Friday 31 December 2010

Cairns - a no meat market for New Year's Eve

Meat and veggies were not getting through to some Cairns supermarkets today from flooded South East Queensland.

This reoccurring problem happens even though we have many locally-grown Tablelands produce available, just an hour's drive over the range. Stupid chain stores appear to not support local farmers. This also happened during Cyclone Larry in 2006.

Little Brit boys return with another outrageous series

UK comedy lovers are in for a treat. It's been four years since the offensive and crazy Little Britain screened.

Now the creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams are back with Come Fly With Me, a mocumentary comedy about fictional airlines FlyLo, Our Lady Air and Great British Air. Matt and David play the majority of the outrageous characters including staff and passengers, in what appears to be a spoof of reality airport shows.

ABC in Australia are expected to screen the show during 2011.

It was filmed at London's Stansted Airport and Robin Hood Airport at Sheffield in September. Cameras were given amazing access to the busy terminals. My favourite characters in the first show is 80-year-old Hetty Wolf who is evidently taking her first-ever flight. Also, look out for Precious Little who runs the coffee shop; husband and wife pilots Simon and Jackie, as they deal with their marriage woes at 35,000 feet; Melody and Keeley are FlyLo's check in chicks, and along with Asuka and Nanako Tawaka, Japanese twin schoolgirls, it's a confronting and silly comedy for lovers of Little Britain.

They told Graham Norton last week that Come Fly was not as rude at their previous show.

The new show was first screened on BBC on Christmas day and immediately jumped straight to the top of the list of most-watched comedy programmes of 2010 with 10 million viewers - 41% viewer share.

Here's the first episode. Try not to be too offended and slip to the easy conclusion that it's cheap and racist. It's not. It's just plain funny.

Alison Alloway: A holiday memory of Christmas' past

It's fitting to end the year with a story from Alison Alloway.

She has always been a supporter of CairnsBlog from it's very early beginnings and has previously scribed for the Saturday SoapBlog about her misadventures with MediCare. In the early days of CairnsBlog, Alison recounted stories from her childhood past when in 1961, Princess Alexandra, the Queen's cousin, visited Far North Queensland.

Every Christmas, Alison's gorgeous Cascara (Indian laburnum) flowers and is one of the prettiest flowering trees here in the tropics.

Today she writes again with memories , this time of her Christmas days living with a violent father and a real hard case of a little sister, some 50 years ago. Alison says she has no photos from her childhood.

Looking back, Alison says it was such a different world. People drowned kittens and puppies in backyards, dogs were always kept outdoors, domestic violence was rife, women were still dying from backyard abortions here in the North, men who returned from WW2 struggling with post traumatic stress syndrome, rapes were seldom reported, homosexuals were openly ostracized and no one ever mentioned lesbians. Divorce was rare and frowned upon, Ditto working women, and no-one gave a thought about the environment. Lastly, but not least, aboriginal people were treated with contempt and violence.

How can people ever say it was the "good" old days?

Here's Alison's Christmas with Case.

Christmas 1962.

Menzies was Prime Minister. Frank Nicklin was Premier of Queensland.

Big sister Nerida was sixteen. Gwennyth was ten. I (Allie) was seven. Case was five. Deirdre (DeeDee) was two and baby, beautiful baby, the idol of all, was almost one. Yes, we were a big family.

In 1962 our family comprised six daughters, mum and dad and grandad, all living under the one roof. Children were disciplined with belts, hands or whatever came within reach. We all wore hand me downs, and walked the long distance to school in plastic shoes, envying the kids who rode their horses
past us.

Few families had cars and even fewer had television sets.

Fathers were the head of the family, and none, more so than in our own family, where dad's bad temper and heavy hand were feared by us all. Money was scarcer than it is today and presents were only received on birthdays or at Christmas. No child dared tell their parents what to buy. Christmas was looked forward to with great excitement by all of us kids. For weeks we speculated on what “Santa” would bring us, alternating with bouts of guilt that we had spent our few hard earned shillings on buying by-jingos and cobblers for ourselves instead of buying presents for Mum and Dad.

“You’ve spent all your money on yourself, Allie!” Gwen sneered. “You’re nothing but a little fat, selfish, greedy pig!”

My eyes filled with tears of guilt and self-loathing as Gwen proudly displayed the presents she had bought for mum, dad, grandad and baby, with her shillings. Gwen was always more thoughtful, more caring, more generous and more virtuous than I. And she let me know it.

5.30am, Christmas Day, saw snowy haired Case leaning over pinching mum's cheeks to wake her up. "Mum...Mum," she whispered excitedly. "See what Santa brunged me." Mum opened one eye and sat bolt upright in bed at the sight of Case, festooned in flowery brassieres and panties.

"Santa didn't give you those," mum admonished wearily, trying to grab them. "Yes he did, he did," argued Case. "He brunged these to me."

It seemed Case had been the first to waken and had walked around the house helping herself to whatever she fancied in everyones pillow cases. Exasperated and cranky, mum had to field off Case's endless questions. "How do you know Santa brunged the melodica for Gwen? And how do you know Santa brunged the bras for Nerida?"

"I just know," yelled mum, bending down to box Case around the ears. Case wouldn’t let the matter die. “Santa did brung that bra for me,” she whispered angrily while Gwen and I were making our beds. “No he didn’t,” Gwen answered, “because you don’t have any billies!”
Case was instantly on the defensive. “I do too have billies,” she answered indignantly. “Look!” She opened up her pjama top and displayed two small flat freckle like nipples. “Billies!” she said proudly. Gwen rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “Case, they’re not big like Nerida’s!” “Santa doesn’t know that,” persisted Case. Gwen gave up and threw a pillow at Case.

