Thursday, 30 April 2009

Earlville stinks

Barr Street, Earlville has a gas leak, directly opposite the Stockland shopping centre.

"The surrounding Mulgrave Road area has been closed by police, including Henley Street; Downing Street; Balaclava Road; McKauge Street; Casella Street Thompson Street and Ishmael Road," Senior Constable Russell Parker has just announced.

Oh, and 26 cases of suspected Swine Flu, might be found.

He said, she said

Following pressure from Mayor, the CEO of Cairns Regional Council will now not undertake the investigation about the financial deal done with Radio 4CA.

"In the course of conducting [my] preliminary internal investigation, I've concluded that it is appropriate for some aspects of the investigation to be undertaken by an external investigator," Noel Briggs has admitted.

The external investigation will look into how a commercial arrangement has been brokered by the Council's Manager of Corporate Communications Kerie Hull and 4CA, in relation to the Mayor's appearance on the 4CA show on Friday mornings with John Mackenzie.

However, in a secret luncheon meeting yesterday between 4CA associates, it was revealed there were emails from the Mayor, addressed to Station Manager Steve Hirst, that showed Val Schier was aware of the arrangement.

Former shock-columnist and Cairns Post Chief of Staff, Gavin King, also announced on John Mackenzie's radio show yesterday, about the emails.

"I've seen them and where the Mayor acknowledged there was an arrangement in place to get her back on the radio talk back programme," King said. He did not read out any text from the purported email, nor did he show them to the show's host, John Mackenzie.

Mayor Schier has said she was not aware of any financial arrangement and would never have agreed to it. Val exchanged emails with CairnsBlog when I first alerted her to the suggestion of a financial deal with 4CA on the 10th April.

"It's amazing. 110% crap I can assure you. I can't believe how many angry people there are out there," Val Schier told CairnsBlog on 10th April.

"I was not made aware of this arrangement at any stage and would never have supported it. I can categorically say to you, and swear on my heart, that I knew nothing at all about this," a very disturbed and angry Mayor said on Thursday week.

"Upon receipt of the external investigator's report, Council will take all appropriate steps to follow through on the findings of the investigation," Briggs now says.

Whatever occurred, senior staff did not openly and honestly inform the Mayor of all the facts. They may well have communicated that a 'deal' had been struck, but the financial arrangement was hushed up. It was then, that Councillors Blake and Bonneau exploiting the opportunity to embarrass Val Schier, and undermine her and the role of Mayor.

It's blatantly obvious that the professional relationship between the Mayor, and her CEO and senior staff appears in tattles following undermining by the conservative Councillors Blake and Bonneau.

The breakdown appears beyond repair, and was evident by the way in which the CEO involved himself in Councillor Diane Forsyth's code of conduct inquiry. CairnsBlog will release tomorrow, a series of documents that were altered, with the full knowledge and instruction of Noel Briggs, in the hours before the Council meeting to decide on Cr Forsyth's fate two weeks ago.


Sars, Y2K, and terrorist threats, and now swines writing for newspapers

Roger Dickson should know better, after he crafted the worst front page headline of the year in yesterday's Cairns Post.

In a case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good [shocking] story, they use the word 'might' in a dramatic tabloid fashion to scare the shit out of mums in Manunda.

Using 'might' in any press story is always very questionable and very sloppy journalism, but to be used in the heading, is outrageous. Such words are kept in the bottom draw and pulled out when you don't have enough information or simply want to give the impression that something exists.

Using language like this, aims to strike fear in the population, like Sars, Y2K, and terrorist threats, the Old Media have a lot to answer for.

We might have a cyclone next week. Cairns might get answers about the cash for comments. I might subscribe to the Cairns Post (mighty unlikely). We might get a better local newspaper under Andrew Webster. We might win against the Kiwis next season (very unlikely). We might de-amalgamate from Douglas. We might get Kevin Byrne back as Mayor.

The swines at the Post have concocted and stretched this Swine story so far, in an attempt to connect Cairns with the recent outbreak of Swine Flu - that's known to infect NewsLtd reporters. They try to convince us that this Mexican-originated disease in probably arriving in Cairns on the next tilt train.

"Suspected cases in Cairns - State readies for pandemic - Chemists caught in rush," the Post screams, alongside a photo aimed to inject panic.

So if the good old trusty Post is onto something here, we 'might' have a 'pandemic' on our doorstep...
  • pan⋅dem⋅ic 
     /pænˈdɛmɪk/ Pronunciation [pan-dem-ik]
    1. (of a disease) prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area.
    2. general; universal: pandemic fear of atomic war.
    3. a pandemic disease.
I've attached the official press release from Queensland Health (below), and you will see were the direct quotes were taken, and subsequently twisted.

I very much doubt that any one-on-one interview was undertaken with anyone in Brisbane. It was mostly lifted from the media release. The story was hastily-written, based solely on the following quote:
  • "Since then we have had reports of a further 12 cases across the state from Cairns to the Gold Coast, including two at Brisbane Airport, and await results of testing."

What was meant by Queensland Health's Dr Young, was that we've got suspected cases all across the State, but not actually meaning there were definite suspected cases in Cairns or the Gold Coast. There is just a way of describing from one end of Queensland to the other, trying to get across the scope of our large geographic area. Can Roger at the Post read and understand basic syntax?

But that didn't stop the Post getting excited when Cairns was mentioned in the release. Oh no. The second paragraph sums up that it really, which was a long shot for our local rag, tying in with the 'MIGHT BE' scary front page headline...

  • Tests for deadly swine flu are being conducted in Cairns after the State Government confirmed there are suspected cases in the Far North.
    But Queensland Health would not say how many people were affected, where they had travelled from, nor where they now resided in the region.
Well the reason Queensland Health would not confirm anything off a sort with the Cairns Post, is because there was nothing to report.

  • More cases of potential swine flu have been reported in Queensland, but so far the state and the nation remain free of the disease, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said.

    “Yesterday we had four possible cases, one at the Gold Coast and three in Brisbane, and all were cleared by tests,” she said. “Since then we have had reports of a further 12 cases across the state from Cairns to the Gold Coast, including two at Brisbane Airport.
Please don't rely on the Cairns Post for your health advice, log onto a real source of information.

Quick website slow to come

LNP strategist, Dennis Quick, who was mayoral assistant to Kevin Byrne (sorry, but he's going to have that title for life), plans to re-launch his dormant CairnsWatch website and blog soon.

It has been down over the last few months, whilst Dennis was co-ordinating the LNP election office.

"The re-launched website will be re-branded as Northern Watch," says Dennis. "We will broaden our focus on issues around the whole region."

The new name is rather similar to the popular right-wing Northern-Truth blog, written by outspoken Lance Royce, who was ostracised by the local LNP last year.

I can't wait. ;-)

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Racist former MPs husband guilty

Back in November 2007, I published the terribly racist leaflet that former federal MP Jackie Kelly husband was involved in with a smear campaign.
He has now been found guilty of distributing the dodgy leaflets, in the days before the November 2007 Federal election.
Kelly's husband, Gary Clark, who was then MP for Lindsay, along with a Liberal Party official Jeff Egan, were also charged along with four others for circulating the leaflet.

Egan was ousted from the Liberal Party after the leaflet controversy, however was permitted to return early last year, but resigned a month later.

Something borrowed...

The inaugural Cairns Blues Festival is on this Sunday.

