Saturday, 28 February 2009

Have a blue night, tonight

The inaugural Cairns Blues Festival is on Sunday 3rd May.

Tonight from 6pm, there's a big fundraiser at the Cairns Showgrounds to help run the upcoming Festival.
There'll be 3 live bands, and an auction. There's food and a bar (no BYO), and it'll only set you back $15. You can even camp for $5.50.
It's a non-profit organisation, a real labour of love. You can email the secretary Pauline or call her on 4055 9665, or Lea 4057 7159.
There's also fundraising raffles every Sunday at the Red Beret pub.

70 year old amputee 'not on waiting list'

Waiting Lists for elective surgery at Cairns Base Hospital are under scrutiny.

Local pensioner, Bill Jones, has been told he’s not even on a waiting list after several months of waiting. "I've been waiting months for surgery, only to be told I'm not even on the waiting list," he said this week.

“The Cairns Base Hospital told me that there are 16 people on the ‘high priority’ list, 22 people on the ‘lower priority list’, and then everyone else like me, just aren’t even on the list,” Mr Jones said.

“I need prosthesis since I had an amputation, but can’t get that until after surgery. The nurses have been fantastic, but the system has abandoned me”, he said.

LNP Candidate for Cairns, Joel Harrop, who is now championing the cause for Mr Jones, said he is appalled at Mr Jones’ treatment.

“This should not be occurring in a nation as wealthy as Australia. These waiting lists, both the declared ones and the secret ones that Labor hide, are a disgrace,” Harrop says.

A massive LNP policy billboard went up on the Southern highway this week.
Health will be major issue for Cairns voters this election.
The LNP plans to introduce a Patient First Advocates initiative, to provide a voice for patients within the Cairns Base Hospital. Harrop explained that Advocates would work fulltime to reduce waiting lists, coordinate surgical appointments and outpatient medical services.

"Their role will be practical, ensuring that patients travel to their appointments on time and are ready for surgery, that all post-operative appointments are kept, and if surgical appointments need to be cancelled they are immediately rescheduled."

Timing is everything

Mining multi-millionaire Clive Palmer is suing Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Treasurer Andrew Fraser for defamation

He is seeking $1m along with an apology from the Premier after she questioned his motives and involvement with the opposition LNP on ABC three weeks ago.

He's also seeking damages against Fraser to the tune of $200,000 over comments he made to The Australian. Palmer has donated substantial financial support to the Liberal National Party.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Police Union has blitzed it's website with LNP information, but says it's not taking sides in the election.

The Queensland Council of Unions has announced it will spend $400,000 on an advertising campaign to re-elect a Labor Government.

Councillor Lesina faces up to Briggs

In what seems a endless list of questions surrounding the unorthodox actions of Cairns Regional Council CEO Noel Briggs, this week he is telling another Councillor how to run her affairs.

Briggs now wants to clamp down on what staff and elected Councillors do on their online social networking pages.

"I will be having a friendly word to Councillor Lesina," Briggs said in response to our youngest elected representative having a public Facebook profile.

In a letter to the Cairns Post, Kirsten Lesina corrects the newspaper's reporting of her Facebook content.

"I would like to clear up a couple of misconceptions from your article yesterday. Firstly I am not, and never have been in a group called '1 Million Strong against Labor'," Lesina writes. "I am however in a group called '1 Million Strong against Sarah Palin'. Perhaps you got a bit confused there. I will admit that the Sarah Palin group, whilst not controversial, is somewhat outdated."

"I see no problem with having seen (and liked) Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which is currently one of the top box office movies in Australia."

Lesina points out to the Cairns Post that the same newspaper was giving away free tickets to see this movie.

"I find it interesting that you didn't choose to mention my status message from the next day which urged people to give money to Wildlife Victoria to help look after the animals burnt in the Victorian bushfires."

They headed up Kirsten's letter with "Lesson learned on Facebook". Hardly Mr Editor! Pay attention to the story. Unless you mean the Cairns Post has learn't the lesson.

She also addresses the CEO's request to make her Facebook private, and therefore only accessible to her friends.

"I will continue to keep my Facebook on a public setting so that my constituents can learn a little bit about me and, of course, to provide the Cairns Post with stories on a slow news day."

Nice one Kirsten. And next time you see Noel, tell him to get on with his real job.

I find it interesting he's now targeted Councillor Leu, Forsyth and now Lesina. I'm starting to see a pattern, don't you?

Civil disobedience congratulated

Diane Forsyth's actions have not gone un-noticed.

Her protest actions of civil disobedience was based on her conscience, while a Councillor on the Cairns Regional Council.

"Often when people get into public office they start to limit their behaviour and decision-making to conform to general public expectations rather than follow their convictions and conscience," said Geoff Holland on the Cairns Coev network this week, an online forum about environmental, community and sustainable development issues.

"We all need to compromise and horse-trade to some degree. But public leaders also need to LEAD and this sometimes requires personal social risk," Geoff said.

"Di had the courage and sense of leadership to take that risk. What we need right now is a range of community leaders to come out in public support of Di's actions - not necessarily agreeing with her views, but supporting her right to civil disobediance in accordance with her conscience and moral convictions."

He says that the media may try to pigeon-hole Di as a marginal extreme public figure, who is not really fit for public office, when the opposite is true.

"If it can be widely recognised that Di's actions were heroic, particularly because she held public office, then we might see a small shift in the cultural-political consciousness of the Cairns community. Civil disobedience is appropriate for anyone on occasion. We each should stand up for what we believe in. Then we would have real participatory democracy."

"Thankyou Di Forsyth!" Geoff says.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Changeling is challenging

I went to see The Changeling last night. It's a mighty disturbing piece of cinema.
Angelina Jolie plays the central character about the the true story of single mother Christine Collins, whose child is abducted in the last 1920's. Clint Eastwood direct this period piece, that intertwines Collins story with the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. Great attention to detail is paid.
Unlike ABC Far North's Kier Shorey, I'm no movie reviewer, but this is one that I'd highly recommend.

To close to call

A Courier-Mail poll, out this evening, puts Labor and Liberal National Party side by side, just 23 days out from the Queensland State election.

The results show the LNP on 43%, and Labor on 42%, showing a 10% fall since this time last year.

The pollsters also asked respondents about the top concerns for the State. LNP leads on health, which is bound to be a defining voter issue of the campaign.

37% were unaware Queensland had lost its AAA credit rating. Today, Moody's placed the State's credit rating on review for possible downgrading. Standard and Poor's last week lowered it from AAA to AA, predicting the net financial liabilities would surpass operating revenue.

The poll also concluded that one in five voters was less likely to vote Labor.

Suddenly Val

Cairns Regional Mayor Val Schier, today endorsed the direct action protest when Councillor Diane Forsyth climbed the historic Cairns Yacht Club building in protest at its demolition by the Labor State Government.

The action resulted in a trespass charge before the Cairns Magistrate's Court on Thursday.

"The feedback [about] Di's actions in protesting the demise of the Yacht Club [building] has been interesting," Mayor Schier said today.

The Mayor's endorsement should be an embrassesment to Premier Anna Bligh and her local Labor MPs who refused to discuss or move on the issue.

"Whilst a few people believe that she has damaged her own reputation and also that of Council, the majority of people who have spoken to me believe that Di has been brave and courageous in her stance against an issue about which she is passionate: the preservation of the heritage of Cairns."

It is a late but welcome entry into the heritage debate for the Mayor that decided to make no public comment during the large-scale community campaign, that culminated in an 11,000-strong petition to the State Government. The issue galvanised many in the Cairns community for over 5 years. The Mayor supported two motions before her Council to get the Cairns Port Authority and the State Government to halt the iconic building's demolition last October. However, it was to no avail, and were repeatedly told, it was a 'commercial decision'.

On the morning of the protest action last October, Mayor Schier and Council CEO Noel Briggs called a press conference to talk about a possible breach of the Councillor's Code of Conduct, however, the Mayor never fronted the media. Briggs announced that "no complaint had been received" at that point, about the Councillor's protest action. "However, if a complaint was received, it would be investigated," he said. This was merely an invitation for a dissenter to complain," Yacht Club protest organiser Bryan Law said.

