Friday 31 October 2008

CairnsBlog cartoon by Circusmouse

10% Macca

Councillor Robert Pyne:

  • "I was on MacKenzie [846am Talkback Radio] this morning, and there were a number of callers, about the changes to McLeod Street. We need to listen to them."

Mayor Val Schier:

  • "Well not many listen to him anyway. Only 10% listen. We know this."

Me thinks someone isn't being given any airtime on this little ol radio station.

Cairns Regional Council meeting
Thursday 30th October @ 10:33am approx

The Undoing of Val Schier

Councillor Dianne Forsyth made an appearance yesterday at the Cairns Courthouse. It went much smoother than Michael Jackson with Prince and Paris out shopping in High Street.

Both WIN TV and Channel 7 turned up, along with a pot-pouri of supporters, a number who had previously been convicted of trespass on the Yacht Club demolition site. Bryan Law spoke, as did LNP's Barron River candidate, Wendy Richardson. John Rodden addressed the gathering. He received a 12 month good behaviour bond from the judge.

Fellow Councillor Robert Pyne spoke to those gathered and recounted Voltaire's famous quote about the freedom to speak out. "I [may] disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," Pyne said. "I believe Di acted with the spirit to speak out and represent a large number of residents, and we all should be allowed to enjoy that freedom."

But the day was Di's. Kudos to Abigail at WIN TV for not being distracted about the misdirection of a code of conduct inquiry, as there is no case to answer there. The issue was all about inappropriate highrise development on our waterfront. They also picked up on the ill-feeling from those gathered that Val Schier had not supported her fellow Cairns 1st Councillor.

"I'm very disappointed in Val," long-time supporter Wendy Davie told me, who supporting a change in Cairns local body politics. "I really don't know why the Mayor we all supported and helped get elected has ignored us and this community important issue."

On Channel 7 Mayor Schier said that whilst Di's job was not in jeopardy "I think certainly some of the other (un-named) Councillors believe that [Cr Forsyth] should not have broken the law," she said, raising the code of conduct issue.

Indeed Mayor Val Schier did ignore the Yacht Club issue. She made a decision to stay mum on the subject, falling into line with her State Labor pollys. This issue is almost the last straw for many who wanted a political change in this city, and had put their will and energy behind someone they felt could bring about change and stand up for issues of heritage and preservation. Or at the very least, speak out.

The telling moment was, that after deliberately decided to stay out of the public debate surrounding the protection of the Yacht Club, Mayor Val decided to enter the debate and allow her Council media unit to orchestrate a press conference to undermine her own Councillor, and that of the community action campaign that had been ongoing for six months. The media conference was a sham. Val said she'd take interviews with CEO Noel Briggs, only some four hours after Councillor Forsyth undertook her action of public protest.

Dianne Forsyth scaled the roof of the Yacht Club at 7:02am on Monday 13th October. Telephone calls from the media started to reach Val around 8am. Mark Buttrose had already informed his Cairns 1st leader of Di's actions.

Then at 11:04am, something odd happened.

  • -----Original Message-----
    From: Le Comte Ann []
    Sent: Monday, 13 October 2008 11:04 AM
    Subject: Media alert - Council response to protest action of Councillor Di Forsyth

    Media Alert ~ Council Response to protest action of Councillor Di Forsyth

    Interview opportunity:
    Mayor Cr Val Schier and CEO Noel Briggs
    When: 12:30pm
    Where: Cairns Regional Council, Spence St Office- downstairs
    Contact: Kerie Hull 0417 073 659
I showed up. The Mayor didn't.

So what happened in the 86 minutes following her agreement to participate? Or did she never intend to say a thing, and let the city's highest paid public servant speak about a 'breach of the Councillor's Code of Conduct' that had no complaint at that stage.

What this media circus achieved was to undermine her Councillor, from her own Cairns 1st party. It also undermined the campaign about heritage preservation, which was at the heart of the story that day. I thought that was a subject very dear to Val's left leaning heart?

Her Cairns 1st policy shouted on and on about community engagement. Val said prior to the election she wanted to "build a society in which everyone can participate and everyone can feel safe and supported." Well she didn't even treat her own team with respect that day.

Prior to the Council election, Val Schier said that she would ensure all Council business was open to scrutiny by the general community and that decisions are made with integrity. Again on the issue of the Yacht Club, and Dianne Forsyth's actions that day, she failed miserably in this pre-election promise. She failed Dianne. She failed those that supported her.

In seeking support from the voters before the March election, Val talked of working in partnership with the community to "enhance open spaces, streetscapes etc." This is why we are shocked she's been consumed by the Labor hierarchy and her Council administration. Val, the only people that will re-elect you, is the people of Cairns, not Labor politicians come four years time.

Val Schier also promised to maintain a Natural and Cultural Heritage Register and actively protect places that are important to our community. For her to argue that the Yacht Club was 'done and dusted' means that she doesn't know how to advocate and lobby for change. This is rather frightening. If this issue was turned around, Val Schier could have hung her hat on it and said: 'I made a change. I listened to the people and I showed the State Labor Government that they were wrong on this issue.'

We wanted and needed a Mayor, a city leader, to stand tall, be counted and represent the views of the community, no matter how difficult that is in the face of party politics.

This is yet another damaging PR disaster for her credibility. We all want her to succeed. We want her to perform and engage with the community. We want her to allow us access to the Council and impact change from our side of politics. It's why so many advocated for a change.

If this is all simply a stuff up that Council's media unit created, then she should fire them. However I doubt that it was. Val told me in her office on Wednesday that at the last minute, she had a 'strategy meeting' to go to. "Noel Briggs came into my office and asked if I was coming down to the media conference about Di, and I said ummm, no."

There's something rather repugnant, if not improper, when a $300,000 public servant lectures ratepayers about a code of conduct inquiry that doesn't exist. It merely invited someone to complain.

Val Schier told me that she needs to make decisions about what is important for her to spend her time on. "I don't want to bother myself with those who play in the sandpit." It's a reference I'm still trying to work out. She also acknowledged if she did attend the media conference that morning, she would have said something about not condoning Cr Forsyth's actions, it was an issue she was entitled to speak out on. It was suggested that this direct action of civil disobedience would not have been necessary should the Mayor have successfully got the Premier to a meeting with the Cairns community about the Yacht Club building issue. That is what the whole story was about.

Val left my meeting angry and flustered that her actions and decisions that day had been viewed with great disappointment. The Mayor needs to realise that such decisions have a wide-ranging effect on how people perceive her and what signals that sends out. I asked for a quick photo opp as we stood up. "Nah, I don't think so," she said and she turned her back symbolically.

The sad thing is that such actions and reactions, damage the high office of Mayor. It's a tough job being the city leader. However, you hit this job running, with little settling in. People expect and want their views listened to and at least acknowledged.

"If people want to vote for me in four years, then that is their decision," Val said in parting with our brief 15 minute chat. "If I don't get in then that is also their decision." But it's our job as ratepayers to keep our elected Councillors informed and accountable.

It was another day. Another poor response from the Mayor of our town.

Forsyth's case adjourns till Friday November 21st, so O'Reilly Lawyers can pay for their Christmas staff party.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Another reason to retire from Townsville

The Townsville Bully reports that wallabies are terrorising a retirement village.

