Wednesday 30 November 2011

Civil Partnership Bill passed by 7 votes

At 11:12pm Wednesday night, the Queensland Parliament passed the Civil Partnership Bill, 47 votes to 40, in a historic move forward for relationship recognition, joining Tasmania, ACT, South Australia, Victoria and NSW.

The heated and at times volatile debate, ensured for 3 hours and 50 minutes.

The Public gallery, packed to capacity, erupted with screams when the final votes were announced by the Speaker, and Andrew Fraser's private member's bill was passed.

Local Far North Queensland MPs, Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall and Member for Cook, Jason O'Brien, spoke in favour of the bill. MP for Cairns, Desley Boyle, chose not to speak and was present only for part of the debate, however voted in support, as did Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt.

Cook MP Jason O'Brien, who has blocked CairnsBlog from all his online social media sites, spoke passionately about the legislation, and was vocal in condemning the LNP.

"[This is about] social justice, fairness, equity. It takes courage to make change," Jason O'Brien said in his speech to the Queensland Parliament. "The time has come to recognise what is undeniably true: gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex people exist. They're humans. They're here. They should enjoy the same rights as heterosexual people. I do not understand why one group of people who enjoy those rights, will not share those rights with those who do not."

O'Brien said that the Civil Partnerships Bill will cost "next to nothing" and will bring so much joy to to so many people.

"Why is it so hard for those opposite to enhance rights? How can it be so wrong for two people to stand together in public and declare their love for each other. How can that be wrong?" O'Brien said. "The Australian Labor Party is a broad church and we are proud to welcome gay people. I would have thought the LNP would have been the same. Surely they have gay members in the LNP. How can they sit there and deny their own supporters their right to celebrate publicly their love? It's shameful."

The speaker ruled it was unparliamentary to speculate on why all LNP members, except one, had decided not to express their conscience.

"I hope they [Labor] take it one step further over the course of the weekend in Sydney," Jason O'Brien said, in reference to the party's national conference.

Much was said that the Civil Partnership Bill mirrors marriage in all but name and therefore undermines the institution of marriage. However their were harrowing stories recounted when a same sex couple was refused access to be with his dying partner in hospital.

Queensland's State leader on Bob Katter's Australian Party, Aidan McLindon, refused to debate the bill, only rising to make one comment, that was widely laughed at: "A marriage is between a man and a woman."

Only Federal Parliament can amend the Marriage Act. Since 2004, under the Marriage Amendment Act 2004, which amended the Marriage Act 1961, same-sex marriages have been banned, however all levels of government under nearly all recognise same-sex couples as de facto couples as "unregistered co-habitation" or de facto status since 2009. Centrelink has recognised same-sex couples equally since 2009 for social security and unemployment benefit.

Liberal National Party's Jarrod Bleijie, whom I met within Cairns recently to discuss youth and justice issues, criticised Andrew Fraser, saying he only introduced the bill "to stitch up a Green preference deal,'' Bleijie said. "This bill is nothing more than a stunt."

The statement prompted an terse response from Nick Thompson, who is standing for Division 4 in the Cairns Regional Council's election.

"My relationship isn't a cheap stunt," Thompson responded on Twitter.

Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall who also spoke in support, says he holds a fundamental belief that all Australians should be equal before the law.

''Over the years this parliament and other Australian parliaments, mostly led by Labor reforms, have progressively removed laws that discriminate,'' Wettenhall said. ''As a result of laws that protect and promote human rights and prohibit discrimination, Australia and Queensland have become immeasurably fairer, more tolerant and better societies. Yet there is this important piece of unfinished business.''

Wettenhall said he recalled his wedding day as one of the happiest days of his life.

''This was not especially because we looked forward to the legal consequences of marriage; it was because we wanted to publicly declare our love and commitment to each other and celebrate that relationship with our friends and families,'' Steve Wettenhall told the Parliament. ''In my view, no-one should be denied that opportunity, and it is that opportunity that this bill provides.''

''Since this bill was introduced I have been sent many moving and heartfelt testimonials from same-sex couples who have longed for the day when their relationships could be recognised under Queensland law. We should give them that day today. I thank them for sharing their stories, their emotions and their hopes.''

Wettenhall's Barron River Smithfield office has received a lot of communication to support the Civil Union Bill, but ''many, many more than those have urged its defeat.''