Local artist Robyn Johnston and his partner Niki Johnston, a Holloways real estate manager, were supporters of Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane's election campaign. They lodged a complaint about the Councillor's action the following day.

"I was affronted by the CEO's interference in this peaceful protest for an elected official to make her political point," Bryan Law said. "Why is the CEO calling a media conference to talk about a compliant that doesn't exist? It is repugnant to hear a senior manager comment about an elected Councillor."

Bryan Law says it's the Mayor's role to talk on behalf or about her Councillors, not the CEO. "The CEO looks after the Council staff. Likewise, it would be inappropriate for a Councillor or the Mayor to reprimand or instruct Council staff," Law said.

But Val Schier said she now supports Councillor Diane Forsyth's right to choose the method she thought would be most effective in showing her opposition to the and in trying to change the mind of the decision-makers, she says.

The Mayor's Cairns 1st brand, strongly advocated heritage protection and preservation in it's pre-election campaign.

"The law will decide on the allegations of trespass; the voters will decide in 2012 whether they commend or condemn her; I suspect the former will be the case," the Mayor said today.

CairnsBlog cartoon by Robbie

NIMBY's of Stoney Creek - part 2

Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall didn't like the Stoney Creek NIMBY's when I spoke to him about the proposed Youth Centre last year. Nor did I.

I wrote about this clash of cultures last June.

The State Government were going to build the facility, a badly needed Youth Intervention centre in Cairns, for up to 50 teenagers, in the idyllic community of Stoney Creek, across the Karumunga Bridge.

Wettenhall held two public meetings to tell the locals about the Youth centre, although it is disputed about the type of community consultation that took place. The MP was determined to deliver the facility, however the second meeting, forced by the local close-knit community, only allowed people to attend if they had written a submission.

Some never heard about the consultation process, even though leaflets were distributed around the community. Wettenhall later admitted there was an "error in some of the delivery".

However, as soon as the election was called this week, in one of his 22 press releases, Wettenhall says he will now 'represent' the locals of Stoney Creek and recommend to not go ahead with the project, even though he still believe it should be built.

The Minister of Corrections has jumped in as well, and announced that the facility will not go ahead at that site. Amazing the things this Labor Government seems to be able to do in 'caretaker' mode.

The study I did at the time of the debate last year, led me to believe that there would have been little disturbance to the community. There was concerns about 'hundreds of extra vehicles' and 'offenders running through the neighbourhood', all spread to put fear around. I chatted with Steve Wettenhall and the Government agencies involved, about various objections at the time. Having worked in youth education before, I agreed with him that there would have been minimal to nil disruption to the surrounding residential community.

The youth that were to be placed there were going to be of a very low risk, and the outdoor setting, once transformed, would have been magnificent environment for education and training. You only have to hear of the huge crime rate in our city that we need a facility like this urgently.

So this afternoon I wandered around the posh streets of Stoney Creek Estate, where there is wide skepticism in the community of the flip flop. Jackie, who didn't want her last name printed, said that although she and her neighbours were pleased with the latest decision, they see it as an election stunt.

"Yes, we saw it for what it is, when all along our MP has ignored us and not even allowed us to speak at the meetings," she said. "Now as soon as an election is coming along, they change their mind. He won't get my support for not advocating and listening to us in the first place."

Another resident of Stoney Creek, who lives 500 meters from the old Scout Camp, where the youth facility was to be built, is cynical about the political announcement.

"It's clearly time for a MP to go when he only reacts to the will of the community when he knows his job is on the line," he told CairnsBlog.

However, LNP's candidate for Baron River, Wendy Richardson says that the proposal was never properly discussed with the community. "Here we are, three weeks before an election, and the MP says he still believes it should go ahead, and at the same time, changes his mind."

At last June's community meeting, the residents voted to have no confidence in their MP. I wonder if they would now, after this election turn-around.

More curious Hedley transactions

Local finance commentator KitchenSlut, is watching the curious Hedley transactions today.

  • Looking at Hedley’s HLG half yearly released to ASX this morning:

    "Unauthorised payments to the manager (Tom Hedley's private interests-ed) during the half-year amounting to $1.144 million as set out in note 2 to the financial statements were repaid with interest by the manager immediately after the manager became aware of them”

    It seems from note 2 they only became aware of this rather recently post year end so maybe the auditor did actually look at the numbers. No wonder Hedley CFO Donnelly is no longer on the HLG board having resigned on 5 February. Today's announcement also reveals that Donnelly also resigned as CFO of HLG (which presumably means the management company) on 18th February.

    There was no ASX announcement of this resignation at the time.

    Also of interest in a market update from NLG, the NSW pub tenant of HLG, where Tom has seen the value of his 20% stake diminish to a number disturbingly close to zero, is that they are to take on the outsourced management of all Hedz pubs.

    Having dropped into the Hedley property sales office last week to confirm that there are no new projects currently planned beyond those currently going, and that the Aplin St block at the end of the Oasis is back on the market after Tom backed out and didn’t settle on it last year, we wonder if there is much work left for the boys to do down in Aumuller St now that Tom is no longer CEO of the HLG manager either?

    Update: I have email confirmation (below) direct from the bunker that Hedley's financial wunderkind Stephen Donnelly, departed the evil empire on February 16. Curiously 2 days before indicated in the official ASX announcement today?

  • From: Stephen Donnelly
    Sent: Friday, 27 February 2009 2:54 PM
    Thank you for your email.
    As of 16 February I am no longer employed with the Hedley Group.
    Any matters that relate to HLG should be directed to Peter Armstrong at or if the matter relates to the Hedley Private Group it can be directed to Jeanine Cooke at

The Gulf of Water

Henry at Fosnez Blog is a clever clogs.

He's linked up satellite images from NASA's Earth Observatory to show the amazing impact flooding in the Gulf has caused.

More than 1 million sq ks of area has been under severe flood, along the Flinders River system, on Queensland's Western Cape York Peninsula.
Taiwan’s Formosat-2 satellite captured the photo above, of Normanton area on February 19th.
The two large photos below were taken 16th December, and the flooded one February 18. NASA says that the water ranges in colour from pale blue to black, which include both infrared and visible light to increase the contrast between water and earth.

"Lighter blue water is either extremely shallow (merely moistened mud channels) or thick with sediment," NASA reports. "Clearer or deeper water is black. At least some of the pale blue water is colored with sediment because dense plumes of sediment poured into the Gulf of Carpentaria."
"In addition to causing floods, the intense rain sustained plant growth. In two months, the color of the landscape changed from tan-pink, the color of bare or sparsely vegetated ground, to green, the color of plant-covered land."
Simply roll your mouse over the image to see the extent of the land cover.

Dengue in Innisfail

This morning Queensland Health have confirmed that the mosquito-borne disease has been discovered in Innisfail.

One case of locally-acquired dengue fever type 4 has been confirmed in the town South of Cairns.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

First mozzie breeding fine issued

As Cairns Regional Council issued the first $400 fine today to a Gordonvale resident for allowing mosquitoes to breed in discarded tyres, the tally of Dengue infected residents pipped 564.

489 people have been notified with the disease in Cairns, 70 in Townsville; 2 in Port Douglas, 2 in Yarrabah, and 1 in the Cape York community of Injinoo.

“This fine is really a final alternative for Council to clamp down on residents who are not heeding all the public warnings,” Cairns Mayor Val Schier said in light of the first fine issued.

Cr Paul Gregory, whose Division encompasses Gordonvale that has so far escaped any local infections where the $400 fine was issued, urges residents to make use of the free of charge disposal of rimless old tyres. "This is being offered at the Babinda, Gordonvale, Portsmith, Smithfield, Killaloe, Newell, Daintree and Cow Bay transfer stations," he says.

“Disused tyres are a real concern in the fight against dengue because they hold water and are the perfect breeding site,” Cr Gregory said. Free disposal is available until 8 March.

Council's on-the-spot fines are on top of Health Orders, which can be issued at properties where the ‘potential’ for breeding exists. These attract a $400 fine as well.

Councillor Forsyth case closed

Cairns Regional Councillor Diane Forsyth appeared before the Cairns Magistrate Court this morning, a day early than originally scheduled.

The Councillor was there to answer charges of trespass, when, back in October, she climbed upon the now demolished Cairns Yacht Club building, subsequently removed and stripped to pieces by the Labor Government.

