands up here in construction ( waaay bigger than steelmaking ) let go.

    No bale out talk for us.

  29. BilB: It’s a hard lesson – but I’ll be your firm will never be defrauded like that again.

    Jumpy: At least the machine BilB’s firm bought wasn’t carcinogenic or unexpectedly flammable nor did it disintegrate when put under stresses supposedly well within its safety parameters.

    No, no bail out for the steelworks …. how about a government buy-out instead so that the corporation’s profits can replace a tiny bit of the revenue we all lost in the Privatization madness and the colossal “Small Government” fraud. Of course, such a buy-out would require vision, nimbleness and innovation, which are manifestly way beyond the capabilities of the present crop of dullards and victims making decisions for government and business. Why not do a proper job and set up another steelworks in Australia to make what Whyalla can’t – one that uses our potential wealth in solar power and uses 2017 or later leading-edge technology?

    Thanks for you insights, John D.

  30. Fine Graham, let em make windmills and solar panels and turn a profit, no Gov subsidies though the shareholders should gamble on the unassisted viability.

  31. Noone gives a shit of thousands up here in construction ( waaay bigger than steelmaking ) let go.

    No bale out talk for us.

    But Jumpy, isn’t that the way you want it?
    Surely the invisible hand will provide.

    (Or is it your argument that taxpayer’s money should be spent bailing your mates out?)

  32. I don’t see what your problem is, Jumpy. I had a look at the business prospects for Mackay, and they are quite good. Mackay is not at the end of the line as Cairns is, you are positioned between other growing cities which are within easy reach (and the Barrier Reef), the population is steadily increasing, and Queensland has more investment contract business than any other state.

    As a businessman you know that you must be able to adapt your product and skill set to meet the maturing needs of your community. As a Libertarian businessman you fully accept the variable nature of income and if your primary income drops to just cents per hour you go out and get other jobs to earn more, as Libertarians declare everyone should be prepared to accept and to do.

    The rest of us Keynesians are prepared to pay reasonable taxes sharing the load of a fluctuating economy, and support important strategic industries. It is very sad that the Libertarian Abbott demolished the car industry on an ideological whim for which the full fallout costs are yet to come, perhaps even to the point of a national recession.

    There is absolutely no reason for this

    …just plain dismal executive management and investor fickleness. Right at a time where refrigeration should be moving towards renewable energy compatibility providing an opportunity for a complete rethink of the product, Australian executive management demonstrate their total lack of understanding of the power of product innovation.

    My second job out of high school was with Metters Ltd in Bankstown right at the time when the first fridges were being polyurethane foam injected. I made the jigs to support the parts for the prototypes during the foaming process. That particular time represented a zenith for the appliance industry in Australia, and it has been a downhill run all the way from that time. And the primary cause was just pathetic executive management by egotistical third rate players. Not too many years after I left Metters, it was bought by Email, as I heard it, and almost straight away shut down,……by accident. I got the story from the CEO of Email when he visited Atlas Appliances (which Email had just bought only to be shut down some years further on) in NZ many years later. He said “we made a mistake with Metters, the first thing we did we fired all of the sales staff, who then got jobs with our competition and took the customer base with them. This crippled the investment so we shut it down”.

    My third job out of high school was with Kriesler Radio and TV, remember them? Bought by Phillips and shut down.

    The problem we now face, on the top of miserable executive management, is government by ideology, equally fanatical as communism, and equally crippling. IMHO.

  33. The Swedes are talking about carbon free steelmaking. Keep in mind that a number of steelmaking processes have used hydrogen from natural gas to make steel for yonks – a fact that seemed to be overlooked in this article.

    Jumpy: The government should ramping up spending on infrastructure now. During the mining boom they said we couldn’t do it because the construction industry was too busy doing things for the mining industry. Now they say they can’t do that because they haven’t got the money – unless of course they spend the money from our absurd future fund.

  34. BilB, I once read that the lenders, ANZ bank, I think, insisted that Pacific Brands shut down some Australian operations and outsourced them to Asia, because that was what you did.

  35. John/Jumpy, in the AFR today, Turnbull is handing out an extra $495 million to WA. Seems the voters have been going bolshie, so there is an emergency.

    Of course the official reasons are otherwise.

  36. BilB: How right you are when you say, “just plain dismal executive management and investor fickleness. ” That is the standard for Australian business and has been for decades.

    Remember the brilliant designer Millicer and his terrific, world-beating Victa Airtourer light aircraft – or Ligeti’s Stratos – or a dozen other dismal examples? How about the MetalStorm revolutionary weapons system and all its money-spinning non-military applications? Or the scramjet – with its underwater applications as well as its obvious use in space rockets?

    Jumpy: The Invisible Hand is very effective – at strangling the living daylights out of free enterprise in Australia – and it has a hammer-and-sickle on its sleeve …. and if it isn’t a hammer-and-sickle it is a very close imitation of one.

  37. Back in the good old days the management of BHP didn’t take much notice of shareholders and simply kept on doing what they thought was in the long term interest of the company.
    Then somewhere along the line shareholders became dominated by super funds and their ilk who depended on share prices to stay competitive. The result has been companies that have a very short term vision.

  38. I remember reading years ago that one of the reasons why European businesses are so stable is because companies with strategically common interests take out cross ownership in each other. This means that they have a long term perspective rather than a short term one, and they can periodically draw on each others strengths for management expertise and capital investment. Whereas we in the present day Wild West of the business world prefer to live ego driven isolated existences.

    Having friends in business is one of your greatest advantages.

