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Oyster

Oyster 1About a year ago I was asked if I could assist the Pacific oyster industry in their fight against the potentially devastating threat of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS).

With research into the virus in Australia having identified the potential to breed resistance, the industry needed to introduce a levy to fund the necessary research and development. It meant all hatcheries would need to increase their prices by the amount of the levy and pay it to the research body.

My role, apart from continuing to support the retail arm of the industry as a consumer, was to help obtain authorisation from the ACCC for what might otherwise be cartel or anti-competitive conduct.

I’m very pleased to report that last Thursday the ACCC granted interim authorisation. A copy of the authorisation is here and there is also a press release.

It’s not often that sole legal practitioners get to work on something of such national importance and its quite rewarding to have secured the first stage authorisation. The outbreaks in NSW have already resulted in some growers having to leave the industry and the threat is very real. The work done behind the scenes in the industry and the co-operation given by the ACCC staff has been fantastic. I trust that this will now permit Australia to make the progress that is so urgently needed to provide some protection against POMS and look forward to finalisation of the authorisation in the near future. And this time an acknowledgement – I had to borrow the shot from Wikipedia.

Cheers

Rick

RNR

rick-davies-rnrIt already seems like an age ago, but our week in Ubud was a pleasant, relaxing experience. Over the years we’ve heard many people talk about Bali and Ubud in particular and we finally got to see it first hand.rick-davies-rnr

As with most tropical countries, the deep greenness of the landscape is captivating. Add to that a very relaxed, polite and friendly culture and it truly is a pleasant place to be. Sure, it gets a bit hot and wet, but it’s tolerable. We were in the “off” season, so didn’t see the traffic the way that it is in the peak, but have been told it can get very congested. The narrow roads and one-way streets (other than for the motor bikes which are allowed to go against the one-way traffic) make it a little more difficult to get around so it is not surprising to see so many “taxis” and their drivers touting for work.

rick-davies-rnr-bloomWe were there not too long after “silent day”. It’s a day that puts “earth hour” to shame (but not for the same ideological reasons). To avoid the evil sprits noticing the place, on a particular day each year the island shuts down. People stay indoors. Power goes off. Bali becomes “uninhabited”. With no-one around, the evil spirits bypass the island and go elsewhere looking to cause mischief with the inhabitants. Whilst tourists are welcome to stay on “silent day”, they too need to stay indoors and with no facilities open, it is not surprising that most seek other places to be around that time!

With those memories of the recent past, it’s now off on new adventures – more news to follow!

Rick

GRENACHE

rick-davies-grenacheThe grenache berries in this photo belong to some of the bush vines on the Yangarra estate in the northern end of the McLaren Vale region. My friend Peter and I joined a group of about 30 to be a part of the inaugural “grenache wine makers club” last Sunday.

In the early hours, we assembled for coffee then headed out to the vines where, after a little instruction, we were given a pair of snippers and a bucket to harvest the bunches.rick-davies-grenache-pick
As we worked down the rows, we were both struck by the clarity of mind brought by concentrating on little else than where the fingers of the non-snipping hand were! Incredibly relaxing – the majority of the brain function was at rest!

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Half way along, we paused for a muffin before heading back up the next rows to complete our picking duties for the day. A short Q&A session followed whilst we sampled the result of earlier grenache pickings. Then, the bins loaded with the fruits of our labour, quite literally, it was back to the winery to watch the de-stemming and sorting. 
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Oh, and a bite to eat and a few more samples of previous years’ fermentations!rick-davies-grenache-crush
After a little more to eat, it was time to take off the shoes and socks, rinse the feet and get down to the crush (yes, that’s my foot). Still reckon our bin came up with the best juice yield, but it matters little, I’m sure. The crush will be processed through the winery’s biodynamic, certified organic processes and we’ll be updated from time to time on the progress of the wine.

Probably about this time next year it will be bottled and we’ll get the chance to sample and secure our own bottle with our names on the label.

It’s a great idea and one that I can wholeheartedly recommend! I’m looking forward to next year’s event. Oh, and the vintage day at the winery on 13 April – Burger Theory will be there with music and, not surprisingly, lovely Yangarra wines.

Cheers

Rick

OPPORTUNITY

rick-davies-opportunityWe have a few of these New Holland honeyeaters around our home at Aldinga. They love the salvia and grevilleas that are dotted through our garden. But they are flighty little things and hard to get near to for a good photograph.

One was in the salvia outside my home office window last week and, hoping that my new camera might be able to overcome the presence of a window and flyscreen, I grabbed the opportunity and took a few shots. Given my inability to get near them in the past, I was reasonably happy with the outcome.