Forsyth's lawyer, Steven O’Reilly, had serious issues about the politics of direct action. He brought the matter on early to dispose of it away from groups of political supporters.

"I'm glad this is behind me, and I can move on," Forsyth said.

Forsyth's protest action by climbing of the roof of the historic Cairns' iconic building, was to highlight the State Government's lack of compassion and not listening to the local community's desire to retain the 100 year old building on it's Wharf Street waterfront site. Even an 11,000-strong petition, the third in five years of campaigning, fell on the deaf eyes of local Cairns MP Desley Boyle, who is also State Tourism Minister. She failed to see how it could have been retained and developed into a significant tourism and heritage attraction.

"We will relocate the building to a new heritage precinct at James Cook University," Boyle jointly announced with fellow MP for Barron River Steve Wetenhall, and the Cairns Port Authority who manages the waterfront land.

However, six months on, in the wave of the upcoming State election, the remains of the building lies water-damaged and exposed in a paddock in Smithfield. The rest was salvaged at is being sold off as scrap to the highest bidder by Anton Demolitions at his Machans Beach yard. It is probably the most vivid depiction of MPs ignoring a community in recent years, and will be a feature of the current election campaign I'm sure.

The late entry into the Save the Yacht Club debate, Barron River MP Steve Wettenall earned the nic name of 'Wet and no balls', at first attributed to the campaign's co-ordinator, Wendy Richardson. However, Richardson, who had ran against Boyle for the Cairns seat three years earlier, and now is challenging Wettenhall for his electorate, said the nic names were out there in the community.

"We were all hearing these names in conversations," she said at the time. "These MPs failed the Cairns community. They simply were unwilling to listen," Richardson says.

'Demolition Desley' and 'Pittaful Pitt', were also bandied around, due to their lack of support. I dunno what they had for Jason O'Brien?! (A chocolate fish awaits the best suggestion.)

However Forsyth, a Labor Councillor, is not unhappy about her court appearance. She was aware that her actions were illegal. "I wanted our community to be heard loud and clear," she said at the time of her trespass.

Today the sentencing judge gave her a Good Behaviour bond (hard for any Councillor if you ask me), with no conviction recorded.

This will now clear the path for Council's Code of Conduct investigation against Councillor Forsyth, that CEO Noel Briggs initiated last year. Briggs commissioned a report, that is was concocted with a pre-determined conclusion, written by his friend and colleague in the former Mareeba Shire Council.

There needs a code of conduct enquiry into this action itself.

Real change needed in Legislative Assembly

CairnsBlog columnist, Syd Walker, shares his observations on Premier Bligh's snap election.

The Queensland State election has been called. Election day is March 21st.

This is not a comprehensive round-up… just a few personal thoughts.

I’ll start at the ‘top’. I rather like the current Premier, Anna Bligh. I’ve met her only once, for a very brief one-to-one discussion at one of the former Premier’s moving cabinet meetings. I was impressed. She struck me as a politician capable of actually listening, even to an unpopular message. She didn’t just give a rote response. She gave a thoughtful response. That’s worth a lot in my book.

I’ve never met Opposition Leader, Lawrence Springborg of the Liberal National Party, but he’s been around a while. Actually, it’s his third Queensland election contest as Opposition leader.

I have heard Springborg on the radio and watched him on TV many times. He does not impress me. If he’s more than a reactionary opportunist, he does a good job covering it up. But I’ll keep an open mind and hope he can contribute to raising the level of debate in this State. Surely it’s his last chance to do that as Opposition leader?

Those are the two main party leaders. What of the political parties in general?

I shall likely vote for The Greens and give a preference vote to progressive independents (if any). Beyond that, with an optional preferential voting system which allows voters to number as many boxes as they wish (from 1 to n), I’ll keep my own council for now. Let’s see how the debate pans out and wait for the policy rollout.

The Labor Party, while less reactionary than its LNP opponents, is a rather gruesome machine. A lot of Labor’s MPs are rank opportunists and few seem to have much vision. Typically, they’re ‘business as usual’ managers, with grey suits and green, pink, blue and brown ties, depending on the occasion. This has not been a party of bold and imaginative new initiatives towards sustainable development.

But would the Liberal-Nationals be any better? I haven’t seen any evidence of that so far. Would they be worse? I have my fears.

It’s best to keep an open mind early in the election campaign, allowing plenty of blue screen for pleasant surprises. But if Mr Spingborg and his crew have serious proposals that might appeal to voters with my interests, they’d better share them and fast.

Incidentally, outflanking Labor on environmental policy and other issues of concern to progressives is not an impossible task for a right-wing coalition in Australia. Under Malcolm Turnbull’s able leadership, the Federal Opposition is coming close to doing precisely that.
Queensland needs a credible State Opposition. Above all, the State needs some radically new policies. In Far North Queensland, an isolated geographical enclave some 2,000 kilometers from the State capital, we need a visionary regional approach to develop a resilient, sustainable economy and way of life.

The previous Beattie-Labor Government set up a new planning process for FNQ, which produced its final report a fortnight ago. The plan is a statutory document and represents a major change in the regional planning regime.

When the new regional plan came out, it was barely noticed by most of the community. That’s probably just what the government hoped. No noise means no political damage. Most of the squeakiest wheels had been assuaged in the plan. It was a fix that normalized business as usual, c. early 2009.

The problem is, we need a lot more than that now. We don’t just have a State in ecological crisis; we have economic recession as well. The former could be – and was – repeatedly brushed under the carpet; the public won’t stand for that on the economy.

A State Government with real vision would provide coherent, integrated solutions to both major crises. We’d have a major roll-out of new, low-emissions technology and infrastructure. We’d be taking the first real steps towards a sustainable way of life.

I may be wrong, but I suspect Anna Bligh would not be averse to such policies. Unfortunately, most of her rank and file MPs seem to be a mundane and rather visionless lot. Without energetic, progressive politicians supporting innovative policies at a local and regional level, they don’t get on the Government’s agenda.

Labor is broadly competent to manage business as usual. But in 2009 - more so than before - doing better is an urgent priority.

To do better, we need real change in the Legislative Assembly. From my perspective, the best conceivable outcome at this election would be Greens and progressive independents holding the balance of power. A minority Labor Government forced to negotiate with more enlightened politicians would not be plain sailing. But it would be a sea-change.

It would revitalize politics in Queensland – and might also bring out the best in Anna Bligh. She’s needs more talent in her team.

Queensland’s economic summer wasn’t so difficult to manage. Winter will be more challenging.

PS: I just got a ping-back from, which is maintaining a daily list of blog postings on the Queensland election. A great service!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

A little too much blue

LNP's leader, Lawrence Springborg with his candidates Joel Harrop (Cairns), Vic Black (Mulgrave), Wendy Richardson (Barron River), and Craig Batchelor (Cook), during his flying visit to Cairns.

With political corflutes popping up on every corner, the quick election race to the finish line will please many who were expecting a long campaign.

The seats to watch will be Barron River with a narrow 4.8% margin, and Cairns, with Labor losing much support over Boyle's lack of support of the Cairns Yacht Club could narrow her 8% lead.

Former Main Roads Minister Warren Pitt's seat of Mulgrave, who enjoyed nearly 10% margin, will certainly be lost to the LNP with the ring-in of his 32 year old son Curtis.

LNP's Cook candidate, Craig Batchelor will have his work cut out if he's to bet Jason O'Brien with a strong 11.4% margin at the last election, however he claims that actually living in the electorate will give him advantage.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Paper is a thing of the past

An amazing revelation from Fairfax today, that they are making more revenue from their online operations than from The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, which used to be their known as the 'rivers of classified gold'.

"The single biggest component of the online profit has precious little to do with media in anything remotely like the traditional sense, far less journalism," The Australian reports. "And even less to do with Australia - it was the New Zealand Trade Me online advertising business."

The Age and Herald generated $47m in profit, whilst $51m, with around half that coming from the Kiwi's TradeMe website.

