The Great Bank Robbery

The Great Bank Robbery

As the economy tanks,
The states join the federal ranks.
They’ve run out of dough;
They’re desperate, so
They’re legally robbing the banks.

I would like to state at the start of this essay that it is in no way to be construed as financial advice, (see a licensed financial adviser or do your own research when making investment decisions) and to state also, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I do own bank shares, as indeed do millions of Australians either directly or indirectly through superannuation policies – I am not a bank shill and don’t believe the banks should be immune from scrutiny and criticism and, if necessary, punitive action when they err. I believe however, that bank-bashing (the great Australian sport) and bank-robbing are both counterproductive in the long run.

Nothing demonstrates better the true nature of both the Australian government and the opposition then the recent imposition of the bank tax, or as they prefer to call it: “the large bank levy.” The tax is selectively applied to the five major banks, and at this point in time is not applied to the smaller banks or overseas banks, clearly putting the major domestic banks at a competitive disadvantage. The monies raised will no doubt be used to plug a small part of the fiscal hole created by wasteful spending – it is a short-term band aid measure and just kicks the debt can down the road a little further. Of course the opposition supported the move – they are well aware that the general public (also known as the voters) overwhelmingly hate the banks. The Liberal government, under the Prime ministership of the super-wealthy ex-merchant banker and lawyer, Malcolm Turnbull, has demonstrated once again that it is a Social Liberal government and has abandoned completely its ties to its Classical Liberal (almost the polar opposite) roots. It is a left of centre socialist government while the opposition Labor Party is far-left and the Greens (their strange bedfellows) are extreme-left – everything has shifted left over the past couple of decades. Now the state of South Australia has decide to impose a bank tax of their own on the same banks and no doubt other cash-strapped states will do the same. Both the feds and the states are running out of money (actually they ran out of money quite some time ago, but are now running out of credit) and have had to go into the bank-robbing business – they don’t have the courage to cut spending so have to get the money from somewhere – in the tradition of Ned Kelly they have figured out that you can’t rob money from people who don’t have any – the banks are the obvious target.

These are the same banks of course who were widely congratulated (for a short time) some eight or so years ago for saving us from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Our majors, unlike so many banks in the US and Europe, had not got embroiled in the sub-prime fiasco – sure the NAB had a relatively small exposure and the ANZ even smaller, but overall the banks had been extremely cautious, even to the point of being criticised by some commentators for not getting in for their share of the pie. Had it been otherwise, then Australia, like the US and Europe, would have been plunged into recession and worse – but that was eight years ago, so is mostly forgotten – the banks once again are the targets of public anger and thus it is politically safe, even advantageous, to rob them.

Ok, you say – so what about the fact that the banks are making super-profits? (I disagree with this term but will use it for the sake of the exercise) In the tradition of banana republics, shouldn’t we take this excess money that they are hoarding (or giving to their greedy shareholders) and give it to the poor. (i.e. the people who don’t own bank shares). Well let us first examine in a simplified but logical and unemotional way whether the banks are making super-profits.

Most sane people would agree that a profit is a good thing – after all, the money you have left on payday after paying your tax and work expenses is your profit. If your expenses exceeded the amount you were paid then that would be a loss and you would be going backwards financially. So profit (unlike what the extreme left say) is good – we have established that fact by logical analysis. It is therefore good that a corporation must make a profit to be viable just as any business large or small must. Let us then examine record profits. Because of inflation, an individual or a business large or small must make a record profit each year or they are going backwards – this is simple grade three (or is it two?) mathematics. An individual will need more money (because of inflation) to meet the costs of living – in simple terms, a corporation will need to grow and also distribute an increased dividend to its shareholders so that they can meet the increased cost of living. Of course with both individuals and businesses it is more complicated than that, as profits may be saved and reinvested – banks also are in the process of increasing reserves due to new banking rules, but let’s keep it simple.

Some individuals, businesses and corporations that are involved in cyclical industries have to make super-profits from time to time. Examples are farmers or miners – a farmer may make no money for two years and then have a bumper harvest when prices for his product are high – he makes a lot of money; (a super-profit) he pays off his debts from the lean years and if lucky has enough to put some away for the future bad times. A mining company will on average enjoy high prices for its commodity about three years out of nine, so must make hay while the sun shines – again its profits must be very high during the good years in order to create a cash buffer.