They're "knocking over residents and defecating on lawns and patios," the story goes. Check out the gallery of the rogue wallabies from Carlyle Gardens retirement resort!

Personally, I think people who live in Townsville, get what they deserve.

Foley Road: Lessons from the Lookout

You'd have to be stuck in a Council Strategic meeting to have missed this one. I've been rabbiting on about the debacle unfolding up near Palm Cove at Foley Road, for three months now.

A number of concerned residents near the ensuing mud slide, have communicated many horror stories with me about this dodgy development.

Keith Martin is one local resident, who has seen first hand the effects of what this ill-conceived and Council sanctioned development will have. Keith has recounted to me some of the goings on that has allowed this appalling hillside environmental raping to be carried out.

He says that with the current focus on a potential threat of erosion and off-site sediment transport at the Foley Road development, it's interesting to review the response of Council, EPA and the developer the last time a similar incident occurred, just a few kilometres away.

In December 2005 and January 2006, Hedley Constructions commenced clearing and excavation works on a hillslope development at Paradise Palms called 'The Lookout'. This development was an almost identical situation to the Foley Road site – a 9 lot residential subdivision on a steep elevated hillslope. A feature of this development was the construction of a 4 m deep drainage trench, rock-hammered up the hillside just 100 m from Deep Creek, with the associated spoil dumped adjacent. Downstream neighbours feared an imminent sediment inundation threat to their property and to the environment. Council were notified on a number of occasions, including written notification from lawyers.

Despite these pleas to stop the work and stabilize the site for the wet season, the land disturbance was allowed to continue unabated.

When the first storms of the wet season eventuated, masses of sediment escaped from the development site and flowed into neighbouring properties and nearby Deep Creek, an Endangered regional ecosystem. Again, Council were alerted, and again nothing was done. Following further wet weather, neighbouring property owners notified EPA of the issue and, on inspection of the development site, commenced an investigation which eventually led to a successful prosecution. In October 2007, EPA won a court case against Hedley Construction on two counts of unlawful environmental nuisance, and they were fined $90,000 plus court costs. The engineers, CMC Engineering were also fined $20,000 for “contravening a condition of a Cairns City Council development permit”. A press release from EPA, dated 18th October 2007 read in part:
  • EPA Northern Region Director of Environment Rob Lawrence said the $90,000 fine awarded by the court sent a clear message to developers and builders across the state regarding their environmental responsibilities.

    “In this case several hundred metres of a relatively pristine tributary of Deep Creek was contaminated with sediment from the Paradise Palms site.

    “This conviction should serve as a warning to developers and builders in Queensland to make sure they have sediment and erosion control measures in place to protect our waterways from incidents of this kind.”

Given the current situation at Foley Road, have the developers really received that “clear message”, are they solely to blame for the problem anyway, and would EPA step in this time to prosecute if necessary?

It is now clear that the 'Lookout' prosecution did little to improve the environmental performance of the developer at this site. Sediment runoff continued from the site for two wet seasons following the initial complaint. At one point in 2007, sediment laden water was re-directed into the neighbour’s property, nearly flooding the house. There have been numerous breaches of Council regulations and their development permit since then but no subsequent action has ever been taken. Despite all this, in March 2008 the same developer applied to further reduce environment controls over the site, which is within the Conservation Planning Area Code. A Development Approval was submitted to reduce the level of assessment of buildings in the subdivision from 'Impact' to 'Code' assessable. This effectively removes any public notification. Cairns Council approved this application, saying that the previous prosecution was irrelevant.

Are the developers really to blame though? It has to be accepted that they have no interest in environmental protection. They view the approvals process as an annoying hurdle to be jumped before the real work commences. They will do whatever actions they are allowed to do by the regulators within the often vague conditions of their development permit. That is their legal right.

Council is the sole regulator in this case. They approved the development permit, set the environmental performance conditions, and also approved the operational works and soil and erosion plans that EPA and the courts later found to be inadequate. Council was responsible for monitoring the site, and had ample warning from the public that a problem existed. Council had every opportunity to ensure that the environmental breach at 'The Lookout' was avoided, but they did not act to prevent it. You don’t have to be an expert to know that major earthworks on a hillslope in the middle of the wet season is a bad idea.

So how come Council got off scot free in the prosecution? Why did the developer and engineer incur fines, when it was Council - the regulator - who really failed to act in the best interests of the community and the environment?

There is a basic problem. In their quest to develop the Cairns northern beaches to the limit, Council planners continue to support the developers by recommending approval of development applications with minimal regard to the environmental consequences, the community or even their own planning scheme. They attach no substantial conditions to these approvals, even though they are duty bound under the Integrated Planning Act to properly assess and regulate the effects of development. Subsequent Council monitoring and enforcement is weak or non existent, and appears driven only by the level of public complaint.

It now appears that in the case of Foley Road, Council and EPA have assessed the situation, and as a result, Council has instructed the developer to initiate a program of mitigation and stabilization, which is to be commended. Let us hope it is successful.

The trouble is that all this probably would not have occurred if it hadn’t been for the very vocal complaints of locals and community groups, and the subsequent intervention of politicians. At the “Lookout” the site was away from public view and only near neighbours knew what was happening, and they were ignored by Council. It shouldn’t be that way. Council has to start doing the job that ratepayers expect, and it starts with more robust planning assessments. It means rigorous assessment of Development Approvals, serious compliance with existing environmental regulations at all levels, strict approval conditions set, monitoring of job sites, and real enforcement of any breaches found.

This is what the community expects, not excuses and delayed reactions in response to public outrage.


It's been a busy week for me, so apologies for less blogging.

With the State Government in town, and so many drinkies to hob knob off to, however there's a lot to share.

I had a session with Mayor Schier in her private chambers on Wednesday. It was a rather interesting chat, to say the least. This was the first formal interaction we've had since a telephone call we had two days after her March election win. Gotta say, I wish I had worn my surgical gloves before the chinwag.

I also had the delight to talk with various mobs protesting outside the Parliamentary sitting. Very few pollys bothered to engage and talk with them. In fact, as we know the Fire Service were banned from entering the building. Even Springbored [sic] hardly defended their right.

I also had a good natter with Telstra's Wally Donaldson about his plans to put up another mobile data receiver at Clifton Beach, which got voted down by Council today. I'll share more on this separately as the two sides of this debate need a good airing.

And today, the new lad on the block who is challenging Desley Boyle for her luke-warm seat, LNP's new wonder boy Joel Harrop, bribed me with a Mocha at the Corporate Tower coffee shop. The only thing in common with Kevin Byrne, whom many thought would be running, is his army background. However, Joel needs to get at least three defamation cases under his belt to match KB.

This morning I went to the Cairns Courthouse to support Cairns Regional Councillor Di Forsyth's appearance on her trespass charge of the Yacht Club building three weeks ago. Dianne is a rare politician who stood up to be counted. Fellow Councillor Robert Pyne was also there to share some words of support about democracy in our fair city.

Hopefully, sometime Friday, former Val love child, Councillor Julia Leu and I are hoping to sneak off for a catch up. She's really been the surprise in this new Regional Council. I'm sure most locals north of Cairns are delighted Julia is representing the good folk of the Douglas Shire.

Oh, and look out for tomorrow's regular Friday cartoon by Circusmouse. It's a shocker.

