Monday 27 October 2008

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.


KitchenSlut said...

The concept that the code of conduct has been breached is bizarre!

Do we really have a CEO and Mayor fixated on that rather than the bread & butter issues and rate rises?

Anonymous said...

Well if Di Forsyth is charged with Breach of Conduct, there will be a flood of breaches publicly aired for the first time and it aint going to look good for CRC and certain Councillors. These breaches have been previously dismissed by Council, but they are very real and are just waiting for a public airing.....

Gail Shaw said...

What a parlous state of affairs when our elected representatives such as Di Forsyth, Julia Leu and Rob Pyne are brow-beaten and bullied - and even in Di Forsyth's case - "investigated" by the Gang of Two for representing and standing up for the wishes and rights of their constituents!

After Val's widely reported meltdown at the re-appointment of CEO Noel Briggs, it now seems the Mayor and the CEO are as cosy an item as Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie.

The real 'Breaches of Conduct' should be addressed to those councillors who simply warm their seats, keep their noses in the trough and ignore issues of vital importance to the people who elected them.

Remember “we value what you value”? That was Val’s election clarion call. We’re yet to see it realised. Sadly, in the case of the Yacht Club, it’s too late.