Tuesday 31 August 2010


The Desley Boyle van is a little sticky

Spotted in Grafton Street, Cairns at 3:15pm this afternoon...

Even Cairns MP Desley Boyle has a "See Queensland First - before Bligh sells it" sticker on her campaign van.

It may have a dose of van aerial disease.

Is Cairns Council paying for Blake's defamation case?

Cairns Regional Council's CEO has suspended any legal support for Councillor Blake in the defamation case against CairnsBlog, pended "legal consideration."

Following an email to Councillors last Friday, CEO Lyn Russell said the matter is in the hands of the court, and it is important that councillors make no comment on the substance of the matter.

When questioned if Council was paying for Blake's legal defence, Lyn Russell's answer on Friday was inconclusive, telling councillors that if they were asked, they should refer that matter to the CEO. This follows discussion about indemnifying councillors and staff in March this year, when CEO was vested with the power to decide when Council should fund legal action.

"You will recall that Council delegated this power to the CEO in a resolution on 17th March 2010," Lyn Russell wrote. "If asked this question directly, we suggest that you advise this position how we spend ... resources to indemnify councillors or staff and the cost of legal maters has been delegated to the CEO as an operational matter," Lyn Russell said on Friday.

As the CEO's statement implied that Cairns Regional Council may be paying for the legal expenses of Alan Blake, I put the question Ms Russell. Here is her reply:
  • FROM Lyn Russell
    Michael Moore, CairnsBlog.net
    Val Schier, Sarah Philpott
    DATE 31 August 2010 @ 12:35
    RE: Council legal fees - Councillor Blake defamation action

    Hello Michael,

    Thanks for your enquiry.

    This issue is currently under legal consideration, so unfortunately I'm unable to respond to your queries at this stage.


    Lyn Russell PSM FAIM FLGMA Chief Executive Officer
    Executive Cairns Regional Council
    t: 07 4044 3017 m: 0417717601 w: cairns.qld.gov.au
    Mail: PO Box 359, Cairns Qld 4870 Office: 119-145 Spence Street, Cairns

It's probable that Council have already paid for Blake's initial expenses, including preparing the Statement of Claim with FNQ Legal, which spanned eight pages. This could have cost as much as $2,000.

In a July 2009, a ruling from the then Acting CEO, Peter Tabulo [see right], it was determined that Blake's actions in contacting my employer and threatening them to 'deal with me' (which I outlined in a posting August 2009), which is at the centre of this defamation case, was a "personal matter."

"The actions of Cr Blake were not directly or indirectly in relation to a Council matter and as such is deemed to be a personal matter," Peter Tabulo said last July. "I have however reminded Cr Blake about his ethical and behavioural obligations pursuant to the Code [of Conduct]."

With this 'ruling' in mind, one that I questioned at the time, it would make any financial support from Council questionable.

The spirit of the discussion to indemnify councillors and staff in March, will certainly be under careful scrutiny now. Most ordinary meaning of that decision, is when a case is taken against a councillor or staff, not the other way around. It will set a dangerous precedent if councillors know there's a honey pot of money to dig into when they want to fire of legal threats to all in sundry willy nilly.

Like most ratepayers, I am concerned about the incidence of a defamation action, especially when it's bought about by a politician against a private citizen. This of course has the grave potential for the diminution of free speech and democracy.

If Council pays legal support for Councillor Blake, which could amount to thousands of dollars, it is a matter of fundamental public interest. There is of course a degree of irony in all this. A citizen, and a ratepayer at that, speaks out about a local politician, then the politician uses public rates to stop people from talking about them in the first place.

I ask those that want a free local media like CairnsBlog, to assist by way of donation to the Fighting Fund. You can do this by either emailing me, or using the PayPal 'donate' button on the right-hand side. It's likely that my 2010 Council community grants for blogging won't be approved.

Labor not listening to Cairns on asset sales

The Liberal National Party has launched an attack on Bligh's Queensland Labor government, saying they have had fingers in their ears on privatisation and have ignored Cairns and Far North Queenslanders’ objections to the asset sales.

"Local Labor MPs have turned their backs on Far North Queensland residents who overwhelmingly opposed the fire sale of the state’s railways, ports and motorways," Leader of the Opposition John-Paul Langbroek said.

“Cairns residents have clearly shown they are opposed to Bligh and Labor’s privatisation agenda, after all, they are still waiting to see any benefit from the sale of the Cairns airport," John-Paul Langbroek says. "I know a lot of Far North Queenslanders were hoping for a breakthrough at Labor’s crisis caucus meeting today, especially with Cairns MP Desley Boyle speaking out against privatisation."

“But when it came to the crunch, Desley Boyle failed to back up her words with real action," Langbroek says. "Boyles’ decision to walk away with Anna Bligh still at the helm and on course to sell off these assets, shows that no-one in Labor is actually interested in listening to Far North Queenslanders.”

Langbroek says voters and workers in FNQ had sent a clear message to all local Labor MPs - Desley Boyle, Jason O’Brien, Curtis Pitt and Steve Wettenhall - that the privatisation agenda had to stop.

