Category Archives: My soap box

Corporations and Social Responsibility

My thanks to Scottie for introducing me to Robert Reich via this video:

My disillusionment with corporations began back in the early 80’s when I learned how Microsoft became ‘great’. Then, in the early 2000’s I began researching genetic engineering and discovered what another big ‘M’ had done to maximize its profits.

More recently, it’s been Facebook and Google et al. I still have a lingering fondness for Amazon, but that’s only because I’m a reader and a writer. And of course, let’s not forget the big financial institutions right here in Australia.

To say that I’m disillusioned with corporations is an understatement, and yet, I was still surprised by the Reich video. Something about the sheer size of these behemoths amplifies everything that’s cruel, callous and vicious in the human psyche.

Stopping corporations from becoming so big and powerful won’t make them paragons of virtue, but it will stop the effects of their bad behaviour from poisoning society. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll allow the law to deal with criminal elements more effectively.

At the moment, these corporations are not only ‘too big to fail’, they’re also too big to prosecute. Something really does have to give.

Meeks


Plastic eating gut bacteria

We all know that plastic is a huge problem – just think of the garbage patches in the Pacific ocean. Not only does all this rubbish have to be collected, it has to be broken down somehow, but plastic doesn’t ‘break down’ the way organic material does. The bits do get smaller, but that just makes them more dangerous, not less.

So what’s the solution? The following quote is taken from a New Atlas tech article:

‘In recent years, scientists have identified a number of organisms with an ability to eat away at common plastics. These include engineered enzymes, mealworms with an appetite for Styrofoam and a type of bacterium with an ability to break down PET plastics in a relatively short space of time.

Waxworms are another exciting example. These … critters also have quite an appetite for plastic, with an ability to chew through it, digest it, and turn it into ethylene glycol, a type of alcohol.’

Hopefully one day, these waxworms will be part of the rubbish recycler’s toolbox, cleaning up this man-made mess and turning it into something useful.

Please go to the New Atlas website and read the whole article. A bit of good news never goes astray. 🙂

Meeks


Private Health Insurance in Australia – who needs it?

Disclaimer: I have just cancelled my private health insurance after almost 40 years. I will try to be unbiased as I present the facts that led to this momentous decision, but some bias is inevitable.

For Australians under 40, and international readers who know nothing about our hybrid health care system, I’ll start with a very brief overview:

The scheme [universal health care] was created in 1975 by the Whitlam Government under the brand Medibank, and was limited by the Fraser Government in 1976 to paying customers only. The Hawke Government reinstated universal health care in 1984 under the brand of Medicare. Medibank continued to exist as a government-owned private health insurance provider until it was privatised by the Abbott Government in 2014.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicare_(Australia)

Note: The government owned Medibank provided private health insurance in direct competition with private health insurers.

In 1999, the conservative LNP government led by John Howard brought in the Private Health Insurance Rebate Scheme. Depending on your age and income, the government will rebate 30% of the cost of your health insurance premiums. This rebate is subtracted from your health insurance premiums so you only pay for the remainder. This is the ‘carrot’ part of the equation. If you don’t take up health insurance by the time you hit the age of 30, you will pay 2% more whenever you finally do take up health insurance. This is the ‘stick’.

The purpose of the Private Health Insurance Rebate Scheme was ostensibly to relieve the pressure on public hospitals which are run by the states using funding from the Federal government.

When the rebate scheme was first introduced, premiums were relatively low and the private cover was a true ‘safety net’. In the 20 years since then, premiums have crept higher and higher while the payout for procedures and treatments has shrunk. This is true for both for-profit and not-for-profit health insurers.

As someone with a pre-existing medical condition, I’ve had basic hospital cover for almost 40 years. For most of those years, my premiums ensured that I could be treated in a private hospital by the specialist of my choice without long waiting periods or astronomical out-of-pocket expenses.

That all changed today when I finally realised that my basic hospital cover only did one thing – it allowed me to have my own specialist:

  • in a public hospital
  • in a shared ward
  • after I’d gone through the standard waiting period for public hospital treatment.

