Friday, 19 June 2009

Wanna bet?

The discussion about Sydney diocese’s $100 million loss continues with David Ould posting on both his own site and Stand Firm - you can follow my discussion with David in the comments here. After taking exception to the suggestion that the Diocese was “gambling” (which like most working-class vices is generally considered by Evangelicals to be A Very Bad Thing, as opposed to middle class vices, which are rarely regarded with the same scorn), he concludes by asking
“Was the Diocesan decision to borrow and gear up their investments a wise decision? Was it shrewd? Were other people doing the same thing? Were they advising further gearing up, not for individual assets but the extension of already diversified portfolios?

Hindsight is always a wonderful thing, but to my way of thinking any exposure of that magnitude can’t help but suggest a lack of wisdom in an organisation’s investment strategy. Plenty of people have been stung in the past year, but not that badly: the diocese didn't just gear up, they geared up bigtime. Granted, since the diocese hasn’t made their asset/loss ratio public it’s hard to accurately put the loss into perspective, but let’s not lose sight of the reality that from any perspective $100 million is a bloody huge amount of money. So big that I refuse to believe the people to whom it ultimately belonged – the Anglican parishioners of Sydney – have a right to know more details than they’ve so far been told.

I believe there’s something very wrong about the wall of silence that followed the loss. Rumours have been circulating for over six months, and yet it took a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald to start investigating the matter before most parishioners new anything. Late last year clergy were advised of a reduction in available funding for the coming year, but other than this there was nothing.

Were the Diocese a publically listed company Australian law would have required the leadership to make a public announcement immediately upon learning about this loss. But it’s not, and they didn’t. One might hope that as Christians they’d have had a natural inclination towards transparency and disclosure, but that’s certainly not how it appears from the way things they’ve been handled to date. Rumour (and the size of the loss) suggests investments were being made in products like Macquarie Bank’ Fortress Notes, or even the spectacularly “Queensland” (sorry to my Brisbane friends – but it’s hard not to notice the stereotype ;-) Storm Financial. The truth is even seasoned Sydney watchers like myself simply don’t know what was going on.

Maybe all will be revealed in Synod, and maybe I’m just a hopeless cynic, but past observation has taught me not to hold my breath. I’ll be happy to wager a bottle of wine against anyone who thinks I’ll be proven wrong – but that would be gambling, wouldn’t it? Even though it’s a bet I’ll be praying I lose.


Lapinbizarre said...

Popping up predictably to comment "great post!" is not particularly constructive, but "great post!"

Grandmère Mimi said...

Alcibiades, I won't take you up on your bet, but I thank you for your persistence in trying to get answers from the powers about the huge losses.

maybe I’m just a hopeless cynic,

You may be a cynic, but I believe that you're right to doubt that "all will be revealed in Synod."

Prayers and blessings.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Me, me, me, too!


Brian R said...

Yes, we must keep these conservative hypocrites to account. I did not know the press had forced Jensen's hand to be a bit more open. From what I have read of synod, I do not expect much joy there. Actually Ould seems a bit more reasonable on this issue than Fortescue. The Archbishop of Myanmar(Burma) is preaching at St James tomorrow (9am only) I wonder if he has been given a general diocesan welcome. I can find nothing in the diocesan news sites. I guess he might be too catholic.

Lapinbizarre said...

I doubt the Archbishop of Burma is big on controversy, Brian.

Alcibiades said...

In these parts wearing a clerical collar to church is controversial (as is preaching at St. James ;-)

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments - after hints made to me at another blog I was worrying I was coming on too "polemic" and boring - when what I really want is for this appalling waste to not just get swept under the carpet like so many other of the the current administration's failures.

David Ould said...

I don't think you're being a bit too polemic, or boring. My point was that when certain parties persist in that sort of approach year after year it's counter-productive to being heard when you finally have something that needs to be said in the public round.

And, as I have already told you, the questions about these investments need to be heard and answered - I fear that they won't be now because certain sections of the Diocese have become the boys who cried "fundamentalist" too many times.

Alcibiades said...

"...when you finally have something that needs to be said in the public round."

Have you any idea how patronising that sounds to those who've felt their original concern needed to be heard? I know you've not intended to be in any way offensive, but parallels to the story of the boy who cried "wolf" are very hurtful to those who believe there really is a wolf, and have the bite-marks to prove it.

I'm not aware that any of those who might be considered what you call "certain parties" - ie the usual Anglicans Together faces, crying "fundamentalist" over this issue; what I do see here is anger at the silence, hubris, and perceived arrogance at our leadership not being more forthcoming about a strategy more than a few financially-minded types would have found horrifying - had they known.

If their concern, albeit expressed in a manner reflecting a background of years of frustration, is all it takes to stop questions being asked then we've got a very serious problem indeed...

David Ould said...

you're jumped all too quickly onto the assumption of what I said, rather than what I said.

And perhaps you might quickly peruse the comments on this and other threads before you claim no-one is even crying "fundamentalist" about this very issue. You know very well that they are. They're crying "fundamentalist" and much, much worse.

You chide me for being offensive (even when unintentional), but seem to be incapable of holding
your colleagues to anything like the same standard when they are deliberately offensive.

Do you not think it unhelpful for so much voicing of opposition to the majority view in Sydney to be so combative? And now, when a serious issue arises the same approach is being taken. Didn't work well in the past, doesn't work well now.

All in all a thoroughly unproductive way of going about things. I guess some could revert to slinging obsenities and insults. Sorry, did I say "revert"? I meant continue.

thorough waste of time all around.