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Home  /  January 2023  /  Comment

You by now, realise that, for all these years, I have been right when warning you the world is stuffed. On January 1, 2023 the world reached peak stuffedness.

While not directly related to the auto world, a new trend, reported in that left-wing bible of what used to be this planet’s mega power, the New York Times (“We seek the truth and help people understand the world” … whereas in this column we seek the opposite) demonstrated that now would be a good time to book into the funny farm, the nearest home of peace or head straight to the South Island of New Zealand and join PayPal founder Peter Thiel, movie maker James Cameron, Russian steelmaker Alexander Abramov and Microsoft founder Bill Gates taking insurance against the coming apocalypse.

“The executives at Daring Foods in Los Angeles had a tough summer. The company had grown 250 per cent in its second year, and there was enough turnover that it started to feel, as founder and chief executive Ross Mackay said, like ‘an elephant in the room’.

“There was one solution: Jump into an ice bath together.”

Mr Mackay also interviews job candidates while both are on vitamin IV drips.

While Daring Foods does make plant chicken … hey, let’s stop right there. Ross’s chicken has no chicken in it. I know you often find this column impossible to understand but if you sell a product that says chicken teriyaki on the pack, I bet you expect to be eating that something that once clucked, dropped eggs, pooed and roosted.

This new trend gets worse. Daring Foods is in LA and sells weird stuff, which is their excuse but “across the country, companies are entertaining clients with foot rubs and sound baths. Team brainstorming sessions are taking place in ice plunges and infra-red saunas”.

I think BHP and CBA have just announced they are installing infra-red saunas, sound and ice baths to replace their traditional meeting rooms.

Imagine you’re heading into your local Tesla dealer to discuss buying a Model Y performance car for a lazy $100k and a Tesla Powerwall for $20k (the price has gone up 100 per cent in four years and won’t work on three-phase power).

And in an even worse portent of the coming end of time when apocalyptic events will result in the extinction of humanity, the collapse of civilisation and the destruction of the planet, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has announced an increase in subsidies for the 500,000 Sydney motorists who already slip $2bn a year into the pockets of a private toll road owner.

Let’s guess who pays the most tolls? Yes, it’s the punters in the lowest income suburbs who will never vote Liberal in their lives.

In other words, tolls for these people are a tax for being poor. So why should you care about Sydney if you live in Melbourne or worse, Brisbane? Because, as Sydney University transport economist Professor David Hensher says, Sydney has become “the great laboratory” for the study of tollways.

Dave told Nine’s Matt Wade that Greater Sydney has more toll road kilometres than any other urban area in the world and more than 60 per cent of all the toll roads in this great, but not free, country.

So, let’s do the same analysis we applied to Daring plant chicken.

Dom’s toll roads are owned, with one exception, by Transurban. If you are forced to pay tolls, you can now claim a subsidy of up to $750 a year. But wait, there’s more. If you pay enough, you also get free rego. Now if you are a toller on Sydney’s M5 you get even more. Better than a set of steak knives, it’s cash back and that means you’re driving free. So, taxpayers already toss in money to get the toll roads started. Then the subsidies mean more taxpayer money is going to subsidise a private company make more money. I’m not smart enough to be an economist but giving motorists a rebate means the cost of each trip is cheaper which means there’s an incentive for drivers to make more trips and that pushes even more money the way of the tollway monopoly.

Associate editor of this journal Eric Johnston gave us the drum this week: “There’s an afternoon ritual on Parramatta Rd for drivers heading to Sydney’s west. Just before Strathfield, traffic starts to bank up in the left lane stretching back a kilometre or so into Concord. The reason? They are avoiding the M4.

Following Sunday’s price hike, a trip west on the M4 will now cost $7.26. Throw in a tunnel trip from Haberfield to dodge the potholes and traffic lights and that comes to $9.41. A round trip to the city is $18.82.

“Like every New Year’s Day, the price rose. This year it surged at an annualised rate of 6 per cent and all of that goes back to a consortium majority owned by ASX-listed toll road operator Transurban.

“In Sydney where Transurban has a major stake or full ownership to pretty much every toll road from the Cross City Tunnel, M2, M5, M7 and M8, the tolls are hiked quarterly based on national inflation levels.

“None – except the M7 – can lower their tolls as a result of deflation, meaning the prices will only ever go one way.”

And best of all, none of the toll roads have signs telling you the costs.

OK. The top-selling car picture of 2022 was Andy Warhol’s 1963 Silver car crash (in two parts) which was a steal at $140m. Of course, Andy’s picture couldn’t match the real thing.

The top selling car for 2022 was a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé for $210m.

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