Monday, August 30, 2010

A long, long time ago. ( Shopping adventures.)

A long, long time ago, when I was a little girl, all shops were open till 12 on Saturdays, closed on Sundays and Thursday night trading was an adventure for the whole family. There were local stores open for a few hours on weekends and they were where we picked up bread, milk and the occassional salty plum. We would take all our glass bottles to the shop and swap them for a few cents, save those cents until we had enough to purchase a choo choo bar, redskin or some musk sticks.

Over the years the lollies didn't change, you can still buy all those I have mentioned at any good corner store, but the prices went up. The bottles we used to swap for money are now plastic and worthless. The one and two cent coins are a thing of the past and even the five cent coin can't buy you anything. Those things were all going to happen anyway, the world changes, the value of money goes down but prices go up. Nothing really unexpected in that.

What I do find ridiculous is the hours stores are now expected to remain open for. We are all working longer hours and weekends are almost a thing of the past, but surely opening all stores, 7 days till late, will only force more people to lose their weekends and encourage consumers to....well, consume. We are rabbiting on about the fact that Australians (actually, the world) is caught up in the buying cycle, we are purchasing things we do not really want or need, we are buying too much of the things we do need and we are constantly in debt because of it.

Local small traders trying to compete from their locations outside shopping centres and the ones who are really struggling. IGA is the exception. The national marketing of the brand and the fact that the trading hours are much more relaxed than those for the big two (Coles and Woolies)means that this is the one franchise that has thrived alongside it's competitors. They are able to buy locally with much more freedom, they can price themselves to be competitive and they are very conveniently located.

With the push to open supermarket grocery stores for later trading on weekends currently gaining momentum it is time to take a step back and look at the facts. IGA and other independant supermarkets currently remain competitive due largely to the fact that have more flexible trading hours. If you are unable to do the groceries during current trading hours for Coles or Woolworths, you need to take a good look at your job and perhaps make some changes in your life. These stores are currenly open till 9p.m weekdays, till 5p.m on Saturday and till 6p.m on Sunday. I can't remember ever thinking to myself that they needed to stay open longer on a Sunday.

Having worked for 19 years in the retail sector I am absolutely in favour of weekend trading. I firmly believe that these extra hours are required for those who work, giving them the opportunity to take the kids with them to try shoes on, or leave the kids at home with one parent while they frantically do the groceries. Those working crazy hours doing shift work should also have the luxury of having trading hours that suit them.

I have watched the erosion of weekends from both sides of the counter. Watched the penalty rates drop until Saturday was just another day and Sunday is not far off. I have seen people shopping like locusts the day after a cyclone because they went into a panic when the shops closed for half a day. I have watched IGA gain strength as a viable alternative to the major grocery outlets and I have seen the prices drop in Coles as a result.

Competition is only healthy if the playing field is a level one. The authorities that decide these things will get their way, there is little doubt of that. Once an idea has been launched into the media and public domain, it is almost not worth arguing against. The fact is that longer trading hours for major grocery stores is well on the way to becoming a reality. They asked the tourists visiting Cairns 'Would you prefer the stores stayed open till late on the weekends?' and got the standard response...'Yes, please!' Instead they should have asked the question 'Would you stop coming to Cairns and tell all your friends not to bother either if stores stayed trading at the current hours on a weekend?' I think the answer would have been 'No, haven't really found it a problem actually.'

In response to those who will soon make our Independant Retailers less competitive and cause headaches for the industry....I will continue to do the bulk of my groceries at Coles, I will ALWAYS do my small shops at IGA and I will never, ever pop in to buy milk or bread from a supermarket chain. Besides the fact that it is a time waster to trudge through an entire centre to get to the basics, I prefer the convenience of just stopping in at IGA for a few things when I need them, the money stays local and the cooked chooks taste better. I have never needed to shop late on a Sunday so the longer hours mean little to me but if I ever feel the need, I will shop locally, at a local chain, using local produce, with money going directly back into the local economy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The helicopter has landed.

All forms of media are progressively vehement in their reporting of what is being referred to as 'helicopter parenting' and the dangers for children being 'hovered' over. The claims are that cotton-wooling our babies is causing long term problems in society ranging from obesity and higher incidences of ADHD to a lack of empathy for animals and the environment. It is a concerning trend to say the least.

We require interaction with our environment and our peers in order to learn, grow and be healthy. This fact is a given. Children who are covered in antiseptic, anti-bacterial gels and followed with a packet of wipes are less likely to explore their environment, tackle new adventures and cope well with the unexpected. They will more than likely have less confidence, require permission before attempting anything and suffer from stress.

I know plenty of parents who embrace this way of rearing a child. Those who plan days ahead for a two hour outing, who have in constant supply the tools of the trade beyond the usual hat, sun screen and bandaids and also carry wipes, gels, 4 sets of spare clothes, use nappies to avoid 'accidents' and are constantly saying 'be careful', 'get down from there' and 'you will fall and hurt yourself if you do that'. In actual fact, these kids will likely hurt themselves anyway, kids do. They are even more inclined to do so because they are afraid and unsure than because they lack the ability to climb a tree successfully. Making children petrified of themselves and the dangers inherrent in every activity they attempt is never going to produce successful, confident adults.

