Tuesday, 30 June 2009

An open letter to The Cairns Post editor

  • Andrew Webster
    The Cairns Post

    I'm sorry we couldn't talk earlier today. I'll be set up with proper communication at Yeppoon by Thursday. Meanwhile I feel I must communicate formally with you.

    I have the strongest objection to your newspaper’s description of me today as a “serial pest”, and I’m asking for redress.

    First, the description is wrong. I am a nonviolent political activist in the tradition of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Dorothy Day (founder of the Catholic Worker movement). I don’t know how much you know about these traditions, but I have a degree in political science, and thirty years of praxis in this field.

    Please speak to Inspector Russell Rhodes, or Snr Sgt Chris Hodgeman, or (I think Inspector now ) Andrew Cowie of Cairns Police. You’ll find they appreciate the liaison we do with them around protest, the way we help conserve police resources, and the respectful and honest way we treat ALL police officers and members of the public.

    If you want a judicial statement about my character, and the character of my political protests, go to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, and the sentencing statement of Judge Sally Thomas (June 2007) where she finds that I and my friends are acting out of conscience, and with consideration for others. Similarly the Panel of Judges in the NT Court of Criminal Appeal (February 2008) make similar comments in their judgment (in which they acquitted us of the more serious charges brought against us by Philip Ruddock).

    Magistrates in cairns have made similar statements about my involvement in civil disobedience, which they recognise as a legitimate tool of political protest.

    No Police officer, no Magistrate, and no Judge has ever made comment to the effect that I am any kind of nuisance or “pest”.

    If you’d like a character reference about me, speak with Bishop James Foley of Cairns (Catholic Church).

    I do not know where your newspaper has got the idea I’m a pest or nuisance or somehow obnoxious.

    Second the description is clearly intended to damage my reputation and diminish the seriousness with which readers might consider my views.

    There will always be those who disagree with the methods of Nonviolent Direct Action, and it seems there will also always be those who express their displeasure through personal attack and insult. The web comments you publish against me demonstrate this kind of criticism. I’ve tolerated this kind of criticism in the interests of lively debate.

    However I expect a higher standard of writing from journalists, in particular where comments about character are made as part of a news story (as distinct from opinion). The description of me as a “serial pest” without explanation, and without foundation, in a news story is lazy and unprofessional journalism which damages my reputation.

    You failed to give me an opportunity to respond to the allegation made by your journalist (no-one else has made the claim). Your reporting is neither fair nor balanced.

    I cannot state too strongly how offensive I find this labelling of me by your newspaper.

    I must insist that you take steps to correct your error, and your defamatory and unfair publication.

    Please retract the statement that I am a serial pest, and publish an apology with the same prominence as the original article.

    Please let me know what you propose at the earliest opportunity, as I propose to take the matter to the Press Council should you fail to make some genuine redress.

    Yours sincerely,
    Bryan Law

Saturday, 27 June 2009

What Happens if You Feed a Dog Chocolate While he Wears a Tin Foil Hat in the Microwave

Hat Tip: Wil Wheaton

In the Navy

Tomorrow, the US warship USS Essex will arrive in Cairns for a week.

In its own breathless way, the Cairns Post describes the USS Essex as “the biggest warship ever to berth at Cairns Port”. Wow!

In the military news, USS Essex is described as an Amphibious Assault Ship, lead ship in the US Navy’s only forward deployed Amphibious Ready Group, and serves as the flagship for Combines Task Force 76, which is stationed in Okinawa.

In 2005, the ARG spent an unscheduled eight-months on “surge deployment” to North Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism.

Essex Sailors will be instrumental in accomplishing a primary goal of Exercise Talisman Sabre ‘09, which is to train Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Australian Deployable Joint Force Headquarters as a designated, combined task force.

On 17 June, the USS Essex loaded 1,400 Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, make the floating population of about 3,000. Two other ships, the USS Denver and Tortuga, will join the Essex, and they're all heading south to Exercise Talisman Sabre, near Rockhampton. It's costing more than a quarter billion dollars of consumable fuel, weapons and equipment (that's $43 million Aus, and US$212 million). It is all about making sure that Australian military forces can “plug in” to the US war-fighting machine and kill on request anywhere in the world as a loyal deputy. Did you know we've been fighting in Afghanistan for eight years now?

By the time this massive event makes it to the ABC, the story lost any military analysis. The issue is merely defined as a “$10 million boost to Townsville’s economy” that had to be foregone because Townsville’s Port is extra busy. In Cairns, apparently, we’re not that busy at all, and local tourism boosters are falling over themselves predicting huge, even awesome spending by drunken US Sailors.

Jeremy Blockey of the Cairns Chamber of Commerce says the ship is carrying around 5,000 and it is estimated it will inject as much as $12 million into our economy.

"If you wanted to equate it to aircraft arrivals, it would be about the same as about 12 absolutely full jumbo jets coming in," Blockey said. Presto Chango, the US military are tourists, just like anybody else.

By the time the story gets to the Cairns Post, Jeremy reckons the visit is worth up to $14 million (based on a very sophisticated analysis that each sailor will spend between around $400 a day for ten days, yet they're only in Cairns for a week - and in its editorial the warship visit is described as a “welcome blessing at a quiet time in a tourism town”.

Exercise Talisman Sabre was mentioned once in the lead article, and once in the editorial, but was not described or explained any further.

Local peace activist Bryan Law is part of a group that will demonstrate it's objection to the US military presence.

"We’ll have an organising meeting at our place on Saturday afternoon, and will carry out our usual citizens' inspection on Monday," Bryan says. "We’re due to leave for Talisman Sabre on Tuesday. We have a busy few weeks ahead."

A tribute for Alison

Friday, 26 June 2009

Bryan Law to subpoena Cairns MP Desley Boyle

Last week's mention at the Cairns Magistrates Court for Yacht Club protester Bryan Law, is set to take an interesting turn.

Bryan Law was given a 37-page 'Brief of Evidence', containing seven witness statements, two search warrants, along with a Police evidence bag containing a 1972 VHS video tape; 3 CDs; and three eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was, to be used as evidence against him

The judge told Law in court last week, that the prosecution had the right to call who they want, and don't want, as witnesses to testify against him.

"You have the right under the Justice system to call who you wish," he was told by the Magistrate.

Bryan Law has since spoken to the Police who are prosecuting him, on behalf of the Australian Labour Party. Law contests they are not the owner of the electorate signs he defaced.

"The prosecution has asked me to forward a submission, which I will do," Bryan Law says.

"My concern is that they never interviewed Cairns MP Desley Boyle or Channel 7 reporter Scott Forbes, two people who are at the centre of this," Law says.

Foebes was told by Boyle that she accepted the graffiti to her signs prior to the election, and wouldn't be taking any action.

Bryan Law was told that the prosecution are only interested in what was screened on TV of him defacing the signs.

"I will be serving a subpoena on Desley Boyle to appear before the Court," Bryan Law said. "The Judge agreed on this date, so we can accommodate Desley Boyle, whilst State Parliament is not sitting."

The involvement by Boyle's own office staff; that the signs were ordered and invoiced to her and stored at her office and not the ALP, will be grounds to prove she is the effected party.

Law wants to hold the Cairns MP to account for her involvement in ignoring the community about not preserving the now-destroyed Yacht Club building on its historic waterfront site. Cairns Regional Councillor, Alan Blake now is advocating that the vacant land should be a public park.

The hearing is set for Friday 14th August.

Up the Grech without a paddle

John Elliot, Malcom Turnbull, Kerie Hull, Cr Alan Blake and even Noel Briggs, have all had a shit of a month.

They've all been harbouring secrets. Big secrets.

As Federal Parliament rises for a six week holiday - as if they need it - opposition leader Turnbull retreats for a welcome break from grilling about his connection with Treasury bureaucrat Godwin Grech.

