Heemskerk 2012 Coal River Valley Riesling 2012

By Travis Schultz

Take one sip of the recently released 2012 Heemskerk Coal River Valley Riesling and you could almost find yourself daydreaming your way to an ancient vineyard somewhere near the French/German border, such is the similarity to some of the elegant semi-dry Rieslings from the region.

It’s rather light in colour and subdued on the nose, but finely scented in citrus blossom and honeydew melon by the time it hits the front of the palate.  The floral fragrance is rather understated but the  acidity that shackles the tangy green pear and nectarine flavours in the middle also provides a touch of elegance and austerity to the back.  You can’t help but admire the way that the Coal River Riesling produces such length that it seems to be at its best well past the finish.

This wine is sure to age well, but you’re going to need a resolve as steely as the acidic backbone of the wine in order to see it at its best!

Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is managing partner of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers and lover of fine food and wine

What, exactly, is a charity?

Charity (640x481)by Trent Wakerley

Whether by email, telephone or being approached on the street, we all are asked to donate to various causes from time to time.

If an entity is a Charity, the entity receives certain tax concessions and other benefits.

The meaning of Charity and Charitable Purpose has evolved under common law and determining whether an entity was a Charity or not required a detailed review of numerous cases handed down over the past few hundred years.

To provide clarity and certainty regarding the definition of Charity and Charitable Purpose, the Government released a paper in 2011 seeking submissions about a definition of Charity to be contained in legislation applicable across all Commonwealth Laws.

About 200 submissions were received and after considering the submissions the Charities Bill 2013 has been drafted to include a definition of Charity and Charitable Purpose more suited to modern Australia.

It is hoped that the definition will assist in reducing the need for costly litigation which is sometimes required for an entity to establish that it is a  Charity.

Public consultation regarding the draft Bill ceases on 3 May 2013 with a view to the Bill becoming law with effect from 1 January 2014.

If you’d like to make a submission or just want to find out a bit more information, head to the Treasury Website for details.


Getting from A to B – do you know the road rules?

Road Rules (640x640)by Samantha Quinney

Driving a car is a big responsibility – and one that requires each and every driver to know the road rules. But do you actually know the road rules? How long ago did you read through the rules? Are you aware of changes to the rules? How often does another driver break a rule and a near miss occurs. Unfortunately for some drivers, breaking the road rules can have a devastating outcome. Being involved in a car accident, even if a minor accident, can have lasting effects on both you and your family. If you’re the one responsible, not only could you have to pay for damage caused or be charged with an offence, you may have to live with injuring or killing another person.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads published a guideline covering the Top 10 misunderstood road rules and it’s surprising to see which road rules are commonly misunderstood. It comes with diagrams and can be found at the link below.


Do you know how to merge?

A common complaint amongst the driving community is the lack of knowledge when it comes to merging. If the road has lane markings (as shown in the first picture), the car in the lane where the road is coming to an end must give way to the traffic it intends to merge with. Therefore the car marked A must give way to car marked B.

However if there are no lane markings (as shown in the second picture) you must give way to any vehicle that is ahead of you. Here, B will give way to A.

Are you following too closely?

A common cause of accidents is drivers following too closely to the car in front. Using the time-lapse method (picking a point and counting out the seconds) in normal conditions, the safe following distance is 2 seconds. If you are towing a trailer or caravan, add one second for every three metres of trailer. In poor conditions or if you are driving a heavy vehicle, the safe driving distance is double the time for normal conditions.

Is it safe to cross that line?

You cannot cross a single line to overtake or perform a U-turn. You can only cross a single line to turn into a road or a driveway. A double line however must never be crossed. What about painted traffic islands? Similar rules apply. If the painted island is surrounded by a single line you may drive on or over it for up to 50 metres in order to enter or leave the road or enter a turning lane that begins immediately after the island. Double lines around a painted island indicate a no-go zone (unless you are avoiding obstruction).

Stop or give way?

Have you ever sat at an intersection where you have a stop sign in front of you and the other driver has a give way and no one knows who can go? Both the vehicles pictured above must give way to all other traffic. Then the normal rules of give way apply. Car A must give way to Car B as Car A will be turning right across the path of Car B.

