Thursday 28 April 2011

Put the Festival Parade back to Saturday

A campaign has started to ask Cairns Regional Council to overturn a "silly" decision to move the annual Cairns Festival parade from Saturday night to Sunday, a move that has angered many.

A Put the Festival Parade back to Saturday campaign is asking for Council to rescind the decision.

Proponents says that locals come into town for the parade in their thousands, and many will spend time in restaurants and food outlets, as well as shops and other businesses. Additionally tourists are attracted to the annual event, providing a major injection into the local economy, with many staying to socialise and party in the CBD's bars and clubs.

The argument goes that the move to Sunday would render city visitors retreating home instead of spending and enjoying the city's attractions.

The date change for the Cairns Festival Parade from Saturday to Sunday evening is to accommodate a clash with the annual Pyramid charity run. However the popular Gordonvale event takes place during the day, whereas the parade starts around sundown, so why can't they both happen on the same day anyway?

Others are asking to put the event back during the school holidays and return to the original name of Fun in the Sun.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

VIDEO: Cairns Mayor Val Schier addresses the Chamber of Commerce

Cairns Post story "slanderous" and less than half the story

The Cairns Post and journalist Gavin King have failed to tell the full story again, in their ongoing expose of Lyons House and the targeting of Labor Cairns Regional Councillor Diane Forsyth.

Last month I covered the biased Post coverage when Councillor Forsyth was targeted in an unrelenting campaign and labelled as the base of the organisation's woes, after two senior employees were sacked by the Lyon's board following serious claims of mis-management, in an effort to keep the service alive.

"Enough is enough, we have been working are arses off to save Lyons," David Couplan-Jones, president of Lyons House told CairnsBlog.

In a story in yesterday's paper, Post editor-at-large Gavin King says that the Department of Communities has raised "serious concerns about financial irregularities" at Lyons House, including the purchase of the Westcourt house on Lyons Street where the service operates from.

The Post says that the property purchase was "under the direction of Cairns Councillor Di Forsyth."

However president of the Lyons House management board, David Couplan-Jones, says the Cairns Post has repeatedly ignored information supplied to them and allowed gaping holes in the full story to be told.

The property on Lyons Street, across the road from the Westcourt shopping centre, was purchased in 2007 and was a decision of the full management committee, not solely by Diane Forsyth who was a director of the Agency at the time. The then president of the management committee was John Ellis. Ellis was subsequently employed in June 2009 in a role created for him by the new director Margaret Renfrey.

"Renfrey awarded herself a massive $125,000 annual salary package, without the knowledge or approval of the management committee, except for Bernard O’Connor who was a committee member and Ellis' partner," David Couplan-Jones says. "John Ellis was the only applicant for a position that attracted a $95,000 package. Ellis nominated his partner Bernard O’Connor as president, even though this was obviously a conflict of interest."

Couplan-Jones has confirmed to CairnsBlog that previous policy and practice at the organisation disallowed partners or relatives of staff, to become members of the management committee. O’Connor and Renfrey argued that it was not a conflict of interest and O’Connor became President.

Couplan-Jones says that O’Connor, who worked with Mrs Renfrey's husband at the Cairns Naval Base, subsequently authorised a large salary raise for Mrs Renfrey under his signature as president of Lyons House management committee, without the knowledge of any committee members.

"It was only after a special general meeting was called to reinstate the policy that partners of staff are not eligible to stand for the committee and have it included in the constitution, that Mr O’Connor was forced to stand down," David Couplan-Jones says.

As part of the organisation's restructure, which was "well overdue", two positions in the agency were made redundant in March 2011: the position of director held by Margaret Renfrey, and operations manager, John Ellis.

"Since these two positions were made redundant, there has been a campaign to discredit the Agency without consideration to the effects on clients or the morale of our staff," David Couplan-Jones says. "Funding Bodies have stated that they are pleased that clients' services have been uninterrupted throughout this process and have congratulated the committee on steps taken."

Couplan-Jones says that the main majority of Lyons House staff fully support the recent action taken. 29 are employed at the service, consisting of qualified mental health workers.

For the last 12 months the wage cost has been more than income, and they [Renfrey and Ellis] nothing about it. They didn't even tell the management committee," Couplan-Jones says. "It was horrifically mis-managed. We found letters to the funding bodies hidden at the back of the filing cabinet that were never passed on to us. It is really terrible, shocking."

"This [Post coverage] is a blatant attack on Dianne Forsyth. If we hadn't taken the action in the last month to sack those two senior staff, Lyons House would be insolvent now," Couplan-Jones says. "They [Renfrey and Ellis] were giving each other rises and signing off on each others pay. They did this without our knowledge. I've been asking for months for this to be reported to the committee when I took over as president, and they simply refused to give this information to us. This is why we had to stand them down."

Couplan-Jones says staff mis-management could easily become a matter for the Police.

"As one example, they got a grant for $20,000 to upgrade the computers, and $13,000 was given to the administrator's partner and the remaining $7,000 to her son to do the website which cost less than $2,000. There were no receipts or anything. I've told Gavin King at the Cairns Post, but he's chosen to ignore all this."

Supporters of Lyons House, formerly called the Addiction Help Agency, have lashed out at the "narrow one-sided story" that has been published.

