Why Political Correctness in Australia Has Gone Mad

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Your regular Weekend Daily Reckoning editor, Vern Gowdie, is on a plane to London. He’s ‘wintering’ there for the next three months. Apparently, here’s there to catch up with his kids for a Family Office meeting. And no doubt a bit of European gallivanting too.

Vern will be back on deck next week. But for today, you’re lumped with me…

Being the weekend, I thought I’d mix it up a bit. Let’s forget the markets for the time being. Let’s talk about society and ask just what the heck is going on?

I want to talk about an issue that on the surface I normally wouldn’t give a hoot about. That is, a stockbroker losing his job.

But the story this week of Angus Aitken, head of institutional sales at Bell Potter, losing his job because of ‘sexist’ remarks is a case of political correctness gone mad.

Here’s what happened…

Aitken sent an email around saying the appointment of ANZ’s new Chief Financial Officer was one of the dumber appointments he’d seen. He went on to point out that former investment bankers don’t usually transition to life at a listed company too well.

He also mentioned that the last deal this person advised on was the purchase by legal firm Slater and Gordon of the UK-based Quindell for $1 billion. Thanks to that deal, Slater and Gordon is now in tatters.

That’s hardly the fault of an investment banker. The decision and responsibility rests with the board of the acquiring company — in this case Slater and Gordon. But still, as a broker, Aitken is entitled to his opinion.

The problem for Aitken is that the person he criticised is a woman. Despite making no reference to her personally, or her gender, ANZ didn’t see it that way.

ANZ’s head of ‘corporate communications’, Paul Edwards, sent a tweet, with Aitken’s email attached, saying, ‘Sexism alive + well in stockbroking?

It’s a ridiculous assertion, and now Aitken has lost his job. This is pure censorship by ANZ, and shows how political correctness has gone mad in this country.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know Angus Aitken. He could be a real pork chop* for all I know. But for someone to lose a job over a claim of sexism when there isn’t a hint of it is an outrage.

Make no mistake, sexism is alive and well in Australia. It was only recently that a story revealed how ANZ traders brought a female colleague along to a strip show!!

Banking and stockbroking are notoriously ‘blokey’ — a euphemism for sexist. They are the white collar version of a building site. I do not doubt for a second that sexist behaviour occurs on a daily basis in many of these organisations.

But instead of calling out this insidious behaviour, ANZ points the finger in a different direction. All to claim a scalp that put a sell recommendation on their stock.

 

In the meantime, it’s ignited a debate about reverse discrimination, taking the spotlight away from the real issues.

It’s time we started reading about people losing their jobs for actual gender abuse. Sexist behaviour has real consequences, and there needs to be a big shift in the way we think about it.

In many areas of Western society, we’ve come a long way since the days of the Mad Men era. But in many areas it hasn’t changed at all.

As a father to two daughters, I worry about that. And it’s especially worrying that a corporate citizen like ANZ would abuse the issue of ‘sexism’ to censure negative opinion about its stock. Hail to the stock price…

So in solidarity with Angus Aiken — who, as I said, may or may not be a pork chop — I too slap a sell on ANZ. Just to make a point.

But I don’t want to mislead you. So let’s take a look at ANZ and, removing emotion from the equation, see how it is looking…

In yesterday’s Daily Reckoning I pointed out how the banks looked fundamentally suspect. On the surface they look like good value, with good profitability and healthy dividend yields. But they face plenty of headwinds too.

Whenever I have an opinion about a stock or a sector, I want to see what the market thinks. To do this, I consult the charts.

So let’s have a look at the ANZ’s share price chart over the past 12 months. As you can see by the moving average lines on the chart, the stock price is still in a downtrend. Although, on a positive note, the moving averages are starting to turn up.

If the moving averages cross over to the upside, that will be bullish for the stock; it’ll also be an indication that the market isn’t worried about earnings or dividends…not in the short term anyway.


Source: BigCharts
[click to open in new window]

The next thing to watch for is a break to new highs. If the share price closes above $26.05 in the next few weeks, it will represent the highest closing since the start of the year. Again, that’s a bullish sign.

In such a scenario I would concede that I’m wrong.

That doesn’t mean I would be a buyer though. When my interpretation of the fundamentals diverges with the market’s view, I look for opportunities elsewhere. The market’s a big place. There are plenty of stocks in different industries to look for and buy.

My strategy is to buy when the fundamentals and charting outlook align. When they don’t, it’s no big deal.

Anyway, I didn’t mean for the conversation to turn into a stock strategy tutorial, but there you go…

Have a good weekend, and if you get the chance to indulge in a bit of political incorrectness while you’re at it, all the better.

*To be a pork chop is Aussie slang for being an idiot, or behaving inappropriately. I call my girls pork chops all the time! Is that wrong?

Regards,

Greg Canavan,
Editor, The Daily Reckoning

Greg Canavan
Greg Canavan is the Managing Editor of The Daily Reckoning and is the foremost authority for retail investors on value investing in Australia. He is a former head of Australasian Research for an Australian asset-management group and has been a regular guest on CNBC, Sky Business’s The Perrett Report and Lateline Business. Greg is also the editor of Crisis & Opportunity, an investment publication designed to help investors profit from companies and stocks that are undervalued on the market. To follow Greg's financial world view more closely you can subscribe to The Daily Reckoning for free here. If you’re already a Daily Reckoning subscriber, then we recommend you also join him on Google+. It's where he shares investment research, commentary and ideas that he can't always fit into his regular Daily Reckoning emails. For more on Greg go here.
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