The Winds of Economic Change

 

These are turbulent times in the global economy. Depending on who you listen to, we are still in the midst of the GFC; or, the GFC ended but we are now on the cusp of GFC Mark II; China’s growth is either teetering or marching on; and the European sovereign debt crisis is threatening to usher in a possible Great Depression Mark II.

 

What does it all mean for Australia’s long-term economic and demographic outlook? And more importantly, what does it mean for football?

 

The short answer is “look north.”

 

For the long answer, well, without dwelling on too many of the economic and financial themes, GFC Mark I (or whatever you want to call it) has essentially highlighted two key underlying issues for us:

 

  1. The rise of China (and the relative demise of the US & Europe). Put simply, the US and Europe have been living beyond their means (both at a government level and at the individual consumer’s level) for yonks, and that’s now all unravelling. Meanwhile, China has been quietly buying up assets all over the world, first US Treasuries (underwriting America’s debt), and then mines, ports and roads to secure their supply-chain. Debate on the timing of China’s economic leadership has raged in The Economist recently, with China projected to surpass the US on most economic measures by 2015, and with Shanghai tipped by some to eclipse New York as the world’s leading financial centre by 2018.

 

  1. The importance of actually producing something tangible. When I went to Uni, the established orthodoxy that they would teach you in Economics was that Primary Industries (agriculture and mining) were really basic and the bottom-rung of the economic ladder; then Secondary Industries (manufacturing) were the next thing you might graduate to; then the most advanced level that everyone aspired to was when your economy was full of Tertiary Industries (services). Reality has since overtaken those theories, and Tertiary-centric economies without an underlying ‘real’ basis have now been exposed as a ‘house of cards’.

 

Heeding these themes and looking into the longer term, there are both opportunities and threats for Australia, and I reckon it may drive a fair bit of upheaval within the country over the next couple of decades.

 

Whilst many footy fans will voice a great resentment for “economics” and the role money plays in the game, it is inescapable. At the end of the day, someone has to pay for it. So if the economy faces upheaval, how does the AFL position itself for it?

 

The great strength of our sport is how it is so embedded in our national culture and psyche. And, not coincidentally, both our great game and our broader national folklore are centred on the bush, the inner-suburban industrial heartland, and the traditional harbours across the south.

 

But what if the nation changes? How does football keep pace with that, and preserve its revered place in our society and culture? Or to put it another way, when the winds of change start blowing, how do make sure we’re kicking with the breeze?

 

Before I go on any further, I should preface my remarks by stressing that the economic trends I’m talking about are in the ‘long-term’ sense: the next 30 years. Ironically, since I first started writing this about 3 weeks ago, some of the issues I’ll touch on have had considerable airplay in the news: the car industry has needed another lot of hand-outs; the new Darwin LNG Project has been approved; BHP’s Board has signed off on the expansion of the Port Hedland outer harbour; PNG has gone through another round of political instability; and today, the Geelong Alcoa plant is on the brink.

 

So, where are we headed?

 

Well, first, here’s a brief synopsis of the Australian economy.

 

It’s great that we think we’re all benefitting from this tremendous ‘mining boom’ at present. But for those of us that live in cities in the nation’s south-east, the great plus of this is really just in the strong Aussie dollar – our increased purchasing power when buying goods from overseas, and the reduced cost of overseas travel.

 

It’s difficult to escape the notion that what most of us in Sydney and Melbourne do is shuffle stuff around, as we provide services to each other. Our advanced ‘Tertiary sector’ economy is primarily about non-export services (finance, telecommunications, retail sales, property), with education probably the main ‘services’ industry that generates export income (ie. foreign students). In the main, we are just re-circulating wealth, which is all great if there’s an underlying source creating that wealth.

 

The ‘shuffling around’ phenomena is compounded by the sick state of Australian manufacturing. Sajayit Das (who admittedly is a bit of a ‘bear’ at the best of times, but whose logic I find hard to fault) recently forecast that Australia will lose twice as many manufacturing jobs in the next decade as we’ve lost in the last decade. My only surprise in that prediction is that we still have that many manufacturing jobs left to lose.

