Sunday 16 March 2008

Police presence symbolic

When I attended the final Cairns City Council meeting last Thursday, I was perturbed to see the arrival of two armed police officers, near the chamber doors.

No mention was made to the meeting why they were there. I wondered if there was an incident that required their attendance.

Maurice Milliner from Yorkeys Knob Residents Association was one of the many in the gallery to bid farewell to the old Council, that came into being only eight years ago.

"I was there to see the end of a Council that had progressively distanced itself from the community. We were hoping for a new era in local politics in Cairns," says Milliner.

However, Milliner was also concerned about the police presence at the main doors. "I felt we had a right to know what was going on," said Milliner.

It was later discovered that Mayor Kevin Byrne had order the two police officers attend and 'guard the doors' to the Cairns City Council chambers in case there was any 'dissent'.

He has since commented that, at past meetings, this has happened. I've asked around some long serving Councillors, and cannot find any evidence of this.

I suspect the Mayor was worried someone might yell out 'Good Riddance!' as the final meeting drew to a close. We wouldn't do that Kevin. As much as we were angry about the betrayal of this Council, we have respect for due process and democratic order.

So, the very last Council meeting of Kevin Byrne will go down on his record with the heavy hand of the law holding fort. The symbol of two police offices standing guard will remind everyone the regime they operated under. This is how we will remember Kevin Byrne. I suspect it's only time when some of the 1,000 staff will come forward to share their stories with the public.

The Council Chamber is a sacred space where the peoples' representatives come to debate and consider, to plan and to protect, to celebrate and acknowledge. Yet this last administration saw this as a space to intimidate and strike fear amongst his people. To Byrne's credit, he succeeded in moving forward his single-minded agenda.

I've sat in on many Council meetings where the infamous 'Byrne Button' was used at will to cut off the Councillor's microphone when the chair sees fit. Even last month, when Councillors Sheppard and Cochrane were fiercely debating the Beaches Town Centre plan to include community consultation, Sheppard was abruptly interjected twice as the Mayor allowed Town Planner Tabalo to take the floor. Sheppard will not return to the Chamber under this new Council, but she can justifiably feel proud that she challenged the Mayor to the very end. And for the record, Sno Bonneau's defence of the beaches plan, was tokenistic at best.

Few have stood up effectively in opposition over the last eight years in this chamber. For the last three years at least, we've had a majority of independents, however it's hard to find an example whereby they're used that majority to effect change. One was when they voted against the mayor on not endorsing the Villa Romana extension, however, months on the Council is still playing football with the owner, instead of executing it's mandated motion.

My wish is that the new Mayor will order the Council's sparky to disconnect that silly microphone button before the next Council meeting.

The other change I'd like to see happen in that Chamber, and a few will be surprised by this. The new mayor needs to demolish the high-rise front Mayoral bench. It serves no benefit other than instill a sense of separation from the Council and the people that come to view the proceedings. It makes those that preach from it's pulpit, seem out of touch and disconnected. The Council should all sit at the same level. The same jackhammer Val Schier will take to Villa Romana, should be used to remove that high-set seating that is a legacy of the past and a symbol of arrogance.

No longer will this chamber be used as the tool against the people. Soon it will rise in judgement and it will again belong to us all.

Val Schier has already said that the residents of Cairns will be welcome to speak at the Council meeting. This in itself is an amazing declaration. She will allow a time, at the conclusion of each meeting, for those gathered in the public gallery, to ask questions or express their view so their elected Councillors can listen. Imagine turning up to your footy club monthly meeting and not be allowed to speak?

This is democracy. Like Rudd's ascension, he delivered the ratifying of Kyoto and honouring the apology to a generation of indigenous people, Val Schier will now be given the opportunity to show the 165,000 residents of the new Regional Council area, that she will run a government of the people, for the people.

It is a concept that was foreign to the previous administration and something that we are in dire need of at this point in our growth in Cairns.

The only reason the police would need to visit Council chambers, is to protect what may be lost to the shredder over coming days.


Anonymous said...

I agree, the high rise bench should be done away with.
This ego maniac had it there so he could self title himself "HIS WORSHIP" as shown on council minutes up until early last year.
He WAS now listed in alpha order (chairperson).
The title seemed to change just after I started mentioning to some people and just before the amalgamation announcement,(wouldn't want the state gov seeing it).
Just heard from a reliable source that byrne is trying to get on the board of CEC, this is how you obtain gifts for your favours legally.
Maybe we could cut some holes in the bench, transforming into stocks, place it at the lagoon, put him in it until he rots away.

Anonymous said...

Yes the stocks idea is great, but a bit scary for the tourists !

Didnt they just shoot that guy from Romania ?

Maybe we could do the same!

Anonymous said...

In response to Michael Moore's "Police Prescence Symbolic"

If you seriously think your going to be able to "speak" ... you've got to be kidding?... what a load of crap ... They all have their own agenda's.

And this (LOL)... "Run a government of the people, for the people" ... Yeah right ... what planet are you from? There might be a different face, but it will be the same load of ......

Anonymous said...

Re stocks idea is great.
The place is dying.