Monday 30 November 2009

Crime Stoppers update

In partnership with the Cairns District Crime Prevention office, CairnsBlog brings you Crime Stoppers update.

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Cairns Police on 40307000 or Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or Crime Stoppers 24hrs a day.
Crime Stoppers is a charitable community volunteer organisation working in partnership with the Queensland Police Service.

Unlawful entry to motor vehicles, Whiterock: Police are again warning motorists to avoid leaving valuables in vehicles after thieves smashed the window of a sedan which was parked outside a Progress Road shopping centre on Thursday evening. A handbag containing cash, a Nokia mobile phone and a Blackberry phone was stolen as a result of the offence.

In a second similar offence, thieves smashed the window of a 4WD which was parked outside a Toogood Road unit complex. The incident occurred at about 3pm on Saturday. A handbag containing a purse and personal items was stolen as a result of the incident.

Man charged with multiple property offences: Edmonton detectives have charged a 17-year-old Edmonton man with five counts of unlawful use of a motor vehicle, six counts of stealing, one count of willful damage and one count of unlawful use of a motor vehicle. He is due to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court on December 16.

Burglary, Port Douglas: Police are investigating a break-in that occurred at a St Andrews Close unit early on Friday morning. Thieves entered the unit via an unlocked door and stole an Apple iphone and cigarettes. Police would like to remind residents of the importance of securing their doors and windows when going to bed or leaving their homes. Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Cairns Police on 40307000 or Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or 24hrs a day.

Woman arrested for wilful damage, Cairns City: A 21-year-old Manoora woman has been arrested for allegedly throwing a bottle at a vehicle causing the rear window to smash after arguing with the passenger of the vehicle. The offence occurred shortly before 10pm on Saturday evening on McLeod Street. The woman was charged with wilful damage and is due to appear at the Cairns Magistrates Court on December 16.

Stealing from rear patio, Mooroobool: Police are asking residents to take appropriate measures to secure items around the house after a quantity of alcohol was stolen from a beer fridge along with a set of house keys at a Marigold Close residence over the weekend. The offence occurred sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Cairns Police on 40307000 or Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or 24hrs a day.

Man arrested for stealing backpack, Cairns City: Cairns police have charged a 40-year-old Townsville man with stealing following an incident at a Cairns nightclub earlier this morning. It is alleged the man stole a backpack from a patron. He is due to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court later this month.

Man arrested for drink driving, Smithfield: Police have charged a 30-year-old Smithfield man with drink driving (UIL) after he allegedly returned a blood alcohol concentration of 0.179 per cent. The man was arrested for driving on Cheviot Street around 2am, following information from the public. The man had his license suspended and is due to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court on December 15.

Sunday 29 November 2009

35 million by 2050 is shocking

Geoff Holland, who runs the Art of Creative Living, and co-ordinates the long-running Cairns-Coev discussion forum.

Following Rudd's comments that he believes in a "big Australia" and that the population forecast is good news for the country, but he concedes it poses complex challenges.

Geoff debates the touchy subject of managing our population.

On what basis does an increased population generate a higher quality of life?

The quality of life in the US - similar size but more than 10 times the population, is no better than Australia - I suggest lower.

What is the population of Cairns now - 150,000? What will it be in 2050 - 350,000? This is a faster growth rate than Australian average. I suggest the quality of life in Cairns has peaked and will drop with increasing population (and alienation, traffic, concrete and glass towers, aircraft and traffic noise, etc.

But it need not drop too much if we make the right policy decisions. There is a myth that we cannot prevent population growth in Cairns.

We cannot build a wall and keep people out - true, and we have no right to do this, of course.

However, we can...

  1. lobby, as a local government and as a community, the Federal government to reduce immigration quotas and abandon the baby bonus.

  2. restrict the rezoning of green open spaces to residential and industrial, thus increasing the value of land making it more expensive for people to settle here, and also encouraging urban consolidation.

  3. focus less on bringing industry quantity and jobs quantity to the Cairns region, and focus more on industry and jobs quality.

  4. design policies to expand other centres such as Mareeba rather than making Mareeba, Koah, Kuranda, Gordonvale, Port Douglas satellite dormitory suburbs of Cairns like the Kuranda Range Highway folly.

  5. have urban planning and tax policies that make it less attractive for developers. Developers run multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane etc to attract people up here.

While we need jobs security and economic security and stability in Cairns and Far North Queensland diversify away from tourism, growing in population and infrastructure will not necessarily make us wealthier, and is likely to reduce the quality of life.

Watching Daniel Bateman

In a new irregular column, with the aims of the now infamous ByrneWatch, CairnsBlog keeps a watchful eye on the congenital idiocy of Bateman's Bay, that appears on Saturday in the Cairns Post.

This weekend Dan describes Jane Austen's writing in Emma as "flowery Elizabethan gibberish".

"...apparently the flick is a modern day adaptation of Jane Austen’s schmaltzy Emma. See what they did there? Ironically, I had to suffer through all 506 pages of Austen’s Emma," writes Bateman.

"And there was no 21st century translation for all that flowery Elizabethan gibberish for me, I can tell you," Daniel writes, in the space once occupied by King Gavin King.

A quick look on my library shelf shows that Austen was born in 1775. That's 172 years after Elizabeth died.

Has Daniel Bateman ever read anything beyond Mickey Mouse comics?

Bodgy dodgy backpacker operaters alive and unwell

There's dodgy backpacker, share house and hostel operators in Cairns. Who would have thought?

Many establishments are "squalid and cramped conditions" and there's many "unscrupulous landlords" in Cairns, Tully and Innisfail.

Many are cramming up to 12 people in three-bedroom houses with beds blocking exits, no smoke alarms and overloaded power points.

"Some houses are operating on a policy that authorities have dubbed 'time share mattresses', where shift workers on separate day and night rosters share the same bed," reports The Sunday Mail.

Most charge at least $150 a week for a bed, in what is a makeshift hostel, often it comes with "guaranteed farm jobs and a pick-up and drop-off service" to entice southern travellers.

An owner of a legal Cairns share house, who calls himself a responsible landlord, told CairnsBlog he has reported dodgy operators in the past. His central city share house has three bedrooms, with five residents.

"I've repeatedly attempted to get Cairns Regional Council officers to close down at least seven known problem properties," the operator said, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisal.

"One I reported to Council had three bedrooms with 17 residents. But the big business-dominated Council is not interested in interfering with these illegal housing spots. They instead encourage continued violations of the law so that restaurants in town can have cheap, $10/hour "cash in hand" employees. It's despicable," he says.

An Innisfail hostel manager says that there are more than 20 illegal share-houses in Innisfail and Tully. "There are no safety checks in these places, no inspections by authorities, no guidelines to ensure the safety of people living there," said Nicholas Pervan.

In 2000, a hostel fire in Childers killed 15 people due to arson, which many believed was exacerbated by over-crowding and a number of other Council breaches.