If the world could vote

In under a week, on November 4th, America goes to the polls and will choose a new president.

The President of the United States of America is a strategically important head of state, that affects many countries.

Unlike Australia where it's composary to vote, only 64% voted in the 2004 presidential election, up from 60% in 2000. Of 197 million Americans, 72% (142 million) are registered to vote.

So, if you could vote, who would you vote for? Have your vote today!

Genetically modified orgasms

Federal Liberal MP for LaTrobe, Jason Wood made a dickhead of himself recently - your tax dollars hard at work.

In this speech the nuff nuff MP stumbles on many words including "organisms" which he pronounces "orgasms". He assured everyone he hadn't been drinking while addressing the chamber in support of Green party policies. At least that would have been an excuse for his performance.

Maybe he should have gone to a private school? God help us.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Seen, but not heard

They came in their bus loads.
Few pollys came down from their big fat buffet luncheon to see or talk with those protesting.
Police barred anyone protesting or holding placards from up on the Convention Centre sidewalks. They were railroaded across the road, alongside a carpark.
Springborg finally swanned down looking like he'd just been allowed out to play, but failed to address the gathering. He was as silent as he was on the Yacht Club demolition, and appeared to be disinterested and disconnected. Hardly the opposition we are all crying out for right now.
Wendy Richardson and her Cairns LNP counterpart, Joel Harrop, who has pushed ABC's Liam Fox off the Metrosexual Thermometer, both addressed the crowd to say that they are the alternative voice for our region.
Various groups from Barry Neal of Residents Against Crime, Fiona Tulip of the Combined Beaches Residents Association; 20 of our city Ambos; the former City Councillor Annette Shephard of the Anti-Fluoride lobby, and a bunch of non-rate paying residents from the old Douglas Shire all preached to the converted.
And if one more Cairns Post report refers to this as an "historic" Parliamentary sitting, I'll throw up. The only 'historic thing is the way so many disparate and diverse groups are feeling so aggrieved and disenchanted with almost every political party right now.
More photos later today.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Rent a crowd

Times to remember today.

8:30am and 12:45 outside the Cairns Convention Centre.

Be there or be square.

Poles apart at Clifton

Looks like some good news this week for those who've campaigned at Clifton Beach.

It would appear that there will be a community win. This Thursday’s Ordinary Council meeting, Council planners are recommending that the proposed Telstra monopole communications tower for Endeavour Road will not be approved. This was planned for the corner of
Elford Street and Endeavour Road, Clifton Beach.

"The proposal does not comply with Telecommunications Facilities Code of CairnsPlan, specifically P1 of the Community Safety Requirements," Council says. "The submitter believes approval of the application will have detrimental health impacts."

Council says that the proposal compromises the achievement of the Scenic Landscape, which states that the scenic landscape of the city is valued and enjoyed by residents and visitors, and the essential elements of this landscape, the forested hills and foothills and headlands, streams and rivers, wetlands, open spaces and rural land are conserved and enhanced.

You can download the Agenda item from here and read their recommendations.

Should the request for this structure not be approved, then this is community in action and one being listened to. This hasn't happened for some time.

I am sure that this is the first time that the Council planners have taken resident’s submissions and used them to knock back this construction, which was planned for in the middle of a residential area, and right alongside a major road used by visitors to our region. There were 414 community objectors to Telstra's proposed installation.

It is looking like the community may win this fight. The irony is however that everyone wants better mobile phone coverage, yet doesn't want one of these monster transmitters in their back yard.

Monday 27 October 2008

Life imitates art

Green with envy

Political spin is in full swing across the ditch in New Zealand (it's a small island off the East coast), as Kiwis, of which I'm one, go to the polls in less than two weeks.

Incumbent Prime Minister Helen Clark, is struggling to hold the reins for a forth term, to become New Zealand's second longest serving Prime Minister. However, her main rival, the National Party, lead by relatively new-comer John Key, shows that the two major parties are still neck and neck.

Even the minor parties are getting lots of traction. Unlike the Queensland Greens, their New Zealand counterparts have a mainstream-focused campaign. Here's their opening TV statement, which every party enjoys. Enjoy the basic accents.

Councillor Forsyth in Court Thursday

The recent public campaign to highlight the demolition of the Yacht Club building culminated when Cairns Councillor Forsyth scaled the roof, attracting national coverage.

Her actions were remarkable in a modern politician for two reasons. Firstly Councillor Forsyth was actually doing to the best of her ability what her constituents were asking for. In July and August 11,000 citizens (more than 9,000 residents of Cairns and districts) signed a petition to save the historic building. Thousands of these are resident in, and vote in Di’s division.

In September, Councillor Forsyth used her Council-bestowed powers to create a resolution that Cairns Regional Council would seek urgent talks with Premier Anna Bligh to achieve the preservation and adaption of the building for a sustainable Cityport development. Premier Bligh never even had the decency to reply to our Cairns Regional Council.

Councillor Di Forsyth could have, like all the other Councillors, given up in the face of the Premier’s contempt. But Di didn’t give up. Instead Di stuck up for the people who elected her. You don’t see that often enough.

Secondly Di Forsyth showed remarkable personal courage. The roof onto which she climbed was six metres above a concrete laneway. It was wet and dirty and uncomfortable. Di had a safety team, harness, safety rope and hard hat. Her biggest risk was the way security staff employed by the Cairns Port authority attempted to push the ladders and a safety team member off the roof. It took physical courage for Di to climb onto the roof and stick up for her constituents.

More than that, it took intellectual courage and moral integrity for Di to get on the roof. Di knew that she would be attacked for breaking the law. Di also knew that Cairns Ports and the Queensland government were lying to the people of Cairns and treating us with contempt. Di knew that sometimes democracy can only be defended with civil disobedience – like the suffragettes, the civil rights movement, and the union movement. Nonviolence. People Power.
An online CairnsBlog poll showed that the overwhelming majority supported Councillor Di's actions. An equal number asked why wasn't Mayor Val making public comment on the issue. 10 said that it was a stupid thing to do, whilst two wished she had done the protest naked.
Di Forsyth has been savagely attacked for her actions. Mayor Val Schier and Council CEO Noel Briggs have allowed themselves to be railroaded into an “investigation” as to whether Councillor Forsyth has breached the “Code of Conduct”. The nature of this “investigation” is so secret that the media, the public, and Councillor Forsyth aren’t even allowed to know how it’ll be conducted.
The reality is that Noel Briggs, Val Schier and the Cairns Regional Council have no business conducting any kind of “investigation” until the current Court proceedings are completed.

The reality is that Councillor Forsyth will plead guilty to a misdemeanour that is much more trivial than a traffic ticket – although it is marginally more serious than a parking fine.

If Councillor Forsyth is sentenced in the same way that Terry Spackman and Wendy Davie have been, there will be no conviction recorded against her, and not even any fine for her conduct. Wendy and Terry were given good behaviour bonds of between $150 and $300, for between 3 months and six months. This isn’t even a slap on the wrist. It’s certainly no trigger for an “investigation”!

And you know why? Because the behaviour of Terry, Wendy and Di aren’t against any code of conduct. They don’t bring the Council into disrepute. They bring the Cairns Regional Council into credit. They exemplify a code of excellent conduct – a code in which people create justice and democracy by putting their own interests on the line, and by standing up for the interests and rights of those around them.

