Gathering the straws of life together

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In bed with Andrea

In bed with Andrea

Yes, I am spending more and more time in bed with Andrea. My One&Only (O&O) knows what is happening and he is okay with it all. I enjoy a relaxed night in bed when I have Andrea singing me to sleep. I know what you […]

Feeding the Farmers

Feeding the Farmers

As a community we rely on farmers feeding us and now it is time for us to take a role in feeding the farmers. My comments come in the context of severe drought conditions across Australia. However, given that I live in Queensland I want […]

National Heart Foundation Tick

National Heart Foundation Tick

When I spoke about the National Heart Foundation Tick recently with my sister Debbie, she told me it was no longer trustworthy. I was astonished to hear this and decided to investigate.

The National Heart Foundation Tick has been a trusted symbol since 1989. It was the most recognised food labelling program for 26 years. That is, until December 2015 when the heart foundation retired the tick! I was wondering what I was doing in my retirement when the tick retired? Nobody told me!

Then thinking back to late 2015 it was when we moved from Maleny to Toowoomba. I was very busy unpacking in our rental house while out and about looking for a new home to buy. Even then I wonder how I missed it?

The downfall of the “tick of approval” came about once the Heart Foundation started given “The Tick” to McDonald’s chicken nuggets and then to Milo. This ended in “The Tick” getting the flick! It was replaced by the Health Star Rating Program.

Even though I have seen the Health Star Rating stars on supermarket packaging, nothing clicked with me! I did not know that it replaced the “The Tick”. The plan was to phase out the Heart Foundation Tick over 12-24 months. That means, at the latest by December 2017.

Yet, I am still finding products with the heart foundation “Tick of Approval”. I was very pleased when I recently saw the Heart Foundation Tick on frozen dinners at Aldi. I had to buy a few for my 92-year-old mother to try. Given that she is 92 years old this would give her a night off cooking. Yes, she still cooks for herself but is finding it more of a chore as she ages.

This frozen meal has the National Heart Foundation Tick. Taking a closer look it also has a 3.5 Health Star Rating.

Of course, with the Heart Foundation Tick on the frozen dinner many people would not bother to read the label. However, I am a big label reader! I have even thought I may have to have therapy for the habit! When I looked at the ingredients, sugar, fat, and salt the meals were healthy enough. They were not overloaded with sugar or salt. What I find these days that after so much concentration on our “sugar” habits, the worst offender is SALT! Therefore, I am convinced it is worthwhile taking the time to read the list of ingredients on the labels. I conscientiously read the labels on several similar products for a comparison, then I make a choice.

But not everyone has the time to read the labels. This must be the reason some companies are hanging on to the Heart Foundation “Tick of Approval” for as long as they can. You see the tick, you pick the product.

It is only in the last week I have started looking for the Health Star Rating. Milo had a 4.5-star rating. However, after a campaign by the consumer group Choice earlier this year public health experts agreed that it could only claim 1.5-star rating. Nestlé has since removed the star rating symbols from their packaging!

The Health Star Rating Program is a joint Australia, state and territory governments and New Zealand Government initiative. It was developed with industry, public health and consumer groups. It is a voluntary system and implementation is over five years from June 2014. Read the “frequently asked questions” here.

The Health Star Rating will help us make quick decisions. Nonetheless, I think I will continue to read the labels and make up my own mind. Hopefully, the list of ingredients on the label is trustworthy?

What about water?

What about water?

Have you ever heard someone say, “what about water”? You may be going on a picnic, a long drive or even going fishing. If so, you will need to take water with you! Yesterday we were told we would have no water for the day! […]

Saying G’day and R U OK?

Saying G’day and R U OK?