They're listening to your say

The grammatically-challenged Cairns Council survey form hits your letterbox this week.
The 'We're listening to your say' survey has five pages of 'instructions', with two thirds of a single page for your feedback. I think they got this around the wrong way.
I welcome any opportunity for the mass population to engage and seek feedback from us plebs.
However, this is no ordinary survey, they want us to help write their corporate plan – and need our views and ideas. Lazy buggers, don't we pay em enough to do this themselves? I recall Councillor Sno Bonneau infamously says that they elected him to make decisions on behalf of the people, therefore he doesn't need to ask his constituents what they think! Maybe he's onto something?
There will be Council Officers around town to talk about this mega-exciting subject: Thursday 26th February at Mt Sheridan Plaza; Saturday 28th - Mossman Markets; Monday 2nd March - Stockland Earlville; and Saturday 7th March - Gordonvale Markets.
You can also do the survey online if you wish.

Springborg buses into town

Come out, come out, where ever you are.

Tonight Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg will be in Cairns, with a major policy announcement.
Members and friends are welcome at the Hotel Cairns, corner Abbott and Florence Streets at 7pm. It's $15 to get in - nothing like a shameless way to earn some party funds. Call Dennis on 4031 8030 by noon, if you'd like to come along and tell jokes about the Government.

A fair share for Cairns

The election's been called. The media releases are starting to fly.

I've asked for Desley's and Steve's, but they haven't added me to their list yet. They should simply email me here. Let's hope they do.

Joel Harrop, who's standing for Cairns on the LNP ticket, says the early State election should focus on a fair share for Cairns.

“Despite having the Tourism Minister as a local member, Cairns has not been receiving its fair share for the last eleven years of the Labor Government,” Harrop says.
“Funding to Tourism has been cut back and Labor plans to dramatically increase licence fees for venues that want to open after midnight.”

He says Desley Boyle has served the people of Brisbane and let down locals in our community.

Harrop, and LNP's king hit in Cairns is to build a new hospital. “Health services have been long neglected in Cairns. This will ensure the residents of Cairns receive the health they need and deserve. It will also create many construction jobs while it is being built.”

I have to agree with anyone who says to move and build a purpose-built facility. The current location and add-ons that is currently being undertaken, is a mess.

Joel Harrop was also shocked at the way the election was called. "It highlights the disregard Labor has for proper process and democracy in this State," he said after the Premier first announced the election on YouTube before going to seek the State Governor’s approval.

"This is extremely arrogant, and sidelines the Governor’s proper role in our democracy,” Harrop says.

Undoubtedly the other major focus of this campaign needs to be the state of the finances in Queensland. You would run your own home like this. Just after the Treasurer announced the poor state of the balance sheet, Anna Bligh said that she will "not let up from borrowing to continue the infrastructure programme."

Queensland's debt is now over $60 billion.

“Queensland now has the worst credit rating in Australia – worse than New South Wales, which is an acknowledged basket case," Joel Harrop says. "The Labor Government’s mismanagement of the Queensland economy, and failure to put money away during the good times means that Cairns is going to miss out on essential expenditure.”

We have an interest bill alone of $200 million dollars a year on Labor’s $1.5 billion deficit.

The LNP say that Labor has put the State from boom to bust in less than a year. They accuse the Government of not putting anything away when times were good and mining royalties were flooding in. Now the State is broke.

Cairns Councillor in Court this Friday

There will be a rally at the Cairns Courthouse at 9am this Friday, to show public support for Councillor Di Forsyth and her actions to preserve the historic Cairns Yacht Club building.

She will appear in the Magistrate’s Court to answer a charge of trespass, arising out of an act of civil disobedience while advocating for the preservation of the Cairns Yacht Club.

On Monday 13th October last year, Councillor Forsyth took part in a non-violent protest action, as a last ditch stand to focus public attention on a worthy desire by over 10,000 Cairns residents.

With a safety team, safety harness and rope, hardhat, boots and overalls, at around 7.00 am Councillor Forsyth climbed a ladder and sat on a platform on the roof of the building to temporarily prevent its demolition. She carried a sign saying that she represented 11,000 Queensland Citizens (9,000 Cairns residents), and wore a shirt saying “People Before Profit”.

Di Forsyth demonstrated the courage of her convictions when she climbed up on that roof. It was difficult, and contained elements of danger. By making responsible safety arrangements, Di minimised the danger to herself, and through her cooperation with Queensland Police she eliminated it altogether for others. It was a responsible action of personal protest.

But it was also an action whereby Councillor Forsyth met her public duty to her constituents, and to the residents of Cairns, to make a powerful representation to the government of Queensland and its voting public.

Cairns Regional Council had resolved twice in 2008 to seek the building’s preservation, and to engage in consultative processes with the Queensland government and/or its authorities. Cairns Regional Council made these resolutions at the request of thousands of residents and ratepayers. Cairns Regional Council recognised a petition of 11,000 signatures which had been lodged in the Queensland Parliament.

In reply the Queensland government failed to respond appropriately. Legally the Queensland government has the power to build and develop whatever it wants in Cairns without the permission of the Cairns Regional Council. Its developments don’t have to abide by or accord with local government planning. There is regular community debate around these issues, with local residents seeking a more persuasive voice about local developments.


Cairns Regional Council is perhaps the most readily available tool of government for Cairns residents. But it is not the only one. When the Queensland government failed to publicly engage the Cairns Regional Council, Cairns citizens were forced to directly address the Queensland government, communicating politically with the Premier and Cabinet, and also with citizens and voters around the state.

Non-violent Civil Disobedience by an elected Councillor in relation to a development issue was always going to be state-wide news. “I’m representing 11,000 people” and “people before profit” are key elements of democratic and sustainable development. People are entitled to see them applied by government, and people are entitled to contest any government that fails to apply them.

Councillor Forsyth was approached by many Cairns citizens and asked to take protest action. At first she attended public meetings and rallies, and used her position as a councillor in strictly conventional ways. When this approach was disrespected Di Forsyth took the minimum action required of civil disobedience, and took it in a way which was fully accountable.

By standing up for her constituents, at her constituents’ request, Councillor Di Forsyth honourably discharged her public duties, and she won substantial public support her doing so.


However the nature of civil disobedience involves the breaking of a law. It is a rule of civil disobedience that an activist who breaks the law stands accountable to the Courts, and gladly accepts and pays any penalty a court may impose.

So Councillor Forsyth will face the Cairns Magistrate to a charge of trespass at 4 Wharf St Cairns on 13 October 2008, and will be dealt with for it. The hearing will be next Friday 27 February 2009 at Cairns Courthouse. This is the fair and due process of punishment that Councillor Di Forsyth faces in our criminal justice system. Our system of government depends on the rule of law.

Under our law, Councillor Forsyth cannot be disqualified or suspended as a member of the Cairns Regional Council for a minor, summary offence such as trespass. Just as Senator Bob Brown and Senator Christine Milne remain Senators irrespective of their convictions for civil disobedience.

Indeed the legal system adopted in Australia recognises civil disobedience as a special category of offence.

The following quote is from British Law Lord, Lord Hoffman, in a 2006 ruling by the House of Lords in relation to civil disobedience cases then undergoing trial. (Lord Hoffman, at para 89 in Jones, R. v [2006] UKHL 16 (29 March 2006)

Cite as: [2006] 2 Cr App R 9, [2007] 1 AC 136, [2006] UKHL 16, [2006] 2 All ER 741):

  • “ My Lords, civil disobedience on conscientious grounds has a long and honourable history in this country. People who break the law to affirm their belief in the injustice of a law or government action are sometimes vindicated by history. The suffragettes are an example which comes immediately to mind.

    It is the mark of a civilised community that it can accommodate protests and demonstrations of this kind. But there are conventions which are generally accepted by the law-breakers on one side and the law-enforcers on the other. The protesters behave with a sense of proportion and do not cause excessive damage or inconvenience. And they vouch the sincerity of their beliefs by accepting the penalties imposed by the law.

    The police and prosecutors, on the other hand, behave with restraint and the magistrates impose sentences which take the conscientious motives of the protesters into account. The conditional discharges ordered by the magistrates in the cases which came before them exemplifies their sensitivity to these conventions."

The conventions alluded to by Lord Hoffman were accepted and applied in Cairns by all the activists, police, prosecutors and magistrates connected with civil disobedience cases around the Cairns yacht Club. Councillor Forsyth is the last case to be dealt with. Every other activist received either a good behaviour bond with no conviction recorded, or a small fine subsequently converted to community service.


