At $55 a head, I don't think the organisers, the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Women's Club could have found a venue that less-represented the community and the residents than the austere and opulence of the Grand Ballroom. However it fitted perfectly with the ambience of the white collar corporate work. Gosh, I even got a tie on to blend in with the monkeys.
It was Kevin Vs Val.
Val was sporting a bright red knee-high number. Kevin had his power-gold tie on. I thought I caught a whiff of Joop!, but he may have simply used Listerine in the lavey.
These debates are hardly a litmus test of how the community feels, but they do have the opportunity to display how someone can perform under pressure and to a demanding audience. My view is that neither really excelled on the day. The guests, including yours truly, dined on chicken breast with lemon oregano potatoes, or slow cooked beef fillet with grilled asparagus and horseradish foam, with a Mediterranean parsley and goats cheese salad. Yes, we were dining with the elite. Give me fush and chups on the Yorkeys beachfront any day, and I'd be happy.
Just as proceedings were about to kick off, a small commotion of sorts occurred. I positioned myself in the centre, close to the front to get some good snaps. I was just behind the table that hosted Kevin and Val, along with the president of the Chamber, Jeremy Blockey, and a few of their mates. This table looked like a bag of allsorts lollies that had never been refrigerated after opening.
Although today's Cairns Post says otherwise, Mayoral candidate Peter Sandercock arrived to take his place at the main table, along with the other two Mayoral aspirants. Sandercock announced on Tuesday that he was also seeking the Mayor's job, and he was on a quest to tell his story. President Jeremy stood up, and within a minute or so after some words were traded, Peter was shoved off elsewhere. Apparently, there was no room at the inn.
He wasn't welcome at the table. Jesus would have turned in his grave, or tomb. Selwyn Johnston, the other mayoral candidate, telephoned the chamber a couple of days previously after a suggestion from myself, only to be told that he wasn't invited to speak. "It's only for the two main candidates," he was told in no uncertain terms.
I have to say, I find this whole behaviour quite insulting and derogatory to those that have formally and publicly declared they are standing for the city's top job. Regardless of anyone's view that they are not in the running, it is appropriate and courteous that they be given an opportunity to be heard at a forum that intends to be a 'Mayoral debate.'I wandered the room to grab a few photos and orientate who else was here. Good mate Wally Donaldson, area general manager of Telstra was there, chin wagging in the corner. Council CEO of the interim transition committee, Noel Briggs was plonked right next to former Chamber President Bob Norman. Later when chatting to a member of the 20/20 group, Noel darted away as the CairnsBlog camera honed in on his social chit chat. He left behind a stunned female to wonder what the commotion was all about. "What was that?," she questioned. "Didn't he want his photo with me?" she asked.
There were set up questions from both sides. Bob Normam quizzed Val Schier that it was almost impossible for a Council to rule on the type of buildings we build when it is the State Government's responsibility, he suggested . Val explained that it was the duty of a Council to lobby for a better code. I have to agree. Otherwise we may as well all go home and Tom, Udo and Roy can do what they damm well please. Or are they doing that already?
Throughout the luncheon, the Chamber, along with the Women's business group, conducted a candidate vote survey, one at the beginning and another at the conclusion of the debate. Not that surprising, it indicated support for Kevin Byrne.
200 people attended and 153 completed the voting paper. A second form was circulated after the debate and 130 dropped in their forms. Half the respondents indicated a preference for Kevin Byrne. This increased to nearly 61% after the debate. Val Schier’s support remained consistent.
This was more a reflection on the make up of the audience, rather than any scientific system. 21% said they were ‘undecided’ prior to the debate, and 8.5% afterwards.
The survey also asked about the major strengths and weaknesses of the two speakers and the quality of their presentation. "Byrne supporters cited his experience, capability and track record as his major strength; and Val Schier’s passion, enthusiasm and her stand on environmental issues," the organisers said. "Similarly, Val Schier’s supporters acknowledged Kevin Byrne’s experience and track record, but believe Val’s major strengths are that she has vision and is in touch with the community, demonstrating a much more consultative approach than Kevin Byrne."
As the debate wound up, I grabbed a photo of the lads from Williams Graham Carman, who were sharing their table with LHL - the developer behind the controversial beaches town centre. The Mayor has, up until 2 weeks ago, been pushing to bed this project down before the March 15th election, however has admitted this won't happen now.
Williams Graham Carman acted for the Mayor some six months ago, in a attempt to sue CairnsBlog for defamation. I suspect one of those over-paid lawyers at the table was John Hayward, munching on his medium rare beef fillet. It was John that had to deal with Mayor Byrne over a covert attempt to cease us talking about his fixation with all things China, and hopefully close this blog down. I'll re-tell the full story separately. This legal firm kindly gave Mayor Byrne a nice donation at the last election. Interesting how the money circles move around in this town, isn't it?
Thanks to Robert and Jenny Pyne, I took a HandyCam along with me - my first venture into shooting video. This is evidenced by the less than Spielberg-like camera angles and bumpy framing. It's like Brokeback Mountain meets Mad Max. Regardless, I recorded the debate, along with questions for your amusement and edification.
It's on our YouTube channel in six parts. I hope you will enjoy. You too can now feel like you've dined on salmon in a white wine sauce with a 96 vino.