Sunday, 31 August 2008

Out with the old, in with the ewe

Time for a change. Tomorrow it will be September.

When I was a kid, and I kind of still am, I used to like changing around the bedroom every few months. Part was rebel, part was the excitement of bumping into things in the dark. Some things really don't change that much.

I've had to compete with the enormous popularity and following that the Messiah, Lord Gavin the King garners. His, along with Punchon's and Alexander's photo, regularly adorn 'our' Cairns Post. If you can compete on content, then I'll beat them with beauty.

Anyway, I hope you like the new Blog header. If you don't, then write to your local Labor MP, as I know they're keen of ripping things down with little respect for the owner.

Of course, I welcome feedback, which you can post in the comments below (please leave your name or at least a nickname) or drop me an email if it's hot juicy gossip that you wouldn't even tell your mother.

Stories and hot dates also welcome. Not in that order.

Limited news, from Cairns to Alaska

CairnsBlog favourite guest writer, Syd Walker pronounces Thomas Jefferson's famous line: 'If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.'
With that in mind, it's rather apt that he's putting out a challenge to the Cairns Post. Lord help us.

Here’s a lovely juicy scandal story.

I can’t vouch that it’s true – but if so, it’s rather big news.

It’s not the kind of ‘news’ I usually bother myself with, as it is salacious and concerned with hypocrisy, humbug, sex and so-called ‘family values’. I usually prefer to discuss issues, not tittle-tattle. When I showed it to a friend this morning, she was rather shocked. Why is my head in the gutter today?

What’s more, for all I know, the story is false. Perhaps it’s a deliberate bogus story, designed to discredit anyone who latches onto it and inoculate the victim against further rumours? Stranger things - much stranger things – have happened during US Presidential campaigns.

There is, however, a publisher who specializes in this kind of muck raking - depending on the target. He’s not the only publisher who does so, of course, but this guy has turned muckraking - including the premature reporting of stories which prove to be bogus - into a global art-form.

His name is Rupert Murdoch. He owns a few newspapers – quite a few, actually. He even owns the main rag in Cairns, which epitomizes his tawdry world-wide brand.

If the editor of the Cairns Post wants 15 minutes of fame, I invite him to run this salacious story on tomorrow morning’s front page. I suspect Mr Alexander won’t last long in the Murdoch Empire if he does this, but it would certainly make his name. Momentarily, he’ll be better known than any of the pathetic, puffed-up, overpaid hacks who are his many counterparts around this continent and the world.

What story? You really want to know?

If so, head over to the Daily Kos where you’ll find some nice light reading for a Sunday afternoon. If you wish, add your comment to the 1300+ posted so far.

And remember, if you're a Cairns local you (probably) read this first in CairnsBlog.

The Cairns Post – along with every other cribsheet produced by His Masters Voice around the world – will almost certainly drop the ball on a story of this kind. They won’t even sniff around its ankles.

They just don’t want to know – and they certainly don’t want you to know.

What would it take before Murdoch and his minions embarrass a powerful and very useful Zionist fanatic like “Bomb, bomb Iran” McCain?

If McCain drops his pants during a Presidential debate, would Fox News report it? What if McCain whacks Palin on the head with an iron bar - in public - for deceiving his vetting team?

Would the Cairns Post, the Courier Mail, the Australian, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London or any of Mr Murdoch's other organs feature such a story? I doubt it.

Each of them lies squarely within the News Limited Zone – and take their corporate identity seriously.

Baracking up the wrong tree

The Daily Show, on Comedy Central is a bit left of centre, probably why I like it.

Last night's show pokes fun at Obama, whereby host Jon Stewart does a parody of his biographical video, that preceded his speech on Friday. He calls the video 'Barack Obama: He completes us.'

Highlights include:
- Obama as the cub in the Lion King;
- How his story began 180 million years ago when the continents broke apart “The earthly son of a ….”
- God (as a spiritual goat) telling him to run in District 13;
- A scene from Rocky; and
- How every time Obama speaks, an angel has an orgasm.

Have a good laff, no matter who you support.

Hat Tip: KiwiBlog

Labour pains

David Farrar of Kiwiblog posts his roll of dishonour following the publication of NZ Herald's helpful photo gallery highlighting New Zealand Prime Minister Clark’s misbehaving Ministers.

  • Dover Samuels - sexual misconduct allegations
  • Ruth Dyson - drunk driving
  • Phillida Bunkle - claiming a Wellington housing allowance despite living in Wellington
  • Marian Hobbs - claiming a Wellington housing allowance despite living in Wellington
  • Lianne Dalziel - lying
  • John Tamihere - accepting golden handshake from his trust
  • David Benson-Pope - lying
  • Taito Phillip Field - charged with bribery and other corruption
  • David Parker - apparent false Companies Office returns
  • Trevor Mallard - assault
  • Winston Peters - investigated by SFO for serious or complex fraud

He reckons it might be quicker to list those who have not been in trouble!

The train leaves in 5, we mean 7 minutes

La Tomatina

The annual Tomatina festival has just taken place in Spain, in honor of the town's patron saints, Luis Bertràn and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats (Mother of God of the Defenseless), a title of the Virgin Mary.
Up to 40,000 tourists annually join into the tomato fight. No one is completely certain how this event originated, but the tomato fight has been a strong tradition in Buñol since 1945.
Hat Tip: KiwiBlog

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Tom: I'll go down on you

I like pictures. They can say a thousand words, as the saying goes.

Thersites has provided me some interesting graphs of performance locally related ASX listed business groups.

National Gaming & Leisure is a NSW pub baron thing where Hedley owns 20%, for a whopping loss and has attracted some previous interest for his shenanigans there.

Early Learning is the listed plaything of Greg Kern (CEC and Hedley director) who brilliantly pulled a $1 million fee as advisor fee for floating his own company last year, out of just $30 million odd raised.

Well done Kerny! Good work, if you can get it.

Garrett wants new information to save Yachtie

Those advocating a 11-hour reprieve to save the historic and socially significant Cairns Yacht Club building have been asked to put up - immediately - by the Minister of the Environment.

Garrett, sounding like a pony of every Labor polly in the region, said the former Howard government rejected a nomination for the club to be put on the National Heritage List in 2004 after an assessment by the Australian Heritage Council. I thought that would be reason alone to rally and protect the grand old lady.

Garret thinks it's unlikely to qualify for the list unless there is 'new information'.

Here's some new information Peter:

- how about another 10,000 locals that have said they want to keep this piece of our community history where it is;
- another highrise, that only for those who can afford a million-dollar apartment, is not welcome in Cairns;
- that such a small parcel of land can and should be gifted to the community for the people, would be a gracious move by the Government;
- that it is, and has been for over 100 years, a famous music and entertainment venue serving two World Wars, countless local weddings and the creation of many local musos;
- the will of the majority of the community is to retain this building and all that it represents as we change and grow our population;

The Yachtie is on the register of the National Estate, the National Trust’s list of endangered places and its Queensland register.

The motion was moved Federal Parliament on Thursday by Senators Ian MacDonald and Barnaby Joyce. It requested the Minister for Heritage, Peter Garrett, to accede to the request by PADYC for the Emergency Listing of the Cairns Yacht Club building and site on the National Heritage List. Senator Bob Brown also noted the Greens support for the motion.

It's obvious it alarmed and confused his office on what to do next. Garrett was reluctantly dragged into look at the mess that is False Cape. It's taken those campaigning for Federal intervention, months to even get an ear of the nervous Minister, who is being forced to tow a Party line.