The Helter Skelter Clifton Bus Shelter

This is the beautiful Clifton Beach bus shelter.
You can see it on the highway, on our main tourist route along the Cook Highway.
Local resident Jim, thought it was from a third world country. I have to agree.
"This shelter didn't just look like this yesterday, it has been like this, with the broken, falling off roof, since March 2008," Jim told CairnsBlog.
"I've emailed Julie Wright at Cairns Regional Council, but emails are now ignored. The only one to respond was Margaret Cochrane," Jim said. "She promised action 'immediately', then she palmed the problem off to State government."
Councillor Cochrane says that bus shelters are State responsibility.
"She has refused to respond any further these last few months," Jim says.
Bus shelters on the Cook Highway are owned and managed by Adshell. Many are broken or damaged, yet they continue to install and replace various the movie and product advertisements to collect advertising revenue, all along not honoring their contract.
Why is it that Council seems to wash it's hands of any responsibility in dealing with those companies that have contractual responsibilities?
Here's the bus stop shelter that Bryan emailed through.
Curitiba is 400km southwest of Sao Paulo.
The city is well-known in urban planning circles for the care with which its growth has been planned and directed on a model for cities in developing countries with limited resources.
Cairns springs to mind.

Saturday 28 November 2009

The big stories come from the Northern Territory

An explosive detonator was removed from a Darwin home after a man drove over it three times "to see what would happen", the Northern Territory News reports.
The 29-year-old man wished to remain anonymous. And stupid.

Saturday SoapBlog: Denis Walls - The halcyon years of Cairns community radio

With the current turmoil engulfing Cairns Community Radio that CairnsBlog is investigating in a 4 part series, I have asked respected local commentator Denis Walls to outline his recollections of the organisation.

Denis was 4CCR presenter from 1991 to 1998 and president in 1995 and 1996.

In hindsight it’s easy to see the ‘90s as the halcyon years in Cairns Community radio.

Quality presenters like Tony Hillier, Grant Taffs, Annie Mitchell, Annie Boon, Kurt Derbyshire, Kim Coleman, Sharon Lenehan, Steve Wakeham and many others brought energy, passion and knowledge to their presentation and programs. Specialist knowledge across a range of programming areas was immense and the station was able to maintain its relevance on an FM band that had few intrusions.

The station started in 1985, broadcasting largely classical music but it was under the management of first John McBeath, then Tony Hillier and Grant Taffs in the 1990s, that the station broadened its appeal.

I presented G’day It’s Saturday for most of the ‘90s and saw it as an opportunity to tackle local and visiting pollies as well as interview sundry, often alternative identities from near and far, while leavening the show with music, comedy and comment in a partnership format which was fairly new at the time. Many of my radio interviews were transcribed for Barfly, which is how I came to write a regular column for the paper after leaving 4CCR.

In seven years of doing the show I had four great radio partners and, in collaboration with Barfly food writer and polymath Paul Cullen, produced and presented the national award winning History of Food series.

However, the demands of community radio are enormous, and after so many years at the station, including two as president, I was ready to move on and left at the end of 1998. G’day It’s Saturday was supposed to continue with Brynn Mathews as presenter but the conservative management at that time decided to can the show, despite the pleadings of listeners, because of fears that its outspoken nature was compromising funding being sought from the then Cairns City Council.

It was ever thus, with fear of upsetting the big, often illusory, sponsors you needed to survive. And funding problems got worse as the ‘90s progressed because of the opening up of the FM band to first Triple J, then Hot, Sea and the multiplicity of other pap FM stations that now crowd the airwaves. Many businesses that previously sponsored 4CCR now chose to advertise with the new commercial stations and didn’t have any change left over for poor 4CCR.

The funding crisis was exacerbated by the removal of horse racing, to narrowcast, from the afternoon schedule. This decision, while vastly improving programming, left a big hole in the budget. This required the 4CCR committee and management to organise more and more fundraisers and radiothons to keep the station alive. Burn out was inevitable and by the end of the 1990s most of the best presenters had left.

The station was ripe for retreat, first of all with a wand waving, absentee president who had no experience or interest in radio broadcasting but promised to keep the station solvent, and then gradually with a return to the private club mentality, and some of the same presenters, that characterised the early years of 4CCR.

In the 1990s, 4CCR was of course fortunate in having strong affiliations with Barfly and Johno’s Blues Bar, neither of which sadly now exist, but the station, then, was also frequently out in the community with its fundraisers as well as occasional live broadcasts. I haven’t seen a 4CCR presence at community events for years.

The very diversity of community radio is often its undoing. People get involved for different reasons and to present wildly different types of programs which often make it a nightmare for effective scheduling to try to keep listeners switched on - try keeping an audience when a country music show is followed by the Croatian hour.

With this diversity comes differing world views which often lead to strong disagreements at management and committee level. Most presenters, however, don’t see this as they just want to come into the station, do their show and go home.

Nevertheless, for most of the 1990s I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been part of the best little radio station in Far North Queensland.

Cairns would really benefit from a forward-thinking, active and engaged community radio. Money of course is key and I would love to know who is currently funding the station and if there is even an office manager.

It would be wonderful - through outlets like CairnsBlog, and the enthusiasm from current presenters of 4CCR expressed on this Blog, if the station were to rediscover some of the drive and purpose of those years.

NB: Part two of the 4 part CairnsBlog investigation, will feature next week.

StarJam, and they're bloody Kiwis

Andrew Griffiths pointed me to some truly wonderful people who, as he says, are "hell bent on making the world a better place."

Here's a group called StarJam that Andrew is proud to be associated with.

"I first saw this interview with Jono via MindFood Magazine - and the more I learnt, the more I realised that this was a very special organisation," Andrew Griffiths says. "We need to support groups like Star Jam - because they are the very essence of humanity."

I agree. Enjoy their story.

Friday 27 November 2009

Anna Bligh visited Cairns today

Not really news, but thought I'd share.

Kevin Byrne considering Cairns mayoral bid

Former Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne is considering another run for Mayor of Cairns, at the 2012 local body election.
Sources say an announcement is imminent, with a number of Councillors confirming in the last 24 hours that Byrne will make an announcement "any day now."
However, a defiant Kevin Byrne is still playing any announcement close to his chest.
"You never say never to anything," he said this morning in a defamation-free conversation with CairnsBlog author Michael Moore. "You can't predict what will happen in a couple of years. I will keep all my options open."
"Everyone has been running around saying I'm going to run for the [State] seat of Cairns, that I'm going to run for Council," Kevin Byrne said.
"I'm sort of enjoying my relative anonymity these days," Byrne on his mobile, as he left an interview on Locco's radio morning show at 4CA 846AM. Oh, the irony.
Key reasons for an early election bid announcement by Byrne, are seen to scuttle the performing arts centre, State infrastructure projects like the Southern highway upgrade, and the significant cycleway project that is now well advanced, that has come under increased attacks from the conservative side of politics.
In a breakfast speech to 100 business owners at the Hilton on Tuesday, Kevin Byrne strongly attacked Cairns Regional Council, it's management style and direction.
"Nothing is better for someone in public office to open the morning paper and see themselves criticised. It makes you very alert."
"There's no way we will ever see that $250 million performing arts centre happen, not in my lifetime," Byrne said.
He also took aim at the State Government's intention to build a super highway along the Southern access to Cairns, a proposal that paints our main entrance to Cairns with six lane highways in both directions, and is widely decried by many.
The next local government election will be held, at the earliest, in March 2012. However, there is an intention by the State Government to add up to six months to the current tenure, making for a August or September election.
"The reality is my wife a daughter are enjoying me having more time with them," Kevin Byrne told CairnsBlog this morning.
This morning a leaked confidential report has been doing the rounds, about the perilous financial position of the Taipans, that has a bank guarantee by the Cairns Regional Council. It shows that the commercial sporting group is yet again be in debt, aiming to trade out, but have come back to Council seeking support. The timing of the leak will aim to show a Council out of control, and will provide Byrne with more leverage to gain poll position.