If you’re one of the many citizens in Cairns who sought the preservation of the Cairns Yacht Club, and who supported and were encouraged by Di Forsyth’s forthright action, there are three things you can do now to support her:

  • 1 / Attend a rally at the Cairns Courthouse at 9.00 am this Friday 27 February to show public support
  • 2/ Write a letter of support addressed “To Whom It May Concern” setting out your approval of Councillor Forsyth’s character and civil disobedience action, for submission to the Magistrate on 27 February.

    Send it immediately to Councillor Di Forsyth, 114 Woodward St, Edge Hill, Cairns, Queensland 4870. You can also email it.

Monday, 23 February 2009

De-Amalgamate Briggs Now

It's amazing how the Chief Executive Officer of Cairns Regional Council has so much time on his hands.
In between missing the boat on the Dengue outbreak, he finds time to criticise issues that are not within his job description.
Noel Briggs' role, as the CEO, is to manage his staff and implement the policies as decided by the elected Councillors. Nothing more.
However, he has the Cairns Post on speed dial, only to waste time, trying to yet again put a Councillor in their place. It is not the CEO's job to be involved in politics. Let me repeat that: It is not the CEO's job to be involved in politics.
His sights are again aimed at Julia Leu, for the grand felony of putting a 'De-Amalgamate Douglas Now' bumper sticker on her Council-funded car. Amazingly the sticker has graced Julia's vehicle for nearly a year, yet all of a sudden a 'Council staffer' complained.
This Councillor is doing what she said she'd do, when she took the mighty oath - to represent the people. It's a sad day when a Councillor or MP stops doing this. I wish Mr Briggs would get on with the job we all pay him the massive salary to do. He has around 900 staff and a myriad of pressing issues from appalling environmental management to killing some damm mozzies.
Soon after Councillor Forsyth jumped on the roof of the historic Yacht Club building late last year, Noel Briggs spent thousands of ratepayers dollars to commission one of his mates on the Tablelands to write a 10-page report on why the Councillor was guilty of the Code of Conduct. It was not objective nor balanced. I've seen this so-called investigation, which is the most poorly written documents you could ever set eyes on. We will be asking how much was spent of this report. It is also believed that the Mayor is not keen to pay for this trashy piece of deliberate dirt digging by the CEO.
This morning we see yet another 'investigation' by Briggs, this time into Councillor Lesina's Facebook profile. You can post all kinds of things here, it's a digital scrapbook. The Cairns Post reported that Kirsten is a 'member' of online groups like "come the f--- on bridget" and "1 million strong against Labor".
"I wonder why the Cairns Post would think that [I'm] in a group called 1 million strong against Labor when [I'm] in about 600 other labor fan groups," Kirsten Lesina said this morning on her profile page.
CEO Briggs says he will suggest Lesina change her profile to private. Kirsten should not take her marching orders from the CEO, someone paid three times that of the first term Councillor. She dragged this Council into the online era and is making strong in-roads for young people having access and involvment in local government.
I find the Mayor getting dragged into this latest debate about car stickers, on the coattails of the CEO's statement, is awkward, odd and a little dis-loyal. Julia, along with Diane Forsyth, are both on the same political leanings as our Mayor, and such attacks do little to strengthen and cement her position and the agenda of politics she so proudly and passionately stood for just over a year ago.

Anna holds back tears on YouTube

Let the porkies begin!

It was only 13 minutes past 11 this morning and Labor's Steve Wettenhall was out with his four year old election posters.

He obviously had the tip off that Premier Anna Bligh was on her way to see the Governor General to dissolve State Parliament, six months earlier that the planned date.

Snap elections catch everyone by surprise, but this was the worst-kept secret in the State. After eight 'retirements' in as many days it seems, and the instant replacement for Mulgrave with Warren Pitt's son, who's still lives in Brisbane, the porkies will now be loud and clear.

The only good thing about this election is that we'll only have to put up with a zillion promises from all sides for less than a month.

It will be a tough fight in the South East, but regional Queensland is fed up with this government. Community issues and open honest accountable representation is blatantly absent from the incumbents.

The galvanising community issue to preserve the historic Yacht Club building, is a shameful indictment of almost every Labor MP in the Far North of Queensland. It's damaged weathering remnants in a paddock at JCU's Smithfield campus, are yet another reason why a passionate community deserves much better presentation that it got over this issue.

I hope that the voter will be savvy enough to critique the contribution their current MP has made and look at the alternatives. Greens, LNP, independents, will all be showing you the reason why Labor are due for early retirement.

Snap election called

Premier Anna Bligh has called a snap election for Saturday 21st March.

ALP hold 58 of the 89 seat Queensland State Parliament. An 8.3% swing will be needed for a change of Government.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Mum told me to post this

Bruno's amazing garden

Bruno Torfs is a South American artist, who's lived in the Victorian town of Marysville, that was obliterated in the recent bush fires.

Over a long period, he created a sculpture garden for visitors. He had over 100 sculptures on display.

However, on Saturday the 7th of February, as the fireball swept through Marysville, he lost his home and gallery. The sculpture garden sustained severe damage.

"Hopefully a good portion of the sculptures will be able to be salvaged," he says.

You can view the amazing garden here.

UK bans Dutch anti-Muslim MP

David at KiwiBlog makes a strong case about the disgraceful act for the UK to ban a Dutch MP entering their country, because he is seen as anti-Muslim.
  • "Would they ban someone who is anti-Christian?

    Many western countries slowly but surely are imposing self censorship. We saw this with the Dutch cartoons. There is no right not to be offended by criticism of your religion.

    Mr Wilders is under 24-hour police protection because of his anti-Muslim stance.

    He has been receiving death threats from Muslim groups outside Holland since the anti-Koran film appeared on the internet earlier this year.

    The film features verses from the Koran alongside images of the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, Madrid in March 2004 and London in July 2005.

    The film equates Islam’s holy text with violence and ends with a call to Muslims to remove ‘hate-preaching’ verses from the Koran.

    So Wilders says the Koran encourages violence, and to prove him wrong, he receives death threats. And now to really prove him wrong the UK Government bans him from entering the UK, because they fear the violence that may erupt. Anyone see the irony?

    I opposed David Irving being banned from NZ. He may be a anti-semitic Holocaust denier, but the correct response is to let him attend and speak, and allow those who disagree with him, protest, mock and ridicule him. This is not hard with Irving.

    Now Wilders is no Irving. Yes he is anti-Islam, but that is no excuse for the death threats he receives and the UK banning him.
Hat Tip: KiwiBlog

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Friends with benefits

If you have to ask, then you are the kind of person that stays in on a Saturday night watching The Bill on ABC.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Breed mozzies and get bitten with a $400 fine

The Cairns Regional Council, who I proved were too slow to act in the first month of the Dengue outbreak back in December, will now start issuing $400 on-the-spot fines if they find breeding mosquito larvae on a property.

Queensland Health has taken legal advice from Crown Law, that will allow local Councils to encourage residents to keep their property free of mosquito breeding sites.

"The $400 fines will be issued where evidence of mosquito breeding exists," Council CEO Noel Briggs says. “This means at the discretion of the Health Officer, if mosquito larvae is found, a fine will be issued.”

“This stringent measure is really a final alternative for Council to clamp down on those residents who are not paying attention to the many public warnings that have been out there for months,“ Briggs said.

Now whilst I agree with this action, I have to say that the CEO and Council owe some answers to the Cairns community:
  • Why did they fail to act when presented with specific information on 3rd December last year about Gatton Street, North Cairns?

  • Why did Council's Senior Environmental Health Officer Gilbert Farrow lie to his manager when questioned last Friday, saying that he never had a conversation on December 5th with the complainant?

  • Was Council therefore negligent and allowed hundreds of mosquito to breed in Gatton Street, North Cairns?

  • Will Council reprimand, terminate or demote this senior Council officer because of his blatant inaction, causing the danger to hundreds of local residents, at what we now know as the 'Ground Zero' of the Dengue outbreak? They should at the very least slap him with with a $400 fine. Then just slap him again.
Today, another 5 cases were added to those who have contracted Dengue, up to 407 in Cairns, with another 66 in Townsville. Queensland Health can also issue on-the-spot 'health orders', which also carry a penalty of $400.