Buy online via ticketlink at $60 each (under 12 free with adult) or at the entrance at Fogarty Park, The Esplanade.

It all kicks off at 11am, but the gate will be open an hour earlier.

Besides the artists and music, there will family stuff like a Kidz zone. The American Car and Motorcycle restorers will be on display, and there'll be plenty of food and market.


2PM - JESSE DEANE FREEMAN (solo with gitar)
3:30 - 8 BALL AITKEN
5:10 - JESSE DEANE FREEMAN (Keyboards with band)

The Goose that layed the Golden egg is dead

Rob Williams, president of the Cairns Tropic Jazz Club, is a passionate advocate of saving our local heritage.

Following Councillor Alan Blake's justification for a tourism levy in Cairns, Williams says in a letter to the Cairns Post, that the Golden egg is dead, after years our destroying of CBD and it's once buoyant nightlife.

Alan Hudson (former Editor and now Letters interceptor) wrote back to Rob Williams: "We ask that letters be a maximum of about 150 words (see letters page footnote every day), Hudson says. "Your letter is more than twice that length. We’d be happy to consider it for publication if resubmitted in much shorter form. And it would be processed more readily."

"Well I thought about that Alan, but there is no way I can condense this into 150 words and still maintain the integrity of the piece," Rob Williams replied. "I will just have to be satisfied with it going on CairnsBlog! The bottom line is, that it matters not anyway. As Clive Skarrott of the Port Authority said, 'we'll all be dead in 20 years', or Desley Boyle said, 'the waterfront was only a mixture of old tin sheds'," Rob Williams says.

"Former Minister of Lands Russ Hinze, who died before they could convict him for taking a bribe to build the Hilton. The people of Cairns that pioneered the place up until 1980, have retracted to the suburbs, moved to the Tablelands, or gone South. Alan Hudson, you would know the score."

"It's Developers, 10. Cairns residents, Nil," Rob says.

[Footnote: Cr Alan Blake's letter is 213 words long]

    (Weekend Cairns Post 25th April 2009 )

  • Well, rally on Alan Blake, you will be doing it without me.

    My family and I emigrated to Cairns in 1978 and have watched as the Government and Councils of the day, have systematically destroyed the very things that attracted me to this place we call Cairns.

    I wasn’t the only one to want to make my home Cairns or Port Douglas either; there are thousands of us who stayed. Bit by bit, the Cairns Port Authority and the Council allowed privileged insider developers to take away the waterfront and our views of Trinity Inlet. Alan, you live in one of the very highrise apartments that obstruct and separate the people from the waterfront.

    Our visitors used to see us go to Upolu Cay in our boat, and swim in the crystal clear waters. Millions of tourists have effectively put an end to that. The Pier, Harbour Lights (or Blights as we call it), the Hilton and soon, another set of high rises effectively wall off the inlet from us, the people and residents of Cairns. Gone are the attractions that brought tourists and new residents here.

    Around 20 entertainment venues have been closed down because high rise development occupiers who incessantly complain about the noise of people having fun, and enjoying the tropical nightlife. But men like the Chairman of Cairns Ports said, "who cares, we will all be dead in 20 years!"

    The pristine rainforest has been savaged by developers such as those at False Cape, with no response or policing from your Council that you have served on for all the period of that horrible scare every tourist sees from the Esplanade. Green Island floats on a sewerage swamp with Fitzroy close behind. They are no longer visions of untouched wilderness.

    The Labor Party sold its soul to the greenies and now have to pay their dues by closing down recreational fishing areas. Other countries have managed their natural resources, but not here. The ratepayers of our region have paid dearly for the moguls promoting tourism and building high rise monoliths over the heritage that once existed here. Caravan Parks are slugged with rates and they are now a dying breed as 6 have vanished, or been sold off by your Council.

    I recall my rates were $500 and also had to pay for the sewerage to be connected. I always maintained tourists should pay for the water and sewerage they use, probably by a $10 a night bed tax. Why should they be freeloading on us, we were here before them?

    Hey Alan, probably 80,000 Cairns residents still hold a country town attitude and they want to keep it that way? Where you people went abysmally wrong was when you didn’t ask us what we wanted.

    It's all about you isn’t it? Desley Boyle once said to me, when I pleaded with her not to destroy our heritage Yacht Club building, that she and I didn’t see through the same eyes. She wanted to see Cairns as a replica of the Gold Coast, whilst more than a hundred thousand of us resisted it.

    The Goose that laid the Golden Eggs is dead Alan. You need to accept that.

    Tourists don’t want to leave the Gold Coast and other places like it to go to another place that looks the same. People who live in other centres will go to the Gold Coast, Sydney and Brisbane because that’s where all the artificial attractions have been built.

    So where are travellers going? They're going West. At least out there one can see places that reflect the real Queensland.

    Rally on Alan, and as you streak ahead this time, look back, don’t expect us to pay for it because you won’t see any of us following.

    Rob Williams

Cut that out

UK actress Keira Knightley stars in this shocking domestic violence advertisement, that has been banned as it's too violent.
We see loads of shocking violence and explicit USA crime dramas on TV, but important community service adverts like this are blocked.
It's two minutes long and was made for TV and cinema, for the charity Women's Aid. Joe Wright, who worked with Knightley on Atonement, directed this piece.
Hat Tip: Frog Blog

Bugger off

A day after 55-year-old Susan Daniel of Mareeba was killed while cycling, the Cairns Bicycle Users Group starting installing signs around the region without the permission of either Main Roads or Cairns Regional Council.

"They're to highlight dangerous areas around our roads," says Renee Leeds of CBUG, who expresses are degree of anger about how cyclists are treated on our roads.

"We're doing this out of frustration, and have been asking Council and Main Roads for 10 years to sign areas that are dangerous to cyclists."

CBUG are targeting bridges, roundabouts and areas where there is a dangerous compromise for cyclists.

"It's also just on three months since Cairns Base Hospital doctor was killed whilst navigating the Trinity Beach Roundabout.

That warning sign - alerting motorists to cyclists, is too little, too late," Leeds says. "There should be a sign well in advance of the roundabout at Trinity Beach. Once cars are in the roundabout, it's too late."

Richie Bates of the Cairns Cycling Club understands the frustration of CBUG.

"Anything that raises awareness of safety for cyclists, I strongly support," Bates says. "Cyclists are always in a danger zone and many motorists treat our two-wheeled friends with disrespect. We all have a right to use the roads and there needs to be a far greater understanding of cyclists' needs," Bates says.

CBUG have been told that Main Roads will remove their safety warning signs, as they breach the rules of what is allowed on public roads. However, CBUG have accused Main Roads of taking little preventative action, after years of campaigning by local cyclists.

Councillor Kirsten Lesina, who chairs the Pedestrian and Cycle Safety Focus group, is supportive of the community activist campaign.

"It's good to see people passionate about this issue, that will have an effect to save people's lives," Lesina said. "I'm aware that they have been asking Main Roads for action for some time."

CBUG cites the hypocrisy as Main Roads pay lip service to consistent cycle ways, which should be at least 1.5 mt wide on 60k areas, and 2 mt wide on roads with an 80k and above speed zone.

It will be interesting to see how many of these new safety awareness signs remain, as they are targeted around accident-prone sites and areas that have very narrow passing places for cyclists.

"We have strict rules about memorials and their placement," a Main Roads spokesperson said.