As citizens of Cairns we now have a choice. Do we accept the infantile politics, and the slick PR lies of Desley Boyle, Steve Wettenhall and Anna Bligh? Or do we get behind Councillor Di Forsyth – and insist that all politicians begin to act forthrightly in meeting the will of their constituents? I bet you can tell what I think.

Councillors Julia Leu (Division 10) and Robert Pyne (Division 3) will be attending the Rally in support of Councillor Forsyth, and will say a few words about the condition of our democracy.

Let’s get two hundred more citizens to the Cairns Courthouse to show our support for Di Forsyth on Thursday 30 October, 8.30 am.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Premier Bligh in Mossman

A welcoming road sign, north of Ellis Beach

They flagged going to Sunday church services in Port Douglas and Mossman today, so they could pray to Anna.
The embattled Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, trekked north to the spiritual heart of the former Douglas Shire, torn apart by the Labor State Government after 152 Councils were amalgamated in March. Around 600 gathering at the local Mossman community hall, to say their piece to the State's top politician. And speak they did.
The Premier encountered an angry group of people, but she stood and endured two and a half hours listening to every one who wanted to raise issues. The State Member for Cook Jason O'Brien was at Anna's side, holding her hand below the lectern.
Even new Cairns Regional Councillor Julia Leu fronted up sporting a 'De-Amalgamate Douglas Now!' Tshirt.

Their hope is that their collective voice was heard and something actually gets done.

Councillor Julia Leu, with Robert Hanan of Friends of Douglas Shire, about to present Premier Anna Bligh with the 2500 signature petition.

Locals were instructed by Police to leave placards outside, so goes the democracy under Labor in Queensland. Maybe Sir Joh was hiding under the floorboards somewhere. They read...

  • 'Anna Jason, listen to the people'
  • 'Kiss our votes bye bye Anna Bligh'
  • 'A Bligh T on our community'
  • 'O'Brien out, Democracy in!'
  • 'We can't wait to De-Amalgamate'

Voice of the people - Tuesday 28th October

This Tuesday is going to be a big wake up call for Desley, Steve, Warren and Jason. Oh, and let's not forget Anna.

You see, it's their Party, and they can cry if they want to.

When the State Parliament sits in Cairns this week, a number of groups are planning to take their respective messages to the Cairns Convention Centre, which will house the State Parliament sitting for two days. This show, however, will have a few more dicks than when Puppetry of the Penis graced this entertainment venue.

'Say no to the Concrete Coast' is being co-ordinated by Cafnec, and they will be joined by the Friends of Douglas Shire, who are organising buses to ferry a large contingent to protest amalgamation with Cairns City Council, and those involved in the fight to save the historic Cairns Yacht Club will also amass their followers.

Co-ordinator of the group to stop the destruction of the Cairns Yacht Club building, Wendy Richardson, who is the Barron River LNP candidate says that this is going to be a peaceful assembly which will demonstrate concern. "I encourage people to bring placards with their messages," she says. "If you want to tell our State Government politicians that you want and expect to be heard, this is the rally to attend."

Representatives from both the Government and Opposition will address the rally and several concerned community groups have been invited to speak.

A flyer has been produced (see right) with a ‘comments’ section at the bottom. This is for anyone to voice concern or write a question. These will be collected at the rally and passed onto the relevant parliamentarians.

Ray Taylor of Little Mulgrave hopes that the coming visit by the Queensland Parliament will provide a unique opportunity for the 'opposition', to challenge the Bligh Government’s total disregard and arrogance on a number of local issues raised by community groups.

"A good starting point would be the issue of the much loved, eighty eight year old, Cairns Yacht Club house, now destroyed," Taylor says. "Furthermore, the question should be raised as to why, the State Government caved in to a Petition of a mere 3000 signatures apposing a $1.7 billion project in Brisbane, when 11,000 signatures to save this old place, here in Cairns, with a population less than 5% of that of Brisbane, is totally rejected."

He is critical of the way protesters were treated with the arm of the law. "Why is it that good honest citizens have to risk fines, imprisonment, their very reputations, in order to see justice done? It must be understood that many of us, here in Far North Queensland see the destruction of this old place as a criminal act and therefore believe it is the perpetrators who should be facing the courts, not good honest citizens."

Ray Taylor says that, when it comes to Far North Queensland issues, the system is just not working.

No doubt there will be a big turnout of protesters and police at the Cairns Convention Centre on Tuesday.

Cairns cultural heritage defended

Jonathan Strauss of the Green Left Weekly writes about those who have stepped up their blockade actions over recent weeks to stop the demolition of the Cairns Yacht Club building and its removal from the Trinity waterfront.

Several activists have been arrested after scaling ladders to sit on the building’s roof or while blocking truck movements. Those arrested include Wendy Davie, Bryan Law and Terry Spackman, and Cairns councillor Di Forsyth.

The campaign against the demolition has registered massive local support. After a large organising meeting in early August a petition with 11,000 signatures was collected. Two rallies, each attracting more than 100 people, have also been held. A motion put to the Cairns Regional Council by Forsyth opposing the demolition was successful.

The building is one of the few remaining older buildings in the city centre. It is an outstanding example of the city’s heritage.

The building, with its renowned sprung floor, has been an important meeting place and dance hall for many decades. The Yacht Club’s wharves served as the docks for much of the local boating traffic, including the former ferry serving the Indigenous Yarrabah community.

Local activists have previously sought heritage listing for the building, only to have these efforts stymied by state governments and the former local council. They propose the building be the site of a heritage museum.

However, the Cairns Port Authority, which owns the site and has the support of the state government, has been determined to get rid of the building and replace it with a high-rise hotel or apartment development largely inaccessible to the public.

Is Phil Hartwig waking up?

CairnsBlog readers will be well aware of the expose I've done on the debacle unfolding up near Palm Cove at Foley Road.

It is all about uncontrolled sediment run, just like False Cape. You know, the development at East Trinity that Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett closed down pending a clean-up by Cairns Regional Council. Interestingly enough, Council in their wisdom have decided to use ratepayers money to fund the clean up exercise at False Cape, and bill the owner, one John Ewens. Why they simply didn't dip in and use the $650,000 bond that they are meant to be holding, is beyond me. The Safe False Cape folk are still ever vigilant about this project and I doubt we've seen or heard the end of this rogue developer.

Meanwhile, back to Sediment Run-Off Criminal Number 2. Mr Hartwig.

The Combined Beaches Community Association first bought this site to the attention of the Government and Council a long while ago. At first they were exchanging information, then Federal inspectors visited the site at the same as the False Cape white coats were in town.

The wall of silence came from the EPA office, so the Beaches Association took me for a look at the site three months ago. Of course, I was shocked at was unveiling at this steep development site, and it was all being done by one man and his big yellow bulldozer.

Now I'm no expert on sediment controls or run offs, but this is 101 environment protection science. Community environmentalist and water watchdog, 71-year-old Terry Spackman, has been policing building and development sites for more than 10 years now, bringing his 'WaterWatch' results to the attention of Council officers. Just a couple of months ago, he shouted himself a nice Sony Handicam, and it's proved an invaluable tool in exposing rouge developers like Phil Hartwig at Foley Road and John Ewens at False Cape. Here's the video Terry and I filmed last month. This embarrassed Council and showed them up. Our objective it's not to be high and mighty, it's simply to get some action and make sure they're doing their job. We want Council officers to wake up to what's going on under their nose.