The Yacht club building has a firm place in the establishment of the colonisation of the far north of Australia and direct involvement in the defence of the nation in both World Wars. This justifies its place on the National Heritage List.

“Our waterfront and other parts of Cairns once held many places of such significance but they are all gone except for this one," says Wendy Richardson, who is coordinating People Against Demolishing the Yacht Club (PADYC) and spearheaded the 10,000 petition to State Parliament.
"Once restored, this building could continue as a commercially operated dance hall, restaurant and bar, but also be a living testament to those times. Tourists are looking for heritage tourism opportunities and Cairns has so little." Richardson says.

PAYDC says that we need to see past the dilapidated 1970’s additions, which could be removed in a restoration project.

"They need to understand that this was a very important place for our first citizens in their struggle to establish themselves in this hot and humid outpost," Richardson said. "And then there were the servicemen and women who fought for this country in two World Wars. The fabric of their lives; their heroism, love stories, tragedies and celebrations have all been inextricably linked to this building.”

I believe that the building could also house a state of the art regional martine museum, and would be an excellent real example of our humble beginnings as a community. Maybe Peter Garrett can draw on the true meaning of heritage to a community, that with care only grows in time.

"We need his help to defend this small piece of Cairns that has such a large history,” PADYC says.

However this is all very uncomfortable for a Labor government and the local member for Cairns Desley Boyle, and also the Cairns Ports, the landlord where the building sits, long before they were even thought of. This Authority is a government entity and answerable to the people. We pay their wages.

It's my belief that the plan for our Cairns waterfront is covered in secrecy. The Port Authority are crafty buggers and have been less than open about what is going on around the Trinity wharf area. They have had plans for years now to build highrise apartments where the Yacht Club building is. However, the people of Cairns are strongly against this.

"The short term gain of funds for the site, will be long forgotten, like the early history of Cairns, if we lose the opportunity to develop this site as part of our heritage precinct,” Wendy Richardson says.

“We urge the State Government, through its two shareholders in Cairns Ports, John Mickel and Andrew Fraser, to halt the rapid progression of this decision and look for another way to achieve everybody’s’ goals.”

Labor's attitude is becoming one marred with arrogance, ignorance and a "eff you" style of politics. However, like the old building at the centre of this battle, Queensland Labor will be history before to long.

Don't do a Byrne, Geelong

Geelong regional councils are being encouraged to support and sign up for a Cairns-like waste-disposal system, reports the Geelong Advertiser.

The disastrous Bedminster system at Portsmith, which is designed to cut the amount of material going to landfill by 75%, has cost us millions in breakdowns, not to mention the stink over the Southern and inner city suburbs.

Barwon Regional Waste Management Group wants DiCom to have the job, who would roll out the same system which is far from proven.

The now troubled CEC, who have just posted a 33 million pre-tax loss, came to the financial rescue and bought the Portsmith operation. Bet they're glad they did that now!

Made in China

According to my new-found blog dog at Weipa Watchdog, China will build up to 50,000 skyscrapers in the next 20 years, the equivalent of 10 New Yorks.

And just when we thought our contribution to the greenhouses gases was becoming part of our way of life.

The Watchdog says this will create a sustained long-term demand for steel and other raw materials.

"Last week the Federal Government approved a Chinese State-backed aluminium company Chinalco to hold as much as 14.99% of Rio's London shares - equivalent to 11% of Rio's combined Australian and London equities," he says.

He states that global business analysts are not entirely convinced about the quality of Rio's aluminium business. "In fact the value of Rio's aluminium business may even be devaluing the entire company in the face of the BHP-Billiton hostile take-over attempt."

"In English? If successful, BHP-Billiton may just off-load the aluminium division to a suitable global minerals player ... maybe to a company that could level a few of the take-over/regulatory hurdles ... perhaps a company called Chinalco!"

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination

Barack Obama appeared almost flawless when he addressed 75,000 at the democratic convention yesterday, in what resembled an Elton John rock concert than a political rally.

"Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest - a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours - Hillary Rodham Clinton," Obama said.

He hit McCain rather hard, with more substance than the rhetoric of previous speeches.

"But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change."

Obama said he wants to end oil imports, a laudable but outrageous challenge. "And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East."

Overnight, John McCain anointed Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential candidate. It will help him in appealing to working class voters, which he desperately needs. Palin is Governor of Alaska and still hunts moose.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Patricia Morrish RIP

I snapped this lovely photograph this morning, minutes before legendary Far North Queensland broadcaster, Pat Morrish signed off on ABC at 11 am today.

It shows Pat how we all believe her to be behind the veil of radio: fun, warm and a reasoned and balanced voice for all.

The Sheridan Street ABC studio was packed with notables from around the region, with the Premier and State politicians all telephoning in to wish her well and thank her contribution to local debate over the years.

Kier Shorey, who starts at Sparrow's Fart, prized Pat out of the driver's seat soon after her 9am start, and she took a seat in the interviewer's spot across the desk. "It feels odd to be sitting here," she said.

Pat sat along side her producer Fiona Sewell, will take over the time slot from Monday morning, until and new morning presenter is found early next year.

Hundreds of Pat's Fan Club telephoned in from around over the region, with recollections about the time they had shared with the doyen of our local radio.

I've penned numerous ABC antics. At the time of the Council election there was a gripping interview with an agitated and aggressive Mayor, clinging onto his credibility, in what I called The morning Pat asked Kevin a straight question. Also, let's not forget the morning Pat lost it over Mrs Slocombe's pussy, which was replayed to great mirth this morning.

Pat lives only down the road from me at Yorkeys, so I took in a large Cinnamon and apple loaf from our Yorkeys Knob Bakery, to share around the office. I noticed Kier Shorey's grumbling tummy making a beeline towards the munchies.

There was Moet flowing around the studio, and there was a party in full swing as Pat relived some of her great times of radio, amongst people which she regards as her close friends.

"Well, I'd like to thank you all for the experience," she said as she finally signed off at 10:59:55 this morning.

Pat has been on the airwaves for 26 years. I hope she rests in peace.

No help from Labor

If the People Against Demolishing the Cairns Yacht Club were hoping for support from the Rudd Labor Government to save the Cairns Yacht Club, their hopes were dashed this morning in the Senate, with the Government opposing a Motion successfully moved by Senator Macdonald.

It calls on Mr Garrett to fast track the Emergency Listing Request for the Yacht Club under the National Heritage Guidelines.

Senator Macdonald said that the Senate agreed with the Motion which will place more pressure on Mr Garrett to approve the Emergency Listing Request for the Cairns Yacht Club.

“Labor Senators opposed the Motion, and they disregarded the 10,300 signatures of the petition presented to the Queensland State Government," Macdonald says. "The State Government has washed its hands of the issue and has advised that the building will be demolished shortly.
“I am hoping that Mr Garrett will soon recognise the heritage value of the building and it’s significance to Cairns."

He called on Garrett to accept the will of the Senate and as a matter of urgency fast track the Heritage listing of the Cairns Yacht Club, before it is too late.

CairnsBlog cartoon by Circusmouse

Cairns - a safe city?

Here's a Friday morning joke.

Cairns is applying for accreditation as a "Safe Community" that is sanctioned by the World Health Organisation. Yes, you did read that right.

A couple of WHO clipboarders are in town today to assess a Council application for Safe City status. Cairns Regional Council say this inspection "comes after years of improving community safety."

Are they out of their mind?