“The members for Cook and Baron River were forced out of the Electrical Trades Union because they backed Anna Bligh, and the former Federal Member for Leichhardt Jim Turnour was pushed out of his seat because he refused to stand up and support his electorate," John-Paul Langbroek said this morning.

“Labor is displaying a total lack of empathy with ordinary people and a level of arrogance that proves they just don’t care,” Mr Langbroek said.

Monday 30 August 2010

Cairns postcards from past - The Esplanade

The Lyons was demolished to build Trilogy. The Esplanade was the truck route through the city because Sheridan street used to turn into a dirt track near where the courthouse is now.

Post your memories in the comments...

Homo apocalyptus at The Attic

If adult content and zombie situations is your thing, then Dean Poynor's new play, Homo apocalyptus will be just the night out you've been looking for.
Presented by Cairns Festival artists in residence, the Salvage Company, supported by Gilligan's and The Attic Bar, Homo apocalyptus is a play about love, humanity, and our future after the zombie apocalypse (should appeal to most politicians).
You can catch this unique bit of theatre at The Attic, 89 Grafton Street on Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd September.
Dean Poynor, who is the playwright in residence for the 2010 Cairns Festival, describes the play says...
  • Homo apocalyptus is the story of three human survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse who find themselves thrown together in an abandoned bar on a deserted tourist island, and must accept the challenge to repopulate the human race. At the final hour of our species, this play examines the meaning of religion and family, and exposes the intricate dance of need and desire that strikes at the core of what it means to be human.
"This production is special to me, and I'm glad to see it finally come to life," Dean Poynor says. "It was developed last year during a residency in Florida with The Studios of Key West, and we spent time rehearsing this summer in NYC. I was able to work with the exact cast that I envisioned, and they flew down ahead of me to Cairns, to begin putting the show together with Australian director, Velvet Eldred, and the good people at The Attic."

Homo apocalyptus also features Paul Jaques Kaufmann as Jed, Monica Wyche as Lenora-Fontane, and Katie Wieland as Kira. Direction is by Sarah Krohn in New York, and Velvet Eldred in Cairns. Sound design by Baxter Engle.

CREB track closed

The notorious CREB track  has been closed.

Closed signs have been posted at both the southern at  Roaring Meg Falls, and northern ends of the track – on the gates at Upper Daintree and at Christies Pocket.

It looks as the road may be closed for the next ten days.

The Creb track was so named after the Cairns Regional Electricity Board, servicing power the Cooktown area.

73 snooping cameras in Cairns, with more on the way

Councils all over Queensland are bloody keen to spy on their residents and visitors, and are spending millions along the way.

There's 73 closed circuit cameras around Cairns.

Most are located in the CBD, and the Cairns Regional Council has discussed plans for more. A mobile camera, that was for a time located on Collins Avenue, Edgehill to prevent plant theft, failed to work. Staff who have talked with CairnsBlog, say the mobile device doesn't work effectively.

Images captured can be often be minor, An English tourist appeared before the Cairns Court last year when a camera caught him relieving himself over the wharf in the early hours of the morning.

An UK report from Scotland Yard suggests that only 3% of crime is discovered via CCTV.

Around Queensland, Ipswich has 200 cameras, with plans to install m
ore "every year." Logan has 150, Townsville 139, Gold Coast 107, Moreton Bay 100, Brisbane (CBD and Fortitude Valley) 65, Sunshine Coast 17, Gladstone 10, and four in Mackay.

Installation is increasing, supported by massive government grants and security equipment becoming cheaper.

The Australian Council of Civil Liberties disagreed with the Police who say cameras deter crime, and are expecting a public revolt. There have been now numerous incidents over recent years in the Northern Territory, Queensland and NSW where monitoring staff are using the system to perve of people for sexual gratification.

"We will be installing another 46 cameras if a $150,000 State Government grant is approved," Mackay councillor David Perkins says. Beenleigh, in Logan City Council, will install a heap of cameras to monitor public areas and the local railways, with a new $400,000 grant.

There is a plan to install 40 cameras on the Sunshine Coast for $900,000, and an increase to the Gold Coast's 107 cameras, along with more for Brisbane, however, recently there has been debate to remove cameras in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall, following many complaints of spying.

I first raised this subject in 2007, and again in June 2008 after a meeting I had with the Mayor of Wellington, Kerry Prendergast, and her Council's Safe City officer. Wellington ditched almost all their expensive CCTV cameras, along with the millions it cost to monitor them and their team of donut-eating staff.

And what did they do? They put a series of City Safe community staff on the street, that doubled as information folk for visitors. This didn't stop the Wellington capital being designated a World Health Organization Safe Community.

The massive monitoring operation for Cairns, is controlled from the Inner City Facilities office, on the Esplanade (the key is under the mat).

In 2000 we have just 19 cameras, which increased to 41 in 2004. By 2007 there were 60 cameras dotted around the city. We now have 73, and these has recently been upgraded to transmit better images.

The State government has this week announced it will spend $1m on cameras and other security at rail travel centres and stations across regional Queensland.

"The security upgrade includes installation of additional cameras, upgrade of alarm systems and safety recording systems at various locations throughout regional Queensland," Desley Boyle MP
Member for Cairns said.

