Monday 21 March 2011

Federal MP Entsch spends thousands on new website, but not in Cairns

Federal MP for Leichardt Warren Entsch, has just commissioned a new super-dooper website, but believes there isn't the expertise in his own electorate to get it done here.

It's a claim that has angered several of the top internet and web development businesses in Cairns. They are demanding an explanation as to why the website, launched just a week ago, was not tendered locally.

Three prominent Cairns website and internet companies have come out lashing the MP's decision to purchase his website in Brisbane.

"The not so 'honorable' MP for Leichhardt has a website developed by a Brisbane company," Gabrielle Cooney of justpurple said. "I am so not impressed. What a kick in the teeth for our local serving member to not seek local companies for this type of work."

However Entsch, through his senior media advisor, Danae Jones, says that local companies were sought and had a lot to do in the development of the website.

"All photography and design for the website was done by locals," Entsch wrote on his Facebook page. "All content was written by my staff. The only part of the website done by a Brisbane based firm was the content management system."

Entsch says that this web management system was "customised with specifications unable to be provided locally."

"So we went with the company that has developed the CMS's for the majority of Federal MP's websites," he says. "All of our printing, design, photography, eNewsletters, promotional collateral and merchandise are proudly produced by local businesses and always will be."

Entsch and his staff, have however refused to name any of the local companies involved. When I chatted to half a dozen local web businesses in the region late last week, all said there were not sought to tender for the prominent website.

Nicky Jurd who runs the highly successful Precedence, previously City of Cairns, internet business, based on Mulgrave Road, says she was very surprised the MP didn't get the website produced in the region.

"I'm surprised Mr Entsch was unable to source a local website developer to customise a Content Management System to his specifications," Nicky Jurd said. "All web development companies in Cairns are able to provide this service. That’s pretty audacious to say this couldn’t be done locally. That bites. I'm disappointed he didn't look harder, as website developers like other Cairns businesses significantly rely on local business to keep our staff employed here."

Skye Oliphant, a supporter of Warren Entsch and the Liberal National Party who lives on the Gold Coast, believes that the concerns being voiced are made by Labor party supporters.

"I wouldn’t believe a word that comes out of their mouths, just like Julya [sic]… lies, lies, lies." Ms Oliphant said. "It is a business decision that really comes back to the best fit for the job."

However Nicky Jurd says she and the other website companies in Cairns are not Labor party supporters. "We're owners of website development businesses who employ staff here in Cairns."

Robert Rutten, a well-known internet specialist, who regularly appears on ABC Far North and designed and developed the former Federal MP Jim Turnour, was also angry at Entsch's decison not to purchase locally.

"Saying that there is no expertise in this town, is an uninformed, shallow or deliberately deceitful comment that belittles the talent and expertise in the community," Rob Rutten told CairnsBlog. "It really irks me. This is a blow to the local industry, it's a vote of no confidence. He goes on one hand and says how important it is to bring jobs to the local economy - saying come to north Queensland, then on the other hand, he's sending money down south."

Rutten, who has written a detailed full-page letter to the MP, says Entsch's position is indefensible.

"He's sending the local's meal ticket down south. It's not just this spend," Rob Rutten says. "This is the start to a relationship with a web developer that is going to go through the length of his term - four or eight years. When they need a modification; when they need an upgrade; when they need a security patch to apply, all those things will be done by that company and all that money goes out of Cairns. So therefore it's worth many times the initial spend of the website."

Rob Rutten recalls when Jim Turnour was putting together his website at the beginning of his term. "He said to me, 'can you do it or do you know a local firm that can?' "

CairnsBlog can confirm the website was produced entirely in Brisbane firm DataSearch. David Myers was "personally involved" and confirmed that his company was behind the website design and construction . Myers said he personally did "everything, except for the design."

Late on Friday, DataSearch removed the new Entsch website from their online portfolio, probably at a request from the MP to avoid further scrutiny. [NB: I like the bit where it says 'Entsch had her website redesigned...']