So we come to the banks and their profits. The banks are cyclical, and from an investor’s point of view relatively risky. (the subject of this essay is an example of an unforeseen risk) They are not usually however (at least not in Australia historically) anywhere near as cyclical as say a miner like BHP, which was making oodles of money a few years ago (when the then Labor government wanted to impose a mining tax) but now struggles through the commodity slump. The banks churn out a reasonable dividend every six months when risk  (investment in shares should deliver a risk premium to help justify the risk) is taken into account, and banks have recovered much of their share price since the GFC, (Commonwealth bank has exceeded it) but the GFC started in 2007 – one would generally hope that a sound capital investment recovered its losses after ten years.

When looking at profits, the size of the profit must be compared to the overall value or market capitalization (simply multiply the share price by the number of shares on issue) of the company. A very large profit in terms of its absolute size in dollars is going to be normal and healthy for a very large corporation. A much smaller company with a much smaller market capitalization will naturally have a much smaller overall profit, but the ratios of both company profits to market capitalization will be similar if the companies are performing in a similar profitable manner. In other words don’t be scared by a very large profit number – it is probably being made by a very large company – like Commonwealth Bank.

The argument that the banks are making super-profits simply does not hold water for one simple reason – the banks are cheap, or at least they are valued cheaply. The dearest bank, the Commonwealth Bank, has a P/E (price to earnings ratio) of only 14.2 at this time, far below many of the large corporations listed and considerably less than the average P/E of the market. The market has no bias one way or another towards the banks and coldly values a company according to its collective analysis (and a fair degree of crystal ball gazing and guesswork). The bank has a return on assets of only 1% and a net margin of not much over 2%, (these are all approx figures – do your own research) i.e. it is effectively lending money at slightly over 2% interest when its costs are taken into account – would you lend money at 2%? It has bad and doubtful debts of approx. 1.3 billion dollars on its books – that’s 1.3 billion dollars it may eventually have to write off. It has an ROE (return on equity) of about 15, which is good but not exceptional – there are many more companies on the ASX with far better ROE’s. I think you may be starting to understand the reason Australian banks don’t trade on high P/E’s – seldom more than 15 – they are indeed risky. As a comparison, real estate in say, Sydney, probably has a P/E of around 40 based on rental income, so Sydney real estate is much dearer than Commonwealth Bank shares at least by the P/E yardstick.

In conclusion I would just like to state once again that I do not claim to be a financial expert, far from it. I have however been heavily involved in stock market trading and investing for twelve years and over that time have become increasingly aware of the general lack of knowledge (even amongst otherwise knowledgeable people) of the stock market and corporations. This is disturbing when one considers that we live in a capitalist society and owe our high standard of living to the businesses, small to large, which create wealth. It also means that immoral governments can more easily make cynical decisions which damage individuals and the economy without a public backlash – in this case, even getting quite a measure of public approval. Governments, it would appear, benefit from keeping their subjects in the dark – they will continue to behave in this manner as long as they can get away with it – you can bank on it.

Syria-sly

Ah….Hello….. is that the White House?

Ah, yes sir it is, what can we do for you?

Ah..well…I’m a bit confused about the Syrian situation and I just wondered whether there was anyone there who could help me….ah…I did vote for President Trump….

That’s excellent sir, I’ll just transfer you through to someone who can help…Ah just hold the line….(muffled sounds..) whizzz…pop…pop…pop….whirrrr…..er…Hello

Oh…Hello……..

Hello….we…sorry….I, understand that you wish to talk about the Syrian situation

Yes I do

(voice muffled) Ok guys…..you getting this?
Ok…Go ahead sir…

Well you see, I just don’t understand what is going on in Syria. I have Christian friends there and they say that Assad, though no saint, protects them from radical Islamists and they feel they will be killed if the rebels win – they say the same will happen to people of all the other faiths as well, so really, I’m quite confused – why are we helping the rebels and trying to topple Assad?

Don’t worry sir, we are confused too…ha ha…no, just our little joke – we know exactly what we are doing in Syria. You just go ahead and tell us…ah…me….what you think is the situation over there.

