Thursday, December 11, 2008

Your Restaurants: Viva

Look up a picture of 'trattoria' in the dictionary and there will surely be a picture of one of Applecross's most proximate Italian restaurants, Viva... (

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Your Restaurants: Foo Gwai

Ask any discriminating yum cha fan what their favorite Chinese restaurant is and you can bet your last yen they will answer Foo Gwai.. (more)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Your Restaurants: Maretti Caffe Cucina

If a restaurant that makes absolutely everything on its menu from scratch is your idea of personal bliss, then Maretti could well be your new favourite rendezvous...(more)

Your Restaurants: Meeka

There's always a quiver of expectancy when one stumbles across 'the next big thing'. The high-flyers of the medical fraternity have already discovered this new Moroccan gem and, with the eatery happily ensconsed amid the genteel surrounds of Subiaco, it won't be too much longer before the rest of the establishment is hammering down its doors.. (more)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Your Restaurants: Cantina 663

If an eatery can somehow manage to be contemporary and organic at the same time, then Cantina 663 has got it nailed. Located smack-bang in the centre of uber-trendy Beaufort Street, it houses a clientele that is both hippy and high-brow with equal aplomb.. (more)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Your Restaurants: Zekka

Punching through the CBD like maraschino through clotted cream is King Street, Perth's pared-back version of Melbourne's Prahran. And on King Street you'll find Zekka, home to the uber-cool and tragically hip.. (more)

Your Restaurants: Lyrebird

'Eclectic' is a word that springs to mind when summing up David Bianchi's new offering, Lyrebird. The 500-seat colossus has been divided into various spaces that seem to live up to their mimicking namesame..(more)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Your Restaurants: Lamont's Cottesloe

Tucked away in the leafy enclave of Cottesloe, super-chef Kate Lamont's sparkling new venture grooves big-time. The theme is 'enoteca', an Italian expression that describes a cosy hub for wine and nibbles or, to be literal about it, a 'wine library'.. (more)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Your Restaurants: Balti

Marry a candy-colour interior with traditional Indian cuisine and you'll be halfway to describing inner-city hangout, Balti. Balti is a sweet treat for suits, and perfect for wrestling those tricky closing deals or celebrating a big win.. (more)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Your Restaurants: d'Tandoor Como

Restaurant by restaurant, the d'Tandoor empire is unhurriedly invading the world, with ten of them now scattered throughout Australasia. Amble through the doors of this particular version and allow your senses to be assailed by a whole caravan of colour.. (more)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Your Restaurants: Catalano's

To say this cafe is normally bursting at the seams is putting it mildly. It heaves, straining at its confines, while cars slow down and ogle at one of the most pumping places on Albany Highway.. (more)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Motor Trade Association, 2005

Taxing Times: Interview with The Hon Peter Costello, Federal Treasurer

The Federal Treasurer Peter Costello recently announced that he would crack down on the State Government for double-taxing the people of Western Australian. MOTOR spoke to him about this and the industry’s own double-dipping woes…

In A Nutshell: The Federal Treasurer believes that with GST revenue far surpassing all expectations, the States need to now make good on their pledge to abolish the nine State taxes GST has replaced in accordance with the inter-governmental GST agreement signed by all States in 1999.

However, many States feel they have already met their obligations to the Federal Government, with many holding the view they have been ‘ripped off’ by the Treasurer and Democrats Leader Meg Lees citing him as ‘mischievous’. NSW recently offered the Federal Government $1 billion to pay its way out of the GST deal, which was rejected, after refusing to cut stamp duties.

On 1 July, the Treasurer announced he would put measures in place to force NSW and WA into honouring the GST agreement. Eric Ripper conceded his government would fully comply with the GST agreement with the abolition of the Bank Accounts Debits Tax. He also said WA had already axed the Financial Institutions Duty and Stamp Duty on Quotable Marketable Securities.

On 7 July, WA State Treasurer Eric Ripper announced that there would be a new review of State taxes.

