Michael Pascoe writes:

Reserve Bank Governor Ian Macfarlane has again done nothing
very well with interest rates remaining on hold this morning as they
will be for as far as the eye can imagine. But don’t be fooled – behind
that masterly inaction is some serious rumination on economic issues
that just has to be tickled the right way by a flattering 20-something
journalist to “lighten up”.

Macfarlane refuses to be interviewed by local hacks but occasionally
deigns to grant an audience to a foreign fly-in – such as the Asian Wall Street Journal‘s
young Hong Kong-based Mary Kissel, who seems to be suddenly developing a
line in “John Howard is great, just like the Gipper”. Well, the Journal is pro-George W Bush as well.

Given the fan clubs she’s a member of, perhaps it’s not so strange to see Ms Kissel turning up in The Oz opinion pages:
“Credit John Howard for the AWB inquiry”: “On a recent trip to
Sydney, I was surprised to see that the Australian media’s reaction to
all this has been not to glorify, but to vilify the Government…”

Ms Kissel also provided WSJ readers with a rather facile paean
to Howard for his decade in Kirribilli House – I suspect there’s no
point trying to explain to her the irony of the Lucky Country tag – but
it’s her exclusive interview with Guvna Macfarlane that deserves a
wider audience, right from the first paragraph:

Ian Macfarlane, Australia’s central bank governor, is a
serious man, and so are members of his office staff. As I wait in a
formal sitting room at the Reserve Bank of Australia, a secretary
hurries in and snatches away my cookies and coffee before I can carry
them into the interview – “he won’t like that,” she hurriedly
whispers, as I’m whisked to a corner office overlooking Sydney Harbour’s
blue waters.

Ian Macfarlane, cookie monster. Kissel explains to her WSJ readers that Macfarlane is Asia’s Alan Greenspan, only blunter and better, and then proceeds to bare his soul:

Shifting slightly in his seat as we start, the 59-year-old
Mr Macfarlane looks a little uncomfortable for a big man (he stands
six feet, two inches) with such a stellar record. “Everything is
controversial,” he says, flashing a penetrating glance. I assure him
that I’m not probing for political nuggets – I’m just an economics
enthusiast. So for fun, I start with the debate du jour:
current-account deficits. There’s a method to my opening gambit. The
deficit is the press’s favourite financial bogeyman…

And so it goes. Along the way there’s the odd Europhobic view:

Sounds like Mr Macfarlane’s continental experience – a
career Aussie central banker, he had short stints at Oxford University
and at the OECD in Paris in the ’70s – hasn’t muddled his common sense
thinking.

I suspect the girl orders Freedom Fries when at Maccas. But it sounds like the Guvna was enjoying it:

We bat around a few more ideas…Now that we’ve been talking
for a while, like many economists who get excited about explaining the
way the world works, the governor starts to light up: Any global
economic theory “has to explain” why America’s current-account deficit
rose sharply, why banks pushed interest rates to their lowest levels in
a century, why bond yields are so low, even when interest rates are
rising; to name a few, he says. “The common theme through them all is
this huge increase in savings in some parts of the world!” he exclaims.

Nothing like exclaiming an exclamation mark to lighten up. But the best
is yet to come, the concluding paragraph, the damning RBA
cookies-for-comment scandal:

Rising from his chair, Mr. Macfarlane says he’s “flattered”
I read his speeches, and shows me out the door, where one of the
secretaries that met me when I arrived covertly slides me a plastic tin
filled with chocolate Tim Tams, Australia’s ubiquitous, delicious,
terribly fattening cookies. “We thought you’d like these,” she giggles,
as I head toward the elevator bank. Now imagine that happening at the
U.S. Federal Reserve.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW