Ferngrove Frankland River 2011 Chardonnay

Ferngrove Frankland River 2011 ChardonnayBy Travis Schultz

It’s been some time since Chardonnay was the Lord of the Manor amongst white wine varietals, but with the more subtle lightly (if at all) oaked aromatic styles becoming the fare of the modern winemaker, it’s only a matter of time before it regains its rightful place on the throne.

And it’s wines like the Ferngrove Frankland River 2011 Chardonnay that are bringing Chardy back into vogue – there’s more than a hint of toasty French oak and pear flavours on the nose and more pears, quince and a citric edge on the palate.  While it’s more lightly bodied than the Chardonnays of old, there’s still a rounded creaminess to the texture and a buttery finale.

Amazing value for a Frankland River Chardy at around $20 a bottle!

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

Rockford “Moppa Springs” 2008

Rockford Moppa SpringsBy Travis Schultz

Once you’ve tasted the wines crafted from old vine Barossa fruit, it’s hard to imagine that in the 1980s the Government encouraged growers in the region to pull unproductive vines and exit the industry and in the process came close to annihilating the cache of vines planted by the early pioneers.

And it was producers like Robert O’Callaghan of Rockford fame who had the foresight (or audacity) to defy Government advice and can now benefit from having the fruit of 100 year old vines to create masterful wines like the Rockford Moppa Springs 2008 ($31).

In typically Rhone style, the blend of Grenache Mataro and Shiraz lacks the brightness of colour typical of young wines from the region, but exudes a veritable green grocery of dark fruits on the palate. There’s a definite raspberry and coffee undertone but a sophisticated freshness and finish courtesy of understated tannins.

The 2008 was a great vintage, so best get your hands on it quickly or you might miss out!

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

d’Arenberg “The Coppermine Road” 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Coppermine Road By Travis Schultz

The 2007 version of d’Arenberg’s “The Coppermine Road is another example of some of the worst seasonal growing conditions resulting in one of a wine’s best ever vintages.

While drought conditions and cool Spring weather in the McLaren Vale meant reduced canopy development, bunch and berry size, it also meant concentrated flavours and high tannin levels in the fruit that did survive the adverse conditions.  The result is one of the darkest versions of the Coppermine Road that I have ever seen and probably, one of their best.

It’s typically Cabernet up front with smoke and cassis on the nose and an earthy grippiness across the top palate.  Subtle hints of violets and dark chocolate emerge as the wine develops in the mouth while a cedary edge authenticates the 18 months spent on new and old French and American oak.

I reckon it’s one for the cellar as it’s definitely built to stand the test of time.

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

Skilled Migration is Essential


By Travis Schultz

While I can understand Australians’ concern about illegal immigrants and the need to stop the flow of boats, I have great difficulty in comprehending the arguments that have seen our immigration policy scaled back and not just in terms of 457 Visas.  Sure, Australians need jobs and in tough economic times, we need to create opportunities for employment and Government policies should be aimed at keeping the unemployment rate down, but there’s a bigger problem developing in terms of our dependency ratio.

In Australia, the ratio of people aged 15 and under or over 65 is at 48%.  With our aging population and relatively low fertility rates, it won’t be long before there will be a greater number of Australians aged under 15 or over 65 than there are Australians in their “working life”.  With an Australian culture of high class public health services, education, environmental protection and social welfare, the burden of funding our social infrastructure is going to fall on what will soon be a minority of income tax paying Australians.

The problem of this dependency ratio is not one which is unique to Australia.  On the contrary, other countries are grappling with the same issue and it is far worse in places like the USA where the dependency ratio is already 50% and in Japan where the dependency ratio is 53%, yet they are attempting to maintain a nil immigration policy.

If it is the working class who make the greatest contribution to gross domestic product and therefore, tax revenues, perhaps skilled migrant visas and a balanced immigration policy is a small price to pay for the sustenance of our social fabric?

Infidelity – how do you overcome it when it’s not a person?

Leisa Toomey 2012As a family lawyer I have seen what Sexual Infidelity can do to a relationship.  However, wounds heal and people move on with their lives.  But be warned, there is another type of infidelity that you may never recover from if it is not discovered in time.

Financial Infidelity is a relatively new term coined to describe the activities of a partner who is hiding the real financial picture from you.