JSL: According to you, many Australians are currently being double-taxed by the GST as well as the taxes it was designed to replace. As you are probably aware from your meeting with Peter Fitzpatrick, the vehicle dealers of WA are also the victims of double-dipping by the State Government following the introduction of the new stamp duty Ruling on loan and leave vehicles on 1 July 2005. Can you provide a national perspective on this issue for our readers?

PC: I am concerned about the tax burdens imposed on businesses and individuals by State and Territory Governments. The WA Government is projecting to collect $645 million in motor vehicle taxes in 2004-05 and $642 million in 2005-06, which is up 30 per cent since July 2001. Across the Forward Estimates total tax revenue for WA is projected to increase from around $4 billion in 2005-06 to $4.6 billion in 2008-09, which is an increase of around 16 per cent.

JSL: Could you provide a brief synopsis on the issues surrounding the GST agreements with the States?

PC: In 1999, Australian Government, State and Territory leaders signed an Intergovernmental Agreement on the Reform of Commonwealth State Financial Relations (the IGA) which provides that all GST revenue is paid to the States and Territories. The GST revenue for WA is forecast to increase from $3.8 billion in 2005-06 to around $4.4 billion in 2008-09. In the absence of further tax reform, this will provide a cumulative windfall above WA’s Guaranteed Minimum Amount of around $1.4 billion. The GST was intended to replace a range of inefficient indirect taxes, one Commonwealth and nine State taxes, which were listed in the IGA. These State taxes were identified by the States themselves as undesirable on efficiency and equity grounds.

Originally, all of these taxes were to be abolished on or before 1 July 2001, with the exception of stamp duty on non residential conveyances of real property which was to cease to apply from a date to be determined by the Ministerial Council on the basis that no State or Territory would be worse off. In order to get the GST legislation through the Senate, as part of an agreement with the Australian Democrats, some items were removed from the GST base meaning it raised less revenue. As a result the States would not receive enough revenue to abolish all these taxes by 1 July 2001 without being worse off.

It was therefore agreed that wholesale sales tax and accommodation (bed) taxes would be abolished on 1 July 2000, Financial Institutions Duty and stamp duty on quoted marketable securities would be abolished by 1 July 2001, and bank account debits tax abolished by 1 July 2005. All the other taxes would then be reviewed so that if GST was sufficient they could then be abolished.

Over six years from 2004-05, anticipated GST revenue payments to the States will amount to around $243 billion, exceeding original projections. In the absence of further tax reform, it is estimated that this would result in the States receiving a windfall of around $17 billion compared to the amount they would have received under the former system of Commonwealth-State financial relations. In light of this growing GST windfall, at the 23 March 2005 meeting of the Ministerial Council for Commonwealth State Financial Relations, the Australian Government proposed a timetable for the elimination of the majority of stamp duties listed under the IGA for the benefit of Australian businesses and families.

On 20 April 2005, six States and Territories responded to the Australian Government with an alternative proposal on the timing and sequencing of the elimination of these taxes. Western Australia was not a party to this offer. It wants to keep the State taxes and the GST, which was introduced to replace them. The Australian Government is disappointed.

JSL: You announced on 1 July 2005 that over the next twelve months you would be putting measures in place to compel NSW and WA into honouring the GST agreement with the Federal Government. What sort of measures do you mean to use to force the WA Government into abolishing some of its taxes, and what are the legal ramifications of this move?

PC: People in other States will not have to pay GST and the State taxes it replaces. The WA Government wants to double tax West Australians, unlike those in the Eastern States. The Australian Government wants to encourage the WA Government to protect West Australians against double taxation and give them tax relief that other Australians will receive. A range of measures are available to the Australian Government to encourage the WA Government to abolish these taxes. However, as noted before, the Australian Government wants to deliver this outcome by agreement. It is premature, at this stage, to outline the response if the WA Government tries to maintain double taxation.

JSL: What would your message to Mr Gallop & Mr Ripper be at this point in time?

