Saturday 2 January 2010

The rise and tragic fall of Cairns community radio - Part 2

Since September, I've been investigating Cairns Community Radio, an incorporated association by Statute. It receives over $200,000 a year, mainly from taxpayer funds. Over the last 15 years, it has been running in financial secrecy, after committees appear to have mis-managed the organisation for their own own selfish agenda.

Following a volatile and unprecedented Annual General Meeting on the 28th September 2009, I published Part 1 in late November to paint the picture of what should be a valuable community asset that is now in turmoil, set on a path of self-destruction.

To bring readers up to the events that led to the current crisis, it's important to know the recent history. Besides the public grants and corporate support bestowed upon 89.1 FM every year, the sad reality is that this organisation is largely unknown and has been run like a secret society for the last 15 years.

In Part 2, I will outline the environment that prevailed from 2000 until August of last year when the mass resignation of the entire management committee occurred.

At 5:30am on a brisk April morning in 1987, 15 police raided a rural property at 1593 Kennedy Highway, Kuranda.

It was Tuesday 21st April. The place was Arona, a little-known commune set in the hills of Kuranda, just West of Cairns. The hunt was for their leader, "Prophet" Ben Marcus, who was subject of serious child abuse allegations.

The Arona commune is still active today, and up until August this year, it's members had dominated and controlled every facet of local Cairns community radio, 89.1 FM. The events of 1987 and Arona's involvement with Cairns community radio, have never been publicly connected, and for very good reason.

Arona is made up of Dutch-Indonesian families, who have been living together since the 1930's in Indonesia. When Indonesia became independent from the Dutch colonial rule, many left, some returning to Holland, others heading for America and Australia.

The group that now resides in Kuranda, began in Sydney in the early 60s, and settled in North Queensland in 1970. Like many alternative groups that form communal living away from traditional suburban structures, they fiercely protect their image, and deliberately fly below the radar, resisting publicity. Arona, set on a few acres just west of the rainforest settlement of Kuranda on Kennedy Highway, operates under a fragile over-arching religious creed. By the late 80s, there was around 34 residing on the property, 27 adults and seven under the age of 18 years, comprising 18 families. Over the years, the population has increased. They see themselves as from one "family" and very much protect each other, under the direction and leadership of their living "Prophet", the voice of God, Ben Marcus.

In the years leading up to the dramatic 1987 police raid, the surrounding community often questioned what went on inside the property, however when the front page headlines hit the Cairns Post on April 22nd, few knew of its existence. It's how those in charge at Arona liked it.

The connection between the current perilous environment that exists at Cairns Community Radio today, surprisingly has its roots in the events of that April morning at Arona, and Henry Bernard Marcus, who although took a back seat, clearly had great influence over his followers to become involved in the community radio.

Morning sermons just for the males of the commune were held by Marcus [pictured left]. According to reports at the time, it was often after these 'prayer sessions', that sexual acts occurred, and the testimonies of young boys that lead to the 1987 police raid on the property.

At the time, Marcus described himself as a writer and artist. He was subjected to child abuse allegations, and some of those interviewed said they were members of a fundamentalist religious cult. They said Arona was all about the "good and basic spirit of Christianity."

Following a fight between three brothers, believed to be related to Marcus, one ran off to the Police and talked about sexual misconduct in great detail, and provided written statements. Police described the property as a series of "elaborate houses, dormitories and units," and said that prior to the raid, many documents and videos were destroyed. It is still a place of interest to the Cairns Police today.

At a hearing in August 1987, to determine if there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial, witnesses shared graphic details about the then 53-year old Ben Marcus. Sexual assaults were described that occurred between January to April of that year. Hundreds of photographs stored in a chest of drawers in Marcus' bedroom, were uncovered. One of the witnesses told the court that when he visited Marcus in his room, there were "several friends there and Marcus was having a shower." "He walked into the room, without any clothes and asked me to make love," the 43 year old told the Cairns District court in 1987.

"No, we have been through this before." Marcus then put his hands around the witnesses head and asked him to open his mouth. He withdrew, but later Marcus put his lips on the witness's, who also described many other instances. Ben Marcus pleaded not guilty.

Often in abuse cases, it's extremely difficult to effectively bring witnesses to trial and gain a prosecution. Victims have to re-tell horrific details publicly. A prosecution was unsuccessful in the case against Ben Marcus, however this was not the sort of attention that Arona, nor Ben Marcus, wanted.

Here's a short video of Arona, filmed 10 years ago as part of an SBS documentary. It presents a happy and contented community. A number of those in the doco, went on to control and dominate Cairns Community radio.

At the station's 10th anniversary in 1995, the then manager, Tony Hillier, who went on to drive the street press Barfly and musical pursuits. He was credited with moving the station's transmitter from Bessie Point to Mt Yarrahbah for better coverage, and also advocated discontinuing the TAB re-broadcasting service, although a source of lucrative revenue, the change allowed more community participation, keeping focused on what community radio is all about.

"4CCR is entering a critical time for our long-term survival," President Denis Walls said at the time. "As a station with increased competition in Far North Queensland, we can say that never has the need for alternative radio been more evident than now. With the growing sameness and blandness in practically every other radio outlet."