CBUG will also launch a shock programme called 'Ghost Bikes' - the cycle equivalent to white crosses that make the spot of a road vehicle death.

"Painted white cycles will be placed where a cyclist has been killed on our roads," Renee Leeds says.

The first one will be installed on the Trinity Beach roundabout, the scene of the cyclist fatality in early February.

"We have talked to the family of the victim, and they are happy with this action," Leeds says.

"We need to put pressure on Main Roads and Cairns Council so that they put proper warning signs on our roads."

Cairns Post catches Swine flu

The Cairns Post made an astounding revelation in their follow-up story today, about the dodgy deal between Cairns Regional Council and Radio 4CA...
  • "Media Watch and have also reported on the issue," writes Thomas Chamberlin.
What about your own true blue local CairnsBlog, Cairns Post? Surely you could make mention of the other local media that has covered this toroid tale in such a substantial way? Or does CairnsBlog bother you folk? Get under your page 3 girl skin? Maybe that's why the last four online comments to Cairns dot com dot au from myself, have never made it onto your free and open press, perchance?

It wasn't what Courier-Mail executive editor Neil Melloy said on my ABC panel discussion last Friday. "We allow anyone to comment online on our stories, nothing is vetted," Melloy exclaimed. Yeah, right.

Anytime I reference a story from our local noospaper, I always credit and link it. Surely common courtesy should extend the other way.

Now I searched Crikey this morning, and couldn't find said article Mr Chamberlin refers to (can anyone?), however maybe he should have a look at the story about...
  • 'Murdoch's News Corp looks set to join the club of under-performing media giants. The company is due to report third quarter results on May 6 and could produce a 45% slump in net earnings...

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Henry at FosnezBlog just delivered me some shocking news. The world's longest running show, The Simpsons are going from Channel TEN.
It's the only remaining quality programme TEN had on offer, and the only thing worth switching on to avoid the so-called news on the other commercial networks at the same time.
The funny thing is that the network wants to grab some of the market share of the local news audience, by extending their bulletin at 5pm to 90 minutes long. More lifestyle and home decorating tips?
TEN pays $25,000 to screen each episode of the 20-year running social satire, so this would save $6 million a year.
Ay Caramba!

Cairns teenager charged over abortion

Dr Carole Ford of the Cairns Women’s Network is appalled that a young Cairns woman is facing charges under an antiquated Queensland law of the Criminal Code, for procuring an abortion.

She has been charged under section 225, which carries the possibility of 14 years imprisonment.

Dr Ford says that laws restricting abortion have a lengthy history.

“Yes they were first introduced before women were even recognised in law as competent adults. They no longer accurately represent the views of the electorate, with two-thirds of Australians supporting the decriminalisation of abortion”.

However, decriminalisation is in line with the current Labor Party policy, but despite forming the Government, they are reluctant to address the issue.

In Queensland, abortion is a crime under the Queensland Act, although generally regarded as lawful if performed to prevent serious danger to the woman’s physical or mental health. Abortion is defined as unlawful in the 1899 Queensland Criminal Code. Women can be criminally prosecuted for accessing abortion:
  • Section 224. Any person who, with intent to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.

  • Section 225. Any woman who, with intent to procure her own miscarriage, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, or permits any such thing or means to be administered or used to her, is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment for 7 years.

  • Section 226. Any person who unlawfully supplies to or procures for any person anything whatever, knowing that it is intended to be unlawfully used to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for 3 years.
“It seems an aggressive minority has managed to stifle debate and preclude change in Queensland," Dr Ford says. "Elected Members of Parliament are entitled to their personal viewpoint, but are entrusted with representing the beliefs and interests of their constituents. For many MPs, this is clearly not the case”.

The Cairns Women’s Network supports the right for women, including the Cairns teenager, to have reproductive autonomy and calls on the Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw the charges as they are not in the public interest.

Carole Ford urges the Attorney General to refer the issue of abortion to the Law Reform Commission, with a view to removing it from criminal law.

“The decisions a woman may make about terminating a pregnancy, for whatever reason, should be resolved in the surgery, not the court room. I encourage all members of the community who share our concern to take positive action to create legislative reform”.
  • On May 4th, people wearing purple and carrying purple balloons will join the May Day march, to demonstrate their support for the Cairns teenager and to petition for the decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland.

Popcorn in the back row

Queensland’s Tropical Alternatives Queer film festival is back on again this week.

There's a range of films on from this Thursday through Saturday evening, all screened at Jute Theatre in Abbott Street.

Films were selected from the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and are part of a travelling festival including Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Hervey Bay, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and Gold Coast.

"Films can fill us with hope, courage and strength to stand up and live life to the full, and the program is as diverse in selection as our community itself," says Molly, one of the local organisers.

Tickets are available online at $12 each, $20 for a Day Pass (2 movies) or $50 for a season pass (all movies over 3 days).

This year’s film festival will also feature a State-wide raffle for a luxury holiday to PNG, donated by the festival’s sponsor, Airlines PNG.

QAHC is also supporting the event as 10% of profits supporting HIV work in PNG and local health prevention work in Cairns.

Councillor Diane Forsyth and the Out Loud Choir will close the festival at 9pm on Saturday evening.

Thursday April 30th:
6.30pm .......... Girls’ Shorts
8.00pm .......... Intermission
9.00pm .......... ‘I Can’t Think Straight’

Friday May 1st
6.30pm .......... Boys’ Shorts
8.00pm .......... Intermission
9.00pm .......... ‘Ciao’

Saturday May 2nd
4.00pm .......... Movie ‘Out Late’
5.30pm .......... Devonshire Tea
6.30pm .......... Oz Shorts
8.00pm .......... Intermission
9.00pm .......... Movie ‘Were The World Mine’

The Police are in the right

Just weeks after reinstating the 'Keep left unless you're overtaking' rule on the Northern Beaches Captain Cook Highway, it seems many still haven't got it.

It's been a subject on CairnsBlog I've raised previously, and is the cause of much angst for road users that are forced into passing on the left had side, while some sod is trailing along listening to Macca's talk back and using his mobile telephone.

Late this afternoon, Police Constable 109 KOT, was doing the same thing, but with added speed. As he crossed the 80k zone on the Barron River Bridge, he topped 103k. Then north of the Holloways roundabout, reached 121km, all in the right hand lane. There was no siren on board indicating he was off to a heist in progress at the Smithfield Deli.