The other side of the coin is the apathetic parent. There are plenty of parents who would rather talk about the results from last weeks episode of Minute to Win It than pay attention to what trouble their children are getting into. These are the children who have a long line of snot running from their noses constantly, have hair filled with twigs and never, ever wear shoes. These kids are free to experiment and try pretty much anything their heart desires. Sometimes the choices they make are good ones, sometimes they aren't. Rules are out the window and discipline is non-existant. Anarchy is the name of this game and these children will struggle to sit still in a classroom, follow the rules society makes and know their own limitations. Over-confident and unruly, it makes for an interesting time for any teacher dealing with the 'helicopter' raised children too.

What needs to be understood is that these two methods of child rearing are in the minority these days and are not the norm. I raise my kids in much the same way as the majority of parents out there.

My own children are a bit of both. I am far from being the perfect parent and am sometimes lacking real consistancy at home and during outings. Some days I am the helicopter, some days I am the ignorant parent. Three or four days a week I bathe the sand from hair, the grit from under fingernails and rub paw paw ointment onto grazed knees. The remaining days I run after my children telling them to 'stop', 'slow down' or (more likely)...'get the hell out of that tree!'. I am producing children who are probably confused and wondering what the rules are.

Are there any? Is it okay to make sure your children are safely playing in the mud and hose them down immediately after? Is it perfectly acceptable to want them to stay clean if they have a white dress on and you have forgotton to pack spare clothes? Am I a bad mother because I occasionally forget to apply sunscreen until 15 minutes AFTER arriving at the beach? Should I make a list, plan for everything and try not to panic when the world around me has other ideas?

Parenting is a very tough job. There are no easy answers, no rule books and far too much contradictory information. An ideal parent would give a child a bit of space, but not too much. Let them climb a tree, but not too high. Give them a smack occasionally, but not too hard. Give them a lollypop or an ice-cream, but not every day. Try to let them sort out their own differences of opinions in the playground, but not let them get bullied. Dress them in white, but always have spare clothes handy. Let them make a mess, but make them clean it all up themselves. Let them help in the kitchen and not yell when they drop the bag of sugar on the floor. Allow them to make their own decisions, but give them perameters. I could go on all day.

Realistically, the majority of parents are doing their best. Most of us know we are not doing everything right. We all lie in bed at night wishing we had not yelled so loud at the kids that day or not given in to their demands for a second can of softdrink. We wish we could give them more, wish we hadn't given them so much, wish we were stronger, wish we could have predicted the split chin and avoided it.

Parents do not need more guilt. They do not need more confirmation they are doing it all wrong. What parents really need is adequate support. The ability to ask for advice and get it. We are open to suggestions and happy to try new techniques, but please don't demand we change everything and tell us we are wrong. Give us the tools to make better judgement calls. Give us a pat on the back when our child is happy and healthy. Let us know the things we are doing 'right' as well as the improvements we could make.

Most importantly, parents need to stop judging each other. It is never helpful to pick on another parent's methods nor is it helpful to have the attitude that you are doing things better. All parents do most things according to what works with their own children, all children are different. Even my own three are far removed from each other in personality, making it a three pronged approach when it comes to raising my brood. Listen and look at all the information out there if you must, but the most important judgement of your parenting skills will be made by your children. Look them in the eye with a strangers perspective. Are their eyes bright with enthusiasm? Do they have at least one good friend to play with? Do they have dirty fingernails at least one day a week? Do they sometimes require a bandaid? If the answer is yes to all of these questions.....carry on, you're child will more than likely be perfectly okay.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Change is coming!!

Change is coming. To Cairns, to the region and to Australia.

Locally we have the announcement of a land aquisition in Edmonton for the proposed new hospital development that will change health services forever in the growth corridor of Cairns. Will it work? Only if the Government does what it promised and ensures that nurses and doctors are graduating much more quickly and in larger numbers. No point having a beautiful new health facility and no staff to work in it. It will not be a reality for many years though, and there is time to change the system by allowing nurses to learn on the job, giving them better, more practical skills and also allowing them to be sure that the job is one they will stay at. It's not an easy one and those questions should be asked and answered much sooner in the process to ensure we have quality dedicated nursing staff in all of our health facilities. Provided that is done, the new health buildings are a welcome boost to the area and much needed.

Sugarworld Gardens is about to get the promised All Abilities Playground. Finally. Work is due to start in October and should be complete by December, earlier barring complications. This playground is a large one, with multi-use areas, easy access points and exploritory and sensory play encouraged. In the area around Sugarworld it was recently discovered there are no parks, no play equipment and no green spaces. No one is sure why this is the case, perhaps it is due to the size of Sugarworld. Perhaps it negates the need to put more spaces in the surrounding new development according to the rules of these things. Whoever decided it was acceptable, is wrong. There needs to be immediate action on this before more homes are built, more streets developed, all without adequate parks and playgrounds. The area behind Sugarworld near Isabella has plenty of parkland and swing sets, why was the area in front neglected? Time to find out. In the meanwhile, the new playground looks fantastic on paper and I intend to visit often when it is completed. It's full of wonderful new ideas and has plenty of room for kids to explore.

The highway intersection at the Southern Access Road (Ray Jones Dr) is about to begin also. Regardless of who you voted for and who eventually wins Government, both parties were in agreement about stage one of the highway upgrade. The ability to travel south from the city from two directions without having to negotiate that corner will be an excellent start. The access to Ray Jones Dr being a simple turn without the issues we currently have with lights will also be fantastic. The fact that we will be able to turn into McCoombe Street almost directly from that corner, bypassing Lyons, Aumuller, Buchan etc... will save plenty of time for those wishing to travel further north than the city. The only concern is with Warren Enstch and his thoughts on this issue. He would like to re-visit the idea of a second major road into Cairns via the inlet again. It has been proven time and again that this option is not a viable one due to several factors. It does not address the current and future problems with traffic in Edmonton, Bentley Park, Forest Gardens or White Rock as it bypasses those areas completely. It is not financially viable, the bridge would cost near to 4 billion alone and would be the longest such bridge ever attempted in Australia. It would be classified as the highway, thus making the existing road council or state run and therefore not capable of attracting the funds required to upgrade it at all. Whichever way you look at it the solution given by the labor Government, was the only viable one. Businesses currently on this road already must be accessed by turning off the highway, this will make that turn off much smoother. I am happy that stage one is on it's way, it's long overdue, but I sincerely hope that the entire long term project is not abandoned again in favour of more talk and no action.