Sadly, the following five years saw a committee that mis-managed the station and by the end of 1999, had a debt in excess of $80,000, taking the radio station to the brink of financial ruin. Records of the time were shabby and those in control did not have the station at their heart, just a selfish agenda.

A transmitter that was funded from a $23,000 Casino grant, was never purchased. Such anomalies were common. There were many examples of misappropriation and incompetence. With a good heart, influential Cairns businessman Billie Lee Long, who was behind the Raintrees shopping development, intervened and helped many of the donors write off money that had "gone astray."

Cairns community radio was now ripe for new leadership, and a new direction.

In what was seen as a way to restore credibility over the next 10 years, and to put behind the events of 1987, a large number of the Arona community took a active role in the emerging Cairns community radio, that was established in the mid-1980's under the inspiration of Ian Coughlan, a famous Cairns son. Ben Marcus took a lead role in getting Arona and his members involved in the new radio station.

At the September 1999 AGM, former station president and presenter, Denis Walls, was invited back as a ballot scrutineer, however he expressed serious concerns as to how the votes were cast, many by proxy. This lead to stacking the management committee, which had occurred in the past.

"A few phone calls to solicit votes on behalf of a candidate could significantly alter the outcome and lead to the creation of cliques," Denis Walls said, who informed the new committee that the constitution was re-written, to discourage this, even though absentee votes were allowed for those who genuinely wanted to participate.

The AGM of 1999 was the first of many where votes were pre-arranged. Prospective committee members never spoke or were introduced to the meeting before voting.

"It is clear that what happened was undemocratic and unconstitutional," Denis Walls told the new committee, who said that the conduct was not right. "The management committee is duty bound to inform the members of its error in the voting process and take appropriate action to remedy." His concerns were ignored, and the climate was now set for a management committee to elect who they wanted, and exclude ones that didn't fit their agenda.

Although some folk from Arona were involved in Cairns Community Radio before 2000 by way on air presenters, it was only after the 1999 AGM that they took up an active involvement in the management committee. The first couple of years saw a committee almost entirely dominated by members from Arona, and by 2003, they controlled all meetings. In 2009, they even proposed to interview prospective ordinary members, however this plan was squashed after a ruling from ACMA, the body that oversees community radio. This was one of the factors that led to the resignation of the committee in August 2009.

From 2001-2003, Arona increased their level of control over the management committee, with many meetings held at their Kuranda property, which discouraged participation and scrutiny.

In the early years, all committee members were contributing on a voluntary basis, however in 2003, the first payment of stipends occurred. Committee minutes record scant details over the last nine years, but increases to the secretary Gillian Mckenzie and president Niels Briët [pictured right], both Arona members, each received up to $20,000 annually. On top of this, Briet claimed a $30 hourly charge for "book-keeping and looking after the computers" yet there is no evidence of any technical qualifications.

At the 2005 AGM, no auditor's report was presented, and no election was held for the management committee. Only one nomination was received for each of the five positions, who were automatically re-elected by default. Niels Briët was elected president, Gillian Mckenzie secretary, Kathy Van Pelt as treasurer. Additionally Ben Marcus was again elected to the committee. All were from Arona.

Here's an example of the amount of detail that was disclosed for the eight years up until August of 2009 in the treasurer's report consisted of:
  • Income for the year: $119,276
    Member funds $213,446
    Expenditure $77,076
    Profit $42,220
No details where ever presented to monthly meetings about transactions, nor recorded in the minutes. Such details were hidden from scrutiny, therefore could never be questioned by the general membership. Some months amounts as large as $20,000 were recorded in a Bartercard account. This contra payment system was used at Cairns' resturants for committee dining, including Khin Khao Thai and Kee Kong Chinese restaurants. It was never explained how this account operated to the membership. There have been allegations about contra deals involving restaurants, including suggestions that sponsorship fees were used for meals by Arona members.

In 2006, the AGM re-elected all the same committee uncontested. However, in a series of shocking events in September, NeNiels Briët resigned as president, just three weeks after been re-elected for the fourth year in a row. His sudden departure followed an incident at the Mt Yarrabah transmitter site where he undertook unauthorised construction work. The Yarrabah Council as land owner, changed the locks on the access gate, and refused access to 10 different organisations that leased the transmitter site, due to Briet's actions. Just a week later, at the October 3rd meeting, the committee discussed offering Briet the Station’s laptop computer he was using as a "thank you" gift. Briet eventually was welcomed back onto the committee after the attention went away.

In 2008, only 21 attended the AGM where three non-Arona members were nominated for the committee. All were excluded on technical grounds, due to nomination forms not being correctly adhered to or suggestions that they were not active members, proven to be incorrect.

The committee consisted of nine members, all except the president John Fielder and vice-president Mark Paine, were members of Arona community, however both had close links with Arona. Fielder often said that he was "president in name only," and the committee made a payment to him in 2008 of $500. No details record what this was for, most probably to bring Fielder on their side and blindly endorse numerous payments to the Arona members over many years. It's interesting to note that Fielder has put his name forward to join the new Coutts-controlled committee.

As was consistently the case, year after year, no signed auditor's report was presented to the meeting. The same excuse offered that they weren’t ready but a copy could be provided at a later date to those that want it. Such requests were rarely delivered, and those who asked questions were treated as troublemakers. Only an oral presentation of the financial report was given, a breach of Office of Fair Trading requirements. An independent accountant described the financial report in 2008 as "meaningless."

