Vale Lillian

When we first moved to Cobar, I was impressed by the way everyone got along. From the welcoming smiles from passers-by to the ‘let me help you with that’ offers (trying to lift a 12 litre bottle of water up and over the ute tray).

Before social distancing became the norm there was no shortage of community craft work-shops, sporting events including horse racing, dance classes and library projects – always something for anyone who wanted to get involved. Houses were decorated at Christmas time, Halloween took place in October – but only with houses that volunteered to be involved – and there were even regular street parades and festivals. I attribute a lot of that community spirit to the town’s mayor, Lilliane Brady.

Continue reading “Vale Lillian”

Go West Young Man

If I’ve given you the impression that pulling up stakes, moving to the outback and renting out our house on the beach has been sunshine, lollipops and rainbows then I need to apologise. This blog started as a way of encouraging police and their partners to give special remote policing a go and I decided, at the onset, that there would be more positive than negative reports. But in the interests of balanced reporting and just in case I made it sound like the perfect bush change, I should point out that life hasn’t always gone smoothly.

Continue reading “Go West Young Man”

Welcome to 2021

So far 2021 has become the year of breaking things or, more accurately, the year of things breaking down. To be honest, I can’t blame it all on the recent thunder storms (or maybe I could if I tried really hard) because the TV was kind of on the way out.

So, not to dwell on the fact that we didn’t bother taking out contents insurance but we’ve now lost a 55” TV, laptop and battery backup (think big heavy black box that’s supposed to save your TV and laptop). Plus, the evaporative cooler has gone out in sympathy (of course, that never happens in winter!!) and needs a new solenoid (I don’t know either).

So we’ve had a couple of days of no TV and sweltering humidity until yesterday when our new best friend Alex arrived and fixed the evaporative cooler. One down and the rest will have to form a queue.

There might actually be a positive side to this electrical catastrophe because, thanks to suggestions from both sons, we’ve discovered the Raspberry Pi.

Now if, like me, you’re a bit over all things electronic and the never-ending “race to replace” with ever newer technology, you may be thinking of a yummy dessert served with whipped cream but No. After some serious research, Nigel has managed to set up and install this tiny gadget, which apparently is a computer of sorts that can do all the things that a desktop computer can do at a fraction of the size – and cost. They’ve actually been around for years – such is our resistance to “modern technology”.

Murphy’s Law didn’t actually stop there and we also ‘lost’ a cane chaise at the hands / paws / jaws of a Rottweiler who, despite being on holidays in Paradise, apparently didn’t like being home alone and decided to eat the (specially upholstered) cushion on our cane chaise.

After 13 years of ‘on and off’ holiday rentals, this was the first time that anyone had actually admitted to any damage plus it was Christmas so we could hardly charge them. Just one more “third thing” in the list.

So there you have it. No bright shiny start to the new year…. Not yet anyway…… but I suspect we’re still better off than many, many others, who have also spent Christmas ‘home alone’’.

I thought I’d end my first 2021 post with something to make you smile (thanks to www.keeplaughingforever.com ). As our friend, Amie said, “At least he’s wearing a mask”. Stay safe everyone and Happy New Year.

Lines in the sand Part 1

Today, not being a local, I’ve just discovered that Cobarians live in a Zone tax offset area – Zone B to be exact. I rang the ATO to ask whether it was worth amending our last couple of tax returns to include this rebate and the representative had no idea about zone tax offsets but put me through to someone “who would know”. Refreshingly, this second representative said that he’d never heard of a zone tax offset and we both laughed.

When we both set about bringing it up on our respective computers, I discovered that the Zone B rebate is worth a whopping $57 p.a. so No, I won’t be applying for any amendments thank you. But Yes you’re right, that was a really embarrassing mistake for someone, who prides herself in her knowledge of all things ATO. 

In my defence, let me just say that I did know about zone rebates but had just forgotten. In fact it’s just over ten years since I wrote to the Minister for Farrer on this exact issue.

Just in case there are others, who’ve never heard of the zone tax offset, here’s a brief explanation of a very complicated system whereby the ATO allocates rebates to taxpayers living in remote locations based on a list called The Australian zone list. (https://www.ato.gov.au/Calculators-and-tools/Australian-zone-list/).

The amount of the rebate is determined by the taxpayer’s address, whether they have dependants and whether they’ve lived at that address for at least 183 days……. And it’s income-tested. Did I mention it was complicated?

