Sunday, 29 June 2008

Where did the money go?

On ABC's Four Corners tomorrow night screens BBC’s Panorama investigation into where US$23 billion has not been accounted for in Iraq.

  • When the US goes to war, corporate America goes too. If there’s a role to be filled, chances are a private company will fill it – whether it’s feeding troops, trucking goods, guarding facilities or even interrogating some prisoners.

    Contractors now reportedly outnumber soldiers, and many of their contracts came through companies with connections to die for in Washington. $23 billion is believed to have been wasted, thieved, lost or unaccounted for.

    "They are the quintessential war profiteers – they made money out of chaos ," says one witness.

    More than 70 whistleblower cases could open the book on the missing billions – if it wasn’t for gagging orders issued by US justice authorities.

    "Daylight Robbery" - on Four Corners at 8.30 pm Monday 30 June, on ABC1.


The damming 2003 Assessor's Report

This is the report that says it all about the Cairns Yacht Club's plea to seek Heritage listing status.

Cairns Regional Council, as a Signatory of the Trinity Inlet Management Plan (see pic), it's time for the New Regional Council, including those who formed part of the previous council, ie; Councillors Blake, Bonneau, Gregory and Cochrane; to go into full attack mode and take the Cairns Port Authority on, and show some true, honest courage on this topic.

The council's silence on this matter is contributing to the destruction.

Not only destruction of this old place, but to the civic pride held by so many. A pride that is being sorely tested.

There is no room for a plea of ignorance as to how the Cairns Yacht Club missed out on Heritage Listing in 2003.

There is now an abundance of evidence available to show what an absolute rort the 2003 Heritage Council decision was.

For example, here is the Assessor's Report to the Heritage Council in December 2003 in which he clearly states that the place satisfies the criteria for Heritage listing.

This expert advice was overruled by the then Chairman of the Queensland Heritage Council when met with a split, but depleted, vote.

Listed too are those that objected. It shows a compelling and political game at play to use the land for another purpose, with no respect to our history.

This is all about civic pride and a love of the old Cairns in which we live.

You can also download the Assessors Report to the Heritage Council.

Why the Yachtie must be preserved

Brinsmead resident Wendy Richardson has been a staunch supporter of preserving the Cairns Yacht Club building for many years.

She contested the State seat of Cairns in 2006 and the recent Council elections on the Tablelands, where she polled second, missing by only 18 votes. Wendy lives in Cairns and works throughout the Far North as a Private Speech Pathologist but also manages her property near Topaz, which features cattle breeding, a large rainforest nature refuge and a budding tourism venture.

As the Liberal candidate for Cairns in the last state election, I became involved in the bid to save this building in its current location.
Before committing myself I thoroughly researched the issue and visited the building for a close inspection and interpretation of the historical aspects of its architecture and usage. If I am pre-selected to stand next time, AND if the building is still there, I would continue to vigorously support it’s retention.
As Lawrence Springborg will confirm, the Coalition’s Shadow Cabinet agreed to fund the restoration and modernisation of the building in the lead-up to the 2006 election, if it could be retained. I have recently contacted Mark McArdle’s office (Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Parliamentary Leader) to request that he discuss this matter with Lawrence Springborg again and re-affirm their support.
A small group of people including, Ray Taylor, have valiantly continued the fight locally to have reason prevail on this topic; no mean feat given they have been calling for the building to be preserved for over 5 years now.
However, I am writing to assure you that in my many conversations with people in Far North Queensland, THEY ARE NOT A MINORITY GROUP.
This issue is about more than the building; it is also about the wishes of the Far North Queensland community being ignored.
Those people in authority, who have taken the position that the building is expendable, like to consider the objectors are just a small bunch of emotional old yachties. This is far from the truth.
Tourism operators, local residents young and old, and visitors to our region are all adamant they want it preserved and enhanced so that the links to our past are better known. In fact one remarkable conversation I had was with an English couple I met while holidaying in Tasmania.
They had visited the Cairns Yacht Club only weeks before, heard of its plight and were horrified that it could be moved or demolished. They wished me well in the fight to save it.
This is nothing unusual.
I would estimate I have had hundreds of conversations on this topic with almost everyone expressing the same sentiments. Most people are able to see the history in this, one of the oldest buildings in Cairns, re-built after a cyclone in 1920 by the actual hands of several of our first civic leaders, and the ongoing value it would have when brought up to modern day standards.
The few adverse comments I have had from members of the public, have been from people who did not know about the building. Once its history and current use have been explained, together with the vast improvement that restoration and curating of items of interest would make, they almost always change their minds.
There is an abundance of information on the topic, too much to include here, but I would be only too happy to share this with you if that would be helpful.
In closing, I can say nothing more eloquently than Ray Taylor's own comment below, extracted from his letter to the head of the Queensland Heritage Council in 2004.
..... the Cairns Yacht Club provides an insight into the Australian pioneering spirit. It is an example of how people, having gained a toe hold on what was then a remote, difficult and hostile environment, addressed and sustained the social and sporting needs of a fledgling township.

The Cairns Yacht Club is a historic yardstick that shows the effects of worldly, economic and climatic events over the last century when viewed through its sporting and social activities, starting from the earliest days of Cairns to the present day.

It is a historical local link that enables one to trace the source of that unique Australian attitude to sport and fair play that is recognised throughout the world, and in this lies its significance, not only to Queensland but to the nation as a whole.

I urge you to lend your support in whatever way you can, to reversing the plan to remove this building from its location, or worse still its demolition.
Once gone it will be too late to re-consider or regret the mistake.
It’s still where it belongs – just. I ask for your help.

Updates on the Blog

I've been slowly introducing some new enhancements to the Blog.
The Comments section is now more integrated. One of the most common complaints about the comment form has been that it’s on a separate page from the post. The new embedded comment form now appear below each post, instead of a separate window.

It's now easier to save Blog posts to your [browser] favourites. You can also share any post with a variety of other websites you may use. Simply click the "Add This" icon below the post.

MAKE A PDF Now this is a cute wee add in tool for you. The guys at have provided me with cute tool for Blog readers. It's located on the right hand sidebar, down the bottom. Basically, if you wish to convert any document (on your computer) to a PDF, simply add it to the browse window, enter your email address, and it's instantly sent to your inbox! Oh, and this one, has a sheep involved. It's all to do with cloning! By the way, for those who don't know, PDF stands for Portable Document Format, any allows files that were created in almost any programme (Word, Excel, Paint, PowerPoint, PhotoShop etc) to be converted into a format that everyone can open. The conversion process also zips or decreases the size of the file.

You'll see a little more advertising appearing between some posts. These are here for the obvious reason, to help contribute to the the costs of running CairnsBlog. So everytime you click on them, it helps! Enuf said.