In March 2009, under pressure from a group of members, a general meeting was held, however the meeting had no official standing, because legal requirements were not complied with.

A few days later, a notice was posted in the studio noticeboard [pictured right] advising that secretary Gillian McKenzie is receiving a stipend of $20,000 a year, later revised to $17,000 a year, and Niels Briët as 'administration officer’ is receiving a $30/hour for book-keeping and computer support, and 10% of the grants income, estimated to be at least $8,000. Although Briet was a solid contributor to the community radio, payments to Briët were never declared. The 2008-09 financial statement does not provide details of any compensation, and it's fair to say that such substantial payments were deliberately hidden so no questions would arise.

In June, following mounting pressure, another meeting is held, again on an informal basis, and a resolution on financial transparency is passed, but Niels Briët, who is now on the committee, say that the resolution is not binding, because the meeting is informal. In response to proposals that the matter be considered at the AGM, Briët says it would have to be a special resolution, effectively blocking such a move as it would require 75% support. Accordingly, the move that would scrutinise their continued behaviour, is defeated by Arona members and their supporters.
In June and August, things came to a head, and a group of members who sought change from the Arona-dominated committee, including Donn Corcoran, encouraged new members to sign up, to change the voting balance. Arona responded by advising that new members will need to be vetted individually by the management committee, a tactic that would have the practical effect of delaying approval of many new memberships until after AGM. Corcoran approached the Australian Communications and Media Authority which advised that vetting is inconsistent with legal requirements.

On the 26 August 2009, the entire management committee resigned, with exception of President, who followed a few days later. They were Eunice Slatter, Niels Briët, Ben Marcus, and vice-president Mark Paine, treasurer Jeannette Fisher, and secretary Gillian McKenzie. Two other commiteee members, Liza and Anthony Mulcahey, also Arona members, resigned early in 2009, over concerns about the way the committee operated, however this was not disclosed to the membership at the time and only came out when questions were asked.

As Niels Briët left the Raintrees studios for the last time, he approached Shane Wilson, the station's technician and asked for everything on his network email account to be deleted, but Wilson refused to carry out his request. Briet also deleted everything on the laptop, even though this included accounting information. He was seemingly hiding some demons in cyber space.

An emergency interim committee was formed. At the first committee meeting following the AGM, a quote for a forensic audit was discussed with a view to determine the scope of such an audit. This was to include the station’s computers and accounts, however this has not progressed to date, and it is unsure where the laptop belonging to Briët, now resides.

CairnsBlog asked Gillian Mackenzie and Niels Briët, as key Arona members involved in this story, for their comment about the committee suddenly disolving. They both closed ranks and refused. Mackenzie said she was not interested in talking. Briet, who had extensive involvement and received substantial financial remuneration over many years, said he did not want to discuss the community radio.

“No, I don’t really want to talk about it. I’m not interested. My answer is no,” Briet said. “I doubt that Ben [Marcus] would want to talk either,” Briet said. When questioned further, he commented on his involvement in the station over many years. “Yes, I have had a very extensive knowledge of it, but I don’t want to talk. Goodbye, that's all I want to say," he said nervously and stumbled on his words.

You don't need to be an accountant to realise that the annual accounts presented at the AGM in September 2009, disguise more than they reveal. The revenue of over $237,000 is given as a single line item, although it is made up of at least five components. Income comes from Community Broadcasting Foundation grants, government community service announcement payments, memberships, sponsorships, and several separate payments for use of Mt Yarrabah transmitter site by other companies. It is a gross mis-representation.

The accounts also fail to identify payments to committee members, although $45,000 was declared as "staff salaries" on the 2008 licence renewal. This figure would exclude the adminsitration officer, as the auditors exposed. Furthermore, the annual financial statement is required to be endorsed by the AGM, which was not done. The practice over the years was to provide an oral summary at the meeting. "The auditor’s signature had not been received and any members who wanted a copy could request it," Niels Briët would say to the meeting. In spite of this, the Arona-dominated committee consistently advised the Office of Fair Trading that the audited report had been endorsed by the AGM. The incoming secretary at the 2009 AGM in September, Donn Corcoran, said he was not confident that the accounts were adequate. The meeting noted, rather than endorsed, the financial statement, for the first time in nine years.

WHK Greenwoods, who audited the annual account for the 12 months to August 2009, raised many serious concerns. Payments made to Gillian McKenzie and Jeannette Fisher, known as stipends, were recorded as "supplier payments" yet no tax invoices were provided. They said such payments were incorrectly classified as operating expenses, and should have been paid via a payroll system. McKenzie and Fisher therefore avoided declaring their payments in their income tax. This practice had been the norm for years. It is not uncommon however, for a professional station manager to be appointed, and remuneration offered, it would be morally inappropriate for a person who serves on the voluntary committee to be paid. The AGM never provided a mandate to pay anyone for their services at Cairns community radio.

The Auditor is also scathing of other irregularities, including grant cheques that were never banked, accounts that were not reconciled on a monthly bais, and payments to Niels Briët as ‘Administration Officer’. Greenwoods found that an invoice Briet submitted where he claimed GST, yet he was not registered to collect this.