Kevin meets John

Here's a story, about a Kevin and John.

John Babet of Kewarra, is a colourful character who has often engaged in questioning local elected officials.

He's known for his Cairns Ratepayers Action Group that challenged the former Cairns City Council three years ago, to address the inequity in substantial rate increases. However these days it's had a reincarnation and is the Community Reformation Action Group.

In a recent statement he says "the Peoples Grand Jury is an initiative of the Community Reformation Action Group, a Peoples Advocacy Group acting for Positive Evolutionary Reform," Babet says. "The guiding light for this Reform is the National Economic Security and Reformation Act, passed by the US Congress 9th September 2001, and awaiting official announcement by the World Bank."

It's a bit too much for this little tiger.

However, John's energy was welcome throughout last year's Council election race, when he supported me in exposed the then mayor's register of companies and interests, a legislative requirement under the Local Government Act. We found a few companies that we believed should have been included in Kevin Byrne's official declaration, but appeared to be omitted.

A couple of days ago, John spotted his old rival, former Mayor Kevin Byrne, at Cairns Central.

JB: "Hello Big Kev."

KB: "Hello Sluggo!"

JB: "What did you call me?"

KB: "It's a term of endearment"

JB: "That would be the first"

Not many probably know, least of all myself, but Kevin evidently has a sense of humour. John Babet is well-known for sending a myriad of emails to politicians to get their attention of all kinds of issues. He's currently campaigning against the forced fluoridation of water in Cairns.

One of his lengthy emails to Kevin Byrne whilst he was Cairns' Mayor, questioned the legality of the State of Queensland. He got a sharp reply: "Haven't you taken your pills yet John?"

CairnsBlog cartoon by Robbie

Minister of Ratepayers

New Zealand's new Minister for Local Government, the ACT party's Rodney Hide, said he doesn’t regard himself as the Minister of Local Government.

In his speech to Local Government NZ, Rodney said:
  • "I have to say, ladies and gentlemen, that I don’t regard myself the Minister of Local Government - I consider myself the Minister for Ratepayers.

    I don’t represent councils.

    I represent the people whose hard work and savings pay the rates.

    And provide councils with their income.

    That sums up the way I approach to my job."

Hat Tip: KiwiBlog

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Be inspired

Cairns' own world-famous marketing expert, Andrew Griffiths, would like to invite you to a special free seminar in March.

"I am putting on a free event in on Tuesday March 17 – targeted at changing the mood of business owners in Cairns," says Andrew. "Already we have over 100 people booked in, and are hoping for 300."

You can find out more about it from Andrew's website.

"I think people are a little cynical about 'free' – but there really are no hidden things – just my little way of saying thank you to Cairns and a way for me to do something positive when there is so much gloom," Andrew says.

I've already booked myself in.

Caption Contest returns

I snapped this gem yesterday, during the Shadow Treasurer's flying visit to Cairns.

Here's Joe Hockey with LNP's candidate for Mulgrave, Vic Black.

  1. "My, this heat in Cairns is worse than Marysville"
  2. "I do have a headache actually, I have to come all the way up here and listen to hick-town regional journalists read dumb prepared questions they don't even understand from their bosses."
  3. "Well I thought 'Vic' was going to be some sexy girl standing for Mulgrave. How wrong could I have been?"
  4. "Joe, you look like you've just got word you're going back on Sunrise with Kevin Rudd in the morning!"
  5. "Look Vic, I told you I didn't want a call girl till I get back to the hotel."
  6. ............" your turn........."

You're Fired!

Brisbane's St Marys Father Peter Kennedy was sacked this afternoon.

"I hereby remove you from the office of administrator of St Mary's Parish, South Brisbane, effective immediately," said the decree from Archbishop Bathersby.

According to the Archbishop, Kennedy has "caused harm to ecclesiastical communion in spite of frequent requests from me to do otherwise".

I wrote about Father Kennedy's unique charismatic style a couple of days ago.

The out of touch Catholic Church said he must leave his position as priest at St Mary's immediately. And what wre his crimes? He allowed women to preach and blessed same-sex couples, among others.

He's no longer the Priest of St Marys, he's just a naughty boy.

He vows to still celebrate mass this Sunday at 9am at St Marys. Sounds like a cat fight, just this time, it's with men in dresses.

Pitt is back

Retiring Mulgrave MP, Warren Pitt hopes to hand his comfy seat over to his 32 year old son Curtis.

This evening the ALP announced that the MP's son will be their candidate in the upcoming state election.

However, LNP's Mulgrave candidate Vic Black says it's simply a "new dog, with the same old tricks."

He also slammed the nepotism and blatant disregard for probity used by the Labor Party to select its candidate for Mulgrave. “Can you imagine the raucous criticism that would have been sprayed about if the LNP had engaged in such shenanigans to choose their candidates in Far North Queensland?” Vic Black says.

“This is nothing but a shonky deal by Warren Pitt to have his son parachuted into Parliament."

He says that the electorate of Mulgrave is "not a personal fiefdom for the Pitt family, to be traded like some rotten borough in old England," a cheeky reference to the Pitts of 1800's England.

Although he grew up in Gordonvale, Curtis Pitt now lives and works in Brisbane for the State Government's Indigenous Affairs Taskforce, as one of Anna's many bureaucrats. I don't know when he last lived in the region, but it seems not for many years.

Interestingly, the official ALP press release, makes no mention that 'Curtis Pitt' is the son of the current MP Warren Pitt.

"Curtis is a family man," the statement reads. "He and his wife are expecting their second child this year and he knows how important jobs are to families."

So what do we know about this new face? Well, in 2007 he came 5th place in Brisbane's Corporate Games for the men's tennis singles. He'll need to do better that that this year.

LNP's Vic Black says that it’s time Mulgrave had a representative who listens to them. "Not just in the few weeks before an election, but for the entire period of any Parliament,” he says.

Dengue tops 400, spreads to Yarrabah

Official infections by the mosquito-borne Dengue virus, have this afternoon jumped to 403 in Cairns, according to Queensland Health's Tropical Population Health Service.

Today the first cases were recorded at the outlying Aboriginal settlement of Yarrabah.

The outbreak was declared on December 1st in North Cairns.

Bushfires and floods, we'll help them all

I'm sure you all saw this last week.

Out of the heat and devastation of the Victorian bush fires, a heart-warming photo went around the world of local CFA firefighter David Tree.

David gave three bottles of water to the desperately thirsty Koala, he discovered a day after the fires ravaged through Kingslake, north of Melbourne.

Here's the video Sam the koala, who turned out to be a girl koala, shot by his colleague on a mobile phone.

Following the extensive flooding across Queensland, the Western Cape York town of Kurumba, has been isolated for nearly two weeks. Many animals and local wildlife have been fighting for survival. Exclusively I can show you a photograph of the same Victorian firefighter, coming to the rescue yet again.

Fair dinkum.

Going to the Pitts

I love gossip. Better still, I love it when it's probably true.

No matter what political stripes you wear on your sleeve, you have to ask some questions about the sudden departure of Warren Pitt, a long-serving State Minister in the ALP, and the MP for Mulgrave, on the South of Cairns.

As recently as last week Warren Pitt was out and about, campaigning for another term as the MP for Mulgrave. It caught everyone by surprise, even his own LEC who are scurrying around for another candidate, under the cloud of the soon-to-be-announced State election date.

A source, very close to Premier Bligh has told CairnsBlog, that following Mike Reynolds resignation as Speaker of the House on Sunday, Mulgrave MP Warren Pitt approached Premier Bligh to take on the role, more befitting him, after 20 years service.

However, this request was rejected point blank by Bligh.

"Well, I'll walk," the upset Minister Pitt told the Premier. And so he did. Yesterday Warren Pitt pulled the plug, and said it was "health reasons", the same reason Speaker Reynolds gave.

Following Mike Reynolds' departure, it seems that former mayor of Townsville, Tony Mooney sought ALP pre-selection for the Townsville seat. My sources say that Premier Bligh intervened in this also, and put the kibosh on the wishes of the locals who supported Mooney.