"The wonderful and dedicated work that Diane Forsyth did over many years to build and maintain the Agency into one of the most successful drug and alcohol treatment services in the Far North, is being ignored," David Couplan-Jones said, who also sits on six community committees. "Beginning with a funding of only $170,000 and building it to more than $2m, Diane created the only therapeutic community in Cairns, with a brilliant reputation for achieving positive results for people with drug and alcohol problems."

"I am, therefore, not prepared to sit idly by and watch the Cairns Post and LNP's heavy attempt to besmirch the good name and reputation of Diane Forsyth who worked her guts out as a therapist and manager of the Addiction Help Agency for over 12 years," Couplan-Jones told CairnsBlog.

In March when both Margaret Renfrey and John Ellis were sacked, they contacted Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, who said he had lodged a complaint with the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

“I have grave concerns about the evidence presented to me about Lyons House,” Entsch said. “It is only right that Councillor Forsyth stands down from her role as secretary at Lyons House and the Council until this matter is thoroughly investigated.”

His comments are in contrast to his, and predecessor Jim Turnour, who failed to comment or intervene in the debacle at Cairns Community Radio, that has seen around $140,000 of public funding been unaccounted for in the last 12 months alone.

"I will not let the people who have brought the agency to it's knees in recent times, off the hook," David Couplan-Jones says.

The Cairns Post says an unfair dismissal claim has been filed by sacked staff Margaret Renfrey.

Couplan-Jones says that the "damaged financial position" is due to financial mis-management and misappropriation of funds by the previous staff.

"Reports have shown that this has been caused by a complete lack account management principals and the hiding of information. Financial letters to the management committee from the funding bodies have have been found hidden at the back of a draw in the office," David Couplan-Jones says.

He also says that the two key senior staff failed to attend any meeting called by the committee to discuss the matters.

"The director and operations manager had to be made redundant so we could bring in an action team to try and save Lyons House. We have commissioned an independent financial and operational investigation."

A transition team has been appointed that includes Richard Bowler as interim CEO; Julie Simon-Abbott as accountant; Dr Jane Harte; and Hugh Bowers, a barrister and solicitor.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

My father and the bloody point of war

ANZAC Day is come and gone again. Yesterday was the 95th anniversary since Australian and New Zealand Army Corps day was first commemorated.

It was then made famous by some tasty biscuits, or was it?

This day has different meaning for us all.

In a post 9/11 era, those who lived through the madness and what seemed the never-ending Vietnam war that was to last nearly 20 years, from November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, question the futility of war.

My father Maurice [pictured], who passed away 14 years ago aged 82, served in the Second World War. He was in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and I believe he was stationed in the Solomons.

When Italy entered the war with the Germans in In June 1940, the New Zealand Government brought in conscription after a War Cabinet was formed. Then Germany invaded the Soviet Union the following year, New Zealand declared war on Germany's Eastern European allies - Finland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria in December of 1941.

Here's dad's enrolment certificate as a reservist dated 22nd August 1940 when he was just 25 years old. He was a grocer's assistant then, a profession he maintained till the end of his working life.

Historians have said that the Second World War had important consequences for New Zealand's stance in the world, as it sought to bolster its interests. A notable first was New Zealand opened diplomatic relations with a non-Commonwealth power and established a diplomatic office in Washington and in Moscow two years later in 1944.

In the 30 or so years of my life that my father was alive, he never talked about his war service.

I recall showing an interest at numerous times but he was a poor communicator. At least about his past. I now surmise this was a result of the damage that the effects of war inflicted on him. I believe he was scarred from the experience and like many Aussies and Kiwis, he returned to start a family and silently carry the internal physiological damage.

His relationship with me and my three brothers, was caged and jilted at best.

I know family was important to Maurice, and he had a special bond to his only sister Mardy, who passed away during my last visit to Christchurch in late February, in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Like his brother Bill, he buried his worries in alcohol. It was his coping mechanism as an escape from life's memories. The effects of
long drinking sessions drove a wedge between what should have been a healthy home life and the growing disconnect with a staunchly Catholic wife.

The relationship with dad lacked closeness and often compassion. I often searched for explanation why it was so. I now conclude his wartime service was unhealthy and had a profound radical impact on his life as he tried to establish a family and regain some meaning of his journey. Nowadays the experts call it post traumatic stress disorder. At the time, it was easy to label him an alcoholic, and mum's search for help from AA hardly dug into his wartime experience for answers.

VE day was 8th May, Japan stopped fighting on 15th August, and VJ day (official surrender) on 2nd September.  My father was discharged from the Army on 4th July 1945, 2 months before war was declared over.

Children of parents who served in war had a vastly different youth than children today experience.

There was one humorous memory that mother once recalled.
Prince Rainer of Monaco, a catch for the ladies of the time, was "spotted" in New Brighton, in the area where I grew up.

Rainer had become engaged to Amercian Actress Grace Kelly, and it was rumoured that they could have taken a South Pacific holiday together.

There were reports in the local Christchurch Press.

However it was none other than my father. His looks tricked some to believe he was the Prince, with the same signature mustache and slick brylcream hair.

Dad passed away in 1997, and the last years of his life, endured a slow and hospitalised sickness that lasted for at least 12 years.

Mum was his carer and visited him every day in various care facilities from Princess Margaret Hospital and Nurse Maude nursing homes around Christchurch. Those years were sad and depressing for him. I recall one time turning up at his tiny room, and we sat there hardly exchanging a word. I had a million questions but the past years had rendered the art of conversation on those important probing questions near impossible, a result of his past wartime personal damage. I often ponder the stories and secrets he took with him.