Well ok….as far as I can see we and our allies are in a sort of alliance with Turkey, the Gulf Arab States and Jordan to back the rebels, who are a loose alliance of jihadists such as Hayat Tahrir-al-Sharam, al-Qaeda and a great many other insane Islamist organizations.
Our enemy is The Syrian Government of which Bashar Assad is the leader. He is backed by the Russians, Iran, Hezbollah and the Shia militias.
The enemy of both sides is Sunni ISIS. The Kurds are also fighting ISIS but Turkey is fighting the Kurds and ISIS….ISIS also wants to overthrow the Syrian Government but is violently opposed to the rebels. The Russians are bombing ISIS, as is the US and its allies, and now the US is striking Syrian Government airfields. The Syrian Government forces, despite appearing to be winning, have, according to us, just bombed a lot of women and babies with poison gas…..perhaps you can see why I’m confused…..

Of course sir, and here’s the reason – all of what you have just said is quite accurate and makes perfect sense. Your problem is that, and I say this with the deepest respect, is that you have been listening to the Russians and we all know what lying &*^%$#@ they are…

Well I do glance at RT occasionally, but I agree that the Russians can’t be trusted….unlike…ah…you….but Assad seemed to be getting the upper hand, so why would he bomb innocent women and children, surely knowing that he would bring the wrath of the US down on his head…..well, actually the heads of the people at the airfield.

Well he is an Arab…he he… sorry sir, another little joke, please forgive me – seriously though, of course Assad will bomb women and children – women are damned feisty these days – have you seen those Kurdish broads in their fatigues? And those sweet little kids? Well they may grow up one day into Jihadists, so of course he would kill them – he’s a bad dude sir – believe me – any more things we…I…can clear up for you?

Well, just the gas attack and the subsequent strike – are you absolutely sure that Assad did it – I mean on purpose? The Russians reckon the bombs hit a store of the stuff or something – I mean you seemed to act awfully fast – and there was bipartisan support, which is always a worry – wasn’t political was it?

Sir, I have already told you what lying @*&^%$# the Russians are – we would not have acted unless our intelligence was 100 percent sure – we knew Assad had chemical weapons at that base and we knew exactly when he was going to use them – I can assure you there was no doubt.

Oh…I see….then…..why didn’t you hit the base before he could launch the strike…….?

(silence)…………………..Well we’re pleased to have cleared that up for you sir…..could you just hold the line and give us your name and address please……..oh……of course….we already have that information…..we’ll be in touch……goodbye.

Why 18C must be repealed

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 – SECT 18C

Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it:
(a) causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or
(b) is done in a public place; or
(c) is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public place.
(3) In this section: “public place” includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.
{From the Institute of Public Affairs website}

Have a careful read and you may get some idea of why writers, journalists and yes, even poets are literally scared stiff of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Now, as a writer, I am a minnow (thank goodness) swimming in the great ocean of words and ideas that is the internet, but even I am forever mindful of the threat that hangs over my head when publishing any of my poems or articles. The successful prosecution of Andrew Bolt by a group of offended litigants sent shockwaves through the journalistic profession and alarmed writers and broadcasters in general. (except for those firmly on the left, who welcomed it) Further cases such as the Queensland Institute of Technology computer room affair, which had a devastating effect on the students involved, only served to strengthen the belief among conservatives and libertarians that freedom of expression could no longer be taken for granted, and indeed no longer existed, at least when applied to certain subjects. The recent harassment of the great cartoonist Bill leak for his depiction of various topical subjects in cartoon form was so severe that his life was threatened and he had to sell his house and move. No doubt the emotional and financial stress led to his early death. As usual the punishment is in the process.

The left, of course, want 18C to stay as is, and this is for various reasons: first of all they are not really into free speech; the extremists (forever insecure) such as the Greens, are all about thought control and furthering division based on race and culture; Labor’s Bill Shorten is a cynical opportunist who will use any stick to bash the government about the head, and various elements within Labor are as extreme as the Greens; the Independants are also mainly self-serving or so dumb that they probably think that 18C is a large body of salty water somewhere on the face of the globe.
Their collective reasoning for the retention of 18C is based on their claim that it prevents so called hate speech and that removing it would somehow result in a deluge of offensive actions against various minorities based on their creed, skin colour or culture. This of course is totally wrong, but is the false narrative continually pushed by them and the mainstream media.

The reason that 18C must be repealed is simply that it inhibits free expression, and free expression is absolutely necessary in any Western Liberal Democracy. Free expression is not free when it is compromised by legislation such as 18C. There is not, as the left seem to fear, a vast army of people waiting and ready to abuse and insult various groups. There wasn’t before 18C was enacted and there is not now. People generally get along with each other and act in a civil manner towards each other, even when they have opposing views, and Australians in particular are known for their tolerance. There are however many people wishing to question verbally or in writing, issues which many, perhaps even sometimes the majority, consider settled, or perhaps simply couldn’t be bothered questioning. As things stand even the subjects of satire must be heavily disguised in order to avoid the possible heavy hand of “Big Brother.”