The website was based on their 'Gold package' starting at $5,000, with extras like video content that can take it to $8,000 to produce. This excludes ongoing coding, maintenance and service updates whilst Entsch is MP - taking the full budget into several thousand during the life of the website.

Warren Entsch, and his media advisor Danae Jones, refused to discuss the matter late last week, and repeatedly ignored phone calls, written requests and messages to respond as to why the decision was made to produce the website in Brisbane.

Warren's number is now managed and answered by Jones:
"Hello, you've reached the mobile service of Danae Jones. Please leave your name and number and the time after the beep, and I'll get straight back to you." She never did.

"What a wanker. He didn't ask me for a quote," Gabrielle Cooney of justpurple said. "This is terrible. His PR person in Canberra is Danae Jones who left town owing lots of money."

Soon after the election, Entsch appointed the media savvy Danae Jones as his senior media advisor, however Jones' company, In Touch In Business was in the process of being placed into liquidation. It is unclear how much of Jones' perilous business situation was revealed to the incoming MP, as he expressed surprise when confronted with the news in late October.

In Touch In Business owes $257,000 to 70 local media organisations, internet, printing and publishing businesses. Many of these local businesses refuse to deal with Jones in the fallout of her business. The sale of Fulton House in McLeod Street, was recently sold by Penridge Commercial for just over $1m, twice the purchase price, however it is believed that the offer fell through. The asset of the house, which housed Jones' office, was kept in a separate holding company, with Jones and her partner as the only directors.

When I asked Warren Entsch in October if Danae Jones' relationship with local media might be compromised, given that many of her creditors are in the media and public relations business.

"That's not going to affect her at all," Entsch said at the time.

None of the creditors have heard from the liquidators.
However it's now clear that a decision was made to not use a local internet company due to the damaged relationships that resulted from the collapse of In Touch In Business.

Gabrielle Cooney of Just Purple says Danae Jones' dealings were "very underhanded to say the least."

"She is earning a fat sum of dollars down there while her bills mount up, up here," Cooney says. "It's definitely going to affect the interaction [Warren and Danae] they have with local businesses. SHe's not going to be able to deal with local businesses who she owes money to."

Cooney's partner Craig, who runs Ochre Restaurant, is owed money from In Touch In Business. "She even took money from us for TV adverts that she knew weren't even going to run," Gabrielle Cooney said. "She was booking averts that she couldn't afford to pay for, and accepting money for them. This was totally bloody shocking. I know it's hard when a business is going bad and you need the money and taking one hand to pay the other, but what bought this all to a head was radio 4CA called in the debt to foreclose on them."

"Danae's not going to feel that she can come to me or the other prominent web companies in Cairns when she owes us money," Cooney says. "There's probably four or five firms in Cairns that they could go to, but to use the excuse that it's work that no one could do here, is just absolute rubbish."

Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt, who had a local firm create his content-managed website, allowing him and his staff to update and add new information daily, said it was important to get locals on board.

"One of the great things we've got in our area, is this type of experience," Curtis Pitt told CairnsBlog. "We look at diversifying our local economy, and it's things like this that are important. It's really important to make sure we do it locally.

During the 2010 Federal Election campaign, Warren Entsch was critical of the Cairns Regional Council, accusing them of tendering the planning process for the planned waterfront cultural centre to southern businesses.

"Local companies have been told they are ‘not good enough’ to work on the cultural precinct," Entsch said in August last year. "They were so appalled by the blatant disregard for local businesses and felt what happened needed to be made public. The only regions who will win from this project obviously are the southern states.”

The outburst was greeted with a legal censure from Council's lawyers, saying the whole story was simply not true.

This isn't the first time that a prominent local website wasn't made locally.

