Being Vego

Journal: 032

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It’s hard being vego. Hard to get something to eat in roadhouses anyway, so mostly I avoid them or make do with a snack when I stop to fuel up – spinach and ricotta roll, toasted cheese, tomato and onion sandwich, spring rolls, wedges and sour cream. But BP truckstops have a standard menu item called “All day big breakfast”, $14.90, which includes bacon and sausages. So when I’m sick of making my own porridge I’ll order “All day big breakfast, no meat”. The usual response is, well, what would you like instead. Wingfield (Adelaide) a few weeks ago added fried capsicum and spinach, and the lady at Laverton (Melbourne) last week added fried onions and asked me to “put it up on Facebook* because it’s my last day”. I did, and all my friends told me what a pig I was.

Being vego is on my mind because the Tax Office has decided I’m no longer entitled to a living away from home allowance, on the grounds that I make up my meals before I leave home. $93 a night times 200+ nights away is a lot of money. Of course tax officials and politicians get $150-$200/night no questions asked, stay with family and use the money to buy investment properties.

Crossing the Nullarbor there are roadhouses every couple of hours, though it’s years since I’ve been in one, and zero IGAs, not that they open on the weekend when I’m travelling. So apparently the government will support you if you’re happy to live on processed and fried foods, but not otherwise. I always thought the allowance was like a remote areas allowance, for hardship, but apparently not. It’s a pity the ATO didn’t police transfer pricing and tax havens with the same zeal it applies to small business and welfare recipients.

The state governments do their bit with state protection rackets (“quarantine” stations) which confiscate any fruit and veg you are carrying at the state border (WA) and beginning of the wheat belt (SA) despite the fact that truck drivers and caravaners can go on for hundreds or even thousands of kilometres without going near any of the orchards supposedly being protected.

Enough. The business took a big step forward last month, with the purchase of two trailers, a B Double set. Theoretically, I’m now independent. Practically, for the time being at least, I will continue to carry freight for Sam and Dragan. But as we speak, business cards and con. note books are being printed. Next step will be to get the trailers in my own colours (light blue and white, this is as much fun as being one of Gerald Murnane’s racehorse owners). Better start saving.

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Out on the Nullarbor at the weekend I was listening to a Napoleon Bonaparte mystery set on the Nullarbor – Man of Two Tribes. Written in the 1950s, it’s probably one of Upfield’s last. Certainly it shows signs of a concept stretched too far. The premise is that murderers who have been released before the completion of their sentence are captured by vigilantes and imprisoned indefinitely  in a limestone cave on the northern edge of the Nullarbor Plain. Detective Inspector Bonaparte, who identifies as part-Aboriginal, comes out from Queensland on the train to find a woman missing off the train a few weeks earlier. He obtains two camels, a dog, and a dead dogger’s diary and heads off into some really desolate country north of the rail line (and way north of the highway), where he is surprised by three Aboriginal men and imprisoned along with the murderers.

Upfield was of course not Aboriginal, but his protagonist is portrayed sympathetically and to the limits of what was then known. Part of the solution to the mystery revolves around Aboriginal ‘medicine men’ being able to communicate telepathically, which is a step too far for me. And although he was very well travelled and did lots of research, I think some of his background is wrong, both about Western Desert people and about the Plain – which he describes as totally flat for hundreds of kilometres and bordered by high cliffs, an ancient sea shore. But then, I haven’t been there. Yet!

Recent audiobooks 

Georgette Heyer (F, Eng), False Colours (1963)
Jo Nesbø (M, Swe), Phantom (2011)
Laird Hunt (M, USA), Neverhome (2014) Fictional account of a woman soldier (disguised as a man) in the US Civil War. apparently, there were some.
Arthur Upfield (M, Aust), Man of Two Tribes (195?)
George du Maurier (M, Eng), Trilby (1895)
Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766)
Charlotte Bronte, Villette (1853)

Currently reading

Krissy Kneen, Wintering
Behrouz Boochani, No Friend but the Mountains
Nam Lee, The Boat (short stories)

Movies with Millie

Top End Wedding, starring and partly written by Indigenous actor Miranda Tapsell. Really funny (and yes, with a few weepy moments).
Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð). A middle aged woman in Iceland wages a one woman war against a new aluminium smelter being established by Rio Tinto. Loved it.


*The Facebook account attached to this blog is Wad Holloway, but I have another, older account for pictures of grandchildren and trucks, maybe in that order.

27 thoughts on “Being Vego

  1. I feel furious reading about your loss of your ‘away’ allowance knowing that pollies travelling to Canberra (business class) get an allowance for hotels, food, cab fares… Furious and depressed.