The unfolding story surrounding the forged email, meant to be kept a secret, has now blown up in the Liberal's face. It's highly likely that the Opposition Coalition has have moles in senior public service roles for many years. The ALP are far from squeaky clean in all this scandal as well.

Political parties and politicians rely on privileged information to embarrass and expose corruption, however checking evidence is often a treacherous journey, with the risks extreme and the benefits great.

Former Carlton president John Elliot, is also in the hot seat after announcing he paid several women off to stop them proceeding with sexual allegations against players.

The drama circling Federal politics has similarities to the discarded Cairns Regional Council CEO Noel Briggs, who despite his early retirement, will not escape investigation. A CMC inquiry will focus on his involvement in the external reports of Councillor Dianne Forsyth and the findings in Jim Henry's report.

Briggs was put in an untenable position and had to leave his $250,000 job, only a year into the term of this new Council. He was ordered by Mayor Val Schier to seek an external report that undoubtedly exposed him and a culture of his creation. Briggs left to avoid further public scrutiny and as expected, the lame media who should be holding the real culprits to account, have fallen back into a deep slumber after only a single day when news was spoon-fed to them as the Henry Report was buried by Briggs. Why haven't they gone digging for the real story? I did.

There's still two more senior Council staff that need to go before Mayor Schier can really get on with the job. She also needs a supportive CEO. Developer-mad Tabulo is not that person.

Communications Manager Kerie Hull is taking a two-week forced sickie, taking her leave to a more than a month since the Cash for Comments drama broke in April. Acting CEO Tabulo is working through Hull's termination procedure. Hull was also connected to the leaking of budget information to the Cairns Post, along with the specific information about a PR backdrop she alone was involved in ordering. The acting CEO is investigating Hull's involvement in this latest act of disloyalty, as she is hell-bent on undermining the Mayor.

Media officer Sonja Anderson, appointed by Hull, who openly tells many around town her disgust for the Mayor she is meant to serve, is going down the same road as the now-ostracised Hull. Her future media career will be clouded by her short repressive tenure at Council.

There's still another month or so before this Council can move on. Councillors Blake, Bonneau and Deputy Mayor Cochrane are now bearing the scars of the last three months that have showed them up as novices and poor representatives of the community that re-elected them.

Michael Jackson dead

According to the celebrity website TMZ, Michael Jackson has died of a heart attack in the last hour.

He suffered a cardiac arrest and when paramedics arrived Jackson had no pulse.

"They never got a pulse back," Jackson's family said.

He has three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.

Jackson had 13 number one hits during his solo career. He is, or was, 50 years old.
UPDATE: The reports of Jackson's death, has now been confirm by LA Times. Even his Wiki has been updated.

Farrah Fawcett 1947 - 2009

Farrah Fawcett died last evening of cancer at the age of 62.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Will the real Jim Turnour stand up

The Chaser's War on Everything, or the Waste of Taxpayer's Money, as they called it, is back on the telly.

Jim Turnour, our local Federal MP even made a guest appearance. What was he saying?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

For everything else, there's beer!

If you're a beer nut, love the cold brown stuff, or simply just want to let everyone know where to find the best ale in town, you need to visit the Beer Mapping Project

Some lads have way to much time in their afternoons.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Social networks rise to the occasion in Iran

Local Twitter nerd and computer whiz kid, Carl Butcher, has highlighted the power of online social networks in light of the flawed Iran election.

"In case you were hiding under a rock in the past week you may have missed what was happening in Iran," Carl says. "Well the big 24 hour news networks certainly did with most of us oblivious to the situation that was unfolding in Iran, after hard-line President Ahmed Ahmadinejad was allegedly re-elected in a landslide victory."

Social networks came into their own with Twitter, YouTube and FaceBook coming alive with real-time unfolding news, as it was happening on the ground in Iran. Last week, 221,000 Tweets were sent via Twitter from Iran's rebellious youth in a single hour.
The use of Twitter has been immense. While there have been 10,000 to 50,000 tweets at any hour mentioning 'Iran', it peaked midday on the 16th June at 221,744, thanks to the social media trend tracker Trendrr, we can see the scale of the #IranElection crisis discussion.
"This seems extreme, but it makes sense when you realize that it corresponds with when Twitter’s downtime was rescheduled, which had major buzz the entire day, Mashable's Ben Parr says.
The number of blog posts around the world discussing Iran has also been extra-ordinary. There are now over 19,000,000 posts discussion Iran's election, but in the 24 hours to 16th June, 2,250,000 posts were published, that's 12% of all Blog posts globally for a single day.
YouTube has been a central social media tool for informing the world exactly what’s happening in Iran, and 3000 videos were uploaded on a single day last week.

FaceBook also released a language update in Persian – the native language of Iran, in light of the demand.
"Today we’re making the entire site available in a test version of Persian, so Persian speakers inside of Iran and around the world can begin using it in their language," FaceBook said.
Google did the same a few hours earlier. "People can now translate any text from Persian into English — whether it’s a news story, a website, a blog, an email, a tweet or a Facebook message," Google said.

"It took TV news almost 24 hours before they started reporting on the situation and by then the damage had been done," Carl Butcher says.

"Breaking news coming out of Iran was that riot police and government guards were firing on crowds who had gathered for protests against the results. Real-time updates from Twitter users posting pictures and video of the violence on Facebook, were trickling out of Iran and world wide outrage ensued."

"The Iranian government put steps in place to tightly lock down Western coverage of the ongoing violence but to no avail as reports continued to leak of murders in broad daylight in full view of the public by government operatives," Carl says.

Carl says that the situation in Iran highlighted was the fact that nowadays, news will break faster online and in real-time, quicker than it will on traditional old forms of media. Gone are the days when we turned to CNN for live news coverage, when you have real people sending correspondence in real time it draws and incredible picture of what is really happening long before images are broadcast back to us on the daily news.

"Even a week later there is still continuing coverage on Twitter. Follow the "hash" tags #iran or #IranElection for more information," Carl says.

Carl Butcher, who runs his own business Carlos Computers, is one of Cairns' most prolific Twitter users, with 1,263 followers.
If you want to track what’s happening in Iran via social channels, follow this guide.

Developer GlenCorp owns this waterway now

...and today

This is what has happened to Deadman's Creek, a natural waterway at Clifton Beach, to allow a dodgy developer to get away with illegally-approved buildings and carry out environmental destruction.

On 18th March 2009, there was an onsite meeting at Clifton Views site between community representatives, the Combined Beaches Community Association.

Most Cairns Regional Councillors including the Mayor and planners Conics, were there. The community were overwhelmingly against any widening or interference of this natural waterway creek and clearing of the riparian corridor.

The locals were ignored.

At a Council meeting on 8th April, a decision was made to allow Glencorp to effectively take ownership and widen the creek.

Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane recommended the approval, and Sno Bonneau seconded it. Councillors Forsyth, Lesina, Pyne, Leu and Schier, voted against.

Here were the conditions imposed:
  • 23. All existing creek systems and drainage areas must be left in their current state including no channel alterations and no removal of vegetation unless
    consented to in writing by the Chief Executive Officer.

    23. a. Undertake works within the gully to widen the flow path, as illustrated on CMG Consulting Engineers Drawings 20121-C35 – C40 & COM0042-001.
    As part of these drainage works, retain significant vegetation and to provide additional landscaping to create a more attractive and usable
    environment, devoid of weed species and available to residents as recreational space. Proposed landscaping works are to be generally in
    accordance with Clifton Views, Clifton Beach Landscape Concept Plan prepared by Conics. Details of proposed planting and rehabilitation are
    to be approved by Council and all such works are to be completed prior to Council being required to endorse a survey plan for Stage 2.

    b. Council is to be advise seven (7) days prior to the commencement of works within the gully.

    c. Council is to have reviewed a detailed plan showing vegetation to be removed an minimum of 14 days prior to commencement of works.

    d. An officer from Council shall be in attendance during the removal of the vegetation in the gully and shall have the authority to stop work on the
    removal of any particular tree or trees deemed to be significant which warrant retention. The applicant is to contact Council as early as
    possible to agree on which vegetation is to be removed.

