Friday 6 August 2010

Cairns Council sends legal warning to Enstch over tender lock-out claims

When LNP candidate for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch arrived at his Mulgrave Street campaign office this morning, there was a letter waiting from Cairns Regional Council's solicitor, MacDonnells Law.
  • Friday 6th August, 2010

    Dear sir,

    Regarding your media release of 5th August. We act for the Cairns Regional Council and Linda Cardew [Council's Cultural Precinct Project Officer].

    Our clients have contacted us in relation to their grave concerns from your press release caused to be issued last evening. The contents are inaccurate in all material aspects. It is also clearly defamatory of Ms Cardew, and we are advising her in relation to her rights an options.

    My advice is being considered by our clients is that you will be speaking at the Cairns Forum [debate] this evening and in that regard we put you on notice, that you should not at that event or at all, repeat those defamatory statements, because to do so will exacerbate the damage to have caused to Ms Cardew.

Warren Entsch told CairnsBlog he stands behind the statement he issued at 8:40pm last evening.

"A number of businesses have contacted me, they were distraught," Entsch said. "They've been missing out on opportunities. All I've said is I've heard these things, and I've spoken to these people, and it's bloody disgraceful. We should be getting locals. Others have spoken to these businesses and told their experience and it's not very complimentary to Council."

Warren Entsch says the businesses involved, have asked for anonymity.

Here's some of the offending media statement...

  • Local companies have been told they are ‘not good enough’ to work on the cultural precinct.

    The startling revelations come as a string of budding local firms were shunned at meetings with the Cultural Precinct Project Officer.

    For fear of being blacklisted for government work, a local design company and business consultancy firm have asked to remain unnamed but were happy to state on the record what transpired as they were so appalled by the blatant disregard for local businesses and felt what happened needed to be made public.

    “We met with Linda Cardew The Cultural Precinct Project Officer and she made it very clear to us and said unequivocally that locals can tender for the project, but they won’t get the work as they don’t have the expertise.

    Ms Cardew indicated that she would be using companies she has worked with on previous projects that are nationally recognised.

Warren Entsch was told by suppliers that the project has been hailed as a job creating, economy stimulating project.

"The only regions who will win from this project obviously are the southern states," the business owner told Warren Entsch. "It’s just not on and the Council needs to be taken to task on it.”

Entsch says that another owner of a local high profile firm who has also asked to remain unnamed, had submitted a tender for a research and feasibility component of the project, but missed out as it was given to a Townsville provider instead.

"Both parties were so shocked by the blatant disregard for local companies that they contacted me," Warren Entsch said. "They have asked to hold the Cultural Precinct project officers to account."

"Council needs to explain their actions and put a local contractor preferential policy in place with all projects they undertake," Entsch says. “This local firm has more historical data for this region on file than any other company in Australia and would have been well placed to undertake the feasibility study for the project in record time."

"Because these people’s companies are based in Cairns, they weren’t even given a look in,” Warren Entsch says. “Local businesses have a right to tender for work in their town and get a fair and equitable hearing. Local companies should actually be given preference due to the state of the local economy and the desperate need to provide employment for people and stimulus to businesses to stay afloat."

“The project officers of the cultural precinct have clearly made up their minds on who is getting the work and who isn’t long before the tender process even begins and they are not interested in locals getting involved which is just disgusting," Warren Entsch says. "They should be ashamed of themselves. The business consultant they turned their noses up at to undertake the feasibility study, is one of the most highly regarded people in his field and he was told he was not good enough. I mean are these people for real? Is their name the Cairns Regional Council or have I been mistaken? Is their name changed to the Brisbane Sydney Melbourne Council while we were sleeping?” Entsch asked.

Warren Entsch has demanded the Labor Government at both State and Federal level, who have committed their support for the project, investigate the tendering process as a matter of urgency.

Meanwhile Mayor Val Schier says she is “flabbergasted” at Entsch’s "unsubstantiated claims" and "unwarranted attacks" on a Council officer.

“If he has any evidence he should give it to the acting CEO, Ross McKim, immediately,” Schier said today. “My Council wants to work in partnership to get the facilities this region needs and deserves. I urge Mr Entsch to stop making attacks on Council officers and to talk to local and state representatives about getting projects up and running."

“Council will not be drawn into discussions such as this in the middle of a Federal election campaign, especially when it involves attacking a very hard-working officer who has been with Council for only two months, and who has not been involved with any tendering processes for Council during that time or previously,” Val Schier said.

Council's acting CEO says the claims of Council bias against local businesses in relation to the Cultural Precinct project, are untrue and unfounded.