There's also another addition that I uploaded last week. You can add CairnsBlog to your Reader. There's also an option if you want to monitor any new comments posted, which I know a lot of folk look out for. For those that don't or haven't used a Reader, I'll post an article about this soon. Basically it's a neat way to monitor all the websites you constantly log into, that have regular new content (news / blogs etc). You'll notice most sites now have a RSS logo. This stands for Really Simply Synidication. By using RSS, you can watch a heap of websites in one reader window, I use Google's Reader, but there's many out there.

I'm trialling a SMS Sender. This is also located in the right hand sidebar. When you register, you get 10 free SMSs. After that, they're around 16 cents each.

If you have any complaints or something doesn't work, please give me some feedback. I'm always open to suggestions so the Blog can be continually improved. I always love to hear from readers, especially Barry in Mossman!

Tiger cease some flights

Tiger Airways, that was lauded as a possible savor for the Cairns Asian market, will stop some services in September on the Melbourne - Darwin routes.

They've said however, that this would not impact on their plans to expand to other destinations.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Shameful day in Zimbabwe

Even though opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai remained on the ballot paper, he didn't endorse yesterday's election, which he called a sham.

It was a very low turn out, compared to the March 29th election.

Mugabe said he would be "magnanimous" in winning.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, with a motto of being 'independent, impartial, and transparent', will announce results from the 210 constituencies later today, Australian time. This in stark contrast to the delays that occurred following the first election, three months ago.

In a politically astute move to destabilise Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai has asked the world to not acknowledge this election.

"Anyone who recognises the result of this election is denying the will of the Zimbabwean people and standing in the way of a transition that will deliver peace and prosperity, not just to Zimbabwe, but the whole region," he said.

There have been at least 80 murders by Mugabee's Zanu-PF party and an estimated 200,000 have been displaced.

The March election gave the opposition a clear lead, however it was ruled not a clear majority to rule.

Faten Aggad in Zimbabwe's Daily Dispatch says...
  • Two legal opinions, commissioned by the Southern African Litigation Centre, provide a strong legal foundation for a possible AU intervention in Zimbabwe in terms of provisions made under the Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government, signed in Lomé, Togo, in 2000.

    Based on an analysis of the Zimbabwean constitution and the Electoral Act of 2004, the legal opinions conclude that Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai should legally be recognised as Zimbabwe’s head of state.

    The first legal opinion, which analysed the legality of the postponement of the runoff election, concluded that “the power of the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission to amend or ignore the constitutionally required (21-day) period of the Electoral Law by abrogating or amending the provisions regarding the runoff period is constitutionally objectionable”.

    The second legal opinion highlights the course to be taken, according to the Electoral Act, in the event of the failure to hold elections within the prescribed 21 days. The opinion notes that “where no second election is held and there were two or more candidates for president, and no candidate received a majority of the total number of valid votes cast, item (3) (1) (b) provides that the candidate with the greatest number of votes (in the first round of elections), and not the majority of the total number of votes, shall be duly elected president”.

    The results of the first round of elections, held on March 29, put Tsvangirai at the head of the race with 47.9 percent of the votes, against 43.2 percent for President Robert Mugabe.

    On the basis of the legal opinion, and in compliance with the Zimbabwean Electoral Act, Tsvangirai should have been instated as president.

    In the light of the two legal opinions, and given the fact that the results of the first round of elections were accepted by African institutions, a case can be made for an AU intervention within the context of the declaration, which Zimbabwe endorsed.

Money for nothing

Holy gagstuff Batman! What a few weeks it's been.

Our new look Council in the past few weeks have approved 520 units, squashed onto a block of land at Woree; agreed that retrospective approval is okay for GlenCorp after they've built a 3 story high unit complex inches from existing houses at Clifton Beach; they've rezoned more rainforest at paradise palms golf course to housing; and Cairns 1st Councillors have not honoured their pre-election promise to start over with the beaches town centre plan, that was driven and invented by a property developer instead of the community. Amazing.

Never mind, onto the real business of this new Council.. designing the new logo! We now have a multitude of designs for the new Council to choose from.

Back in early March, I proposed new logos, depending on who was elected...

Following a can-you-believe-it-design-a-council-logo-workshop three weeks ago, at which my little birdie tells me they talked and talked and talked about "desired messages" and "values". Now, where's my Sno bucket when you need it?

Here's some of those that were at the logofest: Bill Calderwood, Advance Cairns; Craig Mawhinney and Scott Brown from All Copy; Eve Stafford, Arts Nexus; Gaye Scott, 20/20 Group; Gayle Thomas, Australian Tourism Network; Janet Smith, Lotsa Print; Jeff Mizen, Prime Radio; Margaret Oxley from the Cairns Show; Martyn Foote from Foote Print; Amanda Dean from Qahc; Rae O'Connell, KickArts; Rob Giason CEO of TTNQ; Advance Cairns Chairman Russell Beer who is also from Macdonnells lawyers; Sarah Fraser of Success Through Sales; local designer Suzanne Ashmore; and Vanessa Allen from Win TV.

Also Council staff Kelly Coppin, Belinda Griffin, Judy Mason, Leslie Sparkes, Kerrie Still, Kerie Hull, Deborah Wellington, Simone Roseler, and Works Manager Geoff Hatwell took part in the logo design workshop.

"We need green!" shouted one tree-hugger.

The designs include Licuala, the Birdwing butterfly, and the Cairns Golden Penda, among others. And yeah, they'll all green.

Personally I have to say, after 22 years in the marketing game, I find these all rather bland and dull. They lack a real dynamic representation of a city that is growing and is an international tourist spot. Almost all are the same colour, and there's hardly a dynamic representation amongst the lot. That's my two cents worth.

Meredith Wilsch, who has the auspicious title of Community Engagement Coordinator, is collating responses. So if you want to share your thoughts, drop her an email by this coming Wednesday.

If Meredith is the "community engagement" officer, maybe she should educate northern beaches Councillors on how to talk and communicate with their residents, prior to meetings. Margaret and Sno, it's about time you started to engage your community. Surely you two should know better, as you've had your snouts in the trough for a long while now.

You can see all the oddball designs nominated so far, on this PDF file.