    That breakfast looks substantial. I have an egg for breakfast most days, usually on top of a slice of spelt sourdough (did I just out-Melbourne myself?). Last week I had my usual breakfast and went out for lunch, where I had an amazing potato and fetta croquette with kale, corn and two poached eggs. Don’t think I’d ever eaten three eggs in one day before that (I didn’t need dinner that night).

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  2. I don’t know why we allow pollies to make one rule for themselves -super! – and much more restrictive rules for us. But we do with barely a murmur. So thank you for being furious for me.

    Don’t know about breakfast, but that’s a very Melbourne lunch. Half your luck! If I make an omlette I use 3 eggs, but I usually average fewer than one egg per day.

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  3. It doesn’t seem fair… but lots of things aren’t.
    Though I get the argument that tax-deductibility benefits the rich, while rebates and subsidies benefit a wider range of people, I’ve never been able to understand the logic behind why child-care isn’t a tax-deductible expense. It’s an expense incurred solely because parents work. And it’s a very expensive expense.
    Another one is that tradies, or anyone else who drives to a workplace as a contractor carrying stuff, can claim the cost of their vehicles. This is why they all have expensive brand new 4WDs (and their use of them to tow the boat at weekends is never a problem). But teachers, who carry stuff like heavy bags of corrections to and from school all the time, can’t claim the cost of travel to work. This is especially annoying if doing an activity like cooking where all the equipment and ingredients come from home, and are purchased at the teacher’s expense, but you still can’t claim the cost of the vehicle to transport it to the workplace.
    Most insulting of all was the year my claims were queried by the ATO. I got my principal to explain, in writing, that because our school was disadvantaged that I routinely spent $2000-$3000 each year on teaching aids, books and equipment, all for use solely at school and with the receipts to prove it. They backed off after that, but I know teachers who’ve done the same thing for years like I did, and weren’t even allowed to claim the cost of the stickers they bought, much less the EOY ‘present’ and ‘treats’ for every child in the class. (Why anyone would assume that a teacher loves every child so much that they’d buy each one a (mostly unreciprocated) present at EOY, I do not know. But this practice is as good as compulsory which makes it a necessary expense incurred in earning the income – imagine the kerfuffle if teachers stopped doing this, or only gave these ‘presents’ to the kids they actually really liked!)
    However, I don’t begrudge the pollies their allowances. I couldn’t stand working away from home,with all that awful travel, especially for those poor sods from WA or the Territory. I hated just going to Sydney as a member of the Australian Teaching Council and no amount of money made up for the disruption to my life.
    I take it that you’ve been through the process of appealing?

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    • My ideal tax system has everyone paying 33% on all income and everyone getting a $20,000 rebate (thus eliminating “Newstart” etc and a vast supporting and now largely privatised bureaucracy). Back in the real world I acknowledge that car and travel allowances are geared towards white collar employees. Small businesses like me of course work from home so that all their travel is “to work”. The situation for teachers (and nurses) in Australia and the US is diabolical and needs a revolution as generations of the poor and lower middle classes are condemned to Third World education and healthcare.

      Yes it would help if teachers were reimbursed for spending their own money, but in a system where the governing class was serious about investing in human capital – and not just in the private schools their children attend – teachers and public schools would be properly resourced.

      And finally, politicians do deserve living away from home allowances much more than truck drivers do, but why do they have to make such a meal of it as soon as their piggy little snouts smell the trough.

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      • LOL we’re not likely to see tax reform any time soon… chatting with the real estate agent selling the house next door was a real eye opener today, such ignorance about the tax system was truly depressing and show you why scare campaigns really work.

        A friend sent me this today:
        I love a timid country,
        A land of scare campaigns,
        Where mindless bogan slogans,
        Just overtake our brains.
        The stunted short horizons,
        Of those who will not see,
        Who, presented with alternatives
        Think only, me, me, me!

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      • Sadly true! The working guy who unloaded me yesterday said that Labor would have been a disaster, he voted UAP, and trusted Morrison’s “christian values” to protect the country.

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    • Agree with all of this Lisa … the restrictions on what salaried workers can claim are unreasonable I think. The implication is that salaried workers don’t have costs involved in earning their pay. And, I know teachers in particular often spend a lot of their own money on their classes. As for that EOY gift, when did THAT start? I don’t recollect it happening when my kids were at school, but I know my son buys something for his students.

      I’m pretty sure that in the USA, child care is tax deductible. I wasn’t allowed to work over there, so I didn’t experience it, but I’m pretty sure you can. In fact, they have far more deductions. You can even claim the interest component of your mortgage!

