LInk to 612 Breakfast page

If you're looking for 612 ABC Brisbane stories, you'll find them on the official 612 Breakfast page:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bmag 23rd Oct 2012 - Rental owner register

Fences, trees and noise – these are the big three when it comes to disputes between neighbours. In an ideal world you are on good terms with the folk next door, you casually mention the issue and you come to some sort of agreement. But things can become complicated if your neighbour is a tenant, rather than an owner-occupier.

When 612 Breakfast listener Steve had a problem with overhanging trees from the rental property next door, he had a terrible time identifying the real estate agent managing the property. Steve told me he couldn’t get the information from his neighbours and ended up having to track down the owner, who put him onto the property manager. “They said ‘you shouldn’t have contacted the owner, your first point of contact should always be the manager’ but you can’t find out who the manager is!” Steve recalls.

The whole kerfuffle prompted Steve to email me, suggesting there should be a register of rental properties and their property managers. Says Steve: “If you live next door to really nice people, you jump the fence and say ‘Hey Bill, we need to do something about the trees, can you give me the phone number of the real estate manager?’” But Steve’s neighbours were not so cooperative: “Absolutely not and I bet there are a lot of people in Brisbane and surrounding suburbs who are in the same situation,” he says.

I invited Steve onto my radio show and here are just some of the responses that came in during and after the program: Naomi emailed: “I think the rental register is a great idea. Our former tenant had a drug lab. Luckily the owner of an adjoining unit contacted the building managers who contacted our agent. It would have been much easier if they could have gone straight to a register.”

Anne tweeted that a register would have been handy for her: “Had a problem with noisy neighbours once (renters) and ended up ringing all the local real estate agents to find the property manager.” And Fiona texted: “I totally support the register! If there’s something wrong with my house, I want and need the property manager to know ASAP!”

But, according to Cameron on Twitter, it shouldn’t be that hard: “Any real estate agent can look up a property to see which real estate is managing the property. Walk in and ask.” Tell me what you think at the email below.

Antonia Mercorella, general counsel with the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, sees merit in the idea: “Something like that could be a good idea. It would just be a matter of how that register is developed, where it’s maintained and who maintains it. “Certainly the act that covers residency tenancies in Queensland is administered by the Residential Tenancies Authority. The conduct of real estate agents is governed by the Property Agents and Motor Dealers’ Act and that’s looked after by the Office of Fair Trading. “My gut feel is that a register of this nature would be maintained by one of those two parties.”

But is a register really needed? And who would pay for it? Antonia Mercorella concedes it’s not an issue that comes up frequently: “In most instances, the tenant will disclose that they are renting and then go one step further and disclose the identity of the agent managing the property and you can then proceed to communicate through that agency.”

Barbecue hot tip

It’s that time of year when friendly neighbours start to invite each other over for barbecues. So here’s a handy hint, suggested to me by my Radio National colleague Ian Townsend. To save money, always run two gas bottles. If you only have one bottle, you risk running out while you’re cooking for guests.

So, to avoid such embarrassment (not to mention ruined food), you tend to exchange the bottle too early, before it has expired, hence wasting whatever gas is still in the bottle. By interchanging two bottles you can always comfortably cook away until the very last gasp of gas, before subtly and seamlessly slipping the other bottle onto the barbecue.

You then have all the time in the world to replace the first bottle, which becomes your standby. A simple idea which will have you cooking with gas!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bmag Oct 9th 2012 - Rolf forgets, Canberra remembered

Rolf Harris knew he’d stuffed up but it would be 20 years before he fully understood the consequences! This week 9 October marks the 30th anniversary of the Queen closing the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.

My favourite 1982 story comes not from the closing ceremony but from the opening, where thousands of school students formed a map of Australia with red, white and blue placards. One of them was Katherine, now a Taringa hairdresser, who (about 10 years ago) let me in on a little secret. It seems the children were getting their cues from Rolf Harris as he sang Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport. Trouble was, Katherine told me, Rolf forgot the words: “Good old Rolf missed out a whole verse!”

Years later, I surprised both Katherine and Rolf by introducing them to each other on radio. He confessed: “I’d written a special verse about when the Games are over with that final hurrah, don’t go rushing home, stay and have a look around Australia. That was the gist of the idea, and I forgot all about it. I’d sung the song for 20 years and you go into automatic mode. I just left out the last verse.”

Katherine chimed in, laughing: “That was the cue to turn the placard over and pick up another one.”

Rolf replied: “Oh Lord! I mucked your bit up. I’m terribly sorry. Can I apologise in retrospect?!” Now, whenever Katherine cuts my hair, she talks about the day Rolf Harris personally apologised to her!

School trip a hit

In the last issue (bmag, 18 September), I told you how much I’d been looking forward to accompanying Jack’s year 7 school trip to Canberra. I’m pleased to report the week was everything I had hoped for and more. Children at that age (11 or 12) are great company. On the one hand, they’re cheeky and fun. On the other, they have a real thirst for information.

At the National Gallery, they were fascinated by the painting technique and story behind Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles (controversially bought by the Whitlam government for over $1million and now worth more than $40million). At the Australian Electoral Commission, one girl challenged the law that says anyone given a three-year (or more) prison sentence cannot vote. Our guide was stumped! And at Parliament House, when Australia’s young MP Wyatt Roy asked the students for the main issues facing Australia in 2012, hands went up straight away, with climate change and same-sex marriage topping the list.

In the bus there was much singing and laughter, and Gangnam Style (look up Psy on YouTube if you don’t know what that is) was the dance routine du jour at lunchtime (yes, I may have been the one who started that!)

The teachers were pretty good company too! And hard-working! They were on the job from 7am till 9pm every day. I saw how being a teacher is as much about emotional wellbeing as helping children to learn, not to mention ensuring you don’t lose anyone along the way! I also realise now how challenging it must be for male teachers in this “all men are paedophiles” society. They have to be oh-so-careful.

There were several times that I thought about this (and I know the other six parents did too). For example, as we left Brisbane, Jack asked me to take lots of photos. It took me a few days to be comfortable doing so if other children were going to be in them. (Thankfully I did, as one of Jack’s friends lost his camera and we were able to send him photos I had taken). I always sat myself next to the boys on the bus, never a girl. I know, I was probably overthinking it. But then on the last morning, when one of the boys gave me a big hug before turning to a male teacher, he was told kindly but plainly, “we don’t hug teachers”. It’s a shame that it’s come to that, but you can understand why.

That aside, I would strongly encourage any parents who are given the opportunity to join a school trip or camp to do so. You’ll enjoy observing your child in learning situations, interacting with others and having to be independent, and you will come away knowing so much more about your own son or daughter.