The following shows exactly what my private health insurance covers:

Apologies for the poor quality of the graphic but I wanted you to be able to see the whole thing. Every item with an ‘R’ next to it has ‘restricted’ cover only. This means that my private health insurance would only pay a miniscule amount [above and beyond what Medicare already pays]. Dialysis for chronic kidney failure, insulin pumps and weight loss surgery are not covered at all.

I don’t have kidney failure or diabetes or weight problems, but I can see at least five things I may need as I age. Sadly, with my basic private health insurance cover, I’d end up having to pay for them out of my own pocket anyway.

For me, the crunch came when I realised that I was already a [free] public hospital patient, but I was paying for the privilege.

Clearly, the hospital cover I had was next to useless, but when I looked at the levels of cover that would give me a proper safety net, I discovered that a) even some of the top plans didn’t cover me for everything and b) even if they did, I couldn’t afford them.

The sad truth is that I can barely manage to pay the $71.50 per month for the basic hospital cover I have/had. $71.50 doesn’t sound like much – it’s under $20 a week – but when you live on the age pension, $20 makes a difference. Wasting it on private health insurance that covers me for nothing is crazy.

So today I stopped being crazy and joined the ranks of Australians giving private health insurance a big miss. These Australians include young people on government support, older Australians on government support, and a growing segment of our population surviving in the GIG economy. In short, all those people who can’t afford the kind of health insurance that actually provides value for money.

So who’s left then?

I’m not sure. The table below is from the government website:

The income categories are shown across the top and indicate that under 65 years of age, all rebates cut out above $140,001 for singles and $280,001 for families. Taking bracket creep into account, that’s not a huge income by 2020 standards.

This may be my bias showing, but I am feeling rather ripped off. I’ve been a good girl and paid my premiums for years, but it seems as if the only ones benefiting from the 30% health insurance rebate are the health insurance companies themselves.

As the health insurance rebate is being paid from our taxes, I can’t help wondering whether we wouldn’t be better off if the rebate were abolished, freeing up all that money for the public health system.

Meeks


Guttenberg – the problem with blocks

For those who don’t know, Guttenberg is the name of the new[ish] WordPress editor, and unlike standard word processors, it isn’t based on a linear flow of text. Instead, posts are built from blocks of ‘things’, a bit like legos.

But what are blocks, and why should we care?

In Guttenberg, each block contains one type of ‘thing’ – i.e. you can have one block for the heading, a second block for the paragraph, a third block for the image and a fourth one for a list of things. You can also embed videos and audio etc in blocks.

Because each of these components is inside its own block, they’re kind of ‘self-contained’ and can be moved up or down using arrow keys.

This is what the arrow keys look like:

The Block Move arrows in Guttenberg

Each click of the up or down arrow moves the whole block up or down by one block.

Useful, right?

Well, yes and no. If your posts are relatively short, and you only need to move a block a short distance, the arrow keys work just fine. But what if you realise that a block at the end of the post should really be at the beginning? And there are 20 or more paragraphs/blocks in between? That’s twenty clicks. 😦

Or what if you realise that a whole section of your post needs to be deleted?

I can tell you from bitter experience that deleting a whole series of blocks is a major pain in the proverbial. To delete a block you must:

  • click inside the block to be deleted,
  • click the three dots at the far right of the floating menu,
  • scroll down until you reach the ‘Remove block’ option, and
  • click it.

There is a slightly faster option which involves clicking inside the block to be deleted and then pressing SHIFT + ALT + Z on the keyboard. But…it gets real old real fast when you have 20 or more blocks to delete. If you open the post in the Classic Editor, you can select and delete paragraphs easily, but that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

How do I know all this? I know because I’ve just spent a lot of woman hours looking for an easier way to update one of my How-to books. ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’ was out-of-date in both the ebook and print book versions, so I thought I’d turn the whole thing into a series of posts and update it online.

It seemed so easy at first…-cough-

Copy/pasting the text into a series of posts was easy enough – Guttenberg automatically turned each paragraph into a block – but as KDP, Thorpe-Bowker and the National Library of Australia had all updated their websites quite dramatically, there were a lot of old, outdated blocks to remove.