Federally, we have no real Government right now. A caretaker Prime Minister and no clear path for an outcome at this point. Yesterday the Independants and the Green MP stated that they would like all MP's to vote with their conscience on every issue presented to Parliament, making the vote fairer and in all cases, a direct view from the MP and his constituents. The belief was that there would be no Blue side / Red side of politics and instead we would have a mulit-party system as most other countries now have. All members would be entitled to the same amount of time to present ideas and argue for causes. Essentially, aside from the Prime Minister, all members would be equal and independant. An interesting proposal, and one which I initially scoffed at as unrealistic. Even in the little while they each had yesterday to chat, the differences on issues such as Climate Change, the Rent Tax on Miners and Gay Marriage was vast. Taking into account though, that there are 150 people voting on each issue, and at the end of the day it's a simple yes or no, perhaps the idea is not such a bad one. It would give a true representation of beliefs and opinions, people would be held accountable for their choices and the public would know who they are being represented by and be able to lobby that one person rather than an entire party. It wouldn't be easy initially, and probably won't happen right now, or even in the next decade, but it should be looked at as a serious option. The Independants are right, as is the Green; the public voted for a more accountable, independant political system, why not take the opportunity given, and make it happen?

Regardless of whether you watch the local happenings, the regional or the national, big things are happening and they will change all of our lives for the better. With some tweaking and some lobbying by the public, Cairns and the nation are in for an interesting, growth time ahead.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

If it was me.

My household this morning was filled with shocked expressions from the adults and confused little faces from the kids. My children have no idea why mum keeps saying things like..."Oh My God!!" and "What about the Cultural Precinct and my GP Superclinic?". I was quite honestly shocked by the result of last nights election and could not believe my eyes when I realised that a hung parliament was a likely outcome.

After much fear and angst I decided it was time to pull myself together and be rational about the whole thing. As someone else said....always look on the bright side of life. I made the decision to look on the honest one.

The Labor Party and the Liberal Party were both offering a bland and boring Government with navy pin-striped leaders. They were both relying on the opposite side to stuff up and fall down in some spectacular way, and neither did.

The fear campaign run by the Labor Party fairly obviously did not work, and why would it? Labor have never been any good at running a negative campaign, they have always succeeded when they asked Australians to make an emotional decision at the ballot box. There was little, or no emotion this time round.

Labor needed to tell people what a difference voting for them would make in terms that make us connect on some level with each issue personally. They told us that the NBN would make our lives better because it would give us speeds up to 1TBps. That makes absolutely no sense to most of us unless you are a 'tech-head' and considering the way the vote went it appears more Australians are like Tony than the Labor Party thought. They should have focussed on the fact that it would allow teachers to teach a School of the Air class in 'real' time. It would give those living in rural areas better access to doctors via the computer allowing more residents the opportunity to stay at home or return home from hospital earlier than they currently can. This would free up beds and allow for better quality of care for those living remotely. It would open up our Australian University's to the world. It would enable us to not just compete internationally, but more importantly, to collaborate, with University's, businesses, Governments and scientists. It would make our small country a partner in progress rather than an observer. It would encourage new ideas, new possibilities and help in the fight against climate change, cancer, swine flu, poverty, pretty much anything you can imagine, because by working together as an entire community, the world can affect real change. The Broadband Network forcast by the Labor Government was the only way to do any of those things and the entire population should have been told that.

The fact that people voted Green in droves must indicate to the Labor Party that climate change and gay marriage are much bigger issues with high levels of support than they predicted and must be looked at closely. Climate Change Policy should never have been put on the backburner, it should be fought for until there is a clear result and it should then be implemented immediately. Gay marriage is almost a stupid argument. Why is it necessary to deny an entire group of people the rights we all have because part of the population thinks their lifestyle is abhorrent? If you don't like the idea of homosexuality, stay heterosexual. Is it my right to choose for them? No. As they now have the same legal rights as other defacto couples in Australia, the only thing a Marriage Certificate will give them is the public validation by family,friends and Government in the form of a ceremony and a piece of paper. For God's sakes, give it to them. It costs nothing, it changes nothing for the rest of us, but it gives equality to a portion of the Australian population who deserve it.

Locally, I should have been told more about the Green Zones. Don't tell me you will close parts of the reef for conservation reasons, tell me which bits I can still access. Don't tell me it's better for the environment, tell me where exactly I can still throw in a line and catch some fresh dinner for the family. I don't want to fish until the ocean runs out, I don't even like fishing, but those who love to throw in a line, should have been told precisely what they COULD still do, NOT what they couldn't.

Australians vote emotionally, they get enthusiastic, angry, frustrated and excited. Show them that the Financial Crisis was avoided by the stimulus package, not by experts, by comparing the numbers. How many businesses closed in the US or UK during the past 2 years? How many houses did the banks take in those countries? How many of those people joined the dole queue? Now tell me how many Australians suffered the same fates? Relate it to ME. Make it MY issue. Make me glad I have my house, my job and my health. Make me thrilled that my Super only lost 30 percent and I didn't lose the lot. If the 'experts' are right, I should be ecstatic with the outcome, all due to the stimulus spending. Why didn't you tell me that?