    24. The applicant is required to lodge a $300,000 bond to Council in order to guarantee the works required to be undertaken in compliance with Condition
    23 are completed satisfactorily and function as intended. The works are to be completed and withstand two wet seasons (which reflect the average
    yearly rainfall and rainfall intensity frequency duration data (IFD), based on information provided by the Bureau of Meteorology) prior to Council being
    required to release the bond.

    39. Prior to commencement of the development, an inspection must be carried out for signs of protected wildlife including nests and animal habitat on the
    subject site, with particular attention to the wallaby population. Should any recent wildlife activity be identified, removal of trees and habitat must not
    occur until the animal has vacated the area of immediate danger. If the animal does not move from the area of danger, the Environment Protection
    Agency must be contacted for advice. Important habitat trees should be retained wherever possible. The Chief Executive Officer must be notified of
    the proposed date of commencement of any approved tree clearing.

    Additional Comments following On Site Meeting from Agenda of 08 April 2009:
    The issue of flooding of the new units was a major concern raised by the residents at the on-site meeting. The applicants state that with the channel works complete, that the finished floor levels of the completed units will be above the Q100 flood level. Prior to endorsing a survey plan, it will be necessary for a surveyors certificate to be lodged demonstrating that all units be clear of the Q100 flood level (additional wording added to Condition 18). Furthermore all works within the drain should be at completed stage prior to endorsement of the survey plan (additional word in Condition 23).

    There was further discussion at the on-site meeting as to whether the land containing the creek should be transferred to Council. It is recommended that Council not take ownership of this land and that the responsibility for the on-going maintenance remain with the Body Corporate.

    Simon Clarke
    Manager Development Assessment
A vague map of proposed vegetation accompanied the Agenda for 8th April meeting. It lacked detail and was poor quality. It showed that that only one section of the creek was to be cleared and widened and this was in the middle section of creek near the bridge.

What the map didn't show is that one whole side of the creek would be cleared of vegetation, the whole length of the development. However, once Glencorp got the approval, they have obviously ignored their original plans and not only have cleared vegetation the whole way down one side of the creek but have also widened it the whole length too.

Therefore, there has been a gross breach of development conditions.

So much for the Council Vegetation Officer being onsite to oversee what was removed. Glencorp did what they wanted and our community was lied to, once again by a large development company, who from the outset was determined to build on a flood plain, maximize the number of units (to 246) on this block by building within 5 mt of this waterway and in the process destroy a gazetted wildlife and riparian corridors to suit their own greedy agendas.

This all happened blind Council and State Government approval.

On the day of the site inspection, with an audience of consultants, community representatives, Councillors, the Mayor and members of the local residents' association, as if on cue, two Agile wallabies, hopped by. I wonder where they are living now that their habitat has been so thoroughly destroyed. So much for Glencorp’s environmental credentials and meaningless signage.

Well the Clifton Beach community is fighting back and will continue to escalate these matters in the public arena for as long as it takes.

I suggest you wander down and watch what these rogues are up to . Take your camera. They don't like being monitored. We expect they will soon line the creek with concrete.

Whilst I snapped some photos yesterday, the site foreman stopped the digger and tried to intimidate me by taking a photo of me. Last week, a member of the Beaches Residents Association was photographed several times whilst eating in a restaurant. The perpetrator then left the restaurant and walked across the road and entered the Glencorp head office in Aplin Street.

These people really are odd if they think our community is going to ignore what is going on.

And the Council. Nowhere to be seen.

Text message

  • 22 June: 8:57pm

    Tristan Jannali Pitt, born 22 June 2009 (3 days early) at Cairns Private Hospital.
    6lbs 3oz, 47cm. Mother and baby boy doing great. Very happy. -Curtis.

Monday, 22 June 2009

The Story of Blogger

Blogger, the power that drives CairnsBlog, was started by a tiny company in San Francisco called Pyra Labs in August of 1999, in the midst of the dot-com boom.

Here's a little bit of the story...
  • We weren't exactly a VC-funded, party-throwing, football-in-the-lobby-playing, free-beer-drinking outfit. (Unless it was other people's free beer.)

    We were three friends, funded by doing annoying contract web projects for big companies, trying to make our own grand entrance onto the Internet landscape. What we were originally trying to do doesn't matter so much now. But while doing it, we created Blogger, more or less on a whim, and thought — Hmmm... that's kinda interesting.

    Blogger took off, in a small way, and eventually a bigger way, over a couple years. We raised a little money (but stayed small). And then the bust happened, and we ran out of money, and our fun little journey got less fun. We narrowly survived, not all in one piece, but kept the service going the whole time (most days) and started building it back up.
    Things were going well again in 2002. We had hundreds of thousands of users, though still just a few people. And then something no one expected happened: Google wanted to
    buy us. Yes, that Google.

    We liked Google a lot. And they liked blogs. So we were amenable to the idea. And it worked out nicely.

    Now we're a small (but slightly bigger than before) team in Google focusing on helping people have their own voice on the web and organizing the world's information from the personal perspective. Which has pretty much always been our whole deal.

    For more on Google, check
    google.com. (Also good for searching.)

Who leaked the budget?

Leaking political secrets is a time-honoured game. However, like the now-coined 'Ute-gate' email affair encircling Canberra presently, it's usually done by the opposition.

Last week, someone who was aware of a great amount of detail about the upcoming Cairns Regional Council budget, due for formal release at the end of the month, was provided in detail to the Cairns Post.

Whilst I've played a role in leaking information in past Parliamentary roles many years ago, you can't blame the recipient to not run with the news, if the information is credible and the source authentic.

In rumours circulating around the Spence Street Council offices mid-last week, Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane all-but accused the Mayor's office, implying that someone in Val's team - or Val herself - was deliberately behind the premature release of the budget announcements, including the 6-8% rate rise.

"It's come from the very highest level," Cochrane said, implying it was someone amongst the 3rd floor team.

Val Schier quickly responded, saying that no Councillor was behind the leak.

A number on Councillor Alan Blake's side have been spreading the story that the Mayor herself was behind the leak, however she has asked the acting CEO to investigate who was behind this information getting out.

The developer's friend, Councillor Sno Bonneau, said "Who would do such a thing?" Well, Sno, I think you are closer to the person behind this leak, than you know, or wish to admit.

Councillor Margaret Cochrane was nearly right. It was someone from the 3rd floor. There was one person that this all points to rather clearly. One person that has the motivation and vindictiveness to carry this out. One person that has been away from the office for the last week, and had the time on her hands.

In tracing leaks, you look at other bits of information, to collaborate and see a pattern to the source of information.

Some tried to use the friendship the Mayor's Executive Assistant Robert Leeds has with Cairns Post Council reporter, Thomas Chamberlain, as the source for the leak.

"We saw them having dinner the other week," another Council staffer said. However, Robert is not a political operator and his friendship with Chamberlain is to build the relationship with the Mayoral office. Shame, I can see little effect of this to date.

Post Editor Andrew Webster wrote in his weekend editorial, about a $6,000 PR backdrop, that was ordered in the last month. It's one of those wanky-type sales presentation features, you often see at home-shows or conferences. Our terribly poor-performing Tourism Tropical North Queensland, has a number of these that they trump off to tourism events, in a vain effort to entice travel agents and buyers.

They are so 80's and such a huge waste of money, and achieve zero for the establishment.

The besieged Council Corporate Communications Manager, Kerie Hull, who was at the centre of the Cash for Comments debacle, was the person behind designing and ordering this waste of Council cash.

A mutual friend at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said Kerie Hull was behind similar PR projects when she worked for them in 2003. "This has Kerie all over it, and she ordered something the same for us when she was doing media stuff here," they said.