Councillor Di Forsyth, who attended the Safer Communities meeting in Christchurch in 2008, is an advocate for the Wellington model, whereby cameras are replaced with staff patrolling the street, however acknowledges that there is no current plan to do this. She also says that CCTV can pick up areas where police can't be.

"I think having people on the street is far better, but you can't have people everywhere. You also can't have cameras everywhere either," Di Forsyth says. "They're only as good as you've got people watching them 24/7," Councillor Forsyth told CairnsBlog. "Or late at night when there may be trouble. They do seem to be working here in Cairns and are able to alert Police to where there's scuffles or where people are mis-behaving."

"The cameras are like having extra staff [for the police]," Forsyth says. "I know some places, like Brisbane mall, they've been taking them out progressively, as people say they're very costly and some local councillors saying they're against civil liberties and an invasion of privacy."

Forsyth says that the Police say that the Council cameras are helpful, and cites the late night incidents that had occurred in John Eagan Park.

"Young people where walking through private properties and using their outdoor furniture," Forsyth said. "They would be very noisy and there all hours of the night. Council upped patrols, and child safety workers from the Department of communities involved, the substance abuse group, and now it's pretty much all over there now."

"In a lot of cases cameras just show you what's going on, but they're not going to solve anything. You've actually got to get there and work with whatever is going on. It was a very successful outcome for John Eagan Park, to not install cameras," Diane Forsyth says.

Council will look at installing lights at the Grove Street park, as they have done on a number of community parks, including GlenomaPark, Brinsmead on the Western Arterial Road. During the election campaign, Warren Entsch offered $83,000 to install CCTV cameras in the Grove Street park, linked to Council’s monitoring network.

Next month, Councillor Forsyth will spend the night at the camera monitoring room, to see first hand how the operation works.

Saturday 28 August 2010

A Saturday walk up the Blue Arrow

Thanks to CairnsBlog reader Luke, here's a panoramic photo he snapped on the Blue Arrow this afternoon.

(Click the image for a large version)

The Blue, and adjoining Red Arrow walk, is part of the Mt Whitfield Conservation Park, covers 300 hectares of forested mountain range, up to 365 metres above sea level. Luke's photo overlooks the airport and the coastline. Both walks commence from Collins Avenue, just along from the Tanks entrance.

The Red Arrow walk ends up the communications tower on Mt Lumley Hill at 325 metres, where you'll enjoy a spectacular view along the coast to the north of Cairns, and unmatched mobile phone reception. The walk, traverses rainforest, open woodlands and creek crossings, and you'll probably spot Australian brush-turkeys, wallabies, snakes, and other wildlife. If you're extra lucky, you may even see one of the notorious flashers, renown to frequent the tracks.
  • Red Arrow circuit
    1.3km - approx 1-hour return. Forested, some steep sections, two open viewing areas overlooking Cairns City and north towards the Airport.

  • Blue Arrow circuit
    5.4km approx 3 hours return - slow walkers allow longer. Rugged bush track with steep climbs. Map and info available from Botanic Gardens office at the Tanks. You should take drinking water.
Here's some other great walks around Cairns.

Are you are a problem drinker?

Find out if you are a problem drinker or have hazardous levels of consumption.

Here's a survey (reposted from KiwiBlog) to complete, 'sponsored' by Cairns' own iPhone DrinkerTracker app developer.

Post your score in comments (copy and paste) and later on, I will post what different scores mean according to the World Health Organisation.

1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
(0) Never [Skip to Qs 9-10]
(1) Monthly or less
(2) 2 to 4 times a month
(3) 2 to 3 times a week
(4) 4 or more times a week

2. How many drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking?
(0) 1 or 2
(1) 3 or 4
(2) 5 or 6
(3) 7, 8, or 9
(4) 10 or more

3. How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?
(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

4. How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?
(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

5. How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?
(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

6. How often during the last year have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?
(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

7. How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?
(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

8. How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?
(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

9. Have you or someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?
(0) No
(2) Yes, but not in the last year
(4) Yes, during the last year

10. Has a relative or friend or a doctor or another health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?
(0) No
(2) Yes, but not in the last year
(4) Yes, during the last year

Saturday SoapBlog: Peter Curson - Dick Smith's intolerable Australia

Peter Curson
reflects on Dick Smith's
population puzzle that screened on ABC recently.

is Professor of Population and Security in the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney.

I watched only half of Dick Smith's population puzzle on ABC, because I became so irritated with the broad generalisations coloured by images of when he was a "free-range kid" in a suburban backyard: the recitation of fears of increasing urban congestion, crowding, booming city-scapes and general predictions of doom that will occur if we don't do something about current population growth.

We seem to have been transported back a couple of decades when a certain demographic demonology ruled the developed world.

Back then it was predictions of billions of fast breeding developing
worlders, living in depressed conditions threatening our living conditions and spelling gloom for the planet. Now we seem consumed by fears of population growth fuelled by high immigration, producing our own form of demographic Armageddon. Much was made by Dick Smith of the fact that currently net migration was of the order of 300,000, and if allowed to continue at this level it would severely undermine our living conditions, produce intolerable crowding and congestion, threaten sustainability, and see our cities swell to unmanageable and intolerable levels.

