Robert Pyne was one of only three Cairns Regional Councillors to be returned in the sweeping political change delivered at the recent local body elections.
He says the dramatic change that voters delivered was less about the Cairns Entertainment Precinct debate and more about former Mayor Val Schier's inability to hold the disjointed Council together.
I have been pondering the attitude that the election was a referendum on the CEP. It was a small factor only.
People tell me that the reasons that Val Schier didn’t get re-elected was the perception that she had been unable to control a council of independents and that the Cairns Regional Council was dysfunctional.
This of course was not the truth, but it’s all about perceptions created.
Belief that new Mayor Bob Manning is an experienced businessman and will have the skills to create more jobs, reduce unemployment, stimulate business etc
The perception that Val Schier was a liar – she said she wouldn’t put up rates and she did, no-one wanted to know that every Council in Queensland had put up rates as well.
There was also a perception that she was too arty-farty and green and doesn’t understand about the economy.
Another perception was the poor image created by the first two and a half years from The Cairns Post and their anti-Val journalism with sustained attacks by former reporter-turned Cairns MP, Gavin King, right up until he resigned.
4CA morning talkback host John Mackenzie mounted a campaign against Val Schier and the Council for four years, and also in his daily commentary during his weekly 7 News stint.
Then there was the undermining by councillors who constantly leaked information to the media. It wasn’t until Andrew Holman’s term as Post editor and professional journos like Brad Ryan and Daniel Strudwick were employed, that there was fair reporting. Holman created a culture that stopped the trivial tit-for-tat leaks that had been a feature of the first couple of years.
There was also some misogyny: “we’ve got rid of Anna Bligh, we’ll get rid of Val Schier and then we’ll get rid of Gillard;” “we’ve given women a chance and they’ve blown it.”
Some anti-Labor sentiment; “Schier’s a Labor lackey”
Other factors on a global level in Greece, the EU, USA, and national fear about the economy and finances, drove people back to conservatives and stability. They think that back to basics is the way to go and are afraid of vision.
Fear also generated by the CEP that we don’t need it and we can’t afford it; or 'It’s going to break the council,' all favoured a backlash against the status quo.
Then there was amalgamation. Bill Shannon was one of only three mayors of the amalgamated Councils across Queensland who survived. Brad Carter in Rockhampton and Peter Taylor – a conservative – in Toowoomba, each got only 15% of the vote and there weren’t any CEPs in sight in their area.
The majority of sitting mayors were defeated and they didn’t have large entertainment project on their books, which showed a general backlash against incumbents.
Val didn’t have a snowflakes chance in hell of winning and the Cairns Entertainment Precinct had very little to do with it.