Christmas dinner commenced at one o’clock and everyone was seated while mum retrieved the baking trays from our wood-fired stove in the kitchen. Dad sat at the end of the table and everyone noticed his red rimmed eyes and sour expression. We all knew this meant a hangover and not to make him angry.

Nerida was the last to be seated having spent the morning teasing her hair into a bee-hive and using a tin of Starlet hairspray on the finished hairdo. She had made up her face too so that it was shiny while black lines were drawn across her top eyelids and there were two black “beauty” spots beside her mouth. Nerida was very pretty and I thought she looked like a movie star. Nerida loved to sing and knew all of Connie Francis’s songs which she sang with gusto in the bathroom every night.

“Youse look like one of them tarts what lives in Sydney,” grandad said sternly. “Sydney is full of tarts.” “Tarts?” said Case. “I likes jam tarts.” "And I like jam tarts too,” I said.
“I like passionfruit ones meself,” said Gwen. “Quiet!” roared Dad at the end of the table. Everyone went silent. Mum came out of the kitchen carrying a tray of roast vegetables. “Oh what’s DeeDee got?” she asked, as we all looked in the direction where quiet little DeeDee sat on a cushion at the table. DeeDee was sitting with her eyes closed while her hands were under the tablecloth. Nerida lifted the tablecloth to find DeeDee clutching a little kitten by its neck.
“She still thinks no-one can see her when she closes her eyes,” Nerida laughed, as she retrieved the poor kitten and put it on the floor. We all looked fondly at DeeDee who was looking quite puzzled at being found out. Nerida playfully rumpled her snowy white hair.

We could easily have been a family in mourning this Christmas Day 1962. Yesterday, DeeDee was sitting inside a cardboard box playing at being a “radio” and regaling the world by humming the theme song from “Blue Hills” over and over, when Bill, the bottlo, bringing our Christmas soft drinks, drove fast up our driveway and right over the top of the radio.

Thursday 30 December 2010

A message from Deputy Police Commissioner, Ian Stewart

Here's an audio message to Queenslanders from Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart, the State Disaster Management Coordinator.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Crimestoppers update

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

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Cairns Police on 40307000 or Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or Crime Stoppers 24hrs a day.

Rape Charge, Cairns
Cairns detectives have charged a 35-year-old Cairns man with one count of rape. It is alleged the man had been drinking with a 23-year-old woman on the Esplanade prior to the alleged 1.30am rape today. He will appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court today.

Traffic crash, Smithfield
Police directed traffic for almost an hour after a two vehicle traffic crash occurred on the Kennedy Highway, Smithfield at about 11.30am yesterday. It is alleged a motorcycle lost control whilst travelling down the Kuranda Range and slid into oncoming traffic. Both the 40-year-old male rider and his pillion passenger were thrown from the bike and were taken to Cairns Base Hospital for treatment to non-life threatening injuries. Moderate damage was caused to the motorcycle and people mover and no other people were injured. Investigations are continuing.

High range drink drive, Port Douglas
Police charged a 34-year-old Mooroobool man with one count of drink driving (0.264%). He allegedly crashed his vehicle into a pedestrian island and
fence at about 3.30am on Port Douglas Road, Port Douglas on December 27. He will appear in the Mossman Magistrates Court on January 12.

Wilful damage, Westcourt
Police are investigating a wilful damage complaint that occurred at about 11.30pm on Sunday December 26 on Mulgrave Road, Westcourt between the intersections of Dalton Street and McCoombe Streets. A group of five teenagers described as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander appearance ran across the road then threw something at the bus which smashed a window behind the driver. The group of teens then ran off. Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or 24hrs a day.

Stealing, Bentley Park
Edmonton Police are investigating the theft of two 125CC Quad Bikes and a Suzuki JR80 off road motorcycle from a storage shed in Supply Road, Bentley Park. The theft occurred sometime between 7.30am and 9.30am Saturday December 25. The motorbike is described as being yellow and blue in colour. One quad bike was red, the other was blue. Police have released images of vehicles similar to those stolen.

Traffic Crash, Oak Beach
Police are investigating a single vehicle traffic crash that occurred on the Captain Cook Highway at Oak Beach about 10.45pm December 24. QFRS cut the trapped 28-year-old female driver and her 40-year-old male passenger from the vehicle and both were transported to the Cairns Base Hospital for treatment of injuries. The man sustained a fractured leg in the crash. The silver Ford sedan was extensively damaged in the crash. Investigations are continuing.

The Ashes 2010 (AKA the Arvo of Christmas)

Sunday 26 December 2010


Death in Parramatta Park overnight

Cairns Police are investigating the death of a man at Parramatta Park overnight.

Around 1am an unconscious man in his 30's, was found at the corner of Minnie and Severin streets. CPR was performed but was pronounced dead on arrival at Cairns Base Hospital.

Police say that the man was involved in an incident with two other men. Investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death are continuing.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Christmas 2010 will be a wet one

The BOM have been warning us all week that the low is likely to intensify and just after midnight, a Tropical Low, followed by a Cat 1 cyclone was announced overnight, with the threat map tracking towards Gordonvale, between Cairns and Innisfail.

The Bureau says the tropical low, with gusts up to 85 km/h, is expected to continue moving towards the north tropical coast and intensify...
  • "The low is expected to cross the coast between Cairns and Cardwell early Saturday morning. There is the potential for the system to reach weak category 1 tropical cyclone intensity prior to landfall. Damaging winds of up to 100 km/hr are possible between Port Douglas and Lucinda as the system approaches the coast during Saturday morning.

I hope all CairnsBlog readers are wrapped up warm and dry and have a great day, regardless of the weather, and regardless if your God is real or not.

Bless you, even if you don't have a cold.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Saturday SoapBlog: Bryan Law - Encouraging peacemaking

Bryan Law is on his final mission, before he leaves Cairns next year.