Last week an email was received from Lana Gishkariany about Foyley Road. Lana is the assistant policy advisor for the Office of the Minister for Sustainability. She said that the Environmental Protection Agency had received complaints from local community groups about sediment runoff on a property at Foley Road. Serious?! This is finally an admission that there is a problem, and just weeks before our wet season is about to take most of the Foley Road dirt into every river and creek below it, then the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will cop the rest.

There were a couple of statements in Lana's email, including:

  • ‘Please note that the EPA is not a concurrence agency for this proposal and hence has no role in the approval and conditioning of the project’.
This is very interesting because although this development has been under construction for about two years, and was passed by Council under the non-transparent process of Delegate Authority. The EPA were not a concurrent agency at this time. Serious questions need to be asked why not, given the significant hillslope area and proximity being adjacent to the Wet Tropics Management Area, vegetation codes and waterway category of Sweet Creek.

This issue was later rectified when another subdivision went before Cairns Regional Council earlier this year (July 2008 – Lot 2RP808351) involving 19 Lots in a parcel of land situated below Mr Hartwig’s property. If you drive up Foley Road, on the left of Captain Cook highway heading north, this new approved sub-division is at the end of the road on the right.

Council’s recommendation in this approval was that lots 13-18 (6 Lots) did not comply with Hillslope, Vegetation and Conservation, and Waterways Significance Codes. Both Department of Natural Resources and the EPA were concurrent agencies in this approval.
  • Hence, ‘the EPA advised Cairns Regional Council that they will not be investigating this matter at this stage, as CRC has the jurisdiction and necessary tools under the Integrated Planning Act 1997 and Environmental Protection Act 1994 to investigate and deal with sediment runoff concerns.’

This statement is interesting because it clearly identifies the Cairns Regional Council as having responsibility for all future run-off and sedimentation problems on the Foley Road site. Now are we shocked or surprised by this admission? What should surprise us is that Council are lame in the extreme at policing and ensuring controls are in place of approved Development Approvals. You'd think that's why us ratepayers pay them.

During a visit to Foley Road yesterday, it appears the developer has been made to stabilize the benched blocks with some sort of white material with planted grass being seen to be growing out of this material. Has Council made this rogue developer do something to stabilize the site?

Let's hope that this is enough to stop the whole slope from coming down over the next few weeks as our annual wet season kicks in so that further runoff from this site is prevented.

Update on Fearnley Creek drain shame

Three weeks ago I reported about the filth in and around the Fearnley Street Creek. We called it the Council's Drain Shame.

Molly informs me that the majority of rubbish in the overflow drain has been removed by person's unknown. This is a great improvement.

However, the bridge across the main drain and the crack in the bike path, still requires urgent repair before someone damages themselves.

Where's a good Council worker when you need one?

Quote of the week

When the Daily News closed, Mike Royko worked for its allied morning newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times.

In 1984, when Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun-Times, for whom he said he would never work:
"No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch paper."

Friday 24 October 2008

Sarah Palin is a Porn Star

If you think Sarah Palin is scary, you should listen to Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann. This week she called for an investigation to get rid of "anti-American" sentiment.

Supporters of her opponent, Elwin Tinklenberg (I kid you not) pledged $500,000 a million dollars for her campaign with hours of her ranting.

And if you want to see who has been chosen to play Sarah Palin in a porn movie, click here.

CairnsBlog cartoon by Circusmouse

Thursday 23 October 2008

FNQ and climate change: Where’s the plan?

Syd Walker took along his crap detector when local MP Steve Wettenhall came for a spin up to Kuranda

Last week I attended a meeting in Kuranda called by local State MP Steve Wettenhall.

Steve has organized a number of similar sessions around the electorate. I decided to go along.

In Kuranda, attendees were small in number, but there was talent in the room: several experienced conservationists, a local expert in alternative energy technology and others with various interests in sustainable living.

Rather laboriously, Steve worked his way through government-prepared documentation. With a straight face, he apologized for the lack of a PowerPoint presentation. He took questions, but the main intent was clear: to show that (Labor) governments, State and Federal, are responding responsibly to the issue of climate change.

Eventually a more free-ranging Q & A broke out. I asked Steve if work had been done to analyze the FNQs greenhouse footprint. What sector makes the biggest contribution to our greenhouse emissions? And how does FNQ compare with Queensland and Australia as a whole?

Steve responded that transport was the biggest factor in FNQ’s emissions.

I leveraged his answer to raise my pet theme: rail.

I’m convinced that a modern rail system – in the Cairns area and on the tablelands – is a necessary investment for this generation. Steve knows this already. CairnsBlog readers may know it too. It’s said I have a fetish about rail.

As expected (based on past performance), Steve was dismissive. He waxed lyrical about the State Government’s sensible bus initiatives. Rail, he said, is not conceivable in places like FNQ, with such a low population base. Far too expensive! Rail is for cities…

I responded that it’s misleading to imply we need to become a city before we merit an urban rail system. FNQ is more comparable to a single rail line. We need rail to connect our main population centers in the Cairns-Tablelands region – not every small rural township.

Steve’s reply was that all this had been considered at the time of the State’s Integrated Transport Strategy several years ago. Rail for mass transit was ruled out then as a serious option. That’s it. End of story.

But is it?

The Integrated Transport Strategy was a follow up to the first regional plan, FNQ 2010. At the time, the Beattie Government’s focus was to justify building a 4-Lane Highway on the Kuranda Range, a pet project of the powerful Department of Main Roads. It had to consider alternatives (that is, to dismiss them as not feasible) as part of the environmental impact assessment process. Naturally, the ITS did not disappoint Highway advocates.

But there is a more fundamental reason why the ITS provides no adequate basis for the current government making rational decisions about transport infrastructure investment in FNQ.

In effect, it was written at a time when no governments in Australia acted as though greenhouse emission targets will require very significant adjustments to our way of life.

Last week, the British Government committed to an 80% reduction by mid century. There are compelling grounds for believing that’s the way the whole of the developed world must head, if we are to stabilize the climate.

Steve Wettenhall has a background in the environment movement and is fundamentally a decent human being, so it pains me to claim that he simply hasn’t ‘got it’ when it comes to climate change. To be fair, he’s not alone. Most of his party – and probably most of the general community at this time – are in a similar frame of mind. The penny hasn’t dropped.

Here’s my challenge to Steve Wettenhall, the planners at FNQ 2025 - and anyone else who imagines that anything resembling business as usual will suffice in the coming years. Show me the broad outlines of a strategy that delivers close to 80% reductions in FNQ greenhouse emissions which does NOT include a modern rail system. I doubt you can. But by all means prove me wrong.

I think with rail (and many other measures, not only in the area of transport) such reductions are conceivable and compatible with a high quality of life. But I’m not in government. You are.

Governments have custody of the public purse and resources to come up with well-researched, comprehensive plans. They can commission experts and put them to work. So, where are the Bligh Government’s plans for major greenhouse reductions in FNQ?