''I did not need to search my conscience for too long. This bill can do no harm to anyone. It can do no harm to our state. It can only bring happiness and benefit to the couples who choose to use it and to the community of Queensland,'' Steve Wettenhall said.

The LNP argue that there has not been enough time for community consultation, and say that more than 54% of the final number of submissions to the legislative committee that examined the bill, were received 17 days after the cut-off date.

"That goes to the heart of the lack of consultation. We do not believe the people of Queensland have had the appropriate opportunities to raise their concerns,'' Jarrod Bleijie said.

Jarrod Bleijie says the bill is not a priority for Queensland.

"Civil partnerships is not on a priority list in the minds of Queenslanders,'' Jarrod Bleijie said in Parliament. "The passing of this bill will not save Queenslanders money, it will not ease cost of living pressures, it will not get our triple-A credit rating back.''

Over 5,000 submissions were received by the committee reviewing the bill. Most MPs spoke of great division and conflict in their community, saying that there was as must support as opposition for the recognition of same-sex partnerships.

The opposition LNP united together and in an unprecedented show of arms, disallowing any of it's MPs to support the bill, saying Labor's action was a ''political stunt.''

It was a shameful display and bordered on contempt of Parliament, prohibiting MPs to undertake a free conscience vote, the way Leader Campbell Newman coerced his party. He said in the last few days that it was the ''members and candidates'' that made the decision.

31 LNP MPs voted against the bill, along with five Independent MPs. Four Labor MPs didn't support the Bill: Capalaba MP Michael Choi; Albert MP Margaret Keech; Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller; and Health Minister Geoff Wilson, who has previously supported civil unions. Independent MP Peter Wellington voted to support the bill and rebuked attempts to be "intimidated."

Chris Foley, Independent member for Maryborough, chose to spend most of his speech on tired worn-out stereotypes, and even read of lengthy definitions of polyamory, in an warped attempt to confuse the issue.

"The first time I met one of my best friends who comes to visit me regularly in parliament was in a former life when I was a full-time piano bar singer,'' Chris Foley recounted. ''He tried to pick me up. He would be one of the gayest people I have ever met in my life. I will never forget the first time he came in. He had the handbag, the lipstick and everything going on.''

Foley's address was one of the maddest of the late night debate.

The Civil Unions Bill is available in Hansard. Go to page 49, actual page number is 3974.

New Zealand passed Civil Unions in 2005. Same-sex and opposite sex couples, will now be able to register with the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

I spotted this on Twitter early the next day. Summed it all up really...

Paul Freebody wants to be my ''friend''

Honestly, is he for real?

What on earth does Paul take me for?

I just received a Facebook ''friend'' request from the former Cairns Councillor, Adventure Waters developer, and most recently, the dumped LNP candidate for the State seat of Cairns.

Paul was ditched after a horrible email from his computer was circulated to heaps of his ''friends'' bestowing the ill the became of assassinated US President John F Kennedy, on Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Two months later, the LNPers promoted former Cairns Post provocateur journo Gavin King, to the nomination, complete with 200 juicy and opinionated articles including the now infamous quote “if a woman drinks to excess and is raped or assaulted, is she partly to blame? As uncomfortable and difficult as this question is, the answer surely is yes," wrote Gavin.

So the question I pose to you today is... should I become Paul's ''friend'' or not?

Tuesday 29 November 2011

27-year-old to appear in court over child's death overnight

Cairns Police has confirmed that a 27-year-old local woman has been charged following the death of an 8-year-old girl at a Westcourt house last night.

Around 9.30pm last evening, Police attended a Mann Street home where they discovered a deceased 8-year-old child.

The 27-year-old has been charged with two counts of assault occasioning bodily harm whilst armed and one count of torture.

She will appear before the Cairns Magistrates Court this afternoon.

Friday 18 November 2011

The drama of Cairns Community Radio... the whole sorry story.

4CCR 89.1 FM is the local community radio, a government and public-funded broadcaster, serving Cairns.

Over the last decade, the station has systematically locked out over 100 community members, "fired" volunteers, refused memberships, demanded private ID when joining, announcers and presenters have left in droves on the back of two corrupt committees since 2001 - one served for 7 years, the last one didn't account for $100,000, they put it down as "other expenses - and at least five federal ACMA investigations.