But let us look a little closer at immigration for a moment.

Certainly net migration over the last two years has been of the order of 277,000 to 300,000. But when you
disaggregate the numbers you find that only about 86,000 were in fact permanent migrants. Most of the rest (roughly 186,000) came on temporary visas, including 108,700 overseas students. In other words 67% of our net immigration came from people on temporary short term visas. Interestingly, if you add these immigrants to our New Zealand friends, who rightly enjoy a special visa arrangement, then 80% of all our net immigration came from these two sources. So the real question that should have been posed is - is an 86,000 net migration gain too many or too few to meet our national goals (do we have any?), and perhaps we should also re-examine our educational priorities so that the nation's goals come before the budgets of a handful of tertiary institutions.

It is also true that Australia's current population growth of 2% is higher than most other developed countries. But remember that we have just emerged from two decades where growth levels were of the order of 1.3% per
annum. Also remember that the current fertility rate of 2.0 is still below replacement level, and let us not forget that population predictions are at best a most imprecise science and very much depend upon certain fertility, mortality and migration levels continuing into the future. For example, we really do not know what might happen to fertility levels over the next few decades. For most of the last few decades most of the developed world has been fretting about very low fertility and the prospect of declining populations. In parts of Europe high levels of labour migration have seen birth rates increase. Much the same has happened in Australia. In Europe a debate has raged about increasing immigration levels, not only to provide a ready labour force but also to help maintain higher fertility levels.

In the current debate about Australia's population much is made of the fact that within 40 or so years we could be looking at a population of the order of 34 to 36 million people and that this will see cities like Sydney and Melbourne have populations of between 6 and 7 million. According to Dick Smith this will place an intolerable burden on our water, food, housing and transport systems and lead to extraordinary urban congestion. His answer: cut immigration levels, and presto, all will be solved!

But does rapid population growth automatically lead to environmental degradation? Is there a causal relationship between population growth and declining living standards and environmental conditions? The answer is not simple but would seem to depend on the social and economic resources and adaptive strategies of the society involved.

But should we be concerned about population growth? Of course we should, and we should be prepared to acknowledge population as one of the critical issues of our time. But some of the predictions that are being served up to us are so bleak and emotional and reminiscent of the Ehrlich debates of the 1970s, that they can be rejected out of hand. Much of the debate also rests on the presumption that our social and economic conditions in 2050 will be similar to those of today. But this is most certainly not the case as Australian society will be quite different in 40 or so years time with presumably different goals, priorities and adaptive strategies.

To my mind we should also be concerned about the ageing of the population and the fact that within 30 years perhaps one in four Australians will be aged over 65. Equally significant is the rapid growth of our 'old old' population, those over 80. This is the fastest growing sector of the Australian population. If fertility remains much as it is we could have between 5 and 7% of our population aged over 80 by 2050.

As I have said before, we desperately need a population policy, one that is all inclusive, one that considers fertility, mortality and migration and all the compositional aspects of our population, such as family composition, health status, ethnic and racial composition etc in the context of national and regional aspirations and goals. We still seem a long way from achieving this and currently seem preoccupied with visions of environmental doom and despair.
  • Re-published from the ABC, with permission of the author.

Friday 27 August 2010

Community radio buckles, postpones AGM

Following the exposure on CairnsBlog this morning about a hastily-called annual meeting, without following legal due process in advising members in writing, Cairns Community Radio 89.1 FM, have suddenly cancelled Monday's meeting.

Moments after the story on CairnsBlog this morning, a small notice was posted on the radio station's website...
  • "AGM date of 30 August 2010 has been changed to 13th Sepetember [sic] 2010.
    A notice may be downloaded from the link above.
    Nominations 13 September AGM 2010."
This change has been done because the 14-day notice period was ignored.

Rod Coutts took this same defensive action at a March meeting, in reaction to a large turn-out of disgruntled members of the public.

Blake Vs Blog defamation - media coverage

Yesterday there was a raft of media interest surrounding the defamation action against CairnsBlog by Cairns Regional Councillor Alan Blake.

ABC Far North's Fiona Sewell interviewed myself, and also Peter Black, a law lecturer at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.

[Download ABC MP3]

I had many calls and emails yesterday, asking if Council was footing Blake's legal costs.

Yesterday afternoon, Cairns Regional Council's CEO Lyn Russell, discouraged councillors from discussing the issue and speculating if Council was supporting Blake financially.

"You are already aware that the action taken on behalf on Councillor Blake regarding alleged defamation against him by Michael Moore of CairnsBlog," Lyn Russell said. "As this matter is in the hands of the court, it is important that we make no comment on the substance of the matter."

When questioned if Council was paying for Blake's legal defence, Lyn Russell's answer was inconclusive, telling councillors that if they were asked, they should refer that matter to the CEO.

"You will recall that Council delegated this power to the CEO in a resolution on 17th March 2010 [see below]. If asked this question directly, we suggest that you advise this position how we spend ... resources to indemnify councillors or staff and the cost of legal maters has been delegated to the CEO as an operational matter," Lyn Russell told councillors.

