Mistletoe 2011 Chardonnay

by Travis Schultz

Mistletoe, in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley region have produced some great Chardonnay over the years so much so that their 2009 release in fact won the trophy Best Australian Chardonnay at last year’s Wine State Magazine Wine of the Year Awards.  That’s a pretty big wrap given that there were some 3,000 Chardonnays in the field.

The award winning 2009 vintage was followed by a cracker in 2010 and now, the 2011 release has hit the shelves.

Like other good Hunter Chardonnays, the wine is all honeydew melon and nectarines up front, with just a touch of creamy oiliness at the top of the palate, before a slight minerality grabs the reins at the back and restrains the generous stonefruit flavours.  There’s a mild display of French oakiness but it’s understated and that allows the fruit to take centre stage and to develop a dry impression on the tastebuds.

At around $22 a bottle, it’s very good value and up there with the best Chardonnays that New South Wales has to offer.

The high cost of our standard of living

By Travis Schultz

By international standards, Australians enjoy a very high standard of living and have amongst the most expensive real estate market in the world.  Thanks largely to the resilience of the mining sector and the benefits it brings to our economy, the Australian dollar remains at historically high levels and despite the hangover of a recent GFC, by any standard, Australians really are “living the dream”.

But the great irony of our prosperity is that our economic success creates a headwind for business to trade into.

The corollary of having a high cost business environment is that it is comparatively cheaper to outsource roles overseas and to buy products and services abroad.  We’ve already seen call centres proliferate and prosper in low cost countries and there is no reason to think that the trend won’t continue.

After all, why can’t any “service” that doesn’t require face to face contact be moved offshore?

As Australian businesses search for cost savings, it seems inevitable that Australian workers will be the victims of cost cutting pressures.  For example, why can’t service roles like accounts payable and receivable, computer programming, IT technical support, word processing and even financial controlling be done overseas?  If an IT system technician was being paid $100,000.00 in Australia but could be sourced for less than $6,000.00 per annum on the subcontinent, why wouldn’t it be attractive to outsource the role?

Just as retailers are now beginning to feel the impact of the power of the Internet in enabling consumers to achieve cost savings by shopping abroad, I don’t think it’s going to be long before Australian businesses begin to shop internationally for their service roles and that, very likely, will mean significant domestic job losses.

Coping with the holidays

For family lawyers, Christmas and the ensuing holiday period is one of our busiest times. People who have been thinking of separating often wait until Christmas is out of the way to instigate divorce proceedings and those who are already separated can have family issues relating to the custody of children.

For the people going through it, family issues are incredibly emotional. Couple that with a few drinks, the fact that your ex has a new partner or that they have not returned the children on time and it can make for quite an unhappy holiday. To stay on track and avoid turning what can be a nice break into a Christmas nightmare I have put together a list of things to remember these holidays:

  1. Plan access visits as soon as you can and put them down in writing so that there are no misunderstandings. If you are not on friendly terms with your ex have an impartial third party assist you to do this.
  2. Try to put aside your own feelings and encourage your children to make a special gift or card for the other parent. Even if this is not reciprocated you have helped the children do something nice for your ex and also been a good role model.
  3. Make an effort to keep old traditions alive and start new ones. If you used to go to Carols by Candlelight as a family try and continue the tradition but add a twist like having fish and chips by the beach first.
  4. Don’t make the children feel guilty if they are holidaying with your ex. Tell them how you can’t wait to hear about their holiday and try to enjoy your “me” time.
  5. No matter how much you dislike your ex, during the holiday season put on a happy face for the sake of your children. You may not feel like being happy but it’s important to the children and you may end up getting into the swing of things.
  6. Watch your spending over this period. Many of my clients say they wanted the kids to feel everything was “normal” and over spent try to achieve this.
  7. If your ex has your children and you are not going to be at work, try volunteering. It will take you mind off being alone and may give you fresh perspective.
  8. Don’t face the prospect of being alone for the holidays with dread. Have a bubble bath with a glass of wine, read a good book, watch your favorite movies, order take away, catch up with friends or go for a walk along the beach.
  9. And finally, Christmas and the holidays is just one time of the year. There are so many more things to look forward to, so enjoy any free time you have and make the most of having some precious moments to really relax!