Give way to the right

It’s an old rule but a good one. When the traffic lights go down at a crossroads, every driver must give way to the right.

Keeping to the left

On the highway (or multi-lane roads with a speed limit greater than 90km/hr), the right lane isn’t the fast lane. But it is the lane you should only enter when:

  • overtaking;
  • turning right or making a u-turn;
  • avoiding an obstacle;
  • driving in conjested traffic; and
  • driving in a special purpose lane.

Similarly if a road has a sign saying “keep left unless overtaking,” don’t ignore the sign.

So do you actually know the road rules?

Why not test yourself? Go to http://www.roadtrip.qld.gov.au/Road-rules-refresher/Road-rules-refresher-quiz.aspx and take the test. Get your family and friends involved and see if they also know the road rules. Make sure to also check out www.tmr.qld.gov.au/roadrules to see any changes to road rules you may not have heard about.


Tomich Hill Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2008

Tomich Hill Pinot NoirBy Travis Schultz

Growing Pinot Noir in Australia is always a bit hit and miss.  After all, it’s a grape that shows its best in a cool climate, but even the so called “cool climate” regions in our sunburnt land can be subject to significant seasonal variations.  And the Adelaide Hills region in South Australia is no different despite its 600 – 700m of elevation.  The 2008 production was as challenging a vintage as you’d hope not to see, yet with careful vineyard management, some vignerons still managed to produce a few extremely good wines.

So, given the climatic challenges of a 15 day heatwave just prior to picking, I was a bit surprised by the drinkability of the Tomich Hill Pinot Noir 2008.  ($22)

It’s intensely red cherry on the nose and shows vibrant strawberry and dried Chinese red dates characters across the palate before a herbaceous canopy envelopes the finish.  There’s a touch of tannin to support the back end and overall, it’s a winner despite the season’s adverse growing conditions.

Pinot Noir is never cheap due to it being a low yielding viticultural problem child, but as a food wine all rounder, you’d struggle to find a better varietal.


New video game classification laws

18 plus (640x640)By Travis Schultz

Since February this year, new Queensland laws will restrict the availability of violent video games to people aged 18 years and over. The changes, being spruiked by Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie, will bring Queensland into line with the rest of the Country in restricting games with violent content to adults. By joining a national framework for restriction of access to video games, it is thought that the laws will reduce the opportunity for a black market to develop in which video games were acquired in one state and on sold to minors in another.

Although I admire the spirit in which the new regulations have been enacted, I wonder whether in this day and age, we can prevent determined young gamers from accessing their preferred genre of games. After all, kids these days operate computers, iphones and ipads better than most of us and with internet and online shopping becoming so prevalent, state based laws are likely to have little impact on imports from abroad.

I am all for putting mechanisms in place to avoid our children being exposed to violence in any form, but I suspect that greater control measures than just this legislation will be required.

For retailers however, it is going to be necessary to get across the new regulations quickly given that the laws have taken affect and now ID should be requested prior to selling an R+ rated game to any person who looks as though they may not be 18 years of age.

Rabbit Ranch Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011

Rabbit Ranch Pinot NoirBy Travis Schultz

Pinot Noir is undoubtedly one of the world’s most versatile food wines and outside of Burgundy in France, the Central Otago region in New Zealand’s South Island is probably the world’s premier Pinot producing region.

The hallmarks of a good Central Otago Pinot include a savoury nose, sweet cherried fruit and a smooth smoky finish but regrettably, those fine features are not readily evident in the Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir 2011 that I recently stumbled across in the one of the “majors” bottle shops.  It’s rare for me to speak ill of any Central Otago Pinot, but at around $25 a bottle, I expected a little more.

Sure, the Rabbit Ranch has abundant fragrant cherry flavours on the palate and a hint of spiciness at the back, but without the firm constraints of tannin and oak and a noble structure, the uncontrolled fruit becomes a lollybomb in the mouth that may as well be a RTD Cruiser without the fizz.

I can’t fault the creamy texture and velvety finale, but without any shackles on the overly candied flavours, it’s just not my style of wine.

$120,000 for a car she didn’t even get to drive!

