Data matching

The Australian Taxation Office is pretty good at matching up the data it receives from various sources to individual taxpayers.  Well, so it ought to be, it’s not rocket science – most of the data they receive presumably comes with tax file numbers.

And sometimes the ATO likes to portray itself as being a little helpful, too.  Hence, I recently received a letter from them drawing attention to the fact that I might be in a zone where I could be affected by the upcoming changes to the superannuation rules.

As it happens, I was already aware of this.   But I couldn’t help wondering why the letter was addressed to our residential address – when we always use a different mailing address (a P O Box) for all our superannuation and ATO correspondence.   Sounds as though there’s room to fine-tune that matching process!

The route 58 tram (3)

There seem to have been some problems with the new route 58 (see earlier comments here and here).   The local paper reported major over-crowding, particularly at the Domain Interchange, where passengers from the city via St Kilda Rd now have to pick up a 58 tram heading down Toorak Rd.

There appears to be some basis for these complaints, as the PTUA has written about the issue.    Certainly, with the route being so long, there would seem to be potential for any delays along it to be magnified.

Also, the point made in the PTUA article about the inadequacy of evening services generally is certainly valid.  We do travel at times quite late in the evenings, and it’s not uncommon on a Friday or Saturday night for trams to be “standing room only” (in fact, congested) down St Kilda Rd.

We have a choice of routes, so the 20 minute frequency on most routes in the evenings isn’t a big issue for us, but it’s demonstrably inadequate – and massively so if there’s been a major event in the city area.  Late evening services certainly seem to be the “poor cousin” when it comes to tram services (especially on Sunday evenings, when it’s a 30 minute frequency).

Shock, horror……

The business pages of the newspaper had an article about the profits tobacco companies are making in the US – illustrated by a picture of naked cigarette packs!    Wow, to think that we in Australia are allowed to see cigarette packets, even if only in a photo!

So politically incorrect.  Maybe another law will have to be passed to protect us from such sights?

 

Tram route 58

It’s been a while coming, but the long-established tram route number 8 is to be no more.   From 1 May, it will be route 58, and instead of going up Swanston Street, it will head through South Melbourne and on up William Street to West Coburg.

There was a bit of a rear-guard action against this concept when it was first mooted.   In particular, the traders were concerned that tourists would find it more difficult to get to the Toorak Rd shops if they couldn’t catch a direct tram in Swanston Street.    And as anyone who ever catches a tram from Fed Square or the Arts Centre knows, the trams heading down St Kilda Rd are frequently filled to capacity, so the removal of all the number 8 trams in this section will probably add to the congestion.

However,  officialdom has prevailed, and is offering the consolation that during the day, there will be a frequency of 10 minutes, instead of the existing 12 minutes.  And the number 6 tram will head to Moreland instead of the number 8.

Further changes are in store, too, as the tram tracks are to re-built – ostensibly as part of the Melbourne Metro project – to diverge from St Kilda Rd at Toorak Rd, instead of at Domain Rd as at present (so much for the money spent changing the Domain interchange not so long ago).

Change is always unpopular, but we’ve received a leaflet in the local paper telling us about the changes.  Hopefully the information will be disseminated widely.

My personal view is that more people will be disadvantaged by this change than will find it beneficial, but oddly, we’re in the latter category.  It will make taking public transport to A’s place somewhat simpler and quicker (train to South Yarra, then just sit on the tram).

 

 

 

The focus group

The local Council is preparing a planning scheme amendment for our local shopping precincts (an “activity centre” in planning jargon).   Of course the pressure is on from the state government which wants areas such as these to be open to development (bear with me if that’s expressing it rather more bluntly than the politicians would like).    The locals don’t like it, of course, so there were a lot of negative comments at the “focus group” meeting I attended.

An independent facilitator “facilitated” the discussion, and did an excellent job, and the two strategic planners from the Council also did extremely well, withstanding a range of comments ranging from totally uninformed (“have developers been putting pressure on the Council?”) through to a number of legitimate concerns.

In one part of the area, it’s proposed that up to 12 stories will be permitted, which would indeed be a dramatic change from the area as it is at present.  It will be interesting to see if the Council backs away from this aspect (or maybe reduces the size of the area where this would be permitted).  Just the same, I don’t hold out a lot of hope that radical changes will be made.  After the Council finalises the draft amendment, there’s a “panel” process to be gone through, but the final sign-off to the amendment is by the Minister.  Given the nature and scope of development that’s been permitted in other “activity centres”, I suspect that there will no ability to withstand the tide around here which has already started via a number of VCAT decisions.

 

Banks

As a self-funded retiree, Australia’s banks are important to me:   directly and indirectly, a sizeable chunk of my superannuation is invested in their shares!    Yet it seems to be accepted wisdom that there have been cultural issues with them.   Is this changing?

img_0094aThe banks have recently spent a lot of money to tell us that it is (and also that we’ll get better “products” and improved services, too).  Well, we’ll see.  The issue, of course, is that they might get 99% of things right, but when they do, that’s just accepted as to be expected.   But if there’s a lapse – the remaining 1% – the media and public will latch on to it, with the result that the credibility of the banks will be shattered.

In the meantime, noticeable by its omission from the recent advertising seems to have been any suggestion that the remuneration packages for senior executives in the banking sector might be reviewed – an aspect that seems to be raised every time a problem with the banks comes up.

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