PC: Everyone knows the GST was introduced to replace nominated State taxes. Six of the eight States and Territories have offered timetables for the abolition of IGA taxes. The WA Government is at present refusing to abolish the taxes that the GST is intended to replace and putting West Australians behind people in other States. No State can keep the GST revenue and the taxes it is designed to replace. Should the WA Government continue to double-tax its citizens, the Australian Government will introduce measures to encourage the WA Government to relieve the tax burden.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Business News

HGM Goes Worldwide

WA-based engineering and environmental consultancy company Halmpern Glick Maunsell (HGM) has joined the international firm AECOM. AECOM is represented outside the Americas by the Maunsell company and comprises a network of individual consulting companies, operating in their own geographic markets, but brought together to service client needs in the global market.

Member firms employ a total of 13,000 people worldwide.

HGM will continue to service the WA market but also integrate with the Australia and South-East Asia region of the Maunsell operations.

The activities of HGM will expand beyond its traditional WA market to become more closely integrated with those of Maunsell.

However, the Perth operation will continue, with the company intending to develop centers of technical excellence to service Australasia from HGM’s Perth base.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sydney's / Melbourne's / Brisbane's Child, 2008

Playground Politics

A peal of laughter erupted from the room next to me. Outside, I dejectedly kicked a ball around the playground and watched the children take turns on the slide. Afterwards, amid a volley of cheery farewells – ‘Talk to you tomorrow’, ‘See you on Saturday’ – I received a polite ‘Have a good week, then’. But this wasn’t school. It was playgroup. And I was the interloper.

For many Mums, the weekly ritual of playgroup is an event to look forward to. It’s a chance for a bit of a chat, a bit of a laugh and some adult interaction while the kids have a play. For some Mums however it can be a mixed blessing. Sure it gets us out, gets our children stimulated and socialising. But it can sometimes lead to us feeling more alone than we were before we joined. Take my first playgroup experience. When my son was born I was late off the mark in joining a local playgroup and, with the walls closing in around me ten months later, I was beginning to understand why they were so popular. So I signed up with a local playgroup. My first day was nerve-wracking – getting my tongue pierced sounded more attractive than fronting up to a bunch of women who had already enjoyed a year of bonding and asking if my child and I could be their friend. At first it all seemed fine. Sure, they didn’t ask much about me or my son but that just took time, right? Several troubling months of playing catch-up ensued, after which I somewhat belatedly realised that these women were never going to let me in. And I don’t think it was personal either. It was just abundantly clear that this group didn’t want any new members in their club. Over those months I watched as other new Mums tentatively joined, got ignored, and crept out again several weeks later. I guess I was a bit slow – it took me nearly a year to twig before taking my son and what was left of my dignity and bolting for the door.

The pack is a fickle beast. Street gangs who have been happy enough to beat someone up are, when separated, rarely able to give an adequate explanation as to why they did it. Individually, I had gotten along with most of these women incredibly well. As a group however there was a distinct code – they talked and us interlopers listened. If one of us dared interject the ambient room temperature dropped by several notches. As a lifetime member of the ‘sisterhood’, I found this lack of support between women – especially Mums – a little bemusing. Mums (and Dads) need peer groups that support and encourage, not reject them. Surely being a parent is a tough enough job - who needs this kind of flack?

In retrospect, and despite the nagging feeling I’d failed to give it a red-hot go, I’m so glad we left when we did. And happily, several weeks later another door opened in the form of an invitation to join a different playgroup. My son and I eagerly jumped back into the fray and are now active members of a group that is not only very inclusive, but does finger-painting as well. We both get to enjoy the social contact and acceptance we were looking for in a loving, nurturing environment. Which is what playgroup is all about, really.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The West Australian

When Size Matters

Picture the scenario. You’ve put your best frock on and painted your toenails with a classy little red number. Your hair’s been blow-waved to within an inch of its life and, basically, you’re as ready as you’re ever going to be. Your date picks you up, and both he and his car are sparkly clean. You look at each other and smile: it’s going to be soooo good.

You arrive at the restaurant and it reeks of style. Elegant table lamps on starched white linen, cutlery winking at you, a little jazz in the background – it all points to a big bill at the end of the night. But you don’t care. You won’t be paying.