When did the Labor Party become a party that would not take risks, would not explain things clearly and was frightened of itself? When did they decide that it was better to do nothing and look like they were united as a party, than to argue the point and do what they were elected to do, make changes in Australia for the better? When did it come down to a choice between stability and stability and nothing to do with the grand visions and fantastic ideals for our future?

The Labor Party needs to get back to doing what it does best. Create passion and enthusiasm in our nation. Make Australians proud and excited again. Give Australians an alternative to the Liberals and make it a clear choice, not a muddy, vague one. The policies were there, the storytelling wasn't.

Labor has suffered a huge loss at this election. Even if they manage to govern with a minority Government, they have to contend with a hostile Senate and a balance of power that is far left and far right, all at the same time. Challenging to say the least. I wish Julia all the luck in the world with that one.

Regardless of the outcome, whether Julia gets the numbers, or Tony does, the Labor Party has to make some huge changes. Not to people, there has been more than enough of that, but to it's ideals and it's foundation principles. If there is such a thing as Labor 'school', then all elected members need a refresher course. Labor used to stand for workers rights (including the right of access that Unions no longer enjoy), social structures in health, education and the unemployed. They used to stand up for people's right to have options. We should have access to both Private and Public schools and hospitals, the right to marry the one we love, the right to choose whether we would like to be a stay at home mum, a working mum or not a mum at all. Access to University should be open to all as well as the option to gain trade or TAFE qualifications. It's all about having the options and the choices available to be whoever and whatever we like. It's about being excited for the future because of all the opportunities out there and it's about knowing that my children will continue to have the opportunities afforded me, when they grow up in Australia.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Warren, Jim, Tony and Julia.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the end, for someone. Jim, Warren, Julia or Tony? At this point, nobody seems sure. What we are all sure of though, is that this has been the most frustrating campaign for Australian voters in a very long while. It has been pretty much fact free, a bit of a hate campaign and not really useful for anyone wishing to know more about the people they will be voting for.

Warren is not the same man he was 3 years ago. Gone are the funky shirts and the colourful language. Replaced instead with boring stripes that just make him look more like a bullfrog than anything else, and he appears to be relying on 20 odd people that follow him around to provide the language and the courseness we used to expect from him. Perhaps it's an effort to make him look more stable than he was before but it's made him come off a bit old and used up to be honest.

Jim has always had a bit of a boring look, suits in dark colours and ties that made him look even weedier than he really is. He used to stutter and stammer his way through long boring speeches that we all tuned out to half-way through, or cringed our way through to the end. Now he is wearing the same outfit as Warren and thankfully he looks healthy doing it, but the pin stripes are boring the heck out of me. He has taken to wearing clothes that at least look like they weren't borrowed from Dad, so that's something at least.

Tony went from being a gross, uncouth, chauvanist of a man and somehow has come out smelling like the baby oil he smears on before donning speedos. I have little doubt that the frightening individual that made news for all the wrong reasons is just biding time and, if elected Prime Minister, the public will be in shock before long at the bizarre actions or vocalisations coming from the one they chose to represent them. There is no way that this could have occured at any other time in our recent history. At this point it is just mind-boggling what the media and the Liberal Party spin can do if they put their mind to it. Realistically, if they are this good at prettying up such a strange man for public consumption then perhaps if they win they won't completely suck at the job......(what am I saying, it's even working on me!!)

Julia is a woman, a redhead, a Welsh immigrant and has an annoying voice. She is childless, unmarried and has a big bum. How on earth is she a representative of us? We loved Julia though, we liked her gumption, her stance, her conviction. We liked her so much it surpassed our love of Kevin and she was awarded the top job. Immediately following that though, she changed her voice to modulate it better, started wearing navy to hide the big butt, went for the Anna Bligh bob instead of the shorter funky 'do' and started hugging babies and talking marriage. Now we don't like her so much. We liked the quirks, the oddities, the blinding hair. Now we have a softer, duller version of a once vibrant personality and we are switching off.

Let's take a real look at things though. Has the policy slant of Liberal changed? NO. Has the policy slant of Labor changed? NO. Have the local issues changed? NO. In fact, the only thing that has changed in any of this, is the packaging.

When you stand in the cubicle tomorrow, with the long sheet of paper in your hand, vote for policy, not personality. As we all now know, personalities change, all too often, but the basic premise stays the same. Good luck to all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Final Countdown! Thank God!!

Final days of political persuassion coming up and I only have one wish. Stop the negative campaigning. I am a little sick of the entire campaign as it has been centred on what each party does not do, will not do or will remove.

All I want to know is, what does the party I choose to vote for, stand for? What are they going to do for my region and country? What are the other parties promising to do? What is their long term goal?

It gets truly annoying when all you are hearing are the negative aspects of each opposing party and none of the positive. Why do they think that I will be swayed by the promise that they won't do what the other will? At what point did my country become so caught up in the 'Opposite Game' that I am not hearing anything positive from any side of politics?

It has been a truly average performance from all of the advertising avenues this time around and I could almost guarantee that if polled, most of the population would say that they are watching the media and the candidates closely, to see which one says the things they are looking for and are completely ignoring all advertising.