He encourages everyone to do their own version of peacemaking.

Hi groovers.

I’m getting ready for my 2011 program of peace activism, and have been putting some stuff up on the web. There are also some pages of history and a ploughshares proposal.

I’m planning to move to Rockhampton in May 2011 to do some prep for Talisman Sabre 2011.

Before I leave Cairns, I want to make sure I participate in an ANZAC EVE Vigil in my town. I wrote about this on CairnsBlog last month.

I notice that Graeme Dunstan, and some of the Silver Wattle crew are making progress on an event at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. There’s a page of correspondence with the Major-General in charge.

I also put a page up on the Waihopai Spybase protests this January in NZ. There are links established between Oz and Kiwi activists between Waihopai, Pine Gap, ANZAC Day, and Ploughshares.

I’ve missed participating in earlier discussions about affinity groups, mass actions, and how to develop a Peace movement. I’ve been thinking about it. I know that many are asking questions about how to organise most effectively.

One thing that comes up for me is that I just don’t have any answers suitable for others. I can resonate with Benjo’s desire for an effective mass action, and a blockade seems perfectly legitimate as a target. I’d even be willing to join in.

I’d love even more to see activist groups rise up around the country, at all the available sites, to withdraw consent for war. I’m willing to join in that too.

In the long run, I rely on the decency of human beings, the power of nonviolence, and the love of God.

Meantime I do my best to act effectively within my own capacity. In my city. Cairns is a smallish regional city of 150,000. On the margins of Queensland, facing high costs and state neglect, our economy is in recession, and the key tourism industry is bleeding. Apart from that, and some endemic racism, alcoholism and intolerance, Cairns is alright. Nice place to winter.

After 17 years I’ve got fair recognition, and a minor voice in public affairs. The warships campaign has been more successful than not. Temporarily I have a strong relationship with the local daily. In the past month I’ve been able to stimulate discussion of the AUStralian/US Ministerial conference, The US Alliance, and defend Wikileaks. More permanently, there is CairnsBlog.

I’m certain that if we want to stop war we have to win and lead the active support of many citizens we don’t yet have on side. Conversion by example has a long, honourable history in the peace movement.

So for me it feels like I’ve been doing alright. I’ve got a coherent program that feels “right” to me. Some public relations, some ploughshares, some pretty powerful personal commitment, all of which leads to prison for an intermediate time. It feels right.

So for me personally, the question isn’t “mass movement” Vs “affinity groups”, it’s how to make my own actions as effective as I possibly can at winning converts, and getting in the way of war’s “business as usual”.

I encourage everyone else to do their own version of peacemaking.

Sunrise from Bundadjarruga, Walshs Pyramid

Friday 17 December 2010

Free speech rally 5pm - Grafton Street, Crown Hotel

There will be another free speech rally, Grafton Street, next to the Crown Hotel this evening.

Anyone will be welcome to express their view and contribute.

This will be a good time to say how you feel our State and local government has performed in the last year.
  • Meet 4:30pm onwards.

Electricity price to rise another 6%

Cairns' residents will have only just noticed the extrordinary 13% increase appearing on their Ergon power bills in the last two quarters.

Yesterday’s draft decision by the Queensland Competition Authority to again increase electricity bills by 5.83%, means that by the end of the current financial year, electricity bills have risen by 63% since Labor privatised Energex and Ergon in 2007.

Annual electricity bills have increased on average $700 in four years. The cost-of-living increases in Queensland are spiraling out of control. Car registration, Council rates, licencing fees, water, petrol.

The latest power increase, is almost twice the rate of inflation.

Average Household Electricity Bill

% rise





Year Beginning 1 July 2007 (QCA)




Year Beginning 1 July 2008 (QCA)




Year Beginning 1 July 2009 (QCA)




Year Beginning 1 July 2010 (QCA)




Year Beginning 1 July 2011
(QCA Draft decision 16 Dec 2010)




Source: Queensland Competition Authority

SMS traffic alerts for Gillies Range Road

Motorists using Gillies Range Road on the South of Cairns, will have advanced warning of any major traffic delays thanks to the trial of a free SMS alert service starting this month.

A similar SMS traffic alert service already operates for the Kuranda Range road.

The Gillies Range road, that connects Gordonvale of the South side of Cairns, to Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands, caters for around 2000 vehicles a day.

The SMS service will allow motorists to find out about road closures or traffic incidents. The Kuranda service has 1,000 subscribers, since it started in early 2008. The trial for the Gillies Range Road, will determine if the service will permanent.
  • SUBSCRIBE Call 13 19 40

Thursday 16 December 2010

29-year-old Atherton man drowns in Barron River

The body of a man has been recovered from the Barron River near Kuranda this morning.

A search yesterday until late last evening, failed to locate the body of the 29-year-old Atherton man, who went missing while kayaking Wednesday afternoon. He didn't surface after kayaking, on the Barron Falls River.

Around 2pm a group of men went down one of the falls, at the victim went over the falls but did not surface. His kayak was found near rocks. An emergency services helicopter located the body just before 7am today.

A worker from the Kuranda Bistro, who home is close to the Barron Falls River, heard the helicopters early this morning.

"It's amazing that anyone would be kayaking around that area at this time of year," she told CairnsBlog. "The upper falls area is very dangerous and we were surprised to hear what has happened."

Water projects for Douglas get go ahead

$3.8 million of Federal funding will be spent on two projects north of Cairns.

A Port Douglas water demand management project will cost $1 million, and also involves Whyanbeel and Daintree.

In Mossman, a recycling water scheme will cost $2.7 to install a water reticulation system to use recycled water for irrigation on open areas, including sports fields and the golf course.

Cairns councillors award themselves a $2,300 Christmas present

What does it say when the majority of our regional councillors blindly accept an annual pay increase, whilst most of us have less and less money, yet they ask us for more every year?