It was a motor-neuron disorder that finally claimed him in October of 1997. I was asked to present the eulogy along with a visual tribute accompanied by Terry Oldfield's Celtic Blessing. It was a haunting memory from a congregation that never knew Maurice.

The irony of his disconnect with his military experience that was never uttered to his children, became his final wishes as the government allocated a military plot for Lance Corporal Maurice Patrick Moore.

Lest we remember.

His number was 74526.

'Stand in the sun shoulder to shoulder with our return men,' Tricia says

Tricia Trail got stirred up at yesterday's ANZAC service on the Cairns Esplanade. Her husband was in the Navy for 20 years and served in Vietnam and Borneo.

The VIPs who were seated and under cover on Anzac Day seem to have forgotten that the returned servicemen have just marched a considerable distance.

"While you each take your turn with your speeches, they are standing in the sun," Tricia Traill said. "The Mayor's speech was far to long, you could see the older diggers fading. You seem to forget that this is their day."

Tricia noted an older gentleman with so many medals he was weighed down.

"Take me home," he said to his daughter after the service. "Aren't you going to the RSL to see your mates?" she asked. "I'm too tired, it's too hot, I need to sit down."

"This statement from this wonderful old man that had served his country so well brought tears to my eyes," Tricia told CairnsBlog.

She asks the RSL and the Cairns Regional Council to either provide the same conditions that they feel the officials are entitled.

"Or they should stand in the sun, shoulder to shoulder with our return men. I am sure their speeches would then be considerable shorter next year," Tricia says. "However I feel that old digger might might not return again."

Final Easter road toll

The Easter road toll ran till midnight last night and claimed 16, three in Queensland.  New South Wales recorded four deaths since Friday.

Victoria, and Western Australia have also have three fatalities, with one each in South Australia and Tasmania.  There were no deaths on the roads in ACT and the Northern Territory.  Here's the Queensland stats.

Letter to the Editor: What cost is privacy at Cairns Base Hospital?

  • I picked up a friend at Cairns Base Hospital last week.

    Whilst in the recovery room with several patients and their carers I witnessed a “Monty Python” moment.

    A young man who I presume was a doctor, came into the room and proceeded to tell a patient, a teenage girl, and her mother the results of her test. Good news was she doesn’t have a cancerous tumour but some swelling in her intestine. No big deal according to the Doc, it can be sorted.

    My question... Why was it necessary to broadcast it to the entire waiting room? I can only presume had the result been less positive the young lady would have had to share it with a room full of stranger.

    I appreciate that medical staff work long and hard for the benefit of their patients. I don’t accept that there is not a private place that the Doc can take them to discuss their results.

    The “Monty Python” part of this story is that the “Doc” was munching on a salad roll from when he entered the room, through the conversation with his patient and on his exit

    Hard to have respect eh.

    Janice Parsons, Cairns

Imagine 2013 Cairns, Australia

Just in time for some great Easter reading, in Terry Vance's first story on his new Cush Over Cairns blog, he looks at our local government in 2013.

"The subject of politics has always fascinated me as it seems to attract both the worst and the best in human beings," Terry says. My new blog is a tongue-in-cheek look at our local Government and the type of Council we just might have one day"

He says his story is purely
a work of fiction and all characters and events, are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. I'm not so sure.
This tale is titled Poor little Flying Foxes...

His Worship the Mayor of Cairns, Colonel (Retired) Ken Menzies Cush scowled.

It was a scowl described by his first wife, Joyce, as "Churchillian and powerful" while his current
wife, Brandi giggled and said he looked like "one of those funny dogs."

The object of His Worship's displeasure was another woman. Another young woman. One Councillor Skye Lovelady, aged 23, whom the people in Division 9 of the Cairns Regional Council had decided to vote in as their representative during last years Council elections. Yes, the good folk of the Northern beaches, the suburbs of Kewarra Beach, Trinity Beach and Smithfield had all voted in the one and only Greens Party Councillor in the entire Council. A tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, Bob Brown loving, carbon tax supporter who was studying some crap rubbish about Environmental Science! Cush couldn't believe it, but reckoned it was because all the half wits at the local uni must have voted for her plus all the young men in the area who were stupefied by her blonde Barbie doll looks. Oh, and her tits.

His face darkened as he watched Councillor Lovelady stand on a chair and address the growing crowd outside the Cairns Regional Council Chambers. From what he could make out, there would have been at least two thousand people all thronging around the limited space, carrying placards with slogans on like "KILLER CUSH" while others who looked like druggies carried placards with photographs of baby flying foxes all wrapped up like little babies.

The TV crews were all there, focusing on Lovelady and her long legs. He felt his blood pressure rising and his hands clench involuntarily as he imagined the sheer pleasure of wringing that skinny brown throat of hers.

So, he had gotten rid of all the hundreds of shrieking, filthy, mankey flying foxes from beside the Cairns Library. Yep, he had arranged to have them all killed. He wasn't the sort of man to quibble when it came to tough decisions. That's why he was the Mayor of Cairns. He had campaigned on his tough man image by citing his years of military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. His campaign slogan was "Tough times need a strong leader!" The people of Cairns reckoned he was right too, because he won the Mayoralty in a landslide.