The CEO's statement implies Cairns Regional Council is paying for the legal expenses of Alan Blake, however this is not entirely clear. I have put in a question to her, and yet to receive a reply.

The amended motion in March removed the Mayor from the decision process. Discussion was also held to disallow any retrospective claim.

Blake's claim refers to events commencing on August 2009, so it would be improper for council funds to be used. Of course, if Council is paying legal support in this case, it is a matter of fundamental public interest. There's a degree of irony though: speaking out about a local politician, then they use your rates to stop you from talking about them in the first place.

Carrie-Anne Greenbank from WIN News also put together a good overview of the action, and spent a great deal of time discussing the matter with me yesterday.

Cairns community radio corruption continues as secret AGM planned for Monday

Hot on the heels of three Australian Communications and Media Authority rulings that demanded more transparent management and open membership policies, the $300,000 Government-funded Cairns Community Radio station is sneaking through a raft of unconstitutional changes at their AGM on Monday.

Changes include removing membership appeals, and paying committee members.

Over the last year, CairnsBlog has been tireless in investigating and exposing the corruption and lack of openess at the community-run radio station. It appears that the 2010 annual meeting will continue a secret and closed management style, alarming Cairns Regional Councillors, Diane Forsyth and Linda Cooper.

An annual general meeting of a community organisation, is a time to report back to members, the the community it serves. However, the embattled president of Cairns Community Radio, Rod Coutts, who took over the reins at last year's AGM on September 28th, has attracted severe criticism; landed three ACMA investigations; refused to accept any new members, and has supplied no financial reports.

The annual meeting to be held on Monday night at Brothers League's Club, will be a lock-up affair, and any non-members will be barred, including media, according to Coutts. It is expected security will man the door, and check for valid memberships.

However the annual membership renewal process, was handled in such a way that few were eligible to renew at the end of July. During the last 12 months, all attempts for new applications have been flatly refused, with enquiries being referred to the station's lawyer, Thomas Stevens for reply. Estimates are as high as $30,000 in legal fees over the last year, writing to distraught and terminated members.

Monday's meeting is occurring a month early, to circumnavigate the need for a management committee meeting, that is required to action membership applications in advance of a general membership meeting, so voting can be controlled.

A list of things have occurred over the last year to ensure this annual meeting is carefully planned to restrict scrutiny. President Rod Coutts, who was elected for one year under the station's constitution, and treasurer Mimelle Alvero, also Coutts' girlfriend, have assumed another term in their roles, and will not go before any election process on Monday night.

As required under the rules of Incorporated Association, the membership should be advised in writing of a meeting in writing, with any proposed rule changes. This has not occurred, and the same trick was attempted and exposed earlier in the year.

A January meeting of the membership, was called off after a large number of the community were refused access. A subsequent meeting, the only one heard in the last 11 months, attempted to push through constitutional changes without any due process being followed. Cairns Regional Councilor Linda Cooper attended, however was shunned and her attempt to raise a point of order was refused when she highlighted that the process was illegal. During the charade, Rod Coutts' daughter verbally attacked Linda.

The call for nominations for the committee and advice of the AGM, has not been conveyed to the membership in writing, as required by law, and was only posted on the station's website around two weeks ago. Such notice, does not constitute the required notification to membership.

No notification was posted to members, instead a simple statement appeared on the website after the required notification period expired:


    The following financial members of Cairns FM89.1 have been nominated to the following positions:
    1. Vice-President John Fielder
    2. Secretary Julian Serong
    3. Committee members Diane Jensen, Pieter Blaauw, Gary Montagner, and Peter Ricketts.

No mention is made of President, nor Treasurer.

Monday's meeting is expected to be a tightly-controlled affair, and Rod Coutts has yet again said the meeting is "for members only."

Agenda items include proposed changes to the Constitution, however these have not been supplied in advance in writing to the membership, therefore any motions passed, with be invalid. If the station's secretary signs a statutory declaration with the AGM return to the Office of Fair Trading, they will be committing fraud, let alone an offence under the rules of Association.

President Rob Coutts [right] has also advised that "no other business will be discussed" at the AGM. This is yet another breach.

Due to the way in which the annual meeting has come about, it's likely many will be unaware.

Past AGMs have failed to either present financial accounts, or they have had scant detail. If the financial statement and audit report are not signed and available to members on Monday night, the meeting is not valid and will have to be held again.

It is unusual to have the meeting in August. In the past, they have failed to provide signed audited accounts during September, arguing that the auditor had not signed the accounts.

Nominations for committee
There was no call for nominations for the committee. The form for nominations went on the station’s website on the same date as a list of nominations, making the call a farce.
It was posted on the website after 16th June - the last date for receipt of nominations under their constitution.

Cairns Community Radio's constitution currently has two contradictory clauses.

One provides for annual election of all members, the other provides for two-year term. The current committee was elected under these rules and should stand down annually until a decision is made by the membership on the preferred approach. In spite of this, President Rod Coutts and Treasurer Mimielle Alvero have apparently unilaterally decided that they will have a two-year term and are not standing down for re-election.