Seeing opportunities when they arise is not always easy. We are frequently too deeply involved in what is going on around us to see the minutiae that can spawn opportunity. Once our eyes are opened to an opportunity, it then means action to make the most of it. Again, time, interest, other commitments can all conspire to rob us of the necessary “freedom” to act.

I know I’ve been told this before, so guess it is not news to anyone else either. We need to be open to opportunities and willing to give ourselves the space and permission to act if we are to make the most of them when they arise. I’m getting my head around that a bit now as I build upon the success of the last 12 months of business as a sole practitioner.

For me it’s a different mindset, but one that I’m gradually feeling a bit more comfortable with.

Cheers

Rick

F1

rick-davies-F1Hot! The F1 action gets underway in less than 2 weeks at Melbourne. For the 5th year running, I’m hosting an F1 tipping contest and I’m hoping for a few new participants.

It’s easy: follow this link to get to the login page. You’ll be asked to create a login and password and a “team” name – your alias for the comp. Once done, you’ll be able to see a link “join an existing league”. Click that, then enter this code and click the “Join League” button:
27087e5cf7fda28ff1db60946b5512dd

Bingo!

The comp is free, global and dead easy to be involved in. In each of the 19 rounds, participants enter their top 10 finishers in order, who will take pole position, the fastest lap and the most positions gained. Tips need to be in 5 minutes before the start of qualifying. If you miss a round, your last round tips are used. The points system and bonus points are explained on the website.

Best of all – you don’t really need to know a lot about F1 – just an interest in a bit of fun! I’ll send out reminder emails in the lead up to each round and a bit of a summary afterwards to keep the interest.

In that vein, hot! Is the way to describe pre-season testing for the reigning champions, Red Bull. Not hot as in fast and competitive, but hot as in overheating, fires and a lack of running. This season sees new 1.6 litre turbo engines with sophisticated energy recovery systems that are challenging the teams. The Mercedes powered teams look best prepared, the Ferrari teams next and the Renault a fair way behind. The chequered flag at Melbourne could well be beyond the capabilities of more than a few cars, for the first time in years because of reliability.

So, follow the link and join the happy band for a bit of fun in F1 season 2014.

Cheers

Rick

ONE

rick-davies-oneToday is the first anniversary of the commencement of my life as a sole practitioner. Not only has that first year flown by, but it has also been as successful as I could have hoped for. Looking back 12 months, I could not at that time have considered the breadth of work that I would be engaged in, the people I would re-acquaint or the enjoyment that I would have in the period that was to follow.

I thank Tricia for her support throughout; for believing that this could work. I thank those who have helped me along the way in setting up my business, providing advice, referrals and the occasional chat. And I thank my clients, for it is them that sustain me.

I won’t try to name everyone – but I know that pretty much all of those who have helped will read this and you will individually know that you are a part of my past 12 month’s success. I thank you all.

The anniversary candle? The little train it sits in has been around for as long as I can remember. I don’t recall on which of my birthdays it first appeared, but it was certainly when I was very small.  It needs a bit of work to refurbish it – maybe it’s time to allow myself a few days to do that!

Cheers

Rick

BLOOMING

Rick-Davies-Blooming
I promise this will be the last blogpiece for a while on my most recent topic – Australian manufacturing!

In April last year I joined a new interest group on LinkedIn – the Australian manufacturing forum. I posted a few comments regarding the state of the automotive sector and where it seemed to be heading. Whilst the group was small, it continued to grow to the point where it now has over 600 members.

The group has achieved what appears to be a first: a social media generated major policy submission to a government enquiry. Peter Roberts, the group convenor, posted a piece regarding the release this morning and provided a link to the submission.

If nothing else, it is an interesting observation on the changing nature of communication and the power of social media networking. A diverse group of people collaborating remotely to prepare a submission – it is another indicator of the power of being “connected”.

The growth in importance and the potential uses of social networking is quite remarkable. The Australian Manufacturing Forum’s initiative is just one example of the rapidly expanding social media phenomenon.

Cheers

Rick

NUMBERS

Rick-Davies-numbers
Do the Numbers stack up? My blog GONE was written on the day GM announced that it would cease local manufacture. The blog was an expression of the concern that has been growing within me for a large number of years. I also wrote that Toyota could not survive on its own. I still think it is an accurate assessment. Here’s why.

In 2003 the Australian new car market totalled a little over 909,000 units. It was a new record. 10 years later, the market reached another new record of 1.136 million having grown around 25% in that time.

In 2003 the highest selling car was Commodore with 86,553 accounting for 9.5% of the total market. Falcon was second with 73,220 and 8.1%. The largest selling small car was the imported Corolla with 36,128, a 4% market share.

Last year the highest selling car was the imported Corolla – 43,498 units – but its share of the expanded market was only 3.8%.

Faced with an incredible selection of very good cars in an open market, Australians have done exactly what was to have been expected. They have considered the options and exercised choice.