Suddenly conscious that he wasn't alone in the downstairs foyer of the City Council Chambers, His Worship turned abruptly on his heel and spotted Mervyn Mingin, the Division 5 Councillor, watching him with a silly grin on his black face. "It's your call, bossman," Mingin chuckled, waving a hand to the outside crowd.

Cush felt his face flush even more purple if that was possible. Councillor Mingin was the only aboriginal Councillor on the Council and in fact was the first ever aboriginal Councillor ever elected on the Cairns Regional Council. He stood for election as an Independent, but Cush and the other Councillors knew he was backed by the Labor dogs. Cunning, sly politics at its worst. He, Cush, had nothing against aboriginal people, but why his own political party couldn't have chosen an agreeable one who would quietly do as he was told to and not cause any shit to happen, he didn't know. As it was, Mingin was swept into office representing the largely black suburbs of Manoora, Manunda and Westcourt, to cheering hysterical crowds of aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Mingin was a former Queensland rugby leagues star player and built like a big black brick shithouse. Cush loathed him as much as he did Barbie-doll-flying-fox-loving Councillor Lovelady.

Clearing his throat, and squaring his shoulders, His Worship the Mayor, strode forward and opened the doors to the waiting media and chanting crowd. The roar which greeted him, 'KILLERRRR!' 'KILLERRR!' was like an atomic blast, and he staggered backwards under its force, falling down on his bum where the TV cameras continued to film him.

To be continued.....

Monday 25 April 2011

"Christian" Jim Wallace spouts anti-gay and Islamic rant for ANZAC day

A "poisonous old dinosaur" is how some have described the head of the Australian Christian Lobby Jim Wallace after he said Australian soldiers didn't fight for "gay marriage and Islamic."

Of course gay service men and women fought for this country so that everyone can live in freedom and in democracy.

However Wallace says that his comment was up to "misinterpretation".

Jim Wallace said "just hope that as we remember servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for — wasn't gay marriage and Islamic!"

He since apologised after a torrid of attack about his comments.

"There is no way I was trying to infer that our veterans didn't fight for all Australians, of course they did," " Jim Wallace said "I spent 32 years in the army myself, I'm imbued with that. I'm the last person to demean Anzac Day or our veterans."

Wallace says that the nature of the country that veterans had fought for is changing.

"I think that the nature of our society that our soldiers fought for was based on Judeo-Christian heritage. [Gay marriage and Islam] are two things that, in the future, are certainly going to define the nature of our society," Wallace said.

Of course when people fight for a free country, a democracy, the fight for everyone, no matter what colour, religion or sexuality.

Those that served, like my father who died 14 years ago, fought for everyone. To suggest that we didn't have gays in the services back in the 1900's or the 40's is of course a joke.

As one commentator said today, using the bible as a weapon without spiritual discernment, can be a very dangerous thing. Wallace, who claims to be speaking as a Christian, should know that in the Bible, marriage is between Christ the bridegroom and 'we' His bride," Amanda Jamison says. "The 'marriage' union is therefore the co-joining of Christ to human beings and visa versa. It specifically doesn't say only 'heterosexual xyz religious group of human beings' - it is written that the 'we' that is to be 'wedded' is anyone from any culture gender ideology or nation in the human population- any who believes in Him."

That being so, the Bibles' comprehension of the word 'marriage' can hardly be used as a weapon specifically against temporal gay marriage or the banning of the same. I'm sure that loads of gay people believe in God.

However it's nice to know that we still have our religious freaks ready and willing to expose themselves.

Sunday 24 April 2011

ANZAC Eve peace vigil tonight challenges traditional digger debate

A rally for peace, is how a vigil is being promoted by Bryan Law, a veteran of of different kind at the Cairns Cenotaph on the Esplanade this evening.

"What would the ANZACS say and do about the war in Afghanistan?” Bryan Law asks.

Law is provocatively leading a candlelight vigil at the pinnacle of Australia and New Zealand most poignant weekend, a time when many reflect and remember the effort

This ANZAC Eve, on Easter Sunday 24 April, there will be a lantern-lit vigil from 6pm on the Esplanade – at the Cenotaph.

"My father John Law saw service in New Guinea during World War 2, and was part of the occupying force in Japan in 1945
and 1946," Bryan Law recounts. "My maternal grandfather Joseph Tate saw service in WW1. When I was growing up ANZAC Day was firstly a solemn commemoration of sacrifice, which then morphed into a day where surviving veterans played up - with or without permission."

Bryan Law says that ANZAC Day has changed since he was a kid.

"The world has changed. War has changed. Not always for the better," Bryan Law says. "In recent years I’m increasingly concerned about the way politicians are using ANZAC Day to support the several wars we’re fighting right now. Several more wars are likely to start tomorrow."

"The wars of my father and grandfather were exceptional. A failure of diplomacy betrayed us into a massive military industrial folly. We destroyed whole economies and chewed up two generations of fighting men. Winners and losers suffered alike. The 'war to end all wars' had been fought."

HEIL WAR: Some Cold/proxy war glorifyers at the Mareeba Cenotaph last week.

Bryan Law says we the had the so-called Cold War and scores of proxy wars fought around the third world. He cites that there were 'misadventures' by the USA in Vietnam and the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, that proved the futility of fighting guerrillas with our own troops over foreign borders.