The Post tried in a lame attempt to connect the approval of the PR backdrop with the Mayor's office, by implying the colour chosen was the Mayor's favourite.

The PR backdrop is so large, when unfolded, there is no place for it to be permanently displayed around the Council office.

The truth is that Kerie Hull unilaterally ordered this massive waste of our Council rates under her own budget. She had the discretion in her role to do this, but in light of the spotlight firmly on expenditure, you have to question why she would move ahead with this.

If she was the one that leaked this to the Cairns Post, and it's extremely likely she did, it simply reflects poorly on her own judgement to order such a display sign. The exposure of this exuberance does nothing for her case and the media unit she used to head up.

Kerie Hull was also busy over the last six weeks, amidst Jim Henry's Cash for Comments investigation, working many extra evenings and weekends, putting the PR spin and media briefing together for the budget. She has been boasting to a number of people about her role, in order to deflect and detract her muddy role in the dodgy 4CA radio deal where she never informed the Mayor.

Hull was unique in knowing key points about the budget and what should be communicated to the public about Council's intention for the next budget year. It is the role of the Communications Manager, to undertake such a strategic task.

Hull was again kept away from the Council office all last week. This occurred as the new interim CEO, Peter Tabulo settled into his first week in the job. He's busy working through how best to dismiss her. Sources say the process is taking longer than expected due to HR processes, and the termination of a public servants contract is complicated. However Council appear determined to get rid of this staffer that has generated so much bad press over the last three months.

If Hull was behind this latest debacle, then this further cements her as a former employee of the Cairns Regional Council. There was a rumor doing the rounds at Council over the last couple of weeks, that when Kerie Hill is dismissed, she plans to leave Cairns to 'avoid any more embarrassment'. Staff said the rumour also doing the rounds said that Councillor Alan Blake would resign and leave town with her. A modern-day Bonny and Clyde, if you will.

As NQ Party spokesperson Darren Howie said, if his Tinny had as many leaks as this Council, he'd drown. Well, Darren, they're well on the way to throwing more people overboard in order to stay afloat.

But, is it too late?

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Don’t go down to the woods today

Four years ago the Combined Beaches Community Association questioned the need for boardwalks at the beach side development, Argentea, and for several good reasons.
Argentea is positioned between Clifton Beach and Palm Cove.
They showed that the boardwalks were built too close to Delaney’s Creek, especially in one section, with no barriers between the creek and walkways.
The boardwalks were too wide, up to 4 mt in places, and mostly made of wood, that will require ongoing maintenance. Who would this responsibility rest with? Probably the Council, and us as ratepayers, or would the developer, Argentea, pick up this bill?
The boardwalks were positioned to be built right beside the creek, and riparian vegetation has been removed to facilitate construction.
The boardwalks connect to two wooden bridges over Delaney’s Creek, less than 100m apart. The need for two bridges and disturbance of the waterway and mangrove vegetation twice is objectionable and unnecessary. One section of boardwalk has been put through a protected wetland.
Fiona Tulip, president CBCA, says that mixing pedestrian traffic next to crocodile habitat, is of serious concern.

"This has been realized publicly now by Argentea and local authorities," Fiona Tulip says. "They have had to install signs on the boardwalks, on the banks of Delaney’s creek."

The Interpretative sign says that Argentea hosts a variety of habitats for native flora and fauna, and lists, kangaroo; Agile wallaby; birds; butterflies; frogs; Fruit bats; and flying foxes.

"They forgot one of the oldest living species on this planet – crocodiles," Fiona says. "Obviously, didn’t want to frighten the tourists away and potential home buyers from this location. It was only last year that a dog was taken by a resident crocodile and pulled into the lagoon."
Luckily, the rather large breed of dog managed to escape with just a few deep lacerations. Headlines in the Cairns Post the next day read 'Pet escapes Croc’s jaws.' That particular crocodile was captured and relocated. Now less than 12 months later, other reptiles, have made this creek system and beach lagoon their home.
"A resident told me this morning that last week she saw a parent dangling his toddler into the water of the same lagoon, to get the sand of the little girl’s feet," Tulip told CairnsBlog.
"Clearly, more signage about the dangers of this area need to warn visitors, as the current resident croc is at least 2 mt and has been sighted in this lagoon many times. He is just waiting for his next meal."

Has anyone seen our $446 million?

John Robinson from Kuranda tries to track down a few million million dollars, from the sale of our Cairns Airport.

In April 2008 the proposal to sell the Cairns Airport to a private consortium was announced with much fanfare by Premier Anna Bligh. We were told that the sale of Cairns airport would fund a $450 million expansion of the city's existing hospital.

Then on Christmas Eve last year, it was reported that our airport had been sold for $530 million.

The ABC reported at the time...
  • The $530 million sale will provide the Government with funds to proceed with the $446 million redevelopment of Cairns Base Hospital next year."
A press release from Cairns Airport trumpets...

  • "Premier Anna Bligh said today the $446 million redeveloped hospital for Cairns is full steam ahead following the successful sale of Cairns Airport.

    The proceeds of the sale will go directly into the redevelopment of the Cairns Hospital,'' Ms Bligh said.

    "The comprehensive redevelopment will include additional cardiac care facilities, full day surgery unit, specialist clinics and pathology services, and integrated mental health and cancer care units. "By 2014, the redevelopment will mean 168 extra beds.

Not unnaturally enough, we the users of the hospital, expected that the $446 million would come out of the $530 million sale. Or so we thought.

The efforts of the ALP in Brisbane to placate the party faithful in Cairns was today reported by the Cairns Post. Apparently ALP members were told that...

“$446 million redevelopment of Cairns Base Hospital could be “shelved” if the Bligh Government’s sale of state owned assets does not go ahead.”

So the question needs to be asked, and asked loudly, where the hell has the money from the sale of the Cairns Airport gone?

Obviously not to fund the upgrade to the Cairns Base Hospital.

I would suspect that rather than being earmarked for the redevelopment, the $446 million went straight into the black hole of consolidated revenue and thus straight off the bottom line debt.
So now it appears that we have a privately owned airport and no funds for the redevelopment of Cairns Base Hospital.

What guarantee do we have that any of the $15 billion hoped to be generated from the fire sale will be allocated to replace the now apparently missing $446 million?

I wonder if the Member for Cairns still stands by her comments of last year. "This is a great outcome for the people of Cairns and for the tourism industry."

Former Cairns 1st Council candidate, Richie Bates, echoes the opinion of many in the Cairns community. “So what’s happened with that money?” he asked last week.

Has anyone seen it?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Val starts to rebuild support

The Mayor of Cairns Regional Council, Val Schier, has taken the first step to rebuild confidence in those that supported her election, 15 months ago.

Like many, I've been a critic about the lack of communication with those that supported a new direction in our Council over a year ago. I said last week it's about time Val did what we voted he to do.

Val and I had the opportunity for a long chat a couple of nights ago. She acknowledged the difficulties of the last few months, a reference to the destabilising effect of the Cash for Comments scandal that the CEO resigned over, and will undoubtedly mean a totally new Council media team.

Former Councillor, Ross Parisi, has also been critical about the Mayor's support base being eroded. He said that this was the last throw of the dice for Mayor Val Schier, if she didn't start to take decisive and urgent action.

So, as the first in a campaign to rebuild confidence and reach out, the Mayor has today launched her own website.

"Finally Mike, the site is up," Val wrote to me.

"I just kept on feeling guilty about not finding the time to communicate with supporters," Val Schier said, who was voted in after ousting a conservative Council following nearly 10 years of leadership.

"This [the website] has been nearly ready since late January, but I needed to find the time to post information," Val said.

She writes in her introduction...
  • I said that I would be in regular contact with my wonderful supporters who got me elected to Cairns Regional Council in March 2008. Being Mayor in a very challenging time has been full on; it's taken me a while to take the important time out from my civic duties to fulfil that promise. Forgive me.

