Friday 31 July 2009

Pyne wants you to hug more trees

This weekend you can celebrate National Tree Day, and if Cairns Regional Councillor Rob Pyne has his way, Councillor Sno Bonneau and Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane will be burying some real dirt, for a change.

"The event has seen more than 13.4 million native trees and shrubs planted around Australia," Councillor Robert Pyne says. "National Tree Day, with Planet Ark, will see one street in Mt Sheridan plant the 15 millionth native seedling."

Pyne's neighbour in Cliff Close, will make it happen on Sunday.

“Aside from the benefits to the environment, growing native plants and shrubs is a great way for residents to make a positive contribution to their local community,” Robert Pyne said.

The annual event is Australia’s largest community tree-planting event, mobilising more than 300,000 volunteers to plant native trees and shrubs.

“One of the Cliff Close residents has arranged for Ian Crosswhite from the Cairns Taipans to drop by and plant a seedling, so one of their ‘tall timbers’ will plant a small tree for the event,” Pyne says.

More independence welcomed

The second edition of FNQ Independent has hit the streets.

The new weekly, available for $1, focuses on the communities of Wangetti to Bloomfield.

Giembra Busmer and her partner Stretch, are behind the new independent newspaper.

"A lot of people have been asking for this, and asking for us to do something," Giembra told CairnsBlog.

Busmer, who worked at NewsLtd's Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette for 20 years, is excited about the reception the first edition received. They gave away the first week's print run to get the word out there.
"The region was not adequately being served up here," she says.

Well I say this is a welcome addition. The Gazette is run by a big corporation, and they've lost the little people. It's largely advertising and real estate. Local NewsLtd publications have lost their way and I hope this new addition to the media landscape. A casual observer would think the Gazette has become a Council newsletter.

In response, the Gazette has been running a series of counter-advertising, stating theirs is the "local news source you can trust."

However, ask around the community, and it's difficult to find how many of the faces are known. At least three of the team are new to Port by just a few weeks, coming from Brisbane and the Territory. Eight of those pictured are involved in non-editorial roles like advertising.

Clearly News Ltd newspapers like that of the Cairns Post, have forgotten the community they serve as their global chiefs focus on revenue.

Along with Giembra and Stretch, Nardia, Hiedi, and Megan assist in the production of the newspaper that is available from local shops and service stations around the region. 3,000 copies are printed, and distributed every Thursday.

Both Division 10 Cairns Regional Councillor Julia Leu and Mayor Val Schier welcomed the new weekly newspaper.

"Yes, I think another newspaper is a good thing, I think they've done a great job," Julia Leu says.
Mayor Schier was very complimentary about the launch on FNQ Independent. "Giembra and Stretch have put together a great newspaper," Schier said. "I'm really pleased to see this and I genuinely wish them all the best. It can only be a good thing for the community."

I wish Giembra and Stretch all the best for this exciting addition to the local media and am sure that the community will welcome and support it.
  • You can email Giembra or telephone 4098 3883. A website is still a few weeks away.

A Letter from Anna Bligh to Peter Tabulo, Acting CEO Cairns Regional Council

Statement of Right to Information Principles for the Queensland Public Service

"Information is the lifeblood of democracy. To reach its full potential, a State like Queensland needs citizens who are informed and a government that is open and responsive.

My Government firmly believes that making more information available to the community contributes to informed and useful debate on issues. The free flow of information enables the public to genuinely engage with government in the policy development processes, as well as going some way towards helping the public to better understand how government works.

The Right to Information reforms are about a better way for a modern Queensland public sector to do business and to get the best results for Queensland.

At the heart of these reforms will be a public service that conducts itself in the most open and transparent way possible, because that openness and transparency are fundamental to good government.

The processes of government should operate on a presumption of disclosure, with a clear regard for the public interest in accessing government information. The Queensland public service should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation to carry out their work based on this presumption.

Government information must be valued as a public resource that contributes to an open and participatory democracy and improves government decision-making.

It is the Queensland Government’s expectation that the Queensland public service recognises and respects that Government is the custodian of information that belongs to the community, and will:

  • Maximise the public’s access to government information by administratively releasing information where ever possible, so that recourse to the Right to Information Act 2009 and Information Privacy Act 2009 is a matter of last resort.
  • Recognise, respect and maintain the community’s trust in government to appropriately and securely collect, store and use their personal information.
  • Act to process requests for information rapidly and fairly, rendering all possible assistance to the community in responding to their requests for information.
  • Continually improve systems, processes and skills to maximise access to government information and the protection of personal information.
  • Use innovative ways to ensure information is available to all sectors of the community.

These reforms are a significant step forward in public administration in Queensland. I thank you for your assistance in the implementation of the new legislation.

Thursday 30 July 2009

It's Maori language week

Na te mea ko te Wiki o te Reo Maori tenei i whakaaro au me whakatakoto he korero i roto i te reo, kia kitea te tokomaha te tokoiti ranei e taea ana te panui te tuhituhi ranei i roto tonu i tetahi o nga reo tuturu o Aotearoa. Tena, tukuna mai o whakaaro i roto i te reo. Engari, kaua ma te whakamahia i nga taonga whakamaorihia-a-rorohiko!
Hat Tip: KiwiBlog

False Cape development closing

Administrators are getting the False Cape site ready for sale.

Reef Cove Resort Limited, the company behind the failed development, is now in external Administration. According to ASIC's register, a receiver and manager has been appointed.

Local politicians are being lobbied by the Save False Cape action group, to prevent any further damage to the land and sediment run off into the Great Barrier Reef.

Long-time False Cape campaigner and local architect Mark Buttrose, has written to local MPs and Cairns-based Senator Jan McLucas to see if there is any scope for a Regional / State / Federal government buyback of the land.

Open Debate

I intended to pop the Open Debate up once a week, however I've been a bit distracted of late.
Usual rules apply, this is your space to raise any pet subject, discuss an item that should be aired, or simply get that annoying problem off your chest and in the back seat on the MX5.

A mouth like a circus

The amazingly clever Circusmouse, who had a premature divorce with CairnsBlog some time back, still produces shocking visual satire.

Followers will remember the outrageous October 13th instalment, that unfortunately didn't get us in court to please explain. It was timely to perfectly coincide with Anna's visit to the far north to sell off the airport and not build a hospital.

The cartoon enjoyed a healthy number of comments by many who didn't get the strap-on metaphor, least of all Labor supporters.

I see Mr Mouse has myself and Thomas Dingo Chamberlain confused. Thomas wouldn't be seen dead reading a Blog. He prefers pictures and going to girly bars with Val's executive assistant.

Tell Circusmouse that we miss him over here where all the scoundrels hang out.

No quick solutions, but a fair observation

Barron River Labor MP, Steve Wettenhall, well versed in near misses and accidents, has done what any polly would do when they can't find a solution or lead, they call for a meeting.

My comrade on the right, Dennis Quick sums it up nicely...
  • "After years of people crying out for resolution of road safety issues on the Bruce Highway and the clear identification of so called 'hot spots' all the Labor Party can do is to call for (yet another) Summit to address the issues.