Saying G’day is something we do most days as well as “how are you going” meaning R U OK? There are days at our place when we say lots of G’day’s, and all we are doing is walking around our neighbourhood! We have met people […]

Cashless society

Cashless society

More and more I see the evidence that we are moving to a cashless society. Fewer and fewer people carry cash. All we need is plastic – a plastic card! At least our plastic cards are not “single use” – we use them time and time again. I was surprised this week when at the supermarket. I expected the woman in front of us would pay by card but no, she pulled out two $100 notes from her wallet. I suggest following this woman’s example if you are shopping at Aldi or you will pay 0.5% for using a plastic card. It may only be a small amount, but it is all these “small amounts” that add up.

Many businesses pass on the processing fee charged by the banks – a surcharge. It is always a good idea when purchasing items to ask if there is a surcharge for using a credit card. If you are booking a trip with Qantas you will be charged 0.63% for using a debit card, 1.23% for a credit card. However, there is a fee cap (per ticket, per card) of $11.00. You can wave the fee by paying with BPAY, if you pay 7 days before your trip.

I used to carry around a couple of $100 notes, for emergencies, in my wallet. I stopped the habit when the government raised their concern about people stock-piling $100-dollar notes. They floated the idea that the $100 notes could be removed altogether. My concern was that one day I would go to use my $100 note to find it was worthless.

The government is interested in a cashless society because they can track our spending – they can keep across all the transactions. The reason the government are in favour of going cashless is due to the “black economy”. That is, economic activity that is unrecorded and untaxed by the government. Gumtree, advertising goods online, is a perfect example. As are farmer’s markets, art and craft markets and garage sales. No one really knows how much the “black economy” is worth, however it is estimated to be between $30-$40 billion. That’s quite a few $100 notes floating around.

Cash – to have and hold! Dame Nellie Melba is on the front of the $100 note. I named one of my chickens after Dame Nellie. I called her Melba!

Apparently, the Australian $100 note is popular with tourists. They take it with them out of the country – a souvenir! Much better than the snowdome (also called snow globe) souvenirs. However, if you are one of those people who must have a snowdome, don’t worry! You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home to boast of your travels, just buy a few snowdomes online – Acapulco, Ireland, Canada, Florence, the destinations are endless! If you would prefer the “real” holiday destination, then all you do is to put down a deposit or pay for the entire trip using your plastic card. No cash required!

This past week I have thrown caution to the wind and have been tapping my card everywhere I go. It is very convenient when out shopping just to tap the card. I was at the chemist, I think I’ll tap! Meeting friends for coffee, I think I’ll tap! Out for lunch, tap again! Paying for car parking in Brisbane – I think I’ll tap! Clothes shopping at Myer’s, no not for me, for my O&O – a birthday not far away!  I went to tap, but the amount was over the tapping limit. Once the transaction was completed they handed me over my purchases in a very stylish paper bag. Tapping is so easy! The difference between me and some other tapper’s is that I know I have money in my account to pay for it!

There is a proposal that $100 and $50 notes include a chip, so the government can track the notes! How will the “black economy” respond? Maybe, a barter system or create their own currency? I like to track our money, but if it remains in a bank account we can’t call it money anymore it is digital currency. It is only money when it is cash, banknotes and coins. At the end of June 2017, there were 1.5 billion banknotes worth $73.6 billion on issue in Australia. With the $100 and $50 banknotes accounting for most banknotes. Where are they all? Certainly not in my wallet.

If we need a role model who lives in a cashless society we need look no further than Queen Elizabeth 11. The Queen never carries cash, apart from a Sunday when she takes either a £5 or £10 note to church as an offering. I am told that the note is precisely folded – banknote origami!

A cashless society is possibly closer than we think. If we end up cashless then I expect we will get used to the idea. It just takes re-education – changing the way we do things, like so many other things we do in life! What do you think of a cashless society? Would it work for you?

Time for a siesta

Time for a siesta

When visiting Spain, you will find that this is the country of the siesta! When we were there, 16 years ago, we discovered the siesta. Everything quietens down from around 2pm – 4pm or longer. The Spanish then come alive in the evening. They eat […]

Waste not want not!