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      • I don’t know when it started, but I’ve seen it extend from a simple hand-made gift for preps (which still took time and money, of course) to more elaborate and expensive gifts making their way up to Years 3 and 4 by the time I left.
        And if you think about it, even if you just spend $2 per child, that’s $50…
        In my senior classes I didn’t give presents to every child, but I did give EOY prizes: books, of course, beautiful ones from Readings.

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      • Yes. I think the only way around it would be to introduce the idea that the teacher would like to give an Oxfam goat or something similar as a present to the whole class instead.

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  4. That’s crap on the tax thing. It’s the same worldwide, though. You have to give such detail and worry about being investigated as a self-employed person while watching big companies scamming away, and enduring people saying “Oh, you run a business, you must cheat on your taxes”. Argh! Also I have to spend ages proving I’m self-employed to universities where I’ve worked for one of their employees, because they have to prove they’re not doing dodgy disguised employment practices, yet Uber etc are allowed to treat people as self-employed when it suits them and they can get away with it.

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    • I remember when Uber arrived in Perth (WA) and started carrying paying passengers in breach of all the laws governing taxis and the government just rolled over and said we’d better make this (quasi) legal. There’s whole heaps of case law about what makes a contractor an employee – to do with super, workers comp and tax. All just steamrolled by Uber in a way that would get any Australian start-up plonked in jail. So for instance, I have to pay tax as an ’employee’ because 100% of my business is with one company – a law that was originally designed to capture upper managers working through trusts. Lisa asked ‘will I appeal’ and yes I will. More hoops to jump through!

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    • Lots of what I listen to is in the ‘comfort food’ category, but I find both Heyer’s language and her melodramatic plots especially relaxing. Dad used to give them to mum and I introduced them to my youngest daughter and between us we have an excellent collection.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Perhaps your friends are lovely people who want to tease you, but when I read that they called you a pig, the first thing I thought was they could take their comments and “stick it up yer ass” as we say where I come from. You can tell ’em that from your friend Melanie.

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  6. How does the tax office know that you prepare your meals before you leave home? Are they in your kitchen watching you or rummaging through your rubbish? It seems an insane rule …

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    • Up till now I had documented my nights away by preparing a spreadsheet of what trip I was on (Perth _ Melb etc) and where I slept each night (Coolgardie, Penong, Ouyen last trip). For 2017/18 they wanted to know how many meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner – I ate, which I duly recorded but then they demanded I substantiate my ‘average expenditure’. However, when we submitted my, fully documented, fruit & veg bills for each trip they were rejected as not being during the course of a trip.

      Unless I get away early today (Sat.), and I haven’t started loading yet, the first open grocery store that I can park outside of will be Dimboola in Victoria on Tues. I might be hungry by then!

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  7. So, you are still reading (listening to) a white guy writing an indigenous character! Shame on you!! Haha.

    As for the ATO, that’s pretty outrageous I think. I agree with your comment that “It’s a pity the ATO didn’t police transfer pricing and tax havens with the same zeal it applies to small business and welfare recipients.” I remember back in the 1970s working with some people who were not the best paid amongst us (in the public service) and one having the ATO after her because of some piddling amount of bank interest she hadn’t included on her form. I thought just the same as you, but clearly the “little people” are easier to go after.

    BTW I saw Woman and war a month or so ago, and loved it too. THAT would appeal to an anarchist.

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    • Without rising to bait equating anarchists with bombers, I thoroughly enjoyed Woman at War and thought you could hardly pick a better target than the anti-worker Rio Tinto.

      I know what I’m going to get with Arthur Upfield, but was really astonished when Nam Le switched from autobiographical in story 1 to South American assassin in story 2.

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      • You know I love to tease you!

        As for Nam Le, one of the things that collection was praised for was the variety of voices he uses. I am reading a short story now, first person and the character is a hunchback. I don’t think the author is a hunchback. I thought, hmm, would Bill say he can’t write this story?

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      • Bill would actually say, what’s the point of reading this story? I’ll review Nam Le when I get to the end, other books keep getting in the way, and will address the POV question with some (few!) shades of grey.

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      • I guess the question is why we are reading. I do want “truths” but I think someone can imagine other truths. This hunchback story certainly rang true to me! (But of course I’m not a hunchback so maybe it rang true to my non-hunchback understanding of hunchbacks! But really, I do think this who can write what can get a bit too restrictive.)

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  8. We are in the early stages of ‘minorities’ reclaiming their stories. Once that’s done there might be room for others to imagine themselves as minorities. Think back to the early days of second wave feminism, you were there, and I’m sure you will agree that it was symbolically important for women to reclaim ‘neutral’ expressions that were inherently male.

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