 

Part of the manufacturers’ pain is a result of the stronger Aussie dollar. This isn’t going away. Whilst speculators and those who have moved away from holding their foreign reserves in US$ have fuelled the current peak, when we adjust, it’ll be to a new baseline. NAB’s economists are predicting the A$’s long-term average over the next decade will be US$0.90, as opposed to the US$0.70 that it has averaged since floating in 1983.

 

Presumably, most of that job-loss pain will be felt in Sydney, Wollongong, Melbourne & Geelong. It could be particularly bad for Geelong & Adelaide if the car industry is in the gun, though Adelaide will claw some of that back from engineering services to support the huge Olympic Dam mine. Similarly, Newcastle will hurt on manufacturing, but benefit from coal exports.

 

We can’t compete in ‘old manufacturing’, that other countries (with lower wages) have since mastered. It’d be great if we could be clever and steal a march in some new technologies where there might be an opportunity to become a world-leader. Credit to Evan Thornley and Better Place for having a crack at this with electric vehicles, but here seems to be little other evidence of this happening.

 

Up until now, we’ve generally got away with our Tertiary sector ‘house of cards’. Housing prices have risen over the last few decades, sustaining many individuals’ sense of growing their wealth. Unemployment has so far remained reasonably low all round the country, such that the booming regions in the north and west struggle to attract Australian labour (WA Premier Colin Barnett recently declared that it’s easier to get workers for Pilbara mines from the UK and Ireland than from Sydney and Melbourne).

 

But I worry about how sustainable that is, and whether our prosperity in the south-east in really underpinned either by property speculators or being propped up by government. There seems to be a lot of construction work around Melbourne in the form of government-funded road works (eg. Peninsula Link; extensions at the southern end of the Geelong by-pass), but that sort of industry is only as sustainable as the government coffers (ie. tax revenues) are.

 

The key areas of growth (both in economic terms, and in population) in Australia will inevitably occur in the locations that produce Primary sector exports that go to China, India and other Asian markets. And to use the parlance common in articles published in the financial media, this might be the appropriate place to disclose that the author owns (modest) share-holdings in Woodside, Santos, Fortescue, Mt Gibson Metals and ERA.

 

In terms of mineral deposits (and for key exports, the focus is coal, oil & gas, iron ore, copper and uranium), this all points to the north and west, and perhaps also to Papua New Guinea. And if we focus on agricultural potential in terms of volumes of fresh water and scope for irrigation for ‘the food bowl of Asia’, we are again looking at Australia’s north. This is going to see the cities like Darwin, Cairns and Townsville take on increasing importance within the country, followed by Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Emerald, Broome, Port Hedland, Karratha and Geraldton. Perth and Brisbane will continue to do well from fly-in-fly-out mine-workers and engineering services, whilst other WA centres like Bunbury-Busselton will continue to grow as fly-in-fly-out bases.

 

Perhaps the 3 greatest regions of growth are:

(i)                  Central Queensland, bounded by Gladstone, Emerald and Mackay, where there’s a mix of large-scale LNG developments, coal mines, and new exports ports being constructed

(ii)                Darwin, with the mix of a new LNG plant to process and export gas from the WA/NT border, the produce from SA’s huge Olympic Dam mine to go out through its harbour, and greater potential in uranium

(iii)               The Pilbara, particularly at the ports towns of Karratha-Dampier and Port Hedland

 

Geraldton may loom as the fourth such zone, if the Oakajee port and rail complex (for iron ore exports) and the Square Kilometre Array global telescope project both go ahead. It is perhaps the ‘boom region with an asterix’, awaiting the outcome of those 2 dependencies.

 

Whilst Cairns is reportedly a basket-case right now (its tourism industry suffering from the trifecta of Cyclone Yasi, dampened consumer spending in Australia, and the strong Aussie dollar), it will come back at some point, aided by its role as a service centre for the mining industries at Weipa and PNG, and as well as benefitting from larger populations nearby.