ACMA have advised the station to comply with "several serious matters" to retain it's licence, due in January. It's clear that over the years, the management committee failed to carry out its duties honestly and with transparency.

It's a sad indictment that some community organisations, with the best of intentions, fail to achieve their public mandate. Cairns community radio is not unique in it's mismanagement, but it has a serious case to answer, and they owe the community an explanation, that pumps over $200,000 of government grants annually.

Nearly at it's 40th anniversary, Arona has reached across social-economic boundaries, often holding an air of respectability from many across the Cairns region. They now have no involvement with Cairns community radio. One could argue that the history of Arona's involvement in community radio, appears to be a calculated plan, all the way to the bank. It's alledged that they have systematically excluded people and manipulated the membership, access to those wanting to join the committee, and hid details of large payments to their own members, gaining financial tax-free benefits. What is known that the mass exodus in late August of the ARona committee, was the result of serious financial irregularities, that were to be the focus of a forensic audit.

In January last year, a formal complaint was lodged with the regulatory body ACMA, citing numerous breaches, including did the Association did not represent the community; encourage membership, community or volunteer involvement. In their final investigation, the report did not uphold the complaints. A separate complaint was lodged, highlighting the absence of documents, such as dispute resolution procedures that are required to be prepared by stations in compliance with the Community Broadcasting Codes of Practice. It was such scrutiny, that led to the Arona committee deciding to leave en masse.

Here's the station's Licence Renewal Application where the Arona committee say that no one received commissions from sponsorships. Their explanations in appendixes for licence renewal Application make interesting reading. They outline many programmes and operations of the station that simply never made it to air, but were written to appease investigators at ACMA.

One of the most serious concern over the past few years, is the substancial monies paid to numerous volunteers, all who were members of Arona, whilst they controlled the committee. The general membership were never informed of these payments through the AGM financial statements. They were incomplete and amounts not disclosed or recorded correctly, as the auditors of the 2008/09 accounts showed.

It's extremely unusal for anyone in a voluntary association to receive payment for services, other than reinbursement for expences.

This is what was revealed by ACMA, throughout the January 2009 investigation:

The $20,000 "salary" to Briet was not disclosed in this declaration to the Government agency. It's likey that Niels Briët could have been drawing as much as $50,000 annually, with no formal approval or knowledge from the membership. Some of Briët's payments were put against maintenance. However, without a forensic audit proceeding, this figure could be much higher.

You will also note, and this is one of the first times that it was ever disclosed, the 'administration officer' Niels Briët, was claiming 10% from the entire grant income. This meant, that whenever a grant was applied for, he would award himself a 10% "commission." This is an astonishing revalation and highly improper when applications are put to government and corporate bodies, seeking funding for the purpose of providing community radio programmes. It's likey that such fees weren't disclosed to the agency the funding was being sought from. Sources in Cairns Community Radio have told CairnsBlog that Briet would even take the 10% fee, regardless if the grant was sucessful or not, when appling for multipy applications. There were also instances in which money had to be refunded because of lack of compliance, and in such cases Briet did not refund his "commission."

Although the former committee disclosed to ACMA that stipends were being paid, they never disclosed this to the membership. At a meeting in March 2009, Billy Lee Long said that he thought it was time to have a paid secretary. He, along with most of the membership, clearly thought that no-one was being paid at that point, even though the practice had been going on for years. As a pre-emptive disclosure, a message appeared on studio noticeboard about payments to committee members, however there was no indication of what was being paid to Niels Briet.

Another dishonest practice I can reveal is that the committee has been under-paying for it's re-broadcast news service it purchases from Charles Sturt University. The committee deliberately under-valued their income by a quater of the true amount, to enable them to selected the lowest threshold, therefore under-paying several thousand dollars every year. Up to $24,000 could be owed to Charles Sturt.

A former member who became increasingly disturbed about the way Arona members were running Cairns community radio, said the defining moment for her came after a discussion with members of the committee. “As one of the [Arona members] said to us, which is the reason we decided to stop our involvement, ‘we look for weaknesses in our friends'," she said, under the agreement of anonymity.

In many ways, this mantra sums up the nine-year tenue of Arona at the helm of the local community radio in Cairns. Either it was weak people, or clever and orchestrated manipulation that was so effective in their mission.

It's vital that the last nine years of the Arona-controlled Cairns community radio, is fully investigated and the will of the membership to undertake a foresic audit, is carried out. It's difficult to understand how the money moved around and paid to so-called 'volunteers' for services over the last nine years.

Federal MP Jim Turnour, who is also a member of the community radio, was approached about the serious concerns, however he was vague and non-committal following the pleas for help and intervention.

"I am aware that there have been some problems at the radio station and a change in governance," Turnour told CairnsBlog. However in a stern warning, Turnour said that community organisations need to operate within their constitution and according to the law. The association receives close to a quarter of a million dollars in annual government funding.

Sadly, this is not the end of this long and twisted torrid tale. You would expect that, given the last nine years of the Arona-dominated and controlled Cairns community radio, the mood and will for change was greater than any other agenda. The AGM of September 28th communicated this mandate loud and clear, when it elected a new committee headed by Rodney Coutts as president. Greg Dwyer was elected vice president and Mimielle Alvero treasurer, and Donn Corcoran as secretary. Pieter Blaauw, Judi Corcoran, Eylan Rose, Mary Wellington and Helen Jaroe, were elected to the committee.