    In the leadup to the state election in March, further pressure was added by LNP candidate, Vic Black. He was castigated by Warren Pitt for daring to be critical. Pitt then announced yet another "planning study" (which is the politicians way of appearing to do something whilst doing SFA, rather like a Summit) - but only as far as Wrights Creek. The dangerous parts of the Bruce Highway from that point to the south, were again ignored.

Read Dennis' piece here.

Digging a bigger hole

I had to baulk at a Victorian Council when they got rid of two amazing city workers, yet got the boot.

The Geelong Council fired two compassionate staffers when a wanker of a whistle-blower dobbed them in for filling in two pot-holes where elderly residents frequent.

Mick Van Beek and Peter Anderson were then rewarded with a steak sandwich for their kindness.

So, six shovels of Council asphalt, that was on it's way to the refuse tip, got them in a deeper hole. The whistle-blower wrote to Council's CEO (and we know how compassionate our last one was) who sacked Mick and Peter.

The Geelong Advertiser, who has on their team, the fabulous former Cairns Post investigative journalist, Kerri-Ann Hobbs, said that Council staff walked off the job on Tuesday to support the guys.

In Geelong, Councillors even face court when they fail to declare a conflict of interest. Imagine that?

Hell of a name for a boat full of seamen

Hat Tip: Colin Riddell

Cairns Post kept in dark over deal

So what did we learn from yesterday's "cash-for-comment scandal revealed" in our favourite daily?

Four months after Councillor Blake unleashed his information through his former mates in the LNP, the Cairns Post finally braves the waters and names him as a key player, who had full knowledge of the deal. That's old news, to any reader of CairnsBlog.

The title was astonishing: "Val kept in dark over deal". Well, this is no news. It's what the Mayor said at the time when the Henry Report was delivered to the shamed former CEO, and his version of an 'executive summary' was sanctioned for release to the Councillors.

Now let's not forget that this was no investigation by the Cairns Post at all. They simply sat there by the fax machine and waiting for a few selected sentences were sent to them for copy and paste. There was no interviewing members of the LNP, or former members for that matter, no digging around and hunting out the story at all.

This is also the first time in four months, that at the very beginning of this drama I published the email that indited Alan Blake and his dirty dealings with this episode. The Cairns Post never mentioned anyone beside Noel Briggs, Mayor Schier and Kerie Hull in this story. In fact, that didn't touch Hull until a month after the story broke, mainly because Kerie was still dropping them budget leaks and info about the huge waste of ratepayers money that was that PR backdrop she ordered and designed.

Why haven't the Post gone digging for the massive scandal surrounding the sudden departure of Noel Briggs from his $280,000 pa year job? Surely he was getting out of that place for good reason, and didn't want the spotlight on him any longer. He dropped Ms Hull faster than you could say "people listen to John Mackenzie because he tells the truth."

Councillor Blake steadfastly believes that the Mayor is lying though. In a recent interview on ABC Far North with Fiona Sewell, he was asked about the release of the Henry Report and why Corporate Communications Manager Kerie Hull wasn't at work, yet being paid. He squirmed like a snake.

"That's an operational matter," Councillor Blake said. "However it's really the Mayor's word against her's [Kerie Hull]."

He went on in the dying seconds of the interview to claim that the communications work under Madam Hull was "the best it's ever been."

The Cairns Post is actively in a game of trying to discredit the Mayor and any other group of persons that doesn't fit into their commercial sad-sack agenda. It's well known around Council that editor Andrew Webster can't stand criticism and I dare say coffees are off with Val these days. Various respected local writers and community folk have written to him privately since he took on the job, on an effort to seek a more positive and probing local newspaper. However, sadly, not much has changed besides Gavin King's sad departure and a rearrangement of the website.

Their beat up over the Uke festival that was one passing comment, even after we had a week-long economic investment by the US Military, still went on and blamed Val et all for Townsville winning out with their V8 Super Car races.

Intelligent readers in Cairns question, challenge and critique the Cairns Post. We expect better. We now know that we most probably won't get it.

The story yesterday delivered no new news about the 4CA dodgy secret deal done by Kerie Hull. It was old news, but perfectly suited for the Manunda Takeaway shop to wrap their meals in.

Now that we have Blake named and again shamed, it's time for him to take permanent leave from the gravy train.

Who would Kevin turn gay for?

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he will not support gay marriage, however welcomes a debate on the issue.

The Labor Party's national conference starts today in Sydney, with the hot topic of same-sex unions on the table. Rallies are being co-ordinated around the country, including Cairns. The Party banned the issue prior to the last election.

"We are consistent with the policy that we took to the last election," Rudd said yesterday. However her said that the Party "fully respects the integrity of same-sex relationships."

"We will not change our opposition to same-sex marriage. Marriage should be a union between a man and a woman."

The Tasmanian branch of the Party has voted for the Marriage Act to be amended to allow for same-sex unions, whilst a recent poll said 60% of Australians support gay marriage. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has said it will count same-sex couples in the next national census.

New Zealanders enjoy a far more progressive and liberal social environment across the Tasman.

The Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed in 1986, 49 votes to 44. It was preceded by the infamous "Nuremberg Rally" on the steps of Parliament, when a petition against the proposed legislation with 810,000 signatures was presented. Less than half were later validated.

In 1993 the Human Rights Commission Amendment Act is passed, outlawing discrimination on sexual orientation, after only a day or so of debate in the House, and in 2004, Civil Unions were passed into law. Prostitution was decriminalised in 2003.

Australia almost stands alone with the USA, as one of the last remaining western countries to recognise a Civil Union, as an alternative to marriage.

Over one third of all marriages, end in divorce. A similar trend occurs in New Zealand where half of the marriages dissolved lasted just over 13 years.

The National Day of Action for Same-Sex Marriage, will co-rdinate events across the country at 12 midday. The Sydney march will go from the Town Hall to the National Labor Conference at Darling Harbour, where participants plan to stage the nation's largest 'illegal' same-sex wedding.

  • Contact Janine Aitken for more information about the Cairns rally.

Alan Blake is stalking me

StalkerCheck is a new FaceBook application that lets users see who has been interacting with their profile.

Spooky stuff.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Mandela writes

This just in. Glad someone is scamming the scammers, but it's reassuring to be dealing with a Mandela. Boy, they're getting innovative.

  • martin mandela

    date: 29 July 2009 19:43
    subject: Attn: Sir/Madam.

    Attn: Sir/Madam.

    This is to notify you that, We organize crime dictactive here in south Africa government, have recovered all the money you was defrauded by scammer’s here in south Africa, but we need to confirm that you are the original person that was defrauded.

    In this case, we need to confirm the particular amount of money you was defrauded by criminals here in South Africa. We need to know the year and month the business last with them, we also need the names and phone numbers, which you use to communicate with them during the time they defrauded you.

    We need those information’s from you to enable us confirm that you are the real person, as you know that we have all the information with us, but we need to confirm from you first before we can made the payment to you , as you know that people use another person information and collect money from our officer, so try and furnish us the requirements above to enable us believe that you are the very person we have his/her information in our payer office.

    We have this information through our detective computer that dictated criminals, as you know that we are near to host the world cup 2010 in our country South Africa, that is more reason why we want to show the world what we are up to, and also for the world to know that our country don't hide criminal's.

    We recovered too much huge amount of money from the scammer’s and we have paid about 15thousand victims, so hurry up and send us the information above to enable you collect your fund which we recovered from the scammers, and must of the Scammer's are from West Africa been Nigeria and others.

    Mr Martin Mandela

Too soon?

Top Council employee moon-lighting

One of the highest paid staff at Cairns Regional Council, is also running her own media company.

Kerie Hull, the current Corporate Communications Manager, has been working two jobs for some time, maybe months.

Hull was at the centre of a $17,000 Cairns Regional Council investigation into a secret deal done with a local radio station to get Mayor Val Schier on air.

A simple search on the Internet reveals that Ms Hull has again activated her media consultancy called Publicity Works NQ. The company is listed on Telstra's White Pages with a registered address of Warrnambool Street, Trinity Park, QLD 4879. Telephone and fax numbers area also listed.

A website appears not to work, but is registered by Kerie Rae Hull, Sole Trader.

Her ABN was updated last Thursday (88121468905), and another company was added, Blue Sky Communication.

Why is Ms Hull undertaking other work, that would clearly be perceived as a conflict of interest, in her current role as Council's chief media officer?

If she has undertaken an application for WorkCover due to stress or sick leave, for an extended period whilst her future employment is being discussed, then why is she actively doing another job? Has the CEO been informed? Has any WorkCover application included details that Ms Hull is in-fact working during this period of "leave"?

The online business listing states "Publicity Works is a North Queensland-based public relations firm with clients across the state," reads the Internet description:
  • "Our consultants have the capacity to go where you need them to be. Our creative team of professional writers and trainers are expert in the planning, development, and management of powerful communication strategies.

    We build capability by collaborating with leading technical production crews and hand-picking them to suit specific projects and budgets."
Although ABC Far North Radio did not confirm, Kerie Hull was seen visiting the Sheridan Street studio to set up media interviews for Aboriginal leader, Noel Pearson.

Ms Hull has also been listed as the official media contact for Kfibre for some months, a company that offers a range of dietary fibre powders from sugarcane.

Ms Hull's business was listed in the Cairns Chamber of Commerce directory, produced in March last year, about the same time she started contract work at Council. She was appointed to the full-time role in September.

Ms Hull has been away on "leave" from her $130,000 pa Council job, almost since the investigation into the secret deal with Radio 4CA was conducted. It showed Kerie Hull had withheld information from the Mayor about the deal.

A separate investigation by the Federal Advertising Authority is about to rule on the non-disclosure of the deal during the on-air weekly programme.

A shambles and a coverup

It's nothing less than a shambles and a cover-up.

Discrete personal issues. Give me a break.

Acting CEO of Cairns Regional Council Peter Tabulo has again restated that the controversial Henry Report, will not be released.

However he has given some of the sanitised information to the Cairns Post under their Freedom of Information request.

The former CEO Noel Briggs held his own investigation, alongside that of Jim Henry QC, into the commercial arrangement between Council and Prime Radio 4CA.

"The report prepared by Jim Henry SC to assist the former CEO in relation to a discrete issue and associated communications will not be released," Tabulo said.

The Cairns Post asked for...
  • “All correspondence including emails and records of telephone conversations with the radio station management or its representatives”

    “All emails and written reports on the matter including emails sent between Mayor Val Schier or her office and communications manager Kerie Hull”

    “Details of the action taken by CEO Noel Briggs to resolve the situation plus memoranda, emails, records or telephone conversations, or letters on the subject written by him”
Tabulo has refused to release most of the information requested, however has decided to release publicly some information, particularly by Councillors who were interviewed.

“In fact there were two investigations conducted upon the advice of Council’s lawyers, one by the CEO into the actual ‘cash for comment’ matter, and the Jim Henry Report solely commissioned for the purpose of determining factual and discrete issues relevant to the performance and/or conduct of the employee(s) involved."

“The advice given by Council’s lawyers and the Henry Report are the subject of legal professional privilege which at no time has been waived. I have concluded that certain employment issue documentation is privileged from production in legal proceedings and accordingly exempt from the request by the Cairns Post,” Peter Tabulo said.

“It is in the public interest to ensure that Council operations are conducted in a professional and fair manner in accordance with industrial relations legislation and employment laws in a manner that affords appropriate confidentiality to the persons subject to the investigations and those who assisted in the process."

Councillors seem to forget that they are the ones running the show, not the staff, no matter what advice they are given. If the majority of the Councillor vote to release the full Executive Summary, for instance, then it would have to be released. It is their (our) Council, not anyone elses.

“Any release of information relevant to their involvement and/or the information they have provided has the potential to have a substantial adverse effect on management or assessment by Council or the conduct of its industrial relations," Tabulo said.

"The Councillors had been informed of the process and by virtue of the provisions of the Local Government Act. Councillors are not involved in the decision making process as it relates to employment and industrial relation issues involving staff, that is the sole domain of the CEO”.

It's not over for Blake and Bonneau.

Governmentium (Gv)

Thought I'd share something from one of my readers ... rather appropriate for a Cairns audience...
  • Recent research has led to the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic Mass of 312.

    These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.

    A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second to take from four days to four years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 5 years; it does not decay, but instead, undergoes a reorganisation in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganisation will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

    This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

    When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Five months before another disaster at False Cape

The disaster at False Cape is only five months away from another wet season - a disaster waiting to happen yet again.

The sediment traps, which are supposed to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the harmful run-off from this outrageous development, are full again, showing how ineffective they are. Hillslope erosion, at East Trinity of Cairns, is out of control.

The stop-gap "environmental protection" measures adopted by Cairns Regional Council in the face of totally ineffectual activity, or inactivity as was the case from the Federal and State Governments concerning False Cape, are going to fail once again. They will allow tonnes of muck to spew into the Reef and surrounding environs in the upcoming wet season.

When are the Federal and State environment departments going to take legal action against the developer, which appears to remain in breach of its permits, and hence Federal and State law? When are they going to close down this development once and for all?

Their inactivity obviously gives the developer heart: the rumor is that he has asked that the 12-month moratorium on the development be lifted.

Unless these lazy and dishonest Government departments act, we, the Cairns Regional Council taxpayers, will have to foot another very substantial bill required to continue the useless stop-gap measures adopted so far.

I can't think of one single reason for us to be shelling out for this in the first case, if the Government departments and the former shonky Cairns City Council had been doing their jobs.

It is also time for Environment Minister Peter Garrett to release the damning sediment run-off appendix to the consultant's report, that his Department commissioned on the project. He has said that he can't release it because it might prejudice any prosecution of the developer. We all know that he is keeping it secret it to protect his own Department's complicity and careless attitude in policing this development. By doing this, he's also protecting this extremely dodgy developer.

It's time for Minister Garrett to start questioning the lack of action, the lack of accountability, the lack of transparency and the lack of honesty of his Departmental officers about the False Cape project.

Sadly, we have a rather different Garrett in office to the one that was a fierce advocate for the environment, just a few short years ago. He supported the pulp mill in Tasmania, and just last week approved a new uranium mine in South Australia.

It's high time something happened at False Cape.

Last Chaser tomorrow night

The third season of ABC's Chaser will conclude tomorrow evening.

The final show will show Chaser member, Chas Licciardello with his 30 Botox injections, but only on one side of his body.

The final show airs at 9pm. There is already talk of a new show from the mad cap crew for 2010.

Councillor Forsyth backs change in committee chairs

Following last week's dumping of Cairns Regional Councillor Alan Blake as chair of the prestigious Finance and Administration committee, first-time Councillor Forsyth wants the roles to be rotated more often, so that others get a chance to fulfil the key roles.

"As most people who ask me would be aware, I have consistently advocated the position that all Councillors, if they wish, should have an opportunity to Chair a standing Committee," Diane Forsyth told CairnsBlog.

"I believe this will enhance Councillors knowledge and understanding of the workings of Council in particular areas," Forsyth says. "Whilst I can only speak for myself, I believe I have the necessary skills and experience to take on the responsibility of chairing a Council standing committee."

Forsyth declared her interest in both the Works and Services, and also Sports, Arts, Culture and Community Services committees, however failed to gain majority to be elected by her peers. She had the support of five of her colleagues.

"I would also support a second change-over of chairs in approximately 15 months to allow all councillors, who wish to have a go, a chance to chair a Council standing committee," Diane Forsyth said.

Although the Cairns Post Council reporter Thomas Chamberlin wrote on Friday the embattled Councillor Blake "stepped aside as finance chairman", no such thing happened.

The over-whelming majority of Councillors simply lost faith in Blake, after it was exposed about his involvement in spreading information about a deal done with Radio 4CA, in an attempt to embarrass Mayor Val Schier. There is also wide dis-satisfaction around Councillors and senior Council staff about his improper and innapropriate connection with Council's Corporate Communications Manager Kerie Hull.

Hull has been shunted aside from her job over the 4CA affair, and not been welcome back at the office, whilst the terms of her dismissal are completed. Both sides have expended substancial amount in legal costs.

Blake understood that he was not welcome in the role any longer and had lost support. It simply wasn't worth his dwindling credibility to seek a further term as committee chair.

The Cairns Post reporting about the dumping of Councillor Blake as committee chair wnent largely unreported. It was twisted into a story about the Mayor's so-called, lack of transparency. It's important to record that every one of the committee chairs, retained their role, beside Cr Alan Blake. The announcement by the Cairns Post about Blake's dumping and lack of confidence by the majority of Councillors, read like a pathetic press release:
  • "Cr Blake, who held the position for more than eight years, has been commended in the past for developing the independent rates relief tribunal and retiring debt. Earlier this month he indicated he would step aside to allow for a more junior councillor to take the position.

Councillor Forsyth also wants to see the role of Deputy Mayor shared with other Councillor during the term.

"I believe that the position of Deputy Mayor should also be shared, and opened up half-way through the term, to give another Councillor the opportunity to take on the Deputy Mayors role," Diane Forsyth said.

Councillor Kirsten Lesina also agrees with the suggestion, and is keen to contest one of the committee chair roles next time.

It is understood that the chairs of committees will again go to the Council for vote again in early 2011.

Saturday 25 July 2009

Cairns Post gets a junior reporter

Cairns Post editor Andrew Webster, formally of the Innisfail Advocate, is taking a few days off following the birth of a bouncy baby boy on Thursday.

Shay and Andrew have named him Joseph.

I wonder when he'll ask Roger Dickson to clear his desk out for the new recruit? I mean, the computer will be at the perfect height.

Over the moon

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing, Google has introduced a new feature in Google Earth, adding Earth’s most faithful follower, the moon.

Google Earth now has significant data added. There's also the
sky, the ocean’s depths and even Mars, as additional applications.

You can explore the lunar surface, historical data, along with images and videos from the Apollo missions 40 years ago.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Sydney radio cop a $360,000 fine in covert advertising breach

The Federal Government's regulatory body, Australian Communications and Media Authority, has sent a $360,000 fine to Radio 2UE for the infamous cash for comments breach on John Laws radio show.

They were fined for breaches of the disclosure rules when endorsing or advertising a product or service where money was paid to the radio station. It took ACMA 18 months to deliver this decision, showing a weak-handed approach from a station with a history of such behaviour.

ACMA says this is the first civil penalty heard under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 for breaching a condition of a broadcasting licence.

I dare say that Steve Hirst, station manager at 4CA will be carefully watching his staff and what is said on air from now on. The Disclosure Standard requires licensees to disclose the existence of commercial sponsorship arrangements between presenters and sponsors.

Mike 'Locco' O'Loughlin morning presenter at 4CA told me that they are now very careful how advertorials are presented, following the spotlight of Council's covert advertising deal.

"We welcome the decision of the Federal Court. 2UE repeatedly breached its obligations under the Act, even after giving ACMA an enforceable undertaking, committing itself to improve compliance,’ Chris Cheah of ACMA said.

"The court has confirmed that in matters involving serious contraventions, a substantial civil penalty is an appropriate sanction."

  • In September 2007, 2UE gave the ACMA an enforceable undertaking, which included undertakings that the John Laws Morning Show would be monitored to ensure compliance with the Disclosure Standard and 2UE would take action if disclosure announcements were not made when presenters mentioned sponsors.

    The undertaking was accepted by the ACMA in response to earlier breaches of the Disclosure Standard in 2006. When the ACMA
    assessed compliance with that undertaking and with the Disclosure Standard, it identified 13 instances in which a further breach of the Disclosure Standard had occurred.

    On 9 November 2007, 2UE was sold to Fairfax Media. Since acquiring 2UE, Fairfax Media has cooperated with the ACMA and has actively sought to improve compliance with its broadcasting obligations.

    In November 2008, the ACMA and Fairfax Media agreed on a quantum of penalties that would be presented to the court for its approval in relation to the breaches of the Disclosure Standard during the John Laws Morning Show. The court was asked to accept as appropriate, a penalty of $10,000 for each breach that had been identified and admitted by 2UE as being a breach of the Disclosure Standard.

    The court directed the Communications Law Centre to intervene in the proceedings to make submissions on the public interest issues.

    Taking into account the submissions of the intervener and the factors to be considered under the BSA, including 2UE’s admission of liability and introduction of a new compliance program the court decided to impose penalties of varying amounts totalling $360,000.

The Disclosure Standard is a condition that applies to all commercial radio broadcasting licences.

The investigation into Cairns Radio 4CA over the non-disclosure of a secret Council advertising arrangement that allowed the Mayor to speak on John Mackenzie's show, is is yet to be presented.

The fiasco resulted in the sudden resignation of former CEO Noel Briggs and the imminent termination of Council's Communications Manager Kerie Hull, who has not been back to work for a month, yet is still being paid. It also exposed a culture of internal disloyalty by Councillors Sno Bonneau and Alan Blake.

