Waiting for the fall that never comes? In my one conversation with my old work colleague Malcolm Turnbull since he became Opposition Leader I was struck by his normal ebullient optimism as he looked confidently forward to the day when the country fell in to an economic hole and the then continuing high approval ratings of Labor and its leader collapsed as the growth figures fell and the unemployment percentage rose. It was a “don’t you worry about that” approach, things will steadily move in our favour as the year progresses.

It seemed sensible to believe back then, many months ago when no one was talking about green shoots of recovery, that there was good reason for a little Opposition optimism. The consensus view was that an Australian recession was inevitable and while governments could still win in such a circumstance the odds about people becoming disenchanted with Kevin Rudd would certainly increase.

Now the economic climate has certainly changed. The stock market has dragged itself upwards, the leading independent forecaster Access Economics is less gloomy and today the minutes of the last Reserve Bank Board meeting are talking again about China perhaps being after all Australia’s economic saviour. And in the June motor vehicle sales figures out this morning from the Australian Bureau of Statistics there is yet another little sign that the worst may indeed be behind us.

The June 2009 seasonally adjusted estimate for total sales of new motor vehicles (80 330) increased by 5.7% when compared to May 2009. Seasonally adjusted — Sales of all vehicle types increased when comparing June 2009 with May 2009. Other vehicles recorded the largest increase, up 18.3%, followed by sports utility vehicles which rose 3.2% and passenger vehicles which rose 1.6%. All states/territories except the Northern Territory recorded seasonally adjusted sales for June 2009 above those of May 2009.

There is still plenty of scope for further economic chaos around the globe and political/social problems within China to snuff out such signs as these for optimism but if I was Malcolm Turnbull today I would not be as optimistic as at the start of the year that conditions will move in my favour. It is looking less and less likely that victory will just fall into his party’s hands.

Beer and predatory pricing. I hear from some of my old colleagues in the liquor trade (I once had a chain of liquor stores but no longer have any interest in the industry) that up in Queensland some of the independents are gathering information for a very interesting case against the supermarket chains of predatory pricing.

To date the ACCC has been reluctant to really go after Coles and Woolworths, which between them must now have a 50% share of all booze sales, but this time the evidence as told to me is compelling.

When beer is sold by the majors at $3 a case less than the buying price of the biggest independents, something is clearly wrong — especially when the loss leadering only takes place close to the location where an independent has dared to become competitive in the wine and spirits segments of the market. I am sure we will hear more about this.

Spitting out the meat. Ah, the wonders of modern warfare. The UK Guardian this morning has a horrid little story on page one about one of the latest inventions to come out of the US military’s Defence Advanced Research Project’s Agency – a robot that eats its way across a battle field creating its own fuel from eating whatever is in its path.