Oyster Bay Merlot 2012

Oyster BaySince the 2004 comedy Sideways, the much maligned Merlot grape has been somewhat “on the outer” with the average wine consumer. It may be that Merlot from the Santa Barbara County (where the movie is set) is below par, the same cannot be said for wines of the varietal that are born of the gravely soils of the Hawkes Bay region on New Zealand’s North Island.

Hawkes Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine region and home to around 90 wineries. While Oyster Bay is not based in the region, their 2012 Merlot is sourced exclusively from fruit grown in Hawk’s Bay, where Bordeaux style wines are a specialty.

It may be mass produced and possibly, New Zealand’s biggest selling red wine by volume, but in the value states I guess it is not too bad. You will find it selling at around $15.00 to $19.00 a bottle and at that price, you could do much worse.

On the nose, there are floral and ribena characters which transform on the pallet to ripe spicy berries with a touch of vanilla, all spice and nutmeg and some (very) soft tannins. It probably falls away a bit at the back but for a wine made in huge quantities, it is certainly not the worst. It certainly lives up to the Merlot Mantra of being soft in style and very approachable and if you do not like big chewy tannins, the style could be right for you.

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

Male Violence Against Women

Violence against womenAccording to new research one Australian woman dies every week from an act of domestic violence. 28.5% of women have experienced some form of domestic violence and 40% of Australian women have experienced violence since the age of 15. Most of the violence also occurs within the home where the woman is in an intimate partner relationship.

Male violence against women in Australia is still largely unknown by many, and therefore White Ribbon, who are a not-for-profit organisation, have released a clip on Youtube titled “Australia, the land of secrets” to help raise awareness.

There are a number of Myths surrounding domestic violence against women, these include:

  • Women should just remove themselves from abusive situations
  • Some people provoke the violence
  • Violence is caused by drugs or alcohol
  • Violent people are mentally ill
  • Only certain types of women experience violence
  • There is nothing we can do to end violence against women

Domestic violence against women is still largely an unaddressed issue, you can show your support annually by supporting and raising awareness by wearing a white ribbon on White Ribbon Day.

Laura Clark

Laura ClarkPosition: Paralegal to Travis Schultz
How long you have been working here for? 6 months
What do you enjoy most about working at STO? STO is very different to other law firms in the work that we do and the high standard of services that we provide to our clients. I have not experienced that in other firms that I have worked in! It’s a great environment to be in with a very supportive and friendly team.
What are your hobbies/interests/favourite music etc? I am studying Law externally so that keeps me very busy outside of work. I have started participating in Triathlons which is great fun and I enjoy the outdoor training that is involved and getting to the gym also, when I can. Music preference is rap/hip-hop and that keeps me sane, and my favourite activities to relax include: spending time with my boyfriend, going out for breakfast, swimming, watching movies and reading.

Jenny Triggs

Jenny TriggsPosition: Litigation Secretary
How long you have been working here for? I have been working here 12yrs 8mths.
What do you enjoy most about working at STO? I have always enjoyed working at STO because the people here are so easy going and friendly. I enjoy working as part of a team and the support that is given to each other. The fact that STO gives back to the community in the way of fundraising for Wishlist and Cystic Fibrosis and many other worthwhile causes is something to be proud of.
What are your hobbies/interests/favourite music etc? My spare time is spent with family and friends, early morning walks on the beach and planning my next holiday with the girls. My favourite music artist at the moment is Bernard Fanning closely followed by Cold Play. On the weekend I enjoy a glass or two of my favourite wines from the Margaret River region of WA

Are SMSF the scammer’s next target?

ScamAs Queenslanders collectively lick their financial wounds from the GFC and the bust of a once hotter than Miranda Kerr property market, it seems that self managed super funds (SMSF) may be next on the property marketeer’s radar.

Having duped thousands of “mum and dad” investors with their pushy telemarketing teams, free trips and seminars and seamlessly implemented multi-tiered investment property “opportunities”, our phones are once again ringing to the calls of these marketeers. However, this time they are sourcing property investors with self managed super funds and their focus on Australia’s 509,000 SMSF and the $506 billion they control, is hardly surprising.  After all, negative gearing is still on the nose with the unsophisticated investors who saw their net worth plummet with the “Stormesque” bust of both the sharemarket and property sector only a few short years ago.

Our national savings are at an all time high and our SMSF have more cash than ever, hence they’ve become the new honey pot for the fast talking white shoe brigade (both locally and from overseas), who are keen to sell the virtues of using an SMSF to invest in property.

While Australian financial planners are subject to strict licensing requirements, it seems that many of these marketeers are not.  And while an unlicensed person cannot give “financial advice”, the difficulty for the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (“ASIC”), is proving that a spruiker of off the plan properties to SMSF is giving “financial advice”.

So if you’re contacted by phone, or respond to a seminar invitation or an online advertisement promoting property investment through a SMSF, don’t sign up until you’ve taken independent advice from your financial planner or accountant and remember the golden rule, if it looks too good to be true…

Brokenwood Indigo Vineyard Shiraz 2010

Indigo Vineyard ShirazWhen we look to buy good Australian Shiraz, most of us look no further than South Australia and the world famous Barossa and McLaren Vale. And while I agree that their Shiraz is a regional strength, in the quest for the viticultural Holy Grail, Syrah lovers should not overlook the Beechworth region of Victoria’s High Country.