Former Senator for Queensland for nearly 11 years, Andrew Bartlett, who was with the Democrats and also a Greens candidate in the 2010 federal election, was asked in an interview at the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia conference, how community broadcasting shapes and cultivates Australian music, arts and culture.

"I was asked how important community radio is now to the Australian music scene, as opposed to when Four Triple Zed Brisbane started," Andrew Bartlett. You can listen to Andrew's podcast here.

Well, as I pointed out to Andrew, our local station has hardly served the Cairns community. It receives around $100,000 a year from the taxpayer, yet has operated as a secret society.

It's such a shame because when community radio is at it's best - like in Townsville's Triple T and Darwin's Territory FM, it is a positive and valuable community asset. Good community is rare indeed.

Sadly when the local community sought intervention from local Federal MPs, then ALP's Jim Turnour and now Warren Entsch, they did nothing or were powerless to act.

There really should be a fraud investigation over the 2001 - 2009 period when the mad Arona cult from Kuranda ran the place, and the last 17 months under president Rod Coutts. Both committees have huge and serious questions to answer to the Cairns community.

Over nearly a year, I documented the whole sorry saga. Here's most of the sorry stories...

Thursday 10 November 2011

Cairns Mayor Schier is a 'dupe for war' as Obama wants war from Australia, says Bryan Law

US President Barack Obama will visit Australia next week.

Obama’s visit to Canberra is being touted that his address to Parliament will be the defining speech of his first term on how he views America's role in the (Asia-Pacific) region.

America’s role will be military, according to veteran Cairns Peace by Peace activist, Bryan Law.

“The White House has not confirmed an expected announcement of expanded American access to Australian army bases, but says the 'next phase' of the alliance will be on the agenda,” Bryan Law says.

There will be a rally in Canberra next Thursday when Obama addresses the Australian Parliament.

Obama is also going to review Australian troops in Darwin, the home of Australia’s Tiger Attack Helicopter Squadron. Local activists are planning to protest Obama’s commitment to the militarisation of northern Australia.

If you live in Cairns, Bryan Law is inviting you to attend the Community Peace workshop at the Tanks Arts Centre. This will be held on Wednesday 16th November at 6pm. More info from Chris Stannard 4032 6609. The workshop will offer an opportunity to talk to the Council, through its Community Development branch, what kinds of actions we’d like Cairns to take in becoming a city of peace.

"Right now, Cairns – as part of Australia – is rapidly becoming a city of war," Bryan Law says. "We have around 1,500 troops at war in Afghanistan. Some are training Afghan Army regulars, some are special forces carrying out kill/capture night raids - targeted assassination."
Bryan Law says that three times since May this year, twice in the last 10 days, Afghan regular army soldiers have fired on Australian troops, killing four, and wounding ten.

"Australian troops are seen as part of a US occupation of Afghanistan, and are not welcome in Cairns," Bryan Law says. "The war in Afghanistan has been going on for ten years. Civilian casualties and Coalition troop casualties are higher now than ever before, and the growth in deaths/injuries is accelerating. Prime Minister Gillard, or KillHard as I prefer, is now saying that Australian troops will be fighting in Afghanistan well beyond 2014 which has, up until now, been the scheduled date of departure.''

Whilst Barack Obama is in Australia next week, the government will sign agreements to host US troops in every Australian base at home and around the world, and to host visiting US warships in every port in Australia.

"Australia will now become a deputy sherrif to US wars in both the Indian - Middle East - and Pacific - China, North Korea - Oceans,'' Bryan Law says. ''We are doomed to a condition of perpetual war and global hatred.''

''The Cairns Regional Council response to this is to lobby for an expansion of HMAS Cairns, and fore more US warship visits. Mayor Val Schier pretends to be a 'Mayor for Peace', but is in fact a 'Dupe for War,' Bryan Law says.

''If you want a better future for Cairns, if you want peace in the world, come along to the workshop and put your thinking forward.''
  • Community Peace workshop
    Tanks Arts Centre
    - Wednesday 16th November, 6pm
    Info - Chris Stannard 4032 6609
    Light refreshments will be served

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Purchase Tom Pyne's book and help FNQ Youth Assistance Fund

Former Cairns Mayor Tom Pyne, who passed away last week, will have touched many across the region.

Tom was particularly fond of the FNQ Youth Assistance Fund that assists young people with personal, health, education and welfare problems.

