Wednesday 25 April 2012

Schier wins Chamber vote of support

Just over 70 per cent of the 200 people at the Cairns Chamber of Commerce’s Mayoral debate completed a five question survey on the day, to provide information on the profile of the audience, their voting intentions and how they thought the candidates performed.

The first question asked audience members about their voting intentions was Val Schier who scored the highest with 32%, Margaret Cochrane and Bob Manning each had 21%.   The remaining undecided accounted for 24%.  Ian Thomas scored 1%.

The audience were polled to rate the quality of each candidate’s presentation.  Val Schier scored the highest.  

Of the 136 respondents, 2.2% changed their vote as a result of listening to the four candidates.   One switched from Margaret Cochrane to Bob Manning; another went from Bob Manning to undecided and the third went from Val Schier to undecided.

The audience were also asked to highlight each candidate’s main strengths:-

Margaret Cochrane
- Local government experience and knowledge.

Bob Manning
- Business experience, knowledge.   His suit impressed with some commenting that he looked the part of a smart businessman.

Val Schier
- Track record, passion, presentation skills and vision.

Ian Thomas
- No single strength stood out; rather there was a range of strengths mentioned including his passion, his interesting take on things, and his desire to improve Council operations.

The Chamber survey also asked opinion on the main weaknesses of each candidate.

Margaret Cochrane’s lack of vision and lack of leadership skills were the most common responses.  Bob Manning did not impress with his speaking / presentation skills and Val Schier’s track record was the most common response as her main weakness, along with talking too loudly. Ian Thomas was perceived to be ill-prepared, and off topic a number of times, and without a clear plan.

Monday 23 April 2012

Lying to Parliament to become criminal offence again

The drafting of laws making it illegal to lie to the Queensland Parliament will be reinstated under the new State Government.

The LNP Cabinet will endorse their election commitment to reintroduce this as a criminal offence.  

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie MP says they will amend the Queensland Criminal Code to re-enact laws repealed under the previous administration.

 "The Queensland community expects its parliamentarians to act responsibly and with the highest integrity," Mr Bleijie said.  "Knowingly giving false evidence before the Parliament or one of its committees is conduct cutting to the heart of parliamentary privilege and is deserving of criminal sanction."

In 2006 the Labor Government repealed the section that made lying in Parliament a criminal offence after the Parliament had dealt with allegations that the then Minister for Health, Gordon Nuttall MP, had misled a Parliamentary Estimates Committee.

"At that time, the matter constituted not only a contempt of Parliament but under section 57 of the Criminal Code, knowingly giving false evidence before Parliament was a crime with a penalty of up to seven years' jail,"  Jarrod Bleijie says. "The Parliament resolved to deal with the matter as contempt of Parliament, rather than a criminal offence, and accepted Mr Nuttall's resignation as a Minister and member of the Executive Council and his apology to Parliament as an appropriate penalty."

"The previous government then passed amendments to the Criminal Code to repeal section 57, giving Parliament exclusive jurisdiction to deal with a person who provides false evidence to it or one of its committees." Mr Bleijie said.

Reintroducing this section of the Criminal Code will enhance Queensland Parliament's reputation.

Sunday 22 April 2012

SoapBlog - Ian Thomas: Why I should be Mayor of Cairns

In one week's time, Cairns will decide who will be mayor for the next four years.

Retired property developer Ian Thomas, with the campaign mantra of "less rates, less crime and no Entertainment Precinct" is the underdog in the Mayoral campaign.  He first arrived in Cairns in 1973 as a part owner of the Australian hotel in Abott Street. He then opened the Marmadukes nightclub.  Thomas has a string of developments to hos name:  Holloways Beach, homes and  units, Cairns Colonial Club and The Palm Royale.

Last week he was forced to publish a rebuttal to various rumours and innuendo that he called 'Lies, Lies, Lies and Dammed Lies.'

Here's Ian' plea to Cairns voters to support him next Saturday...

Everyone in Cairns is concerned about the local economy except it seems the Cairns Regional Council this council has increased rates continuously whilst forecasting deficit budgets and it seems, has not for one moment looked towards itself  to reduce costs and initiate cost savings and efficiencies. It is very apparent to me that our local council operates like state and federal governments, instead of lifting their game or operating the largest business in our region efficiently, they simply raise rate levies.

