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.

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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.

 

“Self driving” lorries

We’ve seen a lot of news about self-driving cars, (and here) but the BBC has carried a report that trials of partially “self-driving” lorries could occur in Britain by the end of next year!  At first sight, this seems intimidating, but reading the article in a little more detail, things become clearer.

At this stage, it seems the idea is to enable the lorries to travel more closely together, with the lead driver controlling acceleration and braking, but the following ones being steered by a driver in each who can also respond to any obstructions.   Given that we already have larger trucks in Australia (“B-doubles” and even longer “road trains” in some parts), I’m not sure whether such arrangements would take off here.

But they do show the direction that technology is heading.   Developments such as these are doubtless only the first step on the way to a lot more automation, perhaps sooner than we realise.

And there was a brief mention of the British proposal in one of the Sunday papers.  The concern was that the technology may be able to be hacked!

I guess anything is possible, but probable?  I think this would be way down the list of worries!

 

 

oBikes

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.