Pyning from left field

It seems some Councillors have little ability to practise what they preach.
Prior to the election, all campaigned of various platforms of openness, 'sustainable' development, more facilities for the people.
However Councillor Robert Pyne, was rather angry on Thursday afternoon, following a meeting of Councillors, he walked out. Well, as much as one can in a wheelchair.
"For the first time since the election I have had time to scratch myself, so I got vocal on an issue I care about," he said.
While Robert apologised, he said he would keep the commitment about Council's fiscal position as far as revenue goes.
"However, I will be honest in my regret at not being able to deliver for people in my area on any of their issues," he said in a email to Councillors later that evening.
Robert was passionate in his election campaign to offer and enact real change for his community. He said that he will listen to his local residents, and has already held community meetings that never existed before.
Pyne won every booth in the Division, toppling incumbent Deputy Mayor Terry James taking 63% of the vote to his opponent's 27% in the March Regional Council election.
With the Council's first budget to be handed down in the next couple of weeks, with a predicted rate rise, will undoubtedly be another promise lost for Mayor Val Schier. During the campaign she said under her leadership, there would be no rate rise, beyond CPI.
Just over three months in the city's top job, Mayor Schier is now leaving a trail of promises not fulfilled in her wake. It is now becoming clearer that she is not showing decisive leadership and caring forward those aspirations why people voted for her and the values that Cairns 1st was all about.
Pyne says he understands the need for discipline regarding expenditure but is angry with little priority being given to the local community.
"[I understand] being unable to deliver on costly things like a Forest Gardens Community Room or toilets in the rec oval, or bitumen on Forster Road, let alone the badly needed upgrades of Progress and Sheehy Road. After all there is only so much money," he said.
"However, not to be able to deliver on any minor Division 3 projects either," Robert said makes him very disappointed and disillusioned.
"The residents of Currawong Street are wanting a safer street; folks in White Rock wanting shade cloth to prevent their kids getting sun cancer; bus shelters in White Rock and Woree; traffic calming in Mt Sheridan or helping the young lady with the ‘walking bus’ wanting a safe pathway to walk on," says Robert Pyne.
"The list goes on and on, but there is no point in continuing it. Very disappointing. Maybe I have expectations that are too high," Robert says.
It is refreshing to see such openness and honestly in a Councillor.
I think a few could learn more about the real ethics behind holding public office. What it means and what you're entrusted to do for the people that put you there.

Sno: Butt out of Palm Cove camping ground

The northern beach communities of Cairns have come under a lot of scrutiny recently. Almost every beach suburb is under the microscope from developers and commercial interests, greedy to do their worst without consulting local residents.

Clifton Beach has one of the most active community resident organisations that has been challenging and questioning what local developers are attempting to do in their back yard.

This tale comes from a northern beaches resident, who is closely involved on the battle to protect the golf course and wet tropics land that surround the Paradise Palms development.

Last Monday, a northern beaches resident nearly ran off the road whilst listening to the John McKenzie's radio talkback show. Who was on? You may well ask. What were they saying that nearly caused this accident?

Sno Bonneau, the former Divisional Councillor for this area, was on talk back about the Goldfinch Caravan Park, at Palm Cove.

This is the very much loved public camping and caravan park on Palm Cove's Esplanade.

Here is a bit of background.

This site has a long history and one, the Palm Cove-ites are proud of.

In the beginning, it was private land that was bequeathed to the State Government years ago by the owner for it to remain a public camping area. The Cairns Regional Council have management rights on behalf of the State Government.

In 2005, the then Council came up with a most ridiculous plan for re-development. Sno tried very hard to sell the concepts on offer but the locals would have none of it for very good reasons.

It took years for the Council to decide (in May 2007) to scrap their silly plans and just spend the money on upgrading the facilities, which is what the locals were screaming out for at the time.

So on Monday here is what Sno was saying in essence.

Cairns Council have run out of money and can’t afford to do the work, so are putting it out to private enterprise/developers to re-develop with of course, an opportunity to develop a commercial enterprise on the vacant land opposite the car park.

Sno emphasised that it was no longer his Division, but he had 13 years of work in that area.

It is Julia Leu’s division now but he had a very good working relationship with Julia Leu.

He implied that he gave her a lot of help and advice.
I wonder if this is Julia’s take on the situation? I rather think that the two views would be worlds apart.

Sno also said that he really missed working for Palm Cove and Clifton Beach. This is where the listener nearly ran off the road.

This councillor must be truly insane. He lives in a world of his own. It gets worse because people actually believe the crap that comes out of his mouth, particularly John McKenzie, it seems.

The residents of Clifton Beach northwards, are all enjoying a breath of fresh air in having Julia as our new representative. She is communicative, has come to several community meetings already, and is always polite and genuinely interested in resident’s views.

The Gold Finch Caravan Park issue, and Sno ‘s underhanded actions, were just one of several issues that the residents of the northern beaches put in an official complaint to Council earlier this year.

Here are the specifics of that complaint involving this Caravan Park...
  1. There was a conflict of interest involved. At a closed session of Council, an amount of $25,000 was provided by Indigo Ocean’s Edge Resort for an Options Report. They wanted to include a boardwalk from their property down to the jetty at Palm Cove beach. The Options Report was duly done and guess what, on the two options which were almost identical to one another, there was a board walk in-situ, Option 1. – boardwalk sited straight through the middle of the camping area, and Option 2. – boardwalk sited to the back of the camping area but close enough so that walkers talking etc would have disturbed the campers/holiday makers. Both ridiculous options and no real alternatives.

  2. The Ocean’s Edge advertising brochure was released before the matter came to Council for consideration and the boardwalk was mysteriously insitu without approval.

  3. The Council released the Options Report and advertised like mad for community input, literally a few days before Christmas of 2005. The consultation process closed Jan 2006. The local community association complained via Council and nothing happened so then Jason O’Brien intervened because of the state interest, and then all hell broke loose. Council were then forced to extend the consultation period to end of Feb 2006.

  4. Literally, hundreds of people put in submissions on this one, and then it took over twelve months (May 2007) for the Council to come up with the fact that they could not find the money for this grandiose plan (around $9 million), so at that meeting it was decided just to upgrade facilities. Obviously, Ocean’s Edge were not willing to cough up any extra dollars either.

There are some strong reasons why residents were strongly against what was on offer. The facts were that public space (camping area) was being significantly reduced, to make way for other vested interests, such as the Ocean’s Edge boardwalk. The commercial facilities that would border the Esplanade, a new and bigger public car park to appease Palm Cove traders.

Also the fact that a new road was being created around the circumference of the camping area to give a land owner on the southern side of Buchan Point, access to his property, which he currently did not have.

Imagine just how quiet the camping area would be with all those tourist buses and cars driving past your tent or van on their way to and from the jetty everyday?

Then there was also removal of the boat ramp. It is the only one north of Trinity Park. The lack of proper community consultation, and the underhanded way the original community engagement process was carried out, is of great concern. The fact the two options presented were almost identical to one another, except for the placement of the boardwalk, giving no real alternatives.

One alternative should have been the upgrade of facilities only.

So, according to Monday’s Cairns Post, the re-development of this much loved public space is back on Council’s agenda for a re-development not just a facelift.

The very fact that Sno Bonneau is involved again, and has gone out of his way to be involved in this issue, should raise public scrutiny of what is going on.

He should not be allowed anywhere near this project, not with his track record and the amount of animosity that most residents feel for this man who consistently failed in his duty as our elected representative.

The case for equality and justice

Rob Williams of the Cairns Heritage Group, continues his fight to preserve and protect the historic Cairns Yacht Club.

Using the same parameters as those applied to indigenous sites, it can be forcefully argued that the Cairns Aquatic Club Building, on its site, is a Sacred Site of strong Cultural and Heritage significance to the people of Cairns.