Last night on Q & A the first question centred on the campaigning at this election and the lack of positivity coming from either party. Tony Abbott responded by slagging off the Labor Party and Julia Gillard, at which point the other Tony made reference to the fact that this type of response was exactly what the public have had enough of. In this issue I can honestly say that neither party has done very well.

Locally there is one truly abhorrent Warren Enstch ad, complete with flatlining black and white pic of Jim, and one ad with Warren himself that is not too bad. There is one Jim Turnour ad that I am in, and I am eternally grateful that it is not negative in any way and focuses instead on achievements.

Ignoring the shocker with the heartbeat, local pollies are not doing a bad job of remaining positive in their t.v ads. The pamphlets leave a lot to be desired, from all parties, and we are getting really sick of the large doses we are copping. The trees are suffering and our wheely bins are filling fast. I defy anyone to read each piece of political paraphenalia they have had sent to them in varied forms over the past two weeks and still have time for a life.

With ony a few days of campaigning left, both local candidates need to concentrate on their future visions for our areas, the issues they will fight for us on in Canberra and the reasons they became polititions in the first place. I bet it wasn't to slash the opposition down to size.

The Federal leaders are not going to read this,(and why should they, hopefully they have much more important things to do) but I ask the same from them. I know that Mr Abbott will close training centres, remove funding from hospitals and schools, build a crappy internet system, cap immigration and slug large businesses with a huge tax to fund a ridiculously unfair parental leave program. I also know that Ms Gillard will not stop the boats, the NBN will cost approx 5'000 per household making it the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken, has bungled the insulation scheme, wants to re-visit climate change initiatives that have previously failed and will tax big miners to pay for Superannuation increases and a few other things.

What we WANT to know now is pretty simple.....Why should we vote for you? Instead of...... Why should we NOT vote for them!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Alternative for Sport

There has been a lot of chatter recently about the future direction of Cairns and whether or not we should make sport our focus. The debate over the proposal by Warren Enstch regarding the stadium he would like to erect that would seat 20'000 has led me to believe that perhaps Cairns actually sees itself as having a future as a sporting destination.

There are a few problems with this train of thought. The number one issue we would have with it is fairly obviously, the weather. Every facility built would have to allow for the fact that not only do we have a quite substantial wet season, but a pretty soggy dry season too (at least this year it is certainly the case). This means a retractable roof would have to be built over every field. I have no real understanding of the costs involved but don't think that this optional extra is a cheap one. People do not mind standing about in wet weather, or donning raincoats, but it must be acknowledged that our wet weather accompanies a far whack of humidity and wearing a layer of plastic would not be very comfortable. As for using the stadium for a performance venue as Warren suggests, the rain would not allow for that either. During my lifetime, many, many concerts have been cancelled or postponed at Kuranda's Amphitheatre because of inclement weather. This would not change, just be on a bigger scale.

Cairns has many suburban sporting clubs crying out for funding of their local facilities for kids. They require upgrades on existing parks and fields, more carparks, better lighting and more toilets. Others do not yet even have a field to play on! How could we justify the spending on such a large scale for something our youth could not access in the future because they have nowhere currently to grow their skills? We need to fund these smaller clubs before building a monstrous one.

At present, Cazaly's has several national sporting events they host during the year. The codes vary and cricket is also played there. I have been to a few of these and never have I seen a full house. It comes close, sometimes it's pretty packed, but to go to a full 20'000 seat capacity would be slightly ludicrious. The Cowboys facility in Townsville is not always packed, rarely in fact, and quite a few of it's patrons are Cairns residents who enjoy their weekend getaways the pilgrimage south affords them. Upgrading the current facilities to host slighly larger crowds would be more than adequate for our needs.

Lastly, Cairns is not a place that the rest of Australia thinks of when sport is mentioned. We have never marketed ourselves as a sporting town and although the lobbying to be a training base for athletes needing to aclimatise to humidity before a major sporting event should continue, and the holding of national sporting fixtures in our region is a highlight for many, the complete package is not really there.

Cairns should focus instead on it's already active, existing sporting culture. Alternative sports. These are largely held without an audience but the basis for growth is here and the facilities are great. We have white water rafting, triathalons, bungee jumping, downhill mountainbiking, skating, BMX, wakeboarding, just to name a few. The weather for these sports is largely irrelevant. You can watch or participate in any of the water sports in a bit of rain without the event being affected. Our humidity means that these sports are perfect for tourists and large scale events. We have the start of marketing begun, these sports are advertised already in our campaigns both nationally and internationally, meaning the cost of further promotion would be more effective.

These sports could form part of the Festival Cairns program, or form another, entirely individual event program for our wet season, drawing people here during what is traditionally a quiet time for tourists. The growth in these sports is huge and getting bigger all the time, we have world class athletes in these sports right here. Tell me you did not watch, with glee, the white water rafting events in the Commonwealth Games?

These sports augment well with our vibrant, tropical surrounds and will cement us as the place to go for alternative sports, unique cultural experiences, great food, coffee and wine. Why fight to gain a foothold in an already saturated market when we could offer so much more than that and stop ourselves from becoming a city that simply blends in.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Religion in Public Schools.

Ok, so I know someone who has a horse. The horse is about two metres tall. That my friends, is a high horse, and I am about to get on it!!

Recently, Tony Abbott stated that all public schools should have a religion class because without the teachings of Christianity, they were not getting a complete education.

Julia Gillard has recently announced that she is an Athiest and does not believe in God, however, the Labor Government will provide a chaplain service for all public schools. Julia has been slaughtered via the media by the Anglican Church for stating her views, she has been told it will lose her votes and may cost her the election.