Cut to the meal, and you are starving. It’s 8:30pm and your stomach has been making embarrassing gurgly sounds for the past half hour. Ah, here comes the meal. A stylishly camp waiter is placing it in front of you with a flourish. But hang on, what’s this? Oh right, this must be a complimentary appetiser from the chef. No? Surely this can’t be the meal you ordered, in all its mouthwateringly vivid detail? It’s so…. compact. You give your date a sick little smile, stab your one piece of smoked trout and dip it in the accompanying home-made egg mayonnaise. Mmmm. Now, where’s my meal?

Yes, folks it’s true. Nouvelle cuisine is back in style. I’ll never understand how it got there in the first place, but here it is again, in all its glory, mocking us peasants. Who made it stylish? Rich eccentrics? French people? Who else in their right mind would pay $25 for a sliver of artichoke? Yes, alright, it’s on a big white plate swimming in a pool of exquisite sauce, but where’s the value for money? Where’s the food police? Where’s my MEAL? And the worst thing is, you are powerless to complain for fear of being sniffed at by the mait’re de. Yes, sir, I understand that the hens who laid the eggs for my mayo were hand-fed by fair maidens in Austria, but I’m still hungry. Just give me a dollop of Praise, OK? I want the meal that was described on the menu. No, I don’t want a complimentary macciatto. I just want a serving that is more than a mouthful. What?! Another $25?! Look, just give me everything on the dessert menu, OK? With extra cream.

What exactly does ‘nouvelle’ mean, anyway? I think it means ‘new vogue’. I looked it up in the Collins dictionary, but it didn’t rate a mention. I tried my thesauras: it had three meanings – ‘new’, ‘vulgar’ and ‘wealthy’. Hmmm. Could this possibly mean that my meal is modern and revoltingly expensive, therefore justifying its diminutive proportion? Or that it is a new trend only for the filthy rich? I don’t know, but one thing I do know is that it certainly doesn’t mean a great big roast with lashings of gravy and four different types of root vegetable.

So what to do about nouvelle? Revolt and insist that all our meals come with chips and HP? Eat pizza for the rest of our lives? Rest assured, lovers of food, things change and they will change again (thank God). In the meantime, viva the free bread roll.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Australian, 2008

Birth enlivened by a brush with death a miracle indeed

When I nearly died last year I was surrounded by panic and haste, a sense that something very wrong was happening and that I was about to commit some atrocity. . Everybody else was in a panic, yet I felt calm. As I was wheeled down the obligatory brightly-lit corridor by a ranting medical team with blood coursing out of me I remember wondering what all the fuss was about.

For most people death is such a scary thing. And of course it’s only natural to be frightened and fight for our mortality when the need arises. And when our loved ones die we are terribly bereaved as the recent deaths of Heath Ledger and Paddy McGuinness have demonstrated.. But the hysteria that surrounds death really doesn’t help us come to terms with it, which indeed we all eventually must. The medical team that surrounded me that day were in such a state of apoplexy, screaming at each other, shouting into my face that it’s a wonder I didn’t respond in kind and cark it there and then. They were asking me to calm down. When somebody yelled at me that the general anaesthetic was about to be administered, I remember feeling enormously relieved as they had all become highly irritating. Sounds ungrateful doesn’t it? I’ll always be thankful for what that wonderful team did that night. It’s just a comment on the whole societal pressure put on us to not die, as if it’s fundamentally wrong. I mean, if the medical team is freaking out I knew I must really be in the shit. But to my mind the attitude is all wrong. Many non-Western cultures don’t carry on like this. Take Korea for example. At the time of a loved one’s death they silently and peacefully wait for the moment of fate (the wailing comes afterwards). That sounds good to me.

In hospital they called me the miracle woman. I was visited daily by a myriad of specialists who would stand at the foot of my bed and whisper to each other. At night a midwife with a gold cross suspended around her neck asked in a whisper if I had had a near-death experience (I hadn’t) and if there had been any light (there wasn’t). It seems everyone wants to get closer to death, but only as a spectator. Why else would all the medical dramas on television be so popular? if you’re definitely going to die and it’s more than likely not going to be half as exciting as it is on ‘ER’. And even if it is, trust me, you’re probably going to wish they’d all just shut up so you can get a bit of rest.

