Monday, 31 March 2008

China off the planet

It would appear that some lobbying is well-underway for former mayor Kevin Byrne to be appointed as the new CEO of Advance Cairns, an organisation that he formed whilst mayor of Cairns.

It's expected the role comes with a significant salary package.

Letters have now appeared in the Cairns Post giving support to Mr Byrne running the "non-profit" group. Mayor-elect Val Schier has made it clear that a review of the organisation's return on investment will be undertaken by Cairns Regional Council.

The former Cairns City Council funded Advance Cairns to the tune of $250,000 pa, along with a contribution from the Cairns Port Authority.

Additionally, James Cook University, CEC Group, and Ergon Energy throw in $20,000 each.

The following are also financial donors to Advance Cairns: HS Vision Group, GHD Pty Ltd, Telstra Country Wide, Williams Graham & Carman, Tong Sing, The Omega Group, CaPTA Group , Suncorp Group, Shangri-La Hotel, Savills real estate, Sofitel Reef Hotel Casino, Quicksilver Group, Piccones family, Pacific Toyota, MacDonnells Law, and BDO accounting.

Advance Cairns has just updated their website, and it appears that they have removed all references to China, something that was very prominent in the past.

CairnsBlog has been very critical of the amount of attention that this Council-funded body had in China. The former Mayor went on at least 8 trips to China to lead a "trade delegation". Numerous requests for information about outcomes were never answered.

I had never advocated that investing in China, as an emerging market, was contrary to what we should be doing. I merely questioned what ratepayers were seeing in return for such a large annual financial investment. Any shareholder should be asking such questions of their local Council.

Of course local government needs to play a key role in facilitating and stimulating economic growth. They have to guide, assist and lead new and any emerging business to our region.

However, I think it's a fair a reasonable question to ask in the months leading up to the local election. We've contributed around $2m+ to this body, and it would be good to know what we have achieved by this investment.

Whilst I have no doubt that Kevin Byrne would be a formidable candidate for the role, and his relationships with China would be held in good stead, I think we are at a time when we need to question and review the effectiveness of Advance Cairns before we invest one more cent.

I have heard that our new Chinese friendship garden is growing a treat, somewhere in the South of China.

17 comments:

The Dish Pig said...

In view of what is happening in the USA, Chinese investment shouldn't be sneezed at. Yes, we do need something like "Advance Cairns" but if it is funded by the ratepayer, then it must be accountible.

Syd Walker said...

How very tasteless of you Michael, to question welfare programs for those who are faring quite well.

Is nothing sacred on this blog?

Anonymous said...

Here here. Over many years, Cairns ratepayers have contributed the lion’s share of funding to Advance Cairns. So did we get a fair return for our investment? Answer: We don’t know.

Before another dollar of ratepayer’s money goes to this organisation, the new ‘accountable’ Council should be asking the questions: What does Advance Cairns achieve? How are its achievements quantified? And, is it unnecessarily duplicating what is already being done by Tourism Queensland?

Advance Cairns is a creature of Kevin Byrne, and if (as appears likely) he is appointed CEO, I don’t wish to be a funding his ‘significant salary package’ without clear evidence of a quantifiable return.

Michael P Moore said...

Syd: No

Arthur Festerbestertester said...

i think (and earnestly hope) there are too many honest, competent people at advance cairns to allow for the former mayor to bob up there. but i must say that i think advance cairns needs to throw open its books in relation to expenditure in Australia and in china in support of its chinese initiatives so that ratepayers can be sure that their money has been put to good use. transparency and accountability is not something that should be feared by the honest and the competent.

bungyone said...

Advance Cairns should NOT be funded by the ratepayers. The reason for this is that the members of this body are NOT accountable to the ratepayers and NOT elected by them. The Cairns City Council should withdraw its support as soon as possible. Not convinced? Contemplate this then. Every member of Advance Cairns objected to the Heritage Listing of the Aquatic Club House. Members of Advance Cairns have had insider information about land deals. KB has made several trips to China and produced nothing of real value.
If Advanced Cairns was an open book and did something constructive, let them prove it.