Local web companies were excluded from tenders for Cooked in Cairns website, backed and part-funded by Cairns Regional Council. It was produced in the Sunshine Coast. Contemporary arts group KickArts' new logo and website, was done in Brisbane, and even the logo design for local indigenous Djumbunji Press, was done in Brisbane.

However the most startling example of local businesses being ignored, was the massive $280,000 of Federal Labor funding for the new Tourism North Queensland's new website: Cairns Great Barrier Reef. The lion's share of the massive funding went to Zoik in Brisbane to produce the region's most expensive web project. 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 local business. In an amazing twist of fate, Zoik were the only web company to have TTNQ membership outside of Cairns. How handy ;-)

In a final touch of irony, last Friday the would-be Cairns MP, LNP's candidate Paul Freebody, called for locals to get local work, in the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi.

“It defies any shred of common sense that Labor would give a large amount of work to three southern contractors straight after the Premier promised that local builders would get the work,” Paul Freebody said on Friday. "Many of these builders and contractors have been around for 30 years or more, employing locals and creating jobs; and this is the thanks they receive.”

“Instead, they get short shrift, with the lions share going to large southern based firms that fly into town, grab the cream of the jobs, whip the profits out of town and then leave themselves,” Freebody said in stark contrast to what the serving Federal MP has done. “Cairns cannot afford to sit back and watch contracts and jobs go elsewhere.”

Maybe Freebody and Enstch should start to practice what they preach.


stinhambo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

im not one to defend Warren (ever!) but its clear from the "portfolio" that the decision was made for him

Guessing the owner is a LNP supporter

Nicky J said...

Hey Mark I wondered that too, but the first 3 LNP MPs I looked at all had websites not designed by DataSearch so I presume it's not their only option.

I looked at Malcolm Turnbull, Steven Ciobo & Warren Truss.

It seems quite odd that DataSearch have removed Warren's website from the portfolio now. I would presume they have done it at Warren's request, since all the other MPs they've done work for are still listed.

In my opinion our elected officials are obligated to advance the economies of their electorates, and should look to their local firms to do business with.

I don't know how DataSearch were chosen, and chances are they're a great web development firm, but it's just so disappointing that Warren chose them without significant local consultation.

Alison Alloway said...

Amazing how many comments this received. Anything about local jobs going to Brisbane attracts three...

Mark Beath said...

I don't actually have a problem with Entsch doing the website through a BNE firm. The problem is that he has, as the 'Member for CEC', been the most vocal advocate for keeping everything local. Hypocrisy!

Alison Alloway said...

Mark, it could be because of Danae's business relationships in Cairns...

Alison Alloway said...

A good story from Mike Moore covering several issues.

Alison Alloway said...

There are far more comments on "cairnsblog" about the price of bananas in the Far North, and only three comments on this story about the Federal Member using a Brisbane company to build his website instead of a local company. !!!!

David Anthony said...

Where there's stench, there's Entsch.

Alison Alloway said...

Interesting the comments about Danae Jones and her avoidance of dealing with local companies too.

Leigh Dall'Osto said...

And we are shocked by this??? Not really. There are many excellent website developers in our area. Apparently not good enough for some.

KitchenSlut said...

Entsch is an appallin hypocrite. However the culture of localism uber alles currently jackbooting around Cairns also needs to be seriously queried?

If a local focus was a secret to economic success North Korea would be an economic powerhouse! It isn't rather the reverse?!

stinhambo said...

I do hope that Warren Entsch can explain this one.

I'd be concerned that he didn't get his staff to find out *why* the expertise wasn't in Cairns (based on their research in looking for a web firm).

There are plenty of Cairns companies that could have designed and built his site (based on my look at the site features and front end code). It's actually not that complex a site.

Is there not a tender forum for Cairns business to have a first refusal on any local projects whether they be for web development, gardening, catering or construction?

If not then maybe it's time to build one. I know a few local web companies that could do that...

Warren Entsch said...

CIA had to do it... they don't want Entshhie to spill the beans.. his handlers tell him what todo..???.