    I am delighted that this website is live and that people can now find out what we're up to in Council, and what we've achieved.

    You will be able to subscribe to my newsletters, get regular updates, read media releases, download a brief biography or photos and get in touch with me through emails. Skim through the posts below to catch up on some of items of interest over the past few months.
Anyone can subscribe to regular newsletters.

"It's open to whomever wants to be kept informed, "Val says. "No doubt some detractors will sign up as well!"

NT News takes on the big floppy issues

Today's Northern Territory is tackling the big issues this morning.

They report that topless female backpackers are distracting workers, and slowing work on waterfront building site.
  • The Waterfront's new safe swimming beach, lagoon, and surrounding grassed area has become the favourite sunbaking spot for "voluptuous, scantily clad" European tourists.

    But the improved scenery is distracting tradies who can't keep their eye on the job.

    One British backpacker told the Northern Territory News more than a dozen workers stood around and perved on her while she was sunbaking topless on Monday.

    Sunbaker Penelope Smith, 19, of Bath, England, said she was lying face down on the grass when she spotted a group of 15 tradies mimicking her by making out they were rubbing sunscreen over themselves. "I got in the water and was so embarrassed," she said.
    "I don't swim in that part anymore."

    "When they have a cigarette break, they all stand around and watch," she said. "It is probably the perfect job and perfect place for it. My friends say it is a compliment - but I am not the type to play it up. But I did look to see if any of them were cute."

Darwin Police say the women could face charges for offensive behaviour if anyone was offended.

The chief of the Darwin Waterfront Corporation says that females going topless is not allowed.

"Whilst we have no issue with topless sunbaking at the lagoon, given it is for the public we would welcome feedback via our website," he said.

The former Cairns City Council approved female topless sunbathing five years ago, so long as they "do not stand up and throw Frisbees and remain on the northern side of the Esplanade Lagoon."

And to finish off the report, the Territory News announces that they will reveal the identity of the nudies photographed standing on a Territory croc trap a couple of months ago.

Springborg chastised by his own pink party

Former leader of Queensland's LNP, Lawrence Springborg, has caused a bitch-slapped

Springborg, now the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who also holds the titles of Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Minister for Trade, and is the Member for Southern Downs.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, Springborg referred to Union as "pansies", after holding up a a punnet of the flowers in Parliament. He suggested that unions change their emblem.

“I want to say to the average Queenslander that the unions are the very definition of a pansy—pathetic and wimpy,” Springborg said.

His statement challenged unions to start "standing up for their members instead of meekly accepting the Bligh Government’s fire sale of assets. Last week’s capitulation on the sale of Queensland assets is something the unions should hang their heads in shame over.”

However, the use of "pansies" has offended many in the LNP, including members of the Party in Cairns. The have asked for a public apology.

"Lawrence, in a time when we see the Conservatives in the UK reaching out to the gay and lesbian voter in a positive way; realising that social inclusiveness is not only right but also a legitimate way to boost the conservative vote – it was disappointing to read the press release issue by the LNP under your name," wrote a senior Party strategist.

"Whilst you may claim that the definition of a pansy is 'pathetic' and 'wimpy', for many of us who are members of both the LNP and the Queensland community, the usage of the word 'pansy' is used a derogatory term for gays and lesbians.

  • Urban Dictionary definition:-
    “Pansy - someone very pathetic and wimpy, generally used as an insult against both sexes. Often confused with fag, sissy and other rather small-minded terms for a homosexual man. “
"Yes it does say pathetic and wimpy, but it does continue as you see," wrote the LNP member. "Lawrence, you can do better; you do know better."

"I think you deserve to be chastised and the many gay and lesbians who are members of the LNP to be apologised to."

"I'm sure that there were other measures that you could have taken, or words that could have been said, that did not also (and perhaps unintentionally) insult the gay and lesbian community," the LNP member wrote to Lawrence Springborg.

Since Springborg's statement, he has received a flurry of letters and emails against his “pansies” comment, including from Dennis Quick, who directed the campaign during the last State election.

I'm sure that former Federal Liberal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, who is the Regional chair for the LNP and an advocate for a more progressive approached to gay and lesbian legislation, would be far from impressed.

It's an outdated attitude to say the least, and while the deposed leader was trying to make a point about Unions, and be funny, it was hardly well-thought out.

The press release has been pulled from the LNP website overnight.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

SportsFest on this Sunday

It seems like it's festival fever in Cairns at the mo.

This Sunday the Festival of Sport, or SportsFest as we know it, will be on again.

"It all about participation," organiser Richie Bates says. "You don't have to be an elite athlete to join in, everyone welcome."

"The fun run is something I really encourage everyone to join in on Sunday afternoon. Just come along and meet at Fogerty Park, that's where everyone will meet," Richie says.

The Sea FM Give me 5 for Kids bike ride, is a 16 km ride and their carers, kicks off at midday.

"This is a fund-raiser for the FNQ Hospital Foundation, so I encourage everyone to join in," Richie Bates says.

"The other big thing this year is the afternoon will be filled with sports clubs demos at Fogerty," Bates says. "It's really a unique opportunity to see which sport is for you or your sons and daughters."

There'll be demonstrations and displays in Fogarty Park on Sunday from 15 sporting groups.

“This sports expo encapsulates the ‘a to z’ of sport in Cairns," Simone Roseler, Council's inner-city facilities manager.

“This year’s festival is not just about elite competitors in a challenge of the fittest, it is also very much focused on the health and well-being of this community," Simone says.

"Our fun run training program leading into the event, along with this expo, are all about shedding light on the joys of getting out and about and fit. And there’s not a better place to get started than our very own esplanade precinct.”

Sports showcased:
AFL, Rugby League, Union, Touch and Soccer football codes, athletics, baseball, cycling, dance, gymnastics, roller blading, netball, surf lifesaving, softball, tennis and vigoro.

SportsFest - Sunday
  • 7am: Sportscene Ocean Swim (1 km)
  • 8am: Pump n Pedals Coral Coast Triathlon & Cairns Crocs Short Course Triathlon
  • 11am: Pak Mag Kid’s Triathlon
  • 12 Noon: Sea FM Give me 5 for Kids Bike Ride (16 km)
  • 12noon – 5pm: Community Sport and Recreation Expo and Demos
  • 1pm: NQ Sports Foundation Cycling Criterium
  • 3.30pm: Your Fitness 2.5km Fun Run
  • 4pm: Your Fitness 10km Fun Run

All Day: Kids Entertainment, food stalls, Tug of War
Loads of Giveaways and Sea FM Broadcasting live

Visit the Festival of Sport website for detailed info.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

FestiVAL 09 launched

Shangri-La Conference and Events Manager, Jillian Causer, welcomes
Cairns Mayor Val Schier to the Pier and hotel for the launch ceremony.

Festival Cairns 2009 has been launched, at a selected special invitation-only event at Shangri-La.

Many of the media weren't even invited, thanks to lack of co-ordination between the Council media team and external event PR consultant. Some things don't change.

However this year's programme is a great deal different, and not before time.

Festival Cairns will run between Friday 21 August and Sunday 6 September.

The Festival website was also launched today.

The theme this year is "Telling our Stories", which his appropriate for the kick off with an inaugural Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. Three weekends are incorporated into the Festival’s 16 days, ending with the 20th anniversary celebrations of Carnival on Collins on Sunday September 6.

“For the past 47 years Cairns has held a festival to celebrate our culture, unique tropical lifestyle, talents and multicultural diversity," Mayor Val Schier said. "This year we have taken Festival Cairns back to its community roots under the direction of the Cairns Regional Council to ensure a reinvigorated program with a comprehensive line-up of free and ticketed events combining art, music, dance, film and large public events,” Schier said.

“With this Festival we can differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world because let's face it - this is best place in the world to be and we have a unique history and culture that makes it even more exciting."