Substantial changes to the Constitution
The website includes a document called ‘Rules of Cairns Community Broadcasters Inc.’. This is not a copy of the current constitution, but a re-drafted one containing a number of changes. There are in fact hundreds of changes, many in wording and meaning, that have been altered. Every change, has to be presented to the membership for approval.

By failing to circulate written advice to all members, any changes to the constitution, including the terms of the proposed resolution as required by law, and 14 days in advance of the meeting, any changes voted on on Monday night, will not be legal.

Posting the proposed draft constitution on the website, without any qualifications, would only be valid if all changes were clearly identified, and all members had internet access and had been notified at least 14 days in advance of the meeting about the proposed changes. Of course this is not the case.

Neither of these conditions were met. An attempt in March failed for exactly the same reason, and it appears the incompetence of Rod Coutts is repeating itself.

At the March meeting, Rod Coutts tried to justify the then proposed changes to the Consitution by saying that the ACMA had asked for them. However, only one of the constitutional changes - the removal of the need for a proposer and a seconder - is at ACMA's request. The rest are attempts to give more power to the committee at the expense of the rights of members.


There are hundreds of word and meaning changes to the constitution, many not specified nor advised. Others are more overt that are aimed at closing down participation and transparency, something in direct contravention to the last three ACMA rulings the radio station have received.

Some of the dramatic changes include:

  • Removal of the right of members at general meetings to consider appeals against expulsions and refusals of membership. The committee proposes that it alone will decide on these matters, and it alone will consider appeals against its own decisions. This is in conflict with regulations under Queensland law and ‘natural justice' provisions of the law.
  • Changes to the membership term of the committee. In spite of the fact that these changes have yet to be endorsed, the committee is already applying them.
  • Removal of the right of members at general meetings to decide on membership fees. This is proposed to be handed to the committee, which has already sought to increase fees to $25 a year.
  • Provisions to pay members of the committee. Members who were present at the 2009 AGM will remember that the President advised that all committee positions would be voluntary. In spite of that, at least two members are understood to be already receiving a salary or benefits in-kind. This has never been disclosed to members in spite of the promise of ‘openness’ at the AGM.

As a journalist, I attended the 2009 AGM, which was was open to public, however this year, it is closed.

Since January, at least 16 new applications for membership have been refused, following a violent confrontation where membership forms and monies were thrown out the door as Cairns Regional Councilors Linda Cooper and Di Forsyth attempted to attend a January meeting. Pieter Blaauw, who was at the centre of an assault allegation against Councillor Di Forsyth that evening, remains on the committee.

Since then, many existing members have tried without success to obtain receipts for their membership payments. One was told that it was ‘in the mail’ but has not received it a week later. This has been an overt and deliberate method to exclude paid-up members from the AGM, as they will have no proof of membership.

Membership renewals and new applications over the last year, have continually been refused, ignored, denied or referred to the station's lawyer.

There is no evidence of one new member during the last 12 months, but only an active and sustained programme to exclude and discriminate. The AGM was bought forward to avoid considering any new memberships.

A secret CairnsBlog commissioned hidden-video, exposed Rod Coutts and Pieter Blaauw refusing membership. This was the leverage that ACMA used to launch an investigation in late January.

Business at AGM
The agenda for Monday's meeting states that ‘no other business will be discussed’ a statement in opposition to the openness promised at last year's annual meeting by Rod Coutts. More seriously, CairnsBlog has been provided with a legal opinion that any member can raise any issue at the AGM, whether or not notice is given.

Solicitor Aaron Finn of the Townsville Community Legal Service said that members are entitled to place a resolution on the agenda, or even raise the matter as 'any other business' from the floor.

"We consider that this is relatively serious, and if ordinary membership processes cannot resolve the matter, it could be referred to the Office of Fair Trading," Aaron Finn said. "Resolutions raised by members were substantial... relating to financial control.. ought to be considered."

Compliance with Agreed Measures

In December 2009, the Australian Communications and Media Authority directed the station undertake a series of Agreed Measures, following complaints upheld. Nine months later, most of these measures, including simple directives like putting management committee minutes on the website, have been ignored. Although they have until December to fully comply, it is clearly delaying as much as possible for as long as possible.

There are still many ongoing disputes within the station. Over a dozen presenters and the majority of the committee left the Cairns Community Radio in the months following the 2009 AGM. This was in disgust of Coutts' management. The situation has not improved. Another four have also departed or had their program suspended. In no instance has the dispute procedure required under the Codes of Practice been offered.

It's a shocking and sad state of affairs. On top of all this, the on air programming is extremely substandard, and fails to meet the fundamental obligations of a community broadcaster. Both Cairns councillors Cooper and Forsyth are still demanding opening and accountability, and have expressed no faith in the current management.

It's likely that any further complaints lodged with the ACMA will result in a licence suspension or termination. New Leichhardt MP, Warren Entsch, is being asked to mount a Federal investigation into the ongoing affairs and discriminatory membership practices of Cairns Community Radio.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Would the real Warren stand up, you Twit

About bloody time. Or so I thought.

Some anti-Entschy has set up a fake Twitter profile for Warren Entsch, MP Elect for Leichhardt.