About time they became friends

Four anti-war activists in prohibited military area

Four anti-war activists remain at large in the prohibited Shoalwater Bay Military Area for 8 days.

The Shoalwater area is presently hosting the $250 million Talisman Sabre exercises involving 18,000 US and 6,000 Australian troops.

The four are part of a group of seven activists who covertly entered the area last week with Cairns veteran protester, Brian Law.
Law, along with two others, has since been captured by the military and handed over to Police. The US and Australian military have been involved in offensive war game scenarios in the region over the last three weeks.
Some of the soldiers encountered by the activists were playing the roles of insurgents following an amphibious assault off the coast by US and Australian personnel.
Today the military are involved in exercises countering civil unrest of the occupied population.

Two of the activists, Yulangi Bardon and Emily Nielsen, pictured above on top of The Polygon spire inside the Shoalwater military area.
Jim Dowling and Culley Palmer also remain at large in the area after evading helicopter and dog searches.

"Since these exercises commenced a three weeks ago, 30 US, 18 British, an Australian soldier and countless Afghanis have been killed in combat in Afghanistan," Ciaron O'Reilly said from Rockhampton this afternoon.
"The Talisman Sabre exercises are dress rehearsals for more death and destruction, invasion and war."

Advertising outside the square

I knicked this from Andrew Griffiths blog. He's always one to dig out snappy new ideas.

"Here's some very clever print advertisements at work," Andrew writes.

"I love this kind of smart advertising and it shows that good ideas are not about spending a lot of money, instead it is more about being creative and perhaps putting a smile on the face of potential customers."

It's best to view the slides at full screen size - so that you can read the copy that goes with each advertisement.

Councillor Blake sacked from committee

Councillor Alan Blake will be removed from his role of chairing Cairns Regional Council's key Finance and Administration Committee.

The move reflects a desire to move the disruptive Councillor from a key management portfolio within Council's committees.

In a closed Council session yesterday, Councillor Forsyth was proposed as chair of the Works and Services, and also Sports, Arts, Culture and Community Services committees, however Councillor Paul Gregory and Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane have retained those roles. The vote was 5 / 6 for Cr Forsyth, showed a strong desire to change the chairs and a more left-leaning Council.

Councillor Julia Leu was also touted as the chair of the finance committee, however first-time Councillor Linda Cooper will take on the role of chairing the finance committee.

Alan Blake was involved in a very divisive inquiry that Council paid $17,000 to investigate how a deal with Radio 846am 4CA was done. Councillor Blake, along with Sno Bonneau, attempted to undermine Mayor Val Schier in early April by suggesting she was behind a deal to pay for radio air-time. The report cleared the Mayor of any wrong-doing or any knowledge of the arrangement that was set up by Council's Corporate Communications Manager, Kerie Hull.

Councillor Blake has befriended the besieged Hull, seen with her at social functions and weekend trips with her children. He has lost a great deal of support from fellow councillors over his involvement in the affair that has shamed the Council's relationship with the community.

It is expected that Kerie Hull will also be dismissed from her $130,000 role in the next few days, after negotiating a WorkCover agreement for substantial time away from her job as the 4CA investigation occurred. A replacement has been managing Council's media since Hull left the office on sick leave.

Councillor Blake's credibility has been left in tatters following the last three months, and has also retained little support amongst his Liberal Party colleagues, who say they hope he will simply not renew his party membership.
UPDATE: The Mayor was voted unchallenged as chair of the Planning and Environment committee, a position she was keen to retain.

Signs of Council confusion

The hugely popular Red and Blue Arrow walks on Mount Whitfield Conservation Park alongside Cairns Botanic Gardens, have just become harder to walk.
Cairns Regional Council unilaterally decided that you can no longer park in the accessible car park at the entrance to the popular walking tracks.
Council have granted the parks for the exclusive and private use of Whitfield House instead of the local walkers. They've claimed all seven car parks from public land, right at the entrance to the Arrow walking tracks.
However they're not very sure that the signs say what the Council mean.
Imagine if Hides Hotel on the corner of Lake Street claimed seven car parks outside their establishment, or the Cairns International claimed ten car parks on the Esplanade?
Council's Public Consultation and Communications Officer, Margaret Lowry said she had no idea that the signs would be so confusing.

"With regards to the parking signs - this car park is for Tanks Arts Centre staff parking not for Whitfield House staff parking," Margaret Lowry said.

"I agree that the signs provided are confusing and I shall arrange for the signs to be more clearly worded and branded."
More clearly worded? They clearly state that the parks are for Whitfield House. Yes, the signs are for Whitfield house vehicles and staff car parking, but not as Ms Lowry was at pains to point out, for Whitfield house staff.
This is an extremely busy and well-used public walking area and all of a sudden the 500 a day that wish to trek over the Arrow's tracks, can no longer use the parks at the entrance.
This is a case of Council trying to tell us where to go, however I think we should tell them where to go on this one.
I suggest all Red and Blue Arrow walkers continue to use the parks, as they belong to everyone, not just a bunch of exclusive few.

Must see tee vee

Ever catch that "this is my view, I'm John Mackenzie" that tails the Channel 7 news in the evening?

The illustrious John Mackenzie, usually infamous for his radio talk back show on 846 AM that has been on air around 73 years, also moonlights as an aspiring evening television presenter? John spouts opinion and stories, a tamed-down version of his morning shock radio, all condensed into three minutes of must-see tee vee.

I've been meaning to capture it on celluloid, it's just one of those special Kodak moments that should be recorded.

Last night's episode was rather gripping.

It was all about floating effluent in flood-prone inner city Cairns suburbs. Seems like John has researched the subject to some degree of morbid interest. I mean, he deals in the subject every day, so who better to lecture us on it?

Mackenzie even manged to dig up a former Council engineer who looked like he just rolled out of bed for the camera-opportunity. However he offered little solution to the problem that evidently arises when some areas flood and sewers let go their number twos when the tides and rains do their darnest.

According to the learned Mr Mackenzie, human waste pours though people's living rooms when the floods come. He asked the retired engineer what could be done.

"I don't know, maybe they [Council] should get together and sort it out. I mean I can't think of anything worse. I don't know how they would ever get rid of it." The retired engineer didn't have an answer why it happens, or what to do about it.

Compelling reporting. It was the kind of dinner-time telly we all wait for in regional Queensland, thanks to the good folk at Channel 7.

A classic Mackenzie line made it to the screen in the final cut.

Whilst showing old flooding footage with children playing in flooded suburban streets John exclaimed, with a dead-pan face, that "they walk through the water undeterred." An odd choice of word in such a tale. It came across and sounded like "under de turd"! Indeed they were. Probably, but most likely not.

John then demanded that the authories take action following his expose.

Three minutes of talking shit, literally. In every way.