The latest Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal recommended salary increases of 2.5% for councillors. The Tribunal has also called for a full review of Council remuneration categories: read more rate rises.

Cairns Regional Mayor Val Schier, along with Councillors Di Forsyth, Rob Pyne, Kirsten Lesina and Julia Leu, all voted against the Tribunal's recommendation at yesterday's meeting.

"Margaret and Blakey supported it, and had a majority with Gregory, Sno and Coops," Cr Robert Pyne told CairnsBlog.

"Val deserves credit for once, no, for the third time," Councillor Rob Pyne said. "I publicly declared my [pay increase] will go to the Mayor's Christmas Appeal."

This is the third year in a row that Val Schier has turned down the pay rise recommended by the Local Government Tribunal.

"I declined the pay rise because of the tough economic conditions and Cairns’ high unemployment in the region," Val Schier said

Councillor Paul Gregory voted to accept the Tribunal's recommendation rise of 2.5%.

"I have no comment to make on Val's decision not to accept it," Councillor Gregory told CairnsBlog. Linda Cooper also said sher had no comment about Val’s stance.

However with a majority of Councillors accepting the 2.5% pay rise, their $91,380 salary will be topped up another $2,280. As Deputy Mayor, Margaret Cochrane’s will now receive $103,695.
Schier takes home $139,220.

"I voted against the pay rise, as I did last time," Councillor Kirsten Lesina said. "I think Val shows great leadership in rejecting a pay rise at a time when unemployment is still high in Cairns and when we know many people will be struggling to make ends meet over the holiday period. It's a pity more Councillors didn't follow Val's lead and vote against the pay rise."

Julia Leu said she voted against a payrise because there are too many residents and businesses struggling financially at present.

At yesterday's meeting that approved the increase, it was noted the Tribunal’s recommendation about recreational and leave provisions for Councillors.

Schier has spent just over $6,000 of her $27,000 travel and accommodation budget, for the first four months. No budget was determined for councillors however this is what others have spent: Paul Gregory $762; Nancy Lanskey $332; Alan Blake $1,581; Linda Cooper $1,832; Diane Forsyth $695; Margaret Cochrane $2,970. Julia Leu, who has the biggest geographical division to look after, chalked up $2,706. Rob Pyne and Kirsten Lesina did not incur any costs. Sno Bonneau is in credit $15. Work that one out.

One of the objectives of Council's Corporate Plan is to ensure that our Council is "open,
accountable, ethical and financially responsible." The Plan says Council plays "a
leadership role for our immediate communities and for the wider region and will strive to
represent our community’s needs and expectations." With the best will in the world, new CEO Lyn Russell would genuinely believe in this mantra, however can you read the contradictions here?

The supreme irony here is that Cairns Regional Council has consistency put up our rates every year since it was elected in March 2008. It's likely this trend will continue, in the face of a continued depressed local economy.

Campaign to stop Oprah coming to Cairns was a success

It seems that the secret campaign to keep Oprah away from Cairns, worked a treat. You see, I discovered going through a old bookshop yestserday, that for years she's been carrying around too much fat: a gaggle of talk-show screamers destined to make us cringe, annoy and embarrass the living be-jesus out of us.

Now before I get all those reality / talk show / daytime soap / woman's mag followers get their over-sized knickers in a twist, I know that Oprah has done a lot of good. However we hardly hear about the school near Johannesburg that she set up to support those from disadvantaged communities.

It's the culture of celebrity without question. The culture of taking giving to a degree that is cringe-making and Americanism at its worst.

The Australian media's fascination with the Big O, and their hell-bent desire to get her to every off beat village on the Australian continent this last week, was nothing short of hysterical. As if a visit from this talk show chick was going to solve our most serious woes. The unemployment in Far North Queensland is still as bad as it was last week, last month, yet the local rag runs a story on page two and talks about the national unemployment rate at some kind of new low.

Meanwhile, while Tourism Australia and our Government have been throwing millions at Opah - as if she needs a helping hand - the real issues get ignored and forgotten.

Cairns, Yarrabah, Mossman, and of course Port Douglas, all begged for Oprah to grace their town and kiss the pavement they walk on. Evidently she, along with her screaming fans that are a Thorpie pearl necklace better off now, sat on the Cairns tarmac whilst they refueled the aircraft's fridge with donuts and soda pop.

All it took was a telephone call from Paul Simon, and she dropped everything, and darted off to Uluru.

So Oprah didn't come to Cairns. If she did, what on earth would we have showed her? Where would we have taken her? What benefits would we have gained, if any?

Anyway, we already have our own Oprah show. It screens weekly at 119 Spence Street. There's always spare seats in the audience, so no need to book ahead, so long as you don't mind the chance of sitting next to some creepy dude named Robin, who knows how to invade your personal space. Our Council splits on almost every major subject when it comes to the community, and have more quango and umbrella interests groups than you can poke a stick - from the Chamber, Advance Cairns, TTNQ, and we can't even sort out our CBD after 15 years of inner-heart surgery.

Cairns still has a long way to go to throw off the thug mentality in local politics that still bear the scares and remnants of Sir Joh running through its veins. Maybe then, we'll be ready to show it off to the world.

Pimples, 26, billionaire and now this

Time magazine's person of the year for 2010 goes to some kid called Mark.

Just because he has half a billion friends. Whoopie.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Another unhappy day for Labor. When will they learn?

It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it

The Cairns Post's Council Haven't Done Their Job campaign, is having a three day "blitz" along the CBD's Grafton Street.

It will include "a street clean, free WiFi and temporary landscaping and greenery, live entertainment." One blog follower suggested I warn readers to keep away from the CBD – or at least where some decent ear protection, as Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall will be performing with his Get Reel band.