I sincerely hope that the general public do not vote according to people's personal belief systems and are a lot more open minded than that.

I have a pretty strong opinion on this one. I truly believe that without education, people become ignorant, cruel, intolerant and close-minded. All schools should teach religion as part of the curriculum so that children have a wider view of their world. This class should not be a stand alone topic, it should be part of social studies. It should include ALL religions and give students a view of their fellow pupils that we did not have as kids. Understanding other religions and where they originated, their main focus, the book they derive their beliefs from, the language they use and the rituals involved would give kids a much larger capacity to engage their peers in discussions, create empathy and stop the questions regarding celebrations (or lack thereof).

It should include Catholic, Anglican, Adventist, Buddism, Hinduism, Islam, Scientology, Mormons etc...and the sub religions should also be covered. In later years they should be taught the religious beliefs that may affect them directly. Which religion is tolerant of gay couples? Which believes abortion is the womans right to choose? Which believes that there is no place called hell, it is merely a lack of God? Which believes that there are many Gods? All of these questions should be answered in school. These should be taught in a purely educational way, without bias or passion.

Tolerance is not something we are born with, it is learned. The best way to learn is to be given all of the information regarding the topic, not just the Christian views. We live in a society filled with people from all different religions and right now, intolerance has never been higher. In my own family there are 7 Day Adventists, Catholics and Agnostics (or Darwinists). It took me a long time to get my head around the fact that I can't plan anything between sunset Friday and Sunset Saturday (Sabbath) if I wanted my Grandparents or cousins to come. They do not eat meat, so dinner parties have to provide for that, and we can't go to many of the pubs for a meal as they are mostly steak houses and that is useless to them. They can't be baptised until they are older, it must be a personal choice and cannot be made by your parents for you. The Bible is the same. The teachings are very similar to Catholic teachings but in so many areas, they differ.

Buddism is another religion we have had a lot to do with. As a child I was a flower girl at a same sex wedding with the celebrant being a monk. The wedding was not legal (more's the pity) but the ceremony was a beautiful one filled with ritual, song and a joy I can't really describe.

I would have loved to find out more about these religions. More about why some come to my front door with pamphlets, why some adorn themselves with robes, veils, henna, dots, why some are bald, why some don't celebrate birthdays. What they eat, drink, say, do, and believe. I want to know all about my neighbours customs and I would love for my children to learn about them too.

My daughter attends a Catholic School. This was more out of necessity than want. We argued long and hard about this decision as both my husband and I are Agnostic, but in the end it was an easy choice. The more she learns, the more tolerant, loving and open-minded she will be. This is what we would choose for our children and provided the information is given in a dispassionate and educational way, there is surely no harm in it.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Last week in Cairns a young lady was found brutally stabbed in her apartment and died at the scene. She was a 24 year old mother of a 5 year old girl and by all accounts was a responsible, well-liked member of the community.

A young man from Kewarra Beach was charged with her murder almost immediately afterwards and is appearing in court later to face the charges. He handed himself in to police but they are still searching for the knife used.

According to reports the man in question had made several recent appearances at the Cairns Base Hospital Mental Health Unit for short stays but was turned away most recently because on the previous occasion he had broken windows and generally trashed the place. This was, according to his father, a cry for help, one which even the most casual observer could recognise.

The Mental Health Unit in Cairns has what is referred to as a revolving door. This is because there are not enough acute beds for those requiring help, and more importantly, nowhere to go when released. This has got to be addressed.

How can we claim that our hospital system is improving and will be more effective and user-friendly if our Mental Health facilities continue to be ignored? One ABC report stated that there are 18 acute care beds in the Hospital and approximately 3'000 people living in the region with mental health related problems. Can anyone else see the problem with that statistic?

I am not suggesting that all those suffering from mental health issues require hospital stays or most especially, acute care, but the numbers that do must be higher than the bed count. How can we justify turning patients away when they so very obviously require assistance? How can we place all the blame onto a young man who's cries for help were ignored?

It is true that the young man in question has committed this crime, even he has admitted it. It is true that this is not a crime that should go unpunished, it is horrific and brutal, that much must be acknowledged. The family and friends of the young lady (especially her little girl) will never forget what has occured and their lives will be changed forever because of this mans' actions. His life will also be forever changed.

There have been many incidences in Australia's history that feature a brutal crime perpetrated by a person with mental health problems. There have been incidences where police have had to use deadly force to subdue them. Mothers have attacked or killed their babies, fathers have killed entire families, others have wantonly destroyed the lives of strangers.

At what point do we recognise the need for this to stop? When will the desperate pleas for help finally be heard and addressed? Will people struggling with their inner demons always feel out of control, with no one to turn to? Will this crisis continue unabated and unfunded until it becomes the politicians who's lives are directly affected which finally makes them sit up and notice what is happening?

We need more acute care beds....NOW! We need more facilities for those needing care after leaving hospital.....NOW!! We need better recognition of mental health illnesses in the wider community.......NOW!! We need more adequate care for those requiring short term help in dealing with anxiety, depression, Agoraphobia etc.....NOW!! We need a better system for new parents that makes them seek help if they need it.....NOW!! We need better services that compliment councelling for those struggling with a divorce or family break-up.....NOW!!

We need to give our entire community all the help it needs to allow us all to remain safe, well and at peace........NOW!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Slide on in to Edmonton.

This morning I decided to catch up on the Sugarworld Water Park Feasability Study as I am a very interested observer and participant in the future of this facility for my region. The update was released last week and was sent to me at my request as I believed that the study was not being effectively carried out, resulting in a somewhat skewed vision for the entire park.