 

Talking of PNG, the UN has predicted its population will double from 7 million in 2010 to 14 million in 2030, influenced by improved health standards and reduced infant mortality, and not hurt by considerable deposits of oil & gas, gold and copper. A feature in The Australian recently highlighted the rate of urbanisation, improving incomes and commercialisation (eg. rates of mobile phone ownership), and projected that Port Moresby will be bigger than Brisbane by 2030. It desperately needs its security and political issues sorted out, and its people will only enjoy wealth once the rule of law is established, but it is entirely realistic that its population will be half Australia’s within two decades.

 

I also reckon Canberra and Newcastle will continue to grow from the ‘spill-over’ from Sydney, from people that are priced out of Sydney housing and/or fleeing its congestion, particularly with Sydney’s suburban sprawl hemmed in by physical barriers in all directions.

 

So putting those things together, taking a holistic view of our region (ie. including NZ & PNG), and rolling forward to (say) 2040, then the populations of our largest cities (including adjoining towns within a commutable distance) might look like the following:

 

Cities of 3 million or more:

  • Sydney-Wollongong
  • Melbourne-Geelong
  • Port Moresby
  • Brisbane-Gold Coast
  • Perth-Mandurah

 

Cities of between 1 & 2 million:

  • Auckland
  • Adelaide

 

Cities of between 0.5 & 1 million:

  • Newcastle
  • Canberra
  • Cairns
  • Townsville
  • Darwin
  • Wellington
  • Rockhampton-Gladstone
  • possibly also the Sunshine Coast, if that’s not bracketed with Brisbane-Gold Coast
  • Mandurah-Bunbury would join this category, if they were to be bracketed together

 

Getting back to footy now, and the key point is that if the AFL was to do nothing, demographics (and economic development) may move against us. Our competition currently has teams based in only 5 of those cities (and ignoring 2 of the largest 7), with a few token games in a couple of others.

 

The NRL, however, is quite well naturally disposed to these economic trends. They already have teams in Auckland, Newcastle, Canberra and Townsville, and are currently assessing a series of expansion bids. Assuming they do the sensible thing and overlook Gosford’s bid (the Greater Sydney basin is already over-represented in their competition), they will progressively expand to 18 and then to 20, likely including:

  • a 4th Qld team (whether that’s Rockhampton, an established Brisbane QRL team like the Ipswich Jets or Redcliffe Dolphins, or the proposed composite Brisbane Bombers)
  • Perth
  • Wellington
  • Port Moresby

 

At that point, they will have teams in all of the largest 5 cities (and be considered the pre-eminent sporting competition in 3 of those 5), as well as in 5-6 of the next largest 9-11 cities.

 

Our game’s challenge is to maintain relevance on a national level, as the nation changes. This is important for the game as a whole, but also for those in the south-eastern heartland who might want their own current existence to remain untouched. If manufacturing withers away to nothing and services collapse without a sound local economic under-pinning, then south-eastern economies (and football club finances) will be in real trouble.

 

To stay afloat, south-eastern clubs will need distributions from a bigger pool of national tv rights – which needs the sport to be relevant to a bigger chunk of the nation. In particular, the game needs to be relevant in the places where people are employed and have high disposable incomes – like it or not, the game (and its clubs) now live off people being able to buy Foxtel subscriptions and the products advertised on free-to-air tv.

 

When it comes to that ‘maintaining national relevance’, the VFL/AFL has a mixed record – on one hand, it let slip previous positions of leadership among the football codes in places like Canberra and PNG, but the more recent moves to expand into Gold Coast and West Sydney are a recognition that those suburban areas have been expanding, and that we need to get our sport ‘in on the ground’ in those areas, so that locals there will grow up with our game. The AFL has rightly stressed that GWS is not about ‘converting’ people, but about pitching to people who haven’t been born yet.

 

The same thing goes for places like Cairns, and for that matter Port Moresby, Auckland, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The best way to be integral to the city’s sporting fabric in 2035 is to have been a part of the city’s scene for the previous 20 years.