I have mixed opinions about the so-called 'revive' campaign. On one hand, the city belongs to the people and it's residents, and should not be the sole jurisdiction of a Council - which often operates in autonomy to the people that it serves.

However, direction from past administrations have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars mis-spent and look what we ended up with.

The Queensland Government's idea to take a bus lane right through the heart, is as smart as re-electing Kevin Byrne and Desley Boyle.

The graphic that appeared recently with some fake metal palm tree cutouts and a few pot plants, looked like the kids from Freshwater Primary were allowed out with their crayons when mum and dad were at the boozer.

It's a no brainer that parts of the city are a pigsty.

It's not an inspiring place to take visitors. Locals say it's unsafe at night, and the parking and transport issues are a mess, to say the least. The town's crown of City Place, is a design disaster. Whilst the palm that is the stage, is a great addition, the rest, which is the result to two failed attempts from 2000 to 2007 to re-build and re-design, is probably the worst example of public infrastructure in Australia.

Metal seats, that face away from each other, making conversation impossible, is only the beginning of the eyesore. Trees and grassy knolls were removed by the last Council to keep Aboriginals from loitering. It was an overtly racist and shameful recreation of what used to be a relaxed, tropical and conducive environment.

There's little cohesion or co-operation in the central city area between businesses, Council and the community. Many residents feel the city area doesn't belong to them - that it's for the tourists. You'd be hard-pressed to discover how many local residents actually venture into the central city to relax and enjoy what it offers. They just don't. This year's Cairns Festival tried to address this, but realised that they needed to have activities in the burbs for the same reason.

Regardless, we should all get behind the plan to spunk up and clean up our town, but I'll leave you with some salient questions, that have been totally ignored in this recent debate...

What councillor heads the central business district revitalisation committee? What councillor has been the one representing the interests of the CBD since March 2008? What has been done in the CBD since the last Council election?

BYGONE AND BE-GONE Byrnesy had the fountains, the grass, and the trees removed. Good one.

Bob the Bobby writes

I couldn’t understand why he had no shoes.

He was wearing a dark suit and socks but no shoes.

He was about 80 years of age.

He was dead.

It was dark and he had been crossing the road when he was hit by a car and thrown onto the footpath.

Later we would find out that he had been visiting his wife. She was in hospital. It was the first time they had been apart in their married life of over 50 years.

He had caught a train and was walking to their house from the railway station.

He must have misjudged the speed of the approaching car as he tried to cross the road near their house.

It was my first fatal and as is the case for most police it was early in my service as a young and inexperienced constable.

He had been wearing shoes. We found them when we were looking for the probable point of impact.

It was the shoes that showed us where his last moment was. They were on the roadway together.

He must have stopped and looked towards the headlights that were about to illuminate the end of his life.

The intense force of the impact had lifted him out of them and they were left there as silent witnesses.

Later I would see that again – pedestrians wearing loose fitting shoes which would remain on the road after their owners have been hit by cars. It was one of many learnings from my experience of fatals.

Fatal. The word used by police to describe an incident when one or more people die.

A single word to sum up the brutality of sudden, violent and sadly avoidable death. The carnage, the pain, the loss of existence and future, the shattering of plans, dreams and families.

The at-times horrific scenes of the dismembered or incinerated who only moments before were rich with the gift of life. The harshness on the senses – sights, sounds, touch and smells that can be sharply recalled years later in a triggered instant. All this distilled into one word – fatal.

Some years after the death of the elderly man, I was the detective in a country town.

Before the Police Service had a dedicated Forensic Crash Unit, local detectives investigated all fatals. There would often be only one or at most two police working at night. They would be the first on scene and I would be next.

At one of these call outs I arrived second at the scene. Three vehicles were involved. It was on an isolated highway, dark and wet and muddy.

The uniformed Constable who had been first there was young and new. Dripping wet, he told me what had happened. He had done well but I didn’t realize how well.

I asked him why he wasn’t wearing his raincoat. He told me how when he arrived the head of one of the victims, who had been decapitated in the impact, was in the middle of the road. He had wrapped it in his raincoat and placed it on the rear seat of the police car.

Five people died that night, all in one vehicle. Three generations of one family. It was the young Constable’s first fatal.

Two words that often accompany fatals are force and frustration.

The forces generated in a high speed crash, particularly head on with two vehicles at high speeds are enormous. One such fatal involved four young people. It was another country road, dark, late and lonely. All four were far from home. Again I was second on the scene.

The 1970s vintage car with metal bumper bars and hubcaps was forced into a U-shape by the impact of the two vehicles.

The hub cap from the rear wheel was fused to the corner of the front bumper bar. Two 17-year-old boys died instantly in this car.

The 21-year-old male driver of the other vehicle also died on impact. His girlfriend was trapped in the mangled wreckage.

The first officer there couldn’t get her out. She had said to him ‘Please help me I’m dying’. And she was. She must have felt her life slipping away.

He could only hold and comfort her but at least she wasn’t alone when she died. She was 16.

The sense of frustration of not being able to save her and of the needless, avoidable tragedy of the loss of those four young lives would remain forever branded in that officer’s mind and memory.

There is an accompaniment to every fatal. That is the advice to relatives or other loved ones. That terrible news – that brings with it a thousand questions and sudden sad and severe change forever – is in police parlance condensed into two words: death message.

Whilst many grieve and it cannot be said that some hurt more than others, in my experience there is no greater pain than that of a mother for her lost child. No words of mine can describe the extent and depth of that heart-torn sorrow.

Mothers also have a bond that defies logic. One of my death messages was to inform parents that their 12-year-old son, holidaying in the country with relatives, he had gone for a drive with a young male relative and they had both been killed.