Ignoring the elephant

This morning's 4CA talkback show, hosted by a veteran of 25 years on local radio, is noticeable by what the show's host, John Mackenzie, is not saying.
Station Manager Steve Hirst, who has pulled Mackenzie in line previously for his on-air triads of aboriginals, has probably put a gag over Mackenzie talking about the subject, now the focus of a formal investigation, that could lead to the station loosing its licence or receiving a hefty fine.
Macca's mum about last evening's ABC Media Watch report, which highlighted an investigation launched on Friday by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, over the arrangement between 4CA Radio and Cairns Regional Council. Council's Corporate Communications Manager Kerie Hull, did the deal in secret without informing the Mayor as the main guest.
What naivety such highly-paid officials must have, when they are encouraged to load the gun and then become collateral damage in this circus we call a Council. They're either totally incompetent or strategically wanted to plot to embarrass that Mayor. Councillor Sno Bonneau, who asked the question at last week's full Council meeting about the deal, was obviously fully aware of the arrangement, along with Cr Alan Blake, and should also be exposed about what they knew.
The Council investigation underway to find out what was agreed and by whom, and why the Mayor was never informed of the financial arrangement will uncover a few rats. However, as one CairnsBlog contributor said yesterday, having CEO Noel Briggs in charge of this investigation, is a bit like putting Nixon in charge of the Watergate inquiry.
The mitigating point in all this, as I've highlighted previously, is that John Mackenzie seems to believe that having politicians and elected Councillors on his show is 'advertising'.
Advertisements broadcast must not be presented as news programs or other programs, according to the Read the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice, clause 3.1.
"Ah, the nostalgia! It's as if the whole Cash for Comment scandal never happened," presenter Jonathan Holmes said. "Believe it or not, Macca, most commercial radio stations - and TV shows come to that - give air time to elected politicians without expecting to be paid for it."
"So if the Mayor's interviews were paid for, the station should have told its listeners so, and it never did," Holmes says. "But Macca's attitude reminds me irresistibly of Lawsie in his prime."
Mayor Schier should not have any confidence for her CEO to undertake an internal investigation. As former Kevin Byrne executive assistant, Dennis Quick has called for, a totally independent inquiry should be the only way forward for uncovering this fiasco.
The resignation of the CEO, should now be a serious consideration for the Mayor, who appears to have lost his total trust.

A load of rubbish

It's been alleged that a large number of Cairns Council recycling trucks, are simply emptying their load, collected from the city's 80,000 yellow recycling bins, into the Bedminster rubbish tip, without any recycling being undertaken.

A reader sent this photo in yesterday, that he snapped on Comport Road around 11:30am.
"There were at least 5 or 6 Council recycling trucks lining up at the waste dock," Paul Taylor said. "You can see one of the trucks still there, just after emptying his load."
It appears, that all the recycling and sorting that local residents do, separating their paper, plastics and bottles, is of little avail, as most of it is going down the same chute as general waste. However, Council still advise local recycle collection dates, and recyclables can be dropped off free of charge.
I've put a question into Council, and will await their response today.
Cairns Council was very late to offer any form recycling, after most local authorises around the country had been doing it for years.
The subject was raised on yesterday's 4CA morning talkback, with one caller saying he has seen this practice happening over several weeks.

Monday, 27 April 2009

What John said to Val

Here's the full transcript of Friday morning's interaction with Cairns Mayor Val Schier on John Mackenzie's 4CA radio show.

ABC Media Watch to investigate Council

ABC's media watchdog programme MediaWatch, will screen a special investigation tonight at 9:20pm, about Cairns Regional Council's financial deal with 4CA.

Dig out the Tim Tams and sit in for a real hoot, as John McKenzie and the CEO are put under the microscope.

Statement from Cairns Regional Council CEO Noel Briggs

This statement, has just been released from Council's CEO, following the turmoil surrounding last Thursday's revelation about a secret undisclosed financial contract between the Cairns Regional Council and radio station 4CA 846am.

The Corporate Communications Manager, Kerie Hull was told to "not attend work" and leave the office on Thursday afternoon. However she was back at the Council office this morning, after being called back in "to discuss some urgent matters with the CEO".

At the heart of the drama, is the fact that the Mayor was never informed of any arrangement, as I showed in a series of emails and declaration from those involved. Both Councillors Alan Blake and Sno Bonneau were aware at least two weeks ago that there was a financial deal in place, and wanted to expose this fact to embarrass the Mayor. However this strategy has appeared to have backfired.

Kerie Hull has engaged a local prominent lawyer and says she will defend her decision about what happened. It's expected she will say that she was instructed to 'get the mayor on air' and 'make it happen' and she may have interpreted this as paying for the arrangement. That may be well in good, however the fact that this was never disclosed to the Mayor, is a grave mis-judgement by such a senior Council employee like Ms Hull.

It will also be the undoing of the CEO, who says this arrangement was agreed with the full knowledge for paid airtime. By any judgement, this is an unethical use of ratepayer funds. It was also not disclosed on the radio show.

If this was made known to the Mayor, she would have never agreed to proceed, and asked on Thursday that any contract be revoked and any payment be stopped.

This arrangement, as the CEO tries to justify in today's statement, is all about an arrangement that was down to allow Councillors and the Mayor to talk on radio. His admission that a payment was guaranteed in return for airtime, is extremely inappropriate. Whilst few would have problem with a Council paying for legitimate advertising, this deal is nothing about advertising and it stints.

Media officer Sonja Anderson says that the CEO will not make further comment or grant interviews about this.

  • Statement from Cairns Regional Council CEO Noel Briggs

    An investigation is presently being conducted into various internal issues associated with the commercial arrangement agreed between Cairns Regional Council and 4CA.

    ▪ The CEO has reviewed the commercial arrangement made in February 2009 that allows the Mayor and other Councillors to communicate openly with the Cairns regional community.

    ▪ This is one of a number of methods utilised by CRC in an endeavour to communicate regularly and openly with the community.

    ▪ The arrangement includes a commitment between Radio 4CA and CRC to have the Mayor (and on occasions other Councillors) appear weekly on air for a one hour talkback Q & A session on issues that affect the community.

    ▪ As part of the arrangement, CRC has agreed to pay 4CA $250 for each one hour programme.

    ▪ The internal investigation is ongoing and it is inappropriate to comment further at this stage.

    Chief Executive Officer


Why they’re wild about wild rivers

My posting earlier this month about the impact of Labor's sneaky post-election Wild Rivers protection legislation, that will prevent any activity on or near the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart River basins on Cape York, generated substantial comments from readers, on both sides of the debate.

These magnificent rivers are the lifeblood for the Cape's communities and a huge diversity of wildlife, however conservation leadership in The Wilderness Society, reacted angrily to the discussion, and often did not answer the objectors questions.

They said they would respond to the article with factual content about the legislation. They didn’t. They say that Noel Pearson does not represent tradional owners across Cape York Peninsula. Well he may not represent all the various groups and owners, but he does comand a great deal of folloowing for many thoughsands of indegenous on Cape York.

So, in the vacant absence of the Wilderness Society, here's a reposnce from Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation.

Since the drafting of the Wild Rivers Act, The Cape York Land Council, Cape York Institute and Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, have all lobbied the Queensland Government to amend the legislation as well as to provide thorough and informed consultations with traditional owners on Cape York. The indigenous organisations have provided ongoing correspondence to the Government raising the issues traditional owners have with the legislation.

The Indigenous organisations understand that the traditional owners of Cape York Peninsula share many of the same concerns as conservation groups regarding the protection of the land and its waterways. They do not want to see waterways dammed, diverted or excessive irrigation. They don’t share the reckless mentality towards the environment that has allowed river systems in other parts of Australia to be destroyed. But Indigenous people want a river protection scheme which recognises their needs and aspirations, where they are included in the decision making process, rather than excluded.

Cape York leadership has made it clear that Cape York Aboriginal land is not for the Premier to give away as a gift to the conservation movement.

The following provides an outline of some of the issues with the recent declarations of the rivers within the Archer, Stewart and Lockhart River Basins.

Here's the issues:
  1. The Declarations are a breach of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and deny the protection of rights to land and resources, self-determination and cultural recognition.

  2. Wild Rivers does not respect Indigenous Peoples rights and abilities to manage their lands;

  3. Government took little notice of the submissions made by Indigenous People in November 2008 and has not provided any formal response.