The recent voluntary redundancies introduced to trim the inept business practices of the council and CEO have resulted in over $4m in extra costs and seen the departure of many skilled long term employees some of whom have left the council purely because of their disgust with current management policies.

During the term of this council led by Val Shier we the community, have been lied to time and time again, particularly in regard to the Cairns Entertainment Precinct.

The lack of transparency and failure to engage with the community has been outrageous, the fiscal mismanagement appalling, the personal agendas and vanity projects incredible. At no time has there been any example of leadership from our mayor who frankly myself and a broad section of residents consider incompetent.

Our mayor’s background as a public servant and bureaucrat should be a warning to the voters in the upcoming election. The new mayor should have broad business experience, experience in their own businesses, earning their own money and income, dealing with all the day to day challenges of surviving and prospering despite all the outside influences of which they have no control. I know of no other business where because of mismanagement they can charge more for their product or services with absolutely no backlash, just reluctant acceptance.

Without good management, cost control and internal audit systems in place in a $300m  business ends up where we now see the council; desperately attempting to make last minute slap dash cuts to a budget that was already planned to end in deficit. The council budget should be prepared taking all aspects of council responsibilities into account including community service obligations and of course community infrastructure.

Apart from bike lanes, I have seen no evidence of expenditure to benefit the broader community needs. The recently completed Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre was budgeted at $4.5m and blew out to $6.m. The reality here is that this project is actually an office structure for council staff (Tanks and management staff a total of around 20 people) the most expensive office accommodation in Cairn’s history! The $2m blow out would have provided four brand new desperately needed sports grounds on council land ready to go!

The residents of our region need a fair go, they need a better managed council with strong leadership that will lead our region to economic prosperity whilst maintaining our tropical paradise.

I believe that I am that leader and if elected with your support, what can I do for you?

Friday 20 April 2012

Cr Alan Blake did vote for the Precinct, even though he says he didn't

I was going to write a heap of stuff here about the duplicitous re-election campaign that Cairns Regional Councillor Alan Blake is running, but I thought it would be easier to let the pictures do the talking.

Here's the Councillor's car snapped by a CairnsBlog reader yesterday...

He proudly claims "I didn't vote for the Entertainment Precinct.  I't's too expensive and on the wrong site."

But wait, take a look at this.   Here's the Councillor's voting record on the Cairns Entertainment Precinct.

Alan Blake moved the original motion, with the support of Deputy Mayor Cochrane who is now loudly opposing it as well.  In 2010 Blake moved another motion with specific reference to the waterfront site being "ideal and does not impede future Port development."

In this week's CairnsSun newspaper, Cr Blake says "I strongly opposed this new theatre plan and have lobbied for a more affordable option on a site that won't stifle vital port activity."

Isn't this just a little bit bullshit?

Thursday 19 April 2012

Labor MPs announce portfolios

The remaining Labor MPs have allocated portfolios in the new Shadow Cabinet.

Annastacia Palaszczuk 
Opposition Leader
Justice Attorney-General and Industrial Relations; Education, Training and Employment; Tourism, Small Business, Major Events and Commonwealth Games; the Arts.

Curtis Pitt 
Leader of Opposition Business; Treasury and Trade; Energy and Water Supply; Main Roads; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Sport and Recreation.

Tim Mulherin
Deputy Opposition Leader
State Development, Infrastructure, Planning and Racing; Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Local Government; Science, IT and Innovation.

Jo-Ann MillerOpposition Whip; Health; Natural Resources and Mines; Housing.

Radio New Zealand looks into Queensland Labor's monumental loss

I appeared on Radio New Zealand to discuss the recent landslide to the LNP in the State election.

I chatted with Bryan Crump, who hosts Nights to offer some views on why the Labor Party in Queensland lost so conclusively.   As we know, the people spoke very loudly and delivered a drastic change in our political landscape.  What will this mean for Queenslanders over the next few years?

The live interview podcast is below.

It was without question, one of the most extraordinary elections in Australian history - in terms of swing, majority and a desire for change.

The swing to the LNP however was not uniform.  The primary vote in some LNP seats was actually down, so some voters uncomfortable with Labor, supported independents or Katter's Australian Party.