However, in the three months after the AGM, the incoming committee has emploded in yet another a mass departure, this time over no confidence in the president Rodney Coutts, that many have labelled a "tyrant" and a "minipulative dictator."

In Part 3 of this investigation, I will disclose the series of events that followed the AGM in late September. It has yet again been a destructive and soul-destroying time over the last three months for many members and presenters since the election of the autocratic Coutts. He alone has caused unessesary turmoil, division, terminations and the resignations of almost all the new committee, in the space of two short months.

The station's broadcasting licence should not be renewed on the 8th January, if the recent events become known to ACMA.

Cairns community radio is yet again at the brink of self-destruction. It's not a happy place, and if you tune in to 89.1 FM, you're in for a big surprise.

I strongly encourage people to join Cairns community radio, so it can return to accountability and community ownership. You only have to pay a $20 membership fee ($10 concession).

Fill in the membership form. You can pay directly into the bank account to get a proof the receipt, then email it to Diane the secretary, and copy it to Better still, pop into the studio upstairs above Raintrees shopping centre (Koch Street entrance). Telephone 4053 6891.

NB: You will need to get your membership form in before next WEDNESDAY 6th January, as this is when the commiteee meet to accept new memberships.

You will also need a proposer and a seconder who is a current member. It's often respected that the commitee will endorse an application, should you not know any members. However, to this end, I suggest that you pay the fee, and forward completed form, with payment receipt, to and it will be completed on your behalf.


Tony Hillier said...

Well done, Michael. As someone who devoted a decade of his life to 89.1 FM (1985-1995), I applaud your tenacity and commitment in exposing the sad decline of Cairns' community radio station. It would appear that ACMA has good reason to revoke the station's licence.

Joanne Fitz (Stratford) said...

I too am pleased that the sencond part ogff this story has been exposed (what took you so long, eh?)

ANyway, sadly community organisation are all over the place, howeever this appears to be a group of people that were calious and planned about squezeing the community to pieces for notyhin but their own benefit.

Why they get away with such things is one question, but now you expect politicons to come forward (like Councillors and MPs) to hold this mob to account.

sewlines said...

Greetings Mike Moore - well-done -
your investigation in to the scandal at 4CCR-FM ('Live & Local')
is largely accurate - and the debacle has been curiously ignored by the local press.

Probably many of the station members and supporters who have
been 'sucked-in' were acting in good-faith - and we can only hope
that the station can be 'reformed'
before the Broadcasting Authority
steps-in and revokes their licence.

It appears you are offering to
enlist (for want of a better word)
new members who can drape a clean
sheet over the station - an
interesting contribution.

Your best expose' yet - and a bit of a pity that the station is of
little or no interest to the wider
FNQ community.

Your excellent effort just might
change that...

chris forsberg

Nota Busybody said...


Who cares? Cut of their public money & leave them alone.

Liz said...

I think the previous comments and ones which are sure to follow will indicate that quite a few people care N. Busybody. Maybe you should get involved in a community organisation, then you might know what you are talking about.

Tony Hillier said...

Nota Busybody, the station enjoyed a significant following in its heyday, when it broadcast a wide range of news, magazine and opinion oriented programs and award-winning specialist music programs. It has been run like a private club rather than a community radio station for the past dozen years or so, seemingly shunning publicity, and has thus become something of a nonentity listened to (I suspect) by a comparatively handful of people. It will take a monumental effort and need some seriously talented community-minded individuals to restore it to its former status.

Shane Wilson said...

Hello Mike,
Can I pay tribute to you for publishing the 4CCR stories……long hours of work….. some people do care, and care enough to have this horror situation corrected not only for the betterment of radio broadcasting but also for Cairns, like it or not 4CCR is part of Cairns.
I must also mention the many hours of work Mr Donn Corcoran has put into getting the mess at 4CCR corrected, Donn has worked for weeks on end sorting through a mountain of trouble.
He hasn’t taken any money unlike others past and present and many times hasn’t even been thanked.
People like Donn seldom get thanked or appreciated…..they just keep working.
Thanks should also be made to all the work done by Greg Dwyer.

To all the genuine people associated with 4CCR….hang in there folks we can fix it up.


Milly K, Cairns North said...

What a tremendous marathon of a tale Why hasn't any of thus made it to the Cairns Post or other mainstream news outlets yet? Surely this has been going on for months and years so why aren't they reporting about this public organisation?

I'm shocked and disturbed that this has been going on and am saddened for those ill treated through all this.

I will be joining as a member to do my bit for change.


Mike said...

Sadly Milly, investigative journalism doesn't come easy when you are used to regurgitating press releases as news for Rupert's rag. Probably a good reason why we need an alternative voice again in Cairns as this station once was many years ago. Hopefully we can again rebuild a strong community supported radio station to offset the spin doctors at the big end of town. After ten years away from the station, I'll be rejoining to make make sure we don't lose this vital community asset.

Steve Brech said...

Yes, proper news, bit of a shock to the system. Time to re-set my car's pre-set radio setting. As someone not involved in local community issues till 1998 and who first came to local issues through Tony, (yes I will be going out to buy that folk collection Tony) and Denis Walls in Barfly I understand how hard it is for local issues to cut through the ceaseless commercial chatter bought to us by the brands we don't need.