Meanwhile, Cairns MP, Desley Boyle is definitely running. "I just love being the member for Cairns," she said on ABC Far North radio yesterday.

"Hearing the opposition making all these preposterous claims I think, ...'oh here we go again!'" Desley said. "I hope the people will give me another go at this job."

We really should give her another "go" at the job, as she, along with Steve Wettenhall, need to rebuild the historic Cairns Yacht Club building, from it's crumpled remains at JCU's Smithfield campus.

With eight resignations from MP's over the last few weeks, there seems a great deal of disquiet in Queensland's ALP.

Cairns' Comming Out month

It seems as it's the season to be jolly and show your colours.

The annual burst of Xanthostemon chrysanthus is blooming all across the city.

The former Mulgrave Shire and Cairns City Council's official civic floral emblem, the Golden Penda, not to be confused with the Golden Panda, is coming out.

It's a magnificent tropical rainforest tree, and the birds (not the type befriended by former editor of the Cairns Post) love this plant.

Last season, the six Pendas on our property caught the attention of Oki Doki Japanese tour buses for photo opps. Hilarious.

I recently planted three more of these on out streetside. You can grab theses from Neil at the region's favorite garden, Limberlost Nursery in Freshwater.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Kier gets Dengue fever

This morning at the crack of dawn (why does Dawn deserve all these wise cracks?), I ventured into ABC's Sheridan Street studio to share the Dengue story.
Kier Shorey has always been supportive of independent bloggers like me, you only have to listen to his breakie show, to realise he has a bent for news that no one else dares to run.
Before I launched in and shared with his listeners the appalling Council and Queensland Health response back in December, Kier interviewed Amy Yorston, from Inverness Medical Innovations to talk about vector borne diseases. She stressed the dangerous environment created when more than one Dengue type was circulating, as it is in Cairns presently.
"When re-infection occurs, a person that has the virus, complications and outcomes can be very bad," Yorston said.
There are four types of dengue viruses that cause dengue fever: 1, 2, 3 and 4.
A person infected with one type of dengue will subsequently only be immune to that type, they will not be immune to other types of dengue and will, in fact, be at risk of developing severe symptoms if they contract another type of dengue.
"There is no early chance of a vaccine for Dengue, the only cure is to avoid getting bitten," Amy Yorston said.
At 4:30pm Wednesday afternoon, the total Dengue infection cases notified to Queensland Health, climbed to a staggering 379, since December 1st. These are made up of Type 2 and Type 3. There are 64 cases in Townsville.
Here's the local transmissions: Aloomba 3, Bayview Heights 6, Bungalow 31, Cairns North 102, Clifton Beach 10, Earlville 5, Edge Hill 9, Edmonton 1, Freshwater 1, Holloways Beach 2, Kewarra Beach 10, Machans Beach 23, Manoora 7, Parramatta Park 28, Smithfield 4, Trinity Beach 1, Westcourt 10, Whitfield 67, Yorkeys Knob 16.
I will continue with part 2 of the story in the next day.

Premier’s poll waffle prompts pregnant parody

It's nice to see South East Queenslanders have a sense of humour. They must do, look where they live.

Following my stunning portrayal and uncanny likeness, if I may say so myself, of the outgoing Premier of Queensland, Anna Bye a couple of days ago, Craig Johnstones' Courier Mail political Blog couldn't help but reprint my Annaity Fair 'magazine' cover.

An extra 2,160 'Southerners' clicked on CairnsBlog this afternoon and finally discovered there is life north of their rat race. I wonder when Anna comes to town campaigning with Desley next month, if she'll invite me along for a photo opp?

Here's some of the comments posted so far...
  • Hmmm, I trust Ms Bligh sees the funny side of this blatant feminist attack on her. Where is a similar photo shop image of Lawrie “The Borg in a mini skirt showing stockings and suspenders (ala Alexander Downer)and a little bit of cheek to boo?
    I might ask the creators and I don’t hold my breath expecting to see a similar treatment for Lawrie only the sheela. Shame on some in this community!
    Spiro Serafini (Reply)Wed 18 Feb 09 (04:32pm)

  • quixotic replied to Spiro Serafini Wed 18 Feb 09 (05:36pm)
    Nix I tried to link it but it wouldnt work but its a tshirt from If you are really interested go to the top tab drop down menu and find the tshirt “I wanna put my..”

    Take it easy Spiro, it is just a bit of harmless fun from a bloke in Cairns who, although left leaning, is still able to criticise the current government objectively.
    Michael Moore’s blog is a good read, and the Circusmouse cartoons that appear on the site are often both controversial and witty.
    Well worth a visit!
    Jake (Reply)Wed 18 Feb 09 (04:50pm)

    Poor little diddums Spiro Serafini - where’s your sense of humour? As for Lawrence- you would be looking an an immaculate conception, which is unlikely either in birth or political terms.
    socrates (Reply)Wed 18 Feb 09 (04:52pm)

    Very tastefull I think, although considering Annas age the skin may not be as tight as it was. Bit of harmless fun, she is an attractive lady, just don’t agree with her.
    rp of Sunshine Coast (Reply)Wed 18 Feb 09 (04:55pm)

    Classic and all true.
    Snoopy of Brisbane (Reply)Wed 18 Feb 09 (05:47pm)

    Finally a use for Anna.
    Robo of Bris Vegas (Reply)Wed 18 Feb 09 (05:56pm)

    Yes very funny. I note the QLD Labor fanatics find it hard to take their own medicine. They love to refer to hicks, banjo playing Lawrence but the sad reality is they come across as the no sense of humour rednecks!
    Well done Michael Moore.

    Al of Stretton (Reply)Wed 18 Feb 09 (06:51pm)

    While its only a mockup, at least Anna looks a darn site more attractive than Springborg did when he threw off his shirt all those years ago to stand in front of an ironing board (and looking mighty uncomfortable) and make like a man/woman!!
    Palmer of Brisbane (Reply)Thu 19 Feb 09 (06:29am)

    Isn’t it funny how no one is allowed to lampoon the left or the Labor Party in Australia. Totally unconstituional. Where are ‘The Chasers War on Everything”. They achieved their purpose after a blaze of publicity before the last Federal election and now are seen no more.
    shaun of deeragun (Reply)Thu 19 Feb 09 (08:18am)

    While I’m all for Labour winning the next election and I have deep respect for Anna Bligh (yes and I’m not ashamed of what I believe in)I find this pic absolutely hillerious.
    Ive noticed a few people saying that the labour supporters are finding it hard to swallow their own medicine - well I’m sorry but this pic has just made my day and I dont see this as insult to the govt, its just way tooooo funny to take seriously
    Astounded of Goodna (Reply)Thu 19 Feb 09 (09:06am)

    Dam what a thing to see before I had my first cup of coffee in the morning
    Dam (Reply)Thu 19 Feb 09 (09:39am)

    Craig, earlier this morning I was in the car and had the radio on (4BC) and heard Greg Carey mention that the Bligh Government was going to now refer to the Opposition as the Nationals, and not by their proper name the LNP (Liberal National Party).
    I agree with Greg Carey when he said that it is pretty underhanded and stinks of a Government trying everything possible to stay in power - ‘whatever it takes’ I guess; and trying to con ignorant voters who don’t take an interest in politics inbetween elections.
    Anyway hasn’t been a whisper of it in the online news so wondering if you have picked up on it and what your thoughts are on the matter.
    Realist of Brisbane (Reply)Thu 19 Feb 09 (01:34pm)

    I see that Annaity is spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on poltical propaganda to cover up her Health Minister’s poor decisions. Time for them to go.
    Al of Stretton (Reply)Thu 19 Feb 09 (02:17pm)

    I don’t care what side of politics a person is on , this type of political sarcasm is not funny, rather it is grossly in bad taste, and highly offensive. There are other ways to get the polyical message over which are more effective.
    Tom Aquinas of Brisbane (Reply)Thu 19 Feb 09 (03:34pm)

The Joe and Joel Circus

The ink had hardly dried on the new Shadow Finance Minister's official seal, following Julia Bishop's side-step yesterday, yet the Hon Joe Hockey touched down in Cairns at sparrow's fart today, in what looked like the opening of an election campaign.
Cairns LNP candidate, Joel Harrop was on hand and looking like a presidential minder, under the formidable shadow of the shadow minister.