Scorpiiion Barossa Valley Rosé 2011

By Travis Schultz

When it’s too hot to drink a warm, high alcohol red but you’re not normally a white wine drinker, then a rosé like the Scorpiiion 2011 Barossa Valley Rosé may be the ideal climate-driven compromise.

If ever there was a wine that sits on the fence, this is it.  It’s neither red nor white and neither savoury nor sweet.  It’s not a Grenache driven wine (52%) nor is it a Mataro (48%).  In the glass it looks like a wine of little substance, but the pinkish hue defies its surprising weight on the palate.  You’d expect the strawberry and raspberry tart flavours that dominate the middle to result in a touch of flabbiness at the back, but a late surge of acid gives a steeliness to the finish that seemingly cleans up any residual sugar.

I am not suggesting that it is a 98 pointing world beater, but in true fence sitting style, I wouldn’t say it’s a disappointment either.

At only $22 a bottle, why not put it with your next spicy Asian or Indian meal and make the judgment call for yourself?

Read your contract – the terms are important!

By Travis Schultz

In the 21st century world of time pressures, cost efficiency and fine print, there can be a tendency on the part of many of us in small business to sign “standard form” contracts without really reading them or making an attempt to understand our rights or our obligations to the party that we are contracting with.  All too often, however, the devil is in the detail and it is the “legalese” that can impose obligations on a party accepting those terms which, if not complied with, will give the other party the right to terminate the contract or even, seek damages.

Recently, the New South Wales Supreme Court had to consider a claim made by the promoters of an Australian tour by the American rapper “Pitbull” who had cancelled his 2008 Australian tour at great cost to the promoters.  The Court found, however, that the musician was entitled to terminate the contract as a result of the promoter’s failure to adhere to the contractual terms which required the full deposit to be paid by the due date.  When these payments were not made, it gave the rapper an “out” and as a result, the claim by the promoter was dismissed.

Whilst the case is an extreme example given the large amounts of money involved, it serves to reinforce the need for all of us in business to be vigilant in adhering to contractual terms.  If we fail to comply with a material obligation under any contract, we run the risk of giving the other contracting party a right of termination and that may also expose us to a liability to pay damages.

The message is really quite simple – read before you sign!

Be careful with what you post!

By Travis Schultz

In our 21st century world of cyber space and e-commerce, there aren’t too many businesses who don’t have a sophisticated website as part of their marketing and customer relations platform.  There is no doubt that these websites can be highly beneficial business tools, but they can also pose a risk of litigation where the content is not monitored carefully or where “loose” comments and opinions are allowed to be posted.

Recently, the world’s biggest search engine company, Google Inc. discovered how wide reaching defamation laws are in Australia, when the Supreme Court of Victoria handed down its decision in a defamation case brought against it by former music promoter, Milorad Trkulja.

In his claim, Mr Trkulja sued Google for defamation as a result of Google allowing material to be published on the internet which a jury had found implied that Mr Trkulja was involved in Melbourne crime to the extent that his rivals had hired a hit man to attempt to murder him.  The material arose out of an incident in 2004 when Mr Trkulja had been shot in the back by an unknown person whilst he was sitting in a Melbourne restaurant having lunch with his elderly mother.

Amongst other material, Google had permitted to be published articles and photographs of Mr Trkulja under the heading “Melbourne Crime” and had also published photos of the Plaintiff alongside pictures of underworld figure Tony Mokbel and an alleged drug trafficker and murderer, Denis Tanner.

Google had argued that it could not be a “publisher” of the material simply by operating a search engine business but that argument was rejected by Justice Beach in the Supreme Court of Victoria because Google had the power to stop publication of the material after a reasonable period of time and its failure to do so lead to an inference that it consented to the publication of the offensive material.

Whilst not many of us in business operate with technology so sophisticated as an internet search engine, the principles that can be drawn from the decision have the potential to impact on all of us.  If we, in our business, operate websites where we either post opinion matters or even allow our customers and the public to post comments which remain accessible to others, then we can potentially be liable for any defamatory content that is allowed to remain on the web.

There is no doubt that special vigilance is required by businesses to ensure that the content of our websites is carefully monitored as otherwise the site itself might transform from a highly beneficial marketing tool, to a potent piece of self incriminating evidence in defamation proceedings.

Family Separation at Christmas – tips to make it easier

By Angela Tondelstrand

Christmas is supposed to be an enjoyable time of year but, for some, it can highlight loss and be stressful, particularly if your family circumstances have recently changed.