A limited number of Tom's wonderful memoir, Up Front, are available through CairnsBlog for just $20. You're also encouraged to make an additional donation to support the Fund.

If you'd like a copy, you can use the PayPal button on the right hand-side of the blog, making sure your include full details. You can also drop an email.

Another violent bus attack, this time at Redlynch

Sunbus, Cairns' local commuter bus service, has sustained more attacks, in what has now become a growing spree of violent attacks across the region.

The latest attack occurred last week in Redlynch, as a group of teenagers hurled rocks at an evening bus service along Michaelangelo Drive.

The photo shows the damage to last week's Redlynch attack.

However when CairnsBlog spoke with Sunbus manager Richard Gabasa, he appeared dismissive about an ongoing problem, and did not want to discuss the serious matter on the phone. When questioned about the latest attack in Redlynch, Mr Gabasa played down the incident.

"Yeah, there was some excitement up there," Gabasa said.

I put to Gabasa that this violent and unprovoked behaviour had been going on for some time.

"Oh, no mate. Look if you want me to make a statement, I invite you to send me an email, but I don't respond to phone calls about these things, because obviously we involve the police."

Some Sunbus drivers have said that they have taken things into their own hands, reporting attacks themselves and some even installing cameras as the company isn't doing enough.

I asked Richard Gabasa if the latest attack was reported to the police, but he appeared confused.

"Arrh, I don't have the report in front of me, I would imagine it would have been," Gabasa said.

The latest stoning attack occurred around 8pm on Halloween night, when around 30 youths between 10-15 years old spread across Michaelangelo Drive, in Redlynch, hell-bent on causing fear to passing motorists. They eventually dispersed of their own accord.

Youths have been using sling shots to propel large rocks at passing buses.

Drivers has said after previous attacks that they will refuse to drive some routes. Attacks have occurred in Gordonvale when a rock came through the front doors, thrown by a 14-year-old missile. The driver received concussion and the youth was charged.

Other attacks have occurred in Kewarra Beach, Trinity Beach, Raintrees shops, White Rock, Edmonton, Bayview, Redlynch, and in the violence-tempered Murray Street in Manunda.

In 2009 a Sunbus driver was assaulted and robbed at Manunda's Raintrees Shopping Centre around 10pm. In April this year, at 9pm, a rock was thrown through the bus's left side window, whilst there were passengers on board. Drivers have also been spat on and robbed in other incidents in recent months.

Around 30 incidents have occurred since 2009, with most of the attackers in their teens.

Sunbus drivers and Transport Workers Union have been asking for shatterproof glass and protective screens to be installed all around the buses.

"We are very concerned and there doesn't seem to enough being done about this," a driver told CairnsBlog who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. "Youths are getting in packs, however there seems a culture in Sunbus to not take some serious action about this violent problem."

Janine Aitken, industrial advocate and Cairns organiser of the Transport Workers Union, says it appears the attacks are growing in violence.

"What is Sunbus doing to protect its passengers and their staff?" Aitken asks. "The seats at the front of the bus are reserved for disabled, elderly, or mothers nursing young children, and this is the area where most of the attacks have occurred."

Aitken says that the carrying of cash on buses provides a extra temptation for anti-social behaviour.

"In Brisbane a GoCard system is in place, where the driver does not have to handle cash. Money has been stolen in Murray Street attacks," Janine Aitken says. "It won't be long before there is a very serious incident."

Brisbane drivers enjoy more safety with a shatterproof glass system, that make windows safer and more effectively resist missiles thrown at them.

"This design fault can be rectified on our local Cairns' Sunbus fleet," Janine Aitken says. "It further highlights the need to review windows in buses."

The Union says that Sunbus has an obligation to provide security on the buses for both drivers and passengers. One suggestion is that there's an additional staff member on board, especially in the evening. A security officer travels on buses on the Gold Coast.

In September the ongoing attacks caused a number of local Sunbus drivers to threaten an "after-hours ban" on some routes, including Murray Street. Drivers are demanding shatterproof screens and windows and also security guards in the evening routes.

Janine Aitken told CairnsBlog that Sunbus drivers have had enough.

"It’s not safe being a bus driver in Cairns," Aitken says. "So we’re taking action before serious injury or fatalities occur. We have called for anyone throwing rocks at buses to be charged with serious assault or a charge that reflect the seriousness of the attacks."