Why Political Correctness in Australia Has Gone Mad

Your regular Weekend Markets and Money 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 Markets and Money 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?


Greg Canavan,
Editor, Markets and Money

Greg Canavan is a Contributing Editor at Markets & Money and Head of Research at Port Phillip Publishing. He advocates a counter-intuitive investment philosophy based on the old adage that ‘ignorance is bliss’. Greg says that investing in the ‘Information Age’ means you now have all the information you need. But is it really useful? Much of it is noise, and serves to confuse rather than inform investors. And, through the process of confirmation bias, you tend to sift the information that you agree with. As a result, you reinforce your biases. This gives you the impression that you know what is going on. But really, you don’t know. No one does. The world is far too complex to understand. When you accept this, your newfound ignorance becomes a formidable investment weapon. That’s because you’re not a slave to your emotions and biases. Greg puts this philosophy into action as the Editor of Crisis & Opportunity. He sees opportunities in crises. To find the opportunities, he uses a process called the ‘Fusion Method’, which combines charting analysis with more conventional valuation analysis. Charting is important because it contains no opinions or emotions. Combine that with traditional stock analysis, and you have a robust stock selection strategy. With Greg’s help, you can implement a long-term wealth-building strategy into your financial planning, be better prepared for the financial challenges ahead, and stop making the same mistakes that most private investors do every time they buy a stock. To find out more about Greg’s investing style and his financial worldview, take out a free subscription to Markets & Money here. And to discover more about Greg’s ‘ignorance is bliss’ investment strategy and the Fusion Method of investing, take out a 30-day trial to his value investing service Crisis & Opportunity here. Official websites and financial e-letters Greg writes for:

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