Footnote: It's rather difficult to locate an up-to-date photo of the elusive John Mackenzie, he's like Michael Jackson (before he died). So I found his namesake in an early edition of Vanity Fair that will do the trick. Pictured is John Mackenzie Grieve, who was a spy, painted in December 1877. Actually, not a bad likeness.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Eleventh anti-war activist arrested

Another anti-war activist was arrested at Shoalwater Bay, as he was addressing Australian and US troops from the mountain top.

Mark Palmer was captured late yesterday afternoon after addressing members of the US military and the Australian military from the top of the Polygon Mountain inside the Shoalwater Military Base.

"No more Australian blood for Uncle Sam," he chanted. "End the US alliance and stop the killing now."

Mark Palmer's arrest follows Cairns activist Bryan Law on Saturday for trespass in the massive military exercise near Rockhampton.

Palmer called for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a no more killing of Iraqs. He spent some time as US and Australian soldiers climbed the 150 metres to escort him out of the area.

"I spent a few hours conversing with regular and reservists at the checkpoint before being arrested by Queensland Police for trespass," Palmer said.

"I told the police that I had justification under international law - particularly in respect to Australian involvement in illegal war," he said. "Kaufi Annan had labelled Iraq an illegal invasion and illegal war."

Mark quoted Malalai Joya, an Afghani women's activist and parliamentarian, who is calling for the Australian parliament to immediately withdraw troops from this war because their involvement in Afghanistan simply services US strategic and military interests and does not serve to enhance the safety of the Afghani people.

The army exercises at Shoalwater wind up after three weeks of activity this week.

Cairns MP questioned on missing millions

Cairns MP and Local Government Minister Desley Boyle was put under scrutiny today about the massive cutbacks to several Queensland Council grant and subsidy funding schemes.

However, Boyle has said that no cuts to funding have been made.

“The Minister repeated this answer today in the Parliamentary Estimates Committee hearing and is fortunate her Labor colleagues have decriminalised lying in Parliament or otherwise she would now be referred to the Parliamentary Ethics Committee in a similar fashion to her former colleague Gordon Nuttall,” Shadow Minister for Local Government, Howard Hobbs said.
“The Minister is being untruthful with Councils and the public when the answers from her own Department indicate the programs have been slashed and approved projects not honoured."
90 approved projects worth approximately $37 million for Councils are no longer being funded through grant and subsidy schemes and the new capped subsidy scheme for water and sewerage commencing in 2011 and 2012 equates to a further $100 million.
The new Local Government Grants and Subsidies Program is worth $45 million per annum.It will only be provided to Councils who can demonstrate a limited financial capacity to pay for essential community projects. It will not be spent on upgrading sewerage plants which impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
Meanwhile the the State Opposition have claimed double standards over wage amalgamation costs at a State Departmental and the Council amalgamation
Wage equalisation anomalies were revealed in the Parliamentary Estimates Committee today.
"The costs to Councils from the amalgamation process are expected to run into millions of dollars,” Howard Hobbs says.
Queensland Councils have been instructed by the State Government that wage equalisation costs, brought about by forced Council amalgamations could not be claimed as a legitimate amalgamation expense.
However, the merger of the Departments of Transport and Main Roads, Crown Law advice has indicated that the Department of Transport employees should be paid the higher rates afforded to the Department of Main Roads employees.
“It is OK for the State Government to recognise wage equalisation as a relevant charge in amalgamation but instruct Queensland Councils this is not a relevant amalgamation cost,” Hobbs says.

Trespasses at Shoalwater Bay

Sunday morning is usually when Margaret Pestorius is leaving Mass with the closing words 'Go in peace to love and serve the Lord' resonating in her ears, she found herself on a dusty road at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.

"In front of me, stopped on the road, was an armoured column of US Marines, looking fierce with all their machine guns and cannons and carbines," Margaret recounts.

She had stopped the armoured column by the sophisticated, high technology method of waving a blue plastic tarpaulin at them from beside the road, as she emerged from the bush in surprise. Margaret Pestorius was a peace-crazed trespasser on the giant war-games called Exercise Talisman Sabre, outside Rockhampton in central Queensland. The Marine who spotted Pestorius from the turret of his APC, hopped on the radio and screamed something along the lines of "Holy Jiminy Batman, there’s an intruder on our war!", and the procession ground to a halt.

"Goodoh!," Margaret said. "This is what we came to do."

Her partner Bryan Law, joined Culley Palmer, Jim Dowling to become the Jaggerstatter 3, as they trespassed at Shoalwater Bay. In June he wrote to Senator John Faulkner Defence Minister asking to call the exercise off.

Here's his latest story.

Last Thursday I walked into the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area with two friends, 21 year old Culley Palmer and Jim Dowling, who is is not far off my 55 years.

We’d formed our little band over 10 days of organising and taking symbolic actions around the Peace Convergence, and we’d been part of the Martin Luther King House of Christian Nonviolence at Yeppoon. Our mission is to save Australia and the world from the spiritual death of militarism.

We called ourselves the Franz Jägerstätter 3, in honor of the the plain Austrian peasant who defied the Nazis during WW2, refusing as a Catholic to be conscripted, to fight for the Nazis, or to allow the Nazis to spread their war propaganda unchallenged. For doing that over five years, Franz was executed in 1943 at the age of 36. Franz Jägerstätter has now been declared a martyr, and beatified in the Roman Catholic Church as an example of commitment and faith during times of deception and war.
Exercise Talisman Sabre is part of the same preparation for, and prosecution of, war. Australian troops are planning and preparing to fight with US troops, invading someone else’s country and occupying their cities. 22,000 troops are involved in Talisman Sabre, along with all the machinery and weaponry of war. From a nuclear-powered, nuclear armed Aircraft Carrier (USS George Washington), through missile Frigates, Armoured Personnel Carriers, tanks, helicopters, jets, bushmasters, howitzers and sundry weapons down to the M4 assault carbines used by many of the troops on the ground.

I relate to the Jaggerstatter story because we face now the same kind of deception and propaganda that Franz Jaggerstatter faced in Austria in 1938. Just consider the lies that the Australian military and the Australian government have told about Exercise Talisman Sabre.

There were two big lies told to us before the games even started. First, we have been told that the exercise is all about "defending Australia". The actual exercise is an amphibious invasion by 5,000 US Marines of the central Queensland coast at Freshwater Beach, followed by a 20 kilometre push to invade and occupy an "urban warfare centre" – which is a fabricated town built around a walled market square, containing mosques. This is not a defence exercise.

Second, we have been told that the "scenario" is one where the invading forces have UN authorisation. Unlike the invasion of Iraq. Unlike the undeclared war presently being waged against the Pushtun people of western Pakistan. Unlike the present quagmire of Afghanistan where the NATO presence has been invited by the Mayor of Kabul, himself an old oil-man for SoCal. Unlike the intended wars against Iran and North Korea. We are not sanctioned in our war-making by the UN.

So my friends and I - firm in our belief that war is immoral and unjust - walked into the military training area with a plan to disrupt the exercise by putting our bodies in the way. In the way of live firing at Mt Hummock and Pyrie Pyrie sectors, and in the way of troop and armoured movements within the exercise area. (There’s some risk in doing this, but it’s a calculated, managed risk – minimised by advance notice to the authorities, and by positive liaison with Police and Military authorities).