The answer, I suspect, is that such plans don’t exist. The government is still not really serious about grappling with climate change. Our FNQ MPs aren’t serious. They pay lip service, but in their heart of hearts, they can’t be serious.

If they were, they’d deliver a real strategy for change – or at least be angst ridden because it doesn’t yet exist. They’d insist that FNQ 2025 – the soon to be released new regional plan – is consistent with a deep greenhouse emissions target. As it is, they seem to act more like PR agents for business as usual.

It’s the same across a plethora of policy areas, State and National.

If lazy, conformist politicians can get away with business as usual, they will. To break the mould requires leadership and conviction. It takes guts to question entrenched beliefs.

Previous generations, with far fewer resources and less advanced technology, built rail systems. As a New Zealander attending the meeting pointed out, Christchurch is a city/region with rail and a fairly low population. I did some Googling after the meeting. Apparently those railways are a legacy of 1930s recession-busting. Yes, Christchurch’s population is roughly double FNQ’s today; however, its rail system is popular and still expanding.

But then, previous generations were often capable of doing new things. They built a public health system. They created public libraries (can anyone imagine today’s politicians proposing such an outrageous idea – Liberal or Labor?). They did foolish things too – but at least they found the courage to design and implement audacious schemes for the greater public good.

We need less spin and more direction from our current crop of local politicians. I’d have more faith if they had fewer glib pre-prepared answers and showed more interest in questions.

With a modern rail backbone, FNQ could develop in nodes around stations: towns, large villages and key Cairns suburbs. It's a development pattern far more conducive to overall sustainability than car-reliant sprawl. We’d stand a chance of meeting greenhouse targets. We’d be more resilient in the event of global fuel scarcity. What's more, we'd have built the beginnings of a sustainable transport system on the tablelands as some insurance against the quite conceivable circumstance that, within the next century, we are forced to abandon the coastal plains.

But hey – I may be wrong. There could be better ways to invest the resources and skills of this generation so those in the future cope better with pressures we can confidently predict they will face.

Maybe the government has a better plan?

If so, where is it?

The Good Ship KB is sinking

Ask yourself, were you had with the nearly half a mill of our rates going to KB's after mayor party ship?

I think someone should walk the plank for this one.

Could Desley Boyle really be President?

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Boyle refuses to help

Those that questioned the practises surrounding the demolition of the 100 year old Yacht Club building, had strong reason to believe something was not going right.

Even Jan Wegnar, Professor of History and Heritage at James Cook University, slammed the way the building was pulled down. Nothing was recorded, and the notable unique ceiling was totally destroyed. We all saw large skips filled and dumped. The workers had no experience in deconstructing an historic building and were simply engaged to demolish the building, on the instruction on the Labor government.

Two large historic signs, uncovered in the last days of the demolition, were revealed and discovered for the first time in more than 60 years. Aquatic Dance Palias and Cairns Sailing Club were hand-painted in period typography on the Wharf Street facing weatherboard wall.

In an exercise of embarrassing PR, the Port Authority ordered Anton Demolitions to cover them up with black plastic, so the public and passing tourists could not see the historic value of the site. There is now a hunt to get these signs back, after one was chainsawed out and thrown in a rubbish skip.

Here's a conversation with Martin Anton of Anton Demolitions...
  • "Mr Anton, this is Anne Jackson with PADYC (People against Demolishing the Yacht Club). I believe the signs that were taken down were put in a skip. I would like to know what is happening with them."

    "They are in my possession, I have them and other artifacts from the site," Martin Anton replied.

    "What are you going to do with them?" Anne questioned.

    "I don't know yet."

    "When you do, would you please call me and let me know, I would appreciate it very much, thank you."


However, the Member for Cairns has overnight become an expert archaeologist and knows what was worth salvaging form the site and what was not.

We asked Desley Boyle to retrieve these important artifacts from Martin Anton.

"[The] sign is on wood that is rotten and unsalvageable," Boyle said.

"Others are property of Cairns Yacht Club and so it's their decision as to where they go. Cairns Ports says the core of building (and dance floor) is OK and will go to JCU as announced."

In fact the signs were not rotten, as the embattled politician would have us believe. They were cut out in haste to chop the building in half, and the lads from the demolition company failed to appreciate the significance.

What a bloody ding bat these so called-representatives of the people are. It's possible to save articles millions of years old, yet Desley believes that such memorabilia is not OK. I guess it's because Desley will be flat out saving her self from political history.

I am informed that if it was a demolition, then everything belongs to the demolishers, but a relocation has different rules. So goes the spin from the government. You really have to question the lack of involvement of the current Yacht Club committee in all this sad and drawn out saga. They have been somewhat compliant to this environmental and heritage vandalism. What does Commodore Warner Ferguson has to say about how the building demolition has been handled.

The Member for Cairns has also been silent on the call for an archaeological dig on the historic site. On behalf of the people of Cairns, I will put the call to Desley Boyle again today.

Bye bye Villa

After a year of arguing the former mayor's favourite watering hole is about to be bought down to size.
Villa Romana's illegal external Aplin Street wall, which claimed an extra 53sq meters of public footpath along the way, was torn down yesterday.
The de-construction work being done by Col Neate, of Neater Homes and Paramount Rentals. The word on the street is that none of the commercial contractors would touch the project, so owner George ended up hiring a home builder to remove the illegal external wall.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Professor calls for archelogical dig

When you reflect on the adjectives used around the Yacht Club building, it makes for some interesting analysis.

It wasn't until the building was stripped back, and she sat alongside a number of full rubbish skips of debris that Port Authority chief Neil Quinn admitted there was some 'historic' parts of the old building. This was in contrast to his defiance over the last four years that the building had no history that needed to be preserved.

Almost every protester who stood before a judge at the Cairns Courthouse over the last three weeks, was told they were disrupting the 'demolition'. It was a sad, but accurate description.

However local Labor politicians never expected such fallout. Barron River's Steve Wettenhall and Cairns' Desley Boyle genuinely believed that they were 'saving' the old building for posterity by 'relocating'. "It's better than demolishing it," Wettenhall said.

History and Heritage professor at JCU Jan Wegnar has been very critical of the way in which the Port Authority has undertaken the move. None of the interior was kept, and historic hand-painted lettering was chain-sawed through and thrown in the rubbish skip, as the rush to clear the site reached fever pitch.

It was the early removal of the roof, to stop protestors climbing on top, that encouraged the Port Authority to remove the roofing, without any plan to protect the Black Bean dance floor. Waterproof tarps were left rolled up for the secrurty gards to unravel. They never did.

Professor Wagner also asks about the slatted ceiling. "It was a major heritage feature of the building," she says. "I automatically expected it would go to JCU with the rest of the place but I've just queried them and found they weren't expecting the ceiling to come at all."

John Mickel, now minister of Transport and a director of the Cairns Port Authority, was Minister for Heritage not that long ago. In his new role, he had a vested interest to clear this site. As Heritage Minister he was apparently copping a lot of flak from developers who were annoyed by people putting in Heritage Register nominations on the properties they were about to demolish/develop. Mickel started a secret inquiry into heritage processes in Queensland and then brought in an Act which has had the effect of putting the State's heritage processes more under the control of government.

He's well-known as a hard-liner and unsympathetic to heritage.

