Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cairns.........the hypocritical city.

Just a few months ago, Cairns region was presented with an unprecedented opportunity involving over 100 million dollars of State and Federal funding and a ready made plan to build a large precinct near the waterfront. A facility primarily for locals, this was to provide work for those in the construction industry who have suffered with the loss of several large developer companies and would have gone on to provide up to 125 full time equivalent jobs once complete. The facility was to be a replacement for one which has been proven unsatisfactory and is becoming unworkable.

Cairns is known for the arts and it's contribution to the industry all over Australia. It is common knowledge that we have a plethora of talent and a need to nurture it and this facility would have provided that, along with training for those who wished to take on 'behind the scenes' roles in audio, lighting, stage management, choreography, playwriting and much more. While those jobs still exist, the scope for them to grow is very, very limited.

The main objections to the facility from local residents were three issues. First, the cost. Placed at almost $60 million , this cost would have been partly covered by a small increase in rates over 5 years, including the construction phase and the early operational phase. As a public facility, it would have had to be supplemented by Council for the term of it's life at slightly more than the current building, which as mentioned previously is no longer viable for it's intended use. However, unlike privately owned facilities such as the one proposed by Shangri La, local community groups and schools could have accessed and utilised the facility at an extremely low cost, further cementing it's role as a venue built for locals.

The second issue was a perceived lack of consultation. Residents failed to take into account the decades of planning by previous Councils and came to the conclusion that this was 'thrust' upon them without giving them a say at all. The numerous consultation and information sessions the scope of which have never been seen before were apparently not sufficient.

The third was the site itself. Situated just a few metres from the edge of the seafront, the most common  thought appeared to be that it was going to take vital space away from what has now become known as our 'working port'. One company in particular took great pains to remind residents that the expansion of their business would be impeded by this development and that must not be permitted. While it was mentioned in response that the port would not be affected due to the 'buffer zone' which would remain intact, that information was reported much more quietly than the opposing view.

So, here we sit, 6 months later. State funding has been revoked, land offered for peppercorn rent given back, the plan voted down in Council chambers and Federal funding in doubt. It appears that the people have spoken. Shortly after the election, new Councillors and the new Mayor were given estimates of the cost of building a much smaller facility which would have a single use, rather than the grand plan previously offered. This cost was much more than they expected and as a result, no performing arts centre will be built in least, not in the immediate future.

While this information saddened those who supported the CEP, it did not surprise those who followed the progress of the project and faced the opposition to it's construction. Today, the memory of the excitement the project provided and the incredible diversity of use it would have given the region is all that remains.

In Saturday's paper two stories gained my attention. One on the back of the front page announcing that Sea Swift has been sold. The company most vocal against the CEP. It is acknowledged that their opposition was based on the need for future expansion while noting that the article states expansion of two ports for their use, neither of which is Cairns. As a base, Cairns is still a priority and it is not stated in the article that this will change which is good news for the region. It then becomes the question of whether this business could not have continued to expand by utilising Cairns as it's primary ship building port and concurrently expanding it's presence in other ports of Australia. In fact, that is exactly what is happening, without the CEP.

The second story garnering another look, was one featuring the company which is a major shareholder in the new development about to commence in the CBD. With Woolworths as it's anchor store, the Central Park shopping development will be built in three stages, the third being the one which begs for attention. First stage of the $270 million development, a large shopping centre, directly opposite Cairns Central. Nothing odd there except perhaps the fact that Cairns will struggle to fill and support more retail outlets. The second stage, office space and and residential units. Again, nothing untoward in that part, except that the slowing of Cairns economy would suggest that office space is probably not required. Third stage.............a large hotel styled on the Versace model, Cairns' first 6 star hotel.

Why is this third stage standing out? Why is the fact that someone wants to invest in Cairns a negative thing? It goes to it's placement. According to the article, there will not be room on the Spence St site for this third are looking to build it in the immediate vicinity (or even on the site) the CEP would have been. Specifically; "built on one of the Ports North development sites between the Cairns Hilton and the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal". Incredible!

It should be noted that this article mentions that the sale of it's commercial and residential space is required before stage 3 could begin, an estimated 6 years away. That said, if this company, or others like it, are permitted to build on the same site deemed unsuitable for a public facility due to it's proximity to a working port, I for one will not be impressed.

While the CEP and all that went with it (a bridge over to the Convention Centre, a museum, connecting car park etc..) is no longer an option, the reasons for it's demise must surely still exist? Or are weary locals actually telling the truth when they say that Cairns is open slather to developers and exceedingly unkind to those wishing for a better lifestyle? It's certainly how it appears.

I note also that nobody is questioning the new Council on the current status of the sports stadium many seemed to prefer. Does anyone even care anymore?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Alan Jones. Are you listening?

Misogynist. Bigot. Racist. Venomous. Inciter. All of these words have been used many times in the past few days to describe Alan Jones. In all forms of media, over and over again.

Let's pretend for a moment that he never said the PM's father died of shame. Lets pretend that the function where he bid on and won a chaff jacket never happened.

What then? What is it about these particular incidents which has incited such anger and an uprising the likes of which has not been seen in recent times in Australia? This comment and the jacket that went with it is not the worst thing Mr Jones ever did. Far from it in fact. He has said things on air which boggle the mind. Judging from the nature of most of them, the man really is bitter and vitriolic.

Have we made him that way? By glorifying his words, calling him a media personality, awarding him an Order of Australia Medal...........perhaps we are all responsible for who this small man has become? Or maybe some people are just so full of angst that it fairly oozes from their vocal chords from the time they can talk.

I looked up Alan Jones on Wikepedia. After the lengthy bits about his history as a person, I reached the section on the controversy. Reading it takes a while as it goes on for quite a while but I took the time to take a look. Most of those incidents mentioned were ones I remembered as they are all ones which were reported on Australia wide. What it makes you wonder though, is why his list has been allowed to get this long?

Over the past few days there have been petitions to sign, sponsors to contact, posts to re-tweet and 'share' on Facebook. It's been a veritable feeding frenzy for the social media world......all on a single topic and about one man and his comments.

Comments that were not even said on air. He spoke at a function, through a microphone, to a crowd who were filled with hilarity after he mentioned the PM and her dad. Pretty awful stuff really and well worth the comments and the shares. It's even had some success in that many sponsors are no longer sponsors and have taken the moral high ground to distance themselves from his words. And he never even said them on air. Those said on air have been much more frightening and have the capacity to do real harm. Take the Cronulla Riots for example. Jones was found to contribute to the inciting of the riots and exacerbating what was already a heated event. This man has power. Real power.

So, how do we take it away? How do we let the media know we no longer accept hate speech, or vile language which angers, inflames and hurts on our airwaves? How do we ensure media continues to be opinionated without being vitriolic?

There is really only one way. Yes, sponsors are deserting the Alan Jones Show, in their droves. People are rallying online and via social media and creating a situation where the comments made will not fade away into nothingness and obscurity. But it won't work. Other sponsors will appear shortly and take the place of those who have left. Ones without morals who don't care about public perception, just public dollars.

Why will they turn up? Because more people tuned into the Alan Jones Show this morning than have at any time in the past few years. People are still listening to him!

I realise some/most tuned in to hear him explain himself further and see what his reaction to the fallout would be. That doesn't matter though. They still tuned in. Later this month, I believe it's the 20th, a full report into ratings will be released. It's that document which his sponsors and bosses will pay attention to. What needs to happen now is a campaign to get people to STOP listening! Turn him off! Listen to something, ANYTHING else. And do not turn him back on. Ever.

It's really the only way to get his rubbish off air.

Encourage your friends, neighbours, online pals, to do the same. THEN see how long he gets to keep his job.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

LNP State Conference and reality clash as 100 days are up!

A State Conference by any political party is an interesting few days. There is always a decision made somewhere along the line which baffles the population and one or two which don't make it through for unexplainable reasons. It's worth noting also, that generally decisions made at these Conferences are the creation of policy. That does not guarantee them any traction in real terms, particularly where the policy is a Federal one and the Conference a State one.

That said, there are many Motions passed at a State Conference which DO become part of legislation, so any and all of those passed over the weekend at the LNP State Conference in Queensland, could come to fruition for the wider community.

So, what went on? One of the most interesting facets of the conference was the rise to prominence within the LNP of the members of Young LNP. Many of the Motions put forward to the Conference Delegates came directly from their ranks and several of those which scored the most public scrutiny, were Young LNP Motions.

Most notable of those was the Motion to remove Abstudy altogether and instead have Austudy as the only method of assistance for secondary, TAFE and Universary students. This gained significant time in the media and is a touchy subject at the best of times. The view from Young LNP is that it segregates and divides the community, according to skin colour. One Federal MP Paul Neville, noted that Abstudy is an essential tool in the process of bridging the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. His belief that education is the best way to achieve that fell onto deaf ears and the Motion passed. After the vote he expressed his opinion by saying that it was 'not uncommon for the young members of a political party to have radical views.'