"Now we settle for 'maintaining security' overseas, the largest contingent of armed personnel in Afghanistan today are mercenaries," Bryan Law says.

"War today inflicts few casualties on western soldiers, and is easily accommodated by our domestic economy. It is with us all the time in foreign policy. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was a prominent urger for the current bombing of Tripoli."

"In Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now Libya, 'the West' enjoys such an economic and technological superiority that our fighting troops are most often not at any significant risk," Law says. "Predator drone operators are most commonly working from Creech Air Force Bases in Nevada. Civilians are regularly killed by drone attack. The operators commute back home for a hot meal."

"Unlike my father’s and grandfather’s wars, most casualties in wars today are civilian. Children. Women. Men. Civilians are dying as you read this. On 1st March this year, in Afghanistan, nine boys aged between 7 and 13 years old were killed by Apache gunship while collecting firewood."

"But the war in Afghanistan is far away. We don’t see. Most of us don’t want to see," Bryan Law says.

"How would you feel if you were this man? ANZAC Day is a great opportunity to ask ourselves What would the ANZACs say about the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya? Those brave Australians and New Zealanders who struggled and shone and died over four years during WW1 – what would they say about the nine years spent so far in Afghanistan?"

"Didn’t most of them urge upon us the pledge to “never again” commit the folly of war! Would they like to see their names used to justify today’s war in Afghanistan? I know what my father thought. He never fully recovered from the horror of his war. Today, four times as many Australian troops will die from suicide as the result of post traumatic stress disorder than will die on the battlefield. My father wanted recognition for our Aboriginal people in the frontier wars… and he wanted peace."

Cairns Peace by Peace has joined forces with a national network of Christian, Quaker and Buddhist nonviolence groups to initiate a new event into ANZAC Eve that commemorates all the victims of War.

"We hope to contribute through ANZAC Day towards the creation of a peaceful, just world – a world without war," Law says. "The Gospel passage at the centre of our vigil is John 15:12-14: This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you”.

2011 is the inaugural event in Australia, with the central focus being on events in Canberra.
  • TONIGHT IN CAIRNS: Peace by Peace extends a warm invitation to everyone to attend the inaugural ANZAC Eve Peace Vigil.
    Cenotaph, The Esplanade, 6pm Easter Sunday

Saturday 23 April 2011

God works in mysterious ways

Saturday SoapBlog: Syd Walker - Council election needs a date change

Local activist and writer Syd Walker says that Queensland's local government elections need a new date.

Walker suggests that our tropical wet season make campaigning challenging and argues for a mid-year campaign cycle.

Few things are truly certain in politics, but that doesn't mean there are no reliable patterns at all.

One thing close to inevitable is that northern Queensland candidates, campaigning in next year's Queensland's local council elections, will experience torrential rain that will make campaigning interesting at best. In the worst case, it may literally sink their ability to campaign effectively.

I've heard two plausible theories why.starting from 2008, Queensland is scheduled to hold recurring Local Government elections every four years at the same time of year: mid-March.

The first is that the people who made this decision hate the population of Far North Queensland and wish to see our local democracy swept away in cyclones and submerged in floods.

The other possibility is that the people who made this decision carelessly overlooked the fact that February and March are consistently among the North's wettest months.

Let's be charitable and assume the latter. In that case, Is there any chance of changing election dates for Queensland's fixed term Local Government authorities, so campaigns henceforth take place in winter?

It would be nice if the new cycle could start from June or July 2012. Presumably the current crop of elected Councillors wouldn't object to an extra few months in office at ratepayer expense?

Thursday 21 April 2011

Not the Royal Wedding

Inspired by JK's wedding entrance vid, with now 64 million clicks on the Tube, here's the UK T-Mobile's spoof of the upcoming Royal Wedding...

NB: You can view the real wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on YouTube on the 29th of April from 10am London Time.

Poll supports a change in Queensland State government

A poll of over 300 voters on CairnsBlog clearly favours a leadership change in the Queensland State government.

The poll, run over the last 14 days, shows a majority will not back a Labor-led State Government.

35% backed the ALP whereas 43% supported the LNP's Campbell Newman.

The silly addition of former right-wing Cairns mayor Kevin Byrne, a card-carrying Lib, also attracted a sizeable following with 20%.

This result, largely showing how Cairns region voters are feeling, mirrors a number of State polls, showing wide dissatisfaction for Premier Anna Bligh and the Labor Party. Bligh's post-flood and cyclone euphoric glow, has all but been washed down the Lockyer Valley.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Tony, Joolya, or Bob: Whose bubble will burst first?

Clifton Beach Luke is in Sydney for Easter and emailed this photo he snapped at a Bondi Junction shop today.

In a fancy clothing store, three mannikins are adorned with masks. There's Liberal leader Tony Abbott, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Bob Brown of The Greens, with the question posed: whose bubble will burst?

It's the question alright.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Labor selection narrows as Bailey withdraws

Mike Bailey, the deputy president of ALP's Cairns branch, has withdrawn his nomination for the Cairns pre-selection in the upcoming State election.

Numerous candidates have been approached following the LNP completing their selection process a month ago, however Bailey, an outspoken critic of Stuey Traill who was removed from the party, says his family must come first.

"After much soul searching and discussions with my wife of 37 years, I have decided to withdraw my nomination," Mike Bailey said today. "This may be the shortest political career on record – I nominated only a little over a week ago – but I am convinced it is the correct thing to do. Apart from family, there was the question of my age, however I felt this negative was something that could have been overcome."