Updating the relevant chapters also required that some parts be re-structured. And yes, you guessed it, there is no way of selecting a whole series of blocks and moving them as a group. There is a group function, but I couldn’t get it to work properly. Perhaps it was never designed for ‘group moves’.

In hindsight, I should have updated the Word file first, and then poured it into Guttenberg. But I didn’t know then what I know now, did I?

Sadly, the ‘Group’ function didn’t work as a ‘Reusable’ either. A reusable block is a sentence or image or whatever that can be plonked into a post without the need to copy something and then paste it.

As I wanted to create consistent navigation across something like 19 blog posts, I created some reusable blocks that I used for each post:

When I’m finished, all of the ‘Click here…’ blocks will be live navigation links to other posts in the series, so not having to copy/paste each one is nice. But is it nice enough to keep using Guttenberg?

I admit that most bloggers probably won’t try to publish a whole book on WordPress the way I have done, but I’m sure I can’t be the only person smashing my head against Guttenberg’s limitations…

If WordPress wants Guttenberg to make blogging easy for all bloggers, then it has to solve these core problems with blocks. If they can’t be solved, then the old ‘Classic’ editor has to be retained because it’s still head and shoulders more powerful than Guttenberg.

I’ve given Guttenberg as fair a trial as I know how, and it’s just not good enough. Not yet. For now I’m going back to the old Classic.

cheers

Meeks


The price of convenience

I’ve been concerned about online privacy for a couple of years now, but the article I just read still shocked me. It’s titled ‘Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, And They’re Not Keeping It Secret’.

You can read the entire article here:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/10/business/location-data-privacy-apps.html

I’ve had geo location turned off on my phone since I bought it, but until today, I always felt a little silly; was I being paranoid for no real reason?

You may be wondering that too, but the case study of Lisa Magrin, a 46-year-old math teacher, may change your mind. It certainly confirmed my fears.

An app on the device [smart phone] gathered her location information, which was then sold without her knowledge. It recorded her whereabouts as often as every two seconds, according to a database of more than a million phones in the New York area that was reviewed by The New York Times. While Ms. Magrin’s identity was not disclosed in those records, The Times was able to easily connect her to that dot.

Lisa Magrin’s movements over a four month period

Lisa Magrin’s every single move was recorded…without her knowledge or consent. Then that information was sold. The Times article doesn’t mention who or what the information was sold to, but there’s a good chance it was sold to an ad network that collated her location data with her online data – Facebook comments, Instagram pictures, websites she visited, products she bought with her credit card, all those convenient little things we take for granted every day.

That’s a lot of information, and it’s meant to be anonymous, but what does anonymous actually mean? When your ‘anonymous’ data knows where you live and can track everything you do, the fact that it doesn’t automatically name you means nothing.

The ad networks that mine this data don’t need your name to target you for advertising. But that information is for sale, and there are no guarantees that the buyer will be a ‘harmless’ advertiser.

“Pffft! I have nothing to hide,” you say. “Besides, who’d want to buy my boring info anyway?”

Nothing to hide, huh? I wonder.

Does your wife know you visit that massage parlour for a quickie when you should be at squash?

Does your Mum know you spend hours on that porn site?

Do you use your birthday as the password for every online game you play?

Are you absolutely sure there’s nothing you wouldn’t want your co-workers to know about you?

As for who would want to buy that boring information, hackers would, and stalkers, or your abusive ex-husband perhaps. The list is endless, and the danger is real, not just for you, personally, but for those near you who may be targeted via information you unwittingly provide.

Stealing this kind of information will become illegal eventually, but until then you have to ask yourself – is that little bit of convenience really worth it? Or is your life too high a price to pay?

Meeks

p.s. My thanks to Chris the StoryReadingApe for this point:

Some of the things that can happen when your data is hacked can also apply to data that’s been sold to hackers, either directly or indirectly.


How can you not like what I like?

At an intellectual level I’ve always known that being an individual entails being different to others, at least in some respects. And yet…despite age, and enough life experience to sink a ship, I keep expecting others to like what I like. In other words, I keep expecting them to be like me.