Now there's nothing wrong with putting up a fake profile, and often these are done with great humour. However there is a respected convention to disclose the fact a profile is not real, otherwise it is in breach of the terms of use and is deemed impersonation.

The profile appears to be set up in the last 24 hours, with an introduction that reads...
  • "I spent more that [sic] $200,000 traveling [sic] the world in my last term in Parliament. Now I'm back to do it all again! Read of adventures, bombasity [sic] & broken promises."
It is strikingly similar to words and tone used on the official Cairns Labor Twitter profile.

Here's some recent Tweets...
  • if the taxpayer will pay for it I'm up for it! You know I love to travel on the taxpayers dime!

  • Ah my lies to the Sikh community have been exposed on today's Cairns Post. Told em the highway will destroy their temple. They fell for it!

  • So when and where should my next Parliamentary overseas "exchange" be? Thoughts people?

  • Told the Cairns Post that my first priority is to get a new office cos I don't like Turnour's. I did say I ran for my ego.

  • Looking forward to returning to Canberra. Not happy about all the attention Katter is getting
Former MP Jim Turnour was an active social media participant, and used Twitter over the last year to connect with an online social networking audience. In the run up to the election, I showed how Jim's tweets put some egg on his face, following a goofed message. A year ago, we had a discussion on CairnsBlog about a fake Cairns Council and CairnsBlog Twitter accounts.

One of Jim's last "tweets" on Monday morning said thanks: "[I] want to tell people what an honour it has been to serve and say thank you.."

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in this case, I'm not quite sure.

Cairns Councillor Alan Blake sues CairnsBlog author for $350,000 defamation

As many readers have learnt Cairns Regional Councillor Alan Blake has lodged a statement of claim in the Queensland Supreme Court, alleging defamation from myself, Michael Moore, via publication on CairnsBlog.

The mainstream media have picked up on the story across the country. From SkyNews, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The West Australian Today, NineMSN, Brisbane Times, and even local TV news, 7 and WIN and some local commercial radio stations. Unsure if John Mackenzie has mentioned it in his morning cover-to-cover read of the Post.

The Cairns Post ran an Associated Press version yesterday (see below), yet sought no comment from myself. ABC Far North will air the debate this morning, with a brief interview from myself at 9am on Fiona Sewell's programme just after the 9am news, followed by a lawyer with knowledge with internet defamation.

I will of course defend the charges vigorously and welcome the opportunity for the actions of this Councillor, that I have written about, to be further publicly scrutinised.

In the Statement of Claim, which I invite readers to download and read [1.5mb], Alan Blake says he has been brought into "ridicule and contempt, suffered hurt and embarrassment and developed suicidal tendencies" as a result of information published CairnsBlog.

No doubt this case will be closely watched by many. With the medium being the internet, I will avail my readership of the articles Blake refers to in his claim.

In his Claim, filed in the Supreme Court in Cairns on August 11th 2010, 364 days after the following story appeared:-
  • I wrote on 12th August 2009 titled How to spot a pathological liar. This is in reference to a telephone call/s that Councilor Blake made to my employer:

    "I'd almost given up on talking about the corrupt and disruptive Cairns Regional Councillor Alan Blake. The over-whelming majority of his colleagues certainly have.......and pray tell, what was all this about? The good Councillor tried to blackmail my employer with a series of lies."

    Read the rest of the story here, and in context of the Claim document.
  • In a story on April 22, 2010 Tree-saving Councillor Blake, now anti-development, Blake referes to a CairnsBlog commentor "Alysa Lightfoot" who wrote...

    "Mike, your latest on 'Blake the Drake' again highlights the brazen attitude of this fake man, that masquerades as our humble representative.
    Thankfully, the Bligh Government is creating a Panel of Common People to adjudicate on codes of conduct complaints. Blake will keep this body I dare say busy.
    Vested interest breaches are admissible code of conduct violations and could be referred to this new Panel.
    In the meantime, based on this account I do believe there are grounds for a complaint to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.
    Lets put in a Peoples Submission to the CMC, any takers?"

    In the same story, a commentor "Vertis" writes...
    "What a shameless bloody con from the same 'man' that once tried to set up 'save Rusty's Wharf.com' so he could influence public opinion and get total control of the equally iconic Rusty's market to move it into his PERSONAL control on the wharf. He doesn't have a green bone in his body and you should always question any motive of Blake's - there is always a sting in the tail no matter how 'righteous' it appears on the surface. And this is no exception.

    From BBQs to crap furniture to CON the fruiterer. He met with the fishermen and did the rounds of the markets puking this line for months but the web site was taken off him and the Luddite he is (now let's see, is it sox first or shoes???), fortunately he couldn't set up an alternative on his own."

    READ rest of comments, also mentioned in Statement of Claim.
  • On January 20th 2010, in a article consisting of only a private business card belonging to Councillor Alan Blake, a commentor "Thornton On Spence" writes...

    "Alan Blake is nothing short of a disgrace. To openly promote a business whilst on the payroll as a Councillor shows his work ethics and more importantly his commitment to Council. He should be challenged by the Mayor as to his commitment.
    I don't particularly care about him being in business because it will be a failure with him at the helm....look at all his previous efforts. But what really annoys me is his double standards versus his statements on the Council Website in his role as a Councillor.

