Friday, 31 October 2008

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 [
    mailto:a.lecomte@cairns.qld.gov.au]
    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.

19 comments:

J Pentridge, Cityview said...

Have a read of the Cairns First website.. think it's cairns1st.org.au and count the thing Val has betrayed those who voted for her mob. I bet she really didn't belive all the spin back then? Maybe she did and she simply just wanted the job...

Tweetie Bird said...

We are with you all the way Di, way to go!

Rob Williams, President Cairns Tropic Jazz Club said...

If Anne Le Compte still has a job she is lucky. To embarrass the Mayor by making an appointment with the public that the Mayor did not know about is a sackable offence when I was in business.

On the other hand no one would want to think that Val was treating you all with contempt, would you? Were there any public apologies made?

Janine Aitken said...

While I can't speak for everyone who ran on the Cairns 1st ticket, I can say that I still stand for and value the issues we campaigned on such as heritage, sustainable development, community consultation etc.

Syd Walker said...

A footote on the famous Voltaire quaotation, cited by Rob Pyne. According to Frech Literature Professor Robert Faurisson:

"It is by mistake that the following remark is attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, sometimes with the adjunct “Monsieur l’abbé…”.

In reality, a London author, in a book published in 1906, wrote the following, on the subject of the attitude taken by Voltaire in case of intense disagreement with an adversary: ”I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it was his attitude now.” The author was called Stephen G. Tallentyre (real name: Evelyn B. Hall) and the book was entitled The Friends of Voltaire. Source : Paul F. Boller Jr and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions, New York and Oxford, O.U.P., 1989, p. 124-126. Such,anyway, is the information that I have drawn from an article in L’Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux (Nov. 1993, p. 1157), kindly sent to me seven years ago by the Belgian revisionist Pierre Moreau, to whom I had confided my failure to find the remark in any of Voltaire’s writings."


That suprised me whe I read it, as I'd often used the 'famous' Voltaire quotation myself.

Perhaps some FNQ scholars can prove Faurisson wrong?

NorthernBeaches Observer said...

Syd Walker bleated: "Perhaps some FNQ scholars can prove Faurisson wrong?"

FNQ Scholars? All moved interstate. Just hillbillys like you left Syd.

Paul Matthews said...

.... don't you mob think Val's job is hard enough without your constant badgering. The CP, "little" John and this blog seems to derive great satisfaction from pilloring the mayor. The Cairns 1st policies that Val, myself and others worked on over the 5 years prior to the election still ring true and underline many of council's decisions, although not having the numbers( for which I must accept some responsibility), makes life far from perfect. Look at the positives: A fully funded upgrade of our sewerage treament plants so that recycled water can be included in new developments; Land aquisition at Edmonton for future sporting facilities; A new Environmental Sustainabilty Officer to develop sutainabilty indicators across all areas of council; pressing for a stabilisation of the False Cape site; Villa Romano: resolved; bikelanes upgraded throughout; working towards a world class Performing Arts Centre in an iconic part of town, etc,etc The culture of negativity and mischief making that pervades much of the media in this town, is a poor reflection of the once high regard that those in the journalism profession were once held... all this stuff is tabloid/pedestrian at best.
Di's actions are applaudable; standing up(or sitting on a roof!) for what you believe in is what we want of our representatives. You may be disappointed in Val's response to the Yacht Club Bldg fiasco, however she has been working behind the scenes to get CRC representation on City Ports so that we can have some transparency and accountability and most importantly, some say as to the planning of our waterfront. Agreed we all have flaws, but to focus on them constantly demonstrates our own flaws and insecurities... give her a break you bastards!

Toby from Yorkeys said...

Paul
Blah blah blah.
Stick your head in a bucket of horse feed, why dont you.
Blah blah blah!

Brian, Kewarra said...

Paul, no one is "pilloring the mayor". It's called holding her to account. This is something that any democracy should encourage... plus a great number of us invested in a change and would like to see a Mayor that stands up and is counted and also speaks out on issues that the community want her to speak out on. She failed on teh Yacht Club.