But before I tell my little tale, just a word to all the pregnant women out there who are about to read this. Don’t worry about this happening to you. It was a one in a bazillion thing that happened and as I was the bazillionth, you’re off the hook. Gynaecologists who had been gynaecologising since Mary was in a manger scratched their bald pates when they saw me and proclaimed they’d never seen anything like it.

I was giving birth. And it was all going swimmingly well. My baby was out, a perfectly red eight pounder who was enthusiastically exercising his right to yell. The doctor looked at me. Frowned. I heard him murmur that there was a lot of blood. Then I heard a ‘Code Blue’ being announced over the PA system. As I worked in the hospital sector in a previous life I knew what that meant. Oh crap, I thought as a seething mass streamed into the room and fell on me. But I wasn’t half as worried as they appeared to be. There was no pain. My baby was out. Why were these people panicking? Finally I was unconscious. When I came to I had so many tubes attached to me I could barely wiggle my toes. And I was in another room, heck, I was in another hospital. Still no pain. What had happened? An inverted uterus followed by massive haemorrhaging, five litres of blood and four hours of surgery resulting in an emergency hysterectomy. Pretty impressive really. I am the miracle woman. And I never did feel any pain, even when days later the nurses realized they’d forgotten to open the valve to my self-administering pain relief. I lost my fear of dying that day and a magnificent little boy came into my life. A good day’s work really.

Australian Table magazine

Swan Valley Festival

The second week of October brings the annual Spring in the Valley Food & Wine Festival, WA's premier gourmet event. Swan Valley, the state's oldest wine-growing belt, is renowned for ongoing success at wine shows across the country. It's also the birthplace of nearly 30 wineries, a smattering of micro-breweries and enough eateries to sate the most gluttonous foodie. Wine varieties to be featured include chenin blanc, shiraz, chardonnay, verdehlo and merlot, as well as fortified wines. You'll find an amazing range of food there, too.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Open Universities Australia, 2005

Tales from A Broad - England

I’d heard all the tales of warm beer with no head, so it was with some trepidation that I took a tentative sip of my first beer in my first pub in England. Mind you, it was a Foster's so it tasted pretty much the same as it did back home. But to me all beer tasted pretty much the same anyway. Enter my relatives, the beer connoisseurs.

We were Out Drinking with an aunt and uncle from Yorkshire and were having a very nice time getting to know each other. So I was a little alarmed when the discussion turned to the serious business of ales, a very important topic of conversation around these parts.

"I don’t like draughts", my auntie declared. "I prefer the bitters, especially the Belgian imports". Eh? Were we still talking about beer, or did we somehow move onto cars? I mumbled something about liking the pretty creamy froth.

"Bitters and draughts are quite different, you know", my uncle patiently explained to me. "And the difference between the two is that bitters are a much more pure ale due to the higher levels of fermenting". Mmm, yes. I sipped at my Foster’s thoughtfully and reminded myself to only drink bitters from now on. At the next round I stoically ordered a pint. Delicious.
Full of all good things hopsy and yeasty, with a proud creamy head that left our fluffy white lager froth back home somehow sadly lacking. I am now a beer connoisseur. Plus – no finger frostbite. You could actually appreciate the brewing process without all that chilliness. Much more drinkable. I took another creamy sip.

I harked back to your average beer conversation in Australia, which based itself around levels of consumption, alcohol content and how much you threw up the next day. We had clearly moved into a higher social echelon.

"Before you go", my kindly English mother had advised before we made our sojourn over to the UK, "eat plenty of steaks and fresh fruit and vegetables. Because you won’t be getting them over there".

I can now quite assuredly tell you (and my mother) that this widely-held belief of nasty English produce is a fallacy: possibly deriving from the outbreak of Mad Cow Disease a few years back, more likely dating back to the post-war era. But it is not true. In fact, I have enjoyed some of the most enormously juicy porterhouse steaks right here from our local butcher. The said butcher also bakes his own pies (steak, pork or cottage), stuffs his hand-made sausages and proffers fruit & veg in case you can’t be bothered with the traipse up the hill to the local Tesco’s.

