Bitcoin (again)

I admit that bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies generally) hold a fascination for me, mainly because I can’t get my mind around how they work.   Hence, because of this – and also because, frankly, I can’t see what’s in it for me! –  my inclination has always been to  stay well away from any cryptocurrency!

However, bitcoin has been quite prominent in the news of late, because its price nearly got to the US$20,000 barrier, before falling back to around US$10,000.

Of course, this gives rise to all those “if only I’d bought some” reflections!    Hindsight is wonderful, but even so, I don’t have any regrets.

Apart from the volatility in the value of bitcoin, a reason for having no regrets is that the tax implications of dealing with cryptocurrencies are complex.    Although  GST seems not to be a big issue, as the ATO accepts that digital currency is a method of payment,  capital gains tax may be involved.  There are also potentially issues under the anti-money-laundering laws.     So the news that the tax office is getting set to “blitz” investors in bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Of course, anonymity is prized by some holders of bitcoin (who see it as a currency without a central bank), but it seems that the authorities have a number of weapons at their disposal, including Austrac’s powers to gain information from digital currency exchanges along with requirements for customer identification.  Combined with the with the ability to obtain similar information from other jurisdictions under double-tax treaties (for example, the US and Japan), it seems that at least some of bitcoin’s perceived “benefits” might not be quite as significant as some of those who are involved in it might wish.

As I’ve stated,  I don’t pretend to understand how cryptocurrencies work, but my imprression is that, although bitcoin transactions (being a blockchain) can be “peer-to-peer” without the need to go through an exchange, transactions involving the purchase of bitcoins, or their conversion back into currency, usually need to be done on an exchange, and it is at this point that the authorities appear to have the ability to watch what’s occurring.


Truth in advertising – medications

Did you see the news report that  the Federal Court found a claim by the makers of Nurefen to be misleading and deceptive?    It seems that Nurofen’s manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser​, ran an advertising campaign saying Nurofen (basically ibuprofen) gave faster and more effective relief from headaches than Panadol (made by GlaxoSmithKline), or paracetamol, despite there being no real scientific evidence to support it.

The claim by Nurofen’s makers was based on a single clinical trial in 1996, which found that a dose of ibuprofen​, the active ingredient in Nurofen, was more effective than a single dose of paracetamol in the treatment of certain headaches.  However, other trials had been unable to replicate this result, and the authors of three analyses had concluded that no authoritative comparison was possible in the present state of scientific knowledge

Hence, the judge concluded that it was misleading or deceptive  for Reckitt to claim that ibuprofen (Nurofen) provides faster and more effective relief from pain caused by common headaches  than does paracetamol (Panadol).

Sounds fair enough to me.  However, it interests me that so many of us prefer the branded products.   Both paracetamol and ibuprofen are available as “generics” on the supermarket shelves, and so far as I’m aware, contain the same active ingredients as the branded products.   But I guess that when it comes to medications, we like the assurance of a brand name, and so are willing to pay extra for that.


We were upset to see that a small street tree had been cut down.   But what’s that?  There’s a sign attached to the stump.   To cut a long story short, it seems that a thief had cut through the tree trunk in order to steal a bicycle that had been chained to it.  The sign on the tree was from the irate owner of the bike.

Apparently the theft had occurred within the space of 10 minutes or so, and since the tree was cleanly cut, the thief had come prepared with some sort of saw.   Perhaps they had arrived by car?

In hindsight, it may not have been the best idea to chain a bike to a small tree, especially when  a steel parking sign was almost next to it.  But bike theft is  unacceptable, and it’s even more outrageous that someone would chop a tree down to do it.


Well, I certainly wasn’t very happy when Tiger cancelled our 11.10 am flight to Sydney and re-scheduled us to fly at 6.30 pm the NEXT day.

But the offer from Tiger to give us a credit for the fare, instead of a refund, really annoyed me.   I received an email confirming the credit, and then I called the call centre after we returned and asked for a refund instead,   The call centre operator was hard to understand and evasive, but the essence of his response was that the call centre couldn’t depart from the “policy”.  However, he did refer me to the website for the contact details of a “customer support” address, which was a postal address (in Gladstone Park).

I’m a bit old-fashioned, I suppose, and I’m OK with writing a letter.    So, doing the best I could to keep my emotions under control, I composed a letter to “Customer Support”.  By my calculations, on the same day that the letter would have been received, I received an email response,  to the effect that “as a gesture of goodwill” the fare would be repaid.

The letter also stood by the assertion that weather conditions had caused the flight to be cancelled, and hinted that I ought to have taken travel insurance!   Just the same, credit to Tigerair for responding quickly, and for (eventually) doing the right thing.  I guess some compensation towards the much higher fare we had to pay to Jetstar would be step too far for a low cost carrier.   In the meantime, I’ve posted reviews setting out our experience on both TripAdvisor and Skytrax, so they allowed me to let off a little steam!

Buying property

There was yet another “successful” auction not far from us recently.  A small place sold for $2 million, an amount that would have been undreamed of only a year or so ago.    Sure, the property had a number of nice characteristics, but still ….

But leaving this aside,  curiosity led me to check the stamp duty that the purchaser will have to pay on this purchase, over and above the purchase price.  It’s $110,000!   Then there are conveyancing expenses and some other fees.  It certainly means that buying a property is not a cheap exercise.

Car recall

We became aware through the news media that our 3+ year old Mazda was subject to a recall.   That was in July.   The issue seems to be with one of the airbags.    Given the number of vehicles having an issue with these airbags, it seems that it took some time for the recall program to get moving and that it had been under way for a while before we became aware of it.

As it happens we received a letter from Mazda confirming the recall, dated 24 August.  True, we didn’t ring the dealer immediately.   But then we received a letter dated 1 September, noting that we hadn’t responded, and suggesting that the replacement should be done urgently!  Given that this issue has been around for some time, this seemed a bit odd.   Do I detect a bit of pressure from the authorities?

But I rang the dealer anyway.   Ah yes, they said, but there’s a minor problem – we’ve run out of the replacement part!   Provide us with your details, and we’ll ring you when more supplies arrive.   So the end of the saga is yet to occur in our case.

And in the meantime, a 3rd letter has arrived from Mazda!    Amazing!

I don’t underestimate the issues that are no doubt involved with such a massive recall.   It does raise the issue, however, whether it’s desirable that the supply of a component should be so concentrated.  This is said to be  the largest recall in history, and the ACCC release (link above) states that 2.3 million vehicles in Australia alone have become subject to the recall. Is there a need to ensure that there’s a greater diversity up the supply line?  And how might this be achieved in our trans-national world?


Local laws – and feeding animals

I volunteered some time ago to participate in surveys run by our local Council.    Leaving aside the issue as to whether the Council ought to be conducting surveys using self-chosen respondents, a recent survey raised a number of possible revisions to “local laws”.  One question was to the effect whether there ought to be a local law making it an offence to feed animals in public places.  It was explained that this was aimed at people who fed pigeons and feral cats.

I wondered how I ought to respond.   Ought the Council get into the business of micro-managing people’s lives to this extent?   But at the end of the day, I decided that the “good” outweighed the “bad”, and that feral cats and the flock of pigeons at the local station – encouraged by a person who regularly feeds them – ought to be discouraged.

Tactfully (?) the explanation didn’t comment on whether any such law would also discourage the feeding of possums in the park, an issue that over the years has been controversial in Carlton North.