Also on the agenda was the removal of Climate Change teachings from the Science curriculum. The reason given for this one was obscure but appeared to be that it is seen as a Left/Green view of the world and that Climate Change science is not proven, therefore should not be on the curriculum. Interestingly, on the same day, another Motion passed which would see the revoking of Indigenous History from schools. The reason for this was much the same as the Climate Change discussion, with the added input that it was placing white Australians in a less than flattering light which (again) was apparently a Labor thing to do. There was much discussion about the new National curriculum as a whole and several times it was mentioned that it is predominantly Labor teachings and we should be removing most of it.

All very fascinating, especially given that Howard was the person responsible for the National Curriculum and hand picked the team who worked on it's content.

Also, given the fact that Indigenous Australians have worked very hard to get a more accurate version of Australia's history taught to students, it must be quite deflating to be told that your history is too 'negative' and should be watered down.

As for climate change. I'm unsure if we have to have water lapping at our front door and out of control weather patterns daily before the science is seen as 'real' but it's getting a bit old to continue denying what is surely obvious. Climate change is reality. Is it the fact that human interaction with the environment is being blamed for it's quickening rate of influence perhaps? If we instead said it was the fault of cows alone and no human being would have to alter their lifestyle or pay for the privilege of continuing to over-use resources, would the population have a different view of the science?

Whatever you personally believe, is it not more beneficial for our children to be taught both sides of the debate, which they currently are, so that they are informed? I believe the commonly used phrase is 'learning to think for themselves'. God forbid we should allow that. Could have catastrophic repercussions.

There were plenty more decisions made throughout the three days of bonding and some (including the restriction of Unions to enter workplaces and building sites) have been reported on and will face further scrutiny in the coming weeks and months.

All in all, a very busy and productive few days, depending on your point of view. Beginning with a speech by Newman that included references to Queensland's criminals, saying they should be very afraid of the Government, including in the middle several statements that branded Gough Whitlam as the second worst PM in Australia's history, and ending with a speech by National party President Mr Truss stating that Labor consistently produces the most disastrous Governments and the focus should remain now on Federal Labor so they can spread the negative sentiment that caused the Queensland election results nationally.

More interestingly perhaps was not the Conference itself but the fact that outside it's doors, in the 'real' world, Campbell Newman was inching up on his 100 day milestone. And the honeymoon period was officially ending. Mass sackings have resulted in huge protests and marches. The fire and ambulance services are joining forces to protest against new regulations and unsatisfactory work and wage agreements. Surrogacy laws banning same sex couples from utilising surrogacy to have a child is seeing the rising movement get active once again. The news that the reduction in solar tariffs will now be passed to the next owner of a home with existing solar power, rather than protected over the 20 year period as it previously was is also causing an uproar. The introduction of tougher penalties for child sex offenders against the advice of those on the front line has child safety workers concerned about possible increases in murders and the increased likelihood of drawn out trials.

The list goes on.......disbanding and sacking of staff from Skilling Queenslanders for work, sacking 2'000 plus from QR, sacking up to 500 from Department of Justice and the Attorney-General etc, etc, etc.....

So it seems that whilst those within the conference walls were lauding the recent win for Queensland's LNP as the greatest victory in political history, those outside are feeling the effects of a lopsided Government and are wondering what's around the corner for them.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Abbott the Evangelist.

Last night I sat and soaked up the speech by Tony Abbott in it's entirety from the opening day of the LNP State Conference in Brisbane. It's riveting stuff.

Words like these:  “I believe that all of us in this room all of us in the Liberal and National parties around our country stand on the threshold of something great,”

“We stand on the threshold of riding to the rescue of our country.

“I stress it is not about us ... It is about building a better country. We can do it. We can do it. We are a great people whose best days are in front of us, a great people held back momentarily by a bad government.

“Can’t you feel it in the streets? The Australian people are willing us to succeed.”

And then there's this:  “Like you, I remember and I cherish, I will never forget, the 24th of March, 2012. The 24th of March, 2012, a day that will live in the history of this great state because never was it more truly said of Queensland: beautiful one day, perfect the next.”

Those words are not necessarily untrue, nor are they particularly horrific when taken as words alone....what they do however, is mark Abbott as a man consumed with the need to gain power. A man who is almost evangelical in his phrasing and his wording. Similar to an evangelist, he is not necessarily working in the best interests of his 'followers'.

He wants to win, nobody can blame him for that as it is his role to do so. What I find repulsive is the way he chooses to do it, peddling untruths and feeding the undue fear of the general population.

He'll win. There's not much question about that. But at what cost to the health of Australia's people and it's environment? At what cost to its psyche? THAT is what is so frightening about this speech and others just like it.

While so many await in anticipation the downfall of Federal Labor, I question whether they have thought through properly what the alternative will mean for them.

While Labor continues to push people in Abbott's direction, it seems to me that there is little need for him to have effective policy or to even sell those policy choices (after all nobody is talking about Direct Action or any of the others in the multitude of LNP Federal policies) and when nobody is bothering to scrutinise the alternatives, the people end up with an unknown entity they voted for with the only thought in their head being to get rid of what they currently have.

It happened in Qld, in NSW, in Vic and in SA and now we have strike action, marches and a whole lot of bemused people wondering what on earth they voted for. 

 It must be noted that media outlets are feeding the frenzy by giving equal time to Abbott on the main stage as they give to the Government. An interesting turn of events to say the least. Abbott is professional at repeating his message consistently and it is well known that works......whether the message is a good one or not.

Labor are floundering about trying to find their place in the new landscape where extreme right wing politics make it much harder to find the middle. It's happening the world over, in America political commentators have written comprehensive books on the topic and the common belief is that dissent within the parties is the only way for changes back to a balanced viewpoint to occur.

The right wing of any political party is always loudest and when the entire scene shifts further right, that view becomes extreme. What it also does, is make the left look extreme as we have witnessed from the Greens. In actual fact, the Greens have not moved in either direction, instead being the only party to remain exactly as it was initially intended. It's everyone else who's moved over........

Right now we are witnessing a major party fall-out with the ALP as it comes to terms with it's shifting goals. That movement to the far right has reached it's crescendo and is causing uproar within the party structure. Over the next few months we will see the final attack from the right, before the quietly building left and centre movements (along with those in the right from areas not within NSW in particular) begin to get noticed via the steadily increasing public displays of dissent in the form of marches, strikes and the like. If the voice is clear enough and strong enough, it will force the shift back to centre ground within the ALP and make the LNP once again the voice of the right and far right.

If they are not successful, mark my words, another party will be formed and nobody wants that.

We still have many who are glad for the results in recent State elections and those have always, and will always, vote LNP. Then there are those who swing between the two, who like to keep their options open and moved toward the Greens and Independents at the last election because they couldn't face the alternatives. Those are the ones who will bring Abbott to power and those are the ones who deserve to be treated with more respect by the media and both major parties. Starting right now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Politics before community.

Today I received a flier in the mail from Warren Entsch MP. It is filled with lots of information regarding the local and Federal issues, including several pats on the back for local organisations. Well done Warren for recognising great work within our community.

It confuses me that he is excited about the new State Government initiative to formulate a 10 year plan for the Bruce Highway with him on board as the previous Government had a 20 year plan already done and ready to go. It will now cost more money to get the same result. Still, so long as eventually they start building those roads and fixing the black spots, nobody will care about the extra cost.

Lots of fuzzy stories which always make people feel good about themselves. They may even make people feel good about Warren which appears to be the point of it all. Pictures out and about in the region also give that same impression.

So far, not a bad read really. Until you spot the two glaring oddities.

One is the 'Plan to Grow Australia's Economy'. A fantastic idea but no mention in there on how it can be achieved with the current Government. It's a political ad for the next election and does nobody any favours. Cairns and the greater region can't wait until the next election. They need action now. Putting forward ideas on how that can be achieved while in Opposition, working with the Government, would be a much better indication of how capable he is of doing his job. If you can't be effective in Opposition and still work for the region, truly, what's the point? Essentially warming a seat until the next election rolls around is not what we need at all.

The other is the survey. I love a good survey. Nothing like putting in your two cents worth and feeling like you've had some input in proceedings. Provided of course, your input isn't led in a certain direction. That's not a survey, that's another ad.

For example, he has listed under the header; The Issues, several comments which you are to number in order of importance according to your concerns, from 1 to 4. No problem so far. Listed choices include; Fixing our hospitals, Tackling local crime in our community, Reducing cost of living pressures, Backing small businesses, Protecting the environment and a few others which make it tough to choose a top 4 because they seem equally important to me.

Then you have these offerings; Reducing Australia's debt, Securing Australia's borders, Stopping the Carbon Tax, Support for the NDIS.