I had already spoken to Val Schier and Rob Pyne on the issue and visited frequently the section regarding the issue on Council's website. I had feedback from the budget meeting regarding my concerns but none of the answers I recieved there gave me much hope.

The Feasability Study is being carried out by an Adelaide company and is not at all effective in the way it has attempted to engage the community and gather important feedback. They have chosen to contact all members of the 'Save Sugarworld' Facebook Page and encourage them to complete an online survey regarding what the community would like on the current site. This attracted only one person's views. Yes, that's What this person has said is kind of irrelevant really, if they are the only respondant, how can any data be taken from that survey? The company responsible then go on to suggest that perhaps the singular response could indicate that public want for this facility to re-open is grossly inflated. Now that, is simply offensive.

They say that of the 13 plus thousand residents who became members of this social network page only 13 have contibuted comments to the page since the April decision was made to allocate funds toward the re-build. Apparently this is supposed to mean something important but I can't for the life of me figure out what?

Moving on to the survey they completed via phone of the 500 residents from all areas of Cairns and surrounds. This apparently gave them the opinion that most (although it's only marginal really) people would prefer the establishment of a large facility complete with cafe, restaurant, racing slides, toddler area, water features etc....somewhere close by at an Edmonton Leisure Centre and not on the same site at all. Nobody I spoke to wanted that. They claim that this data is sufficient to start a profile of what this area wants and this will shape the decisions made by council in regard to the issue.

I am flabbergasted. This is a very poor effort in marketing for the survey. An online social network has not been proven effective in any real survey structure that I am aware of. Most people joined this site to ensure it would remain a priority for the Council and have never visited it again (due to the fact that Council had decided to listen, or so they thought) so gaining responses from those people was never going to be a forgone conclusion. The phone poll incuded people living at the beaches who indicated they would prefer the site to be on their side of town which is a really bizarre idea considering they are about to get a huge facility nearby.

It is worth noting that the survey available through the Council website has not been collated yet, although I do not know how many people went through that avenue either (I did) so can't be sure that it will be any more relevant than the other data recieved.

Why on earth was this survey not advertised through local schools on their newsletters, day care centres and sporting clubs, anywhere that children, and consequently parents, are? This would have been a matter of a few simple phone calls and the job would have been done. No print media was used. No radio coverage. Only the online page. In this, the age of technology, it must be acknowledged that there is still a large percentage of the population who are computer illiterate, and choose to be. Or those who use computers sporadicaly or only at work. These people were at a distinct disadvantage during this study.

Personally, I would prefer a slide with an open top as my kids are petrified of the current, closed in ones. This was noted as a popular option in the small amount of data recieved which indicates that perhaps it should be thought about. However, besides the person who thinks the tiles in the food area need to go as they are too slippery (an excellent suggestion) and the need for a small toddler area for those who can't swim, what people really want is more of the same. They want to take their kids there for less than $10 per head. They want this park to be available to them by this wet season.

SGL (the research company) have done a very poor job of gathering any meaningful data, only 42% of those participating in the telephone survey had been to Sugarworld in the past 12 months. This indicates that they are not targeting the audience very well. It's frankly, hugely disappointing and needs to be addressed.

They should have just asked me, or Lisa Robbie, or Raj Patel, or Paul Drabble, because just between us we know more people than they have approached and already have their answers. It would have been much more useful than what they have done so far.

The response I recieved from Val was that she has questioned the study and has asked the company involved to explain themselves. Rob Pyne had previously tried (without success) to get the Council to bypass the study and take the slides straight to tender, allowing for a speedy re-build and a re-opening this year. At this rate, it will be at least late next year before this is finalised and anything is built.

I am desperately hoping that this process will be quick, that the company involved will be held accountable and that the entire process will not be further delayed by this debacle.

The kids just want to have some fun, in a beautiful environment, at a facility that their parents can reasonably afford. Surely that is not too much to ask?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dinner conversation till Aug 21.

Yesterday I commented on another Blog, a much more famous one than mine, and the response from one reader was along the lines of: take your partisan views and stuff off, we've had enough!

At that point I realised that I suffer from the same affliction as my father, one which my mother partly suffers from and even my Grandfather has been known to occassionaly reek of. Politics. It's a sad day when you realise that you eagerly await the paper delivery at 4.30 every morning and hungrily lap up all of the hype, the trash talk and the promises, promises, promises.

I am positive that I am not the only member of the community who has decided well and truly which party to support, and who is fairly robust in that support, so I am not at all ashamed of my political views. What I am concerned with is that I may just well be one of those people it is best not to sit next to at a debate, rally, campaign launch or even, heaven forbid, dinner.

Am I turning into that person who turns a discussion on the price of strawberries into a political debate about the farmers and their issues? You know the type, my father was one (still is, if I am honest).

As a kid we watched with horror as he would turn a dinner party at our house into a mini Great Debate, shifting people in their chairs so that one side represented the opposing view and the other sided with him. My mother would play the part of mediator and it would soon collapse into a crazy yelling match using words like 'idiot', 'simpleton', and 'worthless'. My sister and I learnt little about politics by watching these displays except that it was akin to sex and religion, best not to talk politics at the dinner table. It was our cue to ask any questions which would normally get a negative answer because we knew that they were so caught up in trying to change people's views that we were not really noticed at all. I can't count the amount of $5 notes, the extra pieces of cake, the times we stayed up till WAY past bedtime, scored during a particularly rowdy slanging match.