I also got to enjoy vast quantities of ripe, plump strawberries when we first arrived; and these days the refrigerator shelves are groaning under the weight of luscious blood-red cherries. Not to mention the roasts, available with every kind of root vegetable known to man, and my Aunt Connie’s outstanding gastronomic feats. Never did we figure on the culinary delights proffered by my kind aunt. Chicken and saffron paella. Spiced lamb with apple and red cabbage. And puddings after every meal: home-made jam tarts, variously flavoured cheesecake and succulent seasonal fruit salads. Who said we’d starve?

Motor Trade Association, May 2005

Gas: The Economic Alternative?

As petrol prices skyrocket around the country, many Australians are beginning to hunt around for fuel alternatives for their motor vehicles. As a relatively inexpensive automotive fuel, LPG Autogas is currently leading the way as an accessible and more economic fuel option to petrol.

LPG is also much more environmentally friendly. According to LPG Australia, there would be between 10 and 15 percent less greenhouse gases than petrol-powered equivalents from Autogas-powered vehicles. LPG also has 20 per cent less ozone-forming potential (a measure of the tendency to generate photochemical smog) and one fifth of the air toxic emissions.

According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, there are approximately 250,000 vehicles in Australia currently running on LPG, with more than 3,500 service stations selling it. Estimates are that exhaust and evaporative greenhouse emissions are approximately 15 per cent lower from LPG than from petrol vehicles, and it does not need lead or other additives to boost its octane rating. When converted to a gas, LPG expands up to 270 times. This means that the liquid form is a very efficient method of carrying large amounts of gas, and hence more economical than petrol.

In Sydney and Melbourne recently LPG was selling at an average of 40 cents per litre compared to the average price of unleaded petrol at $1.07 per litre. According to LPG Australia, at that price a Holden Commodore driver traveling 20,000 kilometres a year on Autogas would save $1,145 – the equivalent of $22 per week.

Possibly inevitably, oil companies are finally beginning to recognise the advantages of fuel alternatives that are economically as well as environmentally friendly for consumers. Shell have just announced that it would progressively phase out the supply of lead replacement petrol (LRP) throughout their Australian service stations by mid 2005 due to a sharp decline in demand. BP is also in the process of phasing out LRP, estimated to be completed in the second half of 2005.

In line with the phase-out of LRP and for those people who have been caught out, a new product called Nulon Lead Substitute is available which allows drivers to safely use either standard unleaded or premium leaded petrol in their leaded-fuel engine.

Following the phase-out, the Government has promised that LPG will remain excise-free until 2011, when a $1,000 rebate will be paid to motorists who purchase a new Autogas-powered vehicle. After this date an escalating excise will apply. The high establishment costs to convert motor vehicles to LPG have also been eased by the Government offering a $500 subsidy for private vehicles. To date, there are an average of 1,500 subsidy claims per year.

"Autogas has always been much better value than petrol. However the current upward trends in petrol prices should prompt motorists to again consider the potential savings to be had by running their car on Autogas," said LPG Australia's industry development manager, Phil Westlake.

Pat Browne from Pebco is used to being inundated by enquiries for gas conversions every time there is a price hike in petrol.

“There has been a huge increase in the last couple of weeks,” says Pat. “We are getting 50-60 per cent more telephone calls right now than we were two months ago, which is estimated at about 6-10 calls per day. At the moment, we’re getting through two full gas conversions per week, which is all that we can handle right now with the other work we have”.

Despite the Government’s subsidy for private users, there still remains no subsidy for commercial or fleet vehicles, acting as a disincentive for businesses to convert their cars to more eco-friendly gas. Pat sees this refusal as completely unacceptable.

“I think it’s criminal that the small business sector cannot get a subsidy for its vehicles. I find it absolutely disgusting that one person is eligible for a discount and the next can’t”.