“The original feasibility study, undertaken almost two years ago, was arranged by the State Government’s Department of Public Works Project Services Division, and it was that Division which engaged all consultants," Ross McKim said. "Council has not finalised the tender briefs for any significant work to be undertaken on the Cultural Precinct project, nor have we made any decisions on engagement of consultants or contractors."

McKim says that Council has only just been given the assurance by the Federal and State Labour Governments that funding will be made available for the next stage of the project.

"We certainly have not entered into any tendering processes or any other kind of commercial relationships, apart from some initial marketing material, which was produced by a Cairns-based creative agency," Ross McKim said. “We have not finalised the design brief that will go out to tender, which will be the next significant stage of the project. When this process is undertaken, Council will follow the normal legal purchasing processes which accompany all of our major tendering processes."

“Furthermore, the governance structure for the project recently approved by Council included the provision of a probity auditor who will report to Council on probity matters to ensure that all aspects of the project are transparent and above board," Ross McKim said.

"Council strongly recognises that it is an important buyer of goods and services in its region, and is an avid supporter of local expertise and suppliers. We strongly support using locals whenever possible. We have a major annual capital works program which overwhelmingly uses local suppliers, and we are formalising our economic development platform which is designed to bring more work to local businesses and strengthen the employment opportunities for local people.


However, some business contacted by CairnsBlog have indicated similar problems of being excluded from local tenders. The recently launched Cooked in Cairns website, backed and part-funded by Cairns Regional Council, was produced by Sunshine Coast web development company Renaissance Funk. Maybe 'Cooked on the Sunshine Coast' would be more appropriate.

"Renaissance Funks latest location is yet to be confirmed but that’s what they say on their website. I am pissed off about this," Gabrielle Cooney of Cairns web design company, Just Purple, who also produced Val Schier's Cairns 1st election campaign website in 2007.

"Another thing is they are sending spam emails out to a database of people who have may not have agreed to have their information shared with third parties. This is actually against the law," Gabrielle Cooney said.

Cairns Regional Council said that the Cooked in Cairns website design process was an initiative whereby Council worked with the community and two key corporate partners.

"Whilst this is a Council initiative, the overall success of the program is dependant in this instance upon the corporate partners (Hot FM and TimeOUT - Cairns Post), and because of this a high level of involvement and buy-in is, it encouraged from our these partners," Malcolm Robertson, Council's Inner City Facilities Manager said.

He says the decision on the website designer was a agreed to by Council, Hot FM and Time Out.

"The committee were presented with a range of both local and out of town options, and ultimately offered unanimous recommendation for Renaissance Funk." Malcolm Robertson said. "The designer chosen had demonstrated previous experience in developing a similar product, and provided a package that enabled us to just plug in our creative elements and not have to keep rebuilding in the future. In this instance the key factors behind the decision were the need for a strong creative and illustrative style as the main priority, with web development secondary."

I would have thought a number of local web companies could have undertaken the project, and as Warren Entsch has highlighted, Council should have an agreed policy on purchasing local, especially given the local depressed economy.

"I just think it is very disappointing and inappropriate that our Council and other local corporate partners, spend money on this sort of thing outside of our region," Gabrielle Cooney said. "I, as much as possible, support local businesses by using Cairns-based website hosting company, graphic designers, and technicians, and feel it should be unquestionable that the Council does the same. Cairns has awesome local designers and developers who can provide the services they require," Gabrielle Cooney says.

Another infamous example of local businesses being ignored, was the massive $280,000 of Federal Labor funding for the recently launched Tourism North Queensland's new website: Cairns Great Barrier Reef.

The supreme irony of this, was not only that there was there no opportunities for locals to tender, the primary purpose of a regional tourism website, is to drive business through visitors, to Cairns. The lion's share of the money, went to Zoik in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, to develop and produce the website. It should be pointed out that Zoik are the only web company to have TTNQ membership outside of Cairns. Handy that.

Meanwhile Cairns Mayor Val Schier says they are "extremely mindful" on the Cultural Precinct project, and that it's vital they work to achieve world’s best practice in all elements.

"Our primary responsibility is to ensure the people of the Cairns region are provided with the best possible outcomes on the best terms," Schier says. "In some cases, that may mean looking outside of the region to bring in some levels of technical expertise where it is not available locally, but on a project of this size that usually means opening up partnership opportunities for local suppliers anyway."

"That is all part of the considerations we will make when we go to through the various tender processes which will be part of this project.”


Unknown said...


And great to learn today that local contemporary arts group KickArts is sourcing new logo designs and website development in Brisbane.. another show of support to our local creatives....even the logo for local printmaking facility, Djumbunji Press was sourced in Brisbane too even though we have very talented designers right here on our doorstep...

CBD Warrior said...