  4. A “consultation period” of four months is not sufficient time for indigenous landholders to properly consider the implications of 13 Wild Rivers. Government refused to grant an extension of time in which to provide submissions.

  5. Government ignored the requests of Indigenous people to meet with Government to seek to resolve their issues before the declarations were made.

  6. Government appears more concerned about meeting election commitments to the Greens rather than the welfare of indigenous people. Government was not impartial and gave greater weight to the views of conservationists who don’t live on Cape York.

  7. There was no need to rush the declarations, the rivers are not under threat.

  8. Government has refused to discuss resourcing for the proper management of the rivers (such as rangers)

  9. Government is seeking to declare the vast majority of Cape York as a “preservation area”. This will lead to a future ramping up of restrictions.

  10. Cape York people have given Queensland many major national parks. The Government wants to implement conservation regimes like Wild Rivers, World Heritage, Nature Refuges etc with little consideration of the cumulative economic and social impacts nor the regulatory complexity

  11. Wild Rivers places unreasonable restrictions and bans on economic opportunities including animal husbandry, agriculture and aquaculture in “high preservation zones”. There have been no studies of the possible economic impacts.

  12. Government declared High Preservation Areas on Indigenous Lands without prior advice to the landholders and without consultation with landholders.

  13. The burden of Wild Rivers falls much heavier on Indigenous land holders than non-Indigenous landholders. Most Cape York non indigenous landholders hold limited purpose leases such as for cattle grazing

  14. The declarations of Wild Rivers over significant areas of Aboriginal lands breaches previous agreements made by Government including the Cape York Heads of Agreement signed by Premier Beattie, ATSIC, CYLC, The Wilderness Society the Cattlemen’s Union of Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

  15. It appears that Government has held back the announcement on the Wild Rivers declarations until after the recent State election, thus denying Cape York indigenous people the opportunity to vote on the declarations;

  16. Indigenous people regard the use of the term “wild” as insulting; it infers that the land is uninhabited and “terra nullius”. The Government has treated indigenous people as if the land is “terra nullius”.

  17. Government has not been talking straight. For example, the declarations of the Stewart, Archer and Lockhart basins were thirteen Wild Rivers rather than three.

  18. Government has assessed the Wild Rivers at the basin scale, rather than each proposed “Wild River”.

  19. Government has nominated and declared the Wild Rivers without properly setting out its reasons and is implementing the Wild Rivers Act without an independent scientifically based process of assessment.

  20. Indigenous people have been denied assistance to access reasonable independent expert scientific advice to consider the nominations.

  21. Government has unnecessarily declared High Preservation Areas to the maximum allowable distance of 1km with little scientific basis and without giving regard to the impacts on indigenous peoples aspirations.

  22. The Wild Rivers Act does not recognize or respect the cultural values of Indigenous people including recognition of sacred places in the declared river basins.

  23. The Wild Rivers Act is silent on the real threats to the rivers such as feral animals and noxious weeds.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Open wide

It's about time for some niceness.

Following Cairns Regional Council's vote to include 'new media', I thought it only proper to thank those who made it all happen: our Councillors!

Last thing on Friday, whilst they were studiously beavering away in the third floor meeting room, writing next year's budget, I dropped off a bundle of presents to Krystyn, the Mayor's secretary.
I gave each Councillor, included the CEO and Media Office, a nice air freshener, to hang in their office or car.
"Thank you for your support to welcome in 'new media' including independents and bloggers," I wrote in the accompanying card. "You'll be ushering in a breath of fresh air."
Already Councillors Nancy Lanskey (try saying that backwards at three in the morning outside Sapphire!), and Linda Cooper have responded.
"Thank you very much for the gift," Linda said. "I see you have taken a lot of time to find me a card with lovely shoes and bags on it. When I first saw the present you must have thought that I smelt, but then I saw your card!"
I gave a extra gift to Councillors Cochrane, Bonneau and Gregory, who did not vote to open up Council media to the new breed of un-ethical, dodgy, low-down press scum. I thought long and hard, how to recognise their unique contribution to the democratic process.
I purchased them all a nice ceramic bowl with a citronella candle, complete with a box of matches.
"This will keep away those nasty bitie pests," I wrote as a postscript.

The Sun shines out of her...

The poor cousin of NewsLTD's Cairns Post, the Cairns Sun, this week picked up the mantle of bums and tits.

After a two week void of a page three girl in the Post, the Sun stepped in to fill the void of below average journalism. Such 'stories' are always vague and empty, and are accompanied by a large sized provocative photograph.

The letters to the Editor in the Sun are always a delight to read. Every one is infamously, yet carefully crafted, from standard issue media releases. They read like a well-oiled party political broadcast. I wonder if the Council pay for them?

Oh, we can always depend on NewsLTD (and the Cairns Roast), to give us a regular feed of graphical smut, in lieu of any community news, like there's not enough stories to tell.

Stop chopping down the trees

Sensis, the Telstra company behind the production of a gazillion telephone books for over 80 years, seem to be operating in a pre-1970 environment.
This weekend, they've employed a raft of community soldiers all over Cairns, including Gordonvale, Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation, delivering the 1,300 page directory.
This year, local artist Ludij Peden is featured on the cover, outside the Cairns Regional Art Gallery. I'm sure I can see Councillor Alan Blake peering over the balcony behind, after been locked in from the function the night before.
Well, I for one don't want this huge waste of paper stuffed in my letterbox. I didn't ask for it, nor was I asked if I wanted it.
I mean, they have my number, although it's unlisted, thanks to Kevin Bryne ;-) So why didn't they ask if I'd like one of these monumental doorstops delivered?
I have not used a telephone book for over ten years, as I prefer to use a thing called the Internets (with apologies to GWB). I fail to understand why, in this so-called paper-less world we're trying to create, that one of the worst offenders, is the biggest provider of digital services! That doesn't make sense.
They have the cheek have a full page advert for Greening Australia, on the inside back cover. Oh, the irony.
How difficult would it for those that really really want one of these paper versions, and I dare say some still do, to register or tic a box on your telephone bill, a few months prior from the annual production?
It's simply senseless Sensis.

Dip in the cascades

Had a nice swim this afternoon up at Crystal Cascades.
There was hardly a soul around, probably all at DFO, in a post-stimulus frenzy.
The Cascades are truly a real gem of our region, tucked away from the maddening crowd, yet only a few minutes from touristville. If you walk as far as the walkway takes you, and scale down the side where the signs say not to, you'll likely to have the largest freshwater shower all to yourself.
I took my mentee, whose family arrived in Cairns from Malawi last year. He's participating in the Cairns Youth Mentoring programme, along with his two sisters, a great way to meet locals and develop his Engrish.

The House of Rudd's Secrets

Just as the Rudd Government announces a $100 billion speeding spree on the military, a recently produced Al Jazeera documentary takes a look at the covert spy base near Alice Springs.
The doco gives an excellent overview about the kind of non-violent direct action that CairnsBlog columnist and Cairns community activist Bryan Law promotes to highlight important issues and impact change. It reviews the events surrounding the the illegal entry by four peace activists who conducted a 2005 citizens’ inspection of the US-run Pine Gap defence facility near Alice Springs, a top-secret military compound in central Northern Territory.