Another defining feature of this election showed that The Greens lost forward momentum.  In Cairns, Mulgrave and Barron River, the Green vote collapsed.   38% of voters who chose Greens in Mulgrave in 2009, abandoned the Party in this election.  34% left them in Cairns, 27% in Barron River and 19% in Cook. This was more than three times than that State average at 9.5%.

KAP gained from both left and right. In seats where there was a strong One Nation vote prior to 2004, they seemed to do the best, as they did in Baron River and Mulgrave.

It's fair to surmise that the ALP lost because of a number of mitigating factors.  The substantial debt; ignoring voters and party faithful; negative campaigning; the outcome of the 2012 Flood report; the Health payroll debacle; and not least of all, the programme of asset sales, a broken promise that Labor took to the 2009 election and also a fundamental tenant of their Party Platform.

With Queensland's debt approaching in excess of $50 billion, more than all States combined, forecast to peak $80 billion by the end of 2014, it was revealed yesterday that borrowing was paying State sector staff salaries in the last three years.

The implications of Katter's Australian Party is interesting, even though they only captured two seats, loosing their Queensland leader Aiden McLindon along the way.  On a Federal level the emerging Party bodes well and may gain enough for a Senate seat at the next election, probably at the expenses of Labor seat.  KAP 11.5% of the vote.

The voting system Queensland and New South Wales has Optional Preferential Voting.  Most Australian elections run under full-preference preferential voting, where all candidates must be numbered in order of the preference of the voter, or the vote will not be counted.  Under OPV voters may choose to mark a preference for one candidate, effectively voting as though it were a first-past-the-post election.   In 1992 the Goss Labor government introduced OPV, at the time the non-Labor vote was split between the Nationals and the Liberals.  In many instances, all three parties fielded candidates in the single member electorates. Previously the Nats and the Libs preferenced each other.

The introduction of OPV and the “Just Vote 1” message was designed to cut the link in preference flow between the Nats and the Libs and thus allow for more votes to be exhausted.   This worked well as long as the Nats and the Libs were two separate parties.  However in 2008 when the two came together as the LNP, the voting advantage was lost.  In 2009 The Greens preferenced Labor many seats and that was crucial.  It delivered victory to Barron River's Steve Wettenhall as he failed to win on the primary vote.

In 2012 Labor and The Greens only had one intense preference deal: Ashgrove, where LNP leader Campbell Newman was up against ALP's Kate Jones, and Labor's Treasurer Andrew Fraser in Mt Coo-tha.   This time around in some cases Green candidates actively distanced themselves from Labor.

The message given out by KAP was essentially “give us number 1, the one you dislike the most number 5 and then fill in the rest.”

With many votes being exhausted, that is no preferences, it did mean that often candidates were elected with less than 50% of the first preference vote, but despite this the LNP was the most preferred party.

Here's my chat with Radio New Zealand's Bryan Crump...

2009                       2012


Australian Labor Party

The Australian Party

The Greens

Family First Party

One Nation

Other Candidates

Total Formal Votes


Informal Votes


Tuesday 17 April 2012

Schier vows to return rate discount that should never have gone

Mayor Val Schier says she will promote a return of the 5% discount for early payment of rates, after it was axed within weeks of her 2008 election, that also saw a rate increase.

''We know that people have been doing it tough over the past few years and have become increasingly concerned about the rising cost of living,'' Val Schier said.   ''That's why I've decided to re-introduce a 5% discount for early payment of rates.   This will provide some relief to families facing increasing electricity, grocery and fuel bills.''

Schier says the discount was removed in 2008 on the advice of Council finance staff.

I find it it amazing, a Councillor's first loyalty and responsibility is to the people that vote, yet Val and every other Councillor, besides Robert Pyne, voted to axe the discount arrangement within days of the new Council sitting.   It's not rocket science to realise that the scheme was of direct support for ratepayers, at a time when the economy in Cairns was heading the wrong way, and to this day, has not recovered.

''The effects on the community were not fully apparent at the time,'' Val Schier says.  ''The discount provided some relief to families, pensioners and business owners against ever rising costs.''

Schier says that it's not possible to prevent rate rises, especially over the last four years.

Val Schier justifies the continual rate increases, that occurred alongside the city's highest recorded unemployment of anywhere in the country - that hit 15% - yet this was not warning to realise that some substantial Council business needed to be ceased, as any good business manager would have done.