 

The cases for the AFL to have a greater presence in Cairns and Port Moresby are inextricably linked. PNG’s security and health issues will hopefully gradually improve in time, but there’s no way we could in any good conscience send young draftees off to live there at the moment. But a Cairns-based team (playing a game or 2 in PNG annually) could represent the sport for the next 20 years and help prepare the ground. When I trekked to Kokoda in 2008, it was notable that most of the locals we met were not only NRL addicts, but specifically fans of the North Queensland Cowboys.

 

Of the 3 regions for intensive growth that I mentioned above (Central Queensland, Darwin and Pilbara, plus Geraldton as the ‘fourth with an asterix’), the issue is more about footholds and consolidation. Of those, only Darwin is realistically likely to grow to a level where it has the critical mass for an AFL team, and even that’s only after a fair chunk of the forecast growth has been realised. But playing an annual AFL game or 2 in each of the others might be the requirement to ensure the sport is sufficiently embedded in the local culture and foster tv ratings there.

 

It’s worth noting that the NRL is staging a game for premiership points in Darwin this year (South Sydney vs North Queensland). There’s also no shortage of New South Welshman and Queenslanders working in the Pilbara, so we shouldn’t let complacency get the better of us in those regions.

 

We also need to do more in the southern half of WA, a market which Demetriou has admitted is “under-serviced,” and which will continue to be the major point of supply for the Pilbara and the Murchison. Perth’s new stadium will help somewhat (though if they only build it for 60,000, West Coast will quickly have waiting-lists again), but the case for a 3rd WA team will emerge, particularly to ensure the sport continues to dominate the sporting culture there. Perhaps the expansion of the NRL to Perth will prove the catalyst, just as the first incarnation of the Western Reds prompted the AFL to expedite the creation of the Fremantle Dockers. Or perhaps it will be the growth in a geographically-distinct area (eg. Mandurah) that will trigger it. In any case, the WA economy should march on, with Perth and surrounds remaining in the thick of it.

 

And then there is the linkage to China. Firstly (and most obviously), this is why northern Australia is increasingly important, given that’s where a lot of our stuff goes. Currently, 25% of Australia’s exports go to China, but that figure probably understates the reality, with a chunk of the other 75% going elsewhere in Asia (eg. Singapore) and then being re-exported to China.

 

Then there are sponsors. The economic linkages will be an issue for the companies that are prospective football sponsors, so there will be clear commercial value for football to be able to show a China presence. We are never going to be a truly ‘global’ sport, but perhaps we should be taking the chance now to get a foot-hold in a country that might end up having 4 of the world’s 10 leading cities.

 

That’s not to say anything stupidly ambitious about becoming the national sport up there, and making an impression in China will ultimately need local player production. But the AFL is right to plant some seeds. The mooted player academy in Guangzhou, and nurturing the game in Tianjin under the banner of being Melbourne’s sister-city, both make a lot of sense.

 

So what do we need to do then?

 

To start with, as well as fostering grass-roots footy, we need to play games for premiership points at the highest-level in more of these growth regions, and quickly. We could do this either of 2 ways:

 

  1. Give every club 10 home and 10 away games, and have 2 ‘neutral rounds’ in the growth centres, across the north from Gladstone to Geraldton, and overseas.

 

  1. Recognising the travel burden of some clubs (and the distortions of this shown in stats like player retirement ages), have each of the Victorian clubs take 1 home game (or more, if they wish) to a northern or overseas venue (I would probably excuse Hawthorn from this, giving the contribution they make to the game in taking multiple games to another state).

 

From some of the recent media talk, it may be that Melbourne takes a home game to China. Perhaps they could take their home games against (say) an SA team, GWS or Gold Coast, and a lower-drawing Victorian opponent up there and have an annual tour, in (say) Tianjin, Shanghai and Guangzhou. They could potentially build up a reasonable home-ground advantage with greater familiarisation, whilst showcasing the sport.

 

In taking the AFL to the growing mining regions of WA, it would be unreasonable to make West Coast or Fremantle give up home games, given that they already carry an enormously disproportionate share of the league’s travel burden. Perhaps West Coast could contribute to the cause in the form of providing money, by funding the upgrades of grounds in the likes of Geraldton and Karratha-Dampier.