Fast forward to the adult version of that child. Did I learn anything? Last night I had a Tupperware Party and following that, a small birthday party for my 3 year old. I had spent the past few days rueing the fact that plans made weeks ago were going to clash with the debate at Brothers, could I go for just half the show? It was truly driving me nuts. I spent a few hours discussing the benefits of Tupperware bowls for kids (they really are the best product I have ever spent a fortune on!) and the next few struggling to unwrap copious amounts of Barbie paraphenalia.

Finally it was time to sit still with a few friends remaining, have a drink and relax a little. I think it took me a full 2 minutes to start in on the week that was. Ruminating on the verdict from the Gruen Nation, Yes We Canberra, the appalling comments made by Katter about Abortion (and I don't even live in Kennedy!), the letter box drops, the feeling that things in politics are just a little too choreographed..........I think you get the picture. About 30 minutes into my spiel I noticed the unthinkable, my friends were yawning,their eyes were glazing over and they were switching off. This could only mean one thing.....I AM BORING!! Argh! I am known for my colourful personality ( and currently, hair) I am vibrant, I am bright, I am cheerful, I am a joy to be around ( ok, maybe I have gone too far) but the Election, my passion for politics, my joy of a topic that not many follow, has left me in a strange place. A beige, colourless, annoying place.

I cannot promise I will change. For one month every few years (yes, it happens at state and local elections too) I will not be the one you sit next to at the dinner table if you have a choice. As much as it pains me that this is so, I think I still prefer to be passionate about something that will affect all those who I bore, than merely an impartial observer, more interested in the hand gestures, the snubs, the ads and the repetitive phrases of something that is the least trivial thing I can possibly think of, our future Government.......Oops, there I go again!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Labour for Labor.

Every person who comes across my blog will be well aware which direction my allegience lies as far as politics goes. It's pretty obvious that I am a Labor supporter.

This week I had the opportunity to answer a national phone poll on my Election choices. I decided that because nobody I knew was listening, I would answer completely honestly on every question, without letting my predisposition guide me.

I was waiting, annd waiting, and waiting for them to ask me just one question where I thought Liberal would do a better job. None came up. Economics, perhaps 10 years ago I may well have answered Liberal, but not now. Hospitals, obviously Labor. Education, again, no competition. Small Business, Labor. And so on....... What really suprised me was how sure I was in my answers. I truly do believe that Labor have done a great job these past few years. I know there have been glitches, big glitches if you include the insulation drama. Tens of thousands of people took advantage of the offer though, and have safely installed insulation in their roofs. Unfortunately, dodgy installers and a poor product have caused major problems for many people and this should have been sorted out much earlier in the process. We know that now, hindsight is a marvelous thing.

I do not blindly follow the party. I actually believe it is the best choice. I do not agree with all they stand for.

My personal view is that gay couples should have the right to marry, however I am very proud that Labor changed the law to give same sex couples the same rights as all other couples in de facto relationships. It's a heck of a lot more than the Liberal party have done. It is most definately my responsibility, however, to continue to lobby the party so that eventually, in the not too distant future, marriage is endorsed.

I do not agree with the harder stance taken regarding boat people. I firmly believe that these people (representing a tiny portion of our total immigration) are escaping horrors I could not begin to imagine, and as a parent, if it was me in their shoes, I would be on that leaky boat too. I am very happy that Labor has not taken the stance of the Liberal Party and are not capping immigration. Those captured on a boat are still facing detention centres (which I just don't like) and a probable return to their homeland. As long as they go through the exact same process and it takes the exact same amount of time as every other person throughout the world applying to be a resident of Australia, I am reasonably happy with the way things are. This is not an issue I will ever be really happy about but I am guessing that if 30 percent of the population think like me, 30 percent want a tougher stance and 40 percent don't really care, then this is probably as good as it will get. You can't please all the people........all the time.

What I am very proud of though, is the huge increase in funding for our Hospitals, which need a major boost in beds, Doctors, Nurses and mental health facilities. This is finally being recognised and being delivered immediately. It won't be enough, it never is, but it will make huge improvements in an area we just can't afford to ignore for as long as the previous Government did.

I am proud of the way that Education is under the spotlight. The 'Education Revolution' is giving my children an undercover stage area, adequate parking facilities and several other essentials. Every school in our region has benefitted from the scheme. Some in the community have complained that it's too much money and too many projects. As far as I can see, it equals work for many and the buildings will be used by my kids and those following them so how can you really 'waste' money were children and school facilities are concerned. Our area is the biggest growth area in Queensland right now, we need to build for the future and if we can afford it now, build it now. Lets not get to the point that our Hospitals are at and wish we had planned better.

I would like the focus on Education to include extra-curricular activities for kids. I believe it is truly important to have a balance between physical activity and scholastic achievement in order to have a rounded education. I am very happy with my Education Rebate though. I get the bonus money back from my tax and it's almost enough to pay for an entire terms school fees for my daughter. Before, we had no help to pay for the costs of educating our children. The computer programs, the internet fees, the books, texts, etc.... The cost of these can be astronomical and it's definately nice to get some help.

The company tax rate will be cut by 1 percent under Labor, more by the Opposition. The rate will be 29 percent under Labor, 28.5 under the Opposition. Add the 1 percent payment for the Opposition's Paid Parental Scheme and the real rate under them becomes 29.5 percent. Again, Labor have the better deal.

I could go on forever with this, but I won't bore you with more boring facts. We all know that elections are really won by personalities anyway. Again, I have to say, Labor wins. I just hope that on polling day, my opinion is the most popular one.