Firstly, Australia's Debt . Before the next election there will be a surplus if all goes according to plan. If something comes up that is not accounted for (another flood, cyclone, financial crisis) then we will not make it back to surplus this financial year. We will however, make it back sooner rather than later and current debt at around 10% is not high enough to cause anyone any real concern. Considering how little most people understand the full financial situation, that is a loaded option. Most will look at it (as I admittedly did initially) as a surplus/deficit question, rather than a lasting national debt question and will answer accordingly. Those who do understand the current state of financial obligations, income streams and debt, will answer along political lines. Conservative voters abhor any debt at all, liberal voters (in the true definition of the word) understand that there is such a thing as manageable debt.

Next, securing Australia's borders. With Parliament currently sitting on this issue and discussion well underway, now is not the time to jump in and pretend it's suddenly a priority. It's been a priority for years, some would say too much of a priority, and if both major parties would just do their job properly, a solution they can accept will be reached. I've seen both offerings from both parties and neither are acceptable to my mind. Humanity and the right's of people in crisis loses out on both scores. I fail to see how one is any better than the other and if they combined the two, it would leave me just as peeved as I already am on the issue but would satisfy the criteria of the hysterical to STOP THE BOATS!

Now, Stopping the Carbon Tax is about as politically motivated as it would be possible to get. There is no option to Support the Carbon Tax or anything even close to that. Believe it or not, the Carbon Tax will not be as horrific as it is made to seem. He should be advertising the new hotline where you will be able to report price issues if you believe they are motivated by the Carbon Tax and do not accurately reflect the true cost. Besides anything else, even if by some quirk of fate the Carbon Tax becomes a nightmare of epic proportions, you shouldn't in good conscience give the option on a survey to 'stop it' when it has not yet been implemented and nobody really has any idea of its impact. It astounds me that it could be an issue when it hasn't been given a chance to fail, or succeed.

It has the support of everyone except the Coalition politically, the support of economists and the support of all business which is not highly polluting. The tax will apply to high polluters only, which means the cost rise to all other Australians should only be felt on electricity bills, something we are all being compensated for. Some businesses will pay more for products which create high carbon emissions to produce, so be it. Do you really believe that the country we live in will start looking for alternatives and focusing on less environmentally damaging methods of manufacture if there wasn't any impetus to try?

The NDIS support listed last is one of only two which are positive. Beside 'Backing small business' which should be a priority for everyone, supporting the NDIS is also well worth acknowledging. Placed next to creating jobs and fixing hospitals, it is definitely less likely to come in most households top 4, unless of course they are affected by the current disarray that is our national disability services. The cynic in me says that it has been placed there as an option in an effort to prove it is not as high a priority as the Government is making it and should therefore be scrapped and the money spent on other areas of need.

There is no mention on this form on how the information will be collated or where it can be viewed after all surveys are handed back in. If there was any reason to believe it would be worthwhile I would urge you all to fill it out as you please and get it to him asap but there isn't, so I won't. What I will say is that in my opinion, this is further proof of the current sad state of political affairs, where it is easier and more fruitful to continue perpetrating the myth that the Government, regardless of which party is in power, is always the wrong one.

It's painful to watch and it's helping nobody. The race to the bottom is well underway and there are months of these 'surveys' and polls to wade through and be bombarded with. Thank goodness for the human touch in this flier or it would have had it's trip to the bin much faster than it did.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

LOOK! Good news from the LNP!

Something happened this week which I am extremely grateful for. After several weeks of nothing but negative news and backward steps, the new State Government has done something good. (I know, how could one government possibly be making ONLY bad decisions? It's simply not feasible.)

Think federally for example. If Abbott is to be believed, the balancing act that is the Gillard Government has not made a single good decision or passed a single beneficial bill in the past few years. In fact, this perception has entered mainstream thought and is a popularly held belief throughout the country. No doubt the numbers will reflect the success of the negative campaigning from the Opposition when the election rolls around late next year.

I can't remember a time since I became politically aware (I think I was about 12 when I first realised that Queensland was being laughed out by the rest of the nation due to its backward direction politically) when a Government has not had a single moment with bi-partisan support for one of its proposed policies. It's an interesting phenomenon to witness and appears to be a reaction from the new breed of political beast which utilises the 24 hour news cycle to work for votes, not for the best interests of our nation. I still can't help wondering what a carbon based bill would have looked like if the Opposition had chosen to work WITH the Government, the Greens and the Independents, rather than against them.

Being a 'NO! NO! NO!' Opposition may fit the job description quite literally, but it doesn't take into account the population or national needs.

The same can be said for our current Queensland Government. Many times since the election the Campbell Government has provided fodder for negativity and pessimism. How could you possibly find a silver lining to the abolishment of the Literary Awards, the Healthy Community services, green programs, solar programs? The fast-tracking mining interests, ignorance of the Great Barrier Reef ecology, abandonment of the NDIS, the reduction of workers' rights, removal of significant funding opportunities for the Cairns region, potential loss of up to 20'000 public service jobs and the removal of Civil Unions compounded by the loss of surrogacy and adoption rights for vast portions of our society? Where is the positive news? The programs which will bring jobs? The programs which will be environmentally brilliant? The services which will make a healthier, more vibrant community?

Someone asked me recently if I would ever report something positive about the Newman Government. My answer was "Yes, as soon as they do something positive." Well, I am very pleased to announce; that day has come!

Michael Trout, MP for Barron River, will be tabling a Bill shortly that will put the implementation of Fouridation into water supplies back into the hands of local Councils. This, is BIG news.

Quite unfortunately, many Councils (including Cairns Regional Council) have already added fluoride to water and the Bill is not retrospective. However, areas like Kuranda, due to come online very soon, will hopefully have the opportunity to do what their community would prefer and leave fluoride out. In further good news, Behana Creek water supply, which services much of the south side of Cairns, is NOT fluoridated and was not due to come online until later this year. I haven't seen the Bill so am unsure if specific parts of Council areas could exercise their rights to withhold fluoride but will be ensuring the local population is aware of their options as soon as the information becomes available.

So, quietly hopeful for the Newman Government. A sound option based on what the community is telling you and science is backing up. Pass this Bill so I can thank you properly! Now, bring on some more good decisions and a heck of a lot less stripping away of people's rights in all other sectors and I will make sure that every single one of those positive movements is applauded. With a majority as big as the one you have, think of all of the innovative ideas you could implement!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Vroom......... Should Cairns be off and racing?

So, the V8's are being considered for the Cairns region. I have read the online comments everywhere on the subject and those in print and it seems to have plenty of support. I'm not sure what happened to the idea of having the large stadium but it seems to have fallen by the wayside in the bid for a once-a-year car race.

That being the case, I thought I'd look up some detail on the current situation in Townsville, as an interested local of Cairns who would like to see some grand plan for the future make its way here. While I remain unsure of the repercussions of having an event here which is fairly obviously an environmental nightmare, I'm sure that Cairns could re-brand itself if required. Can't really profess to being a sustainable city with ecological marvels if we run a SuperCar race for three days a year.

So, here are the facts. Townsville ratepayers have forked out almost $2.5 million since the first Townsville 400 V8 Supercars race - on top of their initial $30 million investment. It should be noted that the track actually cost $55 million but funding from the State Government of $25 million meant that Townsville's portion was only $30 million.

In the three years it has been running the council has spent $2,423,313 on maintenance, rates, water and in-kind event support at Reid Park and have received just $133'000 in revenue. That means it costs rate-payers to keep the race. It also receives funding of 2.5 million per year from the State Government to remain operational. This money is in question at the moment which is one of the primary reasons, along with the 5 year contract renewal, that Townsville is unsure of its future viability.

Mackay is also lobbying to take the V8's from Townsville. They believe they have the infrastructure and space to cater to the event, a claim that Townsville denies as they are of the opinion there is little in the way of accommodation choices in the Mackay region.

Almost all parties acknowledge that for one week per year, Townsville fills up hotels and restaurants for the event. The current concern is that the money made by businesses is offset by Rate input into the track and to spend so heavily on a venue which operates for 3 days a year total is something all parties are worried about. They are however, considering other events (suggestions include a cultural festival and music festivals) which could utilise the space throughout the year.

Townville also has a significant problem at the moment which is the prime cause of the conversations around the events viability. Their Council has extremely high debt. In documents detailing the sustainability of Council coffers it states that debt as at May 2011 was $380 million and with good fiscal management and annual Rate rises of  6% it is forecast to drop to $250 million in 2021. This is because Townsville Council has continued to build infrastructure on a large scale over the past several years and has simply added the cost of the Dairy Farmers Stadium, Reed Park facility, Strand development etc....... to their borrowings.

In comparison, a similar document on Cairns Regional Council states that the total debt is $83 million, much lower than Townsville. The borrowing capacity for Cairns is therefore much higher and while this document includes the CEP as it was forecast to occur when the document was written, Rates would rise by 6% in this region also as the debt was to be paid off much quicker.

