WTF Cairns?

EGM (pokie) player loss growth updated for October:

October Pokies

Cairns was led again by the gambling pokie elites of Port Douglas up 19.6% on October 2017 followed by the Cairns City SA2 up 14.9% (ex Reef Casino).


Cruising just above stall speed

BITRE comparative airport data for the year to August 2018:

BITRE August 1

Cairns drops two places down the ladder at 1.4% ever so slightly behind Newcastle and Gold Coast.

Proserpine remains an outlier and should accelerate from here back towards the field even before Whitsunday shark scares. See last months post: What goes around

Huge winners for the month of August YoY though were Sunshine Coast +20.9%; Ballina +18.5%; Mackay +15.2% compared to the previous year. Nowhere else was although Tasmania is noted again with both Hobart and Launceston among the higher single digit performers for the month. In winter.

There are some differences between the BITRE data and Cairns Airport statistics but this comparative graph of annual passenger growth should be a concern:

BITRE August 2

Hopefully there will be some positive effect from increased accommodation capacity at the higher end of the market and any external shocks are avoided. Also that current crane activity rolls over into new projects.

Update on Experience

Experience Co held its AGM last week. The only thing usually to note from these events is the update since the FY2018 end.

Experience Co Limited advise the following update for the period 1 July 2018 to 30 September 2018:
Passenger numbers: • Skydive (Australia and New Zealand) passengers are down 1.4% on same period last year (LFL) • Other Adventure passengers are up 1.6% on same period last year (LFL)
Based on the passenger numbers for the 1st quarter, together with the passenger bookings and processing during October to date, the business is tracking in line with management expectations and accordingly reaffirm FY19 guidance.

What to look at here is “Other Adventure passengers”. This is almost entirely the suite of Cairns tour businesses*. I’m not sure I would call 1.6% passenger growth on the previous peak season quarter an outstanding result. I think I would call it modest. As some businesses were acquired within the year I am assuming these are comparable numbers.

Experience Co has been an interesting ride for investors since the acquisitions into FNQ and the name change. Investors would now be down more than 50%:

Experience Update

I have repeatedly warned with every post that Experience Co is followed as an insight into an important sector of Cairns tourism and not investment advice. The lower share price will though constrain scope for further acquisitions.

* FNQ Cairns businesses: Raging Thunder; Reef Magic; Big Cat; GBR Helicopters; Tropical Journeys

No Nova News

News on the Nova development has gone quiet in the last few months. There was a media report of a meeting with construction tenderers at the beginning of August with “a couple of months” to appoint a builder.

I prefer to look at the regulatory disclosures from World Class Global to the Singapore Exchange which was released today for the September quarter.

Nova Q3

That equates to another four Nova unit sales for the quarter. Again there has been no comment on commencement of construction.

Weekend diversion: how would you know?

In the era of fake news and the identity politics tribal roll back of scientific credibility in public policy I sometimes return to an excerpt from Cranks Quarks and the Cosmos by Jeremy Bernstein in 1997.

From time to time I entertain myself with the following fantasy: The year is 1905. I am a professor of physics at the University of Bern. For many years, I have been teaching, probably from the same set of notes, respectable courses based on what is for me the familiar and comfortable physics of the nineteenth century. I teach the mechanics of Newton, the relatively modern theories of electricity and magnetism of James Clerk Maxwell, along with good solid nineteenth-century thermodynamics. I believe that atoms exist although I am troubled occasionally by the question that, around the turn of the century, Ernst Mach asked Ludwig Boltzmann: “Have you seen one?” All in all, it is a good, comfortable life. Then, with no warning at all, a series of physics papers begins arriving in the mail. They carry the return address of the Swiss National Patent Office in Bern. The covering letter identifies their author as a patent examiner-a technical expert “third class”-of whom I have never heard. He does not even have a doctoral title. Upon browsing through the papers, I discover that this doctorless unknown is claiming-using totally unfamiliar kinds of reasoning-that essentially all of the physics I have been teaching is wrong. Not just wrong in a few minor details, but fundamentally wrong. What would my reaction be? What should it have been? In short, how could I then have known that the author of these papers-the twenty-six-year-old Albert Einsteinwas not a crank?

Look it up. A horse can only be led to water …….

A definitive analysis of unemployment trends in Cairns

Unemployment Rate


  1. Boys trend better than girls possibly because they are simpler less evolved organisms.
  2. If we stir the tea leaves with our participation rate spoon we can surely spin a narrative around the female gyrations but a prudent punter would place an each way bet on random.
  3. Despite female volatility they do tend to correlate except …..
  4. WTF is that gap that opens up around 2014-2016?

Notes: Derived from ABS annual average with proprietary eyeball trend methodology applied in Microsoft Paint.



Regional data dilemma

The previously posted Cairns Chamber presentation from Bill Cummings includes some strong opinions on survey sample data:

Unfortunately, there is another series based on sample surveys that causes confusion – the ABS Labour Force series is published each month. Just how bad the series is, is illustrated by comparison with Census data when it came through.

Dilemma 1

Source: Cummings Economics


Did have a quick look at this previously and put together a few numbers which I haven’t gone back to check which may have been wise but anyway:

Dilemma 2

The numbers for the ABS Labour Force Survey (LFS) numbers are taken from August each year which is the month of the census. The ATO data (also from ABS) is derived from tax data for the prior financial year.

The Cummings difference for Cairns appears to be derived from the ABS recommended 12 month average for the (LFS) data. Had he used the Conus Trend the decline would have almost halved to 5,100. The original monthly data for August would have been lower too but that’s as much a fluke as anything given the notorious volatility of the regional LFS data.

The ATO data here is derived from two different series which represent categories of employment . I don’t claim to be on top of the nuances of these different series. It isn’t the number or the discontinuity that matters but the trend. I can’t think of any reason why the trend in this data should not be consistent with employment in Cairns over the period. Previous posts on this data: Personal income down to SA2ATO income data and Cairns City.

Similarly we shouldn’t focus on the difference in number of employed between the Census and LFS: Differences between the LFS and the Census, which includes comparisons for the 2011 Census. These will be different and a quick look suggests an expectation of a similarly higher number at both Australia and Queensland level for the LFS at the 2016 Census. It’s the 2011 – 2016 period where the difference appears anomalous for Cairns SA4 between different data series.

In timely fashion this month Ricardian Ambivalence rose from a long slumber to remind us that “the survey isn’t designed to measure the number of people with jobs. It is designed to measure the unemployment rate.”

Explained in more detail back in 2012: It’s the unemployment rate …

The household survey is NOT designed to measure the number of jobs. It is designed to measure a bunch of key ratios, including the unemployment rate. Multiplication of population forecasts by the ratios yields the so-called jobs number. Population over- and under-estimates are corrected for by smoothing subsequent population estimates toward the revised estimate, and this may distort the derived levels.

The ABS Labour Force Survey problem is not that any number could be wrong but that at regional level employment data may be misleading not just over short periods related to sample volatility but over extended periods.

Weekend Diversions

It looks like getting hot and unpleasant in coming days. An excellent opportunity to sit back, relax and catch up with the annual presentations a few months ago now to the Cairns Chamber lunch by Bill Cummings and Rick Carr:

Rick Carr: The Cairns Property Market

Bill Cummings: Text; Presentation.

These two have been around so long that Mayor Manning may be the only person left in Cairns who remembers when they were not around. It means they offer valuable experience and insights. It also means they carry a few barnacles which should be scraped from the hull.