Those parameters which apply to indigenous Sacred or Historical Sites must surely apply to white Australians too. Or are white Australians being discriminated against by Parliamentarians?

For example, there is a debate on Aboriginal site protection in the Northern Territory, and who should determine that the protection of a particular site is of such importance to Aboriginal Territorians that it outweighs considerations of economic development.

In the Northern Territory the existence of a sacred site is not determined by legislation. The Land Rights (NT) Act 1976 simply acknowledges the prior existence of sacred sites, defining them as: a site that is sacred to Aboriginals or is otherwise of significance according to Aboriginal tradition.

The definition of a "sacred site" means:
  • a site that is sacred to Aboriginals or is otherwise of significance according to Aboriginal tradition "Aboriginal tradition" means the body of traditions, observances, customs and beliefs of Aboriginals or of a community or group of Aboriginals, and includes those traditions, observances, customs and beliefs as applied in relation to particular persons, sites, areas of land, things or relationships.

Point 1.

The Aquatic Club, and the building they purchased, and the land on which it is located, all fit the above definition. The building has conjointly been significant to the people of Cairns for over 100 years. More than 3 million people have danced on the Black Bean sprung dance floor.

The Peoples Intention:

Was made very clear in 2005 when in February of that year an ePetition was lodged. This was followed in June by a Plain Paper Petition containing 5,000 signatures. The petition pleaded with the Queensland State Labor Government to protect the people's Heritage.

An excerpt “Your petitioners, therefore, request the House to protect this historical site and heritage listed building, by whatever means the House has at its disposal.”

The State Government did nothing.

Are the traditions of the people of Cairns, observances, customs and beliefs as applied in relation to particular persons, sites, areas of land, things or relationships any different or less important than those of the indigenous?

No, they are not.

The loss of the Aquatic is Heritage and irreplaceable historical and hertitage evidence that Cairns was pioneered by such people as A.J. Draper, and E.C. Earl. The loss of its potential as a tourist attraction would cost us more than $100 million over 50 years. This revenue rightly belongs to the people of Cairns.

The High Court of Australia may be the place it will be decided in due course.

iPhone here July 11th

Apple's new next generation iPhone, that will embrace 3G technology, will be released in Australia in the next couple of weeks.
We will get the second generation iPhone, as it was released in the US 12 months ago. And there's been some radical improvements. The WiFi speeds will be significant. Battery life is also greatly improved. Apple claim 300 hours on standby, 5 hours talk time, Internet browsing 5- 6 hours, video 7 hours, and 24 hours on audio. Here's a full list of features.
In the USA, the new 8 Gb version retails for $199, ($208 AUD), and the larger 16 Gb model, also comes in white, an extra $100.
Both Optus and Vodafone have launched special websites after they announced to sell the iPhone
The biggest national carrier Telstra, was to provide the new product on it's network, but it
appears that Apple refused to provide it pre-loaded with Sensis white and yellow pages content.
It's a iPod and phone all in one. The phone also has GPS mapping, a huge leap forward as mobile mapping and related services are becoming so popular in car with Nav systems. This mobile will also support MS Exchange, iPod, and full internet surfing.
On eBay Australia, they're selling, unlocked to any network, for between $500 - $800.
Meanwhile, Telstra has threatened Optus with legal action over its claims that the iPhone will be able to use Optus' upcoming HSDPA network with 98% coverage.

It's a complicated issue, but anyone using an iPhone through Optus or Vodafone will only be able to use their shared 3G network. This operates on 2100MHz, which has a very limited coverage (major metro areas and some regional centres), but nothing like the blanket coverage on 900MHz HSDPA network. This is important to utilise all the features on the new phone.

iPhone is compatible with the 850MHz frequency used by Telstra's. So if Telstra does offer this new phone it will be the only operator to provide national HSDPA coverage.

Watch Apple's founder, Steve Job, show off his latest baby, as his audience of tech nerds cream their pants.

The US Democrat nomination race in 8 minutes

Bill Gates' last day at Microsoft

Bill Gates, Brian Williams, Jay Z, Bono, Steven Spielberg, Matthew McConaughey, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore... all appeared in Bill Gates' 'leaving' video.

In it, he considered what he would do in his retirement.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Yeah, that will work. Not.

  • "..Authorities in the northern Malaysian city of Kota Baru have forbidden Muslim women from wearing bright lipstick and noisy high-heeled shoes to work, saying the ban will enhance their dignity and prevent them from getting raped."

Seems fundy Islamists blame all actions against women on women.

Hat Tip: Whale Oil

The right to arms

In the world's most heavily-armed country, with a history of a violent gun culture, the US Supreme Court has ruled that Americans have a a constitutional right to own guns for self-defense in their homes.

This is the first major change on gun rights in US history in 70 years.

The court's 5-4 ruling struck down a 32-year-old ban in Columbia on handguns. It was 'incompatible with gun rights' under the Second Amendment.

This decision goes further than what the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most firearms restrictions intact.

Also see Gun laws in the United States (by state)

Northern Territory keeps heritage

Former Commodore of the Cairns Yacht Club, and author of the club and building's history, Bob Rendal, writes from the Northern Territory, where he's enjoying a break away from the North Queensland coast...

  • Hello to CairnsBlog readers....

    We are currently in Katherine and will stay for a couple of days.

    Having a great time. I was chatting with a couple in the camp next to us and it turns out they are old Melbourne school friends from 43 years back. Bloody amazing!

    Some camp sites are basic and others are just great. We stayed at a place called Bitter Springs, near Mataranka. Had a swim and just floated down these thermal ponds, bloody great. The previous night we drove into a place called Daly Waters, about 5kms off the main road.

    It was fairly early in the day and were surprised to see a convoy of at least a dozen hire campers. They were all German tourists on a guided trip departing.

    The camping ground, of approx five acres, was full by 4pm.

    A great old tin Historic pub with tons of memorabilia was the centre of activity with some live country music at night to entertain the great variety of travellers from grey nomads through to backpackers, it was a great night.

    I thought... what a pity Desley Boyle, TTNQ and Advance Cairns delegates weren't here to see what a great mix of heritage and entertainment can do for tourism.

    The impending demolition of the Yacht Club's Aquatic building and destruction of the waterfront, is really bloody criminal for the loss of tourism potential and entertainment in Cairns.

QLD environment in decline

The Queensland Labor Government celebrated ten years in power on the 13th of June 2008.
A report released today by the Wilderness Society, WWF and Queensland Conservation shows that Queensland’s environment is in a state of decline after ten years of Labor in power.

This is an assessment of the last ten years of Queensland Government's performance on the environment. Not surprisingly, it's not a ringing endorsement.

Locally, False Cape gets a notorious mention, however, the Daintree buy-back, gets the thumbs up. Coastal development gets a resounding thumbs down. This report will be reviewed on ABC's Stateline tonight.

Steve Ryan from CAFNEC says that FNQ2025 may have some improvements, but the 18 months advance warning the State government gave the property development sector, has reportedly resulted in 15 years worth of applications being received before the May 9 cut-off date.