Anonymous said...

Advance Cairns could be transparent and accountable ... but not with Kevin Byrne at its helm. Such concepts are abhorrent and alien to a dictatorial control freaks such as he.
Advance Cairns: Don't risk Byrne! He will politicize your organisation. Result; in-fighting, dysfunction and irrelevance.

Arthur Festerbestertester said...

yes indeed bungyone. Very well said (leaving aside the single issue of the aquatic club). for a body that is substantially funded by ratepayers, advance cairns is singularly unrepresentative. looking through the list of donors on this site, and the board members, I am left to ask: where is the arts community, where is the indigenous community, where is the environmental community, where is the non-institutional scientific community, where is the aged/disabled/unemployed community, and so on. And is Val Schier going to be a board member, as the late and unlamented mayor was? I hope not. I think it is a conflict of interest for any politician to be a director. maybe now is the time to have a long hard look at the whole issue of advance cairns.

Syd Walker said...

This reminds me of a 'top of the hill' rumour I picked up during the recent election campaign.

Seemingly reliable sources told me that the accounts of Kuranda's tourism-related funds are not publicly available. Perhaps it's not true?

The larger fund (there are two) is based on a per capita tourist levy on all users of SkyRail and the tourist train. It is administered by the Kuranda Advisory Committee, chaired by Steve Wettenhall MP, who could doubtless clear this up.

I wonder if he reads CairnsBlog?

Can anyone think of a good reason for secrecy in these matters?

I can't.

Anonymous said...

How does that song go....I never wanna see your face again ?
Isnt that what the majority of Cairns residents would say about KB.
Val, please dont insult the ratepayers and residents by having him represent Cairns again overseas.

mandy moo said...

NO NO NO NO NO and NO again Val, please dont let him anywhere near Advance Cairns.

It would have to be
renamed "Advance Kevin", or perhaps "Come...Look how I destroyed Cairns in 8 years" or "Slip me a few dollars and I will see if she will let you build in our Rainforests"

NO NO NO NO NO NO WAY should that man be allowed to get this job.

Anonymous said...

Has ExKing Boob no shame? to continue expanding his vast hidden Eastern Kingdom at the peasants expense ?

The Dish Pig said...

There must be plenty of people in Cairns who could take on the CEO role in "Advance Cairns". The position could be advertised with a selection panel to decide the successful applicant etc. Its role probably needs defining more and accountibility procedures put in place.

Anonymous said...

Advance Cairns should not receive
Council funding,I have yet to see any financial statements from this
body.Byrne of course should not even contemplate joining this group,considering the way the people of Cairns want to see him leave town.

The Dish Pig said...

I disagree, "Anonymous" above. "Advance Cairns" has enormous potential and I am supportive of Council funding on the proviso the positions are called for and it is accountable to the people of Cairns. As I said before, there are many suitable people in Cairns who can head such an organisation.
I do not want however, to see our political parties nominate one of their wealthy, retired members to a plum position where they can earn even more money from the public purse, like engorged pigs snouting at a trough. Enough is enough!

Arthur Festerbestertester said...

Dish Pig must live on Mars. as far as I am aware, no oolitical party has ever nominated a CEO for advance cairns. that's just sensationalist garbage. But u can rest assured that, as always, purely commercial interests (big business) will have the final word on the new CEO. That is because although advance cairns is largely funded from the public purse (mainly the Cairns Council's contribution), it is a totally unrepresentative body. In fact I hear on the grapevine that there is a great deal of opposition in the local Labor Party at least to having ANY political representation on advance cairns, and in particular a seat at the table for the Mayor. There are a number of issues here. One is that advance cairns is unrepresentative of the broad community and is highly secretive about how its public money is used. It needs to fix both problems. The second is that it does nothing of any significance, or appears not to do anything of any significance. It needs to get off its backside and become a much more professional, focussed and full-time, community-wide organisation with the economic and social interests of all of Cairns at heart..

The Dish Pig said...

I never said any political party HAD nominated someone for CEO. I said I didn't want to see it happen. Sheeeeesh, read carefully.