Here’s a chart from the A.T.O.’s web site to explain it betterhttps://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/myTax/2020/In-detail/Zone-or-overseas-forces

Now, as you can see, taxpayers living in Zone B (including Cobar) might not bother claiming an annual ($57) tax offset, whereas taxpayers living in “special areas” would be mad if they didn’t. The Australian Zone List is based on a map with the equally complicated title of Australia: zones A and B for income tax purposes (including special areas) / Natmap.https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-232818315/view (zones are in blue).

One might think that the amounts of the rebates are linked to the remoteness of the area and  the lack of services such as public transport or medical and/or cultural facilities but those days are long gone.

Not only does Ivanhoe fall just outside of these lines in the sand – no tax offset for you! – but the poor hard-done-by residents of Lord Howe Island apparently get the Special Area rebate – every year.

So back in July 2010, after many hours of research, emails and phone calls I wrote to the then federal member for Farrer concerning what I considered was an injustice in the Zone tax offset system. Here’s a summary of the email:

Dear Sussan.

I’m writing to draw your attention to an inequity in the ATO’s zone tax offset categories where residents of Ivanhoe NSW are not entitled to any zone tax offset while neighbouring Broken Hill with its art galleries, museums and restaurants is classified as Zone A and tax payers are ‘compensated’ with an annual tax offset of $338. According to advice from the Australian Taxation Commissioner’s Office, it needs a member of parliament to request a re-classification.

I went on to point out the facts as I saw them:

Ivanhoe, in drought-stricken far west New South Wales and with a population of less than 400 has 3 shops – a general store, café and take-away (no butchery, bakery, news agency, pharmacy, dental facility etc) and it is not uncommon for residents to travel to Mildura (4 hours) or Griffith (3 hours) to do their shopping.

In the Police Force, Ivanhoe and Tibooburra are generally regarded as the two most remote areas of NSW and are duly classed as ‘Special Remote Locations’. There are 4 roads into Ivanhoe, however three of them are closed when it rains. Mail is delivered 3 times a week unless it rains. While the Post Office is an agent for the CBA, there are no banks in Ivanhoe and non-affiliated customers must pay a fee every time they withdraw money. In summer, Ivanhoe’s temperature can climb as high as 47 degrees. Ivanhoe’s neighbours – Menindee (population 981), Wilcannia (population 759) and Broken Hill (population 21, 314) – are all classified by the ATO as remote areas and therefore their residents qualify for a zone allowance. I would submit that Ivanhoe must also qualify.

Here’s the reply from her office:

Dear Ms Matthews

Thank you again for taking the time to contact Sussan about the ATO Zone Rebate Allowance for Ivanhoe.

Sussan raised this issue with Central Darling Shire Council (which includes Ivanhoe) prior to last weekend’s federal election, and has followed this up again this week.

Unfortunately there does not seem to be interest in the allowance either from the residents of Ivanhoe, nor the broader Central Darling Shire area.

Due to this lack of community support for the allowance, Sussan is unable to raise the issue with the Australian Tax Office, at this time. She will be more than happy to look into this again, should it be requested by the current residents of Ivanhoe and Central Darling Shire.

Thank you again for raising this issue with Sussan.

Regards, Elizabeth Sandow
Electorate Officer to THE HON SUSSAN LEY MP

So there you have it! Ivanhoe’s residents don’t want any extra money thanks very much. Amazing!!

Fast forward ten years and for anyone still awake,  today I came across this news article published in March this year and titled “Govt rejects PC call to axe regional tax concessions”, which is well worth the read (well….. if you’re a tax nerd). Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this archaic system should be either overhauled or scrappedhttps://www.beefcentral.com/news/govt-rejects-commission-call-to-axe-regional-tax-concessions/

Briefly, (I know…. when am I ever?) the article states that last year (2019), the Australian Government asked the Productivity Commission to review the Zone Tax Offset. The response was a Productivity Report that described remote area tax concessions as “outdated, inequitable and poorly designed”. The PC report went on to say “Remote Australia has changed considerably since the introduction of the first of these concessions in 1945”  finding that the “ZTO no longer serves a purpose in contemporary Australia and is not needed”.

Scott Morrison’s Government responded with, “the Government will not be acting on the Productivity Commission’s recommendations”, which is unsurprising when you consider the reactions of all those voting tax payers living in Zone A or special areas.

Of course some remote areas do deserve remuneration in the form of a tax rebate and the PC report concluded, “If the ZTO is retained, only people living in very remote areas should be eligible”.