Car Accident woman (500x332)by Peta Yujnovich

A number of years ago I received a phone call from a very distressed driver.  She had just crashed into a brand new black Porsche Panamera which was being driven home by the owner off the lot for the first time.  She had hit the Porsche side on with her uninsured 1990 Hyundai Excel and believed she had written off both cars.  The accident was completely her fault.

She was right about her Excel.  It was a write off and was taken by the tow truck driver to the auto wreaker who paid her a measly few hundred dollars for her car and pointed her in the direction of the closest bus stop.

However, that wasn’t the worst of it.  A few weeks later she received a letter in the mail from the insurance company representing the Porsche owner making demand for payment of $120,000.00 for the repairs to the Porsche.

Without any insurance policy covering her Hyundai Excel she was in what I like to call “a legal pickle”!

She had two options:

  1. Try to negotiate a deal with the insurance company to settle the matter outside of Court, at a reduced amount and with payments being made via a payment plan (which she anticipated she would be paying off for life) or;
  2. File for bankruptcy and deal with the impact this would have on her credit rating for years to come.

She chose option one and, although she was able to negotiate a reduced amount to pay to the insurer (they will always be willing to do this rather then get nothing out of you), she still had to take out a personal loan and borrow a decent amount from her parents to settle the matter with the insurance company.

So, the legal moral of this story, don’t drive a car on the road without insurance!  Here is a quick summary of car insurance if you don’t know what your policy covers or you don’t have a policy of insurance in place.

Comprehensive Insurance

Comprehensive motor vehicle insurance is insurance that covers you for any damage done to your motor vehicle, and if the accident was your fault, the motor vehicle of the other driver.

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and you have this cover, it is as simple as contacting your comprehensive insurer and providing them with the details you gathered at the accident scene.  They will then act on your behalf to ensure that any property damage to your car, or the other driver’s car is fixed and they will cover this cost for you.

Third Party Property Damage Insurance

An alternative, and often a less expensive insurance policy than comprehensive insurance is third party property damage insurance cover.  In the event of an accident, this insurance will cover the costs of any damage to another person’s vehicle that was your fault, but you will be left to fix your own car.  This type of insurance policy is a good alternative for those who cannot afford comprehensive insurance, but still need the protection of a policy that will cover them for any damage to another person’s vehicle.  This is the policy my Hyuandai driver wished she had in place!

Not having Property Damage Insurance

If you do not have insurance to cover property damage to either your own, or another person’s vehicle, you may find yourself, as my lady did in a situation where you are liable to pay the full costs of the repair of another vehicle.  This would happen if you were at fault in the accident.

Depending on the severity of the accident in which you are involved and the type of car that you hit in the accident, the costs can be in the tens of thousands of dollars, and for this reason property damage insurance is a much cheaper alternative then paying for the repairs on a Porsche you will never get to drive!

Charles Melton ‘Voices of Angels’ Shiraz 2010

Maggie Beer at her home in the Barossa Valley, SA.By Travis Schultz

Although I have to admit to being a devotee to the style, overripe jammy and often high alcohol Shiraz might be popular with a large number of wine consumers, but seldom find favour with wine judges and connoisseurs around the globe.  And while it’s regions like South Australia’s McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley that are often culprits in creating confectionary fruit bomb Shiraz, there are winemakers from the district who cut across the grain and develop subdued but sophisticated leaner type Shiraz – like Charlie Melton from Tanunda in the Barossa.

Where other Barossa vinyerons are often focused on the intensity of their fruit, Charlie has crafted a range of Shiraz that retain their regional characters without losing integrity of structure.

His 2010 Voices of Angels Shiraz uses fruit from the cooler Adelaide Hills vineyard which shows liquorice and ripe floral mulberries on the nose, but layer upon layer of velvety dark berries as the wine caresses its way across the palate.  There’s a hint of sweetness at the back but also a stalky edge, perhaps due to its whole bunch fermentation.

Technically, it’s an exceptionally well made wine and with obvious oakiness and delicate tannins, it will only improve with age.

It’s not hard to see why James Halliday rates Charles Melton Wines as a 5 star winery!

Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is managing partner of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers and lover of fine food and wine


Dog barking late at night? It’s the perfect way to upset your neighbour!