Both Councils have increased Rates by significant amounts in past years, with Cairns having the lowest Rates rises over the past 4 years, but rises of between 9 and 12 percent for the four years prior to that. At the same time, Townsville rates have risen by an average of 9-12 percent over the entire 8 year period.

Also worth noting, Cairns Regional Council is projected to have low maintenance costs over the next 4 year period as the previous 4 years saw new water and waste infrastructure built at significant cost but now requiring little in the way of future maintenance. Townsville will spend double the amount of Cairns on maintenance of assets each year.

All of this indicates that Cairns is well placed financially to borrow 30-60 million to build a V8 track. It is doubtful that the Cairns community will allow for further borrowings for a stadium, and certainly will not allow any borrowings for a replacement to the Civic Theatre. It is now vitally important that Cairns locals decide on their priorities. With jobs so desperately needed and new infrastructure the best way to kick-start the economy, one of the three projects will need to begin as soon as possible.

Obviously I would prefer a replacement to the Civic Theatre first. As far as I am aware, the current sporting facilities are not in danger of crumbling and have appropriate wheelchair access. That said, there is no denying that Cairns is as much a sporting city as it is an artistic one. To my mind, V8's do not belong in Cairns and I would happily allow Townsville to keep them, even helping them lobby further so that Mackay loses out and the people of Cairns can still attend. I'll happily lobby for a sporting stadium locally if that is what the people of Cairns would prefer as I firmly believe it is needed here and our population would support it.

If the Civic Theatre closed it's doors tomorrow due to safety issues, similar to what happened to Sugarworld, would it be that day when people finally realised the importance of the facility? I don't know. Maybe not.

Still....... we have options here in Cairns. Now is the right time to explore them as our finances are good and the future looks bright. Which facility would you utilise most?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fight for a healthy Cairns Region.

During the past few weeks we have seen several programs axed and the re-direction of funds by the CanDo team in an effort to reduce Government spending as per the election promise made. While I applaud their intention, the methodology is not workable.

Removing programs which create healthy populations will simply move the spending requirements to other sectors such as Police, Emergency Services and the mental and physical health departments of our hospitals and outpatient services. Almost all programs axed within the health sector are proven ones which are most effective as preventative services, thereby halting the progress of health related issues and leading to long term health and well-being.

This would fairly obviously then have the flow on effect of alleviating the current health crisis, placing less pressure on our hospitals. The instances of poor mental and physical health on friends and relatives is also well documented and prevention would also place less stress on those supporting the person in question which would further alleviate pressure on our health services. This all makes perfect sense.

Why then would the State Government choose to remove Sisters Inside, the Healthy Communities service, distance itself from the National Disability Insurance Scheme and remove Frontline services from our local hospital The Cairns Base?

The cost of each of these varies but the cost of NOT doing these programs or facilitating the services will in future years be substantially more than any savings made today.

I am tired of sitting idly by while these programs fall by the wayside. Expressing disappointment online and via conversations with friends. It's time to get pro-active.

Those who have chosen to make these decisions were elected by this population but our input does not stop with an election. They are OUR representatives. They work for us. That means we are perfectly entitled to let them know when we are unhappy with a decision made, or with a direction taken. It does not mean that we are entitled to attack them as people.

It is the choices and the policy that is up for scrutiny. Only when it concerns us directly is the personality of the politician under attack. In this instance, only the policy and commitments made affect the population.

I urge any of you who are also concerned with the future health of our State and our community to join me and write to Gavin King, Member for Cairns via any of the following:

Phone 07 4051 2868
Address Office 1 "McLeod South", 78-84 Spence Street, Cairns Qld 4870

 For those living in Barron River, Michael Trout can be contacted via these details:

Office 07 4038 2800
Mobile 0488 227 766
Address PO Box 1014, Smithfield, Queensland, 4878

And for Curtis Pitt, Member for Mulgrave, the details are as follows:

Phone 4056 3175
Fax 4056 3340
Office T J Ryan Building, 94-96 Norman Street, Gordonvale QLD 4865
Postal Address PO Box 314 Gordonvale QLD 4865

It's worth noting that Curtis Pitt is supportive of all programs so it may be more beneficial to write instead to Gavin King as the Cairns Base Hospital and Healthy Communities are both within his electorate. That will be entirely up to you however.

I also ask that you forward a copy of your letter to The Cairns Post as well so that the media are equally aware of the impact of these decisions on our community and the fact that many amongst us would like them to be re-instated.

 Together we can make a difference. If I didn't believe that, politics would hold no interest for me and I would never write another blog post and we both know that will never happen.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Checks and Balances in a CanDo State.

The State Government, headed by Mr Newman, are proving themselves to be a Government of their word. The problem is, it's not making people very happy.

Prior to the recent State election, the LNP promised one thing above all others. To cut costs, drastically. They promised to reduce Government debt within the first 100 days and as far as I can tell, they didn't promise a whole lot else.

Then the people of this great State voted. They gave the Newman Government a mandate like no other in a landslide victory which effectively gives them no Opposition. The people have spoken.

It appears what they want is no debt. We already know that debt is a death knell for any Government. A sure-fire way to lose, and lose big. There has not been a government in my memory capable of selling debt as a good thing, a necessary thing, a short term issue for long term stability. Government debt is seen as a reflection on a poorly managed economy, driven by an economically disastrous Treasurer. While I personally don't believe our debt was unmanageable or too large, the voters thought otherwise.

So, here we are, two months later. Halfway through the 100 day plan. The first to go was the Premiers Literary Awards. We are now the only State in the country without a Premier award in any form of Literacy. Seems somehow fitting for the 'smart State'.

During the past few weeks we have seen DERM and DEEDI re-shuffled, the Department of Climate Change shut down, green programs axed, pot plants for government offices removed and the beginnings of a fast-track for approvals for mining. That's the environment taken care of.....or not.

We have seen the beginnings of the process to remove Civil Unions (not cost-cutting but a previous promise nonetheless), removal of all funding for the Department of Healthy Communities, the Sisters Inside program for women in Townsville's prison shut down, no entry to the National Disability Scheme and the removal of the Sentencing Advisory Council. That takes care of all minority groups and mental and physical health advocacy.

Finally, the re-introduction of measures which once formed part of Work Choices. A Bill tabled and passed which gives the Attorney General the power to stop industrial action and the removal of the Queensland Workplace Rights Office. That takes care of the rights of workers.

Halfway through the slash and burn process and almost every facet of society is affected by these changes. Some, like the removal of tea and coffee privileges, are not so important as most government agencies supply their own anyway. Others, like the removal of the Sisters program, are just foolish.

Here's the problem though. This State voted them in. In large numbers. Ergo, the debt has got to go. The real question mark in this entire process, is on the 'where' and the 'why' of the cuts. Is it even necessary to cut funding on such a large scale? No. Does it work when it's actioned in this way? No. It will effectively just move the costs to a different area. When HIV rates rise again, when women return to prison time and time again, when productivity levels drop, when workers have enough and the real strike action begins.....all of those things will cost our Government FAR more than any savings made right now. Is it going to happen anyway? Yes.

Government spending on MP's has just risen dramatically, with the introduction of Legislation which increases numbers on Committee's from 6-8. This effectively gives every MP in the State, a pay rise of at least $8'000. This increase alone would more than pay for the Sister's program, one proven to work and at a grand total of $120'000 per year, a cost saving measure on its own.

Changing the name of Parliamentary Secretaries to Assistant Ministers won't change the fact that the numbers of them rose and the pay rate and perks remain the same. Another increase in costs that is probably not justified.

Here's the real kicker though. If the majority, by a long margin, want costs cut and debt reduced, where should it happen? Is it not likely that it wouldn't matter where the cuts were made, someone would be negatively affected? Is there any single Department, group or service supported by the Qld Government which we could happily live without? Possibly not.

Will we claw our way back into the black and one day soon revisit the programs now lost? Maybe. Should we be continuing to lobby against closure of those which are cost effective and absolutely necessary, like Sisters Inside and the Department of Healthy Communities? Absolutely.

It now falls to us all to advocate on behalf of those who can't. To choose which battles to fight and which to let go of. To be the voice of reason in the midst of the great cash saving 100 day plan.

Anything undertaken on this scale, with such a short time period given, will inevitably swallow some of the most needed programs. Especially if we choose to look at the plan in its entirety and don't look closely at the merits of each program facing the cuts along the way.

A government without inbuilt checks and balances must have a population willing to provide that for them. Loudly if necessary......and it's definitely becoming necessary.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Women in Power in Australia, and why they can't stay at the top.

