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Bahrain, death and taxes

Comment
By Winfred Peppinck


Benjamin Franklin, at the time of drafting the US Constitution, said there were two certainties in life: “Death and taxes.”

This is true even for the many expats who come to Bahrain despite the fact that, in the main, it is tax free.

Some come here for a better salary, a great incentive, while excise and living costs – including most utilities – are often cheaper than back home.

However, all-knowing computer monitoring by Australia’s Austrac system generally means money made overseas and returned to Australia is still subject to tax.

Which brings me to death.

Every expat’s concern, the death or imminent death of a loved one and being far from easy reach, is a fear shared by all.

It is a fear we always had while living in Bahrain, having aged parents and siblings.

Like other migrants and travellers, we always hoped whenever we visited home that it would not be the last time we saw loved ones.

For more than 30 years Perth was my hometown.

I went to school there, university, played football and cricket, loved, lost and married there.

Before the mineral boom changed everything, insular West Australians thought South Australia was the Middle East – and the Far East was anything beyond!

In many ways Australians, with their inimitable travel pleasure, have found there is a world out there – and now you find Aussies everywhere.

Yet Peter Allan, the multi-talented musician and performer, wrote a wonderfully nostalgic song used by Qantas Airways in a glorious video advertisement: “I still call Australia home.”

It is likewise for me, after growing up in Perth and now being a resident of Canberra after many years abroad – including 10 years as an expatriate in Bahrain.

Peter Allan’s song still had resonance with me, despite the long-haul factor – flying 16 or 20 hours to go “home”.

Now, internally, vast distances in Australia mean travelling six to seven hours to Perth, using connecting flights via Sydney or Melbourne.

So last week I flew there and, for the first time ever, it was not a journey of usual enjoyment.

My only brother lives outside of Perth, Western Australia, and is stricken with terminal cancer.

He’s had numerous operations, lots of chemotherapy and experimental medication, but nothing has been able to arrest the spread of the insidious, life-ending illness.

I am glad I made that journey, met him and assuaged the understandable anger he felt.

It wasn’t meant to go that way.

He was four years my junior, kept his weight manageable, was a non-smoker, a moderate drinker, an exerciser and often walked on the long sandy beach near his magnificent home.

The singer and former Beatle, John Lennon, said: “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.”

Now I sit and wait for the dreaded call that he has passed on.

And I rush to get another flight to Perth, to attend his funeral.

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