Laws already exist to protect the populace from actions such as incitement to violence etc.. Laws also protect individuals from slander and libel – some may say there is too much protection, particularly for the rich and powerful. As regards the present debate in parliament regarding 18C , the government is considering replacing “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” with “harass” but this is being opposed by the opposition and some independents. The government also wishes to change the process to make it less onerous for defendants, but any changes face being blocked in the Senate. (as usual)

In conclusion, the fight to have 18C repealed is based on the idea that free people in a free society must be free to express their thoughts and opinions without being suppressed by government. It is not about the validity or truth of those ideas but about the right to air them in public and for the public then to form their own opinions. In some cases expressed opinions may be hurtful to people with sensitive natures; they may be offended; that is a small price to pay for living in a free society.

Breaking News! The Great Southern Land elects Cary Ben-ardly as President

It’s great in The Great Southern Land
(Though much of it’s desert and sand)
We’ve kicked out the fools
And their dastardly rules;
The future is now looking grand!

Only six months after the overwhelming referendum result that saw the parliamentary system in The Great Southern Land replaced by a presidential republican model, rank outsider Cary Ben-ardly has been elected President in a landslide, beating the Flowers and Butterflies Party’s socialist candidate and former Prime Minister, Malcolm Screwball. The media, or as Ben-ardly calls them – “Make-it-up-Media”, gave Ben-ardly no chance at all and ridiculed the conservative candidate repeatedly during the campaign.

Malcolm Screwball, who was originally to run as the conservative candidate, but decided after doing an online quiz that he was actually a socialist, and then switched to the Flowers and Butterflies Party, congratulated Ben-ardly warmly saying: “Despite the fact that I consider this result a disaster for the country, I wish President Ben-ardly all the best. Regardless of what happens it won’t affect me at all, as myself and my darling wife are taking our hundreds of millions and moving to Switzerland – fuck you!”

Meanwhile many of the Flowers and Butterflies Party faithful are in a pitiful state of anguish and uncertainty. Many say they will be leaving the Great Southern Land and moving to Europe, but this decision is fraught with difficulty. As one prospective emigrant said: “With Trump in power, the US is out of the question. We were considering France until Le Pen won and of course Britain under the Conservatives is a no go. Geert Wilder’s Netherlands is out, so I guess it’s Germany – they’ll take anyone – we’ll just have to get used to sauerkraut.”

The President has wasted no time in outlining his agenda: The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The ABC, will be privatized – he already has a team working on determining a float price, and he said that early estimates indicate something in the region of eleven dollars and fifty cents, but he cautioned that the final estimate may vary considerably from this – perhaps by as much as two dollars up or down.

SPS – the Special Propaganda Service, will be disbanded, apart from its foreign movie division, which will be merged with the ABC, and which the President said he is particularly fond of. The “Make-it-up-Media” and The Flowers and Butterflies Party have seized on this, saying that there are unconfirmed rumours that the President likes watching dirty French movies and that he should be impeached immediately.

The “Make-it-up-Media” in an alliance with the defeated Flowers and Butterflies Party are also calling for the President’s impeachment over unconfirmed rumours that members of his team met with Mongolian spies during and prior to the election. The new Attorney General has admitted that he did go to a Mongolian restaurant (or was it Kazakhstani?) some years ago and may have spoken to one of the waiters. This admission has been seized upon by surviving members of the Flowers and Butterflies Party who have called upon the AG to resign or commit suicide immediately.

Despite these and many more distractions, the President and his team are pushing on with his reforms, the stock market is already booming in anticipation of the cutting of red and green tape and the freeing up of natural resources for development. Writers and poets are breathing easier as the new President expresses his commitment to free expression. Given time, The Great Southern Land may indeed become great again.

Wailing at Walls

Hadrian

The impertinence, comrades – the gall!
Fellow Picts! – this is no good at all!
That blasted Italian;
That scheming rapscallion,
Is building a bloody great wall!