Over the last 18 months since his narrow 2008 election defeat, Kevin Byrne has never been out of the media limelight, with an active and deliberate campaign by the Cairns Post to seek his commentary of a raft of matters. By comparison, we've hardly ever heard from former Prime Minister John Howard after his departure from politics, indicating that Byrne will be a comeback kid.
Sources indicate that Byrne has lined up a full team to run on his ticket. This could include many of his old comrades, including Kathy Plath, waterpark dreamer Paul Freebody, Terry James, Kaye Kingham.
Additionally, current Councillor Linda Cooper may well support a Byrne-led campaign. Cooper, who ran under Byrne's ticket in 2008, quickly divorced herself from Unity after being the only one to get elected from the team. Alan Blake, who abandoned his links with Byrne, has fiercely stated that he would not be involved . "I'm independent." he said yesterday.
Kevin Byrne also enjoyed the support of Councillor Sno Bonneau and Paul Gregory, and are seen as his natural supporters.
When Byrne confirms his intent to run, it will be his fourth campaign, and third as Mayor.
Like a washed up movie, in Cairns, it seems as if it's back to the future, with another re-run of old episodes.
Former Mayoral candidate for Council in 2004, Bryan Law, who gained 6% of the vote, said this morning that he welcomed the possibility of Kevin Byrne running again.
"I'd love to see Kevin run again, because I'd like to see him lose again."

Councillor Robert Pyne: "It's business as usual for Mayor Schier"

Cairns Division 3 Councillor Robert Pyne, presents the final part in his debate that he started in his CairnsBlog SoapBlog, last Saturday, and part two on Tuesday.

Robert discusses the role and influence Councillors and staff have, and their ability, or lack thereof, to make a difference in the community. He questions who really runs the show.

As recently as early November, there was every reason to believe the appointment of new Cairns Regional Council CEO Lyn Russell, would usher in the sort of ‘cultural change’, that people were looking for at the local poll back in March 2008.

The election of five new Councillors and a new Mayor, did not usher in that change, but when you add to that a new senior management team, this was the opportunity to look at many issues anew. Particularly, issues around development, the environment and planning for our future growth in a much more enlightened way. Things like managing development applications on that strip of land between the Captain Cook Highway and our northern beaches, was just one area where people were crying out for a new approach.

It was on the cusp of this opportunity for change that my hopes and those of others were poised.

Enter centre stage, Councillor Margaret Cochrane. Margaret advised all councillors that she had become aware of another area where former CEO Noel Briggs had ‘dropped the ball.’ He did not contract, at least in any formal sense, the three general managers whose contracts were coming to an end.

Under their employment contracts, Council should have commenced negotiations with them on their future. The upshot of this slip up, was that it became apparent that Peter Tabulo, Bruce Gardiner and John Hawkes were only ensured of another 18 months employment with Cairns Regional Council.

Hawkes was clearly short on the numbers. I had no problem with John, but I owed him nothing either. My efforts to get the nod on a few projects on the Southside had cut no ice with him, and there was enough talk of structural inefficiencies in Works and Services that I was convinced there must have been some truth to it.

Having been dismissed by Council before, after my father Tom became Mayor following the Cairns/Mulgrave amalgamation, there was just a touch of déjà vu involved. That said, I still maintain having John there for the 20 months from March 2008, was no bad thing. Stability in that arm of Council was important in the post-amalgamation restructure. While John was ‘negotiated out’ of Cairns Regional Council, the immediate decision on Tabulo and Gardiner was not to agree to an extended contract or to hasten their departure.

People need to understand that under the new Local Government Act, former Minister Warren Pitt, had made a legislative change that meant all general manager positions would henceforth be appointed, not by elected Councillors, but by the CEO.

I personally believe Pitt was wrong to make this change. To this day I believe Warren Pitt’s personal friendship with Noel Briggs lead him down this path. However, for the purpose of this discussion, CairnsBlog readers should be aware that at this point in time, the new Act was not yet in operation and it was just one short week before the new CEO arrived in Cairns.

It was shortly after this, Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane advised she felt we had not made the right decision and that Tabulo and Gardiner should both be employed on new five-year contracts.

So, the matter went back to Council. In a lengthy and at times heated debate, in closed session Council discussed the future of Gardiner and Tabulo.

While I do not personally believe in ‘closed session’ discussion, the fact I stayed, and engaged in the debate, precludes me from stating the positions and comments of individual Councillors. What I can say, is that I did support the argument that no general manager should be re-appointed on any basis whatsoever, prior to the commencement of the new CEO. As these individuals are usually signed up on four or five year contracts, for a salary in excess of $250,000 per year, it is hard to explain the argument we needed have their personal well-being at the front of our thinking.

The line put by the other side, went as follows.

"If we don’t sign them up now, they will walk. We are so lucky to have them. 18 months will not secure their services, they need to have tenure, not just for themselves, but for the morale of them and their staff, who look up to them so much.”

I am not afraid to say I offered the alternate position. Having received many calls from staff from Cairns Water complaining about everything from human resource management to tendering procedure, I was not afraid to put this position. The point I was keen to make, and was strongly supported by Councillor Kirsten Lesina, was that we had a new CEO starting in less than one week.

Under the new Act, it was she who had authority to appoint these positions. By contemplating making new appointments, we were effectively ’pulling the rug from out under Lyn Russell before she had even started. It was apparent the vote would be close.

When Council moved into ‘open session’, Councillor Cochrane’s motion, to employ both Peter Tabulo and Bruce Gardiner on five-year contracts was moved. The hands of those in favour went up: Margaret Cochrane, Paul Gregory, Sno Bonneau, Linda Cooper and Nansky Lanskey extended their hands, and to the casual observer they seemed one short, as Alan Blake was not with them, but looking ahead, Val Schier’s hand was extended.

She had done what she had done so many times before and ensured ‘business as usual’ at Cairns Regional Council.

It is interesting the amount of times Kirsten Lesina in particular has voted with me on these issues, but never will she fail to back up the Mayor or rationalise the way Val Schier votes on any given issue. I on the other hand, seem to be fair game to her and Councillor Diane Forsyth.

While I hope I do not sound bitter, bent or twisted, I do respect Cochrane, Gregory and Bonneau for their consistency. The fact Lesina and Forsyth will always rally to the side of the Mayor, whatever her position, is all the evidence I need to reconfirm my belief in the cancerous effect party politics has at local government level.

It looks set to be a long few years ahead, particularly for myself and the non-aligned but progressive Councillor Julia Leu.

History Bites: Ganyarra & Damarri

CairnsBlog brings you our weekly column, History Bites, a series of historical vignettes, pertinent to our unique and special region.

Produced by Dr Timothy Bottoms, a published and widely respected historian based in Cairns, North Queensland. He has spent ten years researching and writing City of the South Pacific, A History of Cairns.

History Bites is a series of unique and easily readable pieces for
CairnsBlog readers.
Dr Bottoms is a specialist in Aboriginal and North Queensland history and has wide experience in writing, producing and presenting radio documentaries and music biographies.

