Thursday 8 November 2007

Potted History: the Devil we Know - Part 1

We have invited locals to contribute to CairnsBlog, and extend that invitation to anyone, so long as you meet some guidelines.
In a regular series, Bryan Law writes about the recent history of local politics.

Kevin Byrne had been Mayor of a much smaller Cairns City Council from 1992-1995, first winning a by-election against then Councillor Desley Boyle, after which he suffered a hostile divisional membership, and then one election in his own right in which he was more successful. He was strongly supported by the Cairns Post and its then Editor, David McGuire. In 1995 Cairns City and Mulgrave Shire were amalgamated and Tom Pyne, who had been Mayor of Mulgrave Shire and was a popular Labor Party figure, soundly defeated Kevin in an election for a five year term. Kevin spent most of those five years working in exile in Russia and Papua New Guinea.

He came back to Cairns for the 2000 election, which he won by default after one of the shoddiest and grubbiest local government campaigns the ALP has ever been responsible for. Max Plummer ran as Tom Pyne’s designated successor with a team that included Jason O’Brien as candidate for Division 5. The sitting Councillor for Division 5, Bob Burgess was retiring to run as an independent candidate for Mayor. A “community-based” team headed by Frank Lanza also ran with at least moral support from Warren Pitt (who was motivated by factional hatreds within the ALP).

Those internal divisions within the ALP created the conditions under which Kevin Byrne became the Mayor we had to have. Byrne’s Unity team raised plenty of developers’ money and outspent everyone else combined. The two ‘Labor influenced’ teams attacked each other and split their vote. That old political slogan “Disunity is Death” played once again. Preferences just didn’t flow under the new optional preferential voting, at least in part due to the internal hatreds.

Kevin Byrne got his nose in front of independent candidate Alan McPherson and kept it there. Lanza, Plummer and Burgess were left out. Jeff Pezutti, and Jason O’Brien were the only Labor team members elected. Byrne as mayor had to work initially with a minority of Divisional councillors. One independent Councillor, Liberal Party wannabe power broker, Deirdre Ford, joined the Unity Team to give them a majority. Dierdre had been rejected by Unity before winning her Division, and was rejected by the other independents when she attempted to become Deputy Mayor.

For the 2004 election the Far North Greens and cross factional interests in the ALP??", along with some non-party independents combined forces early to create and run a “community alliance” team. Val Schier became the mayoral candidate for that team, which became known as Team ’04 Cairns. Lessons bitterly learned gave Val’s team a fairly clear run at the election, with other Labor interests staying out of the way. I ran as an independent candidate for Mayor, for reasons I’ll discuss in Part 2 of this story.

Kevin Byrne’s Unity Team was heavily influenced by its Liberal Party membership, which it never publicly acknowledged. Unity ran a very professional and well funded campaign and this time won the Mayorality, and 50% of Divisions. Five established independents were elected in the Divisions, most of them defeating Unity candidates.

Two Unity Councillors, Liberal Party member and Charlie McKillop campaigner, Alan Blake, and Margaret Cochrane, have since resigned from the Unity Team to become independents.

While right wing Labor interests stayed out of the way in 2004, they never gave material or personnel support to Team 04 Cairns, which was poorly resourced in comparison to Unity. Although Fran Lindsay, independent from Division 2 was openly supportive of Val, no established independents joined Val’s team to give it depth and experience. They preferred to remain free of team or party obligations and discipline. The one sitting Councillor pledged to be part of Val’s team, Jason O’Brien resigned only days after the campaign launch to claim pre-selection for the safe Labor seat of Cook in the state parliament - leaving Val and the others to their fate.

Within Val’s team there was some friction among candidates over the control of media releases and comment, the limitations of a “positive only” campaign, and the dead weight of some seriously under-performing candidates. The part-time Campaign Director was Rowan Foley who later unsuccessfully sought pre-selection for Leichhardt). Brian Down, Su Groome and Nerelle Nicol came close to winning their Divisions, and Val Schier performed very creditably in the mayoral contest.

No candidate from Team ’04 Cairns won a seat. Kevin Byrne achieved 51.5% of the primary vote for Mayor.