“I am pleased to say we have achieved our aims by keeping Festival Cairns 2009 community-focused with a great percentage of the program taken up with local content. Also, we have managed to attract top entertainers and celebrities who will add national appeal to our unique event," Val Scier says.


- inaugural Cairns Indigenous Art Fair on the opening weekend of August 21-23. with incredible talent Aurukun Songmen, King Kadu (Ricardo Idagi) and the Ariu Poenipan
dancers from the Torres Strait, Will Kepa, Uncle Seaman Dan, Zennith and Christine Anu.

- the Grand Parade which attracts crowds of 35,000, has been moved to a new timeslot at the beginning of the Festival Cairns celebrations on August 22, instead of the end. New creative director from Scott Maidment and his team who are responsible for Adelaide’s Fringe Festival parade.

- Free family events new to the program include a beach party at the Esplanade Lagoon with a "dive-in movie" on a giant inflatable screen.

- Market Square, City Place and an Esplanade Stage at the Lagoon have been designated Festival hub sites with entertainment every day and night of the Festival.

- Walking around the city you might discover a music or visual elements, from brightly painted pianos for anyone to play, roving ukulele player or street performers.

- enjoy Night Light–Short Films in the City, a series of local, silent films which will be projected on to existing walls, floors and interesting spaces around the city.

- Foodie events have been expanded this year with celebrity chef Gary Mehigan from TV’s Masterchef, giving free cooking demonstrations using local seasonal produce and seafood at The Pier’s Farmgate Markets.

- Also new to the program is the Taste of Palm Cove on August 23.

- Bird Tour Walks have been added, with 25 guided walks and events

- Joining Festival Cairns for the first time are existing festivals Tropic Pride and the Illumination White Party, is for gay and lesbian family and friends, on August 30 at AJ Hackett’s Smithfield.

- a special under 18 community concert will be held at the PCYC in Manunda on August 21.

Belinda Griffin, Festival Cairns Coordinator
Tel 4044 3593 / 0407 966 530

Steve Murphy got a job, just like that

Steve Murphy of Whitfield has been looking for work for too long. He's tried almost everything.
"I've been without an income for a while now, and it was getting desperate," Steve Murphy told CairnsBlog. "When you send in your CV, you often don't even get an acknowledgement. I've worked in retail, hospitality, construction, even done marketing," Steve said.
In what has become a familiar method to get noticed, yesterday morning at the crack of dawn, amidst peak-hour traffic along Mulgrave Road, Steve Murphy took his plight to the streets of Cairns. Perched in the middle of the road, and armed with a large sign with his phone number, he advertised himself.
His trick paid off. Just after 9:30am yesterday morning, Tony Carter from Abelia Cleaning drove by and invited him back to his Bungalow office for an interview.

"We'd just had someone leave over the weekend, so it was good timing," Tony said, who runs a family business with his partner Sue Homer, and their both parents. "We've been in business for 15 years and employ 45 locals. We're always on the look out for keen, honest and good people to join our team," Tony told CairnsBlog.

"Steve was well-presented, he had his CV and references with him, and once we'd checked things out, we offered him a position on the spot," Tony Carter said.

"Yeah, I'm really delighted," Steve said. "I think I could motivate anyone to do this you know. I should charge them $25 and say, 'I'll get you a job!' "

Abelia Cleaning look after a large number of Cairns customers, from James Cook University, St Andrews, corporate buildings, even body corporate properties and restaurants.
"I admired Steve's initiative and thought we had to talk with him," Tony Carter said. "It takes a lot for someone to do what he did."
It's not the first time that this out-of work-worker has turned to the streets for help. At the height of the 1983 financial crisis, Steve found himself in a similar predicament.

"I took a sign and went onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge to tell the city I wanted a job," Steve Murphy recalled. "Within hours, my answerphone had about 70 messages on it. I was on radio and even TV's Today Tonight wanted me to come on alongside a politician, however I refused that invitation!"

Tony and Sue at Abelia have given him a clean sweep. At 4pm today, Steve Murphy starts his new job.

(The Cairns Post will be pleased to bring you their version of this story, via snail mail.)

Caught with their briefs down

This morning a Sheridan Street courtroom will again ring to the tune of our poor old fallen Yacht Club building, demolished after 100 years by the Labor party, just a few short months ago.
It was sanctioned by Cairns MP, Desley Boyle.

The Queensland Police have been busy lately. Spending your money. And it's all at Desley Boyle's direction. Kinda.

Yesterday afternoon, Bryan Law was given a 37-page 'Brief of Evidence', containing seven witness statements, two search warrants, along with a Police evidence bag containing a 1972 VHS video tape; 3 CDs; and three eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was, to be used as evidence against him.

You can download a brief copy of the Brief here.

This was promised for the 19th June, however was available only one day prior to his Court appearance at the Cairns Magistrates Court.

Bryan inspects the Police evidence, and an object called a "VHS", and wonders what ancient wondrous device it is used for.

The “victim” is named as the Australian Labor Party. It’s all about Desley Boyle’s electoral signs, but, evidently Desley has nothing to do with this.

Apart from the fact, that the signs were sent and invoiced to a person by the name of Desley Boyle MP.

Apart from the fact that all the signs were stored in Desley’s office.

Apart from the fact that Desley’s electoral assistant, Jamie Townsend, an employee of the Queensland Parliament, has been running errands for Ms Boyle to the Police. Desley Boyle has nothing at all to do with it. Evidently.

When questioned on the 12th March, MP for Cairns Desley Boyle she was happy for her signs to be used in this way. Desley told Channel 7 journalist Scott Forbes, she was happy for Bryan Law to use her signs.

Desley said she would not be taking any action.

Unusual in a Police investigation, the charges were laid first (on 20th April), then witnesses were identified, interviewed, and statements taken. Bryan Law was never interviewed.

“This is unfortunate,” Bryan says. “If they had interviewed me, I would have said to look up CairnsBlog articles from 11th and 12th March 2009 which provide photographic proof and a detailed account of what I did and why.”

Of course these articles also provide evidence of Desley’s permission and blessing to alter her signs and would make the Prosecution unnecessary.

The Police 'Brief of Evidence' identifies the 'Victim' as the Australian Labor Party.

As it turns out, the Police failed to identify and interview Desley Boyle, owner of the signs; along with Channel 7’s Scott Forbes, CairnsBlog’s Michael Moore, both of whom were eye witnesses to Mr Law’s actions, along with the politics of why he did it.

Those of you lucky enough not to spend time in the criminal justice system, may not know it but, it’s an important principle of public prosecution, that any exculpatory evidence in the possession of Police, must be given to the court as part of the prosecution process.

The printing account for Desley's elections signs.

It shows that Desley ordered them, and that there were delivered to her office, not the Labor Party.

The procedures adopted by the Police in this case, made sure that this evidence was not collected.

“I have never before been charged without first being interviewed,” Bryan Law told CairnsBlog.

In a total coincidence, the charge against Bryan was laid on the very day he sent a letter to Desley Boyle congratulating her on winning the election.

“It just cannot be possible that Police are responding to political pressure in this case,” Bryan says.

Related CairnBlog stories...

* NB: Some photographs courtesy of Police Brief of Evidence

It's an abuse not to talk about abuse

Anne Meehan, a social worker with the Cairns Community Legal Centre, knows what it's like to feel discrimination as residents enter older age.

"This is an issue for everybody, and all generations," Anne Meehan told CairnsBlog. "We need to take care of our older people, particular those over 60, however there may be other culture or health reasons where people experience age-related issues at an earlier age."

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was celebrated in Cairns yesterday, with 15 support organisations converging on City Place, to talk about the often taboo subject.

"Older people today are more visible, more active, and more independent than ever before," Anne Meehan says. "They're living longer and in better health, however as the population of older Australians grows, so does the hidden problem of elder abuse, neglect, mistreatment and exploitation."