The Bama (Rainforest Aboriginal people) of the future Cairns Harbour area, recall Bulurru (Religion/Law) Storywaters (or Dreamings) of the time of creation when the heroic being Damarri, strode from the mouth of Bana Bidagarra (‘waterway where bark canoes are used’, i.e., for freshwater fishing; now the coastal Barron River), across the Inlet to Bessie Point. Looking across the bay you can see ranges, and the point where it comes down to the water is Bessie Point.

This tip is the snout of Ganyarra (‘crocodile). Shortly after coming ashore, Damarri trod on a lawyer-vine thorn and began to bleed. This then became known as Bulmba Giyin.garra (‘home of the Lawyer vine’). Damarri decided to retrace his steps and return to the mouth of the Barron River. Ganyarra smelt the blood, followed him and attempted to bite Damarri’s leg off, but couldn’t because he didn’t have any teeth.

Damarri, being a daredevil, happy-go-lucky sort of fellow, laughed at Ganyarra and went and whittled some teeth from White Mangrove wood. When Ganyarra received this gift, he promptly turned around and bit off Damarri’s left leg, and from this Damarri instructed Ganyarra to go forth and hunt people, which explains why given the opportunity, crocodiles eat people.

This is an extract from: A History of Cairns – City of the South Pacific 1770-1995, by Dr Timothy Bottoms, PhD, Central Queensland University, 2002, Photo 2.1, p.72.You can contact Dr Bottoms via email. There is more information on his website.

Facebook free advertising without your permission

Colin Riddell alerted me that from today Facebook will start using personal photos and your name links in advertisements.
"They will appear on the profile page of your contacts," Colin says. "It's legal and is mentioned in the fine print when you create your account."
It's easy to stop this. Do the following. Go to Settings, Privacy Settings, News Feed and Wall, then click on Facebook Ads, choose "No one" and save changes. There's two places to do on that page.
Facebook says this setting controls social adverts shown. "To control social adverts shown by third party applications on Facebook, please refer to the privacy setting."
You can also learn more about advertising in their Help Centre.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Crime Stoppers update

In partnership with the Cairns District Crime Prevention office, CairnsBlog brings you Crime Stoppers update.

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Cairns Police on 40307000 or Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or Crime Stoppers 24hrs a day.
Crime Stoppers is a charitable community volunteer organisation working in partnership with the Queensland Police Service.

Teens charged over assault in park, Westcourt
Two girls aged 13 and 14 have been charged by Detectives from the Cairns Child Protection Investigation Unit. The charges relate to an alleged assault committed against a 15-year-old girl in a park at around midnight on Monday. The two girls were charged with assault occasioning bodily harm whilst armed as well as acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm.  They will be dealt with under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act.
Man arrested over cab driver assault, North Cairns: 
A 49-year-old Westcourt man has been charged with assault occasioning bodily harm after an alleged attack on a female cab driver on Kerwin Street on Wednesday evening.  It is alleged that the man got into the cab outside the Cairns Base Hospital and a short time later started to punch the female driver in the face and allegedly attempt to strangle her.  The driver managed to stop the cab and other drivers came to her assistance.  Police attended and arrested the alleged offender. He is due to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court on December 11.
Break and enter at Manoora
 Cairns Police are investigating a burglary offence that occurred at a Manoora unit last week-end.  Between Saturday and Sunday afternoons thieves forced entry to the Maytown Close unit and removed a Dell laptop computer.
Single vehicle traffic crash, Edge Hill
Cairns Police are investigating a single vehicle traffic crash that occurred at the intersection of Pease and Greenslopes Streets at about 2.00am on Thursday. A 19-year-old Kuranda man was transported to the Cairns Base Hospital for observation after his utility collided with a light pole at the incident scene.
Burglary at Holloways Beach
Smithfield Police are investigating the break and enter at a house on Hibiscus Lane at Holloway’s Beach on Wednesday morning. Around 2am the resident was awoken by a noise downstairs.  He then went to investigate and the offender fled after having forced open one of the balcony doors.  Police do not believe the offender made entry to the house after being disturbed and no property was stolen.

Pot calling the kettle or I think I'm turning Japanese

Minutes after I posted a blog last weekend, I received an angry ranting telephone call, that I couldn't get a word in edge ways. Goes with the territory really.

I entitled it "A video for our Japanese friends who visit Cairns" which was probably a little insensitive, yet it did represent the reality I know. The brief posting was all about a Danish road safety campaign where local Police were handing out helmets and hugs to cyclists who ignored the road rules. It was done with great spirit and fun. I mean, two men hugging in public, it's enough to make anyone listen to a copper.

In my blog I said that this would go down a treat in Cairns, especially along McLeod and Spence Streets, a reference to the huge number of largely Asian students that frequently cycle without helmets and without lights in the evening hours.

However the inference of this, especially targeting Japanese visitors to Cairns, was a bit too much for one reader.

I agree that there are more than just young Japanese students cycling around Cairns sans helmet and lights. There's Korean and probably a number of other nationalities that either flout the rules or are never informed about our practices when arriving to live, work or study in our fair city.

"Why are you having a go at Japanese," yelled the first few words when I answered the phone. Before I could say anything, it went on. "What are you doing that for on your Blog?"

"Who is this?," I enquired.

"Your Blog, you know, why are you putting that stuff on, are they all the same to you?" the person on the other end bellowed.

I again asked who the caller was. "You know who it is!"

But I genuinely didn't. This caller was starting to piss me off. No matter what the point of discussion was, this was hardly a way the way to start off a debate and make a point.

So I asked a third time. "Who is this?" And then he declared it was Warren. Warren Popelier, the once well-loved artist that appeared weekly on CairnsBlog.

Warren's political cartoons were magic. They got people talking and explained issues in a comical and powerfully funny, often absurd way. The most infamous one was, without question, one portraying our then fresh-faced new Mayor, with a forceful Premier Anna Bligh, who was visiting Cairns for the Parliamentary sitting.

It made the point that Mayor Val Schier was letting her Labor masters do whatever they wanted. She was silent on the Yacht Club debate when thousands of locals wanted her input and support. She was viewed as simply letting her Labor master in Brissy take control over a galvanised local issue we wanted her leadership on. Well that's what I got out of the Circusmouse cartoon. Maybe others simply got a smutty schoolboy message.

Needless to say I, and no doubt my readers, miss Circusmouse and his regular contribution. I know Molly at QaHC was rather sad when he stopped. "It was my Friday fix!" she said.

I always chuckle when I see my other depiction of Anna, just weeks before she called an early election. Political characters are rife for satire, it goes with the public territory, and whilst Val and some may find those offensive, I know the Mayor is good-spirited enough to accept new media having some fun like this. Of course when I did my April Fool's joke, Val, with great gustso, got behind the prank, even though she didn't know she was launching her own book that morning.

Anyway, enough about me. Back to the Japanese slur and the angry telephone call.

Artists, well the ones that I've encounted over the years, are a temperamental lot. Their creative genius is at extremes to most which makes their art stand out from the crowd. They can look at what most would perceive as normal and turn it around to make us think, laugh, cry and react. That's what they do.

Nevertheless, I don't think there was any reason why Warren couldn't have had a rationale and intelligent conversation to make his point and convince me of my wayward racial slur.

"You always do this. You go too close to the edge," Warren yelled at me, continually raising his voice. "You published that guy's address," he said.