Women have had a rough ride over the past 5 years in politics. One would think that having a female Mayor, CEO, Premier, PM and Governor General was a huge step forward in progress for women in strong roles. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

There has been a great deal of talk on why women have become unwanted in politics and where our gender is headed. There are probably many reasons why this is happening but I am focussing this blog on the one I noticed the most. Leadership skills. Our current crop have failed in this area. Remarkably, women appear the most unaware of what they are doing wrong when it comes time to analyse performance.

Here's the deal. Women are great at multi-tasking, can do any job a man can do (sometimes even better), are physically and psychologically capable of taking on anything and have a very strong work ethic. That should be great ingredients for a future in leadership roles. So, what's missing?

Two things are noticeably lacking. The first is necessary for any role where the majority of time is spent in the public arena. Retail skills. Great policy is fantastic. Charisma is a good thing. The ability to speak well is also wonderful. Having no ability to 'sell' it.......leads to failure every time. Just because something is good doesn't mean that the general public will listen.

The media control our sound bytes and our snippets. Leaving them room to fill that space with negative speak from those opposing is not just the fault of the media. It is also the fault of the salesperson. Marketing cannot be underestimated. Neither can connections with the public. Separate yourself from them and stand apart and you will win no friends.....or votes.

We need our representatives to be people we can relate to. That's difficult to do but past PM's have shown what people want. Bob Hawke and his day off comment after the Cup win. Howard and his walking suit. Keating and his........acually, Keating is one of those who fit this same mould. Aloof, apart and unreachable. Campbell Newman is another. In fact, in this deconstruction, Anna Bligh is the anomaly as well.

The second thing you need to do as lead a TEAM. Do not stand alone, as if you are the only one with the decision making ability and tell the public what YOU decided. That is the sign of a dictator. Nobody wants that. I can guarantee you that Julia never made the decision to stand Slipper or Thomson aside all by herself. Her advisors and several other members of her caucus would have had talks with her before this decision was reached. She said 'I have made the decision.........' What she SHOULD have said was 'This Government has decided.......' or 'We have decided.......'

While I applaud people for wishing to be the person held accountable for decisions and policy, the fact is it doesn't work. They are not alone in the job. It is a team effort. Instead of standing as spokesperson for a group of shadows, they should be standing as spokesperson with a full team of supportive people right behind them.

Now, after attacking women and their lack of leadership skills, it's time to ask real questions. Are women given enough support as they rise through the tiers of power? Do they have people they can rely on to hold them up or provide a sounding board when they need it? Is there so much scrutiny of hairstyles, clothing and voice modulation that they somehow lose themselves in the effort to become perfect? Those questions need answers.

Men in these positions will often delegate answers to their Ministers, they will stand before media scrums with at least the Deputy behind them. I've never seen mention of a bad tie or an ill-fitting suit or bad rug. It seems to me that it is a hell of a lot tougher to get to the top if you are a women. The journey is tough but it's a damn sight more difficult to actually stay there once the top is reached.

Maybe this post has provided more questions than answers and it certainly doesn't apply to all women in powerful roles. It's more an observation of those who are 'on the nose' and the reflections of a woman who would like to be chosen at some point to represent a much smaller group in a position of influence.

As mentioned, there are also many men who fit this profile, including Queensland's current Premier. I will be watching carefully to see if his lack of retail skills and 'stand alone' attitude will be perceived in the same way as it has been for the women of this country. We'll see.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 Division 2.

I have refrained from writing much on this blog for the past few weeks as being a candidate for election does make it that bit harder. Mostly because there is very little time for it but also because it would be very difficult to self-critique. Nonetheless, with only a few days to go, I'd like to share my experiences with you all on this process and what it has taught me.

The first week was spent largely ignoring the fact that an election was on the horizon as the State election, with it's very interesting results, was still front and centre in people's minds. That made it difficult to talk local politics with people but I also wanted to give the community some time off before another election became the focal point in their thoughts.

During that week immediately proceeding the State election I spent a lot of time talking to my family and friends about what was coming next. We discussed corflute placement, trailer signs and other paraphernalia. With me being of the opinion that election material should be restricted further it was very hard to order those things knowing that they would soon litter the landscape. I contacted several local organisations to ask who wanted them after the election and managed to find homes for them all which made the process a little more bearable.

We chose to go with several large billboard signs so that we could limit corflutes in the ground (something that became a problem for us but I do not regret doing) and chose to print the How To Vote cards on plain paper so they could be recycled with greater ease.

Week two and door-knocking ramped up a gear. There were five weeks in total between elections and two of those were school holidays. Not the easiest time to knock on people's doors when you live in an area which is primarily young families.

Door-knocking taught me several things. Firstly, you can never have enough sunscreen on. People would really like the opportunity to have their say if you are willing to give them an ear and your time. The so called 'little things' are not so little if you are a resident in the street with the issue. Hooning is a MAJOR problem in almost every street. People are confused about the CEP based on the amount of conflicting information out there and have not actually made their minds up about it yet. Very few residents know who they will vote for as Mayor. Lastly, I learnt that while I have been working on various committee's and in many groups for several years in the Division, PLENTY of people had no idea who I was.

In week three I met residents who are concerned about a particularly nasty corner in Mt Sheridan. Several major accidents occur there every year and after years of working with Council officers and Nancy (who it turns out has worked tirelessly for those who have contacted her with an issue)they are still no closer to fixing the problem.

I met residents who would like one of the designated Dog Exercise Parks in Division 2 to be fenced so that stray dogs can't impede on it's use. They walked me over to the park and we stood there for a long while to actually witness what is going on and in those 45 minutes, 6 dogs wandered over from various streets nearby. Two of them quite scary big ones. No wonder kids are too scared to walk their dogs.

I met the residents of one street where every house along it has been broken into this year. The park is always full of noisy young people drinking heavily and the impact of that on their piece of mind is quite large. The police are often called and always come, but they always arrive too late. During the next few days I contacted Edmonton Neighbourhood Watch and found out there is no branch in Bentley Park or Mt Sheridan, something that needs addressing, the sooner the better.

One street I visited was still recovering from an accident which had occurred only the week before. A young child was hit by a car along the street, suffering serious but non-life threatening injury. The person driving the vehicle was going quite slowly but during my time in that street, at least 8 cars sped along the road past me at speeds in excess of the limit. A child being hit by a car going 40k and surviving is one thing but if that same child had been hit by a car doing 60-70 it may well have resulted in her death. They have lodged complaints with Council and asked for some help but as yet, have heard nothing back.

Each week I also stood at the front of each of the shopping precincts in Division 2 and took some time to chat to shoppers. These conversations included the burning of cane which occurs yearly and it's health impacts on residents, the lack of jobs in the area which makes it necessary to work in the CBD, youth crime and unruly behaviour and more hooning.

Week four and I met residents who would like their parks better lit and BBQ's included. I spoke to some who particularly liked the focus on the environment that the current Council has and wanted assurances that it would remain a focus. One resident who was knocked down by a car going too fast around the corner and several conversations about our youth and the lack of engagement in this area.

It has become apparent that the youth who are causing chaos in the community are aged from 8-12, something which I found surprising but saw evidence of many times. This makes it even more important to continue early intervention services and expand on facilities for youth, while supporting programs which offer mentoring such as the Cairns Youth Mentoring Scheme.

Week five is now almost complete. ANZAC Day was a wonderful opportunity to throw off the campaign mindset and participate in inclusive activities within the community. The parade was extremely well attended, getting bigger each year, and the rides and activities afterward were fantastic. Thankyou to the Hambledon/Edmonton RSL for organising the day. The sausage sizzle was where I spent most of my time and while we did run out of water at one point, we had a great time watching the tug o war and the kids running around Fuller Park while serving sausages on bread to the hungry masses.

I have not been able to knock on every door. Something which I was very hopeful of doing but did not have enough time to achieve. I am promising right now that after this election is over, if declared the new Councillor for Division 2, I will continue to door-knock until I have been to every home in the area. I will also maintain a presence at Piccone's IGA on a regular basis and continue attending all of our community events. Community consultation does not end with your vote.

Pre-poll began with much ado and fanfare last week and it was not a very nice place to be for the first few days. There is definitely some oddity in the democratic process which does no one any favours and impacts on the voting process. Over time and with plenty of arguments, that process is now about as good as it can get when you have almost 40 candidates vying for time with residents of the region.

I have had a fantastic time over these past few weeks. I have met some incredible people from my community and have made some connections which I will continue to keep, whatever the outcome on Saturday.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every resident who welcomed me into their home or onto their door-step, each person who took the time to chat with me about their street and their concerns. Each person who wished me luck, gave me the thumbs up and wrote me lovely e-mails of support and encouragement. You are the reason I am standing here today, in a bright yellow t-shirt, reeking of sunscreen, determined to make a difference. You have made a difference in my life, I hope I will be allowed the opportunity to make a real difference in yours.