If the Corolla was built in Australia, would it sell more units? Perhaps. Twice as many? I seriously doubt it.

So perhaps export volume is the key. OK, let’s consider that. Without local content requirements (and tariffs to support them), to be cost competitive with high volume imports, there needs to be a significant amount of imported content in any locally built car. So the manufacturer needs to import components to then export them in fully built cars to get the export volumes necessary to support local build. Can anyone think of anywhere further away than Australia from both the high volume component makers and high volume car markets? By its location on the globe, Australia is at a natural cost disadvantage when it first has to import goods to be able to add value, then export them.

Without decent local volume, the Australian component makers will struggle, meaning more imported components, meaning more import costs … you get the picture, I’m sure.

And on top of that, which car to build? Which one of the hundreds on the Australian market is capable of selling twice as many as Corolla, or Mazda 3, or i30, or HiLux just because it is Australian built?

And that, my friends, is why I fear the Australian automotive industry is now just a few short years from being a thing of the past. Then we won’t have to worry about supporting an industry – we will simply import all our needs and trust that the importers will do what is right by the country.

Or perhaps we can just ride bikes – the photo is of the Tour as it passed the front of the Aldinga Arts Eco Village for the final time on Saturday (taken with my new photographic device!)

Cheers

Rick

MAGIC

Rick-Davies-Magic

One evening close to 3 years ago, a large group of people gathered on the gorgeous Port Willunga beach to participate in an event called “one magic bowl”. On entry, we each received a hand-made bowl thrown by Jam Factory potters. From there we were able to select from a range of fish dishes created by 11 of the region’s chefs – but unfortunately one selection only!

The food was fantastic, as was the local wine.

The evening was glorious. The sea was mirror flat and whilst the temperature was 37 that day, it was a bit cooler on the beach. As the sun began to set a small boat sailed by and we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

After last week’s sad blog and having mentioned in my latest eNews that I love sunsets, I thought I’d blog the photo of that Magic sunset as 2013 draws to a close.

With Christmas nearly upon us and holidays looming for many (or already started), it’s a nice way for me to close my blogging year, thank my clients and supporters and wish all who read this a merry Christmas and happy New Year. Enjoy the break and I hope we make contact again in 2014.

Cheers

Rick

GONE

Rick-Davies-Gone

It’s now almost exactly 14 years since I decided I needed to find another career. January 1999. The BMW X5 had just been released at the Detroit motor show and I was in the Corporate Planning division of Mitsubishi here in Adelaide.

The large car segment in Australia was already in decline and had been for a while. Tariffs, fuel prices – a number of things were having an impact. With Australia lagging the US trends by about 5 years it was pretty clear what the next “big thing” was going to be. SUVs.

Of all the Australian manufacturers, Mitsubishi was best placed to respond. The entire fleet, including the then current platform the Magna sedan was based upon, was available in 4WD. Drop the Magna wagon at the next model change, due in 3 to 5 years and replace it with an SUV, just as was later done in the US (though not with much success there, I admit, but maybe there were other issues at play in that market). Move the rest of the fleet to 4WD.

I did float the plan and whilst it was acknowledged as having merit, it nevertheless didn’t get past the first step. MD said no. I walked out of his office and started to think about what I needed to do to prepare for the day when the company stopped making cars in Australia. I chose law. Commenced external studies in 2000. Admitted to practise in December 2004, 9 years and 5 days ago.

In the mid 90s, the three top selling cars in Australia were doing over 20,000 units between them. Commodore and Falcon up around 7,000 to 10,000 a month and Mitsubishi around 5,000 Magnas.

In 2013, the TOP selling car in Australia, Corolla, did less than 3,900 units. The next 3, Mazda 3, i30 and Commodore each ran up figures in the low to mid 3 thousands.

Australia is an open market for cars. What happened today is a sad, inevitable reflection of that open market. Toyota won’t be able to stay on its own, as the supplier industry won’t have the volume to survive. No matter what car it produced here, it just couldn’t get decent, long term volume. When, not if.

And what next? The engineering, manufacturing and management skills base of this country will suffer from the loss of the automotive industry. There will also be a lot of people looking for work. For many of them, alternative employment will be very difficult to find.

My guess back in 2002 when I left Mitsubishi was that it would only keep manufacturing for another 3 years or so. I figured the PS41 (US designed Galant that was the 380) would be canned before it got to production. I was wrong, but only missed the end date by a couple of years. I thought then that Ford was the next most vulnerable, then GM and finally Toyota. I gave them 10 to 15 years. Unfortunately, I was pretty much around the mark.

It’s a sad day today, but one that I’ve seen looming for nearly 14 years.

My condolences to all those that will be hit by the news.

Rick

Oh – the photo. There used to 12 Apostles. No more.