Pine Gap is perhaps the single biggest contribution that Australia makes to our war-fighting machine. The second being the 'interoperability' and treaty network we have with the USA, which allows Australian forces to be integrated with US forces anywhere in the world. And for the record, the third biggest is the support for training and exercises of US troops in Australia.

The Government has just passed new security legislation, closing loopholes that allowed Bryan Law and others to effectively escapes jail term after them entry into Pine Gap. The new law, that re-zones the Alice Springs facility as a protected area, 'necessary for Australia's defence', simply attempts to stifle public debate over the facility

Protesters will now face lengthy jail terms if they breach the base's perimeter fence.

Bryan Law had his conviction overturned last year, after appeal, however the four protesters say that the new laws should have been discussed in an open forum.

"What we have here at Pine Gap is a foreign base on Australian soil undertaking activity that our members of Parliament aren't allowed to know about," Law says.

Donna Mulhearn, who joined Law and tow others in the action, says that this should be open for discussion, not closed down, and the fact that has gone through in secret is "extremely disturbing."

"The Federal Government is following US interests by strengthening trespass penalties and people should be concerned about the new laws. That ordinary protesters who want to voice their opinions about Pine Gap, which is something they have right to do, should be facing seven years in prison under this draconian legislation, it is something we should be all concerned about," Mulhearn told the ABC.

Shoalwater Bay will be the scene of the next Non-Violent Direct Action in July, during Operation Talisman-Sabre.

The 20 minute doco - in two parts - show the four untrained activists breaking into Australia's 'most secure' base, in December 2005. Calling themselves 'Christians against all terrorism' they broke in, and alleged that the facility is a spy base pinpointing targets in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We felt morally obliged to stop what we saw as Australia's secret cooperation in the war," Bryan Law says.

Bryan is a veteran protester - not serial, as the Cairns Post likes to slander - to uses non-violent civil disobedience to highlight injustice that affect the community. He campaigned hard against Queensland's Labor government demolishing the historic Cairns Yacht Club building, and will face court next week for defacing Cairns MP Desley Boyle's election signs. Bryan has previously written for CairnsBlog about the colourful history of local politics in Cairns.

"Who knows? We may organise a further test of democracy and security at Pine Gap for 2010, Bryan says.
Does Desley Boyle really want to get into a legal battle with Bryan Law? See what happened when Philip Ruddock had a go.

Postcard from Tokyo

"I live and work in Tokyo, but like to keep up to date with news from Cairns," writes Henry Greenhill, a former Cairns local, residing in Tokyo.

"I enjoyed your Blog. I thought you might enjoy this video to share."

Saturday, 25 April 2009

What John said to Val

Here's the opening dialogue with 4CA AM's John Mackenzie and Cairns Regional Mayor Val Schier, on Friday morning.

Mackenzie asked the Mayor about the 4CA arrangement and said that there has always been a commercial arrangement between radio stations and Council. Schier said she needs to be made aware of whatever arrangements may have been struck, and she wasn't, which was a cause of serious concern. They argued over the reasons why she has not been able to appear on his show until recently.

  • JOHN MACKENZIE: Just all this kerfuffle in the media the last couple of days, just a couple of points, Val, I'd like to make on this, I saw you say, oh well, we mustn't have any money going to that radio station.
    I've got to say, and I understand Noel Briggs agreed with this yesterday, historically there has always been a commercial arrangement between the radio station and the council. Councils everywhere have an advertising budget, and if indeed that advertising budget, or if you like, if there is no arrangement between this radio station and the council as far as that advertising budget's concerned, these sort of things don't become available. So there's always been a history of commercial dealing between the council and the radio station.
    So when I heard you say yesterday, oh, not one more dollar must go to that radio station, obviously it wouldn't bode well for the future of the relationship between us and the council, if indeed we weren't going to be discussing, our sales department wasn't going to be negotiating advertising in the future.

    VAL SCHIER: Look, John, this is all about really being transparent and being open, and as you'll be aware, I have wanted to come on this radio station, and we've been talking about it for a while, but certainly, I need to be made aware of whatever arrangements may have been struck, and I hadn't been, and so that was obviously a cause of concern for me, and that's how we ended up on the front page of the paper, and of course that's the last thing we want to have happen.
    I mean I make myself available to speak to people, I speak every morning on Radio Port Douglas, I also speak with Lacho sort of once a fortnight, I go on the ABC, and so I try and make myself available as much as I possibly can, because I know the people want to listen to me.
    And one of the things people have been saying over the past year is, how come you won't go on Macca's show, and I say, well, I haven't been able to do that.

    JOHN MACKENZIE: No, no, no, the reality was, the arrangements were made straight after you won the election, I remember clearly, you standing up on the first Wednesday after the Saturday, and you said, “I can't commit to this program, I've got an agreement with Port Douglas Radio”. After that...

    VAL SCHIER: Oh no, wait a minute, wait a minute, John, hey, hold on...

    JOHN MACKENZIE: That's exactly what you said, Val.

    VAL SCHIER: Well, you must have misunderstood that, John...

    JOHN MACKENZIE: Well how do you misunderstand that, I can't commit to this spot on Wednesdays, because I've made an arrangement with Port Douglas Radio? How else would you read that?

    VAL SCHIER: Well I don't know, John, I would have to go back - there's no way in this world -at that stage I hadn't even been sworn in, at that stage, I had no idea what my commitments were, I think there was a subsequent Wednesday as it was at the time, when I was in Brisbane, so it was just something that we needed to organise...

    JOHN MACKENZIE: Well we drew up a roster, and it all fell apart, people just didn't turn up, and that's why it was discontinued, not because of any particular bias against you, we just couldn't get the consistency. Now the manager here has given me an assurance that there's been a guarantee from the council, that in future these appointments will be honoured, and that's why we're back together, doing this.

    VAL SCHIER: Well, and that's right, and there will be times that I'm not here, so I mean for instance...

    JOHN MACKENZIE: As long as we're told, that's fine.

    VAL SCHIER: that stage, certainly, I understood that was the impression, so there seems to have been a bit of a breakdown in communications then last year, because certainly there were a couple of Wednesdays I wasn't available, but other than that, I had been. But anyway, we just need to move forward...

    JOHN MACKENZIE: I just want to make another point to listeners too, this perception, oh well, you've got to provide time to the council free of charge. Look, certainly we do, but we also are a commercial operation, we are not a charity, so please, no more of this thing, oh, how dare there be any money going between council and the radio station. That happens with all councils, it happens with councils and television stations, councils and newspapers, and councils and commercial radio, there is nothing untoward about that.

    VAL SCHIER: No, but there certainly is also other media, I mean I know on the Sunrise program, they used to have Kevin Rudd and Joe Hockey on that, that wasn't a commercial arrangement. The reality is that certain television stations and radio stations do bring their - many, many of them actually bring their elected representatives on, because it's a community service, so there's a couple of ways of looking at this, and certainly we look - we've got an advertising budget, we look at where we spend it, and we have to decide whether this is good value or not, John, so...

    JOHN MACKENZIE: Exactly. If you were spending it with all the commercial competitors, for example, other radio stations of a commercial nature, other commercial TV stations or newspapers, and not with us, I don't think that, if you like, gesture, would be extended every Wednesday.