So, what's my take on the future of this region? To be honest, I've no idea how the votes will fall. What I do know is this.......yesterday afternoon I took some time to read the flyers delivered from both of the teams. My concern is that there is no mention of the environment anywhere on their material and there is very little mention of the importance of building community or social wellbeing. While I do certainly understand that jobs and the future of our local economy is a priority, balance must be struck. There is little point in creating jobs for locals if there is no social or cultural space for them to spend their days off.

I urge you all to gather those pamphlets and find one word which mentions our youth. There isn't one. Nothing on hooning or the reduction of residential road incidents either.

In fact, without economics, there is a vast chasm of empty space where those 'little things' I mentioned before, should take pride of place.

On Saturday, please vote for your local Independent candidate and make sure that the community you live in, has a voice.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What I left unsaid.......for the City Place Forum.

On Sunday there was a public Forum in City Place which was designed to enable all Council hopefuls, including Mayoral Candidates, the opportunity to address the public and answer questions from the crowd. This allowed locals to hear from those who may well represent them in Council after April 28th and was very well attended.

I was there, but due to previous commitments (I had already confirmed attendance at another event last year that was held at the same time) I could not stay long enough to have my say and answer those questions. While I am not regretful that I attended the other event, I am certainly disappointed I could not participate fully in this one.

Several people have asked me if I wrote a speech prior to the Forum and the answer is yes. It was originally to be held on April 8th but the clash with Easter Sunday meant it was re-organised for the earlier date. Because of the re-shuffle, and knowing the importance of participating, I wrote the following speech which was to be my 3 minute contribution. Unfortunately, the opportunity to answer questions by those attending has passed but this blog does allow for comments so please feel free to ask anything you would like answered and I will happily respond.

"Good afternoon everyone. Thank you to the organisers of today's Forum for this opportunity to speak to you all.

The Cairns region is something I am very passionate about. This is my home. I grew up here, married here and together we are raising three children here. My Division, which encompasses parts of Edmonton, Mt Sheridan and all of Bentley Park, is filled with households just like mine. I know what it feels like to worry when petrol prices, electricity prices or Rates go up. I know what it feels like to try and juggle household funds so that my children don't miss out. Many residents in Division 2 have the same worries and concerns and need to know that they are being heard and everything possible is being done to keep costs low.

Introducing tipping vouchers with Rates notices and a yearly green waste pick-up would help. So would re-visiting the idea of a Rates discount, something that also encourages residents to pay on time which makes Council operations run smoother. I'm hopeful that if elected, other Councillors will also support these plans and we can implement them for the regions benefit.

Much has been said in the media, and while I've been door-knocking, about the youth of our region. Our young people need us to act in support of them and they need to be involved in the process every step along the way. Youth engagement is a multi-faceted, big picture project and it has begun, but we need to get some of the newer ideas and plans started as the need is certainly there.

A youth hub within the Edmonton Leisure Centre is something I am very supportive of. Upgrading Little Fretwell Park so that the current skate park and BMX track are better, brighter and more accessible will be another facet of the engagement process. Building a bigger Library so that it will cater to a growing community is also important and will benefit not just young people, but the entire community. These are just a few of the plans I will be advocating for. Our residents aged 10-18 deserve representation.

Small businesses also need support. The Edmonton District Traders Association is a great example of what can be achieved when businesses act together to facilitate each others growth and viability. We have seen the benefits to the tourism industry with a large body representing their best interests and I will be encouraging a similar group be formed for the many small businesses here in Cairns.

The Cairns region is faced with a bright future. Now is the right time to encourage innovation and eco development. The Tropical Innovation Awards are growing every year and are evidence of the brilliant minds and clever ideas our region has in abundance. We are positioned in one of the most environmentally sensitive places on earth. With that comes certain responsibilities, especially when considering future growth. From small ideas such as further support of Community Gardens and rebates or vouchers for the purchase of household worm-farms, to big ideas such as removing plastic bags from supermarkets and encouraging them to display food mileage on fresh items, it will be my responsibility to work hard to create a more sustainable future if I am elected.

Bentley Park is home. Division 2 is my community. I look forward to listening and learning from residents over the next few weeks of door-knocking and community involvement. I will be taking those ideas and that vision into Council with me if I am lucky enough to be chosen to represent my community.

Thank you."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sustainable.......much more than just a buzzword.

I have been very fortunate over the past few months as a recognised Candidate for the next Regional Council elections to have had many very interesting and enlightening conversations with people I might otherwise have not met, or not had the opportunity to converse with.

There are many things that people choose to bring to my attention and several of those I have followed up on or noted down in the hope that win or lose, I may have an opportunity to affect a better outcome on those particular issues. There are a few things that keep cropping up though that require a much broader scope in which to make lasting changes.

I am a huge fan of encouraging grocers and market stalls to display food mileage on their produce. Not individually, just a simple sign on each food bin that indicates where the fruit and veg has come from and how far it travelled to get there. Many consumers will still decide on the imported or interstate produce when taking account of costs but others would prefer to make an informed choice for their basket or trolley. There are several other environmentally or locally based initiatives I am interested in exploring as well and this is the reason for my post.

It is very apparent that many within the community would like to make some changes, both small and large, to reduce their footprint on their surrounding environment. The options are now readily available to do just that and there are sound bytes everywhere proclaiming that the future look, feel and direction for our region must be sustainable. Sustainable economics, sustainable growth, sustainable consumption and sustainable building and development. Sounds great! But what does it really mean and how can it be achieved? Perhaps even more importantly, how does it sit with residents?

The most common misconception with this word is that it somehow belongs to a fringe, radical group who are all vegan, long-haired and wear sandals. It is creeping into conversation in all sectors now but it remains true that it is still seen as slightly extreme which is very unfortunate. Speak to anyone who works hard in the arena of sustainable native animal populations. They will tell you how difficult it is to get the attention of newspapers or radio when there is a crisis that needs better management. Speak to anyone in the RealFood Network and they will say the same. The numbers are growing but it still remains a very difficult prospect to garner mainstream attention.

Of course this isn't helped by the few who are wildly passionate about the cause. Those who want it all, now! It's a wonderful thought to imagine us living in sustainable, solar run houses, eating food from the garden or the front gate from farms, composting, worm farming, caring for native wildlife, no longer buying any 'throwaway' consumer goods or trinkets......... Well, it isn't realistic. Not yet. Maybe we will eventually get to the point where our consumer driven society is no longer impressed with the latest gadget or the newest 'in' thing, but for now, we all need to work harder to get the message out that this change that we have to make (our environment is telling us that we need to rearrange our priorities) can happen, and will happen, if we all just START the process.

People understandably baulk at the idea that their whole world will be flipped upside down (at this point metaphorically) and there really does need to be a better approach to creating a sustainable community. The first thing that needs to happen is it needs to become a mainstream idea. It needs to be recognised that some will grow food in their gardens, add a compost heap and have solar power......but still want to own the prettiest smartphone on the market. Some will happily read the labels on food items to ensure their children are raised preservative and artificially coloured free, but they will still proudly drive a Prado as the family car. Developers may choose to build a unit development out of recycled materials and fill it's walls with louvres to negate the need for air-conditioning.......but install them anyway, along with dryers, for the two or three weeks a year the residents may use them. Small, local businesses may form a working group of their own to pool resources for effective marketing and problem solving, but still employ more casual juniors than full time staff.

Sustainability. In order to work it needs to be a choice. It needs to be presented as a logical, cost effective option which does not come with strings attached or any higher expectations. It needs to be applauded but not segregated and it needs to be accessible.

Long term, sustainable, lasting.......the meanings are very similar. This is NOT a 'buzzword' and should not be treated as such. It's the only way our community will flourish, long after we are no longer around to see it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The True Spirit Of Cyclone Yasi.

Last night I went to the launch of a new book, made and collated in our own backyard (well, in Townsville, but I'm claiming it for us too) titled The True Spirit of Cyclone Yasi. This book is a collection of stories from various contributors all the way up and down the Queensland Coast.

The launch was great. The SES the recipients of door takings on the night and a huge presence of political beings indicating the respect that a project like this has in our region (notwithstanding the fact that it is election time). Bernadette Lawson, who was behind this book along with her husband Craig, made the trip north from Townsville and along with Lisa Robbie and Mayor Val Schier officially launched the book.

Most of those present had a personal experience with the storm last year and many had in some way helped to get residents through the day of destruction and the weeks which followed. From those informing and communicating via radio and print and photographic media, to the heroic acts of our SES and those who helped in the Community Relief Centres and Disaster Co-ordination Centres across the affected area.

The multitude of small acts which changed lives and the monster effort put in by some which changed the future for entire communities cannot be under-estimated. While the launch was indeed a fantastic event and a great opportunity to pay tribute to a few, it was the stories within the book that I was most anxious to take a look at.

