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!

Charities

Ah, it’s that time of year again:  June.   Supposedly at this time of year we’re thinking of maximising our tax deductions!  The letters from charities seeking donations has risen to a climax!   Some are from charities that we’ve supported in the past (what do we have to do to get off their mailing list?), others are from charities with which we have had only a tenuous connection.

It seems hard-hearted, but we’re at the stage of charity-fatigue.  Most of the material is just binned.

The legal profession

A glossy “Legal Review” magazine fell out of our copy the Australian.  One of the articles suggested that Australia’s legal landscape was being “shaken up” by overseas law firms coming to Australia.

Well, that may well be, but I was left shaking my head as to the appeal of such firms to large commercial clients (who of course are the target clients for both well established and new entrant firms).

The same phrases kept coming up:   profits per equity partner, meeting budgets, lateral hires/”turnover of partners”, internal ructions and “global integration”.

Well, I’m now past all that, and obviously I don’t have the same day-to-day familiarity with what’s actually going on.   But the themes sound unchanged from the days when I was involved.

The starting point has to be that there’s only one source of profits in a law firm, and that’s from client billings.   Yet we regularly read that increasingly savvy commercial clients are monitoring legal fees more closely than ever.   Obviously there are competing interests here!

Budgets can only be met if there’s a good flow of work, and even then often involve outrageously excessive working hours for someone in the food chain – often on the part of more junior lawyers.

Lateral hires (and the associated turnover of partners) are disruptive to all concerned and always beg the question – was the person pushed (why)?   Or did they jump (presumably for more money – see point about source of profits above).

The article honestly admitted that there have been internal ructions at a number of firms.  That’s not surprising when the money involved is so great, but hardly in the interests if clients!

In short, the world of law firms has always been messy, and at this level, things don’t seem to have changed at all.  Glossy magazines may portray a rosy picture, but clients beware!

I haven’t touched on “Global integration”.     Now there’s quite a bit to say about this, so I’ll save it for a future post.

Heritage Building

Attached to our local station is a kiosk building, which appears to date from the time the station was built.   However, months back, a lean on the building was detected, so it was closed off (along with one side of the adjoining road).   Then a notice appeared stating that Metro Trains were seeking planning permission to demolish the building (a permit being required because it’s heritage listed).

Nothing happened for some time, so I raised the matter at the recent ward meeting.  We were told that the Council had refused the application to demolish the building, and was waiting for the next step – perhaps Metro Trains would appeal to VCAT?

This left me somewhat apprehensive, but in the last day or so, work has begun on the site.   An enormous crane appeared, which I’m told lowered a drilling machine on to the platform.   Evidently some holes were dug into which supports are to be inserted, presumably to allow the building to be stabilised.   Good news, then, that it’s no longer under threat of demolition.   And hopefully the road will be re-opened, too.

Bases. presumably for supports, have now appeared on the platform below the building

 

Planning

Around here, there are lots of planning applications.  Over the years, I’ve lodged objections to a few but these days I’m selective – development is a fact of life and I’ve had to learn to “live with it”.

However, a recent proposal in the area seemed so excessive that I just had to lodge an objection.  It exceeded the height being proposed in a planning scheme amendment (generous in itself, in my view), it seemed insensitively designed and there were obvious traffic issues.   The objectors were all invited to a “consultative meeting” at which the town planner representing the developer was present along with all three ward councillors plus the Council planning officer and perhaps 20 or so objectors.   All the concerns were articulated (along with some non-planning matters, as is usual at this type of occasion!), and although the developer’s planner did his best, he seemed not to have some of the answers.

The Council can be a bit unpredictable on occasions such as this (since the councillors are supposed not to have pre-judged the matter, they’re very cautious about what they say), but within days I received a letter dated 2 days after the meeting stating that the Council had refused the application.   I was impressed.

Now it’s back in the developer’s court.   I guess he can start again, although another strategy could be to appeal to VCAT and work in a few amendments to the plans along the way.   My hunch is that he would be better starting again, as the grounds given by the Council in its refusal seemed extremely valid, but the reality is that he will probably try and push it through VCAT, with the aim of making as few concessions as possible.

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?

 

Safety first

We were having a meal at a restaurant where we were permitted to bring our own wine.   One of the bottles was a “bubbly”, and I set about opening it (carefully).   Ah, no, I wasn’t allowed to do that, I was politely informed (although by that time I had done so).   Customers were permitted to open their own wine except when it was bubbly – to avoid the risk of a flying cork hitting someone!

You just can’t be too careful in this era, can you?