 

Beyond taking those few games a year into those growing regions in the near-term, we also need to plan for expansion. Much as that seems to be a dirty word amongst most Melbourne football columnists at the moment, the long-term viability of the game ultimately requires that we have more clubs located in the places where there’s growth in the number of tv viewers (and consumers with disposable income). As mentioned above, the sooner you put teams in places like North Queensland or Shanghai, the more entrenched they will be in the local sporting culture in 20 years.

 

I sincerely hope I’m wrong in my gloomy outlook for the south-eastern economy – after all, I live in Melbourne, own property here, and work in financial services.

 

And I don’t think we’re in for a immediate or sudden ‘doomsday’. But the trend is there: the balance of economic power is moving to the places that generate the export income, and the places that buy it from us. Footy is going to have to get with that, or else it’s going to get overtaken by it.

 

Comments

  1. Great article Brad. What you’re really saying, if I’ve got this right, is that footy and our wider economy needs to be investing into the areas that will provide the growth in both people and wealth. On purely an unemotional economic level this is right. However footy and sporting emotions do not always follow a logical line. Population does not automatically equal success.

    Strangely, however, out nations economic managers should look at this notion very carefully. In my humble opinion one of the biggest mistakes we are currently making is that we are not investing into those areas that will give Australia a solid future, especially after the minerals and commodities run out. We should be investing the wealth from the mining sector into those areas of the world that will give us long term growth – Indonesia, China, India, Brazil etc. Call it a Sovereign Fund if you like.

    The idea is that rather than simply selling product to these countries (which makes our companies wealthy, which in turn provides politicians vast sums of tax dollars to waste) we should also directly invest into them thereby attaching our economy to their long term gains. Its a bit like getting your children to put some of their pocket money in the tin today so they have something behind them later on.

    This idea has been put forward before but has not gained any traction for some reason.

    However we should be careful not to completely abandon America as an economic power house. Yes the Chinese economy is growing fast and many of its fundementals will pass the USA in a few years. However on purely a size basis the Chinese economy will not surpass the USA until well after 2030 (assuming it keeps going and the Yanks stop). A lot can happen between now and then.

  2. John Butler says:

    Dips, I think the branch office mentality is strong in Australian business. Particularly because so many of our largest companies are foreign off-shoots, or have limited domestic competition (eg. banks, supermarkets, even cinemas & media).

    There’s not the venture capital market that thrives in the US. Government has traditionally had to play a much bigger role in R&D because of the void Oz business won’t fill.

    PS: what’s the Future Fund meant to be if not a Sovereign Fund? But it doesn’t really play the role due to political constraints placed upon it.

    Anyway, Brad, thanks for this attempt to project to the future. Always a fraught exercise. A lot for consideration here.

  3. Mark Doyle says:

    Brad, Australia’s economy is in good shape with most people having a good standard of living and financial security. However, it could be better with better long term business planning and the elimination of state governments, which hinder national focus.
    The European financial debt ‘crisis’ is a media ‘beat-up’ and will not result in a depression. The European Commission and the French and German governments will successfully manage this so-called ‘crisis’ and some of the debts of Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland will be written-off. The banks will be forced into incurring some losses and there will be tax increases and European countries will operate under strict financial and taxation policies.
    Manufacturing jobs in Australia have been declining for thirty years and will continue. Australia needs to think globally as multinational companies have done for a long time. Australia’s future prosperity is in Asia with the development of strong economic and cultural relationships. We should follow the example of Germany which developed a strong relationship with China in the early 1990’s to develop the Chinese manufacturing sector. This relationship has resulted in the continuance of a strong German manufacturing sector.
    Australia should develop strong relationships with Asian countries such as China, India, South Korea, The Phillapines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal. These relationships should focus on the primary and tertiary sectors of the economy and especially for jobs in education services, health services and tourism. To enhance our relationship with Asian countries, it should be compulsory for all Australian children to learn and become fluent in at least one Asian language. As for sports relationships with Asia we should focus on international sports such as Tennis, Golf and Soccer. The internationalistion of aussie rules football is an unrealistic dream and should be limited to TV product as promotion of international sponsors.
    The future prosperity of the AFL aussie rules competition is a more equal distribution of clubs around Australia with four Victorian clubs (Geelong, Collingwood, Carlton and Essendon), two Queensland clubs (Brisbane and Gold Coast), two New South Wales clubs (Sydney and West Sydney), two South Australian clubs (Adelaide and Port Adelaide), two West Australian clubs (West Coast and Fremantle), one Tasmanian club (Hobart) and one Northern Territory club (Darwin). This distribution of AFL clubs would ensure the maximum TV audience and garantee TV income.