Please note: this is NOT a book that you can 'take a look at'. It's a book you need to sit down with and read in it's entirety. It is a book that allows you to take a breather every now and then to regroup and clear your head. This is a book which you will visit again and again as the years unfold and Yasi becomes a memory from the distant past.

I read it, every single word on every single page. These words are not perfect. These words are not flowery. These words are not filled with the prose of perfect literature. That's why it's so easy to read and so very evocative. These are the words of those who lived through a terrifying experience. Some from afar with family caught up in the middle. Some from nearby as they waited to see where they would be deployed when the clean-up efforts began. Some from the very centre of the cyclone, who ran from their homes during the eye and somehow, extraordinarily, survived.

Some of these stories latch on to your imagination and take you on an horrific journey. The story from Tracey Dunlop, of her night spent bunkered down with her mum and Grandparents and at one point ending up in her car while riding out the gusts and gales. Her story is a heartbreaking one of loss, yet at the end she tells of the happiness her Grandmother feels now, making a new home for herself in her re-built house on the beach.

The stories by the Porter family of Tully are also inspiring, heartbreaking and somehow empowering. The courage shown in the telling of the story there for the reader to see.

The many stories by those who helped re-build the small communities affected so badly by the wind, the rain and the storm surges remind me again of the generosity of so many in the weeks following Yasi. The images provoked by the explanation of what a 'green ant dance' is as told by Bree from the SES volunteers. In my minds eye, I saw her charging in to chainsaw part of a tree for a few seconds, rushing away to do the jig which would rid her of the pesky, biting ants, then rushing back in to take another swipe at the tree.

Lisa'a story at the end of the book, of the recovery efforts and her large part in the coordination of that made me remember the times we at work baked for hours and two wonderful ladies (Mel and Corine) came by to pick up our cakes and deliver them to the hardest hit areas in and around Tully. Not exactly a huge effort, but reading Lisa'a story made me very glad we had done it.

This book is perfect. It is exactly how it should have been and exactly what we needed. A book of incredible stories from ordinary people who turned out to be far from ordinary when the need to act, be strong or to just survive was there.

The other thing this book does is remind you of your own Yasi story. We all have one. It's one of those 'Where were you when....' scenarios. It should never be forgotten and we must now remember that so many people were affected, so many still need our help and so many are still feeling the emotional toll of this event.

The book is $30 and worth every penny. 10% of all proceeds will go directly back into the areas worst hit, from Innisfail to Townsville. The True Spirit of Yasi is available from Sheds One 4041 3303, Compound 4051 3616 or the Westpac on Lake st are also selling them. Or you can call Lisa directly on 0402 210 330. Buy it. You will be glad you did.

After reminiscing all day after reading this wonderful collection of stories, I have chosen to re-post my poem that I wrote on my way home, a few short days after Yasi had been to Far North Queensland.

The Dall'Osto family went on a trip,

And they couldn't have been more ill-equipped,

In terms of clothing, food and with very little wealth.

They packed a few belongings,

But still had to go shopping,

For the mother forgot to pack clothes for herself.

Rocky saved our sanity,

Thank God they don't insist on vanity,

The van park full of those who got away.

They came from far and wide,

And drove all night to get inside,

Some queued up but there was no room left to stay.

Cyclone Yasi was a big one,

And we knew it would be no fun,

To hang around and listen to it's roar.

So we all holed up together,

And stayed tuned to the weather,

Some were praying as she came closer to the shore.

We might have been well out of reach,

But even in Rocky she let out a screech,

And we held our breath as Yasi let out hers.

She crossed the coast with much ado,

Flung tin and banana's as she went through,

Her name became the locals favourite curse.

We waited and we watched ,

As she made her way across,

Hoping houses were all she would destroy.

After several very long hours,

We learnt what happened to ours,

And the cat we left behind - that poor boy.

Turns out we were one of those she missed,

And most of Cairns was on that list,

But others didn't fare so well we found.

All the way from Ayr,

There were signs that she'd been there,

And debris was scattered all over the ground.

Entire towns were flattened,

Some were bruised and some were battered,

But all our prayers were answered by that storm.

For while she puffed with all her might,

And she stayed for half the night,

Only one young soul wouldn't live to see the dawn.

The pictures that came through,

When the day was shiny new,

Broke our hearts with the devastation that was shown.

All those places we know well,

Had gone through some kind of hell,

This was the biggest ever cyclone that they'd known.

Now we are here just one week later,

Seeing the mess left by Mother Nature,

The people standing strong and side by side.

As they all join in together,

And things start to look better,

The people here won't run, nor will they hide.

In this place where all their homes are,

Yasi has left some awful scars,

And sometimes the job ahead must seem too tough.

The residents are covered in mud and grit,

And they haven't lost heart, or hope, or wit,

But they'll need help from us all cos things are rough.

We need to give all that we can,

Be it cash or food or hands,

It's a monumental task from what I saw.

Buy bananas, buy good steak,

Right from the farmer's gate,

Together, let's make things even better than before!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Ruddspillard saga........

Well, who would have thought it, KRudd fights back!

Almost two years on and he has finally decided that enough is enough and wants his old job back. Oh, we knew this day would come. We all saw the writing on the wall from the moment that Kevin was given the job as Foreign Minister.

What we didn't see coming was the completely orchestrated manoeuvring happening via our media and the frankly appalling come-backs from the Gillard camp. It's the biggest train wreck we've ever had to watch, in slow motion replay.

I'm a talker by nature. I do it well and do it often. Verbally and written, I have had the same conversation with people all over the region on this disaster and the future of the Government. There is no point being a talker if you aren't also an active listener. In that, I am constantly improving but here's what I have learnt so far.

The general population prefers Rudd but won't commit to actually voting for him and nobody except ALP members themselves even like Gillard. ALP members are overwhelmingly in support of Gillard. I assume that is because she has actually done a pretty good job at balancing the requirements of a hung parliament (something that Gillard supporters are positive Rudd could not do).

While door-knocking and participating in street stalls at shopping centres people can't wait to tell you their views. I have no idea how they usually vote, but most of them voted for Kevin. All of them have a strong distaste for Julia. People can argue as much as they like about what is best for the ALP but the reality is, if only ALP members voted for either of the two involved in this, they would lose the election next year.

Social media has become a hive of activity on this topic, with the following some of my favourites so far:

On Facebook:

Dear Mr Rudd,

Mr Rudd I think you need to be reminded that there was no midnight coup. You were challenged to put the leadership to the vote and you didn't.

Instead, after walking away from the ETS, you let down all of your supporters once again and resigned rather than put up a fight that you had a better chance of winning back then than you do now.

You were then given the foreign ministers job rather than shoved on the back bench and you've done a brilliant job representing our great country.

But behind the scenes' your leaks and secret conversations with the media and sabotaging the 2010 election was nothing short of treason.

You go on about faceless men, yet you tell your media friends that you will disclose information as long as they guarantee your anonimity and then claim you know nothing!!!
Who's really the liar then Kevin?
Who's really the faceless man behind the Labor Party?

Its natural to be angry, hurt and upset when you were put in that position. But you stayed on as part of the team and yet you were hell bent on destabilising it to the point where we stand a very good chance of having Tony Abbott as PM.
He has a lot to thank you for at the moment Mr. Rudd. Well done.
LNP cannot ask for a better opportunity- but where are they? The best Julie Bishop can muster is to point out that Australia prefers dysfunctional and backstabbing labor pm's to giving mr no policy Abbot a crack at the big chair.
whilst the rest of Australia is wondering who's gunna be prime minister who wants to join me in toppling the government and opposition and running the country our selves.
Hmm who to pick, Australia's worst ever Prime Minister or the man she knifed to take the title........ Of the worst ever Prime Minister.
I am hoping Ruddy slips back into power. Julia is not good in anyway for our business or our industry. Infact we have hoped from her first moment in power that it was time for her to leave!

On Twitter:

I don't believe Kevin Rudd is the son of Satan, but I DO believe he is the son of a Lego figurine and a blank A4 sheet of paper.
. @Therese_Rein owes every electorate officer in this country a present. If you are ringing your MP, make sure you ring federel, not state.
Rudd says he is not Captain Perfect. Anthony Albanese stops memorising "Oh Captain, My Captain" speech from Dead Poet's Society...
Gillard says it is not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother. Although at this stage I might vote for Warwick Capper's penis...
Julia Gillard says Monday's #respill "is not Celebrity Big Brother", presumably because people will be watching it.
And there you have it. A small snippet of interaction regarding this weeks political upheaval.

Is Kevin one of the 'faceless men'? Is this a long term plan that he began in 2010?

Is Julia good for this country and the ALP? Are the comments made recently by her supporters and herself doing her campaign to keep her job any favours?

Frankly, I don't care.

Just fix it. On Monday, whatever the outcome, move on and do what you are paid to do. The voters chose both of you at different times, pull your heads in and think of them before your own ambitions and ego's threaten to cause a complete meltdown of our Federal Government.