It was the early morning hours when I got the job to deliver the death message. As I drove up the street I calculated the street number, drove well past it, turned the police car around and turned off the lights and engine, stopping near the house.

I walked up the drive and onto the steps and the door opened. It was his mother. She would later tell me that as the police car first drove past she woke, looked out of the window and knew that her son was gone.

She put on her dressing gown and went to the front door to be told what somehow her intrinsic maternal senses had already conveyed.

Most police have their own stories of fatals and death messages. Some time ago we stopped referring to fatals as accidents.

We now call them crashes. We don’t like calling them accidents because they are almost always avoidable.

How are they avoidable? What we call the fatal four is a good start. Don’t speed; don’t drink or use drugs and drive; don’t drive tired or fatigued and wear seat belts.

They are the most important but there are other things also, including driving to the road and weather conditions which may be well below the speed limit; showing patience and courtesy to other road users; concentrating on your driving and having your vehicle in good shape mechanically.

And you could really help us by not just doing all of this yourself but by helping to influence as many others as you can to do the same.

We are your police service. The most important thing we do is to keep you safe from harm. The greatest risk to you from harm is on our roads.

So if we seen fanatically and intensely focused on this please try to understand why. We want you and your loved ones to be safe.

We don’t want you to be one of our fatals or death messages.

Bob Atkinson APM
Queensland Police Commissioner

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Labor set to cancel membership of outspoken Cairns unionist

END OF THE TRAILL: Labor and Stuey Traill - a same-sex marriage that is destined for divorce.

The Labor Party is in process of terminating two members that they are fed up with, following repeated attacks about the Queensland Labor Government's privatisation programme. The Party may also cut all ties with the vocal Electrical Trades Union.

Following last night's administrative committee of the Labor Party’s Queensland branch, Electrical Trade Union secretary Peter Simpson, and Cairns-based ETU organiser Stuey Traill [pictured above], have both been told their membership and possible expulsion, will be discussed at a disputes committee meeting.

It was also decided to "further consider" the ETU’s Labor affiliation at its January meeting.

At least two-thirds of the committee were needed to vote to approve referring the memberships to the disputes meeting, which is expected to be held before Christmas.

Both Traill and Simpson would not discuss the latest development, but the ETU, which has had a long association with Labor, issued a statement.

"In accordance with the ETU’s long standing respect for the ALP’s rules and platform, all officers of the ETU will refrain from any public comment on these issues while they are still going through the ALP’s lawful processes," the statement read.

Stuey Traill has made no secret of his disgust with the Queensland Government's plan to sell off State assets, saying it is in fundamental conflict with the Party platform - Labor guiding principals. He has maintained a very public fight to reverse the Government's decision, and also lobbied at State and Branch meetings, but has continued to be threatened with the termination of his membership.

The Party's decision to hold over the continued affiliation of the Electrical Trades Union, is just a stalling tactic, to further silence members.

Traill was recently quoted saying their is a push to oust local Labor MPs, of Desley Boyle, Cairns; Steve Wettenhall, Barron River, and Jason O'Brien, Cook, due to the strong opposition to privatisation.

"Based on the current margins and the expected swing on the back of privatisation in an electorate, then it'd be smart to run a candidate there," Steuy Traill said a week ago. "There's potential in Cairns, Barron River and Cook. We're not pre-empting any decision, but this is what our members are calling for us to do."

The statement caused the ALP to send a show cause notice.

"I write in relation [to] statements... that there was a 'fair chance' three of the FNQ's four Labor seats would be targeted by independents or an independent Labor Party," the State Secretary, Anthony Chisolm said. "Your statements and actions may constitute 'conduct severely harmful to the best interests of the Party'"

The ALP attests that Traill has "been disloyal to the Party," "infringed the Party's National or State Rules, Party Platform, or "willfully disobeyed a decision of National or State Conference.."

"I am sympathetic to the view that you are obligated to act in the best interests of your organisation and your members [ETU]... Under the Labor Party Rules, no one has the luxury or entitlement to hold membership of our great party on the one hand, and agitate and organise for its demise on the other," Anthony Chisholm said.

This is the third time that the party has raised the possibility of terminating Traill's membership.

Traill cited an email from Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall from May 2009, where he said he was elected as an endorsed ALP candidate and am a member of the ALP. It is in contradiction to the renewed attack on the unionists.

"On fundamental policy issues such as privatisation, I am guided and indeed consider myself bound by the ALP platform," Steve Wettenhall wrote. "I support the party platform."

Here's the relevant section of the current (2008) Labor platform:
  • 5.12
    Labor rejects a program of privatisation of public services, such as public hospitals and schools, public enterprises including subsidiary companies or utilities (in particular Rail, Ports, Public Hospitals, electricity and water) as an economic strategy.

    Privatisation of public enterprises should not be used to solve revenue problems of governments. Labor believes that it is more through improved management of the existing public sector than through privatisation that Government can provide a wide range of benefits to the community.
A local party member said the ongoing attacks against those who are strongly opposed to the government's asset sale programme, shows Labor have lost touch.

"They're going away more and more from their principals, and ignoring the people who are standing up," the member told CairnsBlog last night. "Instead of listening to us, they are taking any opposition and and trying to wipe them out. It's not going to change anything.

In October, Stuey Traill said that the union had stopped making donations to the ALP.

"We need people to know that the ETU/CEPU Queensland has not donated a cent to the ALP since privatisation," Stuey Traill said. "As a Union we are affiliated to the ALP. This decision was taken by rank and file members at our 2009 Branch Conference, prior to the privatisation announcement."

Traill says a decision of the ETU to re-affiliate or not, will be voted on by "rank and file" members representing all industries in May next year.

"The ETU prides itself on rank and file making decisions on the direction of our union."

It is believed a number of members have left the Labor Party across Queensland in the last 18 months, over the privatisation issue.