"That's decades more of fights over inappropriate development that will may well make a mockery of any gains made in the plan," Ryan says.

"This 'game' of appeasing developers to ensure a smoother passage of much needed reform may be smart politics, but it is extremely poor public policy and has resulted in the mess outlined by this report."

Ryan tells locals around our region that it's just not been good enough. "There's much more to do, and there's a few vested interests that may need to be upset. But remember, there's a community that will support you if real and substantial gains are made."

Conservation groups are seeking a strong commitment from Queensland Premier Anna Bligh to usher in a new era of environmentally responsible policy to build on some of the successes and address the major deficiencies in areas such as climate change, biodiversity protection and water management.

Paradise Lost? A review of Queensland Labor Government environmental policies 1998 – 2008 rates the Government’s performance in the areas of climate, water and biodiversity.

It uses the State of the Environment Queensland 1999 and 2007 reports to track the impact of Queensland Government policies in protecting the environment.

Glenn Walker, of the Wilderness Society says that Queensland is defined by our superlative natural environment.

"Despite some notable reforms in their earlier years, the Labor Government’s performance on environmental protection has deteriorated significantly in recent times," he says. "They have been unable to keep up with public concern about climate change, water issues and biodiversity. It’s time for a major rethink and a new approach on the environment.”

Of the total twenty two policy areas assessed in the report, only two are considered to be an overwhelming policy success, nine policy areas indicate some progress has been made and a further eleven are assessed as policy failures. A timeline of ‘successes’ and ‘failures’ in the report shows a reasonable first five to six years of a reform-driven Government, with significant failures since 2005.

Climate change is the most significant threat facing the planet today. Queensland’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are among the highest in the world. Yet the Government is failing to act accordingly, with a lack of meaningful support for renewable energies and public transport.

Despite some progress with wild river protection and water reform, Queensland’s water assets are under serious threat. Dam building is out of control in this state with thirteen major water infrastructure projects on the cards. Most of the rivers flowing into the Great Barrier Reef breach water quality guidelines, they say.

Biodiversity is in sharp decline in Queensland. We have the lowest proportion of land area and threatened species habitats protected of all the states and territories in Australia. There is no statewide strategy to protect biodiversity.

Queensland has a new generation of environmental problems to tackle and the community is ready to see action. Premier Bligh and her new team need to seize this opportunity before it is too late. They need to step up to the plate and create a fresh environmental platform that will effectively deal with the great environmental challenges that we now face.

The report can be viewed online.

Some hope for False Cape

Former mayoral candidate and renown peace activist, Bryan Law attended yesterday's special briefing at Council to witness the delegation of campaigners against the False Cape development.

He recounts his observations on a day when they were asking for local government to take action. Now.

I attended yesterday’s presentation by the Save False Cape group to members of the Cairns Regional Council. All Councillors were there, but they were not sitting as Council, had no power to make decisions, and in the event didn’t even have time for questions and discussion.

It’s clear that CRC has put thought into how to receive delegations, and SFC was one of four groups making delegations yesterday. The presentation ran for 40 minutes.

In the Byrne Council one could get 5 minutes at most, with certain Councillors willing to move that the speaker be no longer heard if the subject matter got too irritating. This new process initiated under Val Schier, is exponentially superior to anything sanctioned for community use by Kevvy (the Developer’s advocate) Byrne.

At this early stage I have some concerns about a few features of the current process, and I’ll watch events with a close eye to measure the effectiveness of CRC as an environmentally and socially responsible municipal Council.
  1. One of the four delegations yesterday came from Advance Cairns, which is hardly a community group. Advance Cairns has no difficulty in presenting its issues to this or previous Cairns Councils - and/or state and federal governments. There was no questioning or discussion of SFC’s presentation because Advance Cairns stole the time.

  2. As well as the complement of CRC officers (Noel Briggs, Peter Tabulo) the Department of Environment and Heritage had two operatives attend the meeting. None of these people responded, could be questioned, or were in any way held to account for their own actions in sanctioning the destruction at False Cape, resulting in the present problems – and are still the ones in charge of government action in relation to False Cape.

  3. DEWHA has kept secret its commissioned report into False Cape in order to preserve its evidentiary value (which sounds like piffle to me). Since when have we had trial by ambush in this country? If the science is sound and the evidence is collected the report’s evidentiary value can’t be diminished by public disclosure or by informed debate about the best way forward.

  4. The SFC presentation clearly demonstrated that the owners of False Cape have failed to meet development conditions, and that all the approvals given subject to those conditions must now lapse without compensation.

  5. The present situation will cause damage to the Great Barrier Reef marine park if left uncorrected. CRC and other governments get to consider the future of the land.
    The CRC must move immediately to rehabilitate and manage the damaged areas of the site before the next Wet Season. Somewhere in lawyer land there is $650,000 of bond money to start with.

Then the Queensland and Federal governments ought consider the area’s best future use as an asset for the regional populations of Trinity Bay, False cape and Trinity Inlet. I imagine the Yarrabah Council and traditional owners of that land might like a site on which they could develop things they need like jobs, housing, cultural and natural interpretation enterprises along with other conservation outcomes in civic partnership. For instance.

My chief concern is that right now we have no response or indication from any government bureaucrat or elected Councillor about what, when and how they are going to fix any of the problems and take advantage of the opportunities.

We don’t even have a date when CRC will next consider the matter.

I worry that the same bureaucrats who got us into this mess will apply the usual tactics to calm the waters and suffocate the spirit. To shift the blame and endorse a policy of urgent caution, while continuing to enjoy the nice quiet day that a professional Council officer feels entitled to. While extending their reputation for reliability in doing nothing.

Call me a cynic.

I hope I’m wrong. I really do hope the elected Mayor and Councillors can get together and forge effective action over False Cape and related development issues. Action which will work to develop Cairns as a healthy and balanced community living sustainably in this fabulous part of Planet Earth. I know they are able to do it if they choose.

Call me an optimistic cynic, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting. I’m going to keep a close eye on how all three levels of government respond to the present opportunities. I’m going to pay particularly close attention to how my Mayor and Councillors exercise their responsibilities.

It was hard at today’s meeting to gauge which way individuals are going to jump. A more dour and aloof bunch is hard to imagine, at least the ones in front of me. Paul Gregory, Thingo, Nancy Lansky was obscured from my view by the back of Kirsten Lesina’s Head. Sno Bonneau, Noel Briggs, Di Forsyth, Rob Pyne, Margaret Cochrane and Alan Blake, although he never made eye contact. Then the backs of heads, including Val Schier.

Paul Gregory looked at times as if was enduring enough guff to last a month, but mostly kept a straight face and looked prosperous, almost natty in a really nice shirt and tie. Thingo and I are a long way apart in the cultural realm and i don’t connect with most of the cues, but Thingo came across as inscrutable. Sort of Easter Island statue, but of alabaster with a business like perfume. Thingo is that radio woman whose show I never listened to.