Cairns has one of the most out of control crime problems of any regional city in the country. It's time for an audit alright, but not with the intention to award a Council for a job well done. I know the problem for such violence doesn't rest solely on the Council. Far from it. However, there is little strategic approach or vision to work for active solutions.

I've been a long-time advocate for such a reform in our region. I've met with the Safe City manager and the Mayor of the Wellington City Council, who earn't their Safe City stripes some time ago. They did a huge amount of work, including introducing the inspirational community liaison officers that walk the beat and help visitors and those who need help around the clock. They also ditched all but one of the CCTVs. We now have 70 plus, with more on the way under Councillor Alan Blake's plan to rid the town of deviants and trouble makers. This is lazy policing.

I blogged about this subject last December after returning from a meeting with the Mayor Prendergast and her Council. I also highlighted soon after the new Council was sworn in, about the need for a strategic rethink on how we deal with violence in our city.

Cr Di Forsyth who is aiming to champion the safer city campaign, and is well qualified to do so, given her background in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and that's not just when she's at the Media Mix drinks. Di says that a broad partnership of community groups had combined since 1994 to work towards the accreditation. This is all very well, but it divorces the Council from any ownership of the problem at distances itself from contributing to a solution.

"These community groups’ efforts to make Cairns a safer place," she says. "Programmes like Midnight Basketball – Hoop Dreaming; Forest Gardens child safety kits; Forest Gardens walking bus; Violence No Way; Fall Prevention in Older People."

How lazy is that? We get a list of community groups, however laudable, with vague agendas that hardly relate to the objectives of a Safe City assessment.

They also cite the Queensland Transport Cairns Amateurs and Port Douglas Carnivale Alcohol and Road Safety Intervention. They simply tried to ban people from taking any alcohol with them into Cannon Park races last year. This makes for a safer city? Give me a break.

"Council has also increased lighting, installed closed circuit television cameras, adjusted taxi ranks and bus stops to improve safety in the Cairns CBD," says Forsyth.

CCTV installation is a legacy of the former Byrne-led Council where the only solution was to throw a heap of money at closed circuit TVs all over the effing town. And what have the 70 cameras discovered? They've caught a young English backpacker having a pee over the boardwalk late one night (and arrested him and marched him off to court on the Monday morning), and a few litter bugs.

Byrne told me back in 2000, they increased the number of cameras from 19 to 41 in 2004. Now there are nearly 60 cameras dotted around the city. In Brisbane, with a population of 1.8 million, they have 16 cameras.

“Queensland Police were able to report a fall in crime from the 2005/2006 financial year to the 2006/2007 financial year in the Safe Communities application,” Councillor Di Forsyth says.

“We are aware that there are still safety issues to be addressed and if this application is successful, Cairns will report annually to maintain the Safe Community recognition,” she said.

Whoopie. What is Council strategic approach? Where's the real community interaction?

This week's Cairns Sun, delivered across the region on Wednesday, will be the last cover page that these WHO safety inspectors will be keen to see, let alone this Council. It's yet another example of little strategic approach to crime and safety.

Barry Neall, a long-time vocal advocate for a change in resources towards crime prevention, is stunned by Council's application to the WHO. Neall set up Residents Against Crime a year ago to highlight and get some action, after he saw violet story after violent story appears every other day. He now publicises every attack and reports incidents on his blog.

"I've had hardly any backing for this awareness campaign," Barry told CairnsBlog. "I saw former Councillor Freebody come out the other week about the crime problem, saying that we should send the problem kids away to a Boot Camp."

"As if that's the solution! I don't recall Freebody championing this issue while he was in Council at all, it was only after he had a break in at his Car Wash café business. Doubt he'd even raise it if he wasn't the victim of a crime."

Barry Neall thinks this approach for accreditation from the WHO is a huge sick joke. "It’s all bullshit, really. How can they think we have a safe city?"

Late last month, Neall flew to Brisbane on his own expense as a concerned citizen to meet with Meeting with Police Minister Judy Spence, and was granted an audience for an hour, to express in great detail the crime and violence in Cairns.

"The Minister was extremely interested in what was going on up here, especially coming from the community level," Barry Neall said.

In June, he co-ordinated a public meeting which attacked 300 people to address the problems at a community level.

He has now convinced the Police Minister to come to a second public forum to be held on Tuesday September 16th at 7pm. This will be held at the DeJarvis Pavilion at the Show Grounds, and will be chaired by John McKenzie. Macca's appearance alone will be worth the entry ticket.

The Police Minister is insistent to bring along her local Member for Cairns, Desley Boyle, however there is an element of denial from the local MP about the crime problem here in Cairns.
In an April 4th leaked email to CairnsBlog, Desley Boyle says the impression of crime in Cairns isn't true.

"From what I heard of the Mackenzie show, it is no wonder you got the impression that the streets of Cairns are not safe and that crime is rampant. This is in fact not so," Boyle wrote. "Yes there are offences and yes the police need to respond hard and fast. But media have a responsibility too not to get people disproportionately and unduly alarmed."

Thanks Desley. Yet again you have your head firmly buried in the sand. Probably the sand in front of the Yacht Club building.

Fellow Labor MP Warren Pitt, Member for Mulgrave, also chimed in on the she'll-be-right bandwagon. "I understand my colleague, the Honourable Desley Boyle has responded to your email and I fully endorse her actions. Thank you for putting your concerns in writing to me." he wrote in an email 92 minutes after Boyle's.

I may be a bit of a leftie, but this Labour government is way out of touch with reality.

I hope a bunch of Councillors will head across the ditch to the International Safe Communities Conference that is being hosted Christchurch 20th October.

Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane, is throwing her full support behind Barry Neall's campaign, and has helped organise the venue for the September public meeting at no cost.

Where's the Council's White Paper on this most pressing subject? Where's there full-time Safe City Officers? Do we have any? That's the real crime.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

NZ coalition partner in fraud investigation

New Zealand Labour's partner in Government, the New Zealand First party headed by infamous Winston Peters, is at the centre of a Serious Fraud Office investigation tonight.

It's all about whether donations from Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers reached the New Zealand First party as intended.

The SFO's office says they have enough information to suspect the investigation may reveal "serious and complex fraud", which is the threshold for the statutory powers which can force documents to be produced or people involved to answer questions.

My mate David Farrar at KiwiBlog has been blogging about this high profile politician for more than two years on the subject on party donations.

The New Zealand House of Representatives was rife today with the latest developments, which Peters, who is Minister of Foreign Affairs, called "ridiculous in the extreme".

Today's SFO's announcement has forced a revelation from Prime Minister Clark that she knew in February about a donation from Owen Glenn towards Winston Peters' legal fees. KiwiBlog released the stunning letter.

It was a long day in politics in Kiwiland today.

Senator Joyce wants emergency heritage listing

Today the Senate passed a motion raised by Queensland Senators Barnaby Joyce and the Hon Ian Macdonald called for Peter Garrett as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, to "accede to the Emergency Listing Request" for the Cairns Yacht Club under National Heritage guidelines.

The motion noted that a petition of 10,300 signatures was presented on behalf of Cairns and the greater Queensland community to stop the demolition of the National Trust listed (Endangered Building) and National Estate registered Cairns Yacht Club building.

“To date, the absence of any action from the Minister is a clear sign that Labor is failing to recognise and act upon significant community issues," Senator Joyce said to Parliament.

He also commended the efforts of the people of Cairns to fight for the protection of the historic Yacht Club building. He said he would continue to support the amnesty of this architecturally significant part of the history of Cairns.