Warren, who has a Japanese partner himself, took great offence. And rightly so. He was making reference to a blog back in May, after the Cairns Post allowed an appalling letter to slip through. The following week they issued no less than three apologies. My reaction was a bit of cyber-bullying, and with the help of my little friend Google, popped up a map of where this hate-filled nutter resided. It wasn't difficult, as he already published his name and his suburb. So what is worse out of the three 'crimes'? What the letter writer wrote? That the Cairns Post published it? Or what I blogged?

It's important that we keep a close vigil on our newspaper, when they slip below the line by allowing anyone to make such statements through their pages. That's the job of an alert society. Watching the watchers.

"I bet you think they're all the same," Warren shouted at me. He was insinuating that my reference to Japanese cyclists in Cairns are not the only ones flouting the local road rules, and that I simply assume, but my statement, that all Asian-looking students must be Japanese. He's right there. I should have thought a bit more before bursting into print. I'm sure some Trinity Bay High School lads also do the wrong thing. And then there's Bill Smith, from Edmonton who is a bit of a worry without his helmet and shoes, not forgetting the old duck from Edgehill who cycles all over the road. I could go on.

I guess I should have said 'Asians', to embrace all foreign "Asian" students that seem to be the majority that don't wear helmets or lights on the cycles at night, certainly around the CBD area of which I was referring to. I got that bit wrong. I apologise to Warren and his beloved. She is a beautiful lady. I wonder, however, if he screams down the phone at her to make a point?

I'm told that many Japanese and Asian cyclists have the right of way in their homeland. I've visited Taiwan, China and Japan on occasions, and know that there's good reason why motorists allow courtesy to cyclists - there's simply more of them. Millions more. I have been to Beijing and Taipei and it's not motorists that command the road debate. John Mackenzie would spew on his cornflakes is he was running Tokyo TalkBack 846. I know from my ventures to Europe, especially Holland, cyclists rule the road, certainly around Amsterdam.

I suggested Warren post his opinion on the blog, below the story.

"You'd like that, wouldn't you!" he laughed. Because he was so confrontational, I suggested, like the television, if he didn't like it, don't log on to CairnsBlog. I mean, all he's doing is boosting the regular readers to over 5,400, and I hardly need that.

It appeared an impasse had developed in the telephone conversation, as his tone and style was not conducive to any rationale mature debate. Regardless of my errors, I doubt he was at all open to me suggesting a solution and an amendment on the original blog.

"Look Warren, I don't think I want to waste my weekend being abused without getting hardly a word in, so goodbye." I hung up.

When anyone wants to debate a differing viewpoint, it's hardly going to be communicated effectively if there's a degree of rudeness and aggression, an imbalance. I have no problem with debate, it's one of the founding reasons behind a blog, my blog. However, when it's a one-way shouting match, then I'm not really interested.

The irony with Warren's attack on me, and the point he was trying to make, is that he's rather quick to portray the Mayor of Cairns donning a Nazi uniform in almost every cartoon of his to make some funny point, which I don't have a problem with, but it seems an incongruous position to attack me on the basis of racial hatred, if you will.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Philharmonic returns to Cairns

The North Queensland Philharmonic is back in Cairns for their annual concert on the Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th of December.

The orchestra has a large dedicated following and this year will feature trumpet player John Foster from the Sydney Symphony.

They will be joined by Cairns finest soloists performing favourites from the classics, musical theatre, movies and opera. Call 1300 855 835 or online book here.

Give us more money for the tennis centre and Tiapans

Today's Closed Council session hot potatoes will be the revelation that the Cairns Taipans are not doing financially well.

A financial report will be requested today, that will show the Taipans beefed up predictions when they sort to gain support of a $1m bank guarantee from Cairns Regional Council. However, it's not going to plan and they are way behind with income they expected. Put up your hand if you're surprised.

One long-haired blond Councillor said at the time, that although she didn't support it, would vote for the guarantee "if it keeps them going for a couple of years."

Also, the controversial Tennis Centre planned for North Cairns on the land adjoining Tobruk Swimming Pool, will also go back to a closed session today, seeking a "variation" to the original approval of $1.5m.

This is unfortunately all too common. A contract gets the stamp, then comes back a few weeks or months and asks for money money.

Another day in the halls of power.

Massive Palm Cove headland development "very inappropriate"

Today Cairns Regional Council will consider an extraordinary development application, that locals are calling "very inappropriate."

Preliminary approval is being sought to reconfigure 2 lots into 27 lots, by Cairns Properties (used to be Daysun Asiapac and Kenvite Holdings), on the coastal headland, just north of Palm Cove.

The Combined Beaches Community Association objects for a number of significant reasons.

"There are many important environmental concerns and vehicular access issues that make this proposal an inappropriate coastal development," president of the Association, Fiona Tulip says.

"This residential development is sited within the Wet Tropical Coastal Management District, Macalister Range. The site is shown on the Priority Shoreline Erosion Management Plan, and is very inappropriate."

Councillor Pyne has said he will not support the application.

"There are significant and compelling reasons highlighted by the local residents and I will not support this approval," Councillor Robert Pyne told CairnsBlog.

The following objections are of most concern for the local residents' association:

  • This site is adjacent to the Great Barrier Marine Park and is just outside the 100m erosion prone zone. Therefore, this site has the potential to be affected by climate change fluctuations, severe cyclones, tides and flooding.

  • This preliminary approval grants permission for operational works for destruction and removal of marine plants on both Lots, namely mangroves.

    "These mangroves are identified as being 'significant coastal wetlands', areas of State significance, and therefore should not be removed," Tulip says.

  • The subject lots are located within an area designated as having high coastal landscape values in the Wet Tropical Coastal Regional Management Plan.

    "Whilst the development is residential in nature, height, scale, design, can all have a detrimental effect on visual amenity, especially when viewed from the sea or adjacent lower areas," says Fiona Tulip.

  • Lot 1 on RP748655, has a significant waterways (classification order of 1 and Category 2, Regrowth Vegetation Map – DERM, and Cairns Plan 2005) which are the two highest classifications that exists.

    "It is also a great concern that the developer has chosen an access that involves a crossing of the Category 1 significant waterway," Fiona Tulip says. "This creek rises in the McAllister Ranges and flows eastwards through this lot to the Coral Sea, and exits just near the jetty."

    The Combined Beaches Community Association say that the developers must either put a bridge or other crossing system in place over this tidal waterway to gain access to the site.

    "To build this crossing, there will be significant interference in this tidal waterway and removal of riparian vegetation, destruction of mangroves, loss of fish habitat," says Tulip. "The tidal creek is within the Q100 inundation zone as well as residential lot 1 in part."

    " This means that special conditions would have to apply to make sure that access is maintained during a flood and inundation of property prevented, which will be near impossible, given our cyclonic conditions, storm surges, high tides and other unpredictable climate events," says Tulip.

  • Lot 1 RP748655 also has one section of Vegetation category (Cairns Plan 2005) shown as Category 1 (Highest classification), which follows the Category 1 waterway.

  • With significant ecological features such as Category 1 waterway, Category 1 vegetation cover, and the presence of mangrove wetlands, there is considerable risk of loss of biodiversity through habitat alteration, loss of habitat, interference in waterway flow, damage to riparian corridors.

