Wednesday 27 May 2009

Cr Cooper says Comments inquiry is over

The investigation into Radio 4CA’s commercial arrangement with Cairns Regional Council is all over, bar the shouting.

“The report will be presented to CEO Noel Briggs today,” Councillor Linda Cooper told ABC Far North’s Kier Shorey this morning. “It will then be presented to the Council tomorrow.”

The controversial report is meant to determine who arranged what, in relation to Mayor Val Schier’s appearance on John Mackenzie’s Friday Talkback show.

Councillors Cooper and Pyne want the report to be made public.

"After all, we have spent all this money on the report, so it should be made public," Linda Cooper said.

Robert Pyne told Fiona Sewell on ABC this morning that it should be released to show transparency.

Amid much controversy last month, a deliberately leaked email from Councillor Alan Blake on 10th April, followed by a set up question at the full Council meeting two weeks later by Cr Sno Bonneau, showed that these two were aware of some arrangement and were part of a smear campaign.

I wonder how much was revealed to the investigating QC about our City’s “treasurer” Alan Blake, and his close relationship with Council’s Corporate Communications Manager, Kerie Hull. Hull was the one who was responsible for arranging the Mayor’s reappearance on Radio with John Mackenzie, and her involvement is pivotal in making know to the Mayor, the full conditions.

Val Schier has fervently said all along that she was never made aware of any commercial arrangement for her, or other Councillors, appearance on the radio programme.
As soon as the story broke, John Mackenzie said that this was a normal practice and that this was “nothing new.” “We have always had a commercial arrangement with this Council, we don’t do these things for free, and we’re a commercial business.”

In a surprise move, former Mayor Kevin Byrne angrily defending his appearances on the same radio show, saying that his administration never paid for the Mayor’s talkback hour. A tit-for-tat ensured, followed by a reversal of his position on the arrangement from Mackenzie two weeks later.

The arrangement is also the subject to an Advertising Media and Authority inquiry, as it breached the advertising rules when 4CA failed to disclose publicly, any commercial arrangement. ABC’s Media Watch also reviewed the debacle, compared Mackenzie’s defiance that they’d done nothing wrong with the infamous John Laws Cash for Comments drama that was part of the culture of Sydney’s 2UE Radio over a long number of years.

The externally-commission report is expected to cost Cairns ratepayers many thousands of dollars. If the Mayor had trust and respect for her CEO, such an investigation could have been carried out by the Council, however, with the dirty paws of Kerie Hull, and Sno Bonneau and Alan Blake, both long-serving senior Councillors, there was little option.

John Mackenzie took the last three weeks off, in a move that surprised most, right in the middle of the inquiry.



Alison Alloway said...

Thanks for this Mike. You have obviously been working hard again first thing in the morning! We await the Report with bated breath!

Ross Parisi said...

Good morning Mike.

Thanks for your professionalism, vigilance and persistence on this issue.

The issue goes to the very core of public administration of our City. Public confidence in Council goverence,its Councillors and Staff is paramount. Failure to sustain this principle is tantamount to a loss of faith and abuse in our democratic principles.

Every person that is on the payroal of such an organisation, in this case The Cairns Regional Council is duty bound to uphold the principles that encapsulate such an organisation.

Various senior Councillors and Staff have been mentioned in passing, adversily during the Community debate on this Blog and in other media outlets on this 'Cash for Comment' controversy.

I fervently hope that the pending Report will without fear or favour devulge all the facts irrespective of who it may implicate.

It should be noted however,that the interviews were NOT conducted under Oath and as such the veracity of the evidence may give rise to other issues.

I certainly hope that it is no white wash.

nocturnal congress said...

Yes, let's hope there won't be any white-washing or hunting around for a junior, powerless person to heap all the blame onto. Corporate cultures love to "do a Lyndie England" as the US military did some years back when the Abu Ghraib torture scandals emerged. The CRC has developed many of the attributes of a modern corporate culture.

Council Watcher said...

I am insensed by the fact that the ratepayer will be paying 'all this money', to quote Cr Cooper. Our rate payments are for the advancement and upkeep of our city not to pay for investigations into councillors malicious underhanded behaviour. This is an insult to all the hardworking ratepayers and the residents of our city in general. All those found involved should be ashamed of themselves, be sacked and made to pay out of their own pockets. Let them be named and shamed.

nocturnal congress said...

All this crap involving "investigations" seems to be part of a long term ploy. Of course some of the conniving conspirators will attempt to use "investigations and their cost" as an election platform for their own advantage, and then of course, once elected will pledge that "There won't be any of this nonsense about investigations and wasting ratepayers monies". God help us if the scurrilous element are successful in this. It will mean complete and absolute loss of any controls whatsoever on Council activities.
Unfortunately, the public are very easily manipulated.