The regional councilors, State pollies and Jim must make an effort to get on the statation. An on-air office/ talk-back session moderated by a less fanatical presenter would be worth a go wouldn't it? less costly too!

Normal Kuranda resident: JJ Williams said...

Com'on, where's the nut jobs from Kuranda on responding to this??!! Are they too busy investing their hard earnt money in the stock market or on more prayer meetings? God knows, I think they'll need some!

BJ Nelmes, Edgehill said...

Me and my partner have been a member of the community radio since 2005 and always had concerns about those running the committee.

I remember once or twice saying that we should drop leaflets to schools and librarys and was told it wasn't my job.

So after reading all thus, it makes perfect sense they they never wanted publicity or new members at all just their control.

How horrible all this us. I hope the audit is done and this tine some from the Arona group will be locked up. Gnus "Christian" mob are as good as the Freebodys!!!

Scottie from Muninda said...

Fantastic and compelling Michael.

You are doing the job newspapers used to do.

The amount of detail you've presented is extraordinary. This is great work and I hope that the Cairns Post would start to wake up and do what the community wants.

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

Yes, I too would like to congratulate Mike on an excellent piece, & hopefully we might see a return to great community radio through all this. I would like to remind all blog readers out there that this is Not the Day Job for Mike - he does it due to his natural curiousity, and desire to disseminate information in an evenhanded and honest manner, without recourse to salacious or incendiary reporting.

It would be lovely to work out a way to indeed keep Mike & the cats in bread & butter, or in the cats' case, in cat food, so he could be freed from the Day Job - which, incidentially, he likes.

I also found it interesting to see the 'Post' front page going back to 1987 - gee, they actually had real words on Page One then, rather than the current Really Big Pictures of Disasters.

Harry of Holloways said...

I met that guy called Coutts and he seemed ok to me. Maybe I should tune into have a listen.

I hope the licence thing is storted out for all the Asian presenters on the community radio.

Unknown said...

Thanks for a great investigative job Mike. The comments on the blog are very encouraging. It is great to hear from people who are genuinely concerned about returning Cairns FM 89.1 to its proper role as a community radio station. A city the size of Cairns can and should have a good quality community radio. We encourage anyone who has experience or interest in community radio to contact the blog.
A happy New Year to all.

Donn and Judi Corcoran

Unknown said...

Wow a proper expose..well done Mike.. I hope that all the past committee including Fielder, Paine, Briët, McKenzie, etc. get whats coming to them (should they have misused public funds in any way)

How do the ATO/Fed Police follow up on things like this?
I am sure those that want blood will keep this in the public eye.

It appears that several of Committee have simply fleeced public funds for all its worth.. Surely the property/s they reside in can be sold to repay any misappropriation if they cannot fund it with cash/savings?)

Lets not let this go cold... Mike its worthy of Today/Tonight, Media Watch, they love all these grubby stories with those sexual overtones that you refer to at the start of part 2 .. Anyway keep up the good work.. Obviously Community Radio Rocks!

Gregory Dwyer said...

A very solid article, Mike. Thank you. I look forward to the next phase knowing that I am involved in some way. I wish I had known half as much about the organisation before I stood for the committee. For your record I state the following. Originally I did not want to stand as a committee member, although I had been involved in discussions concerning some issues. I certainly did not want the vice-president position (as those involved would have to attest), but I joined the committee for 1 year term only, as I stated to all, to help ensure an unbiased balance to the decision making and to bring about an honest and positive change for the good of the station and its involvement in the community. I attended the discussions and meetings and believed initially we would be able to implement a clear direction and agenda. Within three meetings (post AGM election) it became apparent that there were other completely opposite and personal agendas by some people on the committee to the agendas told to the voting members. They have been duped. I have a high level of personal and professional moral integrity and was forced to resign when outright lies and deceits prevented the necessary forward direction of the station. My integrity is such that I also resigned from presenting (as have other members since) knowing what was really being discussed and decided by some members of the Committee I could not ignore such behaviour simply to present my show.
I refused any paid position as we (as elected committee members), told the members at the AGM and still today wonder when the position of station manager will be advertised as was agreed at the first Committee meeting in October. Examination of the minutes by any member will clearly show what is happing to their station. There are rules of process and accountability that should not be ignored or flouted. And there is public money being given to this organisation.
Deceit is something I will not stand by and be part of.

Gregory Dwyer

Constance Lloyd said...

The one issue that Mike mentions that no one has picked up on is the role of the regulators. All incorporated bodies need to comply with state laws regarding financial reports, auditors statements etc. If these have been "dicey" and still have been lodged - where is the responsibility of the regulator? Have the documents in fact been lodged? Or is it a case of report lodged, tick box, condition met - without anyone really looking at the content of the documents lodged. It also raises the issue of the responsibilities of Auditors should they be not able to give an unqualified audit. Should they report the organisation to the regulator?

If the regulation and governance side is not up to scratch then you get the abuses of power Mike mentions. Prevention is always better than the cure and it seems that the signs of impending meltdown have been present for some years - it's just a pity that no-one stepped in to say enough is enough.

Jo-Anne T Arrons said...