    Mogo is a character and name of a planet from DC Comics which is so appropriate for Blakey. The man is a fraud lets get him out of this town ASAP."

  • In an article on October 5, 2009, called The most infamous car in Cairns, I wrote... "Councillor Linda Cooper, who whipped Blake's office from under his feet after he was dumped as Finance Committee chair three months ago, was surprised about the use of the reserved parking bag."
    READ REST of story here.

There are additional comments referred to in the Statement of Claim, however all the links are presented above.

On Wednesday June 16th, 2010, a Code of Conduct breach hearing went before Cairns Regional Council. Besides Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane, the remaining councillors voted unanimously to uphold a Conduct breach against Alan Blake, for using a Council-supplied and rate-payer funded mobile phone for his private business.

In a few days, I'll scribe a commentary piece, about the wider issue of press and media freedom and the right to speak out, to discuss openly and debate our public officials, something that every citizen should not be restricted nor frightened to do.

I started CairnsBlog in 2007 to provide a forum, with a liberal-minded comments policy, to encourage community debate in a one-newspaper town, a debate that had been lacking since Barfly folded. In around four years, 3,700 articles, and around 23,400 comments later, the readership is regularly tracking at just under 29,000 unique regular readers - averaging 1,500-2,000 a day, peaking at 2,500 during election periods.

I told Evan Schwarten from Australia Associated Press a few days ago, that this legal action, coming from a publicly-elected official, really attacks at the heart of open dialogue and discussions of public officials and holding them to account.

I look forward to your support.

As I did in 2007 when then Mayor Kevin Byrne took the same action against CairnsBlog, today I re-launch the CairnsBlog Fighting Fund, to support legal expenses in standing up to defend this action. I ask supporters to contribute, any amount is welcome.

It's easy to donate. You can either click the orange PayPal "donate" button in the right-hand sidebar with a Credit Card, or you can email me and arrange a direct Bank Deposit. I will issue a receipt and your privacy will be respected. I can also meet you in a dark alley, to receive brown paper bags full of moolah.

Review of controversial 'iconc' legislation still enrages former Douglas Shire

Cairns Regional Council will look to protect the iconic values of Douglas as part of the creation of the new Cairns Regional Council Planning Scheme, however the anti-amalgamation lobby in the tourist town of Port Douglas has not gone away.

The State Government developed Queensland Iconic Places legislation in 2008 following wides spread angry from some unique communities, including Port Douglas, that resisting the amalgamation with neighbouring Councils. Under the legislation, the Douglas Iconic Places Panel was created to review and advise on new development applications in the region.

“Council has been particularly sensitive to safeguarding the distinct characteristics of the communities of our region when considering new planning applications to date,” Mayor Val Schier said today. “We are now in the process of developing the new Planning Scheme, and the iconic values of the former Douglas Shire will be embedded in the new plan.”

A submission will be made to the State review of the Iconic Places legislation by March next year, however public submissions to Council close on September 5th.

“Council will recommend that once the new regional planning scheme is finished and accepted by the State, we can review the need for the panel,” Mayor Schier says.
Councillor Julia Leu, who represents the northern most division of Cairns Regional Council, extending from Clifton Beach, to Wuju Wuju, encapsulating the former Port Douglas Shire.

"We fought very hard for this as a community with the State Government to have this legislation, because we wanted protection, about our iconic values and our distinguishing characteristics," Julia Leu told CairnsBlog. "It was always a fear, once we became part of a large amalgamated Council, inventively,m the fact we would have to eventually amalgamate our scheme, our iconic values and our distinguishing characteristics, would be diluted and eroded over time."

"Now we've got this review. What I wanted the Council to do is to actually make a statement, that they support the retention of the Douglas Iconic Assessment Panel, however only [Councillor] Rob Pyne supported this," Julia Leu says. "The reason why I put forward that alternative recommendation, so that the iconic values and our distinguishing characteristics will be integrated into the planning scheme, because the new scheme won't be ready to go until 2014."

"I will certainly be pushing to have local areas, can retain what is important to those areas. It's really important as the community have fought hard for this, and there were big concerns when we amalgamated. The scheme should have a strong environmental focus. It's why people come to Port Douglas for a reason. They come because we are green, we have tress all around, we have nothing higher than a coconut tree," Julia Leu said.

However, the Friends of Douglas Shire says it is still lobbying vigorously. The vocal lobby group, formed prior to the last State election, hasn't lost any of it's focus, according to spokesperson Michael Gabour.

"This last statement [by Council] is just spin, spin, spin," Gabour told CairnsBlog. "I don't think it actually reflects what happened today."

"I will be asking the Mayor about this on Monday," says Gabour, who has a morning talk show on Radio Port Douglas. "I will be grilling her and also [Councillor] Julia Leu, who put up an alternative motion, but it was not supported by any other Councillor, other than Robert Pyne."

The gist of what happened today appears to me, to be abandoning Douglas Shire completely, ignoring all our aspirations, all our determined efforts to maintain the values of this community."

"I'm really incensed quite frankly," Michael Gabour said.