I think it was Noel Briggs.

Di Forsyth is on side and will ensure the process of Council consideration plods along in due course. Her job now is to acquire the DEWHA report, commission a report from the CRC officers, and organise a formal Council meeting to vote on a set of high value recommendations. (The ones recommended by SFC).

Rob Pyne smiled at me and tried to ask a question, but was over-ruled by Val Schier. I was hoping he would be assertive and give us a 60 second grab, but alas. Margaret Cochrane reminds me of a kindly and well-meaning aunt, but I’ve got no idea where she stands on False Cape. The same goes for Alan Blake except that he would be an ambitious adversary rather than a kindly aunt. The backs of heads didn’t say anything so I have no clue at all.

Here’s hoping that Val Schier and Di Forsyth can fashion a coherent and functioning Council which acts purposefully to rehabilitate False cape and institute a positive program of appropriate development.

Here’s hoping CRC develops its consultation processes to forge effective partnerships with community groups to improve both the long-term planning and the everyday amenity of our town.

Call me an optimistic cynic but I believe these things are possible – but possible only if Val and all the other Councillors are well supported by citizens in the task. I’m willing to go so far as to watch carefully and contribute what I can to creative problem solving and greater community accountability – insofar as False Cape is an emblematic issue of good potential.

We live in interesting times.

The Muslim Adam and Eve

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Get rid of City Place

Newly elected Division 3 Councillor, Robert Pyne, is declaring war on City Place.
He believes that the whole concept should be questioned and thrown out.
Pyne has suggested we not only resist any plans to redevelop the City Place, but to abandon the concept of a City Place altogether.
"There have been calls by some in government for more attention to be given to the City Place," he says.
The whole expenditure of the previous Council on the City Place redevelopment probably hit the million dollar mark. They have had a number of attempts to get it right, and on every occasion, they failed to engage the public, and we ended up with an expensive eyesore.
There's nowhere to sit in the shade. Council ripped out three large fig trees that were a feature of the old grass-laden town centre. It was a relaxing and inviting place to rest and take in the city. Not anymore though.
I've blogged many times about the ongoing re-development of City Place, so would agree with Robert on this one.
“Those who have been around long enough will remember Cairns prior to construction of a city place. Back then we did not have the Esplanade with heaps of rooms for public gatherings, markets and entertainment,” Pyne says.
He says with the Esplanade facilities, we don't need a City Place.
"Most locals I talk to would rather see the area returned to traffic, with Lake Street and Shields Streets reconnected."
He says that median strips and landscaped footpaths would look better than what we have now.
"The issue should be open for public consultation. We had great public consultation on the Esplanade redevelopment, and we had a great outcome," he says.
Pyne wants the issue to be taken away from politicians and lobby groups, so the people can decide on the best outcome for this crucial part of the CBD.

The last two months have seen a focus on the Council budget with the prospect of a 10% rate rise. Pyne says that ratepayers are eventually called upon to meet the costs of major projects embarked upon by Council.

"Council could also consult on a use for the ‘mushroom’ [sound stage] in Lake Street," he said. "Perhaps it could be used to provide shade in a suburban play-ground or moved to the esplanade for local artists to ‘reinvent’ as a talking point.

"Maybe it will be a public reminder not to waste rate-payers money," Robert Pyne says.

I love development

Former Mayor Kevin Byrne made a rare appearance back into the media spotlight today.

In today's Cairns Post reports that the former mayor, is now an executive director of Capital Globe, the property development and investment group which took over LHL investments.

Well, finally the tiger has revealed his true colours.

Byrne also took the opportunity this morning to spew it all out on John McKenzie's show.

He thinks that a lot of people don’t understand his love for development.

"I have been very impressed with [LHL's] Capital Globe’s investment philosophy and positive commitment to the growth and development opportunities in our region since," Byrne told the Cairns Post.

"This is a new lease of life for me. What I have wanted to do is to find something that fits my abilities and capacity."

(warning, get a bucket...)

"A lot of people don’t understand my love for development."

"I have a passion for good development and believe this community has untapped potential for good development and that is not because I want to tear anything down, but rather want to see this area develop in a positive way,” Byrne said.

Now, let's not forget Byrne's large LHL-funded illegal electoral sign on LHL land. I wrote about this extensively previously.

In 2006 LHL Investments participated in the trade mission to China with the Mayor. LHL have also been patrons and financial contributors to Advance Cairns.

Pictured [right] is Kevin Byrne and Carl Williams of LHL Investments, turning the first soil at Smithfield's Northpoint development, who along with CEC, are building on this large area of land. LHL are seeking council approvals for the substantial developments. It was on this land where Kevin placed his Unity political billboard for the election.

Also, the Smithfield town centre proposed by Flanagan Consulting Group and Conics, on behalf of LHL and Trinity Park Investments, had no public consultation. Cairns City Council, then led by Byrne, tried to get the proposal through. He works for the same group. Oh the irony.

Now the reason this is all very interesting is that Kevin Byrne has been on record in the past of saying he's not in the pockets of developers.

Well, days before the Council election, here he is loud and clear telling ABC's Pat Morrish on March 12th this year, that he's not their mate.

"You've got no proof of that," he exclaimed. "I'm not in their pocket. Never have been. Never will be." Here's the full interview.

Now, just three months after the election, we learn he's got a job with LHL.

What does that tell you about what goes on in this town?

On John McKenzie's radio show this morning, Byrne was defending his new developer friendly role. Also, listen for the desperate plea from John for Kevin to come on his show in the future.

It was radio at it's worst.

Jucy, not juicy

I snapped this pic on the Captain Cook Highway, just alongside the Go Kart track, that offers annual races under water.

This new campervan seems to have emerged recently, as I've spotted a few around the streets. It's called Juicy, or at least I thought it was. What a disaster from a marketing perspective. They actually named the business Jucy.

It doesn't pass, what we call in the advertising game, "bus proof". This is where you should be able to pick up the primary 'call to action' in this time it takes a bus to drive past you.

A google search on Juicy of course doesn't net the Jucy campervan.

Besides that, I love the bright green design. Fab! Although they are probably crisp and clean inside compared to the infamous Wicked Campers, these bright green machines don't come close to the humour level of the folk at Wicked.

I posted a small collection of some favorites last year.

If you've spotted a funny camper, let me know!