So we packed our gear, including map, compass, GPS, and 3G mobile phones with external aerials – so that we could navigate and communicate while we were in the area. Then we took some small and sensible precautions about being followed and surveilled, which happened intermittently through the two weeks or so we’ve been staying at Yeppoon.

Then on Thursday we went to an access point shown to us by local peace-loving folk, and we followed a track to the boundary of the area (Shoalwater Bay is 500,000 ha of wilderness area). Then we struck out into the bush to make our way to the live-firing zones.

Now I have one or two (or three) health issues which make bush-walking a bit hard for me, so I took things real easy, relying on Jim and Culley to do the hard yards and carry the heavy burdens. For three days I made about 3 kilometres a day through wilderness, much of the time just marvelling at God’s creation.

The Shoalwater Bay area where I walked is an open schlerophyl forest, with grass tree, cycad, and Banksia understorey, some rainforest, and very extensive mangrove forests along much of the coastline. Lots of Kangaroo and Wallaby, lots of bird-life, including Eagle and Cockatoo. Pretty dry this time around. Most of the tributaries were dry, and even the main creeks were confines to lagoons of still water with more or less sediment. (Thank goodness we were prepared and took the water purification tabs with us). On top of my mind during this part of the walk was the prophecy of Isaiah:40:3 "make the wilderness into a smooth highway", and it really felt to me as if that was happening. Our path was being made smooth.

On the Friday we received word (via text message) that live firing in the exercise area had ceased. The military, we were informed, had issued a press statement that live firing had always been scheduled to cease on that Friday. The trespassers had, of course, no effect and no impact on the games.

I suspect this is another one of those lies the military tells. Local people say that in previous Talisman Sabre exercises the bombardment phase (from sea and land) has gone for ten days or more during the second half of the exercise, and it’s been my understanding that one purpose of war-games has been to habituate troops to operating under the noise conditions of a real battlefield, with the sound of artillery and aerial bombing ever-present.

As we made our way west and north on Friday and Saturday, Shoalwater Bay was the very quietest of war zones. Thousands of troops were advancing, from the north east to the southern "urban warfare centre", supposedly through heavy opposition, and the only sounds were blank fire from a few machine guns, a few F18 jets high overhead, and some unarmed Apache and Chinook helicopters flying around delivering Marines and "protecting" convoys.

I believe that by our presence, and by the preparation and liaison which had preceded it, small groups of peace-makers had successfully obstructed these wargames and changed their nature.
On Saturday we ran out of water, and had to find a decent supply on the ground. The Jaggerstaetter 3 headed north, crossed the East West road, and made our way to Pineapple Gully, and Pineapple Creek, just ahead of the advancing troops. We found our water, made our camp, and offered up prayers of thanks to God for this time in His creation.
All that afternoon and night we listened to the military air and ground traffic, free of explosions, as attacking and defending units made their gestures of war in the beautiful bounty of Shoalwater Bay.

The walk to Pineapple Gully had been too strenuous for me, and I was running out of medication, so we made the decision that I would surrender myself on Sunday morning, confirm the presence of Jim and Culley in the exercise area, and inform authorities of their plan to move further in towards the live fire zones and prevent any resumption of live firing.

At 9.30am, Jim and Culley left me concealed 100 metres from the East West road, and I spent an hour watching truck traffic roll by – about one truck every 15 minutes. I’d agreed to wait an hour before emerging, giving Jim and Culley time to get away before alerting authorities to our presence, and at 10.30 exactly an armoured column of more than 20 vehicles (Bushmasters and Armoured Personnel Carriers) started rolling by.

I seized the opportunity, and walked to the roadside where I attracted the column’s attention, and where they stopped – each armoured vehicle going slightly off-road to clear the road and take advantage of some bush cover. When they were still I crossed the road and tied a banner to the trees -–a quote from Genesis "What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the Earth".

This was the same banner Jim had tied to the man-proof fence at Pine Gap in December 2005 when he and I were part of the Pine Gap 4, and had broken into that base and shut it down for five hours. It took us two years and three months of trial and appeal before that banner was returned to us, and it seemed very fitting to display it to the US and Australian troops here at Shoalwater Bay on this fine and sunny Sunday.

Shortly after I put the banner up the column re-started and rolled far enough to get the trailing vehicle, a support truck, just past me on the road, and then it stopped again. It stopped for just over half an hour, during which time I walked to the trailing vehicle and talked to two Marines who came from Los Angeles, California, and whose principal wish was to just go home. They’d been overseas since January. Apparently one vehicle had broken a track when stopping the first time, and they had to halt there for repairs. When it was fixed, they left.

Now I don’t know what briefing the military forces had about our presence, but that armoured column never reported my presence to the Australian Authorities, and I got to show my banner to several hundred troops as they went by in armoured columns, truck convoys, and contractor vehicles (delivering water and porta potties).

I never saw an Australian until a small convoy of a dozen vehicles (two towing Howitzer Cannon) went past and a young Australian lieutenant jumped out and approached me asking for identification. I showed him my driver’s license. He spluttered and said "But what are you doing on the range?". I replied "That’s easy, we’ve come to stop the war games". He asked me to leave, and said they could organise an escort if I wanted. "You bet", I said, "let’s do that".

An hour later a group of senior officers arrived. They were Umpires in the games, and were reserve officers called in to perform that role. A Lt Colonel, two majors, and a Warrant Officer. All very friendly, and keen to know how I got in, and where my friends were. They gave me a US ration pack for lunch (very cool), had me checked out by an ambulance officer for basic health (very considerate) and had a long yarn about the politics of war, peace and faith.
I could hear the radio traffic from their vehicle, and it was full of my presence, and the likely location of my friends. A couple of Apache helicopters appeared and seemed to fly a search pattern looking for Jim and Cully (now four hours gone). They told me that Jacob (from the other group of four trespassers that had gone in the western sector late Thursday night) had been found on Saturday night, and that a company of US Marines to our west would probably pick up Jim and Culley.

The Military Police arrived, put in a paddy wagon, and drove me to Samuel Hill airbase where I was told that Jim and Culley had been spotted, and a ground detachment had been dispatched to pick them up. I would be waiting till they joined us apparently, although I expressed an opinion that catching Jim and Culley would be harder than they thought. 45 minutes later they told me they’d lost Jim and Culley, and they took me to the Blue Gate at Byfield where I was handed over to the Queensland Police and driven to Rockhampton watch-house.

There I was photographed, finger-printed and released with a "notice to appear" at Yeppoon Magistrate’s Court on 7 August, on a charge of simple trespass. Jim, Culley, Emily, Yulangi, and Mark are all still at large in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area, and live firing has not yet resumed.

In another one of those military lies, the army PR said on Friday that they were unconcerned about trespassers, that we were in no danger, they wouldn’t look for us, and we were having no impact on the games. That was when they had no idea at all where we were. On Sunday they went frantic and spent considerable resources searching for our friends (including dogs and helicopters) and failing to find them.