I moved here two years ago with my other half and we always thought about getting involved in a community radio...

In fact I sent an email over a year ago to the then secretary or whoever, asking to put a programme together about animal care and all that (was a community veyt and animal recue co-ordinator in NSW for 22 years)... and the response I got was basically no.

They said that they were fully "booked" whatever that meant.

I repield saying that it could be incorporated into an exsisting programme for 10 - 15 minutes every other week and the same reply came back.

I realised that the mob in charge were running their own agenda and realy didn't want community peopel involved at all.. because the may times that I tuned in (I haven't for over a year) was only ethni9c programmes.. which is okay, but there was nothing else,. Nothing from the local scouts or guides, or footy club, or debates, or the flower clubs or the gay organisations, or the wildlife carers inc... it was an awful station and tuning in again over the last day - it is even wortse. The quality too is very poor, and I'm not even a professional.

What on earth was going on that this story (above) refers to, has certainly got worse by the day.

I will be rining my local councillor up (Div 4 I think) amd get her to come along to the next meeting. Does anyone know when that is?

I wqas really angry after reading this story, but now I will get involved as I now understand why the community radio was run like a mad house with no compassion for the real and inclusive community.

Jo-Anne T

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

What Constance Lloyd says above bears merit. Having been the Secretary of an Association a couple of years ago, & active on the committee subsequently, there are mandates for all Incorporated Associations to provide a regulaar return of their status to the State Government Office of Fair Trading, which is supposed to regulate such associations.

Therefore, if there have not been regular returns to the OFT, then this is a matter the State Government should attend to.

Reading the article, I was amazed at how sloppy their returns & information was.

Perhaps it is just a matter of 'ticking the boxes' at the OFT, but it would appear, in this case, that the boxes were not even ticked.

D & B Rentz said...

Our sentiments mirror those of Greg Dwyer beautifully put. It's a pity that things have degenerated to the present level after the positive feelings that were apparent after the recent (Sept) AGM. It seems we have to go back to square one.

Let's hope some common sense returns and we can begin anew.

Chris n chips said...

Community radio is dead. Get used to it

Kathleen, Cairns said...

I'd like to hear more from the last committee andvsee how it seemingly went unchallenged for 10 years. How does this happen? Are people who get involved stupid? I suspect not but it beggers belief that all this is going on fir such a long time and no one dobs them in or even an auditor says this is fo wrong that the police called in. Have I got the wrong end if the stick because it appears something missing in all this or are community organisatons like this ignored so much that they can easily get away unnoticed with a major bank robbery? Tell me.

James Walsh said...

Haha we've been to that commune once after an invite from the organisers of an open day would you believe.

I think it was in 2006 or there about. The subject of the Cairns radio even came up in informal chit chat, with one of the woman I recall. She was a nice plesant type of a lady.

How very odd, if not surreal reading all this. Goes to so, you just never know, do you?


Peter Burlace said...

I was involved in a footy club and this kind of thing was going on for years and two of us finally stood up and at first we were the trouble makers and the ones accused of everything, but after 18 months of persistence, we cleaned the place up and the old committee were exposed and one was prosecuted.

It can be done so I wish everyone involved the very best in their endevours. It's very difficult but the rewards to hold these people to account is a higher moral approach and one well worth the effort, even though it often comes at a personal cost. You know who is on right side of justive and the community.

Richie Bates said...

Great story Michael, as the comments confirm

KC said...

Chris and Chips, you had better not tell that to the successful 4TTT in Townsville or 3CR, 3RRR and 3PBS in Melbourne, nor to Bay FM in Byron Bay or the dozens of other successful community radio stations around Australia, many of whom stream their programs on the internet. Obviously you know something that they don't.

Tony Hillier said...

Well said KC! Community radio is a potent force at its best. As well as providing some of the most stimulating and challenging programs on the airwaves, and broadcasting quality music of all genres that's never heard on commercial stations and only occasionally heard on the ABC network, it has provided a stepping stone to talent such as Roy & HG. Programs out of 89.1FM, like Kurt Derbyshire's 'Blues Cruise' were picked up by stations around the country via satellite, and listened to by thousands of music-lovers.

It's all elementary, my dear said...

Can't wait to see what's going on in the hallowed walls of the studio now. talk about drama rama. Why can't a bunch of keen interested enthusiats of local radio simply get on with the roile of making it happen and allowing all sorts of interests group get involved.

it's all about egos and fake power inn these organisations. always is, sadly

Simon M - Atherton said...

I note - with particular suspicion, that the number of objectors to this story from the first column that was published here a few weeks ago (SEE: Link to part onee on radio trouble where there were a few saying all kinds of stuff against and in support of the old mob.

Where are they now?

I don't think there's been hardly any on here this time?

Time to open the closet said...

I just tuned in and this copuld be a radio from any community around the world... there was certainly nothing, nothing at all on it to say it was a local radio staion... and earlier all I got was some international dutch or german news reader - sounded like he was from Europe. What's that all about?

Joey, Cairns Post reader said...

Isn't it amazing that've been living in Cairns for 12 and a half years now, with a young family, and we've been subscribers to the Cairns Post for most of that time, however I have never read anything about tthis Arona community at Kuranda, ever.

Cairns resident said...

I Was Raised On Arona.