Below are practical suggestions for improving your Christmas time experience, if you find yourself in his situation. 

 

 

Look after your children

Be sure to remember your children are suffering a loss too, so do what you can to help your children through this period.  Not only will your children benefit, but it will give you a sense of purpose which is in itself a reward to see them happy for the positive experience you have provided them with.

  • Contact Arrangements – Do your best to plan in advance any arrangements for your children to see you or the other parent on or around Christmas day.  If you can’t do this personally with the other parent, try email or a third party.  Be clear about the transportation arrangements and times the children will come and go between your households.  A lack of clarity about these details can be a cause of angst and dispute.  If the children aren’t seeing the other parent (or you) on Christmas day, have the phone ready for the children to make a call to the other parent (or you) first thing (or all day if necessary).
  • Celebrate the other parent – Be sure to do something special that helps the children know its okay to love both parents even though not living with both.  For example, set aside time before Christmas to make a card or gift for the other parent, then have your child/ren personally deliver or post it.  This also demonstrates your own generosity of spirit at this special time, and may have the added benefit of improving future relations with your ex.
  • Remain positive – whilst it’s natural to feel disappointment and hurt about your circumstances, it is not fair to spoil your children’s Christmas with your own feelings.  You are the adult and, as hard as it might be, try to keep any negative feelings and thoughts to yourself when you are with or within earshot of your children. 

Look after yourself

  • Your own feelings are valid – take the time to acknowledge how you feel about your changed family circumstances with other adults, when your children are not around.  However, don’t dwell too long on your own emotions and try to move on and be upbeat.  It’s not fair to ruin everyone else’ Christmas with your tales of woe, and it won’t ultimately improve your Christmas experience.
  •  Traditions – consider and plan in advance what “new” traditions you can create by virtue of your changed circumstances.  Failure to plan can result in increasing your sense of loss, and make it harder for you to move on and celebrate opportunities that the festive season has to offer.

Consider your charitable side

If you are likely to be spending time on your own over the special Christmas days, consider whether donating your time to local charities or hospitals is something that appeals to you.  Christmas, after all, is about giving, and your selflessness in doing so may give you immense pride and emotional reward, whilst taking away some of the loneliness or loss you are feeling.

Remember Christmas consists of only a few days of the year, and is an opportunity to celebrate all that is good in your life.  Try and grasp that opportunity and make it a positive experience for you and those around you.

 

Advertisements must be accurate

By Travis Schultz

Advertising in its various forms has become a routine part of doing business for the majority of small businesses whether they are in the retail, services, hospitality or even manufacturing sectors.  Whilst it is well accepted that a little “creative licence” is permitted when talking up the virtues of our product, this “mere puffery” must not be misleading or deceptive or even likely to be misleading or deceptive.

The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (which replaced the old Trade Practices Act 1974) specifically prohibits, in trade or commerce, any conduct which is likely to mislead or deceive.  The section, obviously enough, also applies to any advertising.

Recently, Justice McMurdo in the Supreme Court at Brisbane was called upon to adjudicate in a dispute involving two retail pharmacy chains.  The litigation arose out of Chemist Warehouse running an advertisement in a number of newspapers which advertised the generic brand of some popular pharmaceutical products at discounted prices and in their ad, they compared their prices to the full PBS cost of the original brand.  The Terry White chain of pharmacies complained that the advertisements were misleading because what they didn’t say was that if this generic brand was purchased, then it did not count as qualifying the consumer towards the Federal Government’s “Safety Net”.  Under the Commonwealth scheme, once the requisite threshold had been met, the consumer and their family would be entitled to the discounted rate for any further qualifying pharmaceutical purchases in that particular year.

There had been no suggestion that the pricing or product being advertised was in any way misleading but rather, simply that in making the comparison without any reference to the bigger picture of the Federal Government’s Safety Net, it was argued that the ad might lead some consumers into error.

Justice McMurdo ultimately found that by failing to alert prospective purchasers to this fact, the advertisements were in fact likely to mislead or deceive and found that there had been a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act and an injunction was awarded to prevent any further advertising of that type.

For all of us in business who include advertising amongst our marketing strategies, the decision once again highlights how careful we must be to ensure that any statements made in advertisements, are not only literally true but, in the bigger picture, are not going to risk misleading or deceiving any category of potential consumer.