Tuesday 14 April 2009

Forsyth conduct report is history

Monday 13th October 2008, is a day etched in Dianne Forsyth's mind.

The Cairns Regional Councillor did what few Australian politicians do, and stood up in defiance, to make a public declaration of support for the people. Forsyth felt so strongly that the Cairns community had been wronged by the State and Federal Labor governments, she climbed the roof of the 100 year-old Cairns Yacht Club building, as it was in it's final days of government sanctioned demolition.

"It's what I believe in, to try and save this old building," Di Forsyth told CairnsBlog at the time of her arrest for trespass. "I wanted people to take notice in Brisbane that 11,000 people signed a petition in Cairns to keep this old historic building."

Tomorrow, a second report, initiated by Council's CEO Noel Briggs following 'complaints', will be presented to the full Council. They will rule if any breach of conduct occurred. The first report, written by Briggs' former Tablelands Council colleague, was discarded after an embarrassing leak showed many flaws in it's un-objective style and prose. "It showed me guilty with no balance and I was not even interviewed, as one of the key people in the events of the day," Forsyth said.

Questions to find out how much money was spent on this now rubbished report, have so far, not been declared.

A Councillor, who wished to remain off the record, says it's possible that some will want to ban Forsyth from a meeting or two as 'punishment'. "It will be that so-called gang of six," they told CairnsBlog on the basis of anonymity. "It is despicable if they cohort and do this. It will be purely a political move."

It's possible that a meeting ban, will allow an easier vote in the Water and Waste committee, that is considering the controversial Mulgrave Aquifer.

The CEO is keen to put this episode behind.

However, in what amounts to inciting a vote against Councillor Forsyth, CEO Noel Briggs says in his opinion, there is sufficient penalty in itself. "Council may wish to formally censure Cr Forsyth regarding her actions and the possible detriment that they brought to council as a whole," he told the Cairns Post.

The full Council will vote if they believe Council's 'standing, authority or dignity' where breached, by Forsyth's actions.

Dianne Forsyth said she was proud of her actions back in October, and would 'do it again' if need be. However, the Councillor has amassed a large legal cost in her defence, which resulted in nothing more than a good behaviour bond.

The basic fundamental right every citizen enjoys in this country, is to protest and carry out actions that raise public awareness of important issues. The community should be rightly proud to have a politician like Dianne to stand up, and allow their voices to be heard.

Putting Cairns First:
Cairns 1st 2008 Council candidates, minutes before Councillor Forsyth scaled the Yacht Club Building in October: Janine Aitken; Dianne Forsyth; Dr Paul Matthews; and Mark Buttrose. Richie Bates sent his apologies from Brisbane. Mayor Val Schier was at a breakfast at the Colonial Club that morning, and also couldn't make the photo shoot.


Unknown said...

The stand she took was indeed admirable. What a pity she has since fallen into line with our local Labour party reps. and has even backed up their LIE that the Cairns Yacht Club has somehow been "saved' and is not rotting away in a paddock near JCU.

I drove past the waste land that was once the CYC and wonder how long that site is just going to sit there.

What a waste of an opportunity !

Bryan Law said...

Noel Briggs, the wannabe “boss” of Cairns Regional Council is in charge of this Agenda item at the Finance and Administration Committee this week. Are you sure that any Report into the investigation will be shown to or considered by Councillors? Isn’t their job just to rubber-stamp Noel’s decisions?

The publicly available http://www.dsc.qld.gov.au/content/councilMeetings/financeAdmin/agendas/Agendas%202009/15april09/15april09_f&a_cl5.pdf
Agenda shows Item 5 in the open meeting is titled “Code of Conduct Investigation”. If you click through on that Agenda item there’s a two page statement by CEO Noel Briggs that purports to set out the findings of an investigation – but there is no actual report by the “investigator”, or any discussion of the Code of Conduct, or any other material other than the CEO’s opinion, about what Councillors ought consider, or how they might act.

Division 5 Councillor Robert Pyne confirms that he has not been sent or shown a copy of the investigators report.

In Cairns Regional Council’s first ever consideration of a minor breach of the Code of Conduct, Councillors are being asked to make a decision without seeing any report setting out the details of what happened on the day, and what it is alleged this means for Di Forsyth and the Code of Conduct. I find this extraordinary.

Consider that the first report commissioned by CEO Briggs on this matter was so badly constructed (defamatory material, bias, factual error) that it had to be discarded altogether.

In relation to the second report, CEO Noel Briggs wants his précis to be the basis for decision. His précis sets out two culpable circumstances for Di Forsyth which are said to amount to a minor breach.

Noel says those circumstances are:

“The likely held perception that Councillor Forsyth climbed upon the building
roof in her official capacity, that perception supported by her placard advising
she was “representing” 11,000 people and

Councillor Forsyth used her position as Councillor to deliberately bring about
greater publicity for the campaign”.

“The likely held perception” is not a fact, or an objective circumstance, or a reason for anything. It is an opinion. Noel is presenting it as a fact to Councillors, while denying them the opportunity to read the report containing whatever objective information is available.

In fact Sharon Powell made the sign “I’m representing 11,000 people”. Sharon Powell was arrested four days before Di Forsyth, and footage of her and the sign being arrested and removed from the Cairns Yacht Club was broadcast by Channel 7 news. Does this constitute a breach of the CRC’s Code of Conduct?

The fact is that Di Forsyth is a citizen as well as a Councillor. It was as a citizen that Di Forsyth undertook civil disobedience, as is her right to do.

Cairns Regional Council needs to be careful that it doesn’t allow improper procedures, initiated by a biased CEO, to infringe upon basic democratic rights. Get it through your head Noel. YOU are the one who doesn’t like what Di did around the watch-house. The residents and voters of Cairns appreciate her for it, and we want Councillors running the Council, not you!