Mike Bailey says that whilst he has withdrawn from the race, he is committed to assisting Cairns remain a Labor seat "regardless of whom the candidate may be." Bailey authored numerous party political emails to CairnsBlog from his government employer's email account.

This now leaves first-time Cairns Regional Councillor, Kirsten Lesina who would need to join the AWU to get the backing of that faction as she remains unaligned at present.

Richie Bates is the only other declared candidate for Labor's selection. Bates has a long history of community involvement in sport and in the Rail union, challenging his party about privatisation.

There is a strong lobby group within Labor that is fighting against asset sales becoming an election issue, following the expulsion of outspoken critic Stuey Traill, who believes Labor has betrayed itself over the sell off programme, saying it is clearly against the Party Platform. Outgoing Cairns MP Desley Boyle does not support and candidate from the left faction of the party, privately saying that "it wouldn't happen over my dead body."

Lesina has been unclear about her position on privatisation, and has in the past been open about her desire for a role in Federal politics. She has worked with Senator Jan McLucas prior to her election in 2008 as a Cairns councillor.

Fundraiser for Law and Moore - Thursday May 5th

Bryan Law is leaving town, but not without a party.

Everyone's welcome to a farewell Cairns bash on Thursday 5th May. This is a joint fund-raiser for Bryan and also the Alan Blake defamation case against CairnsBlog.

The event will be held at the Boathouse, what’s left of the old Cairns yacht Club, at 7pm at the James Cook University of Colonialism, Smithfield.

It is $25 a head and will be a mixed bag of nibbles, nostalgia, and revolution, with a cash bar, so the revolution won’t go far.

In one month Bryan Law leaves Cairns for a date with a US military helicopter.

Bryan Law is leaving Cairns in early May to spend three months in Rockhampton preparing for the ploughshares action against the massive Australian and US military operation Talisman Sabre, held there annually. Law has been in Cairns for 18 years.

"Looking back I’ve enjoyed a fairly good mixture of fun and difficulty," Bryan Law says. "I can’t guarantee that I’ll never be back in Cairns. What I can guarantee is that I’m gonna have a real good go at breaking in to the Rockhampton Airport and disabling - thereby disarming - a US military helicopter or fixed wing military plane. Rockhampton Airport has scores of such planes visiting during exercise Talisman Sabre."

"My promise before God is to continue as best I’m able from now on to disrupt and interfere with any military equipment in Australia that’s used for making war. Whenever I am free I will be working towards this goal," Law says. "I don’t think I’ve gone crazy. It seems to me an act that is called for, which I am qualified to do."

Citizenship ceremony this Thursday

A number of new imigrants to Australia will officially become citizens this Thursday at a ceremony in Cairns.

The event will be at the Civic reception at 10.30am.

Jayeshjumar Patel and Flor Solano Cruz, are two of those that will receive their certificates from the Mayor on Thursday.

Jayeshjumar Patel is from Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarap, near Pakistan and north of Bombay in India, with a population of 27 million. Jayeshjumar has been in Australia for four and a half years, and lived in Port Douglas and now at Smithfield. Jayeshjumar transferred to from his university where he was studying hospitality management. "I decided to stay in Australia for better work opportunities and lifestyle," Jayeshjumar said.

Solano Cruz is another new citizen and is from Santo Domingo the capital of the Dominican Republic. Solano has been in Australia for six years and came here with her German husband and child for a better lifestyle and work opportunities, and weather that is very similar to that of the Dominican Republic. She was a dive instructor in Santo Domingo.

Unions must back workers on carbon

Every union in Queensland must stand up for rank and file workers frightened about job losses from the Federal Labor‘s carbon tax, the LNP says.

"With Queensland confirmed as national wooden-spooner for economic performance, thousands of workers and their families could not afford to have their jobs risked by Labor’s carbon tax," Ted Malone, Shadow Employment Minister says. "This is about surviving and hanging on to every job we’ve got."

“Canberra might be booming, but regional Queensland is not. The very last thing we need is a stupid tax on manufacturing and export-exposed jobs. Even Labor’s climate change guru Ross Garnaut says the new green jobs won’t materialise for at least ten years. In the meantime, workers and their families facing soaring cost of living increases are very worried their industries are about to cop it in the neck.”

Malone says Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was totally out of step with Queensland workers on the issue.

“We’ve already seen a mass migration of manufacturing jobs to Asia and with carbon being priced from $20 to $40 a tonne, there’s a huge risk thousands more jobs will be lost. We’re not just talking about steel jobs in Wollongong, we’re talking about thousands of aluminium, copper and nickel processing and smelting jobs in Queensland, particularly in Gladstone and Townsville and Yabulu, north of Townsville."

“I’m calling on every Queensland union leader to stand up and be counted. We need to send the message to Julia Gillard that Queensland cannot afford Labor’s carbon tax," Ted Malone says. “Our economy is faltering badly. Labor has sent us broke. We’ve lost our AAA credit-rating and we’ve been hit for six by the floods, storms and cyclones. We don’t need Julia Gillard’s carbon tax on our manufacturing, mining, minerals processing and farm industries."

Friday 15 April 2011

Steve and Val can do with all the friends they can get

21-year-old Aboriginal Erica Liddy, dies in Cairns Base Hospital

The 21-year-old woman that was the victim of a violent assault in the early hours of Tuesday morning near Freshwater, died late this afternoon after her life support system was switched off.