"It's a small victory for Cairns and for history," Joyce says. Following the presentation,
Senator Ludlam, along with Senator Bob Brown, asked in the House that it be noted that the Greens were also supporting the Motion asked for details on the Yacht Club building.

Garrett is expected to respond to this tomorrow. You'd expect to get a defining intervention from the green-loving politician.

In a speech that should come back to haunt him, should he not act on the Cairns Yacht Club, Garrett spoke on national heritage in 1999 about Sydney. He said the city encompasses the "built and natural forms which are expressions of a continuing culture."

"Many a planner and politician can attest, the dynamics of urban growth consistently overwhelm the level of effort required to preserve natural and cultural heritage," Garret said at the National Trust annual lecture.

"The national estate or Real Estate? It's crunch time for Sydney," he said.

"It isn't that we don't think historic buildings should be preserved, or rivers brought back to health, most of us do. But we seem unable to curtail or mediate this dynamic force. The result, an environment that is in trouble. Some would say this message has lost force for want of continuous repeating. But in the same breath we might observe the same fact about our heritage."

"In the case of the environment, and tonight I mean the environment of the Sydney Basin, the evidence is that it is in a state of extreme stress. No one seriously disputes this fact, and many residents experience it as worsening air quality, vanishing bush, suburban over-development, highly congested roads, threats to water supplies, noise pollution and so on, all which mar their place of living.

Garrett's Midnight Oil, who played at the historic Cloudland in Brisbane, for which he has a soft spot, immortalised the demolition in his song Dreamworld (from the Diesel and Dust album). The song attacked the greed of the pro-development forces, as Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen ordered the midnight demolition.

It's kind of obvious that the Cairns Yacht Club building is the Cloudland of Cairns.

Hold your breath. We're all waiting Peter.

My Disclaimer

This Blog may not reflect the thoughts or opinions of either myself, my company, my friends, or my cats; don't quote me on that; don't quote me on anything; Don't tell my mum; Copyright MMVIII; all rights reserved; other copyright laws for specific stories apply where noted; stories are subject to change without notice; jokes are slightly enlarged to show detail; Rated: PG-13, R, or X; any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is unintentional and purely coincidental; hand wash only, tumble dry on low heat; do not bend, fold, mutilate, or tear; your mileage may vary; no substitutions allowed; for a limited time only; this offer is void where prohibited, taxed, or otherwise restricted by law; humor is provided "as is" without any warranties expressed or implied; user assumes full liabilities; rebroadcast is prohibited without the express written consent of Major League Baseball; Pat. Pend. AUS. Reg.; toll rates may apply; not liable for damages due to use or misuse; an equal opportunity joke employer; no shoes, no shirt, no jokes; quantities are limited; while supplies last only; if defects are found, do not attempt to fix them yourself, but return to an authorized joke service center; caveat emptor; Thou shalt not steal!; read at your own risk; parental advisory - explicit lyrics; text may contain material some readers may find objectionable, parental guidance is advised; keep away from sunlight, pets, and small children; limit one-per-family please; no money down; no purchase necessary; you need not be present to win; some assembly required; batteries are not included; action figures sold separately; no preservatives added; contents may settle during shipment; full net weight guaranteed; safety goggles may be required during use; sealed for your protection, do not use if the safety seal is broken; call before you dig; for external use only; if a rash, redness, irritation, or swelling develops, discontinue use; use only with proper ventilation; avoid extreme temperatures and store in a cool dry place; keep away from open flames and avoid inhaling fumes; avoid contact with mucous membranes; do not puncture, incinerate, or store above 120 degrees Fahrenheit; do not place near flammable or magnetic source; insurance regulations prohibit recipients from entering the joke-making area without an escort; smoking these jokes may be hazardous to your health; the best safeguard, second only to abstinence, is the use of a good laugh; text used in these jokes is made from 100% recycled electrons and magnetic particles; no animals were used to test the hilarity of these jokes; no salt, MSG, artificial color or flavor added; if ingested, do not induce vomiting, if symptoms persist, consult a humorologist; jokes are ribbed for your pleasure; slippery when wet; must be 18 to enter; possible penalties for early withdrawal; joke offer valid only at participating E-mail sites; slightly higher west of the Rockies; allow four to six weeks for delivery; disclaimer does not cover hurricane, lightning, tornado, tsunami, volcanic eruption, earthquake, flood, and other Acts of God, misuse, neglect, unauthorized repair, damage from improper installation, broken antenna or marred cabinet, incorrect line voltage, missing or altered serial numbers, sonic boom vibrations, electromagnetic radiation from nuclear blasts, customer adjustments that are not covered in the joke list, and incidents owing to airplane crash, ship sinking, motor vehicle accidents, leaky roof, broken glass, falling rocks, mud slides, forest fire, flying projectiles, or dropping the item; other restrictions may apply. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention; If something offends you, lighten up get a life, and move on. Offer not valid if accompanied by a lawyer.

From the Pitts

Local Government Minister Warren Pitt on was radio this morning announcing that he is upset that poor Port Douglas and Mossman residents are having to foot 50% of the bill
to carry out an independent facts and data report on the failure of the amalgamation.

"I'm so moved and touched," says Rod Davis, a former Douglas Councillor.

Warren tells us Jason O'Brien has been in his office sweating. How horrible.

Pitt then added, that the independent report he wants, was actually to be a report about making amalgamation with Cairns work.

"Warren, there is job waiting for you, as Chinese governor of Tibet," Rod Davis says.

What sort of idiots to do take us for? Pitt then tactfully added, that he wants his man Jason on the steering committee for the Report.

"Now Warren, we wouldn’t want that report to possibly touch a sensitive nerve on the eve on a looming local electoral backlash rampage, now would we?" Davis says.

I’m sure the Free Tibet crew would love that Chinese governor on their board.

And Warren reckons Douglas is deluded. Yeah, right Warren.

Snub for golden gay boy Mitcham

First there was Thorpie, now we have Mitchie. However this one is really gay, not just acts like one.
However, America's NBC was forced to apologise for its 'homophobic' coverage of Matthew Mitcham, who scored gold as our Aussie diver, according to the Daily Telegraph.
“We regret that we missed the opportunity to tell Matthew Mitcham’s story, and apologise for this unintentional omission,” NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel said.
NBC failured to mention Mitcham is gay and has a partner. Following complaints that commentators discussed the partners of other gold medallists after their win, they said the stuffed up. Mitcham came out in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in May. Unlike with former Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne waltzed off to China for 8 years in a row, Matt was awarded a grant through the Johnson and Johnson Athlete Family Support Program to take him to Beijing.
OutSports says of the 10,708 athletes at the Olympics, just 10 have said they're gay, and Matthew Mitcham is the only male.
In this video, soon after he was awarded Gold, he thanks his partner Lachlan and his mum Vivienne, who both supported him in China.

Something unexpected on your next rate bill

We have a new logo, and all it will cost you is around a quarter of a million bucks.

I know you've all been waiting. After the cock up and premature adulation two months ago, when three "finalists" were announced, Council decreed that they should go back to the drawing board, or at least, take another look at the whole thing.

Local market guru Andrew Griffiths called the proposed designs dull and boring, and so dated. He believed they had little innovation and all looked the same. I agreed.

The mandatory use of blue and green for the tree-hugging brigade, made for one of the most boring logo design competitions I've ever seen.

However, Council's spin machine, after the departure of Byrne's media minders Robyne Holmes and Gary Schofield, said that after three months of comprehensive consultation in a "process that attracted more than 60 different designs", that Council voted the new one in.