Thursday 9 December 2010

The purr effect storm

Well, what a night. The wet season is back with a vengeance and last night put on a wonderful display.

I suspect many around the region experienced the mighty effects of the thunderstorm overnight, especially those on the northern beaches and the coast to Port Douglas.

The tropical rain kicked off around 9pm last evening and didn't subside till 6:30am. Throughout the night there were a number of spectacular lighting shows, followed by some extremely loud thunder.

We haven't had a storm like this in over two years. This may pre-empt a volatile wet season ahead.

The cats were both alarmed and the thunder noise, and Phillip burrowed inside the armchair - his safe and dark place. It's his purfect hideaway.

Video released of Cairns bank robbery

Cairns Police are searching for a man who robbed a Mulgrave Road bank, and have released a video as he entered the bank and demanded money from the teller.

The robbery occurred just after midday Tuesday. He was armed with a small firearm.

The man is Caucasian, 180cm tall, wearing a grey polo shirt, blue coloured jeans, brown coloured sandals and a green hat with a red stripe around the crown. He left on foot after stealing cash and was last seen walking through the adjoining shopping mall.

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should
contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000.

Monday 6 December 2010

Away with the fairies

I've been a bit elusive over the last week.

Regular blog readers will have experienced my temporary absence in the past, and will know I haven't been attacked by some masked bikie from Perth, or a former council employee under search and destroy orders.

November was a massive month.

The purpose of returning home was all about seeing mother. The dramatic transformation and her slowing down, both physically and mentally since I last saw her nearly three years ago, was a challenging journey. It required some internal searching for meaning and reflections about the speed of life and it's fragility.

I missed seeing my aunt, dad's last surviving sister, before she passed away in the last days of my stay in New Zealand. Her memorial service, which I helped manage, was a beautiful affair.

New Zealand was also engulfed in the horrible events from Pike River and it's 29 lost souls. Such a small country, with a massive and broken heart.

It wasn't all doom and gloomy. There were some special moments that I look forward to sharing. The rebuilding and repair of Christchurch and how the local Council managed the aftermath from the September earthquake, was extraordinary. Nothing like a disaster to bring a community together. So there's still a great deal to diary and share with you all, and I will progress this over the coming week.

There are also some local Cairns stories that I need to catch up on and blog. Thanks also for the many emails, donations to the Councillor Blake Defamation Fighting Fund and phone calls. It's been a rollercoaster.

Saturday 27 November 2010

WIN TV, very mobile on the job

Thanks to Graham of Clifton Beach, who snapped this just before 3pm today, on the Captain Cook Highway. He assured me he was a passenger when he took the photo, as his mate was driving.

"The driver was on his bloody mobile from the Barron River bridge to just South of the Caravonica roundabout for heaven's sake!" Graham said. "That's an 80 and 100k stretch of road."

It must have been a gripping story WIN was en-route to, with just one hand doing the steering. Don't WIN News provide hands-free mobile kits for their staff? This incident is up there with Heli Charters who were caught out last August doing the same stupid thing.

There's a compelling advert on New Zealand television at the moment, showing a woman talking to her partner, who says "I'm on my way home right now." She then asks him to pick up some milk on the way etc. Moments later the phone call goes dead. The salient message being, when you hear a friend say something that indicates they're driving, you should terminate the call immediately. It's often obvious on a telephone call if someone is driving by the background noise.

I wonder if WIN can track down the caller at 2:56pm today on their company phone? Or maybe it was the office. Doesn't have a nice ring to it.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Earthquakes, mine disaster, a mother, two brothers and a funeral

It's been a crazy, if not surreal, few weeks over here in New Zealand.

Returning home for anyone is often emotional. I hadn't seen mother since mid-2008, and now heading towards 88 years of age, she's slowing down in a dramatic way since I last saw her.

We all get wrapped up in the "now", in our own lives, what we think is important, and what we believe is more pressing because it's right in front of our eyes: local issues, politics, disputes and even saving the environment. All valuable and laudable pursuits.

However there is nothing more grounding than taking stock and smelling the roses, as we often tell others who are running around at light speed, righting the wrongs and making the world a better place. All speed to them.

I won't make this a long piece as in the last 48 hours, my aunt, Dad's sister, passed away at the ripe age of 94. She was born in November 1916. I have been asked to put together a memorial presentation from images and recollections of her long life. It will be presented with Terry Oldfield's A Celtic Blessing, the same haunting and uplifting musice I used for dad's service back in 1997.  I finished putting it all together at 2:15am this morning, as mother slept in the adjoining room. The service for Margaret Moore, or Mardy as she was known to us, will take place just after lunch today in Christchurch.

When I arrived here just on three weeks ago, I was confronted with my mother's dramatic change. There's no doubt I am experiencing in her, signs of forgetfulness, fear and, I suspect, some traits of dementia. Nevertheless, accepting where she's at and how well she's not coping, is all part of life's odd and rich journey.

In the last 12 months, mother's world was turned upside down.  She moved from our family home where I was born 46 years ago, as a direct result of being hospitalised when she became emotionally and physically distraught after Claire, her last surviving sister, passed within weeks of being diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. It triggered a series of events that put her into a spiral. She now resides in a tiny apartment in a care facility, and refuses to believe or understand that the family home has been sold. Fiercely independent after losing Maurice 13 years ago, she's breaking off contact and resisting connections from those that just want to share time and just say hello from her circle of friends.

It's hard to fathom why anyone would, but there's pride deep inside mum that I believe she doesn't want others to see that she and her 'home' has been reduced to this meager existence. Yet she's surrounded bysimilar people who hold onto life and celebrate what they have.  Possessions mean little at this end of life.