  4. JB – the Future Fund is a watered down Sovereign Fund. Its like a term deposit in the whole menagerie of investment opportiunities out there for Australia. Unfortunately its also been raided by incompetents for the wrong purposes.

    Mark – The European crisis is a beat up? Not sure the Greeks, Portugese, or Irish agree. Especially those who are now out of work – 21% of them in Greece.

    The Australian banks increasing interest rates indepently of the RBA is a bad sign for this country too. Could bring about a credit squeeze here.

  5. Brad, you could have put a bit more effort into the topic. Your analogy is too brief. (I needed two cups of tea and three rounds of toast)

    Europe is just about to blow open – beware of Greeks baring (and throwing) bricks. Many cultures find P I G S unpalatable.

    The Etats – Unis always does well when there is a major conflict in the world. There will be one before 2030. Don’t write them off just yet. That willl bring them back into play. The conflict will be about water, climate change effect on low lying populations and polution. There will be sporadic localised riots (wars) due to cultural conflict (Religious differences) throughout the world while we have the majority of sheep being run by a minority of dogs. It is time that the world’s moderates stepped up to the plate.

    Australia is a nation of fat cats and many of our bread and butter industries are all but extinct due to high cost of production compared with those in emerging economies with large populations. This will continue to be problematic if we do not make changes.

    Oh and the footy bit:

    The GFC became a problem (for some) in 2007. After being addressed in 2008 it emerged again in 2009. Faded slightly in 2010 giving many a false sense of security but in the latter half of 2011 there were more ominous signs.

    The current situation indicates thet the GFC is not finished and could again be a major player in the 2012 historical perspective.

  6. Our grandparents were ants; our children are grasshoppers. We’ve played a major role in the transition. I hope that I, nor my children or grandchildren, ever have to experience a social, economic or environmental Winter.

  7. Phanto – one of my all time favourites:

    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    In accents most forlorn,
    Outside the church, ere Mass began,
    One frosty Sunday morn.

    The congregation stood about,
    Coat-collars to the ears,
    And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
    As it had done for years.

    “It’s looking crook,” said Daniel Croke;
    “Bedad, it’s cruke, me lad,
    For never since the banks went broke
    Has seasons been so bad.”

    “It’s dry, all right,” said young O’Neil,
    With which astute remark
    He squatted down upon his heel
    And chewed a piece of bark.

    And so around the chorus ran
    “It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “Before the year is out.”

    “The crops are done; ye’ll have your work
    To save one bag of grain;
    From here way out to Back-o’-Bourke
    They’re singin’ out for rain.

    “They’re singin’ out for rain,” he said,
    “And all the tanks are dry.”
    The congregation scratched its head,
    And gazed around the sky.

    “There won’t be grass, in any case,
    Enough to feed an ass;
    There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
    As I came down to Mass.”

    “If rain don’t come this month,” said Dan,
    And cleared his throat to speak –
    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “If rain don’t come this week.”

    A heavy silence seemed to steal
    On all at this remark;
    And each man squatted on his heel,
    And chewed a piece of bark.

    “We want an inch of rain, we do,”
    O’Neil observed at last;
    But Croke “maintained” we wanted two
    To put the danger past.

    “If we don’t get three inches, man,
    Or four to break this drought,
    We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “Before the year is out.”

    In God’s good time down came the rain;
    And all the afternoon
    On iron roof and window-pane
    It drummed a homely tune.