On Monday morning Police said they were very concerned about safety from wildfire, and asked us to call our friends out of the area – a request we don’t believe, and that we refused. It should be an important lesson for us all that the military is so practiced and proficient at lying.

They pretend to be omnipotent, yet three groups have attempted trespass and all succeeded. They pretend to be unconcerned, and yet they went frantic that Sunday trying to find our friends. They pretend we have no impact.

Mark Palmer came out last night in good spirits, and reports that Emily and Yulangi are safe, well, happy, and strong in their purpose. We got a text message from Jim and Culley that they are likewise. Hooray!

Our task, like that of Franz Jaggersatter, is to ignore the deception and propaganda, to maintain our faith in peace and justice, and to keep our eyes on the prize when it comes to our shared task of ending war.

My experience in Shoalwater Bay was one of awe and reverence for creation, the love of all people for each other, including the soldiers, and the power of following one’s heart and conscience. I’m already thinking about how we can improve our performance in 2011.

Mulgrave Road is a mess

Everyone who drove past yesterday's road fatality, had to navigate blocks of road works along the the city's notorious arterial Mulgrave Road.

For the last two years, this important main access road has been subject to various road re-alignments and re-configuring, causing chaos and confusion to everyone.

The traffic crash on the corner of Newell Street and Mulgrave Road, Westcourt yesterday morning, was by any means a freak series of events.

As the Sunbus was heading South, a snappy young driver, probably a P-plater, in his ute, tried to beat the bus across Mulgrave Road. The rear of his vehicle collided with the bus, and was flipped into several rolls, collecting a 29-year-old pedestrian and her 6 year old daughter. The young lady was killed instantly, and the child is undergoing life-saving surgery today.

I avoid Mulgrave Road and Sheridan Streets when possible, both are becoming over-burdened routes as the region grows and population fills the northern and southern suburbs.

The futile and costly Afghan war

Local commentator Werner Schmidlin is enraged about the Afgan situation and the escalating crisis that Australia has put itself in the thick of. His anger follows the death of Private Benjamin Ranaudo, a 22 year old Townsville soldier on Saturday.

78-year-old Schmidlin has seen the effects of war, having left his native Germany in 1954.

Another young Australian soldier lost his life in the futile war in Afghanistan. How long will we keep sacrificing Australian lives and spend money we have to borrow on a pointless war?

We have now been in this war for eight years with thousands of well equipped troops from several nations and the most modern weaponry, what has been achieved? Nothing, absolutely nothing. The irony is, we are giving sanctuary to boatloads of young Afghan men and we send our young men there to fight and die – something is not adding up here.

It took the Soviet Union ten years to realise the folly of their war in Afghanistan, how long will it take us to realize that this is a war that cannot be won?

We are morally no different from the psychopaths within the Taliban, who Afghans remember the USA empowered, funded and armed during the 10-year war with the Soviet Union. Washington sowed, unwittingly, the seeds of destruction in Afghanistan. It trained, armed and empowered the militants who now kill them. Death delivered from the air or fields of shiny cluster bombs? This is the language of war. It is what we speak. It is what those we fight speak

It is impossible to change the inherent culture of an Islamic nation like Afghanistan with superior military power where the people are dirt poor; uneducated, living in feudal enclaves and governed by war lords, where cocaine is King, women are considered the lowest ranking humans in this world and the Afghan government is a toothless tiger and subservient to the USA.

Death delivered from the air or fields of shiny cluster bombs? This is the language of war. It is what we speak. It is what those we fight speak.

As an avid follower and observer of world affairs and world politics I have read many Stories about Afghanistan and what Dr. Juliette Fournot said clearly confirms my point that this war is futile, costly and not winnable.

And here is some of what Dr. Juliette Fournot has to say, who lived with her parents in Afghanistan as a teenager, speaks Dari and led teams of French doctors and nurses from Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, into Afghanistan during the war with the Soviets.

Dr. Fournot fears that years of war have shattered the concept of nationhood. “There is so much personal and mental destruction,” she said. “Over 70 percent of the population has never known anything else but war. Kids do not go to school. War is normality. It gives that adrenaline rush that provides a momentary sense of high, and that is what they live on. And how can you build a nation on that?”

The Pashtuns, she noted, have built an alliance with the Taliban to restore Pashtun power that was lost in the 2001 invasion. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is, to the Pashtuns, a meaningless demarcation that was drawn by imperial powers through the middle of their tribal lands. There are 13 million Pashtuns in Afghanistan and another 28 million in Pakistan. The Pashtuns are fighting forces in Islamabad and Kabul they see as seeking to wrest from them their honour and autonomy. They see little difference between the Pakistani military, American troops and the Afghan army.

Islamabad, while it may battle Taliban forces in Swat or the provinces, does not regard the Taliban as a mortal enemy. The enemy is and has always been India. The balance of power with India requires the Pakistani authorities to ensure that any Afghan government is allied with it. This means it cannot push the Pashtuns in the Northwest Frontier Province or in Afghanistan too far. It must keep its channels open. The cat-and-mouse game between the Pakistani authorities and the Pashtuns, which drives Washington to fury, will never end. Islamabad needs the Pashtuns in Pakistan and Afghanistan more than the Pashtuns need them.

The U.S. fuels the bonfires of war. The more troops we send to Afghanistan, the more drones we send on bombing runs over Pakistan, the more air strikes we carry out, the worse the unravelling will become. We have killed twice as many civilians as the Taliban this year and that number is sure to rise in the coming months.

“I find this term ‘collateral damage‘ dehumanizing,” Dr. Fournot said, “as if it is a necessity. People are sacrificed on the altar of an idea. Air power is blind. I know this from having been caught in numerous bombings.”

Dr. Fournot sees the American project in Afghanistan as mirroring that of the doomed Soviet occupation that began in December 1979. A beleaguered Afghan population, brutalized by chaos and violence, desperately hoped for stability and peace. The Soviets, like the Americans, spoke of equality, economic prosperity, development, education, women’s rights and political freedom. But within two years, the ugly face of Soviet domination had unmasked the flowery rhetoric. The Afghans launched their insurgency to drive the Soviets out of the country.

We are faced with two stark choices. We can withdraw and open negotiations with the Taliban or continue to expand the war until we are driven out. The corrupt and unpopular regimes of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Asif Ali Zardari are impotent allies. The longer they remain tethered to the United States, the weaker they become. And the weaker they become, the louder become the calls for intervention in Pakistan. During the war in Vietnam, we invaded Cambodia to bring stability to the region and cut off rebel sanctuaries and supply routes. This tactic only empowered the Khmer Rouge. We seem poised, in much the same way, to do the same for radical Islamists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“If the Americans step up the war in Afghanistan, they will be sucked into Pakistan,” Dr. Fournot warned. “Pakistan is a time bomb waiting to explode. You have a huge population, 170 million people. There is nuclear power. Pakistan is much more dangerous than Afghanistan. War always has its own logic. Once you set foot in war, you do not control it. It sucks you in.” Unquote.

This should give everybody a clear idea what we are in for in Afghanistan.