I've struggled, but persisted, over the last few weeks, to engage and trek her to notable places from our mutual past. We went to the quaint and remote country St Brigids Church at Loburn in North Canterbury.  She was narried there.  I'll share a moving and dramatic revelation that occurred as we were at the graveside of her mother and father, Greta and Alec. It was nothing short of heart-stopping but delivered in a matter or fact way, as if it was just that right time to share, after all these years.

Such experiences puts life into dramatic perspective.
I think back to the defamation action that Councillor Blake is taking against me, and in the scheme of things, it really doesn't matter. Sure it's important and needs resolving, and I hope that he will assist in a mutual conclusion on my return, but that pails into little meaning when you touch life's rich and special moments. I know Alan is close to his family as well and will relate to what is important in the bigger picture. He'd be inhuman to think otherwise.

I've also felt a number of the aftershocks from Canterbury's amazing earthquake in early September. The 4.9 one on Sunday evening, although nothing like the original 7.1, was still frightening. I've seen the dramatic damage to buildings and the land and met with some of the geo nuts at Canterbury University, including computer programmer Paul Nicholas, who created the live quake map. Also did coffee with local councillors and the boss of Christchurch Tourism, who gave me time to chat and compare Cairns with this region. I'll share those video interviews later.

Since last Friday, like you no doubt, I've been following the excruciating developments with the 29 miners deep in the heart of the South Island's West Coast. As I was leaving the funeral home around 4pm yesterday with mother after seeing Mardy resting, National Radio blurted the news that there was a second explosion, that meant with little doubt, the lads had most definitely perished. Dad was born in Hokitika on the Coast, so I know that area well as we had many a family visit there in out youth.

Whilst here, I've stayed with my brother Chris and his partner Jane, and their two amazing kids, Courteney and Oliver, and also crashed a few nights at mother's small apartment rest home as we spent the smallhours together before bedtime. I've also had the support and help of some amazing people back in Cairns, who helped make my trip possible. I will return soon and continue to share the stories.

So right now, I wear my Pounamu with pride as I head off to send off Auntie Mard, who will rest alongside dad at the Ruru cemetery.

Back to school for at least one Cairns business

Wednesday 24 November 2010

MP dobs in dugong and turtles poachers to police

The names and contact details of poachers illegally catching dugong and turtles in Far North Queensland have been provided to the police and other authorities by Opposition MP Glen Elmes.

Today in State Parliament Elmes will show his frustration after months of what he calls inaction by Minister Kate Jones, and will provide information about the identity of illegal poachers.

"For nearly two years, I have been a part of a campaign aided by my Federal colleagues, Greg Hunt and Warren Entsch as well as Colin Riddell and Bob Irwin, to stop the cruelty to these animals and to halt the illegal trade in their meat products," Glen Elmes says. "At every step, the four Labor Members for Cairns, Barron River, Cook and Mulgrave have ignored or belittled this campaign."

"It is only very recently that the Minister responsible went to Cairns and held a secret meeting. Nothing has been heard from her since. Overwhelmingly, everyone, indigenous and non-indigenous, wants a total moratorium on the taking of dugong and turtles until the surviving numbers are known and a sustainable take for indigenous people by traditional means for traditional purposes can be reinstated."

“Today, I have written to ministers Jones and Mulherin, the commissioners of the Queensland and Federal Police and the Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and provided them with the names and addresses of two individuals who are responsible for part of the illegal poaching of dugong,” Glen Elmes said. “A small band of campaigners have been able to do what Queensland Fisheries and the 5,500 staff members of the Department of Environment and Resource Management have been unable or unwilling to do."Check Spelling

“Despite being provided with photographs, videos and the discovery of illegal dugong nets Minister Jones has continually denied the existence of the problem and has constantly demanded someone provide her with proof."

“Well Kate Jones, here are the names, here are the addresses — stop trying to sweep this under the carpet and prosecute this matter.”

Elmes said there was enormous support from indigenous and non-indigenous residents for a moratorium on hunting dugong and turtles until numbers of the species can be determined.

“The cruel and inhumane slaughter of these animals must be stopped, but once a moratorium is in place and we have established how many dugong and turtle are left, a sustainable take must be reintroduced for traditional indigenous hunting by traditional means for traditional purposes," Glen Elmes says. “However, the black market for dugong and turtle meat must be shut down. I have given the Minister and the police the means, now I expect action."

“I have asked for an urgent investigation. If that is not forthcoming, I will use the opportunity at the next Sitting of this Parliament in February to name the individuals," Elmes says.

Elmes has been motivated by a long-running campaign by Cairns-based activist Colin Riddell.

'Council is play roulette, could kill cultural precinct' - Cr Pyne

Cairns Regional Councillor Robert Pyne has hit out at those opposing the cultural precinct project are playing nasty politics. He says they're playing roulette that could kill the project.

“I simply cannot believe a majority of councillors will vote to stop this project and return millions of dollars to Brisbane and Canberra," Councillor Robert Pyne said this morning. "This money could be spent here creating jobs here, to build something that would fill a great need into the future.”

"Yes, it does seem silly to play ‘Russian Roulette’ with this project. Then again, we did hear recently that ‘5 out of 6 people enjoy Russian Roulette’. Lets hope there are no bullets in the chamber for the Mossman meeting today."

AT today's Council meeting that will be held in Mossman, the Cultural Precinct will again be discussed. Pyne says the sting is in the tail of the report, which says...
  • "The Action Plan proposes ways of resolving issues raised by Councillors in order for the project to progress.

    Not adopting the Action Plan will prevent the project from proceeding.

    This report specifically addresses the issues raised by Councillors at the Cairns Cultural Precinct Committee meeting of 17 November 2010. These issues will be addressed until resolved through the actions summarised in the Plan.

    Council’s acknowledgement of the issues raised by Councillors and adoption of the proposed actions as outlined for the resolution of those issues is now sought.