Beechworth may be well known for its prosperity during the 1850s gold rush or for its gaol that housed bushranger Ned Kelly, but in the 21st century it’s the local wine industry that is putting the region on the map.

Such is the pulling power of their exceptional vine stock that Hunter Valley producers like Brokenwood have sourced Shiraz grapes for a premium red from the Beechworth region. The Brokenwood Indigo Vineyard Shiraz 2010 is a lively and spicy Shiraz that pulls less punches than some of the mouthblowing South Aussie versions but which displays an attractive earthiness on the nose and a sweet peppery berry kaleidoscope across the palate. I love the tightness of finish and subdued oakiness that make it eminently approachable and a perfect companion for any red meat dish.

At $45.00 to $50.00 a bottle it is not cheap, but you undoubtedly get the quality that you pay for.

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

Connect with Travis via LinkedIn


Employee restraints can be enforceable

Travis SchultzThe Supreme Court of Victoria has recently granted injunctions to prevent a former employee of a company which supplied and operated ATM machines around Australia, from canvassing or soliciting the business of any customers of his previous employer or using any confidential information that he gained from his previous position, in his new role with a competitor company. In making these orders, the Court accepted that if injunctions were not granted, irreparable damage might be done to the business of the former employer if its former senior level employee was not restrained.

The particular employee, Mr Lester had entered into an employment contract with DC Payments Pty Ltd which contained a restraint of trade clause as well as imposing other obligations that would protect the business of his employer, if and when he left.  Justice Digby of the Victorian Supreme Court thought that there was a serious question to be tried and whilst not finally concluding the merits of the arguments as to whether the terms of the contract and its restrain were enforceable, thought that it was necessary to protect the employer’s interests at least until a trial could be held.

From an employer’s perspective, the case is an important one because it demonstrates that Courts are prepared to intervene where senior employees are privy to confidential business secrets which, if used for the benefit of a competitor, would be seriously damaging to the business interests of the former employer.  The starting point however, for any relief being granted by a Court is an actual or anticipated breach of an obligation on the part of an employee and that requirement means that a clear and unambiguous employment contract which unequivocally articulates the obligations of the employer and employee is a crucial part of any employee engagement.

If you’re an employer taking on a new employee from a competitor, always look into the extent of any existing contractual restraints or you might find yourself the “meat in the sandwich” if the former employer engages in a court process to protect its contractual rights.

Bullying Code Replaced by a Guide

Travis SchultzThe recent spate of awards of damages to the victims of bullying has brought the issue under the spotlight.  So it is a little surprising that Safe Work Australia has recently confirmed that it will shelve its plans to develop a Code of Practice on Workplace Bullying in favour of promulgating a “Guide”.

The “Guide” on Workplace Bullying will no doubt cover many of the same issues that would have been addressed in a “Code”, but it will not have the same legal impact. That downgrading of forcefulness is because a “guide” will not be subject to the legal processes that normally result in a code being developed and in it being given statutory force through ministerial approval.  Given the financial and social cost of bullying and the awareness that the community is developing of its consequences, it is a little disappointing that Safe Work Australia seems to be downplaying the importance of dealing with the issue in a forthright and accountable way.  I personally had hoped to see a Workplace Code which could then have been a precursor to a similar model being adopted in schools, where cyber bullying of students through online and social media is becoming a new 21st Century issue for our education system.

As bullying can take so many different forms, it is always going to be difficult to develop appropriate definitions of what constitutes “bullying” and to carefully craft the language used to define obligations. However, I am not sure that the community will see that as a good enough reason to resist tackling the bullying issue head on, implementing a Code of Practice and giving it some statutory force.

T’Gallant Juliet Pinot Noir 2012

T'Gallant Pinot NoirPinot has always been a challenging and somewhat expensive grape to grow and with its generally lower yields and relatively high production costs, it rarely hits the shelves at a quaffing price point.

So when you do see a Pinot selling at between $10 and $15 a bottle, it’s always best to temper your expectations, especially if the Pinot is one made in large volumes!

I recently suffered an encounter with the T’Gallant Juliet Pinot Noir 2012 at a sporting function at a Melbourne Club and regrettably, I can’t say it was an enjoyable experience.  On the nose, there are some delightful spicy cherry and plum aromas, but alas, the curtain raiser was better than the feature show.  Once on the palate, the cherries became sour and the sweet strawberries made a cameo, if not flabby, appearance in the middle and the whole show fell away without any tannic backbone to give longevity to the finish or austerity to the experience.

I won’t be calling for an encore performance by the Juliet, which is a real shame as T’Gallant make some terrific wines (especially their Pinot Grigio) and they’re probably one of the Mornington Peninsula’s best wineries.

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

Congratulations Shane Crew

Congratulations Shane CrewSchultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers would like to congratulate Partner, Shane Crew on attaining his qualification as an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injuries Law. Shane is a key member of the Litigation team and services both personal and commercial litigation clients.

Shane said “attaining the qualification as an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injuries Law was an arduous process. I am equal parts relieved and proud of the outcome.”

“The Accreditation is an acknowledgement of my expertise in Personal Injuries Law which area of law has been my career passion.”

Shane has been with the firm for 12 years and was previously based in our Sunshine Coast office. He now leads our North Brisbane office located at North Lakes, where he is actively involved in the community.

Shane is on the committee for the North Lakes Chamber of Commerce and is also a past President of the Sunshine Coast Law Association.