I had to google to find out the concept behind “oBikes”.  I saw that they had attracted adverse publicity   (and here) which didn’t surprise me when I found out that the arrangement is that when you’ve finished using a bike, you just leave it in a public parking area where it’s locked and unlocked remotely via a mobile phone app.   The idea is that users can pick up and drop off a bike “anywhere” they like, as opposed to returning it to a designated docking station.

Seemingly, the system works satisfactorily in Singapore, but in what might be considered less law-abiding Melbourne, it appears that at least some users are less conscientious about parking the bikes properly when they’ve finished using them!   There’s a system of “credits” designed to reward good behaviour and penalise poor behaviour, but it seems we live in an imperfect world.

In a local street

We’re beginning to see them in our area.  I’m not sure if our area is a neighbourhood in which they’re supposed to be used (it wasn’t listed here), but as the website didn’t appear to address this issue, perhaps there are no strict limits (another “challenge”,  I would have thought!).

How it’s meant to be

CBA – and the Dividend Reinvestment Plan

CBA have announced a strong result, including an increase in the dividend  – but have, of course, been caught up in claims that they’ve failed to comply with the “money-laundering”  laws.     Lots has been written about this, and I don’t propose to add to this.

However, CBA are also trying to induce shareholders into reinvesting the dividend, with the new shares to be issued at a 1.5% discount to the average price from 21 August to 1 September.   For me, DRPs are troublesome because of the future capital gains tax complexities that they create, but CBA’s offer raises other issues as well.

Would I really want to invest more money in an corporation that appears to have reputational issues?    And will the Austrac claims have an impact on the value of the shares that won’t be taken into account during the price-setting period of the DRP shares?   Although these issues don’t motivate me to sell the shares I currently hold, I might “pass” on the offer of additional shares!

Enhanced airline securty

A couple of days before our return, there had been a security scare and there were reports of enhanced security measures being in place at airports.  We allowed a little extra time for this, but in fact it wasn’t the security measures that caused delays.

The first hold up was the traffic from the north into Cairns at 8.15 am – it slowed to a crawl some kilometres north of Cairns.  But when we got into town, returning the car was a breeze, just park it in the drive way, they said, which we did and transferred our luggage to the waiting shuttle bus.    So we ended up at the airport with what we thought was plenty of time – until we saw the Tiger check in queue, which was our next big delay.  Our return flight was on Tiger, as had been our flight to Cairns.

The queue for baggage drop at the Tiger check-in for those with pre-printed boarding passes was short, but I hadn’t had access to a printer while away, so I hadn’t been able to print them.  And in Melbourne, Tiger had had check-in machines, which we had breezed through (which in fact printed out fresh boarding passes, even though I had already done this).   No machines in Cairns, however, so we endured the queue.

The queue negotiated, we headed for security – but notwithstanding the publicity, there was no real delay here,   although increased security was evident:  police wandering around, the person in front of us in the check-in queue had been “randomly” selected for extra checking and perhaps extra staff watching the security check processes.

At Melbourne, on arrival, again the security queue in Terminal 4 (which we were able to observe) didn’t seem excessive, but a number of the doors to gain access to the building were closed, seemingly to require people arriving to enter by doors where there was someone keeping an eye on things.

Anyway, the flight itself was uneventful, A picked us up, and we were unloading our bags at the front door 70 minutes after touchdown.

Card fraud

It must have been a slow news day, because the page 1 headline in the Herald Sun made the point that there was some card fraud about.  Yes, there is some fraud – almost all of us have suffered it at some point, or at least know someone who has.   Do the banks respond well?   For the most part, it seems they do.  But are the amounts excessive?  I guess that’s a matter of judgement, but according to the Reserve Bank (click through from here) the total value of credit and credit charge transactions in May 2017 was about $29 billion (as I read it, that’s just one month, although seemingly for that month it was a bit higher than normal).  Hence, in the scheme of things, the banks and other card issuing institutions give the impression of being prepared to pay out when fraud occurs, in that, while the reported $450 million per annum sounds a lot, it’s only a fraction of the amount transacted in this way.   The Herald Sun states that fraud is often not reported to the police, and there’s never any feedback to cardholders about things such as “hot spots” for skimming having been detected.

But even so, how does fraud occur?   Sure, stolen cards used for “tap-&-go” transactions is one avenue.  But cards stolen in the mail?  Don’t they have to be activated?   And a family member told me that her card had been “skimmed” in a retail store – even though she had retained the card in her sight at all times.  So perhaps this still occurs (but surely with some data matching, it would be relatively easy for the institutions to detect where this had occurred).   And we still hear occasional reports of ATM machines being set up to “skim” cards, with hidden cameras observing the PIN number.

Then there are people who aren’t quite as careful as might be desired.   We had dinner with a former colleague who was quite content to allow the waiter to take his card away from the table in order to process the transaction.  So 20th century – but his attitude was, “if there’s a problem, it’s the bank’s worry”.

I accept that the institutions don’t want to compromise their security processes, but for at least some of us, it would be re-assuring to hear what follow up occurs when our card has been compromised.

That dumped car…..

Something a little different in our usually peaceful neighbourhood – a car with considerable damage was apparently dumped in a nearby street.    Within a few hours, the police were there, seemingly looking for fingerprints.    Good to see such attention to detail.

Not long afterwards, the tow truck was on the scene.  Why the car ended up where it did in a quiet backstreet isn’t clear to me.

Choice – and “free range” eggs

I still read Choice magazine, although sometimes its passion for causes leaves me a bit cool.   One such cause that Choice has come back to again and again in recent months (and on-line, too) is the matter of “free range” eggs.  They’re upset that eggs can now be labelled (and also see here) as “free range” if the hens are stocked at densities of up to 10,000 per hectare.  Their preferred stocking density is up to 1,500 per hectare – a point that they’ve made a number of times in recent months.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t worthy issues here.  However, all the emphasis on this aspect of egg labelling seems to me to be a bit shrill.   Choice’s concern doesn’t seem to be welfare of the chooks (not a word about the animal welfare aspects of “cage eggs”, or even “barn laid” eggs).   My cynical mind suggests that the real concern is that the density figure adopted has made it possible for large scale producers to get into this segment of the market, presumably at the expense of smaller producers, one of which is actually named in the current issue of the magazine.   But isn’t the real issue whether consumers are properly informed?

I observe that the figure of 10,000 is less that the originally proposed figure of 20,000 that parts of the industry were pushing for and also that if specialist producers really think consumers want eggs laid by hens at the 1,500 density then why don’t those producers promote their eggs on this basis, bearing in mind that all producers of “free range” eggs now have to state the stocking density on the label?   True, it’s apparently open to state “one hen per m²” which may sound better than 10,000 hens per hectare, but surely not a lot turns on this?


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!