"I suspect that a lot of the government's non-responsiveness over the Cairns Yacht Club building comes from Mickel being the minister in charge of the Port Authority," says Professor Wegnar.

Jan Wegnar has called for an archaeological dig on the Wharf Street site now laid bare. "Who knows what is buried below that site. After nearly 100 years there will be numerous items that made their way below the floorboards," Wegnar says.

"At the very least, an archaeological inspection should occur."

Cairns Regional Councillor Julia Leu says what has happened is absolutely outrageous. "Their days are definitely numbered up here," she says.

Councillor Leu was sorry she was unable to physically be at the Yacht Club protests, living north of Port Douglas at Daintree. "Fitting everything is a nightmare," Councillor Leu said. "Di [Forsyth] knows that I fully support her, I rang her the day she was arrested - outraged by the response by most Councillors," Leu said. "However, not unexpected. What a gutless mob!"

However, given the way the Cairns Port Authority, with the blind support of the State Government and local politicians has acted towards retaining this old building, it's unlikely they will entertain such an exercise.

When Rusty Market was redeveloped five years ago, two months of digging unearthed many remnants of Chinese workers and various items that dated back to the early settlement of Cairns.

So this whole Yacht Club saga was not a relocation at all. It was destruction and demolition. Not by any other word. Many have lost their faith in the political process through the demolition of the old Yachtie.

So where to from here? The waterfront is the next battle line.

Cairns architect Mark Buttrose says that we need to put pressure on the Premier Anna. "We need to ensure our waterfront becomes an asset to the community and not a liability," he says. Bligh has finally rejected the waterfront scheme opposite Southbank in Brisbane.

The State Government have just announced that they have canned the North Bank Development after spending $5 million and six years pondering about. Deputy Premier Paul Lucas said it had nothing to do with the credit crisis, but it might have a lot to do with developers going belly up everywhere and the State's $50 billion debt.

"The Government always indicated that we wanted people to have a say," Lucas said. What an insult to the people of Cairns. This is the same Government that didn't listen to 11,500 residents. Lucas went on to say that people had a say in almost 2,300 submissions; 93% were against the development. This is supreme political two-facedness, when there was five times more objectors in Cairns.

Even former Mayor Kevin Byrne wants to throw up when he hears of Captain Bligh in a hat hat spouting about all things South East Queensland.

Bligh infamously said that she was "going to govern equally for all Queenslanders" when she took over from Beattie.

We now know this is not the case.

Monday 20 October 2008

Oh, to be a VP, or not

  • "We were making a list of who are some celebrity singers who could come out and help us and gosh, for the life of us, the pickins were slim there.

    Who's quasi-conservative out there in the celebrity land?"
    - Sarah Palin

A fish out of water

The old 100-year old Cairns Yacht Club building or what's left of it, is now sitting on a vacant slab of land, 24 klms north of it's original and historic waterfront site.

Thanks to the Labor government, especially Member for Cairns Desley Boyle, everyone can marvel at her foresight and clever town planning. Good one Desley!

Thanks to JCU Student President, Billy Colles for these photos.

Postcards to Brisbane

Thanks to Bryan Law for these photos.

Bligh in Mossman

From the fire to the frying pan, Premier Bligh will attend a public meeting at Mossman while the State Parliament sits in Cairns this Sunday.

Anna Bligh will be convening the meeting on Sunday 26th October at the Mossman Shire Hall, in Mill Street at 1pm. A full notice will appear in this week's Gazette.

The State government will get the weight of public anger when they hold their Parliamentary sitting in Cairns.

In what many will call another crazy idea, Bligh will bring her full government team to Cairns, just days after they've cleared the last remaining historic building from the waterfront against huge public opposition, on top of the anger from Douglas Shire residents and the large lobby group Residents Against Crime. That's a lot of messages for these blind and deaf politicians to digest.

A large protest is planned for next Tuesday 28th October, at the Cairns Convention Centre. 12:45 – assembling on Grafton Street side of the Convention Centre.

Richardson replies to Emily

CairnsBlog commenter Emily said she is totally sick and tired of this Labour Govt.

"I would like to ask Wendy Richardson if she will actually continue listening to people if she were to get elected?" she asked in a post over the weekend.

"We have just had local elections and we all know that promises have and will again be broken. My question is will you listen to people and then act? Will you cross the floor if your electorate asks you to do it? Or will you just tow the party line as soon as elected and forget those who put you there?"

Emily hopes that whoever wins this next election, we have some good Independents or Greens who will hold the balance of power. "It is the only way Queensland has any chance of democracy, since the Parliament is a unicameral system," she says. "Remember Liz Cunningham anyone? She is the only reason that the last National Government was unable to fulfil it's plan to destroy the Daintree."

Wendy Richardson replies...
  • Emily, I guarantee you that I will stand up for the people.

    My middle name is ‘Joy’ but I sometimes think it should have been ‘Fair’. I cannot abide injustice or situations that are not fair and I will always seek to defend a situation where prejudice or ‘bullying’ tactics exist. I, like Sue, am appalled at the way this government and the Port Authority have behaved. It is not over yet! The first principle of Cityport’s plan was that it should be a cooperative planning venture between them and the Council and the people. It has moved a long way from that over the last decade.

    The whole Yacht Club issue is just one example of my stance on the people’s issues. I was well aware when I took it on in 2006 and again this year, that there were some powerful people locally in my own political arena and the community generally, who did not want me to do this, yet I persevered despite the fact that I ran a real risk of alienation over it. The battle to save it has been arduous – many, many hours writing emails and heritage applications, having meetings, endless phone calls, reading legislation, trying to get legal help … the list goes on. And all while I held down jobs and cared for family. I’m not complaining, but believe me it was not a ‘hobby’.

    It was done too because I could see the anguish people were feeling and I wanted to do my best to help them on a matter that I personally support; the preservation and promotion of our history. It was always going to be a political battle because the people forcing the loss of the building were a government and its statutory authority. I don’t see how it could have been anything else. However, I assert yet again it was not done to get me political brownie points – that was something that came out of it, but it was not my goal. I would have far rather saved the building and gotten no publicity for me, but that wasn’t possible.

    I have been asked to stand as an Independent for the next election many times by many people, and I assure you and others, I completely understand why. I understand the cynicism and bitter disappointment that everyone is feeling towards politicians generally. However, I believe there ARE good people out there who can be true representatives, independent thinkers, and stand up for their constituents while still being members of a party. These people can change party policy and culture from within if they are strong enough to persist with their arguments on behalf of the people.

    Barnaby Joyce would have to be a prime example of this.

    The benefits of being part of a party though are many, including for the electorate. Policy development is an enormous task if policies are to be thoroughly thought out and researched. Having a team who can share this load is a great advantage. Another consideration is that independents can find it very difficult to gain benefits for their electorate UNLESS they hold balance of power. Being an independent is an electoral gamble that could result in a member’s voice being drowned out, no matter how much you speak up. And I have no intention of being drowned out!

    All I can say to you Emily is that when people have asked me “Why do you want to get into this dirty game of politics, Wendy?’ I answer, ‘We can’t just leave it to the b*#@*#’s to run the country can we?’

    I believe LNP is not just a stitched together assembly of two old parties. I believe there is fresh thinking and a change for the better including in environmental and social policies. Recent announcements on LNP’s Alternative Energy and Education policies prove this to me.