Every time I write about a book I’ve loved, or a glorious vista, or a piece of music that moved my soul, I expect that you will feel the same way. And I’m rarely wrong. The individuals who gravitate to this blog and become friends are, by and large, like me. Thanks to the power of social media, you are my kindred spirits. 🙂

By definition, a kindred spirit is someone like oneself, and on social media it happens when people are drawn to each other via shared interests. Think iron filings to a magnet. The degree to which we ‘stick’ depends upon the number of interests we share.

This filtering process happens in the real world too, but at a much slower rate because we can only physically interact with a small number of people at a time – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues at work etc. Plus there is no guarantee that the people we do meet will be sympatico.

And right there is one of the most wonderful and dangerous aspects of social media – the ability to consistently give us what we want.

Why? Because most of us want to belong. We want to be with people who make us feel warm and fuzzy and good about ourselves.

This is how social media bubbles form. But feeling good about ourselves involves a value judgement about what ‘good’ actually means. Even if you never consciously question your own likes and dislikes, you recognize them in others and automatically judge them to be ‘good’.

And I’m no different. I believe I’m a good person, so I can’t help believing that people who share my values are good people too.

But if we are the good people, what of the others? What of those who don’t share our values? Are they the bad people?

My head says “Of course not!” My heart says “Maybe”.

Every time I log in to Twitter and read a comment distorting some fact or praising something I consider to be ‘evil’, the anger says “Bad person, bad, bad!”

And then the shame sets in because I know that person isn’t bad. I know that if I got to know them through some other area of life, I’d probably think they were okay.

How do I know that? Because I’ve lived it. Many years ago when I lived in a shared student house, there was a girl there with a very abrasive personality. I didn’t like her one little bit. Then one day, to my shame, I discovered that the abrasiveness was just a facade to protect the sad person underneath.

More recently, I’ve discovered that many of the right wing panelists on The Drum [see footnote 1 at the end of this article] aren’t right wing about all topics. In fact, I’ve often caught myself marvelling that someone with those political affiliations could be so open to, for example, action on climate change, or same sex marriage or some other supposedly left wing issue.

I’m a left wing progressive, but I don’t intend to turn this post into some kind of pseudo political rant. Instead, I want to hammer home the fact that expectations based on social media bubbles are dangerous.

We humans are hardwired to generalise. It’s a powerful mental shortcut that allows us to make snap decisions based on just a few facts. This ability would have been a real survival mechanism back in the days of the woolly mammoth. These days? Not so much because thinking in generalities often substitutes for thinking, period.

Sadly, social media bubbles reinforce those generalities just when we should be questioning everything, starting with our own assumptions. We need facts, and we need to call out untruths, but we need to do so with courtesy because that ‘other’ person is more like us than not.

In years to come, people will look back on this era of social media and shake their heads at how bad the ‘wild wild west’ really was before it was tamed. In that yet-to-be-realised future, individual privacy will be protected by law, anonymity will not be allowed, and social media companies will face the full force of the law if they’re found to have manipulated their users.

But we’re not there yet.

cheers

Meeks

Footnote 1 : The Drum is a current affairs show on Australian TV. It’s part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation [ABC] and funded by taxpayers. As such, its charter requires that it be unbiased. That’s why the panelists on The Drum are chosen to be inclusive, and represent as many interest groups as possible, including people of both the left and right political persuasion.


Review – ATO’s myTax

Is there such a thing as minus one? -grinds teeth-

In a nutshell, the ATO [Australian Taxation Office] website functioned quite well, and by that I mean the way the computer side of things worked. If you are familiar with the general workings of a complex website, you should be able to follow the logic fairly well. The problems arise from the content, in particular the terminology.

Any teacher will tell you that the single biggest hurdle to learning is new terminology. Not only does the student have to learn new terms specific to the subject matter, they often have to learn new meanings for familiar words and phrases used to describe very unfamiliar concepts.

The best software programs deal with the problem of terminology by having context sensitive lookups. For example, if a question is about ‘Sole Traders’, there will be a little [?] at the end that can be clicked. Clicking that lookup displays a short definition of the term.