Another Cairns Resident said...

I was raised on ROCK.

Andrew Griffiths said...

I just wanted to drop you a line and say “BLOODY WELL DONE” - what a great expose on the life and times of Community Radio in Cairns.

Wow you really have put a lot of time and effort into it. Congratulations Mate.

More of this type of work and these breaking stories will greatly increase the credibility of blogs around the globe.

As you can tell by most of the comments – they are smart, intelligent and opinionated instead of what can at times be simple anonymous sniping.

Good on you Mike.

Miss Chief. said...

Word on the vine is that a certain GK, who shall remain nameless, is going to interview Rodney Coutts for one of Uncle Rupert's publications - who knows, we may even see it in the Cairns Post.

nocturnal congress said...

Wouldn't surprise me "Miss Chief" at all if journos (or so called "journos") from "The Cairns Post" or wherever do a cut and paste job with Mike's hard work, then flog it off to some awards night as their own work. We've seen that before........

MB said...

Now that's what I call investigative journalism. Thanks for Mike for your hard work.

WhitsundaysOnline.Net said...

Hi Mike,
was wondering (again) why you didn't post my comments?
whitsundays online

CairnsBlog said...

JD, no comments have been with-held at all. If you're having problems posting comments on the Google-encryption system, please email it direct to me at and I will see it is published without delay.


John L Fielder, immediate past president 4CCR said...

Hi Michael,

I made a posting in response to some of the content of your blog. At the time it appeared. Since then I have not been able to view it.

Any comments?

CairnsBlog said...

John, I have allowed every post that has come through for that story on CairnsBlog.

You say it appeared, however I don't recall any comment being posted under your name at all.

If you're having problems posting comments - due to the Google system - and some do, I suggest you simply email it to me, and I'll post the comment under your name.

Michael P Moore

Debbie F said...

Food for thought:
To those who read, and believe, all they see on Michael Moore's blog site, they should be made aware of what is called "perception management". This means that a writer can create facts, then pass them off the public as truths. This is often done by putting a question which then lingers in the reader's mind as a statement. Thus the writer watches as an untruth is quickly and overwhelmingly established in the readers' minds. After that, no-one is trying to offer the real truth can make the public realise that the original writings aren't true at all. This is what makes blog sites dangerous. Bear this in mind when reading any blog site. Also bear in mind that Michael Moore's site has a heading which offers you "real news, opinion, gossip, slander", etc. This is his one real truth.
Debbie F

Joan of Raintrees said...

That's all very well Ms Debbie.

But, please cUt to the chase. WHAT is the facts? What is false that is presented on this story about the silly community radio?

Come on. Tell us. What us the mid-truth/s that is quoted here? Sonething that that the dim Mr R Coutts said? His letter quoted to the Councillor? The fact that Blaauw threw the new membership applications out the door on the floor as printed in the Cairns Post today?

What is the mis truth?

Tell us the specific Dearestt Debbie!???

Rod Coutts' lover said...

How sad for you Michael P Moore if you actually believe the words you have written and if others who read your words believe them. You sound ever so convincing, but you actually know nothing.

Christina Binning Wilson said...

Having spent yesterday & this last night ploughing through more of this story I have stumbled on about 4CCRFM, I am more distressed.

People locked out of their own meeting, memberships rejected! Bill Cummings did not list 4CCR in his economic indicators! Cruel news to me! Billie Lee Long had subsidised 4CCR for it to arrive at this debacle anyway! Body blow!

I did not continue to observe the status of community broadcasting over the years since I have been absent from direct involvement. I have however continuously advocated its use for local community promotion & significantly forwarded a belief in health services using community broadcasting for health literacy & health promotion, citing as a template a 4CCR programme Denis Walls presented & I admired.

Woe is me!

What has NOW happened that a clear statement has not been issued by ACMA leastwise that I can find about 4CCR..does ACMA exist...why could I not open ACMA pages just to pour oil on my burning fire.

If the Federal Government has intervened or is going to intervene where is the statement they have, ACMA has, who has...if someone could be so helpful & direct me!

scooter is my idol said...

Early in this saga "jim mumbles scooter turncoat turn now shit I am trying to train my rello and yet I am a goose at this pollie crap" said he would look into it ,well HAS HE?

Christina Binning Wilson said...

Hello Scooter is my idol,

But people get tired in these stressful situations or have visitors & family that become most important :)

Most importantly, anyone will likely be able to if not now in the future just access the results of the enquiry & telephone relevant persons or email them at ACMA or through the CBAA.

Last night the ACMA website definitely was not there I swear for me to access & tonight is found, including on it the document below instead of where I found it last night on the CBAA site where it was temporary I think :)

Just in case you have not caught up with them these are the DRAFT Guidelines on Community Broadcasting Participation not so easy to find:

I am going to drop ACMA an email regards the near invisibility of the draft which I am sure is inadvertent. Comment is called for by June 1 2010.

I will spend a couple of days exploring the ACMA website & CBAA to see if I can easily identify the processes of complaints management.

Softly, Scooter. Thank you for reading my post & responding to it. Of course I don't know whether I might have known you before when I was there but that is irrelevant & I will go back & read any posts with your name & jim mumbles so I can get to know some of the features of the discussions & not to discredit arguement. I think that's important.