Joe said...

Like many others who voted for Val in the last election,I am very disappointed with her handling
of the job.Val has had plenty of time now to settle in,however methinks she is not experienced
enough,she really would be better off if she resigned,this may then leave Blake ready to jump into her job,haven forbid.

Quickie said...

Oh, to have KB back in charge again ...

Now there was a leader ... and someone who stood tall and proud for Cairns.

Anna wouldn't have got anywhere near him with her strap-on ...

the kitchen slut said...

Stood tall, Quickie?

More like slouched in a chair down at Villa with a bloated gut and a big glass of red .... pontificating as a legend in his own lunchtime!

Paul W, Edmonton said...

Well, all I acan say is that I'm so glad Paul Matthews (aka Balaclava Vet man) didn't get elected (after 8 goes!!) his answer to all this is simply 'leave Val alone, she's doing the best she can.. stop picking on her!!!'

My.. Paul.. if u were there.. u would also be a dissapointment.. we want and expect people with backbone and drive.

Jude Johnston said...

At least at Council Meetings there is some discussion. I expect Councillors to stand up and be counted, not just nodding donkeys. My choice of Councillor is Julia followed by Di - at least they have the courage of their convictions, and they do have drive. I am also starting to have more time for Linda Cooper, she is keen on looking after the interests of her division.

Fred Nerk said...

Well said Paul. We put people in these positions and instead of supporting them turn on them like wild dogs. Put you name on a ballot paper and see how easy it is to get elected and make change.

Jude Johnston said...

I agree with Fred. Pete ran for Div 10 against Julia and 6 other candidates. We put our money where our mouth was, money which we would rather have spent on our twin grand-daughters. We did so because we wanted to make sure that at least we had someone in council prepared to be accountable. It is not easy to get elected; it isn’t easy to accommodate every persons wish. All we can expect of our representatives is to do their best for the community they represent. Pete didn’t get elected, Julia did and we in Div 10 can be thankful we have her as our representative and as long as Julia continues to represent the will of the people we will support her to the end.
I said at election time, that Val didn’t win in the Northern Beaches, Kevin lost it. I have said it since, and I say it again now. I personally do not think that you can change an “ingrained culture” in a few months. If, when the next elections are held, we can’t see any changes, then we will all vote accordingly.

NorthernBeachesWhinger said...

Re Jude Johnston 's comments about how wonderful it is now to have a Divisional Council who not only comes along to any meeting called, but listens and supports her constituents on issues vital to our community.

There are huge disparities between now and before, with both Ex Mayor and Ex Divisional Councillor, "ridiculing residents at every turn," under the table agreements with locals locked out of discussions, residents were lied to, misled, cheated of their Upolu Road in favour of a big developer and much much more.

Here's a heads up for Quickie, a return to that kind of democracy, no thanks, not even if you paid us millions just to shut up!

Wendy Davie said...

I worked to rid Cairns of Kevin Byrne, with the intent of replacing him with Val. I do still believe Cairns is better off without Kevin Byrne.

Like Janine I believe in the values of the Cairns 1st election campaign, community consultation, sustainability of development, preservation of heritage, open and accountable council practices and decision making etc.

I am disappointed to see very little evidence of these values transfering to reality, in some cases quite the opposite has been the practice.

I am also very aware that the Cairns 1st councillors are working from a minority on council, a decidedly difficult possition from which to bring about change, but I am also like a worn out record in using this as an excuse to unhappy rate payers and dissatisfied citizens.
Paul Matthews makes a good case in defense of the Mayor and Council but perhaps if the Mayor engaged with the people of Cairns more frequently and openly Paul would be out of that job.

Paul Matthews said...

sorry, Brian of Kewarra...the word is "pillorying"...to subject to public derision, ridicule or abuse...me thinx that pretty well sums up what's happening