Lookups are a great idea…if they’re executed properly, and that’s where assumptions come in. Experts have so much knowledge of their areas that they cannot put themselves in the shoes of someone who knows nothing. So many basic terms do not have lookups because… “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

Duh no, it isn’t obvious. Not unless you’re a tax accountant.

I’m not a tax accountant. That’s why it took me well over two hours to lodge a couple of years’ worth of returns. The first was relatively easy because I was doing it as a normal person. The second was much harder because I was doing it as a ‘Sole Trader’. Basically, Sole Traders are people who work for themselves with a company name and an ABN [Australian Business Number]. Casual tutors like me often work as Sole Traders.

But all Sole Traders are not equal. Working out what variety of Sole Trader I was involved yet more terms I didn’t understand. I used every lookup, accessed Help, tried the so-called online chat help [basically just an algorithm] and even tried DuckduckGo. Despite all that, however, some of my answers were the better of two bad choices. In other words, pretty much guess work.

Surely there’s a better way?

Yes, there is. It’s called paying for a professional tax accountant.

Decades ago when I could afford the money, I actually had a tax accountant. These days I have to DIY and hope for the best.

I can’t be the only person having issues with the ATO’s myTax software because there is a real live group of volunteers who have been trained to ‘help’ with myTax! Whether they just help with the website side of things or the actual tax side I don’t know. What I do know is that myTax is a major disincentive to retirees thinking of working for themselves.

One exhausted retiree signing off.

Meeks

p.s. While I’m in a venting mood, here’s one for the Guttenberg developers – it’s really annoying when you go back to edit a paragraph and the floating toolbar covers up part of what you’ve written. This seems to happen when the paragraph is at the top of the screen area:


Ad Hominen…add who??

Ad Hominen is a form of argument that occurs a lot on Twitter. This is the long winded definition:

Ad hominem (Latin for “to the person”),[1] … typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, …, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.[

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

I prefer the much shorter one: intimidation.

Too strong? Think about it. Why do people argue in the first place? To win. So if you can make your opponent back down, or back off, you will have won the argument…right?

Wrong. The argument has not been won. The argument has not been addressed at all. It’s still there. All you have achieved is to scare your opponent off by attacking them personally.

Isn’t this precisely what happens when a woman is sexually harassed but remains silent because she fears for her job if she speaks up?

Isn’t this precisely what happens when people in an organisation witness wrong doing but don’t speak up for fear of ruining their careers, or even ending up in jail as ‘whistleblowers’?

Intimidation can take many forms, but at its heart it is the need to win at any cost. Correction, the need to appear to win at any cost because intimidation doesn’t actually change things. It doesn’t solve any problems. It doesn’t persuade. It doesn’t change hearts and minds. It simply sends them underground where they fester.

In my head I see a weedy little guy shouted down by a big, burly guy. Mr Weed slinks away in humiliation, but in the privacy of his own mind he knows he’s right. And so the anger builds. The next time he sees the big, burly guy, he’s got a gun in his pocket. Bang. Take that. And so it goes.

I grew up respecting facts and logic, courtesy and genuine debate. To me, name calling was the last resort of a loser. I guess I really have become an old dinosaur because these days, name calling has become the first resort of many people on Twitter.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Western democracy is in trouble, people are becoming more and more polarised, and we all feel as if we’re not being listened to, or even heard. But intimidation only escalates the problem.

Intimidation also has the capacity to turn potential allies into foes. I discovered that yesterday on Twitter. I thought I was having a polite discussion with someone I follow when The Pack descended and launched a personal attack against me for daring to disagree with something. I became angry at the form of the attack and any sympathy I may have had for their cause went flying out the window.

The people carrying out this attack belong to one of Australia’s smaller political parties. I’ll simply call it party X because the followers of the bigger ones are no better.

I’ve never voted for party X, but I actually agree with some of their principles. But not all, and that was the problem.