  • The main vehicular access to 24 of the residential houses is via Williams Esplanade.

    There will be significant increases in traffic volume and type of traffic entering this roadway including construction and commercial traffic that will have a detrimental impact not only on holidaymakers staying in the caravan park, the operations of the jetty and movements to and from the boat ramp (vehicles towing trailers), foreshore pedestrians, and the current parking area. Issues of public safety would be a very valid concern in such a narrow strip of land that already has high pedestrian and vehicle movements.

  • Significant Hillslope categories on this site.

    This application should be deferred until a slope and contour map can be provided as this information will have an impact on the current proposed layout design. The majority of this site is greater than 1:3 slope which has not been identified in the submission and is justifiable grounds for refusing this application. Council Meeting Minutes of 13th May 2004 note the following:
"The Combined Beached Community Association are requesting that Cairns Regional Council refuse this preliminary approval," Fiona Tulip says.

"The is inappropriate for reconfiguration of these lots on significant environmental grounds and inappropriate vehicular access issues. The building of 24 residential houses will have unacceptable and irreversible impacts on this sensitive, high scenic value and ecologically important coastal site," she says.

They also note that approval of this application before the Draft Queensland Coastal Plan 2009 is adopted, in particular the State Planning Policy Coastal Protection, the development would be exempt from the proposed 3 Development Assessment Code which has very specific outcomes in relation to:
  1. Development being located outside erosion prone area

  2. Development in a storm tide inundation area
  3. Development in low/high hazard urban area maintains safety of people and can sustain
  4. flooding during a defined storm tide event

  5. Avoiding significant adverse effects on ecological values

  6. Avoiding adverse effects on areas of high ecological significance

  7. Not located within 100m of coastal wetlands or setback a sufficient distance from coastal wetland to maintain integrity, habitat, functioning of ecosystem, retention of wetland & riparian vegetation etc

  8. Avoidance of unacceptable levels of change to the scenic preference rating of the area

  9. Public access issues

"If this development application was approved after this new legislation is enacted, the applicant would have trouble meeting the development requirements under State policy," Tulip warns.

"Of course it goes without saying really but, this should not be the very reason why this application is approved now."

A boomerang that won’t come back is called a stick

Cairns Jazz Club president, champion of the Yacht Club and local JP, Rob Williams, pens a few notes to Bob Katter MP and his media manager, the Cairns Post.

Williams believes they might like to absorb some facts and allow it
to screw up their story about indigenous housing on Cape York.

The headline infers that builders get $600,000 per house when in Cairns you can get a bigger landscaped house for half that price.

The builder doesn’t get anywhere near $600,000 for building a house on Mornington Island. Katter and the Post have maligned builders, either intentionally or unintentionally. Here are a few facts...

  • The houses on Mornington were financed by the local Mornington Shire Council.

  • Mornington Island is an Aboriginal community and permission to land on the Island must be sought from the Mornington Shire Council by mail, six weeks prior to the intended visit. There is no guarantee of permission being granted.

  • To build anything on Mornington Island a builder has to transport all building materials, even sand. Cairns to Normanton is 1500 K round trip by semi trailer.

  • Normanton to Mornington Island is 340 k round trip by barge.

  • Parts of the Gulf Savannah region suffer from a lack of road infrastructure 6 months of the year you can’t get anywhere near the coast with a heavy vehicle.

  • Want to fly there and see how your project is going? You won’t get any change out of $850.

  • The design is dictated by the Mornington Shire Council and the indigenous people themselves.

  • Mornington Island is surrounded by shallow sea. The Island has no raw materials on it. Everything has to be barged there.

  • The Barge company has to wait for the right tides to get anywhere near the unloading ramp because it is so shallow. If they get stuck they may have to wait for days before the tides gets there again to float them off. Else they have to unload onto smaller craft whilst at sea. This requires a crane.

  • The building company has to tender for the project and wait, sometimes months for a confirmation that doesn’t have any provision for an increase in costs.

  • Every builder that tenders for housing projects has to foot the bill for all the expenses involved in producing a price, working plans, project time lines etc. and expect they may not win the tender.

  • The cost of jumping through the hoops for builders is ridiculously expensive with, guarantees and insurances, if they miss the contract they have to make it up next time.

  • The builder has to employ at least one aboriginal person as an apprentice. This condition does not apply to your $300,000 house in Cairns.

  • Housing for aboriginal tenants has to be built with one eye on the fact that some do a lot of damage to the buildings.

  • The Mornington Island community has been described as the toughest in Queensland when it comes to resisting alcohol bans. When some of the residents can’t get their way with alcohol, they riot and they take it out on their houses.

  • Mornington Island is in a Cyclone prone area so the comparative building in Cairns showed on the front page, is not practical out in the middle of an area permeated in salt air. Air conditioners often last only six months, then rust out.

  • Cyclones routinely hit the island. In 2000, Cyclone Steve passed directly over the island. Tropical Cyclone May passed in February 1988 and Tropical Cyclone Bernie passed to the west in early 2002. Tropical Cyclone Fritz passed directly over the island on the 12 February 2003. Severe Tropical Cyclone Harvey caused damage on the island in February, 2005.

  • The landscaped home you showed belongs to a house proud family that planted their own garden. On Mornington, the contractor built fencing and landscaped the houses. Lawns and plants die from lack of watering.

  • Mount Isa to Mornington by road and barge is 1,340 klms.

  • If aboriginal people want to live in a house in Cairns like the one you showed, they should come here and buy one. They get millions in government assistance.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Budgetary "matter" for Taipans in private meeting

One to look out for at this Wednesday's Council meeting is a "budgetary matter" for the Cairns Taipans.

This will happen in the closed session. It may well be a draw down on their loan guarantee, following Cairns Regional Council extending their $1 million bank guarantee offer, that they were widely criticised for.

Are there aliens inside the Cairns Post?

More brilliant journalism from the Cairns Post. Yet another exclusive.

Missed this one, I was too busy writing about a little radio station drama.

The Clayton's story, when you haven't got a story. I'm convinced the whole thing was made up by that naughty Daniel Bateman.

  • Strange lights spotted over Kuranda
    Monday, November 23, 2009 © The Cairns Post

    DID you see a strange orange light over Kuranda last night? The Cairns Post has been contacted by a local resident who describes seeing a strange yellow light about 7pm, which she suspected was a meteorite.

    Did you see the strange light over Kuranda last night? Do you know what it was?

    Let us know by
    posting a comment. Did you catch the strange phenomenon on camera?
    Share your picture.

    "There were about seven of us that saw it so it wasn't just me," Kay, who did not want her surname printed, said.

    A similar
    strange sighting was reported in August, when six unidentified lights were seen "dancing" across the night sky in Cairns. That sighting, reported by several Mooroobool residents, remains unexplained.

I mean to say, there's always little unexplained lights floating over Kuranda. Just ask Syd ;-)

While I'm at it, there was another Post gem online yesterday. The "story" was entirely based on MP Jim Turnour's Twitter message, and we all know how much we look forward to Jim's tweets! Here's an extract.

  • Treasurer told of Cairns' needs
    Monday, November 23, 2009 © The Cairns Post

    CAIRNS city leaders have told Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan of their wishlist during a meeting in Canberra this morning.

    In a Twitter update just before 11am, Leichhardt MP Jim Turnour said the meeting with the Federal Treasurer had just finished.