"I stand here in City Place to support Joel and Vic. I see all around me lot's of small businesses, and the the Rudd government isn't supporting these in their latest stimulus handout," Joe Hockey told the packed media scrum, and three Japanese tourists.

Just an hour earlier, Labor's Hon Anthony Albanese MP was across town dishing out Cairns' portion of the $800 million tagged for infrastructure. He handed over a fat cheque to Mayor Val Schier for $899,000. What a meanie, couldn't he have rounded it up to a cool $900K?

This will be spent to clean up Muddy's Chilren's Playground on the Esplanade, and upgrade of the Mossman, Tubruk and Woree Swimming Pools, some streetscapes, and the rest on various community halls around the region.

With all this political activity in our little ol town, me thinks there will most certainly be an early State election.

Dengue, our sleeping bushfire - Part 1

It's difficult to know where to start on this one.

I come across many stories I like to share. Some just for the heck of it. Some that enrage you. This is one such story.

This tale is up there with Syd Walker's epic The Death Throes of Mareeba Shire story, when he exposed serious conflicts of the Mareeba Mayor's final days in office last year, leaving a dark grim cloud over Borzi's tenure.

We all know know that this Wet season's Dengue outbreak in Cairns, is one of the worst for a long number of years. I, like many, have been somewhat lapse at preventive measures, although have always emptied gathered water in my yard, and religiously (not in a Catholic way) lit citronella and coils to ward off the pesky biting menaces.

Not until we interact closely with someone who's been infected, do we often genuinely take notice. We can see numerous reports about infections and how the virus is spreading, yet in an era of mass media, it seems far away, or someone else's problem.

So let me tell you my mozzie story, and it has plenty of bite.

I wrote the cover story in this month's Cairns Bulletin. It was all about Yorkeys resident, Sasha McGrath. I wanted to write a human interest piece about the Dengue outbreak and allow someone who'd been infected, to tell everyone how it felt and what the symptoms were. All we were hearing before this was the same old stuff about emptying water containers, and the numbers were being pumped out over the radio and in the paper. We may have been becoming immune to it somewhat?

I met Sasha through her neighbours, Janine Aitken and her partner, Marty. He told me his experience, that made me discover a pattern of complacency, lack of co-ordination, confusion and poor appropriate response from both the Cairns Regional Council and Queensland Health's Tropical Population Health Services, in the early days of the Dengue mosquito outbreak - a crucial time for local authorities to act.

On Friday December 5th last year, four days after the first Dengue notification in Cairns, Marty came across something that shocked him.

He was checking out a vacant North Cairns property in Gatton Street, that his Perth friends were moving into shortly.

"I wandered around the rear of the house and saw one of those old outdoor concrete washtubs. It was full of stagnate water with hundreds of wrigglers - breeding mozzie larvae," Marty said. "These tubs are really heavy, so I couldn't move or empty it by myself, but know something had to be done urgently."

On the way back to his workplace, he dropped into Cairns Regional Council's Spence Street office, to report his gruesome discovery, and get some action from the Environmental Health team. This group is headed by Council's Senior Environmental Health Officer, Gilbert Farrow.

Marty knew this was important to report and be dealt with promptly as he'd heard about the initial Dengue infections being reported in the first week of December. We now knows that these early notifications were coming from North Cairns, and could most probably be traced to the vicinity of this property in Gatton Street.

This is not the first year that Council has teamed up with the local Health authority to combat Dengue, but there appears serious flaws in the system.

Upon arriving at Council's 'customer service area', Marty filled in the form to record what he wanted done, however before he left, he asked to see the head of the Dengue Response Unit. Gill Farrow came down hand engaged in a nervous and what appeared, distracted four minute conversation with Marty.

"He wasn't interested, nor was he paying much attention to what I was saying," Marty recalls. "I told him that someone should go down there straight away and deal with the situation. He looked at his watch and really wasn't taking in the severity of what I was telling him."

The conversation ended after Marty offered his services for surveillance work, as his current work may be coming to a end. "He asked me what qualifications I had, and that didn't seem to please him when I shared my background in bio security issues and previous work."

Frustrated, Marty left Council, armed with his 'Customer Complaint' number, hoping that something would be done about the mozzie breeding party in Gatton Street.

Two and a half weeks went by and one morning in late December, Marty got a telephone call. "Hi, is that Martin? We're at that property in North Cairns. We're attending to that mozzie problem in the washtub," the field officer exclaimed. "That was over two weeks ago," Marty said.

The offending wash tub has since been planted with tomatoes by the new tenants.

It's clear that in the first three weeks of December, a slow response by Cairns Regional Council, in the early days of the Dengue outbreak, has caused this nasty disease to spread faster than anyone expected.

It is so very easy to prevent and reduce breeding sites. We now know, that just under a third of all reported Dengue infections originated from North Cairns, around 100.

Last Wednesday, I sought answers from Council about this particular case, and why it wasn't dealt with more swiftly. Council's Environmental Assessment Manager, Laurie Phipps, was asking to investigate. He looked into the complaint and questioned his Dengue team leader, Gilbert Farrow.

However, Farrow now says that no conversation took place at all with the original complainant on Friday 5th December.

It appears that on last Friday, not knowing what had been done, at the Gatton Street address, Phipps ordered someone to go back and "make sure it was done."

Marty received another telephone call on Friday afternoon. "Hello Martin. We're at this address in North Cairns, dealing with your complaint. We can't seem to see where you were talking about?" the Council officer said. Marty explained that this was reported on the 5th December, and had been dealt with, albeit late, in late December.

"There was a pause on the phone, he didn't acknowledge what I'd said," Marty says. "Well we want to make sure it's done," the Council inspector said as the phone call was concluded.

"This highlights the lack of coordination and systems in place," Marty says.

Why would they not know that this site had been cleared, or was someone covering their backs soon after a Councillor started asking questions about a specific complaint that wasn't dealt with appropriately at the time?

It's unforgivable that this Council can put up rates, donate $150,000 in 'our' budget for some horse race, yet fail to act with promptness after clear information was provided about a potentially deadly virus breeding ground.

On Friday morning, Council's Laurie Phipps telephoned Marty, but gave him no assurance that his compliant had been dealt with properly. "He said they get lot's of complaints to deal with and had only so much resources," Marty said. This was in the first few days of the outbreak and there were hardly any staff assigned to trawling the streets. It would have been a quick response that could well have alleviated the breeding of hundreds of deadly Dengue mosquito in North Cairns.

We can now say that with around 100 confirmed cases of Dengue infections in North Cairns, that this was our Ground Zero. As the first reports came in on December 1, Council along with Tropical Population Heath, should have reacting swiftly on any notification that came to them. It's now obvious that they didn't.

I know many residents have asked Council and Queensland Health to visit the old abandoned Herries Hospital, left vacant in McLeod Street. "It's an awful breeding site for mozzies," a caller told me, who wished to remain anonymous. "They [Queensland Health] gave me the run around, and said call Council. Council said they couldn't do anything because they don't have authority to go on the property." Residents seem to get angry when no one will act or take control of a specific complaint.

Queensland Health's Tropical Population Service manage the Dengue Action Response Unit - aptly named DART. They work with Council's Environmental Health unit, and give them direction and daily updates of the Dengue spread.

Whilst residents need to take responsibility, and preventative action is relativity simple, we expect a local authority to support and react appropriately when asked.

It's clear that this case, and at least three others that I've uncovered when Council and/or the Tropical Health Unit was advised, mirror each other. A lack of response not only frustrated the complainant, but probably contributed to the Dengue mosquito breeding and infecting more residents.

You can also lodge a complaint or a request for service to Council via the online form, however this is not working properly. You should be provided with a receipt number, and this does not always happen. A number of people who have spoken to me, say their complaint is often never followed through, or they never hear anything back.

I don't doubt for a minute, that those officers on the ground, visiting hundreds of properties, are doing a tremendous job. However the system that supports and directs them, appears to be falling down.

There is more to this story, and I'll explore this in Part 2. I will show that the relationship between Cairns Regional Council and Queensland Health's Tropical Population Health unit is far from co-ordinated nor effective.