Waste not want not!

Waste not want not is a saying that dates back to 1772. There are two meanings. The first is “do not waste as you might need it in the future”. Secondly, the “less we waste the less we will lack in the future”. It is […]

Walk on water

Walk on water

This week when delivering the 2018-19 Queensland State Budget, the treasurer Jackie Trad took a walk on water. Nothing would deter her delivering a budget full of billions of promises. All the treasurer, premier and the Labor government must do now is to follow her and walk on water. Can it be sustained or will they soon be “trading” water or should that be spelt “treading” water?

There was no mention of the “D” word, that is DEBT in the treasurer’s inaugural budget speech. Queensland’s debt is expected to blow-out to $83 billion by 2021-22 and there were “no apologies for borrowing to invest in infrastructure”. Given the smile on her face, Jackie Trad, seemed rather happy in announcing the “big spend” as she walked on water in denial about Queensland’s debt. She wants to change the conversation too. This means, let’s not talk about debt. Look at me, Queensland will be fine, I’m walking on water!

Would you like to change the conversation? I would. I would like to change the conversation and talk about how the State can start paying down the huge debt!

It is a very different story in New South Wales, just over the border. The government in their 2017-18 budget delivered a 4.5 billion surplus and by now it was projected the state will be debt free. But not so for Queensland – spending money we do not have and then borrowing more to pay off what we borrowed! I found it ironic that on the Queensland Government website they give advice to Queenslanders, stating, “when we’re low on cash and want to buy something, it can be very tempting to borrow money. But before you use your credit card, take out a loan or borrow from the store, make sure you know how much it will really cost you”. Should the Labor government follow their own advice?

Under Labor Queensland lost its AAA credit rating, the top credit rating. Now we have AA+1 by 2021-22 will this be AA- or worse? What will life be like if the state becomes bankrupt? Are Queenslander’s adequately informed about the state’s financial mess? However, it seems that Queenslander’s focus on the “what about me” or “what will I get out of it” rather than realising the State is drowning in debt. Every day we are getting “deeper and deeper in debt” while so many take the mythical walk on water.

Certainly, Queensland is behind with its infrastructure, a legacy of earlier Labor governments. Queenslanders were not happy with the Newman Government because Campbell Newman was making the tough decisions, cutting back to get the state out of debt. The response? He was voted out after one term.

If the Queensland government does not manage debt all we will have left is small change!

It seems that most people in Queensland like living with a huge debt hanging over their head. Or is it a case of too many plastic cards, too much credit, too much taking what we want now, rather than delaying our gratification! Have a look at the debt clock. The debt in Australia is in the trillions. How long will it be before we are talking in quadrillions?

On the 26 June 2016 I wrote a post titled “Super Slippery Slide”. Some of this is worth repeating. I asked a few “what if” questions. What if the $4bn taken out of QSuper can’t be repaid? What if the Queensland government plummets into further debt? And what if the economy becomes more volatile and the QSuper fund loses money given the current and future global financial situation?

Further I went on to say that one ‘blackhole’ that is a ravenous consumer of $’s in Queensland is the public service payroll. As at June 2014 there were 195,724 Full Time Equivalent (FTE’s) staff in the state. The number of Queensland employees as of December 2015 FTE was 205,529. There was an increase of 312 staff for the September 2015 quarter (0.15% increase). The government today is on a trajectory to spend its way into further debt through increasing the number of public servants which in 2015-16 was more than double the government’s budget projection.

As of December 2017, there were almost 219,000 FTE’s public-sector employees. That’s fine, just borrow more money. After all, we have a government in Queensland who can walk on water. No “trading” water after all! All we have to do is watch out for the storms ahead!

In your interest

In your interest

It is in your interest to know what is going on with your bank accounts. Not only bank accounts but all your financial interests. While some people trust financial advisers and accountants it is always in your interest to check any documents they give you […]


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