The logo comprises a native Licuala fan palm.

They say it's a "stunning interpretation crafted to reflect our tropical lifestyle, our connection with the environment and a dynamic and festive spirit."

“With a new name and a new region it was imperative that we develop a new visual brand reflective of our new neighbourhood,” Mayor Schier says. “Our logo is a symbol of unity - depicted by an iconic plant species growing strong and prolifically across our Council region.”

The Licuala ramsayi palm is native to the wet tropical rainforests of north Queensland and is a household name amongst the Yidinji Tribe, where it is known as Girbu, used traditionally for flooring, housing, as umbrellas during wet weather, and the fruit eaten.

It was designed by Suzanne Ashmore who says that green upper leaf represents the mountain range and rainforest clad coastline. The lower blue leaf represent the ocean and the reef and connection with both elements of nature.

Schier says that the new logo is "simple, yet sophisticated, bold and dynamic." What the?

Council will now spend $200,000 of our rates this year sticking this ghastly logo everywhere from Cairns Water, Libraries, Esplanade, Tanks and the Civic Theatre. They'll even deck out the staff with this new logo. How much did your rates go up?

You will be able to sleep soundly tonight now.

Petition presented to Parliament

Mark McArdle MP, Leader of the Liberal Party, and Deputy Leader of the Coalition, yesterday presented his sponsored petition to the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 10,633 petitioners, requesting the House to direct the Port Authority to stay any order or requirement for removal or demolition of the Cairns Yacht Club building, allowing it to remain in situ.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Sun shines of heritage elsewhere

Even after the Member for Cairns Desley Boyle, was presented with over 10,000 signatures yesterday morning, she still refuses to accept the will of the community she supposedly 'represents' to protect and retain the 100 year old Cairns Yacht Club building on our waterfront.

It's now obvious that the Cairns Port Authority have convinced Boyle and her Labour State mates, that there's too much coin to be made out of the land that the grand old club house sits on.

In an striking similarity, the Sunday Mail reported over the weekend that a modest backpacker's hostel on the Sunshine coast will not get the axe following a protection order from the EPA and Heritage Queensland.

Cotton Tree Backpackers now occupy the old building, at the mouth of the Maroochy River

"The hostel [building] is a reminder that the things we treasure need not be that grand or that old," the Sunday Mail reports. "They merely have to be things we want to keep and pass on to future generations."

Queensland Heritage says that these are elements that "reflect our history and can evoke special meaning individuals or members of a community."

The hostel is a 1930's style flat, sited on the beach at Maroochydore, is worth keeping and a reminder of our past, the report says. They were built at a cost of 1200 pounds ($2,400) but the land on which they now sit is worth millions.

"Their real estate worth is incomparable with the treasure of memories they evoke and the place they occupy in our history," the Mail writes. "We think of our Queensland history in bricks and stone, but it can be just as imperishable when built of humble wood.

The credibility and respect for the Queensland Heritage Council, Federal, State and local governments will be in tatters if they allow the destruction of Cairns' old Yacht Club building in around four weeks time.

There's now an abundance of information that shows why this place should be saved, all punctuated by three consecutive petitions since 2003. Over a six year period, the level of support has increased at an exponential rate.

Yacht club campaigner Kerry Riella recounts a similar story from Townsville.

"My husband was telling someone in Townsville about what we are doing to save the old building, she says. "Apparently they did the same thing to the Townsville Yacht Club, kicked them out of their little humpy a few years ago, put them into some flash place where they went broke within a year."

"Then they had a caravan on the Esplanade that they taught the kids how to sail out of for a few years, and struggled for many years," Kerry says.

What was that about history repeating itself?

Desley Boyle is no longer a member for the people. She is clearly here to support the big fat greedy developers who want to make huge profits out of the piece of dirt that the Yacht Club building sits on.

Time she booked herself into a weekend stay in Maroochydore's old hostel, and reflected on the hurt she is dishing out to the Cairns community.

Help the young

Catholic Social Services CentaCare programme, are looking for volunteers for their youth mentoring scheme.

You'll need to "listen, coach, provide feedback and friendship." No Regional Councillors need apply, besides Julia, oh, and maybe Rob.

Give them a call on 4041 5844 or drop them an email.

Wonder if they need a blogger? I mean, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Weipa Watchdog is back

It seems as though Rio Tinto continues to do dumb things up in Weipa, that need commenting on, and the Weipa Watchdog is back in business again.

Cape York Weipa Watchdog blogger Chris, told me he was just going to let it fold, but alas, he's back online.

"Great to see that your target got the arse," Chris tells me, referring to the Cairns March elections.

Although it seems you're always destined to get politicians in councils, no matter how many elections pass.

In a recent rant about all thing Rio, Tinto that is, he cites the community consultation that Rio has become infamous for in the region. Zilch.

"Rio only seemed to come out with their tailings dam info when Watchdog got wind of it months ago [back in February]," Chris writes. "Next minute we got double-page ads in the paper, a few meetings and a few posters on the notice board. What we didn't get was prior consultation, ie before planning. I wonder if anyone in RIO ever thought for a minute about the poor pricks living right across the road from the dam? Did anyone cite potential dramas with Night-time noise for those residents and their kids, let alone the dust?"

Chris lives in the neighbouring suburb of New Nanum, adjacent to massive new dredging.
"Before any of you fuckers go on about 'if you don't like it, leave' ... let me say this ... Pull your fucking head in," he writes.

He's run into a number of threats by the legal heavy weights for his online writings over the last year, something I can relate to well. There's a really important job for a lone Blogger to do in this media-starved far northern town.

Keep up the good work Chris. You're doing God's work (she would approve).

Saturday, 23 August 2008

A seat bigger than France

We have learnt that One Nation's Rosa Lee Long's Tablelands electorate seat, has been consumed into a massive new electorate that now includes Charters Towers.

However the new Queensland boundary changes has seen the Mount Isa seat double in size to 570,500 square kms.

This is 20,000 kms larger than France, which I believe is an entire country, full of French people.

Hat Tip: KiwiBlog

Stories from the Past, I mean the Post

Interesting to see the story that I exposed last Monday about the dodgy power pole at the entrance to Work Cover's car park, has now appeared in the Cairns Post twice.

Maybe in future when I get a story lead from the Cairns Post, I'll pretend it's mine!

Yacht Club demolition: one month to go

At 9am on Monday, Member for Cairns, Desley Boyle will be presented with a petition of more than 10,000 signatures, in opposition to demolition of the historic Cairns Yacht Club.

Wendy Richardson, representing the community action group from People Against Demolishing the Yacht Club, today wrote to the leader of the Opposition, Lawrence Springborg.

The aim of PADYC has been to save the old building in the spot on which it has stood for the past 100 years, for the community.

"Currently it appears to me we are getting insufficient response politically," says Ray Taylor, a long-time campaigner for the preservation of the building. "I therefore suggest, in the time now available, we urgently concentrate all our efforts in making our representatives at both levels of Government, to act.

Ray Taylor says the facts are clear.

  1. The decision of the Queensland Heritage Council is a rort.
  2. The objection to Heritage Listing was conspiratory in nature and not "Separate" as described.
  3. The signatories to the Trinity Inlet Management Plan failed in all their Objectives.
  4. The intent of the Wet Tropical Coast Regional Coastal Management Plan was very clear in relation to the Cairns Yacht Club building.
  5. The threats applied by the Cairns Port Authority to the Cairns Yacht Club in order to achieve their will.