I fully support council's plans for the cultural centre. That means looking for expertise elsewhere - there are NO builders in Cairns experienced at building an important, technical building of this type. Does the community want to end up with another shed like we've got now? Like the hospital and the new tennis centre, local builders need to get over this "buy Cairns" mantra when they clearly don't have the skills.

Stick with sheds, boys. That's what you're capable of building.

Oliver Redlynch said...

Doesn't council have a duty to the long suffering rates-payer to get the best value for money and tender to the best companies to get the job done? I'm sure local web companies and designers can build websites up to the standards required, but if a different company has already done one very similar, and can offer it at half the price in a quarter of the time - what is council to do? If a local builder's experience is only on houses and (over-priced) school halls - can they be trusted to build a major venue? I am sure there will be lots of local sub-contractor jobs. But I'd love to know who was responsible for building the $6 mio Redlynch Futsal Stadium - that lets in the rain and is then unusable. Local or Southern firm?

KitchenSlut said...

It pains me to say it but CBD Warrier is correct!

We have two stupidities here which should be immeditaely dismissed and obvious to any objective observer! Carew should be immediately dismissed from Council for her hypersensitive stupid response! Just as Blakey's girl should have been removed!

Anything less exposes her as ......

Alison Alloway said...

I wonder how many of these businesses have been openly supportive of the Cultural Precinct? Not many. I smell a rat here.

Thaddeus said...

Warren has been anti the Cultural Centre since it was first mooted. Christ, he would do anything to give it to Townsville. Here we go for another bit of skulduggery....
Who are these businesses? Why are they skulking around furtively making all these allegations? It's the same old tactics of attacking the Council, therefore Val Schier..attack, attack, attack. Christ, the Cultural Centre is the best bloody thing Cairns has going for it and Entsch wants to sabotage it, come hell or high water.

Clifton Ratbags Rule said...

Actually Thaddeus, I think Warren Entsch is crafty in his failure to support the cultural precinct. He can sense which way the wind is blowing, and it's blowing anti-Labor. With the mayor and Jim "Empty suit" Turnour the supporters of this project, it's just good politics to take the opposite view - - FOR THE ELECTION.

I guarantee if Entsch and the coalition get over the line (exceedingly likely), Entsch will show up with the dough.

Thaddeus said...

You are as gullible as a child, Clifton Ratbags Rule. When Entsch won last time around, he explained away all his broken promises on the "financial mis-management" of the previous Labor Government. "We have to act responsibily, get the country's finances in the blue.....".
HERE WE GO AGAIN. He is sucking you all in, and will again let you down. And that's why Turnour won when he did.
Christ, this city is like a dog chasing its own tail.

chris forsberg bayview heights said...

Compliments to cairnsblog:

Well-done Mike Moore - your coverage of the lack of support for local outfits viz the VALcano project is far more comprehensive
that any other medium's.

Incidentally, a DISAGREE with CBD
Warrior and other nay-sayers - Cairns has all the necessary expertise to complete this project.

Ant suggestion - from anybody -
that local suppliers/contractors
"aren't good enough" is OFFENSIVE
and in-correct. By the sound of
it, some-one at the CRC needs a
good kick up the bum.

That the CRC should 'threaten'
Wazza Entsch with a lawyer's letter suggests to me that some-one at CRC has something to hide.

Paul Drabble said...

Council officers bias against locals...dont have to look far to prove that.. Sugarworld feasibility study..Sgl have the project..adelaide based using canadian water slide company as consultant...Sgl will not furnish me with the answer to the question " How many days has SGL's Phillip Gray actually spent in cairns since the 7th july 2010?" the first answer was " Thanks for your enquiry. " I re-asked the question and got this reply, "You have received an appropriate response, and an answer to your email."
I know one thing in 18 months time I will be dealing with these council officers on a Daily basis..

Morgan James Davies said...

Bloody typical; Shier is conniving with her pals down south. S.E Qld. gets the lion's hare of funding thatnks to blatant favouritism by Captain Bligh. Time we seceded from the state.

Joshua Hartmann said...

I think would should ship Bligh off to Afghanistan...wait no that would be a war crime, against the Afghans!

Lisa Robbie said...

Cairns Regional Council does it again. Sounds like the Sugarworld debacle on a grander scale.
CRC outsourced the Sugarworld Feasibility Study to out-of-towners SGL, based in Adelaide. Phil Gray who is conducting the study had one initial face to face briefing with External Stakeholders & otherwise, has performed the study & Community Engagement from the comfort of his office in Adelaide. He has not been in Cairns otherwise.

Consequently they have completely stuffed up the Community Engagement activities, have relied on the internet to engage the community & now don't have enough data to deliver a Concept Design. SGL undertook no feedback "on the streets" to collect qualitative data.

