Sunday 5 August 2007

Jason O'Brien needs to take a chill pill

Today's highlight, or low light, at the Port Douglas rally against the forced amalgamation with Cairns City Council, was Jason O'Brien's angry tirade. It was a defiant and volatile speech to those that gathered in ANZAC Park this afternoon.

"You depend on everything from Cairns. The [Sea] port, the Cairns Airport. Everything. Everything comes from Cairns. Where would you be without Cairns?," said a shouting Jason O'Brien.

Whilst the Member for Cook has to endorse and stand by his Government's planned changes, he showed utter contempt for his local constituents that elected him into office.

There are of course strong rationale for joining services of local neighbouring Councils, and everyone will support less government in our lives. Of that, there would be little opposition. However, Jason showed little or no respect for those that made the effort to turn up, have their say, in what is the fundamental democratic right of every citizen. Whilst there are no doubt many Douglas Shire residents that are either ambivalent or in support of amalgamation, those that are opposed, deserve respect from their elected representatives.

There is little doubt that O'Brien committed political suicide today, not by endorsing the proposal amalgamation of Cairns and Douglas Shires, but for the lack of respect to the local Port Douglas, Mossman, and Daintree residents who turned up to express their view.

The photo I took above, shows him in full flight, his stance was angry, he was waving his fists and pointing his finger at the crowd. It didn't take a body language expert to determine he wasn't a friend to this audience. He finally became inaudible as the crowd became louder and louder.

I do want to acknowledge some comments that I agreed with throughout O'Brien's tirade... Besides saying that the rest of the present Douglas Council should have joined him of the stage to receive the brickbats, he did say there were areas were the Council probably contributed to the decision to merge with Cairns.

One struck accord with me, in that Council should have helped local workers in the hospitality industry with suitable affordable accommodation in the town to service the enormous tourism infrastructure in Port. This has always been a big issue and with many low-paid and often un-protected hospitality workers, hotels and resorts retaining staff is a issue that has not been addressed. Many would try to find accommodation in Mossman, or as far north as Cow Bay. Furthermore, with no public transport connecting outlying areas, this makes working in Port very difficult and almost untennable to the large youth-orientated workforce.

As a long-time tourism marketing professional and now supporter of this special part of Australia, I am acutely aware of such issues being neglected and hospitality staff being treated with contempt at many levels of business. Often there's an attitude that "there's plenty more who'll have their job" so little support mechanisms are put in place to help and protect and encourage these valuable and integral members of the tourism industry and local community.

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