Mr Big is back in town

I see that Sex And The City's Mr Big, Chris Noth, is back in Australia this week.
If you've lived up here for a few years, you probably have a celeb story to share.
Even if you're hanging around outside Gillian's at three in the morning, you might even be able to snog a Big Brother evictee. The girl (or guy?) that got a blowie behind Sporties from Hotdogs probably got the celeb honors that month.
My mate Paul looked after Keanu Reeves with a touring motorcycle when he snuck away to Cairns after filming the Matrix. "Yeah, he a was really nice down to earth guy," says Paul.
Jason Weinberg, who used to run Adworks, had the joy on riding the coast with him for the afternoon.
I hosted Noth a couple of years ago whilst I was marketing director at the former Radisson Treetops in Port Douglas. It's now a Mantra property, however it really should be called Treechops, after they got rid of most of the vegetation around the resort.
Mr Big was simply pleased to be away from all the people, and found an escape in North Queensland.
We dined with Chris and the boys from Haba took him out for a couple of days diving. He ditched the limo and I drove him back from Port to the airport in my old 77 Landcruiser.
I haven't had an email from Chris this time round, so don't know if he's slipping in a week's r+r up here. However I do have my own boxed set of Sex and the City, personally delivered.

Royce joins the blogsphere

Lance Royce, former chairman of Leichhardt Federal Electoral Council for the Libs, has started his own blog, aptly named, Northern Truth.

Lance was planning to run as an independent candidate against his Liberal rival, then Mayor Kevin Byrne, at the last Council elections, but changed his mind.

He was very critical of a number of internal goings on in the local FEC, especially in the selection process of the candidate for the federal election where Byrne was seeking nomination. As a result, had a very public falling out with the former mayor.

The new Lib leader

Bernard Keane writes in Crikey that today is Brendan Nelson’s last question time as Leader of the Libs.
He predicts that Nelson will hardly take the Leader of the Opposition’s seat when they return on 26 August. Read the full story..

More Yacht Club spin from the Premier

The Parliamentary Secretary for The Hon Paul Lucas, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure and Planning has written to the Cairns Heritage Group, about the ongoing bid to save the 100 year old historic Cairns Yacht Club building.

Rob Williams, Chairman Cairns Heritage Group, is sick and tired of the politics being played out between the State elected officials and the local Cairns Port Authority, over the fate of our beloved 100 year old Cairns Yacht Club.

Williams replied...
  • 26th June 2008

    Dear Mr. Hinchliffe,

    Thank you for your letter of the 23rd Inst. regarding the Cairns Yacht Club and the Aquatic Building.

    My group, the Cairns Heritage Group, and 5,000 petitioners are well aware of the Queensland Heritage Council's "detailed" study.

    We also have hard evidence that the Chairman of the Heritage Council "Professor Brannock" supported the Heritage Listing whilst he was up here looking us over.

    His comments in the Cairns Post were quite specific. Two other members of the Heritage Council also supported the Listing, one in particular was Professor Janet Wegner, who was a member of the Heritage Council and who was barred from voting because she was a Director of the Cairns Historical Society.

    The Environmental Protection Agency was also involved in the preparation of the Heritage Listing, having noted it on their Coastal Plans and carried out a survey for the purpose of Heritage Listing.

    We also have hard evidence that the Cairns Port Authority forced the Cairns Yacht Club to sign a memorandum of agreement and placed an order over the place preventing us from making a further nomination.

    We are intimately familiar with the facts of the History of the Aquatic over the past 100 years from its inception on 30 March 1908 till its centenary in March this year.

    Yes, we know that the Cairns Port Authority administers control over the land, but Mr.Hinchliffe, the Deputy Premier and the Premier are the shareholders of the company!. They are the ones who are ultimately responsible for what the CPA does. They are the ones who would be subpoenaed to fronting the High Court along with others if the people of Cairns so wish that to happen in due course.

    I'm sure that if I was in the position of that of a shareholder, I would be listening very closely to what the people of Cairns want.

    I will send this to the person you nominated as the person who is involved in planning.
    Excuse me for thinking it was the Cairns Port Authority.
    (It turns out that Ben Thrower is in the Department of Infrastructure and Planning. )
    I am at a loss to understand how that will precipitate attention to our grievances
    I would point out to you that the Cairns Yacht Club Inc. is not involved in our fight to save the Aquatic Building. The Cairns Yacht Club Inc. will soon be moving to their $6 million premises as declared by Ms. Anna Bligh before the last election.

    I trust this information will help the Deputy Premier decide which way he needs to send his advice.

    Yours sincerely,

    Chairman Cairns Heritage Group
    Rob Williams j.p.(Qual.)
    28 Lake Placid Road
    Caravonica Qld 4878

On the 12th May 2004, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Port Authority and the Cairns Aquatic Club was agreed to be signed under duress.

The Cairns Port Authority don't want you to see this. This monumental decision was recorded with much pain in the Committee's Minutes of CYC Meeting of 11th May 2004:

  • The CPA have moved that we sign the Memorandum. The Committee is disappointed with the outcome.

    We have no option but to sign the Memorandum and see what happens. If we don’t sign we have nowhere to go.

    The Committee discussed some options once we are at Precinct 12. We could take licence of the premises and set up the premises ourselves and run it or put someone in the premises to get it operational, then in the future take over.

It is a tragic state of affairs when the people are simply not listened to, and that the development plans of the local Port Authority is allowed to ride rough shot over the wishes of the majority of the local residents.

What today's meeting is all about

This morning's Cairns Regional Council meeting will have the full attention from a delegation of Save False Cape campaigners.

Following some unwanted attention last Wednesday, when Steven Nowakowski, Mark Buttrose, along with Machans Beach videographer Drew Sinclair, crashed in the helicopter that they chartered. They were surveying the current state of the False Cape land, left abandoned by developers some months ago, for further evidence to present to today's Council meeting. Luckily they are all unhurt to tell the story.

They will be demanding that the Regional Council take urgent action to repair and commence rehabilitation work before the next wet season.

The mile-long site, left scarred from development that got out of control, breached agreed planning consents, yet gained permissions from a Council and a Federal Government that was complicit in such devastation, coupled with a lack of desire to access the developer's bond of $650,000, the community has been angry for answers and action.

Here's three more dramatic, yet shocking images that Steve snapped minutes before his helicopter crashed at False Cape last Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Stuffed up

The Iguana may be a genus of a lizard native to tropical areas of Central and South America, but not native to a parliament it seems.

Today Liberal MP Ray Williams was ejected from the NSW parliament when he bought in a stuffed-toy iguana into the house.

Williams presented the toy as the Premier started to answer questions about the incident at Iguana's Bar that involved John Della Bosca and his wife, federal Labor MP Belinda Neal.

The speaker, with no obvious sense of humour, ejected him from the house!

Jesus is a %$#*&^^

Watch what you wear, and I'm not just talking about Woree fashion disasters.
A 16 year old Gold Coast lad has been nabbed for wearing a t shirt.
Not just any t shirt. This one was from Cradle of Filth, an English band. The t-shirt, which most media have refused to publish, is here for you to see.
He was wearing a t-shirt saying "Jesus is a Cunt" and depicts a nun masturbating. Nice.
The boys in blue charged him offensive behaviour under the Summary Offences Act for public nuisance. "I'm not religious but that's just offensive,'' the copper said.
Such incidents reignite debate about Australia's lack of a Bill of Rights.