The majority of Cairns councillors have performed poorly in managing the city's finances and each year presenting a budget that requires more and more money to fund.

Why they sat their and lapped up direction from staff to tell them what to do, shows extraordinary incompetence.

''Every council across Queensland had rate rises above the CPI for this period,'' Val Schier says.  ''We'll be able to fund this discount through savings created by Council's recently completed voluntary redundancy program where staff costs have been reduced by $4 million.''

To reward a group of Councillors with re-election who have made us all pay more and more every year without addressing or acknowledging the severe economic woes we have been in, shows a fundamental breach of duty.

Monday 16 April 2012

New Council will determine way forward for $154m waterfront precinct

Queensland's new LNP local government minister David Crisafulli has rightfully put on hold the $154 million Cairns Entertainment Precinct project, pending the outcome of the local Government elections on Saturday April 28th.

Local Government Minister David Crisafulli says that whoever forms the new Council, deserves the right to determine the way forward.

"To be locked into a course of action a few weeks out from an election is simply not fair,”  David Crisafulli said.

The project has been labeled as Cairns Regional Council's ‘most significant development undertaken’ and will take up approximately 1.5 hectares of the city’s waterfront.

The Wharf Street site has been a controversial selection but remains that most preferred site and has the full support of current land owners, the Cairns Port Authority, despite objections from three Mayoral contenders.  Deputy Mayoral Margaret Cochrane; former Cairns property developer Ian Thomas; and former Ports chief and Unity team leader Bob Manning.  Thomas wants the project trashed completely, whilst Manning wants a review of the location, saying that this is strategic Port land.

The planned Entertainment Precinct will include a number of public spaces: a proscenium arch theatre seating 1100, public plaza and refurbishment of the historic White’s Shed.

Bob Manning, who is the only Mayoral contender with any chance against Val Schier, says the Queensland Treasury Corporation’s own financial sustainability review released in November 2011 states that Council would have to increase rates by 6% a year to build and operate this facility.

"Cairns Regional Council’s own forecast is for operating losses of $8.5 million a year, which equates to an average of $95 a year that every ratepayer would have to fork out - quite separate from the inevitable annual rises in general rates," Bob Manning says.  "The Treasury’s review also noted that Council would also be under great pressure to keep its belt tight for the next 10 years to pay for this project which really means we would be so hamstrung with debt we couldn’t afford to look at any other major infrastructure for a decade."

Tim Moore of Architectural Source says tenders from architectural firms for the $154.6 million project will be accepted until Council closes the application process next week.  "Winning architects will be expected to completely modernise Cairns, meaning that aesthetic value and architectural integrity will be key factors in the council’s tender decision," Tim Moore says.

The planned timeline of the works began with the March investigation of White’s Shed, a heritage-listed building on the waterfront.   Prior to last week's State Government announcement to halt work until after the election, contractors were to be appointed this month with  major works commenced in August.  The substructure was planned to be completed by December, roofing December 2013, seating installation November 2014, with opening due in May 2015.  However, the State government steps in to pause developments in order to prevent further changes down the line once the new Council is elected.

Bob Manning says that the Treasury review recommends that Council consider alternative strategies to stimulate the economy, especially options that would be less "capital intensive" than the entertainment precinct.

"The Val Schier approach to solving our economic woes would simply lead to them deepening in my opinion," Manning says.  "I ask: how will placing this heavy burden – coupled with other rising costs such as electricity and the additional and yet unknown fallout from the carbon tax – help pull Cairns out of the sinking hole it is in?   It won’t."

Local Government Minister David Crisafulli says that whoever forms the new council deserves the right to determine the way forward for the project, and to be locked into a course of action a few weeks out from an election is simply not fair.

Tim Moore says that further funding uncertainties are threatening the development and contractor appointment has been delayed.

"With a development of this magnitude, the stakes will always be high for all involved," Tim Moore says.   "However, as precinct developments Australia-wide prove to be an economically sound investment, both local and state government are confident that early creases will soon be ironed out."

Saturday 7 April 2012

Council rates discount should never been abolished

Cairns Regional Councillor Rob Pyne asked the Cairns Post for a retraction after they reported Council's early payment discount was unanimously voted to be removed,

"This rewards residents who pay on time," Rob Pyne said. "It is good business for Council as it gets in needed revenue by a fixed date."

"It should never have been abolished."