    “Good meeting Advance Cairns and Ministers in Canberra,” he wrote.

The Post left out the rest of the Twitter message from Jim, which said: "Just finished discussions with Treasurer "

Gripping stuff. Stay informed with the Daily that brings you the news.

Councillor Pyne: "I am not sure what Val believes"

Cairns Division 3 Councillor Robert Pyne, continues his dialogue from his CairnsBlog SoapBlog.

Robert discusses the role and influence Councillors and staff have, and their ability, or lack thereof, to make a difference in the community. He questions who really runs the show.

On Friday, tune into CairnsBlog as Robert presents the final part in this debate.

To understand how decisions are made at Cairns Regional Council, people need to have at least a basic understanding of the corporate structure.

The Executive team, inherited by the current Council from the Kevin Byrne administration was...

  • Noel Briggs, CEO
  • John Hawks, GM of Works and Services
  • Peter Tabulo, GM of Planning and The Environment
  • Bruce Gardiner, GM of Water and Waste
  • Brett Grosser, GM of Finance and Corporate Services
  • Ian Lowth, GM of Sport, Art and Community Development

The biggest myth about Council is that Mayor Val Schier and the current Councillors have overseen a move to a chaotic and left of centre 'green' Council. The truth is, the daily business of Council goes on, in the main, the same way it did prior to the last Local Government election.

I am not saying that is a good thing, but it is what I believe to be true.

I mentioned in the SoapBlog on the weekend the extent to which elected Councillors willingly participate in the media spin to create the impression that they are running the show. Nowhere is this more the case than with Mayor Val Schier.

I am not sure what Val believes, but I am fairly convinced that she has voted in favour, and spoke in favour, of many policy initiatives that she does not in her heart support. Why would she do this?

For two reasons: One, it creates the impression that she is in control or in charge of Council. This is most certainly not the case, but it is an impression Val, for whatever reason, wants to portray in the media.

Secondly, it is a show of faith and loyalty to the senior management team. She supports them and follows their recommendations in the hope they will 'give her some ground' when she wants something of them. Of course all the Managers realise the Mayor is only one vote – or three at most, on this Council, and that is a factor in their thinking.

Certainly, by my first anniversary as a Councillor, in March of this year, I had realised the most influence I would have, on this Council at least, was in how I cast my vote on senior appointments.

Anyone who sits in the public gallery can see that more than nine out of every reports or recommendations put by officers, are adopted. These recommendations are signed off on by the relevant general manager and in many cases the CEO, before they come to a Council meeting.

Councillors only get them as part of an agenda they receive on the Friday prior to meeting, which happen on the following Wednesday.

Following the departure of CEO Briggs, Peter Tabulo became the interim CEO. Peter is a very talented man with a great depth of knowledge, but is also a man of strong opinions who I feel does not have a great deal of humility. He also, like former CEO Noel Briggs, sees “leadership” from elected Councillors, as the commitment to implementing a corporate decisions, regardless of the scale of public opposition.

This manifests itself most often in development approvals that are inconsistent with community desires or expectations. Here, CairnsBlog readers are bound to be thinking, but surely a majority of Councillors can stand up and vote down recommendations that the people do not support? They can, but they don’t do so, for one of two reasons.

Either they unequivocally support any development application put in front of them, and Councillor Sno Bonneau is apologetically in this category, or they are scared that to vote against the officer’s recommendation would damage their relationship with the relevant general manager. Try getting a spare wheelie bin for a sporting team, a stretch of footpath or a bus shelter from a GM you have not supported on the floor of Council. I am yet to get one new bus shelter despite 18 months of emails, calls and letters.

Like many in our city, I was hopeful that the appointment of new CEO Lyn Russell would usher in a cultural change, that would allow individuals and issues that have continually been marginalised within Cairns Regional Council, to get a fairer hearing. This may happen or it may not. Only time will tell.

Like you, the good folk who read and participate in CairnsBlog, I am watching and waiting, with great interest.

Monday 23 November 2009

World AIDS day brings message of discrimination

Cairns residents have been urged to show their compassion for those affected by HIV as the region prepares to mark World AIDS Day on December 1st, next Tuesday, on the 21st anniversary of the commemoration.
"This year’s theme is 'Take Action. No Discrimination'," says Kevin Scott of Queensland Association of Healthy Communities.
The week-long celebrations will culminate with a candlelight vigil at the Cairns Esplanade lagoon on Tuesday December 1 at 6pm.
“After all the successes and advances we have made in the treatment of HIV, it’s disappointing that people living with HIV are still being discriminated against," Kevin Scott says. "Discrimination takes a pervasive toll on the physical, mental and emotional well-being of people living with HIV who already have enough to deal with managing a chronic illness."

“This World AIDS Day, we call for discrimination to be challenged and ended whenever and wherever it is encountered” Scott said.
In 2008, 167 Queenslanders were diagnosed with HIV infection, the highest number of HIV notifications reported since 1984. However, the annual number of new AIDS diagnoses continues to decrease, as does the number of deaths. This decrease is due to the use of effective anti-retroviral treatment.
"We encourage the people of Cairns to join in events to celebrate the lives of those lost to AIDS and help raise awareness of the continuing battle against the spread of HIV," Kevin Scott says.

“I encourage everyone this World AIDS Day to show your support: wear a red ribbon, talk to your friends and work colleagues about HIV or make a donation to an AIDS charity. Knowledge, compassion and action are the strongest weapons we have in the fight against HIV.”

The aim of World AIDS Day is to raise consciousness in the community about HIV/AIDS issues, including the need for support and understanding for people living with HIV/AIDS, and the need for the development of education and prevention initiatives.

A series of activities have been planned for the Cairns area, including a candlelight vigil at the lagoon on Tuesday December 1 at 6pm.

World AIDS Day 2009 Program

Tuesday, November 24
Launch of AIDS Awareness Week, 2.30pm Cairns Regional Council
with Councillor Di Forsyth
Yarrabah Youth Community Information Day

Wednesday, November 25
Cairns Sun Newspaper feature on World AIDS Day

Thursday, November 26
World AIDS Day Red Ribbon stall Raintree s Shopping Centre
Movie night at QLD Association for Health Communities, 290 Draper St,6.30pm

Friday, November 27
World AIDS Day Red Ribbon stalls Stockland Shopping Centre and UMI ArtsMarket, Esplanade

Saturday, November 28
World AIDS Day Red Ribbon stall Cairns Central Shopping Centre

Sunday, November 29
World AIDS Day Red Ribbon stall Smithfield Shopping Centre

Tuesday, December 1 - 6pm
Cairns Cares World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil, The Lagoon, Esplanade. Entertainment by Out Loud Choir. BBQ food
Speakers: Dr Darren Russell, President Australasian Chapter of Sexual Health Medicine Maryanne Amu, Wapenamanda Health Clinic PNG
Yarrabah Cares World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil, 3.30 6.30pm
Speeches, entertainment, stalls and food, Yarrabah
Contact: Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service
  • More info, call 4041 5451

Here's Nick Conner and Kevin Smith from QaHC Cairns...

The rise and tragic fall of Cairns community radio - Part 1

Cairns Community radio, 4CCR, broadcasting on 89.1 FM, will turn 25 years in a few months. However, there is little cause for celebration as it hits what should be a truly wonderful milestone.