    VAL SCHIER: No, well, I mean that's what we need to think about, you know, where do I get best value for money, you know, how many listeners have you got out there, are they tuning in, is the switchboard lighting up out there when I come on, and are we genuinely doing something that's helping me to communicate? That's the decision that needs to be made, and so that's what I'm most interested in.

    JOHN MACKENZIE: All right, the point being, once again I want to reiterate, we are a commercial operation, and there is nothing the slightest bit untoward with commercial dealings with councils, it happens everywhere.

    VAL SCHIER: As long as it's transparent.

Don't quote me

  • "They are profiteering on the goodwill of others and are using Anzac Day as a day of remembrance to improve their bottom line."

    - Peter Turner, Cairns RSL president commenting on the Railway Hotel that will have a lingerie pageant on ANZAC Day.

    Give me a break Mr Turner. I'm sure it will improve the bottom line, actually ;-) Surely diggers would not really find this offensive, and why is such a show 'disrespectful' to the legacy of the ANZACs?

I didn't need to know that

Molly tipped me off about Paul Sadowski's fun applications. They're just right for a lazy weekend, and handy for Council officials that are reflecting about the past week.

Try out the birthday calculator...

You can also check out what your name means

The King is being deposed!

Gavin King's weekly tirade in today's Weekend Post will soon be all over, bar the shouting. And giggling.

Gavin is moving on from his role as the Post's Chief of Staff, and his popular opinion column. I suspect this may well be part on new Editor Andrew Webster's plan to make his on stamp on a paper widely criticised by the community it serves.
However, he won't be leaving town, contra to a number of unsubstantiated police reports, but will be writing for the Sunday Mail.
All the staff at CairnsBlog, our writers, photographers, even the tea lady Sally-Ann, wish Gavin the very best in his next career move. We're all just so delighted that we had the chance to share his puberty years with us.

Friday, 24 April 2009


Cairns Post trying to save face

This morning's patch up job in the Cairns Post, is lame and b-grade at best.
After yesterday's front page scandal exposed and indited the Mayor, the Post, like the Council, are all over the place trying to sort this mess out.

The Post have ignored uncovering the perpetrators behind this entire fiasco. Yesterday I produced a numbers of emails to show who orchestrated the whole affair, and how it unfolded. CairnsBlog attracted an additional 3,400 hits, over normal daily figures, as people clambered for the real story.

Yet the Post's coverage was deliberately skewed, carrying a provocative headline, and a large photo of the mayor, gluing the two together in the minds of the unsuspecting public. It wasn't until the last few sentences, and on the following page, that a small right of reply was aired from the Mayor, denying any knowledge of a financial deal with 4CA Radio. It is this, that should have been the headline:

Yesterday the Post claimed that CEO Noel Briggs "ordered an investigation." This was not the case at all. Yet, today's Post says the Mayor had ordered Council CEO Noel Briggs to investigate the matter.

They had the same 'leaked email' that I was privileged to view, and it clearly showed that the Mayor demanded Briggs investigate the whole torrid affair. An important and mitigating difference.

Val Schier campaigned on a platform of honesty, integrity and openness in decision-making and anyone who knows her and read the email audit trail knows that she would have gone no where near any financial deal to talk on McKenzie's radio show.

Yesterday's snipe, by an ill-informed editor (or his stand in) wrote:

  • "The cash for comment question that has surfaced at Cairns Regional Council is an issue that should never have arisen.

    Mayor Val Schier should have taken every opportunity presented to present her case to the community, and like it or not, talkback radio is a forum that was open to her.

    Instead the potential of having to pay for airtime is now going to give Cr Schier's opponents the chance to drive a gap between her leadership and the community."

What appalling, slanted and twisted shoddy journalism. The Post knew that a deal was done behind the Mayor's back, with some knowledge from the CEO and Council's Media Manager, who was told to leave the office indefinitely yesterday afternoon.

It is the Cairns Post, together with some selected Councillors and very senior staff, that are trying to drive a gap between Val's leadership and the community.


Other commentary

Councillors vote for open media access

By a majority of 8 to 3, Cairns Regional Council passed a resolution at the Finance and Administration committee on April 15th, to allow "new" independent media to have full and immediate access to all Council media.

This all started after I was blocked from Council media invitations, probably a result after my April Fool's joke.

I repeatedly asked Council's Media Communications Manager to 'kindly forward me all media releases', after which I was accused of 'threatening her'. Kerie Hull flat out refused my request, then told me that "any further communication should be sent to the CEO".

Noel Briggs' response was laughable. "Currently the News Call distribution list is applied to recognised news media agencies and journalists registered with the peak professional body – those recognised to operate within the professional code of ethics," Noel Briggs said.

The vote to agree open access to all Council media events, incensed the CEO, and made a mockery of media professional, Kerie Hull.

However, three Councillors strongly opposed the move. Deputy Mayor Cochrane, who is also my local Divisional Councillor, was horrified at the expected 'extra workload' from Bloggers and independent media wanting access and answers to questions. "I've had three extra calls today, you know," Margaret told me on the evening of the Council meeting.

Cr Paul Gregory cited similar concerns. "We need to also think about Facebook and Twitter," he said, in confusion. "Our department managers already have a full workload," Paul Gregory said.

However, the best was left to the last. Councillor Sno Bonneau, who, ironically has had a history in media and journalism, said that there were ethics to be maintained. "Traditional newspapers operate with professional code of ethics," Sno declared to the meeting. "How will they [Bloggers] maintain that?"

And right on time, dependable Cr Kirsten Lesina chimed in and reminded the Councillor that NewsLtd newspapers had little ethics in play when they decided to publish a series of fake Pauline Hanson photographs. "That was hardly ethical, was it?"

The Council motion agreed to order an "urgent review of the media policy be undertaken utilising the assistance of an independent 'new' media expert if necessary, and that independent bloggers be emailed media releases and media conference alerts whilst the policy is under review.
This decision was a slap in the face following a secret meeting between Hull and Briggs the Friday before the meeting, during which they advised the Mayor that no immediate relaxation of the current media policy should occur. However, Val Schier had other ideas, and knew it was the Councillors that will direct such policy.

The Mayor's new Policy Advisor, Robert Leeds, also a strong advocate for embracing new media, recommended full access for bloggers and independents. "They are part of the media in every way now, and it's pointless to think otherwise," Leeds told CairnsBlog.

Derek Barry, a Brisbane media academic, journalist, blogger and researcher at QUT, writes on the digital revolution, says that everyone knows but fewer really understand, the future of all mass communication is digital, this includes Bloggers:
  • "Although various tech evangelists from the 1990s onwards such as Postel, Negroponte, Gibson, O'Reilly, and John Perry Barlow have long imagined various paths forward towards digitaldom, the more insular Australian media industry is struggling to cope with the emergence of new realities."

    "Thinking like a journalist involves making sense of large amounts of information, making products out of it and then marketing these products. Blogging makes the first two parts of that production chain easier with its hyperlinking functionality and the ease of publishing," Derek Barry writes.

    "However, the ability to find a marketplace for the products depends on the reputation of the blogger. And getting a name is the hardest part. Just about the only thing that differentiates them from amateur (or at least independent) bloggers is how they use a contacts book."
Michael Schudson says news in America is a form of a culture; a “strategic ballet” produced by exchanges between journalists and sources. This is true also for Australia. Schudson defines interviews between reporters and those sources as “the fundamental act of contemporary journalism”. But the fundamentals are changing.