Barking Dog (461x640)by Peta Yujnovich

My next door neighbour recently posted the following comment on his facebook page, “Does anyone know how to shut a friggin barking dog up, the dog at number 5 has been barking all bloody night! What the hell kind of dog owner lets their dog bark all night – PISSED OFF!”

I read his post twice and breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn’t posting about my dogs.  I live at number 12 and his complaint was about number 5, thank goodness! 

At the time both of my dogs lay on the floor beside me, snoring as boxer dogs do, but fortunately at a decibel level that was only going to keep me and not the neighbour awake.

The comments that followed his post varied from the sensible “perhaps you should go and talk to them” to the extreme “I have a rifle you can borrow mate”.

My neighbour received an outpouring of sympathy from his Facebook friends making me think that this barking dog dilemma was probably playing out in many neighbourhoods across the Sunshine Coast.

So, here is the legal twist.  What are my neighbour’s options to sort out this barking dog dilemma in a way that is both legal and likely to avoid World War III erupting in our friendly little street?

The first and probably obvious step is to go and have a chat to the neighbour who owns the dog at number 5 .  Their dog may only bark when they are away from home and the owner may not even realise their dog is driving the neighbours crazy. 

He could help the neighbour try and solve the problem by suggesting some solutions to the barking problem such as a citronella collar, some dog training classes or a visit to the vet.  The Sunshine Coast Regional Council website has some great suggestions for dealing with dog barking, http://www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/sitePage.cfm?code=barking-dogs

However, if the neighbour doesn’t take kindly to his friendly approach and the dog continues to keep him up at night he may need to take the next step and contact the local Council Customer Service Centre to make a complaint.

The Council may require evidence of the problem in the form of a ‘barking dog log’.  Council will investigate the complaint under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act and at first instance try to work with the dog owner to sort the issue out.  The Council will usually give the owner 14 days to solve the problem.

If the dog continues to bark after the 14 days the Council will take their investigations further, interviewing other neighbours about the problem and sometimes using a noise meter to measure the extent of the barking and the nuisance created.  If a serious problem exists the dog owner may be issued with a Direction Notice to resolve the noise problem with failure to act resulting in a potential fine of up to $33,000.00.

So, what did my neighbour do about the problem? 

He took the sensible approach and the following morning knocked on the neighbour’s door to have a chat about the issue.  It turns out that the owners at number 5 were overseas and the friend looking after the dog had been out until midnight the night before.

He didn’t realise the dog was barking while he was out and said that the dog had really been missing its owners.  He promised to keep the dog inside until the owners got home and then talk to them about it.

Our friendly little street is quiet again…..for now.

Take advice before renting to members of your family!

house for rentBy Travis Schultz

In what must have been a disappointing result for the Federal Commissioner of Taxation, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has recently found that a tax payer who rented properties to her ex-husband and her son had done so in an arms length transaction and was entitled to claim all of the interest she incurred on borrowings and all costs associated with the properties, as a legitimate deduction.

The tax payer was a retired school teacher who owned two residential properties together with her son. One of them was leased to her ex-husband at a rate lower than market value on the basis that he would renovate and maintain the run down property, whilst the other was leased to her son at a rate which was at least around market value. The Commissioner of Taxation argued that the rental payments did not have income characteristics and were simply a private or domestic arrangement between the tax payer and her family members such that they would not be considered a business activity and that the expenses were therefore not deductable.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal found that the tax payer had a legitimate basis for structuring the rental arrangements in the way that she did and found that despite the fact that the properties were leased to family members, the arrangements were not private or domestic in nature. 

The lessons for any tax payer who owns a rental property is therefore really quite simple – if you are renting a property to a friend or family member, always ensure that from the outset, you are able to document a sound and rational business case for the arrangements that you are entering into and where possible, put in place formal lease arrangements that articulate the agreement in a business like way so as to avoid any suggestion that the tenancy is simply a private or domestic arrangement. If those rudimentary steps are taken, based on this recent decision of the AAT, then the deal should withstand the scrutiny of the Federal Commissioner of Taxation and any negative gearing arrangements would be legitimately claimable.