So ten years later my question still stands, “How can anyone justify throwing money at the residents of Lord Howe Island or Broken Hill or argue that these residents are somehow doing it tougher than the residents of Ivanhoe?”

Seriously? 

Here’s an Idea…….

While the Corona virus dicates that I avoid trips to the other side of the Great Dividing Range, I’ve been biding my time cleaning up the myriad of files and folders that have taken on a life of their own and are now breeding on my computer. In doing so, I’ve found that it’s quite easy to spend a whole morning (or ten) re-discovering photos, plans and ideas that were once of interest.  This morning, during one such foray into the past, I came across this letter to TomTom. Continue reading “Here’s an Idea…….”

Doctor Doctor

There are many things that I love about the bush but medical services is not one of them.

There’s a “practice” at the local health clinic where you ring the surgery at 9am to try to secure one of a handful of available appointments. It’s like a race where the first one to have their call answered wins the prize of a possible appointment that day. I’ve tried Plan A a couple of times without success so today I’m going with Plan B – wait a couple of weeks for a tele-health appointment.

Continue reading “Doctor Doctor”

Bank error in your favour. Collect $1300

A few weeks back, our neighbour noticed a letter in our mail box at Paradise Beach, which was unusual because we’d arranged for our mail to be re-directed when we moved to Cobar.

The envelope confirmed that the letter was from an insurance company, with whom we had no policies so we figured it was junk mail but, in the spur of the moment, we asked her to open it and relay the contents.

As it turned out, we were even more convinced that it was spam because the letter said that the insurance company owed us money. We had almost decided that she should bin the letter when she suggested taking a photo of the contents. And so began a series of events that we couldn’t have imagined. Continue reading “Bank error in your favour. Collect $1300”

Murphy’s Law

So it occurred to me that someone might be wondering whether I survived our escape from the ‘bubble’ or whether my worst fears were realised – especially with our motto of “If it can go wrong it will”.

Well it seems that Murphy was sleeping on the job this time, because the trip was surprisingly uneventful…… no overheating, no dust storms, no more battery problems….. perhaps he figured he’d caused enough calamity and felt sorry for us. Whatever his motives, the trip was entirely unremarkable….. well if you don’t count driving to the coast in two separate vehicles.

I’m pleased to say that this little princess pumped up, overcame her anxiety and actually enjoyed catching up with friends and family again. Mind you, I did a fair bit of ducking and weaving to avoid other customers in shopping centres and I must admit that I wasn’t anywhere near ready for any hugging and kissing (friends and family – not other shoppers) but overall we managed to abide by the social distancing regime and everything went well.

As I’ve said before, each trip to Paradise comes with a price…. or more precisely, with a list of chores – clean the dishwasher, sort the kitchen cupboards and drawer contents, pruning, weeding, cobwebs, change to winter bedding, check the pool pump, air conditioners, BBQ bottle, batteries, TV remotes bla bla bla – and, unfortunately, we simply ran out of time.

I’d like to say it was too many parties and catch-ups but, to be honest I’m more of a “let’s paint the house” rather than “let’s go out for dinner” kind of gal……. much to Nigel’s chagrin.

So what to do, when you realise that you’re not going to be able to catch up with everyone you wanted to see? The answer was pretty obvious – bring them home with you!

When the get-togethers and happy hours were cut short, it made perfect sense to simply continue the party ‘down the road’ so last week, a few days and a few hundred kilometres later, we were all happily settled in with more happy hours, food extravaganzas, as well as fire pits and Aboriginal Art bush walks only this time we were in Cobar!

And while I’m rubbing it in, Murphy, I’m happy to report that we’ve unwittingly avoided a disaster of a different sort because three days after fare-welling the last of the Paradise crew Nigel has been seconded to leave on Sunday for a week of enforcing state border restrictions (think 5am starts and zero degree temperatures).

Bad enough his partner is on holidays sipping Pina Coladas somewhere this side of the Queensland border while Nigel travels more than 700 kms to somewhere this side of the Victorian border. Imagine if that had happened last week!

As I write this, I’m saddened by the plight of so many Melbournians, who’ve obeyed all the restrictions but now find themselves in an awful second lock down. It really does seem like good luck rather than good management, as to which state wins and which one loses this fight to avoid a second spike. For those of faith, let’s pray there’s a cure or, at the very least a vaccine very soon.