The 4th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, is an international UN-sanctioned initiative, provides an opportunity to highlight the role that older people play in our community. However, more importantly, it provides an opportunity to discuss abuse, in any form, aimed at our older citizens, will not be tolerated.

"We are recognising and responding to the mistreatment of older people in whatever setting it occurs," Anne Meehan says. "In the latter years of life, people should be free from abuse, neglect and exploitation."

"This awareness day will highlight the contribution that older people make in the community and showcase the rich talent that is here in Cairns."

In Cairns we provide social and legal advice, which focuses on elder abuse, that is within a relationship of trust," Anne says. "So that's family, friends." This also cover financial exploitation, which can be with banks, Telstra-type companies, even dodgy repairmen, all sorts of things."

"Our numbers have grown but this may reflect that now there is this awareness and there is services out there to help. Older people often don't have an expectation that there is anyone to help them. They may be embarrassed, if the abuser is a friend or family member, so for them to contact someone like our organisation is a big step, when they say 'I want this to stop.' "

"We will often advocate on behalf of these older people or elders," Anne says. "We put ourselves where domestic violence and child abuse was 20 years ago, where it's about getting it out, and making this not a taboo subject to talk about."

Sometimes older citizens don't know if it's abuse. We say, if it doesn't feel right, contact somebody and talk about it."

It can often be around people making family arrangements, like housing. It can be the older person that can be homeless or near to homeless with their money gone when decisions are made without their involvement."
Fiona Sewell broadcast her ABC Far North show live from City Place yesterday, and talked with Maya Zetlin from the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit. You can listen to her interview here.

The services offered are free to anyone. Elder is a term of respect in the indigenous community, Anne Meehan says, however acknowledges similar issues appear across cultures.

Closer to home I recall an elderly couple, who are my neighbours, were presented with a fait accompli at their Body Corporate meeting last year. A motion was presented to decide spending several thousand dollars on a digital television installation system for the apartment block.

They were told by StrataLink, the Body Corporate Manager and also a resident in the block, that if they didn't vote for it, regardless if the motion got passed, they would not get the service. They also were not informed that a similar service could be obtained by purchasing a simple set-top box for around $50. After I gave them some information, they 70-year-old challenged the meeting and over-turned the entire motion.

I cited this story with Anne Meehan and she agreed that often older people get bullied.

"You can get fed information by a little upstart when they say this is what you do, but it's not what you have to do," Anne says. "We often deal with issues around their body corporate situations.

The Cairns Seniors Legal and Support Service is a pilot project, funded through the Government's Department of Communities. You can find them on the 1st floor, Main Street Arcade, 85 Lake Street, Cairns, or telephone 4031 7179.

You can call Elder Abuse Prevention on telephone 1300 651 192

Monday, 15 June 2009

Blog Boys beats up again

The Blog Boys were back on air yesterday morning.
This week we spoke about bringing Schapelle Corby back to Australia, or letting her rot in some Asian jail; nude models going nude; RACQ's campaign to save the fuel subsidy, and reasons why we shouldn't mention a former Council CEO.
It's my regular stint on 4CA 846 AM, on Monday's from 7:35 am with Mike "Locco" O'Loughlin.
Lance Royce from Northern Truth joins me.
Tune in or tune out. It's the best 30 minutes of radio you'll hear, beside John Mackenzie's four hours after I leave the studio.
Whatever you do, start you week with something disturbing.

Another week from Hull

This week, our Interim CEO, Peter Tabulo, will carry out the work that Noel Briggs failed to do: clean up the destructive Cairns Regional Council media unit.

Firstly, he'll no doubt terminate the employment of Kerie Hull, Manager Corporate Communications. Expect to see an announcement mid-week.

Kerie's part in the Cash for Comments scandal was not as crook as Briggs, which is why he was booted out of the Big Oh Brother house last week. Nevertheless, Kerie Hull knowingly and willingly played along with the full knowledge and support of CEO Noel Briggs, and Councillors Sno Bonneau and also Alan Blake, whom was seen playing golf over the weekend with Ms Hull.

Even conservative Councillor Paul Gregory, has provided a rural shoulder for Kerie Hull in her time of need. She sure will need some support, but Kerie needs to move on now and let this Council's relationship with the community have open heart surgery.

One of the reasons why Briggs may have left, in advance of dismissing Hull, as he promised to do at that now notorious press conference, it saved the embarrassment of Kerie Hull airing her dirty laundry in public about him. It's clear now, in her looking for someone to blame for her own demise, she will take aim at the Mayor.

Hull will try to cite an infamous email that was concocted to show she informed the Mayor of the financial arrangement with 4CA, yet Jim Henry QC's investigation showed that the Mayor was not even in town at the time.

This is clearly one of the major reasons why the reputation of the Mayor, her Councillors and the Council as a whole, is at the lowest point since last year's March 15th election. Including Sonja Anderson, they have failed to proactively work with local media to build the loyalty and reputation of Council decisions in the mind of the public. Spin doctors spinning the wrong way, or just out of control.

I doubt that ABC Far North radio would take Hull her back, if the last few month's are any reflection of her professionalism.

Kerie Hull was interviewed and appointed by Noel Briggs, last September. She's lasted a mere seven months before her involvement in a discrediting campaign was exposed here on CairnsBlog.

The initial email that I came across written on 10th April, implicated Hull, along with Councillor Blake, for their part in trying to discredit the Mayor. Eight weeks on, the tables have turned 180 degrees, with the spotlight firmly on the culprits.

Briggs had to go. Hull will have to go. Councillor Alan Blake should loose his Finance chair role, and be investigated by the Minister of Local Government, after breaches of the Staff/Councillor Interaction policy that I exposed showing serious conflicts of interests. Nothing was done by the previous CEO, other than protect them.

Councillor Sno Bonneau and Deputy Mayor Margaret Cocharane should also be outed for their involvement.

On Friday afternoon, Noel popped back into the office to collect his pencil case and return the kitchen knife. He asked the acting CEO for a walk around the building to say goodbye to all the staff.

"Sorry Noel, I don't think that's appropriate," Peter Tabulo said.

Talk to folk on the 3rd floor of Council now, and you'll find that a weight has been lifted off the shoulders from many.

"The air is clearer," one told to me on Friday evening. "It's like we can start to function better as a team now."

Bryan Law Vs Desley Boyle - Part 2

Bryan Law will return to the Cairns Courthouse this week to defend his action in defacing around 100 of Cairns MP Desley Boyle's election signs.

"I'm will try to call Desley Boyle as a prosecution witness so that I can cross-examine her about the signs," Bryan Law said after appearing for a mention in early May.

"The use and value of these signs, and whether she is the real candidate for election, or whether she is the vacuous tool of the ALP machine."

"I’m calling on those who support open democratic debate to attend the Cairns Courthouse at 9am on Tuesday. Bring your favourite decorated electoral sign to make a visual tableau," Bryan says. "Ask yourself, do we want a decent level of public political debate – or are we happy to see money and professional spin control our electoral process."

Bryan will appear before the magistrate, 9am Tuesday.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


Want a little vanity?

Last week Facebook provided it's 200 million users an opportunity to grab their on web address, as I did: www.Facebook.com/CairnsBlog

They call them 'vanity names' and are an attempt to make Facebook profiles and pages easily shareable. You can select a username, after logging in as you would usually do, then go to http://www.facebook.com/username.

Already 22 million have grabbed their name, so you'd better get in quick, as once your name is gone, it's gone. A word or warning, you can only do this once.

Facebook is still one of the most popular social media networking site on the web with 65.7 million members (check out their stats), however YouTube reached 100 million monthly viewers in the US alone, with 6.3 billion videos viewed, predicted to play 75 billion videos to 375 million unique visitors during this year.

The baby of the social networking world, Twitter now has 134 million monthly visitors.

MySpace which was sold to NewsCorp for $580 million in 2005, has 54.1 million members.