Over 10,000 have signed a petition, the third time the community has now petitioned the State government on this. "This includes the e-petition but does not include people from outside Queensland or ineligible entries such as no signature, says Wendy Richardson. "As far as we can tell, these are all legitimate signatures."

Wendy Richardson has written to the State opposition, namely Mark McArdle, Leader of the Liberal Party, and Lawrence Springborg.

"With only a month left until demolition of the Old Cairns Yacht Club Building, your supporters, disenchanted Labor voters and many swinging voters in the Far North are watching anxiously to see what you are going to do to help us on this issue," she writes.

"I have been aware, but so have many people who have spoken to us, that the real issue here is the fact that the Labor Government is not representing the community. They are arrogant and will not listen or be brave enough to stand up to Anna and co, says Richardson.

"However, you are our opposition and we need you to help us to unashamedly apply as much political pressure as possible in the coming days and weeks on the Bligh government (including John Mickel and Andrew Fraser, the two shareholders of Cairns Ports)."

"You can demonstrate your resolve that you will be a party for Northerners who feel overwhelmingly neglected by the Government. Your silence or a lack of involvement now will speak volumes in a negative sense."

"I urge and request you as strongly as I possibly can to consider what you can do to make these people stop and think what they are doing before it is too late. 10,300 people have signed the petition and that was in about 5 weeks. These signatures will arrive on your doorstep on Monday, and we expect thousands more. Each one of these 10,000 people is aware of the issue and feels attached now to the outcome," Wendy Richardson says.

Who's king of the Castle?

It seems whoever is organising this year's Festival Cairns, need to really get out from their office a bit more, and connect with the people.

I've been a fan of what the End Credits Film Club have been doing for years. In fact it was one of the first 'tropical' things I did, attend a film in the Botanic gardens 9 years ago. For a number of months a year, since 2001, End Credits host an outdoor movie called Starry Nights at Botanic Gardens. Last Wednesday, I enjoyed Monty Python's Life of Brian, and next month, the children's classic The Black Stallion will screen. I'll avoid that one because it will be full of children. They can be dirty and noisy little critters.

However their November 19th feature, the Australian iconic 1997 film The Castle, is now being upstaged by a free screening of the same movie by Festival Cairns.

On Saturday September 13th, Festival Cairns have decided to screen The Castle at for free at Fogarty Park.

Anyone who follows the CairnsBlog community calendar, or any community events calendar, will be aware of End Credits programme well in advance. In fact, these films were programmed and publicised at the beginning of the year. The Castle screening is the signature closing event of this year's Starry Night Picnic Cinema season, and a well-known annual event in Cairns.

The Castle is all about the odd ball underdog Kerrigan family, who go all the way to the High Court to defend their suburban home from big business. It almost mirrors what some big dicks down town want to do to a small community film club.

Starry Night Cinema is the community fundraising event for three of our volunteer organisations, The Friends of the Gallery, The Friends of the Gardens and End Credits Film Club.

The Festival Cairns free screening is partnered with Birch Carroll & Coyle, who should have known better than to undermine a long standing event and local community organisation.

Suffice to say End Credits members have always been well supported by Birch movies with their members discount ticket offer. However Festival Cairns is another beast altogether. Starry Nights has annually programmed a kids-free admission family film, each September school holidays, however Festival Cairns has for the last few years refused to include the event under its events list.

Presenting the same movie has of course angered End Credits. This is a stupid decision.

"We rely on funds raised at Starry Nights to be able to continue community benefit work," says Brett Hitchens, program director of End Credits. "To have our signature event diminished, either deliberately or by a lack of community awareness by Festival Cairns represents a great kick in the guts to so many hard working volunteers from each of Starry Nights partner organisations," he says.

"We urge Festival Cairns to correct its error - or incompetence - and choose another film. There are plenty of worthy alternate choices out there," Brett Hitchens says.

End Credits also screen other alternative films that would never make it to a commercial audience in the far north. End Credits originally started in the turn-of-the-century Palace Cinema, which now houses Global Palace, a backpacker establishment.

End Credits is a non profit organisation, and is dedicated to sourcing and screening non-mainstream films. It's run by a committee of local volunteers, with around 350 members. They started Starry Nights eight years ago, in conjunction with Friends of The Regional Gallery and The Friends of the Flecker Botanic Gardens.

Starry Nights are held in the Flecker Botanic Gardens Edge Hill every month. Gates open 6pm and the movie starts at 7:30pm. You can BYO your own drinks and picnic.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

What's in a name?

The Cairns Port Authority has changed its name. Why?

The new name is Cairns Ports.

However, just like the Cairns Regional Council, they still retain their former name on their building.

Long-time advocate and campaigner for the preservation of the historic Cairns Yacht Club, Rob Williams says that there was a long of laudable and missions displayed on their website, however much was removed.

Along with former Commodore Bob Rendell, who wrote At the Aquatic, a 100 year memory of the entrainment that was the centre of the social scene of the old Yacht Club building, Williams has campaigned to save the Aquatic Club building for its strong heritage and social value to the far north community, and for the use of the community in years to come.

Rob Williams is president of Cairns Tropic Jazz Club, that played at the Yacht Club for many years.

So here's their 'charter' which no longer appears on the Port Authority website. See if you agree that the Government, via the Cairns Ports, has carried out its charter in the best interests of the people of Cairns.

We've now learn't that Cairns Ports has asked the Council to ratify certain changes to regulations that may not be in our best interests.

"I think the Cairns Ports has passed its use by date and it should all be handed back to the ratepayers and taxpayers of North Queensland through our Regional Council, Rob Williams says. "After all, its our asset."

With well over 9,000 signatures on the petition, this is an issue that is not over for the community, who are strongly supporting the building be preserved for the future.

Monday, 18 August 2008

A bad case of WorkCover

I've been hanging out to share this story for a while now, but timing is everything, as any performer will claim.

There's the story about a prostitute who was simply referred to as 'QR' (short for Queensland Rail) as he never pulled out on time. I've been trying to work that line into a story for months, and it's also about timing. Sorry, that was a rather poor segway.

Anyway, back to my story. Without photos, you'd simply think this wee tale was another CairnsBlog classic hoax, of which I've become notorious for. I said when I started this Blog that I'll become famous, and if not famous, I'll be notorious (with apologies to Oscar Wilde). The later would have be true if KB was our Mayor for another term, as I wouldn't be able to resist firing from the hip at his leadership.

This story is true-blue, fair dinkum, down the line, and at the same time, outrageously unbelievable.

For those that don't know, Work Cover is the Government agency that provides support and compensation following workplace injury about the place you don't want to visit unless you have to. They manage the compensation fund and also oversee occupational health and safety standards. Work Cover is one of a number of tenants escaping the exorbitant rents that are being charged in the Cairns Corporate tower in Lake Street.

They've probably spent millions putting this new office together. Fabulous colours, and flash decor. Nothing has been spared in this new state-of-the-art office fit out.

This week, the newly purpose-built and designed office for Work Cover at 120 Spence Street, Cairns will be officially be opened by Hon John Mickel, Minister for Transport, Trade, Employment and Industrial Relations.

I wandered past last week, on the way to lunch at Cairns Central with Northern Beaches Warrior and couldn't help but noticed a couple of astounding observations.

First there was the painter, precariously perched on a platform rushing to complete the finishing touches before this week's office opening. I giggled to myself at the irony of the situation, as workers would be discouraged from such practices to prevent a possible Work Cover claim.

