Saturday 29 September 2007

What a transistion

Thursday morning, and our new Council CEO Noel Briggs telephones first thing to welcome me to attend the Local Transition Committee committee as a guest of the Mayor.

I was a bit aghast. Even though the message was clear following the first meeting, that they were closed sessions, and media and observers would be by invitation only, Noel was very accommodating.

"So long as anyone has asked to attend prior to the meeting Michael, you're welcome to be here," he informed me. I hope this tone will prevail upon Chairman Mao's return.

A number of sources have confirmed that Noel is a far more straight and accessible CEO than his predecessor Farmer was, and in this instance, I have to agree.

With our Mayor in China offsetting our carbon emissions, Douglas Shire Mayor Mike Berwick was to chair the meeting.

So I took an early lunch break and wandered off to the Council Chambers, up to the top floor of the Council palace.

The view from the third floor meeting rooms and mayoral floor is rather awesome. It resembles much that is Cairns today. Foxtail palms grace the inner courtyard below to give a fake tropical effect, with piped in water, surrounded by high rise concrete on all sides. Ar, yes - this is the Cairns I know.

As I wait, I see the mayor's office at the end of the corridor, and see moving boxes stacked outside. No, that was an illusion... maybe even delusion.

I'm welcomed like one of the family. Council media guru, Robyne Holmes passes, in preparation for the meeting and says "Hello Michael," with a friendly upright smile. Gary Scofield, the other half of the Council's PR machine. shakes my hand and says good morning. I felt a bit like a naughty schoolboy that you'd rather have back in the classroom, than siting outside sticking gum on the playground seats.

It's a few minutes to kickoff, and the throng of LTC members arrive for the second Transition Committee meeting. The Union heavies arrive en mass.

Mayor Mike is accompanied by Tony Cadwell, one of his council workers, who's been asked too many times to play Santa at the staff Xmas party.

This was a genuine example of Berwick's ability to connect with his staff by bringing one of the lads from the ranks as an observer.

There is a big push from unions to be involved in this transition committee, to protect staff throughout this period of change.

David Groessler and Darryl Noack from the Australian Workers Union, Steve Rodgers, Australian Services Union, Stuart Traill for the Queensland Council of Unions, and Ed Taylor QLD Council of Union have all made sure they get they voice heard through this forum.

Local sporting icon Richie Bates, who is running for Council in 2008, and Steve Rodgers chatted in the foyer before the meeting.

Acting Douglas Shire CEO, Julia Leu arrives, whom I last chatted with following the boisterous rally in Port Douglas in early August. However, we've moved on from there, and so has her hair style. She's a power dresser-Douglas style. I asked her to pose for a pic, right in front of a handy evacuation plan. Just in case.

Following Committee members heading into the meeting room, there is a wait before observers are permitted in. Agreement by the meeting and the chair of who attends, has to be agreed.

Deputy Mayor Cr Terry James is present and Cr Paul Gregory is there as the Mayor's proxy.

The meeting is called to order, and the chair announced that WIN TV will be along in a while. "Will they get in okay?" someone asks. "Well, It's not Lotus Glen!" exclaimed CEO Noel Briggs.

The comparison was a bit raw, even for this blogger and not worth any all too obvious quips.

Top of the agenda was the appointment of an interim CEO of the Cairns Regional Council. Julia Leu had already decided not to put her name forward. Noel Briggs was therefore confirmed in the role and he quickly dismissed any additional remuneration, as suggested by one of the union delegates.

There was a lengthy debate about union participation on the employment sub-committee.
Council perceived there were too many, however Darryl Noack said this was "non-negotiable". There will be a total of 13, representing both Councils.

The strong push from Unions was in part due to Douglas Shire's keenness to pursue AWA's for it's staff, and the Union is strongly against this.

We soon broke for a cuppa and cake. Cr Gregory was convivial in his dashing pink ensemble. A matching tie and a R W Williams shirt. "My wife picked this one out," he exclaimed. Cairns Post missed out on this scoop.

I briefly chatted with Melinda Cox, Division 2 Councillor from Douglas, as she grabbed her first coffee for the morning. They have a lot of divisions in Douglas.

Meanwhile, the union boys absconded to the outside balcony for some private scheming, and a cigi in the no-smoking area.

The Communications and Consultation plan was approved, along with the new CRC LTC logo, no doubt coming to a mailbox near you soon.

Council meetings like these may seem laborious, even painfully tedious at times, however access to these forums is a fundamental right for a local democracy.
We should not take this access for granted and our city leaders need to remember they are there to serve as our servants.

I genuinely thank Noel and Mike for their support in my access to the meeting. CairnsBlog may not be a traditional media outlet in this election race, but certainly one medium that is seriously interested in our local government.

The next LTC will be on Thursday 11th October. I'll be out of the county on the day, so someone else will have to be my spy. I encourage everyone to make the time to attend a Council meeting from time to time, and see your elected representatives in action.

I may have come for the meeting, but I stayed for the cakes.

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