    I also believe that they want strong, independently-minded representatives for the people; that they want to know what’s happening and what’s needed in the regional areas – and I intend to tell them!

    So Emily, keep speaking up – I’m listening.

    Wendy Richardson
    LNP Candidate for Barron River
    Ph 4034 2248 / Mob 0418 196 011

Sharon in court this morning

Sharon Powell, who scaled the fence at the Cairns Yacht Club building, will appear in court this morning, to answer charges of trespass.

Sharon was one of a number of Cairns residents that have been incensed that their government has ignored repeated calls to preserve and protect a significant historical building on our waterfront.

Please show your support this morning at the Cairns Courthouse, Sheridan Street this morning.

Restful weekend

Well, I had a rather restful weekend, away from historic roofs and serial activists.

I did some law-abiding gardening and work around the property. Long overdue.

I have a list of pre-wet-season things to do, however my tasks pails into insignificance when you look at what Council has to deal with at False Cape in the next three weeks.

Then there's Foley Road up near Palm Cove. What a disgrace that place is, yet Council's mud police couldn't see a thing wrong when they went for a drive by in the air con inspection vehicles. I think they have a sediment trap outside the door of the planning department.

Terry Spackman and I have our Blog camera pointed at some other environmental time bombs for all to see.

If you spot some dodgy development in your neighbourhood, drop me a line and this new Citizen's Watch army will allow everyone to see what's going on.

Friday 17 October 2008

CairnsBlog cartoon by Circusmouse

The Culture of Labor

This morning I wake up to the news that Leichhardt Federal Labor MP, Jim Turnour believes a cultural strategy would enhance our region.

He says this on the day his Environment Minister and his local State colleagues tore one of the last remaining significant heritage assets out of the heart of Cairns.

What do these people take us for? Stupid?

Last month Boyle ranted on about cleaning up the CBD, and the other day she gave $20,000 to put a 'Cultural Tourism Strategy' together. A bunch of pre-schoolers from Parramatta State School could do this while waiting for the bus this afternoon.

Boyle's been in office for how long now, and as Tourism Minister for how long now? Yet she wants a 'strategy'. Well, here's an idea. How about stop stuffing up and taking the heart out of our city.

The new walled perimeter being constructed along the Trinity waterfront that Labor has endorsed and got it's dirty paws in, is not something that will attract visitors to this part of Australia. When you hear these announcements, in the election year, you know a political party is desperate and out of ideas.

With the best will in the would, local arts lobby group Arts Nexus, will help develop this strategy, however night clubs and live entertainment venues have been stripped from our fair city over the last four years at an alarming rate.

I agree with the Mayor that the so-called Festival Cairns is a farce. Nothing more than a collection of things already happening, stuck on one piece of paper parading under a $300,000 logo. What a joke. I've done my share of festivals from Edinburgh to Wellington, from London to Tokyo, and this one here is embarrassing at the least and a corporate con job at worst.

Boyle says that the strategy will take a new approach to marketing our local tourism. "It'll broaden our already world-famous eco-tourism products to include the best of what we have to offer culturally.'' Of course, hot of the heals, wearing her demolition boots, this statement is laughable. We could have had a stunning tourism icon, a legacy to this city, but Wettenhall and Boyle et all, lack any vision to manifest such a venture. The money-hungry, debt-riden State government is making decisions on how to get money in, and if that means selling off waterways access and waterfront views to the highest bidder, then they will.

Desley wants to make sure that visitors not only enjoy our beautiful Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, but also when they wander into the city to see our wonderful Indigenous art galleries, vibrant cultural festivals and talented local musicians. Now there's a quote that will come to haunt her come the next election.

Even Turnour is on the bandwagon. Jim believes that cultural tourism has the potential to create jobs and stimulate the local economy. Well where was he on the waterfront demolition gang this month? Another polly that didn't say SFA and therefore was complicit by neglect.

From environmental mis-management to heritage raping, Labor is a party that cannot connect with the people. They've lost the ability to represent and defend for the people, in riding rough shot over those that matter most in a democracy.

As Roof top protester Terry Spackman says that Labor's handling of the Yacht Club issue is abhorrent . "I fear, that as a result, the 100+ year history of Labor representing Cairns, will suffer the same fate as the Yacht Club Building."

Thursday 16 October 2008

A week is a long time in politics

After along and at times disparate Yacht Club campaign, bringing to the attention of the community and expose our politicians hypocrisy, serial doer Bryan Law reflects on the effort to protect our heritage.

There were plenty of tears today as a small group of us gathered and watched the heavy machinery tear into the timbers of the Aquatic Dance Palais.

Mark Buttrose swung by early and photographed the destruction. Mark says that all pretense is gone now, and the demolition process has so destroyed the building that it will never be put back up.

When the big truck with the roof trusses started to leave the site, Wendy Davies stepped forward and stood in its path. Wendy was staunch in her determination and refused to leave when directed by Police. So effectively that Police arrested her and charged her with 'contravening a Police direction'. Wendy stayed in the watch-house till 3.30pm, and will re-appear at Court No 1 at 9.30am Friday. The arresting police officer was brusque to brutal with Wendy.

I lay down in front of the truck and was carefully relocated by Police into a Paddy Wagon. I was driven to the watch-house and released with a 'move on' direction to stay away from that section of Wharf Street. I came back to the Casino (across the road) and planned a little action where I trespassed on the demolition site. Rather than stop the machinery and wait for Police once I got on site, I was assaulted and ejected from the site by workers from Anton Demolitions. Then police arrested and charged me.

I feel bad that maybe I asked people to do too much. I seem to always do that.

I see from the e-mail traffic that many folk are coming to that hard place where the building itself is lost, and there’s a relentless effort by our various opponents in government and media to belittle and undermine our efforts. That Cairns Post article by Roger Dickson on 'Wet’n No Balls' is a classic example of distraction and ridicule. The infantalising of politics.

Another example is the deliberate manufacture of allegations that Di Forsyth has somehow offended against the Cairns Regional Council Code of Conduct. What piffle, and yet it has been used to guide discussion of the issues – while democratic accountability and the petition of 11,000 has been left out.

The direct action campaign is over. There is no more that can be done. I’m looking forward to a week of getting back to chores and everyday responsibilities. Go for a swim. See a movie.

But I’m also going to follow through on some of the problems disclosed during our brief moments of defiance.

I’m going to Cairns Court Friday morning to support Wendy Davies, and on 24 October for Sharon Powell, and 30th October for Di Forsyth and John Rodden.

I think that for Councillor Di Forsyth, I’d like to organise a presence of scores of citizens to express support for her efforts at sticking up for People before Profit. We still face the issue of strengthening democratic culture. Supporting good women like Di is one way of doing that.

I’m going to follow through on complaints to Police and Cairns Port Authority about actual violence used by workers and security guards during this week’s direct actions (ladder pushing and assault). This is to increase safety and respect in future protests and dissent, and generally to pursue nonviolent culture.

I’m going to continue questioning our MPs Desley Boyle, Steve Wettenhall, Mayor Val Schier, and various others about their conduct in relation to this issue.

I’m going to question Wendy Richardson and other candidates for election about what they’d do differently, and how they’ll develop Cairns waterfront.

Thank you everyone.