However the real stunning 'design' of this new government facility is the car park at the rear of the office. As you enter, or exit, the car park, you have to negotiate a power pole right in the middle of the driveway.

If I didn't take this snap on my new iPhone, you wouldn't have believed me. As I walked back towards Spence Street, I mentioned this situation to one of the staff and they were despondent.

Someone should warn Minister Mickel to watch out when he arrives this week for tea and scones before he cuts the ribbon. I reckon the first person to need a Work Cover claim this week, will probably be a staff member at 120 Spence Street as they drive into their own carpark.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

H2O + EV – WC2 = WQIP?

Syd Walker ponders the meaning of life up the hill and the drama of all things H2O

Last night, meaningless quasi-algebraic formulae raced through my mind as I nodded off to sleep.

Earlier in the week, I had attended a meeting in Kuranda, the purpose of which was to explain the forthcoming Barron / Trinity Inlet Water Quality Improvement Plan to interested members of the community such as myself.

I have no bone to pick with the staff who took the trouble to visit us in the evening hours, make a presentation and answer questions.

They tried hard to explain their project and clarify the alleged benefits of this Water Quality Improvement Program (WQIP) process. They introduced the audience to a new swag of acronyms. Did you know ‘EV’ means ‘environmental value’? Neither did I – but now I do. They struggled to explain the scope of the project and its value to ‘stakeholders’.

But unfortunately for them, as every door-to-door salesman well knows, shoddy goods provoke customer resistance.

Kuranda environmentalists are a suspicious lot. We’ve seen governments, plans and programs come and go – and not much change in the region’s environmental management. We’re weren’t born yesterday – in some cases the margin being quite considerable. Many of us carry well-tuned crap detectors, which we keep switched on at such occasions.

My crap detector bleeped furiously throughout most of the meeting. I asked a question or two – but the answers just made it bleep louder. I left with the view that the Barron / Trinity Inlet Water Quality Improvement Plan is essentially an exercise in pretence.

It works like this. Governments pretend to be doing something important. Scientists pretend to study important things. The public pretends to have been consulted. Polluters pretend to be bothered. Importantly, everyone pretends we’re all ‘making progress’. Meanwhile, the river dies.

Actually, that’s going too far. This river isn’t dying. The Barron is not the Murray-Darling. It gets flushed out once a year when FNQ’s wet season arrives. And so, on an annual basis, the river is re-born – like the legendary phoenix!

I’ve coined my own acronym for the Barron River. I call it a WC. Some say that WC stands for Water Catchment. But in my book, it’s short for ‘Water Closet’. The Barron has a curious design with a large bowl at the top, followed by a long winding channel. The whole system is vigorously flushed, at least once a year. Where does it all go? Down into the Great Barrier Reef, of course. The Barron’s septic tank is the Coral Sea.

And there’s the rub – and the entire reason for WQIPs. It’s well known that the reef is in poor shape. It is a World Heritage site – an ecosystem of unparalleled magnificence. But large areas of the reef ecosystem are sick.

In recent years, grim-faced scientists have started making the same kind of doom-laden predictions about the Reef as their equivalents 20 years ago made about the Murray-Darling. Everyone agrees that the crisis is urgent! The same cliches are recycled. It might be our "Last Chance to Take Action!"

But real action often costs real money (state of the art sewerage systems, sophisticated monitoring etc). Even more alarming, real action can have an inconvenient tendency to upset real people (e.g. wealthy farming interests who currently externalize the costs of their unsustainable use of poisons by dumping them, free of charge, into the Barron WC).

All too often, politicians don’t like upsetting powerful stakeholders. They much prefer pretence – especially with ever-reliable cover from our lazy, ‘ask-no-hard-questions’ mass media. So instead of action, we have a WQIP.

Cynics might call it a ‘Water Quality Improvement Pretence’.

The Barron – Trinity Inlet WQIP, we were told at the meeting, has been poorly-funded. Consequently, it will be a desktop job in which existing data is reviewed. Some work has been done modeling the catchment. The three key factors in the model, if I recall correctly, are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Sediment Load.

“What about Pesticides?” asked an awkward soul at the back of the room. I intended to pursue the same line of questioning myself, but felt momentary sympathy for the hapless folk at the front whose task it was to present the Great Pretence to the meeting. What a job!

The co-ordinator, a charming woman whose name is Fiona Barron - no, I’m not making it up - explained patiently that pesticides are beyond the scope of this WQIP. The lack of pesticide data will be identified as a gap in the data. There are proposals for further work to look into pesticides, proposals currently seeking funds.

I never really got the chance at the meeting, so I’ll vent my spleen a little in this article.

I'd like to make a few points, so please bear with me.

Studies carried out for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority have already shown that the Barron is a significant source of pesticide pollutants. See GBRMPA’s overview of water quality issues. It’s hardly surprising. Take a trip to Mareeba and check out large agricultural suppliers. The range of poisons on sale is staggering.

Fiona Barron estimates that more than 450 pesticides (including fungicides and herbicides) may be used in the catchment. This reflects the complexity of the catchment’s agriculture. We don’t just grow one or two crops. Our agriculture is much more complex and sports a plethora of monocultures. In each case, different poisons are used to ‘solve’ ‘pest problems’.

Organic agriculture – farming practice that doesn’t employ these toxins – is minimal in the Barron Catchment. There’s no special support for organic agriculture, nor any official recognition that organic practice does not impose an equivalent toxic load on the river. But then again, there’s no real data on pesticides in the river…

Farmers who poison their land, in time, poison the reef. They may also, en route, poison people who drink the river water on its way to sea (eg. Kuranda residents who drink the town water, visiting tourists) and/or people who consume fish caught in the Barron (such as numerous Aboriginal folk in the Myola Valley). No-one knows whether these risks are significant or not. There’s no data (although the Aboriginals do seem to die young.)

Now, part of the problem – and it’s a problem especially associated with the Barron - is the sheer complexity of pesticide use. I understand that to monitor these chemicals, each one must be separately assayed. With hundreds of poisons in use, that’s extremely expensive… and in any case, who knows how to interpret the results of such tests? What are the combined synergistic effects of this ever-changing chemical cocktail? It might take a millennium before we adeuately understand the impacts and potential risks of this complex brew.

In the face of such complexity, it is still possible to take worthwhile action. But a real sense of direction – heading towards genuine sustainability - is needed, along with the guts to stand up to powerful vested interests. Neither of these were much in evidence under Beattie and Howard. Let’s hope for more in this latest political era.

What might a genuine Water Quality Improvement Plan for the Barron entail – a plan designed to generate results fast, rather than moodle around for another few years?

First, we do need much of the data being assembled in the current study. But we need to go further – without delay – and obtain data on pesticide levels and other variables (such as heavy metals) that until now there’s been no enthusiasm to monitor. We need comprehensive baseline studies, including tests on aquatic biota as well as the water itself, at numerous different locations and times in the yearly cycle.

Second, we already know enough to know that pesticides are likely to be dangerous in large quantities and complex combinations. We therefore need an energetic, systematic program to reduce pesticide use - without delay. This should extend beyond ‘integrated pest management’ and include commitment to promoting organic practice. At the very least, let’s level the playing field for all growers! Organic growers in the catchment do not use the Barron as a toxic drain. Most ‘mainstream’ agriculturalists do. Why should the latter be allowed to use the river as a WC, free of charge? It’s the antithesis of the ‘polluter pays’ principle -and hands them a quite unfair competitive advantage.