Yes, the Emperor Hadrian had a bit of a problem with the wild tribesmen living in the lands to the north of Britannia – Caledonia, as the Romans called it, and so he built what was probably an unpopular (if you were Scottish) wall. In Australia we can proudly boast that we erect no walls to deter the entry of illegal immigrants or other assorted crooks. Fortunately, Mother Nature has seen fit to surround our island continent with a deep and deadly salty moat that (once the present government solved the illegal migrant boat problem – over 1,000 had drowned in the attempt by then) effectively and cheaply keeps out the teeming masses of the less fortunate (and considerably less well run) busted arse countries. (not my words, but those of a previous Australian Foreign Minister, not realizing that he was being overheard by the ever vigilant and sneaky press) We do however have a policy of admitting substantial numbers of genuine refugees each year. Some argue that these numbers are excessive and that some of the refugees pose a security problem, but at least they come in through the system and are, to some extent, vetted.

It is easy for us to criticize the Trump administration for wanting to build a wall / fence / barrier (let’s just call it a wall from now on) along their border with Mexico, to keep out illegals, drug smugglers, terrorists and other ne’er-do-wells, because you see, we don’t share a land border with Indonesia or New Guinea, or (Heaven help us) with both. Imagine that – a land border with two third world nations – wouldn’t that be fun? From my experience of both countries I think we would need a wall, and a heavily garrisoned wall at that.

This brings me to the point (yes it has a point) of this little essay: Just how many first world affluent self- righteous nations do have land borders with problematic third world (I’m leaving out the so-called second world countries) nations? Well, I can’t find many. The USA does (no, not Canada….. not yet – sorry Canadians, just kidding) and I’ve already mentioned it – Mexico. Britain doesn’t (OK, Scotland may become one if it stays in the EU) and neither do any of the Western European nations. Our neighbour New Zealand is another fortunate first world island nation, as is Japan.

Sure, some may argue that many Western European nations have notoriously porous borders already, (witness Germany’s open border policy to Syrian “refugees”  – mostly young males of fighting age) so what’s the difference? Well, the German example is self-inflicted – due to weak government – a developed nation with slack border security and a penchant for self-destruction, that lets in undesirables from afar is one thing – the same nation actually sharing a land border with a third world country and trying to police that border is quite another.

So in conclusion let’s just try to imagine some scenarios:

Britain sharing a land border with Mauretania or Morocco.
France sharing a land border with Algeria.
Various other European first world nations sharing a land border with any of the African third world countries. Oh, and last but not least, just for a laugh, Germany sharing a land border with Syria. (some may say they already do)

I wonder – were any of these the case – would there be much wailing for a wall?

No Slouching for You!!!

Kim Yong-Jin, Vice President for Education in the North Korean Government, has been executed for slouching in the presence of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un ( no relation).
His disgusting example of extreme bad posture was made even worse by the late Mr. Kim also dozing off soon after the observed slouching. Mr. Kim was woken up, arrested, given a fair trial and then executed (all on the same day) by a small uncontrolled nuclear explosion.

The North Korean Nuclear Development and Microwave Oven Association (NKNDMOA) chairman, Kim Rong Ring (no relation to either of the above) thanked Supreme Leader for supplying them with a suitable volunteer for their program with the following statement: “We wish to thank Supreme Leader for supplying us with a suitable volunteer for our program”.
It is understood that the North Koreans are at the forefront of the development of so called “micro nuclear weapons” and that they are continually on the lookout for “volunteers” for testing purposes.

A spokesman for Supreme Leader described the execution / experiment in the following (translated) official statement:

“It was a glorious day, blue skies and the birds all chirping in tune with our glorious National Anthem – notorious sloucher and nuclear advancement volunteer Mr Kim, wearing what appeared to be a small back-pack,  stood (not slouching) some distance off (and downwind) from the official party which of course included Supreme Leader. Supreme Leader gave a short speech condemning Mr Kim (no relation) for slouching and for other posture related crimes against The State. At the conclusion of his magnificent speech a drum roll started, all eyes turned towards the volunteer, the drum roll ceased and Supreme Leader gracefully stepped forward and pushed the big red button marked “Exterminate!”

The birds stopped chirping, there was a muffled ‘bang’, the volunteer disappeared, and in his place arose a small but beautiful mushroom cloud. The audience gasped in approval and Supreme Leader, appearing somewhat moved by the occasion, laughed heartily. (all present then laughed also) Supreme Leader then turned on his heel and he and his entourage and band of loyal followers, straight backed, marched triumphantly from the scene. The gentle breezes blew, the mushroom cloud that was Mr. Kim (no relation) dispersed – it was almost as though Mr. Kim had never existed.

