REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: A sobering story of Love Bugs, tax returns and concussion

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by ACM executive editor James Joyce.

My parents have never emphatically denied that I was conceived in the back of a Volkswagen Beetle.

Vee-Dub Bugs were very big back in 1970. Popular, that is, not spacious. If you've ever sat in the back seat of a classic Beetle, you'll know they're not exactly roomy and certainly not comfortable. So, a pretty impressive effort from my folks then. Which perhaps explains why they've always left themselves some, er, wiggle room, reputation-wise, and winkingly declined to confirm or deny that backseat-of-the-Beetle baby-making scenario.

Happy Monday, and welcome to another week out here in Real Australia. More in a moment on the proud Herbie fans going bananas across the land as Volkswagen winds down production of the Beetle after eight decades of slightly comical curvaciousness.

BYE BYE BEETLE: Bill Parianos with his beloved Volkswagen Beetle, a car with a cult following worldwide. Photo: Max Stainkamph

BYE BYE BEETLE: Bill Parianos with his beloved Volkswagen Beetle, a car with a cult following worldwide. Photo: Max Stainkamph

First, to more pressing matters - your tax return.

The Australian Taxation Office has promised that tax refunds will still flow to people who lodged their returns before Friday's apparently unrelated online outages at the ATO and federal government's myGov website.

Pity the poor tax office staff 'voluntold' to meet the call surge from taxpayers. Because, yes, large numbers of people have been way more eager than usual to lodge their tax returns early thanks to the much-discussed tax cuts that came into force on July 1. Indeed the government says 1.3 million tax returns had been lodged as of Friday, some 600,000 more than the same time last year.

(No doubt the way we Aussies are enthusiastically and conscientiously managing our tax affairs will be on Prime Minister Scott Morrison's list of topics for small talk when he meets US President Donald J. Trump.)

In exchange for supporting the Coalition's $158 billion tax cut package, Tasmania's independent Senator Jacqui Lambie sought a waiver for her state's social housing debt to the Commonwealth government.

The island state's newest Senator, 29-year-old Liberal Claire Chandler, has shared her own thoughts on the horse trading. She spoke to The Advocate's Emily Jarvie.

But doubt has been cast on a previous Commonwealth waiver and how much it improved access to social housing, Canberra Times journalist Katie Burgess reports.

Meanwhile, in the Central West of NSW, where the Nationals have been under electoral siege at state level, Dr Steve Peterson, a cyclist who survived a horrific accident after being hit by a car last year, is the new chair of the party's Orange branch.

Dr Peterson's remarkable story offers hope to others facing life after serious physical injury - something that is top of mind for an increasing number of participants in local sport.

As Chris Dutton writes in The Canberra Times, there's lots of coverage of the dangers of concussion for elite athletes but we don't often hear about the weekend warriors who play for the love of their sport, and face the same brutal realities.

"I'm not an NRL player so I kind of need my brain after footy," 27-year-old ACT local rugby league player Jason Brown said of his doctor's advice to end his 2019 season after four head knocks.

When it comes to concussion, knowledge is power, The Daily Advertiser's Jon Tuxworth reports.

Finally, a last word on the Beetle. It's the end of the road for the adorably, unmistakably bug-shaped car as Volkswagen ceases production at its plant in Mexico.

ALL ORIGINAL: The interior of Bruce Dicker's Beetle has remained in its original condition, including the 'Jesus handle' on the passenger's side. Photo: Les Smith

ALL ORIGINAL: The interior of Bruce Dicker's Beetle has remained in its original condition, including the 'Jesus handle' on the passenger's side. Photo: Les Smith

OK, so maybe the vehicle began in 1938 as Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche's response to German dictator Adolf Hitler's demand for a "people's car". But after that awkwardly Nazi beginning, it went on to become known the world over as the Love Bug.

Wagga man Bruce Dicker, a member of the Riverina Volkswagen Club, says he bought his first Beetle new and drove it for more than 330,000 kilometres - and it was how he travelled to meet the girl who would become his wife.

Bill Parianos, proud owner of three classic Beetles, told The Central Western Daily the key is that "you drive a Beetle with respect".

"The steering column could go through your chest if you crash, the fuel tank sits above your lap and the engine's in the back."

All of which probably sounds painfully familiar to anyone who's ever tried to love it up in the back seat of a Love Bug.

See below for more news from Australian Community Media's journalists around the country, including news on some crafty beverage-making skills distilling nicely in Burnie, Tasmania, and brewing promisingly in Dubbo, New South Wales.

James Joyce

Executive Editor, Australian Community Media

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