Disclosure. I am an independent political activist in Cairns. I’ve never been a member of any political Party. I once applied to join the Greens but was rejected due to either my political “extremism”, or because I “was going to take over” (depending on which Far North Green you talk to). I am not aligned in any way with Cairns 1st, Robert Pyne, or any Cairns City Counsellor. The above commentary is purely and simply my understanding of what’s happening in the lead up to March ’08, and I take full responsibility for its content.

The technique of supplying advance notice to those criticised is an effective one for ensuring factual accuracy and reasonable publication. It’s not fool-proof, but I think this article is now well within the boundaries of fair comment and reasonableness in the discussion of matters of government and politics.

Bryan Law submitted his article to the Mayor prior to publication, and this is the response by Dennis Quick, the Mayor's personal assistant:-
  • Your email has been perused by the Mayor.

    May I make a clear and unequivocal statement that Mayor Byrne is NOT a bully and any such reference may well be deemed offensive.

    Insofar as your writing in general terms, we live in a free society and you may publish any material you deem suitable. However, you need to be quite clear that Mayor Byrne and others retain the right to respond in any appropriate manner if they feel defamed of offended.
    Regards, Dennis Quick”


Anonymous said...

While this story is mostly true, it should be noted that the Australian Labor Party does not endorse members to run as candidates at the local government level in Cairns and does not, as an organisation, participate in the election. Individual members of the party certainly do in their capacity as members of the community.

Neither Max Plummer nor Frank Lanza are now or were then members of the ALP. I can't speak for Frank but Max was certainly not controlled by anyone either in the ALP or outside of it. He pretty well ran his own show. I would argue that Max's team was as much community based as Frank Lanza's but you imply that this is not the case. No doubt, however, Kevin Byrne would argue that his team is community based too.

To my knowledge, Jeff Puzzuti has never been a member of the ALP so you should probably correct the record.

While you attribute a sinister motivation to Warren Pitt in the 2000 election, I suspect he would argue that this was not the case at all.

Can't wait for the next installment and your explanation on why you bled votes off Val and undermined her chances of beating Byrne.

Anonymous said...

Woooh....this is getting interesting!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Jason's question to Bryan Law is easily answered.

Bryan Law is a nihilistic twit, more interested in the nasal sound of his own voice than the betterment of the community.

As he'll be going to gaol shortly for his crimes against the AFP and the American Government at Pine Gap, his fluffy countenance and poor personality and educational level should make him quite a hit with all the boys in the federal pen. His stint will likely make him a "better man", biblically speaking, but unfortunately even more bowlegged.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, true to form, the awaited malicious missive from the rabid right! And what a particularly hideous creature this one seems to be, a drongo from the quongo no doubt.

Anonymous said...

Bryan Outlaw,
Are you still stalking him? Go and get some help for God's sake!

Anonymous said...

Re Dennis Quick's comment, "Mayor Byrne is NOT a bully."

According to Wikpedia (09/11/2007) bullying is....
"the act of intentionally causing harm to others through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation.

In colloquial speech, bullying often describes a form of harassment perpetrated by an abuser who possesses more physical and/or social power and dominance than the victim. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a target. The harassment can be verbal, physical and/or emotional.
Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person is "exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons." He defines negative action as "when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways."[1]
Bullying can occur in any setting where human beings interact with each other. This includes school, the workplace, home and neighborhoods"

And I think we can safely add local council to that list.

Mayor Byrne has repeatedly and consistently labelled individuals or organisations in the public arena who dare critizise his performance or that or CCC. He has called us "trouble makers," "splinter groups", "doomsayers", "neanderthals" and the list goes on.
Any person who calls another person's employer to complain about actions of that employee outside of the said workplace is the worst kind of bully in my book. He is not only misusing his position of Mayor to harrass a resident, but he is also using threats and intimidation through a boss to influence and reign in an employee. It would seem from this blog that this incident is not a single one as others have been "targeted."

In recent years, anyone who has dared speak out, has had some form of harrassment dished out by KB in the form of vitriolic emails or verbal assaults. By rights, he is someone we should look up to and respect as a leader in our community. As long as he continues to abuse his position of power and bully decent people who have had enough of bad decision making, arrogant attitudes and favouritism shown towards developers, then he must lump the consequences of his "negative" actions at the next election.
I would sincerely like to suggest to Dennis, that your being KB's PA has little to do with your ability to do a good job, but rather, a lot to do with the fact that very few others would be able to work with him for reasons outlined above.