It comes in many guises but in its simplest form it could be anything from secret shopping to having secret credit cards.  However, at the other end of the scale it could be gambling debts or a business venture that has gone bad – and it could be eating away the equity you have in your home – and all without your knowledge.

It appears we all expect honesty from our partners, but a survey by Harris Interactive of 1796 people aged between 25 and 55 says, whilst we might expect it, we don’t always give it.  According to the 2005 survey, 29% of people in a committed relationship admitted to lying to their partner about their spending habits. And it appears that women have more to hide than men with 33% of women saying they had something to hide as opposed to 26% of men.

As one would expect, 96% of those surveyed believed that it was the responsibility of both partners to be completely honest about financial issues, with 24% believing it was more important than being faithful.

Lying about the price of a pair of shoes is one thing.  Lying about the financial losses of a company is another. Francis* came to see me after discovering the business her husband had set up was actually in liquidation, with debts in excess of $50,000 and an overdraft of $20,000.  She had no idea the company was in trouble as he had told her everything was fine.  Her husband had genuinely tried to make a success of it but once he started borrowing to stay on top, his problems just got worse.  Francis was in turmoil as she has felt betrayed by her husbands’ actions. “Had he come to me to say things were not going well, we could have worked it out together” she said.  By not involving me he has exposed me to the debt and not treated me as a valued partner in this relationship. Sadly, the marriage dissolved, along with a significant portion of their savings.

The bottom line is that whilst lies may start off small, they can quickly take on a life of their own which only leads to bigger problems.  The best solution is to be honest about your actions as the truth will eventually surface anyway.

Magellan Program – what it is and how it works

Last month I talked about Family Violence and the Best Practice Principles that have been developed to protect both the children and parents who are victims of family violence and abuse.  The Best Practice Principles recognises that where there are allegations of sexual or serious physical abuse of children that the Magellan case management system be followed.

The Family Court of Australia introduced the Magellan Program which “was developed to deal with Family Court cases involving serious allegations of physical and sexual child abuse.” To ensure action is taking quickly to protect those who are often the most vulnerable in our society, a fast-track program was introduced by the Family Court.  The program includes, but is not limited to:

  • Rigorous judicial management including imposing strict timeframes
  • The appointment of an independent children’s lawyer
  • Obtaining information from the relevant state or territory welfare authority early in the trial process
  • Close liaison on case management between external information providers and a small team of judges, registrars and family consultants

To ensure that Family Court cases involving serious allegations of child abuse are handled as quickly as possible, and if a Notice of Child Abuse and Family Violence is included in the Application to Court, the matter goes straight into the Court’s Magellan program.

The whole aim of the program is to protect the victims and the court recognizes that time is of the essence in these matters.  As such it is preferred that the team handling the case remains the same throughout the whole process with a further aim of completing the case within 6 – 12 months.

When a case has been referred to the Magellan program interim orders will be made to protect the child until the matter goes to trial and the child will have an independent children’s lawyer appointed for them.  Other actions may include obtaining a detailed family report and psychiatric assessment and ordering a subpoena and/or requesting a report from the child protection agency as to whether they have previously investigated the allegations.

The introduction of the Magellan program was a significant change for the Family Court of Australia and has resulted in “cases going through the court system more quickly” and that fewer cases are going all the way through to judgment.  So whilst early indications are that the introduction of this program has resulted in significant, positive change for children who have suffered severe abuse there is still more work to be done.

Position Vacant – Marketing Officer

Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers has a unique opportunity for a full time Marketing Officer to join their team on the Sunshine Coast (office located in Birtinya).

Established on the Sunshine Coast for over 30 years, Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers is a full service “retail” legal firm providing a range of personal and business legal services across 3 offices located on the Sunshine Coast and North Brisbane.   For more information on the firm, please visit www.stolaw.com.au

Working with the Managing Partner and the Practice Manager, the main purpose of the role is to co-ordinate and manage the firm’s marketing and business development strategies and initiatives. 

This role will be responsible for a wide range of business development and marketing activities – everything from preparing press releases, to events co-ordination, to maintaining website and other social media platforms, designing new marketing campaigns, client database management and developing the individual marketing plans for the firm’s Lawyers. 