    And through the night it pattered still,
    And lightsome, gladsome elves
    On dripping spout and window-sill
    Kept talking to themselves.

    It pelted, pelted all day long,
    A-singing at its work,
    Till every heart took up the song
    Way out to Back-o’-Bourke.

    And every creek a banker ran,
    And dams filled overtop;
    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “If this rain doesn’t stop.”

    And stop it did, in God’s good time;
    And spring came in to fold
    A mantle o’er the hills sublime
    Of green and pink and gold.

    And days went by on dancing feet,
    With harvest-hopes immense,
    And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
    Nid-nodding o’er the fence.

    And, oh, the smiles on every face,
    As happy lad and lass
    Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
    Went riding down to Mass.

    While round the church in clothes genteel
    Discoursed the men of mark,
    And each man squatted on his heel,
    And chewed his piece of bark.

    “There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
    There will, without a doubt;
    We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “Before the year is out.”

  8. I like this one Dips.

    On a morning from a Bogart movie

    In a country where they turn back time

    You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre

    Contemplating a crime

    She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running

    Like a watercolor in the rain

    Don’t bother asking for explanations

    She’ll just tell you that she came

    In the year of the cat

    She doesn’t give you time for questions

    As she locks up your arm in hers

    And you follow till your sense of which direction

    Completely disappears

    By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls

    There’s a hidden door she leads you to

    These days, she says, “I feel my life

    Just like a river running through”

    [ From: http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-year-of-the-cat-lyrics-al-stewart.html ]

    The year of the cat

    Why she looks at you so coolly?

    And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea

    She comes in incense and patchouli

    So you take her, to find what’s waiting inside

    The year of the cat

    Well morning comes and you’re still with her

    And the bus and the tourists are gone

    And you’ve thrown away your choice and lost your ticket

    So you have to stay on

    But the drumbeat strains of the night remain

    In the rhythm of the new-born day

    You know sometime you’re bound to leave her

    But for now you’re going to stay

    In the year of the cat

    Year of the cat

    Send “The Year Of The Cat” Ringtone to your Cell

  9. Thanks for the feedback, guys. Been another interesting week in the Aust & global economies. A deal’s been done on Greek debt, but it seems the market doesn’t believe it; more manufacturing (and Qantas maintenance jobs) are going; Woodside shares are up another $1 today after their results… and the AFL announced a $23.6m loss…

    I note Dips’ comment that sport doesn’t always follow logic, and there will always be some sort of weighting towards history, alongside population and economics. There are plenty of people who move for employment or lifestyle reasons, but continue to barrack for their home-town team – whereas no-one barracks for the city that they might move to in the future. But this ‘diaspora effect’ is not enough to fund the sport, or sustain any club. Hence, we’ve got to be seeding the boom-zones.

    Back to the economy, and Australia does need to get serious about producing stuff other than of the dig-it-up-ship-it-out nature, but that means actually picking sectors where we have some sort of potential competitive advantage (as opposed to trying to do auto or textiles). We should be trying to do more downstream processing of minerals – but to my original premise, that’s only going to happen somewhere near where the minerals are, not in Sydney or Melboune.

  10. We are pretty good at producing sit-coms Brad, aka party factional brawling. Not sure if there would be an export market there.

    I agree with your third paragraph but I am not sure if Gina Rinehart does and she appears to have more say than me.

  11. 20 Teams by 2025.

    New teams

    Perth Pirates
    Castle Coast (Newcastle/ Central Coast)

    Relocated teams
    Tassie Devils (If a Victorian team must relocate, it must go here)

    4 Divisions

    AFL NORTH
    3 NSW
    2 QLD

    AFL WEST
    3 WA
    2 SA

    AFL SOUTH
    5 VIC or 4 VIC & 1 TAS

    AFL CENTRAL
    5 VIC

    Play 23 Matches over 24 Rounds

    All teams in Division twice home and away (8 Games)
    All other teams once (7 home, 7 away, 1 Neutral)

    Gives a total of 23×10=230 Matches

    Including 10 Neutral games to spread around expansion markets.

    And this does not of course prevent clubs selling home matches as well to expansion markets.

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