Third, users of pesticides should be required to register and record all use. This must be public information. Without good, hard data about what’s going into the catchments, we don’t even know what to test for and when.

Fourth, we need a long-term plan – with real and monitored targets – to reduce the overall toxic load we collectively impose on the river. The ultimate objective should be a sustainable, pollution-free river.

This will doubtless require some new infrastructure such as state-of-the-art town sewerage works. Important riparian revegetation work is already underway, thanks to community groups like Kuranda Envirocare and the Barron River Catchment Management Association.

But a real plan also requires real behavioural change – and the agricultural sector cannot keep its free pass extended indefinitely. No more ‘pollution credits!’

Which brings me to my fifth point. The onus of proof should be reversed. At present, farmers and other polluters can – in effect – pour poisons in large quantities into the river and down onto the reef. Absent a shocking, concentrated, point-source chemical release, it’s almost impossible to attribute specific damage to any single polluter. The underlying assumption is that the farmers have a ‘right’ to pollute at no cost to themselves - as long as they don’t trigger a blatant, self-evident pollution event.

I think the burden should be reversed. There is no automatic right to pollute that comes with land title. Farmers should be required to prove their industrial practices are safe – not the other way round. If they can’t do that, use of toxic chemicals should be discontinued.

I am not anti-farming. I am all for farming. It’s very hard work to grow food and obtain useful produce from the land. Done well, agriculture is truly skilled work – part science, part art. I believe it should be appropriately remunerated.

Industrial agricultural seeks to mass-produce food – just like any other industrial commodity. To do so, it employs a series of short cuts. Monoculture simplifies production and marketing. Labour saving technology keeps input costs low. Industrial agricultural practice often – although not invariably - entails broad scale application of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

I’m not suggesting that the entire industrialized agricultural sector should grind to a stand-still next month. A transition is obviously required.

But the direction of transition should be clear. We need some guiding principles. One of these is that those whose activities are likely to be injurious to human and/or environmental health, should bear responsibility for demonstrating the safety of those practices. If they can’t do that, the practices in question should be modified and/or phased out, the faster the better.

A single farmer is unlikely to be able to fund or carry out the research to establish the sustainability of their practices. But monoculturalists come in industry sectors. Cane farmers have industry associations. So do other growers. These associations should do the necessary work. If it’s not affordable, that tells us something important. Other practices should be favoured.

There are a few ideas for a real Water Quality Improvement Plan. I’ve focused on the issue of pesticides – perhaps excessively so. Obviously, there are other important issues – not least of which is the complex multi-purpose de,amds imposed on the heavily engineered Barron catchment, which includes Tinaroo Dam. Some of these issues are being worked through in the current WQIP.

I believe the community is ready for a real water quality program that tackles, among other things, the issue of pesticides.

Unfortunately, most of our politicians and bureaucrats are so used to playing ‘Let’s Pretend’ with water quality that they uncritically capitulate to aggressive moneyed interests, without even putting up a struggle. In doing so, they lag behind community standards and allow the public interest to suffer.

Many factors threaten the Reef. Climate change is probably one of them. That’s a global issue.

But other factors are clearly local in origin. We can control them, from within this region. Indeed, no one else can do it. Only us.

It’s time we get real – and get on with it.

Loving a park bench

41 year old Le Xing Man was in pain late last week after humping a park bench in Hong Kong, late at night.

He's lucky to still have a penis after he became stuck, doctors say. At least a dozen police and emergency services workers were called after he became "aroused". He told police he thought it would be fun to have sex with the bench, the Telegraph said. News crews descended on the park to film the rescue effort, as you'll see in the video.

Sigh of the times

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Round a bite

Oh dear, I wonder what happened to this cute yellow MG on the Machans roundabout the other day. That'll teach em for being so damm obvious.

Pot calling the kettle

Ten Political Sex Scandals

The political sex scandal is with us again as John Edwards admits to an affair with Rielle Hunter, Daniel Finkelstein of The Times looks at who got away with it, and who didn't.

Five politicians who got caught:

  • The Profumo Affair
    Spies, showgirls and intrigue by the swimming pool. The 1963 Profumo Affair was the stuff headlines are made of. John Profumo was Secretary of State for War when
    he began an affair with Christine Keeler. Unfortunately for him, she was also seeing a Russian spy at the time. Lying in the House of Commons didn't help his cause. He resigned. Many think he took Harold Macmillan's government with him.

    Gary Hart
    In retrospect, Gary Hart probably regrets his challenge to the press corps during his 1988 presidential bid. Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored. In fact, the press (and public) found Hart's liaison with 29-year-old model Donna Rice quite fascinating. The fact that it took place on the unfortunately named Monkey Business yacht only fuelled the fire. Hart was forced to drop out of the race.

    Bill Clinton
    One of the most famous presidential philanderers, Bill Clinton managed to weather allegations from Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers. But he wasn't so lucky when it came to a 22-year-old intern. When it emerged that Clinton had in fact had "sexual relations" with Monica Lewinsky, his presidency lost much of its lustre. Ten years on, Elizabeth Edwards might find an unlikely ally in Hillary.

    Lord Lambton
    Ah, the tell-tale photograph. Anthony Lambton suffered a more extreme version of Edwards' fate when
    he was snapped in bed with two prostitutes in 1973. The Conservative Under-Secretary of State was given pride of place in The News of the World. Public outrage was not calmed by Lambton's assertion that he never took his red box along to assignations. His resignation followed shortly.

    Eliot Spitzer
    The Governor of New York rose to power rooting out corporate corruption across Manhattan. The cheers of chastised bankers echoed around Wall Street this year when it emerged that he'd spent more than $80,000 on high-class prostitutes. His assignation with the 23-year-old Ashley Alexandra Dupre at the Mayflower Hotel (favourite romantic haunt of JFK) was wire-tapped. Spitzer has resigned.

...and five who got away with it:

  • Francois Mitterrand
    Some might think that 14 years as President of France would provide complications enough. But Mitterrand added to the excitement by juggling two families. And although French journalists steered well clear of his long-term affair with Anne Pingeot, they couldn't ignore her presence, with their daughter, at his funeral. The French retained their sang-froid. If anything, the relationship bolstered Mitterrand's reputation.

    John F. Kennedy
    When it comes to glamorous affairs, JFK far outshone Bill Clinton and John Edwards. And yet no sex scandal ever really tainted his reputation. The charisma of the youngest President to occupy the White House lured air hostesses, models and Marilyn Monroe. But when we conjure up Camelot,
    it's the gilded John and Jackie who remain firmly in our minds.

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt
    Eleanor and FDR were the power couple of the early twentieth century. But few knew about the third woman in their relationship. FDR's affair with Lucy Mercer, Eleanor's secretary, began in 1914 and divorce talk was in the offing four years later. Anxious advisers ensured that Lucy vanished from the scene but she reappeared in 1941 and it was her, not Eleanor, who
    sat at FDR's deathbed.

    Lord Boothby
    This Tory politician sailed through scandal.
    He weathered accusations of an affair with Ronald Kray and numerous flings with married women. Most audaciously of all, he cuckolded his own Prime Minister, probably fathering Harold Macmillan's fourth child. Despite these excitements, he managed to make PPS to Churchill, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food and the House of Lords in 1958.

    John Major
    He spent years battling sleaze as Prime Minister. So Whitehall was shocked when Edwina Currie revealed that she had had an affair with Major from 1984-1988. While we reeled from revelations about his blue underpants and their shared baths, Major admitted that his wife had known for years.