Executed for Slouching

Trappers

In this age of not mentioning lots of things that used to happen; things that were at the time considered to be completely normal – particularly normal for an adolescent boy and perhaps a mate or two to do, I feel it my duty (having done these things in the distant past and having come to the conclusion that I am mortal) to record at least one or two of them for posterity.

I thus get to the point of this little story – trapping birds. Having got my first air-rifle at the tender age of 11 I had always been inclined to take pot shots at the feathered residents of our farm – in particular the parrots that infested the corn that we grew to feed our dairy cows, and due to this had become quite proficient at sneaking up on things and killing them (skills that would make my rookie training in the army at a later date a piece of cake). However, some time and many dead parrots later I grew tired of the sport; the prettily plumaged bodies smeared with blood that I brought home as my prizes now tended to sicken rather than thrill and I looked for some better and less violent way to further my interest in birds.

For an interest I did have; a quite serious interest in the native birds that inhabited our paddocks and patches of bush and forest, the ones that soared in the pale blue sky and looked down upon us and those that lived in the residual rain-forest (scrub we called it) that clothed the banks of the river and creek that ran through the farm. As it happened I had a mate – a great friend then and later, but someone destined to die young; John was his name and it was he who would introduce me to the world of trapping. John’s family had long trapped birds – parrots mostly – the blue mountain lorikeets and scaly breasted lorikeets that would come to their giant mango trees when in fruit. John’s family, hardy fishermen living beside the beach and still with the pioneer spirit firmly in place, used nooses made of fishing line fastened to boards fixed to the branches of the trees and smeared with honey – the caught birds they kept in rough aviaries at the back of their house. Of course in those days there were no laws governing the trapping or keeping of birds (or little else for that matter – we lived in barbarous times).

John would come to our farm during holidays and it was on one of these holidays that he brought with him a trap – not a trap for parrots, but one for finches and quails. It was a funnel trap: a circular frame about 3 feet across and 6 inches high and made out of heavy fencing wire, all covered with bird mesh. Around the perimeter of the trap were 4 equally spaced funnels. John explained the procedure – one must first clear a space slightly bigger than the trap at a spot close to where the finches are congregating, and on this spot of bare earth, seed must be spread for perhaps a few days or a week, until the finches are accustomed to descending on it and feeding without worry. The trap may then be set.

This we proceeded to do. There were bull-finches in the reeds that lined a flowing soak that wound its way through the property. Chestnut-breasted finch is the proper name but we called them bullies, and they travelled in vast flocks, all the time calling like the tinkling of tiny bells as they flew. We would set the trap on top of the seed and then excitedly watch from a distance as the flocks came in to feed; round and round the trap they would hop and some, the smarter more adventurous ones perhaps, would follow the seed trail through the funnels and into the trap. Once we were sure that we had enough caught we would rise with a whoop and a holler and run to close the funnels – what great fun! The trapped birds of course would panic but we would quickly extract then through an opening in the top of the trap and transfer them to a carrying cage. We caught hundreds of bullies in this manner – we’d let most go and just keep what we needed.

We caught other finches as well – redheads and double bars mainly and we’d also trap quails – setting the trap overnight and collecting our catch at daybreak. We used traps of other designs as well, sometimes with caller birds in them to call in the finches, but most we caught with the funnel trap. I sometimes wonder where that old funnel trap finished up – if it is still in one piece it would not be much use to anyone – boys trapping birds is a thing of the past.

 

Bull Finches

 

As a young lad back in the free old days

When the country had few rules;

When we bush kids still lived the free old ways

With our rifles and traps our tools,

 

I would shoot the crow, for his dead black head

Was two shillings the bounty paid.

In the long swamp grass, there the finches fed,

So was there that my traps were laid.

 

The bullies lived in the reedy soak

That snaked through the sodden plain,

So I set my trap by a tall she-oak

And I baited it thick with grain.

 

They’d feed for a week on the bare brown ring;

In a whirring of wings they’d land,

And like tinkling bells did the bullies sing,

And their sound was a concert grand.

 

On a trail of seed, through the maze they’d hop

And the bolder would reach their goal;

Then I’d leave my hide and the funnels stop;

Take of thousands a minor toll.

 

And for each one caught, flew a hundred more,

So each year would the season bring

In their fluttering flocks, finches by the score,

And the bush with their song would ring.