    I always admired the “New Australians” of the 60’s and 70’s for how they pooled their resources to help each other establish businesses one after another to the point where they became a powerhouse of suburban, and rural, economic performance that earned them a real position in the Australian story.

  39. That is a really interesting article, JohnD, on Carbon Free steel project. It shows that industry externalities can be contained, but they still need sand on the furnace floor to tap the furnace and direct the iron.

    I think Henry Ford would have been thrilled with that technology.

  40. Historically, renewable hydrogen has been made on industrial scale in countries such as Norway and Iceland that have very cheap electricity. You still have to add carbon in the steelmaking to give the steel the desired properties.
    I have no feel for the economics of something like the Swedish process but suspect it can be made at low enough prices to have little effect on the cost of most things we do that require steel.

  41. When you look at the fluctuation in the spot market cost of rolled steel over a 2 year period being as much as a 50% slump, talking about the marginal cost of inputs is fairly meaningless. Industry was perfectly happy with the steel price of 2 years ago, it would be a disruptive aberration that spot market steel is now half that.

    You take carbon out of pig iron to make steel. This is how to use the oxygen bi product from the hydrogen production. Only qualifier there is I don’t know if the hydrogen furnace process produces pig iron.

  42. John D. You are dead right about super funds and their like. Just wish they had taken their(??) money to the racetrack instead of stuffing up manufacturing and mining with it.

    Seeing Australians have an enduring love affair with bureaucracy and unenforceable laws, I wonder if some regulation can be brought in to prevent investing in manufacturing, mining and primary industry unless each investment is for a minimum twelve year period?

    BilB: it was not just New Australians who helped one another get businesses going, native-born Australians occasionally did it in small business or contracting too – but only by avoiding the banks like the plague and by staying well clear of the prevailing business culture

  43. I always like to here those stories, GrahamB.

    Fresh out of high school I spent a third of my first 10 pay packets to buy an oxy acetylene welding out fit. Then I talked a friend into our putting aside $5 a week each into an account so that we could buy a lathe and get a business started. However after a month my friend decided that he needed the money to buy smokes, petrol and booze. It was a great time in history to start a business, and had we continued he would have been quite well off, …and alive.

  44. Bilb
    By your own testimony there is a pattern of failure in business ventures that you’ve been associated with.
    I hope that run ends for you.

  45. Feeling challenged, are you Jumpy?

    Of course there are failures. Failures represent learning and adventure. I hardly see how a guy pulling his $20 bucks from an investment plan represents a failure for me. Some years later he died from a drug overdose. Most would call that for me as dodging a bullet. That machining centre with the lower accuracy is one of my most productive machines, no loss there either.

    The art of business is turning failure into success.

  46. BilB: “The art of business is turning failure into success”.
    That’s music to my ears. There’s hope for Australia yet.

  47. The art of business is turning failure into success.

    That’s a cute slogan, almost Turnbullesque.

  48. Amongst great excitement the kitchen arrived today, more or less.

    What I didn’t understand was the bench. We ordered a stone bench and the stone mason doesn’t make it off a plan. He comes tomorrow and measures what’s actually there, and then goes off and makes it. And only then can we get the sink installed, and stuff.

    After all that the floor has to be done and let dry for three days.

    Looks like we’ll be preparing meals on the deck for a while yet, with the fridge in the dining room and washing up in the laundry!

    I must say I’ve been impressed with the mob who are doing the kitchen, and all the other tradies.

  49. Yes, Graham, it will be super. Apart from the money, and the complexity of the problem, why did we wait so long?

  50. Brian,
    Re stone bench top, he will make a ply template and do all the work in the shop. With the sink cut out, you have paid for it and normally they have no problem giving it to you. They make a good small matching coffee table.

    Pay a little more and they’ll trim and polish the edges.

    However, some Stonemasons make a tidy buck reselling your cutouts for headstone plaques, so may argue.

  51. Good tip, Jumpy. I’ve got to do a new cabinet set to replace our 1965 Formica covered and Masonite panelled kitchen counters, ughhh.

  52. A new piece of software that is freely available to all who have a reasonable internet connection

    This is a full CAD package (computer aided design) which is cloud based and free (you pay when you go over 5 gig of data) to use. For anyone wanting to design parts for fun, for personal use, to earn money as a designer, or to have models for 3D printing, this is a opportunity for you. I’ve been trying it out during the day and it is a very clever product. It is being updated every 3 week so is improving rapidly. There are quite a few YouTube videos to see how it performs and tutorials to take you through the way the interface works.

    If you are at all interested in building things and want to up skill here is the software for you. My daughter who is doing a film production uni course is learning this to help with the practical parts of her course. Being cloud based you collaborate with others anywhere in the world, working on the same parts at the same time. This is an awesome package.


  53. Jumpy, they said they’d give us the sink cutout. I work for a bloke who makes furniture, so you never know!

    John D, they are certainly well-organised and competent. Our job is really quite complicated, so it’s taking a while.

  54. There’s trouble looming.

    Some of the younger war veterans and peacekeepers launched a petition over at for a Royal Commission into the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (lots of horrific stories to back up their call). This move infuriated all the armchair admirals, colonel blimps and the Sergeants’ Mess bar-flies who want any talk of investigating their beloved DVA stopped at all costs. Looks as though the gossiping-gerties have won. The petition attracted less than 11 000 signatures – and this Sunday morning’s protest rally outside the Parliament House in Melbourne looks like attracting less than a hundred participants.

    The DVA Minister can then answer a journalist’s doorstop question with, “There is very little support for such a Royal Commission . End of story. Next …. ?”

    Except that the younger injured veterans and peacekeepers are unlikely to whimper into their beer; unlike my generation did. Trouble ahead..

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