Erica Liddy, originally from Coen, had her family with her for the last three days.

Erica was found unconscious around 2am at a Freshwater bus stop near the corner of Kamerunga and Old Smithfield roads. She had serious head injuries.

Cairns Police still have few leads and have now upgraded the investigation to murder.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Jetstar removes Cairns from itinerary

In keeping with the usual service bungle Jetstar have become renown for, Cairns as a destination, has now been removed from their website.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Robbie's view...

"Without electric power, life will be brutal and short."
- Dr Professor John Christy on Climate Change and Carbon Tax

Monday 4 April 2011

Many questions that need answering on CBD Masterplan

There's still many unanswered questions following the recent public meeting about the city's Masterplan, that presently involves turning City Place into a bus thoroughfare, a concept that has enraged many.

Geoff Holland reports back on the well-attended public meeting that included CBD Councillor Alan Make and Mayor Val Schier.

The contracted designers Architectus from Brisbane assured everyone that the planning process had not been finalised and the designers were still very much open to ideas. However, Caroline Stalker of Architectus admitted that she had been handed a brief from Queensland Transport that City Place would be opened up to buses.

Caroline talked about how to make the city centre more people-friendly in order to attract more people back into the city centre. Cr Blake also talked about the donut we had created in the city centre, and need to revitalise the city centre.

Councillors who attended the forum were Mayor Val Schier, Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane, Cr Di Forsyth and Cr Alan Blake.

The plan is for a triangle of green pedestrian-friendly space running from the Esplanade up Shields St to Grafton St, then down Grafton St to the waterfront, and then along the waterfront back to the Esplanade at Shields St. The section of Shields St from Grafton to McLeod, Cairns Central, appears to have been left out of the plan, though there is a general plan to provide much more shade throughout the CBD.

Caroline soon led the discussion to key issues such as what type and colour of pavers would be used. This is a strategy often used by government officials and their proxies in community consultation sessions to railroad discussion away from fundamental issues.

However, during question time some members of the audience asked the question - How we can talk of city planning without also discussing transport? If we want to bring more people into the city centre, how are we going to do that given that there are more cars in the city centre than ever before? And that even if more car parks are built, the streets will be choked by cars trying to get in and out.

Caroline herself had talked about a people-centred focus rather than a car-centred focus.

The question was asked "Why are there no representatives from Queensland Transport here at this meeting?"

People sat in groups around various tables. Was there an attempt to group those who might been seen as difficult around the one table? It seemed so but that strategy was largely unsuccessful.

Caroline came to help out at the table which had the largest number of potentially difficult people on it and asked the question "do you want to talk about the built environment or transport?" Again it was reiterated that the two issues are interlinked and must be considered in an integrated way: Where do we want to attract people to, and how do we facilitate them arriving and leaving?

Architectus are currently working on the idea of "shifting City Place" to the space on Shields St between Lake St and Grafton St, but would still include a road for service vehicle access (deviating from the Queensland Transport plan which also allows cars to enter from Lake St).

Some members of the audience pointed out that this would mean the space was not a pedestrian precinct as such but would be a 'shared space'. Also, this canyon space was not appropriate for a sound stage and was much more restricted than City Place. The need to work with existing cultural heritage was raised, for example in the context of City Place, defined by the historic Hides Hotel on one side and School of the Arts building on the other.

“If anyone has more to say, that’s what Divisional Councillors are for, and we’ll all be happy to hear from you," Councillor Alan Blake said in his opening address. However later on one member of the public pointed out to Mr Blake as part of the earlier workshop that he'd telephoned him three weeks ago to ask for an appointment to talk about City Place. He promised he’d ring back with a time, but he never did.
Mayor Val Schier recognised that the idea of having a frequent free shuttle bus from parking areas around the city. For example, around Munro Martin park and the Showgrounds, a suggestion that came came up a number of times and that the idea could be explored further. However this idea has already been rejected by Queensland Transport.

Mayor Val Schier agreed to hold another similar meeting in the near future but this time with representatives of Queensland Transport present.

One would also think that since so much policy and planning seems to be coming from Brisbane, that State MPs Desley Boyle and Steve Wettenhall, who appears to be active in fast-tracking the agenda to bulldoze City Place, would also be present.

At the request of some members of the forum, Architectus agreed that the results of this meeting should be made available on the Council's website at so the rest of the community can observe the planning process and contribute their comments and ideas, and also to ensure some degree of accountability and transparency.

There is still some way to go and many questions that need answering.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Lilley is back with third mocumentary

A 12-part comedy series Angry Boys, airing soon on ABC, will be the third comedy mocumentary show from Chris Lilley, who won accolades and awards after We Can Be Heros, and the stunning Summer Heights High.

This time with Angry Boys Lilley introduces new characters, including identical twins Daniel and Nathan Sims from Heroes.

They include a former surfing world champion Blake Oakfield, a family man and founding member of a surfie gang - the Mucca Mad Boys; S.mouse a U.S. rapper famous for having produced the biggest selling hip-hop single of all time; Japanese mother Jen Okazaki, a shrewd businesswoman, she also manages her son’s skateboarding career; and Juvenile Justice Centre for Boys officer Ruth Sims, aka Gran.