“O con noi o contro di noi”—You’re either with us or against us. [Benito Mussolini]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You%27re_either_with_us,_or_against_us

Group think demands that there be no dissent, or else. As a result of yesterday’s ‘or else’, any chance party X had of winning my vote in the future is gone. That is the flip side of intimidation.

As an individual, my vote counts for very little. But there are a lot of people like me. We may not subscribe to the ‘group think’ of a particular party, but we do care about significant issues. We are potential allies in the fight for those issues, so using intimidation tactics against us is the equivalent of cutting your nose off to spite your face.

If we are to have any chance of saving the world, and ourselves, we have to start treating everyone with respect.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. this post was written using Guttenberg for the first time.


Ageism

I met a man today. I was strolling around my garden with Mogi, and my first coffee of the day, when he came to read my gas meter.

On the way out, the Gas Man made a smiling comment about Mogi, my pint-sized chihuahua cross, and we got to talking about dogs:

Be sure to get my good side

A lot of conversations start with dogs in Warrandyte. The Gas Man has two Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

One thing led to another, and I soon discovered that the Gas Man spends most of his working life walking the hills of Warrandyte, checking meters. I’ve walked some of those hills, and they are bloody steep.

I must have looked utterly horrified, because the Gas Man quickly explained that there were very few places where he could [safely] park his car, so in between parking spots he had to walk. On really hot days he’s ‘allowed’ to start at six am so he can finish by about 1pm.

I looked at the Gas Man and saw someone in his mid fifties, with a weathered face and a bit of a paunch. He was cheerful and well-spoken, but he looked older than me, and I’m 66.

“You haven’t considered a career change?” I asked.

The answer shocked me. No, he hadn’t considered getting another job because he knew that if he left this one, he’d never work again. Ageism.

The Gas Man is doing the kind of job men twenty years younger would hate. What’s worse, he’s going to have to keep walking the hills of Warrandyte until his body fails, or the company decides he’s not efficient enough any more. I can guess what happens after that because it happened to me too. You apply for NewStart to ‘tide you over’, but no one wants to employ you, so you scrape along until you finally qualify for the pension.

Why does no one want to employ you?

I’ve thought about this a lot. I imagine that in physical type jobs, older workers are seen as less ‘strong’, or perhaps even as a liability – e.g. what happens if they have a heart attack on the job? Given how many physical type jobs are already automated, why employ an older person when there are hundreds of younger ones available?

White collar workers are in a slightly different boat. We may have experience and skills, but will we be able to learn the new technology? More importantly, will we expect to be paid commensurate with our skills and experience? And what happens if we get sick? The statistics show that older people fall prey to all sorts of debilitating illnesses. Better to hire someone with lower dollar expectations and a longer [working] life expectancy.

And then there’s the perception that older workers will retire soon so why bother training them up?

I’m not saying that I have had personal experience of these scenarios. I haven’t. Most of my experience is of silence. You send off your CV and nothing comes back. You ring up a few places to inquire if they received your CV, and there’s a kind of embarrassed ‘oh, we’ve got you on file’. That translates to, ‘yes, we probably got it and binned it straight away’. I have very good qualifications, but the earliest ones date back to the 1970’s. You can’t hide that.

No one admits to ageism because it’s ‘illegal’ to discriminate against someone based on age, but it does happen. More importantly, the bar to employment is getting lower all the time. I shudder to think what will happen when the workers of the ‘gig’ economy become too old to maintain that frenetic pace. Age may be ‘just a number’, but it’s a very important number.

When the Gas Man went on his way, I finished my coffee and dragged out the lawn mower. If he can walk up and down our hills, rain or shine, five days a week, I can do a bit more mowing, even if I my bones do creak a bit. Motivation can come from unexpected sources.

Have a great day, my friends,

-hugs-

Meeks

 


7 things I learned about the ATO

I’m going to start this post by sending my heartfelt thanks to the wonderful woman from the Bendigo Bank who went above-and-beyond to help me find deposit information – from an account that was closed a year ago! At the end of this post you’ll find a quick how-to about finding specific names on the statements available via online banking with the Bendigo. But first, I need to explain why my deposit information is so important. It starts with Newstart.