The successful applicant will need the following skills:

  • Software experience – Word, Excel, Powerpoint essential.
  • Able to work autonomously and as part of a team.
  • Advanced written communication skills.
  • Ability to communicate across all levels.
  • Conceptual ability and ideas driven.
  • Time management skills.
  • Team player. 

Previous experience in a legal firm is desired but not essential. 

The salary package is negotiable and will be commensurate with the experience of the successful applicant.    

To apply for this position, please forward an up to date resume to our Practice Manager, Wendy Faithfull, at wfaithfull@stolaw.com.au


Read Your Insurance Policies Carefully

Insurance By Travis Schultz

Policies of insurance are now well accepted by the business community as being a valuable risk management strategy but the importance of obtaining the right insurance cover is often overlooked.  If you were to carefully review the commercial insurance policies offered by the major insurers, you would be unlikely to find two the same as each has their own terminology, inclusions and most importantly, exclusions to standard cover.  For this reason, it isn’t enough to simply take out a commercial policy of insurance to cover public liability, property damage, business interruption and income protection as individual circumstances always need to be taken into account.  The unfortunate reality of insurance is that very few people carefully review the policy until it’s time to make a claim.

The importance of analysing the policy wording is highlighted by a recent decision of Justice David Jackson QC of the Queensland Supreme Court in LMT Surgical Pty Ltd v. Allianz Australia Limited. The claim arose out of the January 2011 flooding event that damaged so many businesses throughout Brisbane.  In LMT Surgical Pty Ltd’s case, the dispute surrounded the interpretation of the flood exclusion in their policy.  The policy issued by Allianz excluded “physical loss, destruction or damage occasioned by or happening through flood,” which was defined to mean “the inundation of normally dry land by water overflowing from the normal confines of any natural watercourse or lake (whether or not altered or modified) reservoir, canal or dam“.

The January 2011 floods had resulted in the policy holder’s premises at Milton being inundated by water, not through water rising directly from the river but through backflow up stormwater drainage pipes that normally entered the river.  The result was substantial damage to the business premises.

In handing down his decision, Justice Jackson found that in this case the inundation caused by backflow from the drainage pipes could not be said to be from the “normal confines of the river”, and accordingly Allianz was not entitled to rely on the flood exclusion.

Whilst in this case, the decision had a happy ending for the policy holder, that is certainly not always the case and had the court found otherwise, it would have been a potentially crippling event for the business.

If flood cover forms part of your business risk management strategies, prudence requires a careful review of the policy to avoid the insurance proving worthless in some circumstances.

New Local Laws For Noisy Paws

Pets By Travis Schultz

The Sunshine Coast Regional Council looks set to introduce new local laws which will enable their Local Laws Officers to issue on the spot fines to owners of noisy dogs. While council insists that the issuing of fines will be a “last resort”, with fines of up to $2,200.00 for “noise nuisance”, the new regulations could prove a financial windfall for the already cash strapped council budget.

There is little doubt that noisy pets have the potential to cause significant disharmony within a neighbourhood, but the availability of fiscal penalties might create more mischief than the cheeky canines themselves.  As the council will undoubtedly rely on complaints from the community before investigating a “chatty” puppy, there must be at least some risk that the complaint process and resulting fines could become part of the armoury of the feuding neighbour who is intent on seeking revenge for the inconvenience of the falling leaves from their neighbour’s tree or the noise from last Saturday night’s party.

I do agree that local laws of this type need some form of sanction to provide the council with the teeth to enforce the community’s standards and expectations of pet management, but the policing of these new rules is going to take more than just a small dose of common sense in order to make them workable.

Penfolds Bin 138 Old Vine GSM 2005

Penfolds  Bin 138 By Travis Schultz

If you’re keen on the Penfolds brand but baulk at the price tag that attaches to their top end Grange and Bin 707 wines, then the Bin 138 Old Vine Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre may be your perfect compromise.

The three varietals are matured independently in the barrel and blended prior to bottling providing the winemaker with the flexibility to adjust the weighting of each grape variety, year by year.

In 2005, the Grenache dominates (at 72%) with almost equal parts Shiraz (15%) and Mourvèdre (13%) and the result is a highly perfumed ripe nose, a rich spiciness of wild berries and cinnamon across the palate and an assertive, yet softening finale courtesy of some fine but aging tannins.

And at around $35 a bottle, it’s definitely much better value than the highly acclaimed, but overpriced Penfolds flagships.

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