Kevin Kawamoto says the reason the rules of journalism are in a state of flux is because of the difficulty of how to define the “real media” in a digital age.

Derek Barry continues...
  • "There is a good example of this in Far North Queensland where Michael Moore runs the muckraking site," Derek Barry says. "The site provides valuable fourth estate coverage of local politics in a town where there is not much competition.

    Moore is in every sense a journalist and has gotten himself onto the circulation list of Cairns Regional Council media releases. But now he says he has been barred from attending their media events. When he asked the council why he was excluded, he was told that media conference alerts are only issued to “accredited news agencies and their representatives”.

    "But as Moore commented, accredited news agencies are a “modern invention, up there with crop circles”. Kawamoto's view on press credentials is that there is now no universal codes for establishing who qualifies as a journalist.
ABC's managing director, Mark Scott, at the Annual Media Studies speech at La Trobe University, says that no one is in a position to lecture anyone about what is happening in the media today.

"I don’t think anyone is. We are in such a state of transformation and turmoil. So much of what we assumed to be true about the media business has been turned on its head," Scott says.

"Every month brings a new twist on this revolutionary road - witness the remarkable broadband decision by the Government. In one dramatic act, the Prime Minister’s announcement is set to reshape the future for media organisations, telecommunications firms - and most importantly - audiences across the nation," Mark Scott said.

He is correct when he said it will reshape everything.

Already a number of local Bloggers and independent writers, have asked Council's media unit to add them to the email distribution, however they have not acknowledged the request, but have failed to do what the Council have instructed them to do.

So, for the first time in the 100 history of our local Council, the word "blogger" was used. What a truly tremendous achievement. The Council secretary had to check the spelling three time sin the Macquarie Dictionary. The world has not since fallen in.

Another first was also achieved when Mayor Schier moved the motion, seconded by Councillor Pyne. It could have been a day of fists, but turned out to be a day of firsts.

John McKenzie's recording

I've finally popped onto the CairnsBlog file server, two rather telling portions of John McKenzie's radio show yesterday, for your delight.

You can listen to John, in full stereophonic quality, over your morning weeties.

I love this bit....

  • "May I make this point to Kevin [Byrne,former Mayor] and anyone else, had the Council, which is a sizable advertiser, Councils always advertise, they have to get the message out. They have a budget for getting the message out. It goes to commercial operators, and I suppose it goes to the ABC, I don't know what the arrangement is there. It goes to television stations, to newspapers, and radio stations. There's nothing new about that."

    "We have and have always had, in the 25 years I have been here, had a commercial relationship, and very sizable relationship with the Council. We're not a charity and neither is the Cairns Post, and neither is the television stations. So when Kevin says we never paid, I can assure Kevin that had the Council of the day decided to move all it's advertising spend across to another commercial radio station, we would not have continued to extend the gesture on a [weekly] arrangement for the Mayor."


The fact is John, when a Councillor or the Mayor is talking on your radio station, they are not 'advertising', as you incessantly insist. They are publicly-elected representatives of the community. They are not running a Tupperware store, trying to flog off the latest range of burp-free self seals.

NB: Download the MP3's here for you Pod, or simply play directly on your puter. Please, these are not to be played in earshot of children under 15 years of age, otherwise they will need to undergo speech therapy lessons with Wendy Richardson.

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Feeling like a right Charlie

Tomorrow morning, at 9am I'll be a guest on ABC Far North's morning show.

Former Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Leichhardt, Charlie McKillop, is masquerading as regular morning presenter, Fiona Sewell.

On Friday morning we'll explore the role of new media - that's independents like Bloggers - in the context of the advent of online publishing.

I'll talk about the rise of CairnsBlog and the opportunities and challenges it presents. Charlie is interested how Bloggers are being treated alongside other conventional media outlets by local authorities. Boy, are there some stories to tell!

Courier-Mail executive editor Neil Melloy, will join the discussion to represent the viewpoint of the ‘traditional newspaper’, in the absence of Cairns Post's Andrew Webster, who felt it was "too early in his role to debate such a subject."

In my cash for comments deal, I told the ABC that my price is a photo with a right Charlie. I'll be on the left of her. There's a joke in there somewhere.

ABC's talkback line is 1300 801 222. Tune into ABC Far North on 106.7 FM, or 95.5. They're also on 801 AM, why, I don't know.

Sleazy Listening, Eight Four Sux

John McKenzie's 846 AM may well command the talk of the town on local talk-back radio, but they never wanted to be the actual news story.

In this morning's opening monologue, McKenzie said he will not comment about the commercial arrangement between his radio station and Cairns Regional Council.

He said there were "a lot of inaccuracies in the Cairns Post article. I found it rather amusing."

Back in March 2008, McKenzie says, Council vowed to have a representative on the show each Wednesday. "It was difficult to run the show because Councillors continually failed to turn up for interviews," John McKenzie told he listeners.

"There was nothing personal for the reason why she [the Mayor] was not on the show last year. I needed a guarantee that Councillors would turn up for interviews so I could run this show," McKenzie said.

"As a result, the station set up an arrangement with Cairns Regional Council."

Former Mayor, Kevin Byrne claimed today that that there was nothing paid for when he was mayor. "It was very popular and I understand 4CA had no trouble selling that hour." However, sponsors were never sold once during the hour during while Byrne on air, McKenzie said today.

"I repeatedly attempted to contact the Mayor last year over various issues but she would refuse to comment." However this is at odds with some Councillors' observation, who say approaches to his show are obstructive and often condescending.

The Mayor had tried to get on the show, to suit her style and setting her own agenda, but this was not at all welcomed by McKenzie. The Mayor was told on a number of occasions in the first few months, often at the last minute, that 846AM didn't want her and subsequently cancelled due to some nebulous reason.

Three attempts were made to broker an arrangement to get the Mayor on McKenzie's show. The first by Gary Schofield, then by Kerie Hull, and finally, by media officer Sonja Anderson. All were unsuccessful. However, just a couple of months ago, a deal was sorted out between Hull and the station's chief at 846am, but it came at a price, close to $26,000.

"Our station has always had a sizable commercial arrangement with Cairns Council," McKenzie pointed out. "If the former Cairns City Council decided to move all of its advertising spend across to another commercial radio station, they would not have continued the hour for the mayor."

McKenzie says the relationship with having the new Mayor on his show, came to an end because he could not get the consistency from the Councillors to turn up every week.

"This has nothing to do with the commercial arrangement between the station and Council, but I assure you it is not unusual."

McKenzie says advertisers on his show pay up to $150 a minute, and the quoted $20,000 works out to be $5 - $10 a minute, "which is almost free."

The fact that there is no disclaimer advising listeners that Councillors are taking part in a commercial paid comment spot, is meaningless, McKenzie says.

"The Queensland Government regularly advertise on 4CA Radio, and if that were the case, I would have to make a claim every time I speak to a Queensland or Federal MP."

"This is one way politicians get their message across to their audience. Schier's segment is popular with listeners," he says.

In the Council lift this afternoon, Sonja Anderson told Councillor Robert Pyne that she saw no reason why paying for the Mayor to be on radio was inappropriate. "What's wrong with this? There is nothing wrong with supporting commercial radio like this," Sonja Anderson said.

McKenzie says they came to a 'financial arrangement' because they are commercial and need the money to keep the station running.

Cash for comments, indeed. Open and honest, not on your nelly. Something awfully sux about all this.