The late Ian Coughlan, a famous Cairns son, helped found Cairns community radio in the early 1980s. He would probably turn in his grave if his knew what has been going on in the Manunda studio walls over recent months.

Coughlan, who went on to write for television and stage, is credited with ABC Far North's Kier Shorey's foray into radio.

"He was the only person I knew who was viably pulling off a living as a scriptwriter, and to do it from Cairns at a time when the certainties and speed of the digital age didn't exist, Ian certainly pioneered it," Shorey says with admiration.

Of course, many radio names got their start in the industry from local community radio, a breeding ground for those that love the art of live seat-of-the-pants broadcasting. Just talk to the students at Smithfield High that have worked on their very own 101.9 Coast FM.

Local writer and Snake Gully musician, Tony Hillier of Barfly newspaper fame, who has written for the London Evening Standard, remembers the early days at the station. For 10 years 1985, Hillier produced and presented a variety of music programs for Cairns Community Radio. He won a national award for his work in 1991.

"I was the sole Queensland representative on the community radio team, which broadcast live to air from the 1995 Womadelaide festival," Tony Hillier says. "It's certainly had its heyday, and there were many groups in the community taking part in the station, representing the diverse nature of our community" Hillier says. "There was some great shows. That unfortunately seemed to change over the last few years."

Hillier isn't the only one to observe Cairns community radio becoming a "closed shop."

"I remember playing Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side," recalls Cairns historian Tim Bottoms, who also had his own show. "I got dragged into the office and was told in no uncertain terms, that 'we don't play that sort of stuff here'. It was the end of my stint on air, I never went back."

Such interference and micro-management has prevailed at 4CCR over recent years, stifling uniqueness and creatively, the very lifeblood of community radio.

The sad reality, is that very few know Cairns has a community-run and owned radio station. Even fewer, it seems, tune in. Ironically, its signal, repeated from Mt Yarrabah, can be heard from Gordonvale to Ellis Beach, and even on the Atherton Tablelands.

There's no data available that records its audience. Local economist and media research author Bill Cummings, fails to even acknowledge the station in his annual study. CairnsBlog undertook a phone survey during the first three weeks of November, in an effort to determine its reach. It showed that out of 300 residents from Gordonvale to Palm Cove, less than 3% tuned into the station 'on a regular basis.' Only 23 could name the station's name, with 16 who could identify its broadcasting signal. It's sad statistics for what should be a strong brand with support of the community.

4CCR receives in excess of $200,000 annual funding via donations and government grants, to fulfil its charter for ethnic and community broadcasting. It is the non-transparent management of this public money, that has been cause for serious concern over the last two years. It's alleged that some members of the former committee are being investigated for misappropriation, and very likely that charges will be laid.

As an Incorporated Association, Cairns Community Radio is governed by the laws of Incorporated Societies.

On 26th August, just four weeks before the September 28th 2009 annual general meeting, the entire management committee resigned en masse, following pressure from a group of concerned members.

Two days later, the president John Fielder, resigned. Vice president Mark Paine, treasurer Jeannette Fisher, secretary Gillian McKenzie, and the committee comprising Eunice Slatter, Ben Marcus, and Niels Briët, all left without explanation to the membership.

A large number of the disgraced ordinary committee members reside at Arona, a closed and secret commune near Kuranda, that has often been subject to rumour and conjecture. Ben Marcus, who presents a morning show, in recent months via remote connection from Arona, has often been mentioned as a 'person of interest'.

Little is known of Arona or what goes on within the property, but police have had cause for investigations over the years. Many in the community radio fraternity, describe it as a cult with "volatile potential."

"I am aware that some of you are uncertain about the reasons for the sudden change to the previous Management Committee," Rodney Coutts, in his then capacity as interim president wrote the members, prior to the explosive annual meeting in the Raintrees shopping centre forecourt in early September.

"I will be happy to provide an explanation at the AGM," Coutts indicated. However, no explanation followed, and the 80 members at the AGM, were left with more questions than answers, as they saw their treasured organisation crumbling around them.

It was an anxious and confused time for the membership, that sought explanation about what was going on. After questions from the floor, $8,500 in "employee benefit expenses" could not be explained to the annual meeting.

Retired salesman Rodney Coutts, who had nine years voluntary involvement in the station, said the annual general meeting would also address the financial statement, appointment of an auditor, and election of the new management committee.

"Due to the resignations of all previous management committee members, there will be nine vacancies: president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and five ordinary committee positions, to be filled," Coutts said. "I regard the AGM on the 28 September, 2009, as being one of the most significant events held in the recent history of our community radio station."

He was right. They were at a crossroads. It was a turning point and an opportunity for the Association to make a fresh start.

I chatted with Rod Coutts as the AGM adjourned on that September night. He said, in political speak, that the community radio had been like a ship at sea, not moving. It was a speech he'd given before, it seemed.

"There's no wind blowing and it's going nowhere. That was yesterday," Rod Coutts said. "Tomorrow, the ship is going to pull its sails up, the wind's going to blow and we're going to take this radio station into the next couple of years."

An optimistic and newly-elected secretary Donn Corcoran, said that they were off to a good start. He welcomed a new era of openness and transparency, following the tragic events of the preceding month.

"Yes there has been cause for serious concern, although I cannot say much," secretary Donn Corcoran told CairnsBlog on the night of the annual meeting. Off camera, Corcoran was scathing of the former committee that had caused so much angst and distrust within the organisation. It's likely that some of the former committee will be charged.

Following the resignation of the previous committee, Coutts established an interim committee consisted of himself as president, local policeman Greg Dwyer as vice president, semi-retired Donn Corcoran as secretary, Mimielle Alvero as treasurer, and a committee comprising Judi Corcoran, Pieter and Bev Blaauw, Col Johnson, and Diane Jensen.

At the AGM, a new management committee was elected, with the addition of Eylan Rose, Mary Wellington, Judi Corcoran and Helen Jarroe. Bev, Col and Diane stepped aside.

The events that have unfolded since the late September AGM have taken a nasty trajectory, and, in the wake of the last few months, one that the new committee with a reinvigorated energy and passion, never saw coming.

The old committee actively closed ranks and systematically excluded anything that that didn't fit their narrow agenda. However, the last eight weeks have put the future of Cairns Community radio in further peril. Since the AGM, just two months ago, six members of the new management committee, including the secretary, vice president and four others have resigned in disgust and horror, under the mis-management of new president. Rodney Coutts has systematically taken the community out of the station he once loved.

Some have had their membership unilaterally withdrawn by the president because they spoke out about his management and serious concerns they held. Right now Cairns Community Broadcasters Incorporated needs a charismatic, dynamic and positive leader. Rod Coutts is not that person. He needs to go before he takes that station down with him.

As a number of presenters have fled the Coutts' ship he was so determined to re-float, many programmes have ceased broadcast, and switched over to BBC World Service, and Deutsche Welle, a European satellite re-broadcast service.

With their broadcasting licence now in question, in part two of this story, I'll unravel deceit, manipulation, racial accusations, Police intervention, alleged theft, control and corruption, and that's just before lunch. It's a script that even the founder of Cairns Community Radio, Ian Coughlan, could never have dreamt.

Footnote: Here's a brief interview I filmed with Rod Coutts and Donn Corcoran, moments after the AGM adjourned. These words will come back to haunt the now besieged president.