SGL's Market Research on Sugarworld is less than amateurish because any local resident could have designed a better survey with their local knowledge.

CRC are spending $100K on this study. That's $100k leaving this town, to a Leisure Market consulting firm who are going to be in hot water over this debacle.

Additionally, SGL are using White Water West in Canada to come up with the costings & concept designs. So a fair chunk of that $100k will leave Australia.

Australian Waterslides & Leisure could have had the slides manufactured & installed by Nov 30, subcontracting the work out LOCALLY, if CRC had given them the ok at the end of June. This is the path that CRC chose. The feasibility study is due in Oct. CRC will then mull over that & if they are smart, will trash it because the market research in grossly inadequate from SGL & decisions cannot be made based on their data.

Where to from there? Who knows? CRC want data to act on, but will be left with a report that's not worth a pinch of goat-shit.
Will they stop playing money wasting, time wasting games & consult with the community properly? Face to face???

By the time CRC decide what to do with this debacle, the wet-season will be upon us & any intentions to get the project underway will be stalled. We can hope at the very best, to see the Waterslides open for Christmas 2011.

The rate-payers are struggling in the town with the highest unemployment rate in the country, families hurting, mums returning to work too early, dads seeking work interstate, tourism slumped & local business suffering & folding on an almost daily basis. CRC needs to take care of our community, our rate-payers & support local business more.

I have no confidence in the Council. Do you?

Smithfield Sam said...

CBD Warrior is right, and Sugarworld is no comparison. Sugarworld is a fiberglass job, something I'm sure some locals can do. There aren't many specialty construction planners in the country, much less Cairns. Freebody is going to contract his whole idiotic waterpark to Americans. That's life. If we had services worth a stuff, people would be beating a path to our door. The fact is we don't have such services. Get over it and move on.

And as for the argument "it's cash leaving the city", if everyone did this we'd all still be living in caves. Cairns has a huge net-inflow of both domestic and foreign cash from our tourist business. Should they stay home and put their cash into their own local communities?

Grow up, what a bunch of juvenile arguments.

Base D said...

Wazza should have a good inside knowledge of how preferential treatment works. One only has to look at the construction of Sherga Air Base and the company doing the major federally funded roadworks around Coen and Laura that were started when he was the local member to see that. Pot calling the kettle black?

:Kevin-John: Morgan. said...

I wouldn't worry too much about that letter from the Council Warren.
For starters, there's NO Nouns in it, so it says NOTHING, OK?
They actually insulted their very own "intelligence", by placing more than one verb in a sentence.
My new job assignment is to teach these morons, who just won't listen due to their egos getting in the way.

Alison Alloway said...

How stupid are you people? Do you people really believe a Federal Government will fund two almost identical developments within a short four hour drive from each other? Do you??? We have an economic imperative, common to BOTH political parties, which is to peg back the Government deficit, so isn't it fiscally irresponsible to have TWO almost identical projects receiving funding? Someone is going to miss out in the interest of "fiscal responsibility" and we all know which city that is going to be.

Thaddeus said...

You're not wrong Alison. Entsch has used the tried and proven "divide and conquer" tactics, so once he's elected he can thump the old "fiscal responsibility" line and rant about "the mess Labor left the country in" to explain away why Cairns won't get a new Cultural or Sporting Precinct. We will get a big fat squat all!
I agree, it is a sheer waste of money to have two similar projects so close together. It just beggars belief that the LNP would throw money around like that. Of course, they have no bloody intention.

Constance Lloyd said...

While giving support for a Convention Centre in Townsville plus a Cultural/Sporting precinct in Cairns may seem a tad unrealistic, at the end of the day Cairns and Townville need to stop this us and them mentality that currently exists (and is seen continually on this Blog). Why the hell can’t both cities work together for the betterment of Far North Queensland? Closer cooperation rather than rivalry surely is the way to go. Working together to screw the event public, the holiday traveller, the good-time guys and girls, out of their disposable dollar.

Having the facilities and attractions available in both cities that will appeal to different segments of the convention market.

Come on peoples, surely you would rather see Townsville get a convention than, heaven forbid, Rockhampton?

We always bitch about the SE corner using us, but the old adage United we stand, divided we fall holds so true in this regard.

Tom said...

Maybe Entsch is still working for CEC. Local company, builds stuff (using lots of concrete) and when the electorate FINALLY wake up to the fact that he is a useless fraud, that nice possie of the board re-awaits.

Raj Patel said...

Well said Paul, what interests me is why the CAIRNS POST does not highlight these issues .i tried twice with the reporter but he refused to write a story about the council usining a canadian company to design sugarworld