Angry Boys is destined to be a hit of Lilley's followers. Here's the teaser from ABC...

Saturday 2 April 2011

Saturday SoapBlog: Val Schier - Significant Achievements

Val Schier made history when she was elected as the first female mayor of Cairns in March 2008.

With just 12 months till the next Council election, Val looks back on the last three years, on what she counts as the significant achievements.

Schier says she's taken this Council back to the people.

Today will mark the third anniversary of my election to the Cairns Regional Council.

This time next year we will go to the polls and I will be putting my hand up for a second term as Mayor. I have led this Council with determination and a commitment to doing the right thing by the people of this region. However, it has been a challenging time both politically and economically.

My team does not hold a majority on Council and this has made it difficult to deliver some of the key projects that I believe this region deserves. Despite this, I have fought hard to deliver the projects, initiatives and levels of service that we need to grow our city in a sustainable way.

I've also faced significant external challenges, particularly from the difficult economic circumstances the region has faced over the past two years. In spite of the GFC, economic downturn, high Aussie $, swine flu, high profile business collapses, cyclone Yasi, dengue fever outbreak - my Council can demonstrate significant achievements.

I want to highlight some of the important work Council has done under my leadership in the face of these significant challenges.

My vision for our region to be the greenest in the nation has been adopted by Council. Some of our green achievements are:
- closed the Portsmith dump which had the constant threat of chemicals leaching into Trinity inlet;
- propagated and planted 79,000 native plants across the region in the last 18 months alone;
- backzoned 26 hillslope areas for conservation meaning the green face of Cairns will be protected;
- created the Cattana Wetlands and other public spaces which will develop into outstanding wildlife habitats to protect native species.

Economic development
Previous Councils in this region have failed to play an active role in the economic development of the region. My Council has initiated a dynamic new economic development team and is playing an active role in creating jobs, supporting businesses and advocacy and has:
- created the economic development fund to support businesses that are diversifying the economy;
- worked with Advance Cairns, TTNQ and the Cairns Chamber to respond to the GFC and develop the "New Deal" initiatives which delivered tens of millions of $$$s for infrastructure and to create jobs;
- spearheaded the development of our first ever Regional Economic Development Plan to guide our regional economic growth;
- initiated the inaugural Tropical Innovation Awards to uncover and support local business ideas to be export ready;
- used the website to provide up to date information and data for potential investors to the region;
- given support and certainty to the tourism industry through our funding agreements with Tourism Tropical North Queensland and Tourism Port Douglas Daintree

My Council has delivered the largest infrastructure program this region has ever seen with a focus on maintaining and upgrading our most important and well utilised assets including:
- completed flood mitigation across the region: Hutching St, Lake St, Caravonica, Gordonvale;
- upgraded community halls from Diwan to Babinda;
- built new bridges all over the region from the Alice River near Bramston Beach to Mason and Coopers Creeks north of the Daintree;
- allocated tens of millions of $$$s on road re-sealing and footpaths

Recreation and sport
I have worked hard to deliver projects that enhance our region's outdoor lifestyle. My Council has put significant funding into competitive and social sport as well as active recreation including:
- built 23kms of new and better connected cycleways;
- increased "Fun Free Fitness" activities like zumba and aqua aerobics;
- initiated the long overdue purchase of land in Edmonton for sporting facilities;
- allocated $4.2M for new Sugarworld slides before the end of this year;
- upgraded Barlow Park and the Manunda sporting precinct;
- opened the new regional tennis centre which has already hosted an international tournament and a Davis Cup tie;
- built all abilities playgrounds at Mossman and Edmonton;
- brought the Challenge Cairns ultrathon and the inaugural Cairns Adventure Festival to the region

I ran for election on a platform of sustainable development and good planning for this region and in office have focused my energy on making sure we are planning in a way that allows growth but maintains the character of our region. Some of the key planning projects include:
- Daintree Gateway and Port Douglas Waterfront plans which are out for public consultation after extensive stakeholder input;
- Mt Peter planning which has won a national award
- a parking strategy for Cairns which includes plans for the first public car park to be built since 1979 (!).

Arts and culture
I want Cairns to be the Cultural Capital of regional Australia. We have unparalleled talent and creativity in our region and I have worked hard to make sure we have venues and events worthy of showcasing our talented people and their work by:
- supporting and revitalising festivals including the Cairns Festival, Gordonvale Pyramid Race and Country Fair, Ukelele, Chinese New Year and Blues Festivals;
- gaining significant federal and state government funding for a new performing arts centre on the Cairns waterfront;
- making improvements to the Tanks Arts Centre;
- initiating public art in laneways (opening 7 May 2011)

Disaster planning and mitigation
I have overseen the upgrading of our disaster co-ordination infrastructure and procedures to be recognised as amongst the best in the nation. Some of the new initiatives include the opening the new Disaster Coordination Centre at Woree; improving communications during cyclone Yasi; and reviewing our evacuation processes.

In summary, I have taken this Council back to the people.

We now hold meetings in Babinda, Gordonvale and Mossman and have introduced deputations to the full Council; something about which I am very proud. And there's still one year of my term to achieve even more for the people of this region.

Oh Anna!

Friday 1 April 2011

Newman or Bligh

Just added a poll, on the right hand sidebar.

Newman or Bligh as the next Queensland Premier. It's a no-brainer (unless you live on the Southside).

Remember: vote early, vote often.