I went on Newstart back in 2013 and found a couple of casual tutoring positions in 2014. Like a good girl, I reported every cent I earned to Centrelink and did all the right things, except for one – apparently I should have lodged a tax return.

I should have lodged a tax return in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well.

Why didn’t I lodge tax returns for any of those years?

Because no one told me I had to, and I assumed that my earnings were well below the tax free threshold. As it turned out, they were [and are], but apparently I should have lodged a return anyway…

I rang the ATO, and after a two hour conversation, I learned 7 things:

  1. People who are on some kind of pension and don’t earn an outside income must lodge a ‘non-lodgement’ form for the relevant years.
  2. People who are on some kind of pension and do earn an outside income must lodge an actual tax return, no matter how little they earn.
  3. Individuals and Sole Traders [such as Indie authors and tradies] can lodge a tax return through a tax agent [$$$] or online at the ATO. Those are the only two options. I’ve already complained to the ATO in writing. Nothing will change and pensioners like me will continue to struggle because of the following:
  4. To lodge a tax return online, you must have the ATO linked to your MyGov account.
  5. You can link the ATO to your MyGov account via a Bank Account or a Centrelink payment summary but…the Bank Account has to be the same bank account you used the last time you lodged a tax return. For some of us that could be decades ago. As for the Centrelink payment summary, it only seems to work if you haven’t received any outside income – e.g. from casual work.
  6. The only option that worked for me was to ring up and ask for a linking code. Frankly, that was the only easy part of the entire two hour conversation.
  7. If your tax return is at all out of the ordinary – e.g. if you’re on an age pension and run a small business as a Sole Trader – and you can’t afford a tax agent – you’ll be told to go to Tax Help. Tax Help is basically a group of volunteers who can help you fill out the online forms. Maybe. Given that a paid employee of the ATO couldn’t help me, I can’t help feeling just a tiny bit sceptical.

Before I do anything else, however, I need to go back and find out how much I earned above and beyond the Newstart allowance for the years 2014 – 2019. This year is fine, but the information from the previous years must have been thrown out when I did one of my rare ‘clean ups’. That left me with 3 casual employers to worry about.

This is where the Bendigo Bank rode into my life on a white charger. As I was pulling my hair and wondering what to do, I remembered that all of my casual pay would have been paid into a bank account. Eureka! All I needed to do was go back through all that old information and I’d find how much I’d earned.

I was right, except for one thing. I’d nominated an unused ‘cheque account’ for my pay. When I reached retirement age last year, I decided to get rid of the cheque account as I never used it. Another disastrous clean out.

This led to my final phone call of the day – to the Bendigo Bank. The lady I spoke to was so nice, so understanding, so bloody patient she deserves a medal. She found the cancelled account and went through it, transaction by transaction, looking for the three employers I’d named. And she found them.

There are literally no words to describe my relief. Now I can give the ATO the exact information they need so I can avoid any possibility of becoming a ‘Robodebt’ victim. Anyone living in Australia knows the horror stories circulating about Robodebt victims. I was honestly terrified that I’d end up as one of them. And I owe it all to one, nice lady at the Bendigo Bank. So here’s that quick how-to I mentioned:

How to search online statements via the Bendigo Bank.

For starters, login to your Bendigo Bank account and click on the account you want to check.

Next, at the top of the account transactions you’ll see four options. The one on the far right is ‘Statements’.

Click Statements and specify the year or time period you’re interested in [card accounts allow you to go back for many years, easy saver accounts only go back 2 years].

Open the statement of your choice. It’ll open as a PDF document. To save yourself a lot of time and eye-strain, hover the mouse over www.bendigobank.com.au as shown below:

Now, press Ctrl f on your keyboard.

This will cause a ‘Find on page’ box to display at the top of the screen. Start typing the name of the company or person you’re looking for.

If it’s found, the statement will automatically move to the appropriate page and the item will be shown with a small highlight. If it’s not found, you’ll see a message to that effect next to the search box.

I hope you never have to go back over years of transactions, but if you do, this neat trick will make it a lot less painful.

Okay, my brain hurts. I’m going to go do something mindless now.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


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