Lawyer Bill Potts says that one of the great problems is that we talk about rights such as privacy and freedom of speech, but they are not enshrined or protected in any way.
"While there are always limits on freedom of speech, you can't incite violence or anything like that, it seems to be now more than ever that our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be protected."
Potts says that a Bill of Rights, enshrines that freedom of speech, is long overdue. I have to agree. It's amazing for all the right wing fundies in the USA, you certainly have the ability there to express an opinion about anything, and criticise the establishment, with the protection of free speech. Remember when Byrne ran this city what it was like to speak out?
A Bill of Rights was endorsed at the recent 2020 Summit, and almost every country in the world has one. The ACT passed its Human Rights Act in 2004 and in January, Victoria adopted a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
Former NSW Premier Bob Carr says a Charter of Rights represents nothing unless there's an ethos of a people behind it.
"Freedom derives from the ethos of a people, not from charters," he says. "My challenge to people who want a Charter of Rights is this: put it to the people in a Referendum. If there's going to be a charter that enables judges to interpret vaguely-expressed rights, that represents a significant shift in our system."
Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls said they introduced a Bill of Rights because 'it was the right thing to do.' "Every major democracy in the world has woken up to the need for a lasting statement of fundamental human values," he said.
Hulls says it's important to write legislation to protect human rights. "We thought it was appropriate to do it in Victoria. I find it amazing that still in Australia we're debating the worth of such legislation. We've had Vivian Alvarez, Cornelia Rau, the children overboard controversy, far-reaching anti-terrorism legislation, the David Hicks saga unfolded, and still critics managed to choke out the argument, the improved human rights protection is unnecessary in our country."
And will it mean that you can wear any t shirt you want too? Well, maybe. And maybe not. However it will allow every citizen to have the freedom to express themselves, and in a world with more and more open citizen journalism, this kind of change in very important.

Listen to ABC's Law Report (click the icon) when Rob Hulls,Victorian Attorney General; John Hatzistergos, NSW Attorney General, along with former Premier Bob Carr, debate introducing a bill of rights for Australia.

You can also download the MP3 file here, or read the transcript.

Today's crap Cairns Post headline

Oh, let's get a few things straight.
We haven't lost 1600 jobs.
We haven't lost $130 mill.
These type of headlines are what you'd expect in the UK's Sun or News of the World.
It's only one step away from "I got eaten by an alien".
This is hardly responsible journalism by the Cairns Post.
We all know that the tourism business needs a bomb under it. It needs one every year. It's a type of business that continues to evolve, change and needs a different 'call to action' almost every season.
But the reality is far different from this deliberately shocking and misleading headline.
The problem with the reaction to the recent announcement by Qantas to cease some Japan - Cairns flights, and part replace them with Jetsar, is that the local industry was left with it's pants down.
As Tourism Tropical North Queensland's Rob Giason says, the challenge is to grow new emerging markets like China. He says that there's been about a 72% growth of Chinese visitors to Australia over the last 12 months.
However we all know that the Japanese visitor loves to spend up big here. That's why we love em, I guess. They come all the way around the world, all the way to Cairns, to buy Made in China Koalas at the Night Markets. If only they opened their eyes.
Richie Bates, who ran for Division 5 in the recent Council election, asked in the Post letters during the week, that after at least eight official trade missions to mainland China, the former Mayor didn't return with many bookings.
The local tourism market has to be flexible. It also needs to take a good hard look at the product it's selling - Cairns. Much is becoming past it's Best By date. The town is grubby. The prices are way over the top. There's hardly a place for a corner pub priced meal. You used to be able to go to the Cock and Bull in Grafton Street for a $8 feed. No more.
The Yorkeys Knob Boat Club used to offer 'working men's club' prices, but it's full of wanky restaurant prices now, and most stay away. There's hardly a main under $20-25.
The same story is repeated on the Cairns Esplanade.
I was talking to Peter Thorpe, who sees first hand foreign arrivals into Cairns. "Some of the planes coming from Japan are only quarter full. You have to ask why they aren't coming here anymore."
He believes visitors perceive that Cairns is not value for money anymore. "Cairns is now an expensive destination. The mining boom and the dollar going up, maintains this as an expensive place to visit."
My mate Bob Stranger, who runs Touring Cairns, his own independent rainforest tour, also sees problems first-hand. "Tour booking agents take a whopping commission," he says. "The operator ends up with less and less. Some can take up to 30 - 40% as a 'booking fee'," he says.
Many also fail to pay the operator for weeks or months. This problem is well-known to TTNQ, but everytime the issue is raised, they are loathe to get involved or introduce a voluntary regulation or set guidelines for the members of our local tourism body.
It's a serious issue and affects everyone. The prices of visiting the attractions goes up. Less book. Less want to come here. Especially when tours are packaged with airfares, it all becomes easier to choose a different destination.
SO you see, there's a lot to get sorted out first. It's all very well bringing tourists here, but what's the return rate. What do they tell others when they return home?
The Qantas chief hinted that there was a reason why Japanese passengers were not coming to Cairns in the numbers they used to. Maybe we need to ask ourselves that same question. Or simply rename it the Great Barrier Grief.
I think it's time to get our own house in order first.

Pausch still going strong

I've blogged about the Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who shot to fame late last year, following his now famous Last Lecture.

Last August, Pausch was told he had 3 to 6 months left after being diagnosed with cancer. He's still alive, although the cancer is taking over his body.

The cute little book Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, based on his Last Lecture, has just been published, and is available in Cairns. TIME named him in the world's 100 most influential people, after several million viewed his speech on line.

Last month he welcomed back the Class of 2008 at his university's commencement ceremony.

Caption Contest

Pictured in today's Cairns Post is Mayor Val Schier just before boarding a charted flight to view our region from a bird's eye view.

Here's your chance to put words in the mouth of Val, who's chatting to Yarrabah councillor Tony Fourmile.

It was a who's who of the region's local government honchos.

Val and Tony where joined by Mayors from Cassowary Coast Bill Shannon; Tablelands' Tom Gilmore, and Desmond Tayley of Wujal Wujal. Also along for the free ride was MPs Steve Wettenhall and Rosa Lee Long from the Tablelands, and some nameless folk from the Environmental Protection Agency and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

When I heard the other day that this lot were heading up for a flight altogether, I couldn't help but think back to 1990 when then Mayor Keith Goodwin, along with a bunch of officials around the region, were all killed when flying near Mt Emerald.

As always, I'll start the ball rolling...

  1. "Val, can you make this plane do a backflip?"
  2. "After take off, you hold Wettenhall down and I'll wedgie him."
  3. "I think Yarrabah would make a nice Northern Beaches Town Centre Tony"
  4. "Check that Rosa Lee doesn't have Pauline stuffed in her hand bag."
  5. "I hope that the curse of Nowakowski isn't with us today!"
  6. "Oh, I think it's because they couldn't afford a colour photograph at the Cairns Post Tony, nothing to do with being sympathetic to you at all."
  7. ....your turn....