Nielsen Online’s latest research shows that social networking is now more popular than email. 66.8% of Internet users use social networks, while only 65.1% have used email.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

The last throw of the dice for Mayor Val Schier

Politics, similar to nature, abhors a vacuum. No sooner a vacuum is created than forces external, race to fill the void. That time is running out for our first female mayor to turn the negative opinion around and listen to those that voted for her. Or is it too late?

CairnsBlog columnist and former Cairns Councillor Ross Parisi, puts forward some timely suggestions. He hopes all Councillors, especially Val Schier, makes a cuppa and reads this.

Leaders lose momentum, are distracted and play catch up with obvious consequences. Those that fill the void usually have their own agenda, hidden or otherwise and take the initiative.

What we are experiencing at the local level are self serving forces scampering to fill the vacuum created by the apparent lack of direction, purpose and vision of the Cairns Regional Council.
The loss of identity produced by recent decisions or lack thereof is compounding the general community’s discontentment and disillusionment.

The brand name that Val stood for Cairns 1st, as tempting as it was in 2008, now stands tarnished. The Cairns Post treats our Mayor with brazen contempt, and as a person of fun and parody. This was also done through the now-expired, Gavin King column.

What the community yearns above all else is firm, consistent and transparent leadership. The community will not tolerate the lack of transparency and apparent duplicity.

Residents generally can ‘live with’ most decision provided the rationale for at arriving at those decisions is explained eloquently without demur. In other words the residents want our leaders to level with them and give them all the facts, particularly those surrounding contentious decisions. They have no tolerance for double-speak.

Politics is the art of communication. Politician who succeeds are the ones that masters the skill of communication. My mind turns to Beattie and Carr both of whom presided over faltering service delivery yet lived to fight another day. More than once, both asked the electorate to accept their apologies for their failures. Beattie, behind his toothy smile was articulate and in most cases told it how he saw it and as a consequence was re-elected with increased support. He too had to contend with political white anteing from his adversaries, from within and outside of the Labor Party. Yet he prevailed and retired at the time of his choosing.

At the local level, Mayor Val Schier was elected on a wave of enthusiasm, change and exuberance, espousing a vision that included a partnership with the people who had been marginalised and felt left out.

Those that wanted to come along on the journey and wanted to make Cairns a city that was proud of its policies of inclusion were welcomed.

Not many political observers predicted the win in 2008. It came as a surprise. This phenomenon had occurred once before with the election of the late Keith Goodwin alliance in 1988.

I had the privilege of being a Councillor on the then-Mulgrave Shire Council and witnessed the election from close quarters. So much was it unexpected, particularly within the corridors of the Cairns City Council and business boardrooms that the defeated Mayor Ron Davis could not believe it and walked literally the corridor of the council chamber for days, like a zombie.

In the election of 2008, Cairns Post, together with other media outlets did not take Val and her ‘Cairns 1st’ team seriously. Arrogantly, the old media thought the election was a walk in the park for Kevin Byrne. The election was viewed as just an obstacle in the continuity of the Byrne administration.

Apart for token coverage, they treated ‘Cairns 1st’ as a blimp on the political horizon. CairnsBlog sensed the mood and the need for change and supported the alternative. The faceless business leaders of Cairns treated Val as novelty value.

The people thought differently though and delivered their verdict with emphasis. The villages north of the Barron River, inclusive of Douglas Shire, voted in droves for Val Schier's team and brand of politics. The message to all observers then was, ‘don’t take us for granted’. Today that edict still stands. The difference is that Val is the one now being judged and what I hear is sadly not music to my ears. The rumblings are deafening.

I was one who recognised the restless mood of Cairns. Brand Byrne was on the nose. Cairns wanted change and Val stood for change, a fresh start. I together with others, burnt the midnight oil developing polices that reflected the aspirations of its people.

The election produced a disparate array of Councillors, and a cocktail was elected. Three Cairns 1st: Forsyth, Lesina, and Schier; Linda Cooper from Kevin Byrne's Unity, who has since renounced any connection; two Unity mates and sitting Councillors in Sno Bonneau and Paul Gregory; three independents in Robert Pyne, Nancy Lansky and Julia Leu. There were also two former Unity comrades in Alan Blake and Margaret Chocrane, sacked by Kevin Byrne for disloyalty.

Trying to govern Cairns with such a diverse group of Councillors was never going to be an easy task. Several Councillors spoke and later acted as though the community had erred in electing Val, as if it was an electoral aberration. Sadly to this day, that has not changed. That is where the problem starts and ends.

Mayor Schier, in good faith with good intentions, preferred to chair the Council on the basis of consensus. ‘Out with old politics, in with consensus’, was her private retort to concerned supporters. This would have worked if all the Councillors sung from the same hymn book. Unfortunately, the re-elected Councillors had their own self-serving, self righteous agenda. Regretfully, the betterment of Cairns was a distant priority.

It was their aim to paint Val as incompetent, a flip-flopper, politically-motivated, and an object to be made fun of. The knives were out. ‘Cash for Comment’ was but one of the plots to destabilise her. To their astonishment, thanks to CairnsBlog, this did not go to plan. It literally blew up in their face. All is not yet revealed. The Henry Report must be released publicly for all to scrutinise without fear or favour.

Unlike a morning fog, this scenario is not going to disperse. The power plays if anything will become more pronounced and disruptive as each rogue Councillor attempts to vindicate their position and actions.

Politics is not a noble sport, some play for keeps. The people count for nought, when such games are played out. Perception as in most things fathers reality. The public reality of Cairns Regional Council is one of an unholy mess of competing self serving interests and political agendas Council’s deliberation and decisions made in such circumstances are usually made for the wrong reasons and what pans out is mostly not in the best interest of Cairns and its greater region.

What we have witnessed during the last 15 months is the end of the beginning. The bitterness, rancour and mistrust is only the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath the waterline is a chasm of Machiavellian plots and sub plots.

Meanwhile, the Council is handing down the Budget for 2009/10 at the end of June. This document is being prepared in the shadow of a resigned CEO, and no doubt will still have his fingerprints all over it.

One can well imagine the difficulties this is going to have on the overall strategy of the Council. As staff confidence is at rock bottom, no doubt Council productivity will be effected and it will come with its own costs to ratepayers.

At this critical time with the global recession bearing down heavily on Cairns and its region, what is needed is administrative stability and political unity.

Here are the solutions...
  • For the sake of good governance, Cairns needs firm leadership beginning from the top. This rudderless meandering ship must be righted abruptly. The opportunity must be seized. The helm must be held firm. The experiment with consensus must be jettisoned.

  • Mayor Val needs to take the initiative and take on the disruptive clique with vigour and resolve. A challenge must be issued. “Work with me with unity of purpose for the benefit of Council’s constituents or face the wrath of the Local Government Act and the Council Code of Conduct”.

  • Party politics, personalities and vested interest are to be left outside the Council Chambers.

  • Cr Blake as Chairperson of the Finance Committee must be stripped of his duties and sent to the back bench.

  • Cr Leu, a former CEO of Douglas Shire, has the ticker and the loyality to take on the responsibility of chairing the Finance Committee.

Val’s creditability and purpose has been questioned by an increasing alert public. This has to be halted and reversed. To this end Val needs to adopt the following strategies...

  • Hold monthly media conferences where she can be quizzed on any subject and where she can outline the achievements and major announcements via a prepared statement.
  • Furthermore, the Council media department needs a clean out. It needs to adopt a proactive position. It needs to organise avenues and opportunities on at least a quarterly timetable, where the Mayor can express her vision and priorities as well as listen to the various sectors which form the community.

Regarding Councillor protocol and discipline...

  • Val Schier must make it abundantly clear to all Councillors, unequivocally, that they are on a three-month probationary period.

  • Our Mayor needs to give notice to recalcitrant Councillors that any further disruptive action will be reported forthwith to the Minister for Local Government for their dismissal under the Minister's newly acquired reserve powers.