Just following the rules. I must say I’m not one of those upset by the administrators of the Special Air Service continuing to dock the pay of overpaid soldiers despite being told by the Defence Minister four months ago to fix the problem by not doing so. I actually want my military officers to follow the rules written down for them to follow rather than off-the-cuff and probably illegal orders from a politician — whether that be Joel Fitzgibbon or Brendan Nelson.

Learned Optimism better than Authentic Happiness. There’s no doubt that the human resources people at education and work place relations who organised the training conference featuring the American psychologist Martin Seligman chose the wrong book to name it after. Authentic Happiness was just too irresistible for opposition Senators to pass by during last night’s Estimates Committee hearing. Seligman’s original work called Learned Optimism would not have attracted nearly the same attention. I happen to have read them both and reckon there are a few Liberal Senators who would benefit from doing the same.

Her Majesty might not be pleased. I’m sure that the proper Queen of Australia would have made a different decision to that of her local delegate, the Governor General Quentin Bryce. Real royalty knows that there’s nothing wrong with a bit of hunting and shooting and Her Majesty has long been the patron of the National Rifle Association of Great Britain. Perhaps the aggrieved National Rifle Association of Australia should take up with Buckingham Palace their unhappiness at Ms Bryce refusing to be their patron.

Thank goodness for mining’s long lead times. Financial crisis or no financial crisis, private new capital expenditure in Australia has so far kept chugging along. This morning’s Australian Bureau of Statistics figures have the trend estimate rising 4.2% in the December quarter 2008 while the seasonally adjusted estimate rose 6.0%. For buildings and structures the rise for the quarter in trend terms was 6.6% while the seasonally adjusted estimate rose 11.5%. For equipment, plant and machinery the trend was not so buoyant — up 1.8% in the December quarter but just 1.0% in seasonally adjusted terms.

Growth in total capital expenditure for the year to December in seasonally adjusted terms increased by 17.8% with buildings and structures up 24.2% and equipment., plant and machinery rising 12.6%.

Growth of this kind shows why Australia has yet to suffer the recession affecting much of the rest of the world but there are some clear indications in the ABS release that the best might well be behind us — certainly for manufacturing industry. Estimates made in December of expected future expenditure for this financial year of $98,145 million were down 4.4% on the previous estimate made a quarter before. For manufacturing industry expectations for the first half of the 2009 calendar year are down 14.6% since measured in the September quarter survey.

There goes the money. In case you haven’t looked at your superannuation statements lately, here’s confirmation that the last year has not been good for your savings. Managed funds institutions had a shocker in 2008 with total consolidated assets at 31 December of $1,197.2b, being a decrease of $91.0b (7%) on the revised September quarter 2008 figure of $1,288.2b.and a 13.2% fall on the figure at the end of 2007.
For the December quarter:

Consolidated assets of superannuation funds decreased by $61.3b (8%); life insurance offices decreased by $15.1b (8%); public unit trusts decreased by $13.3b (5%); cash management trusts decreased by $1.1b (2%); and common funds decreased by $0.3b (2%). Consolidated assets of friendly societies remained virtually the same.

Investment in equities and units in trusts decreased by $67.2b (14%); assets overseas decreased by $29.2b (12%), short term securities decreased by $10.2b (10%) and long term securities decreased by $3.5b (4%). These falls were partially offset by increases in cash and deposits, up $15.1b (10%) and other assets, up $4.7b (9%).

These movements are primarily the result of valuation changes. During the December quarter 2008, the S&P/ASX 200 fell 19.1%, the price of US shares (represented by the S&P 500) fell 22.6% and the A$ depreciated against the US$ by 13.4%.

At 31 December, 2008, investment managers had $1,006.0b in funds under management, down $128.7b (11%) on the revised September quarter 2008 figure of $1,134.7b. They managed $682.9b (57%) of the consolidated assets of managed funds institutions.