Both have promised that Monday will be the end of it. Both have agreed to move to the backbench and never challenge again if they should lose the ballot.

That promise is one which everyone is hoping they adhere to, regardless of the political views they hold.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The true value of a dollar.

After watching the news this week and following it up with an excellent documentary on the rise and rise of the Tea Party in the US I have come to realise that there is more going on worldwide than a simple need for change.

With record debt in most countries (thankfully not ours....yet) and the plight of third world countries still front of mind and very much in need of attention, there is only one logical answer. And it's one which will never, ever happen.

What is not yet being recognised is the fact that austerity measures are in general terms, unworkable. Hiking taxes unpopular and unaffordable but in some cases necessary. Squeezing the few extra cents from the population while houses are foreclosing in record numbers, also unworkable.

This entire situation, worldwide, is a recipe for disaster. It is already showing it's cracks in the many riots and vocal and occasionally violent protests. The rise of the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party are seemingly polar opposites but actually based on the same initial problems, just directed to different methodology and with vastly different rhetoric.

The solution is obvious, and as mentioned before, impossible.

Wipe all debt. From every country in the world. Give each country a zero balance and allow them to start from scratch. Essentially, reset the system.

(I told you it was impossible)

After decades of misuse, the Governments in charge of almost every nation now have to deal with a problem not of their own making. They have to make seriously unpopular decisions and essentially force an entire population into accepting second rate services, loss of essential healthcare and education options. They are placing the people in situations where they are forced to choose between food and clothing just to recoup some of the losses from previous Governments.

In every news article and every economic outlook paper, the problems with European debt and American debt are deemed to be long term (perhaps decades) and some have even indicated bankruptcy or default is inevitable. No wonder the people are rioting.

This is also creating a situation where each elected official is seen to be the cause of this, rather than part of the solution. What that means is that a strong dislike, even hatred, of those in charge will have the logical conclusion of creating a revolving door for politicians. No continuity there. That means more rules, more regulations, more cost cutting measures......all ineffective in the face of such massive debt.

Chaos. And it's all based on one thing. Money. The value of the dollar. Even that is subjective as depending on which country you are in the value of a dollar is vastly different.

In my dreams there is a reset button. A void for debt that in extreme cases can be activated. Placing every country on an equal footing, needing to look after it's own citizens without having to pander to the needs and wants of another. Where proper management of taxes is able to build the very best in hospital care, education centres and all other essential services. Where the dream of owning your own home can actually come true in your lifetime and your income will help pay for those services mentioned but there is also enough left over to pay for your house, transport costs, good quality food and the necessary amount of clothing.

But this is reality. In reality the situation is escalating. It will be no surprise to me if civil war breaks out in countries where war is a distant memory. It will not surprise me if we need to remember the name of the new Presidents, Prime Ministers and other leaders on a regular basis. This world is on the brink of financial war. There is no obvious solution. And it's all about the dollar.

This is all made more obscene by the news of record profits for the banks, news that mining magnates are now able to purchase our news and entertainment services and news that the richest people in the world are paying the least amount of tax. It's obscene. Gross even. I guess some people have spent their lives knowing the absolute power of a dollar, not just it's market value.

I can't fix it. You can't fix it either. What you and I can do though, is make sure we understand just how much every dollar we make and use is really worth. Spend it wisely. Spend it locally. Spend it on products and services which do good things for humanity, not detrimental things. Give some away as often as possible but again, do it wisely. Don't wave it in front of your neighbour when they have none. Shout someone a coffee just because you can. Let them shout you if they can. And no matter what, never let the value of your dollar become the most important thing in your life.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Communication, collaboration, commitment.

A great deal of discussion in the community is centred around what is important to each individual in order for them to be happy with their representatives. This includes, Councillors, State MP's, Federal MP's and even our community organisations such as schools and welfare groups.

I would be really interested to know what skills and attributes are important to you but even more importantly, HOW you would like your representatives to behave.

Personally, I want three things.....communication, collaboration and commitment.

Take the Council as an example. It gets somewhat irritating when a person who stands before you claiming to represent your future options is not asking first what it is that is most important to you. Even having the opportunity to be part of a consultation process is unsatisfactory as quite often we are presented with a limited range of options to choose from. This does the opposite of making the process inclusive as it turns the whole thing into a myopic issue by dictating which way to go and not allowing dissent from the narrow path we are all urged to follow.

Part of the problem is the initial communication. There is nothing wrong with utilising those who are trained and have studied the issue in consultation with the Councillors who are representing their community. Council Officers have a very important role in this and in order for them to be effective they must educate all Councillors in the same way. At the moment they are seen as the 'faceless men' of Council (although quite a few are women) because they are dictating to the Councillors rather than advising them. Part of the reason for that is possibly the opinion that they know the particular issue better so it's easier to go with the flow.

Some Councillors get the next part right but many are not even trying.

Once the advice has been given, the Councillor then has a responsibility to go into the community of their own Division and collaborate. Hold a few different meetings with interested citizens at differing times so that more people have the opportunity to be involved. Let them know the advice given and then ask them all their opinions. Ensure you invite parties that have a vested interest in the outcome. Basically, workshop the idea and create a final plan. This process is the most important as it requires direct input and discussion which is the most ideal way to get a result that the bulk of the community will be happy with.

Finally, commit to it. Take that final option to Council office and complete the collaboration process with the other Councillors....all of them. Stay true to the primary goal but remind yourself what your community wants and commit to getting as much of that as possible from the outcome.

If the final result errs from the community goal, get your butt back out there and explain why. Sometimes it's a simple explanation that will be understood by the majority but keeping them in the dark will create conjecture and a ballooning sense of failure which is what currently exists in the community.

Following the above methods, there would be little need for ongoing community consultation in Council chambers, online and via The Cairns Post, all of which have been proven a failure. The money saved would go directly to the community in basic services provided by Council as these things are what we all want improved.

Is this even possible? Yes. The community is not impressed with the current situation where plans and designs seem to suddenly appear, without local input and collaboration. That's actually a fallacy in part, as the consultation process is always there. It's just not effective. It doesn't reach the majority.

An even better question would be....Do locals even WANT the opportunity to take part in decision making? The answer is both...yes, and no. Plenty of residents are happy with the situation where input is not required of them and decisions are made on their behalf. Those residents deserve a representative who reflects most closely what their ideas might entail. Alternatively, there are certainly lots of residents who do want more of a say. Who desire information and deserve the opportunity to have their say.

I attend many community events on a regular basis, particularly those which occur in my own backyard (obviously not literally). At these events there is a strong community based organisation presence. Mission Australia, ARC Disabilities, Lifeline, Autism Qld, Community Health organisations, Parenting magazines....just to name a few. Isn't it time that Council considered itself as more of a community organisation? Yes, it's a business. Yes, it is one of our tiers of Government. But surely it's primary job is to work in the best interests of the people in our region. In the same way the other organisations mentioned do.

Isn't it time that the community were approached, listened to, and informed?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Independence.....what it means to me.

The Council elections are heating up....already! Over the past few weeks there has been much talk on the Independent versus Team debate and further talk regarding what actually makes an Independent. There is also much conversation referring to campaign funds and the specifics on where they come from.

There are obvious pros and cons for both initial options and the reasons for Candidates choosing which way they will go are unique and individual. I cannot speak for a single other candidate and refuse to enter into debate about the opponents in my own Division regarding their choices and their funding. I am not them.

What I will do though, is use this forum as a tool to explain my own choices and to give those interested a firm understanding of why I made them. Generally, this blog is for interests outside my own front door and I frankly prefer to extend my view outward rather than inward. In this instance I will turn the microscope onto myself in an effort to halt any ill-conceived notions that may exist out there.

It is common knowledge that I am running my Campaign as an Independent. So, what does that mean? Am I a member of a political party?

Those who read this blog regularly will know that yes, I am. I am a member of the ALP. During State elections held later this year, I will be voting for Curtis Pitt. Frankly, if I was not a member of the party I'd still be voting for Curtis as I believe he is doing his job extremely well and the community has benefited from his work.

Federally, there have been instances where I have been very disappointed in decisions made. However, I choose to remain part of the party and work from within to remind people of the core values of the ALP.

And that is where my affiliation with the ALP becomes relevant to this conversation. I joined the Labor Party because of it's core principles. The ALP should stand up for the worker and their rights, offer small business support, work for social equality and inclusion and community building through infrastructure and supportive services. All things I am known for being passionate about. It's these principles which I will be taking with me in the role of Councillor.

So, why did I choose not to run as part of a team?

For me, there were a few reasons for that. One was my firm belief that Council should always remain independent of party politics. My principles will remain as they are, with or without party membership, but there is no place in Council Chambers for ALP policy.

Council is the first tier of Government. It is the most accessible and the most connected with the community we live in. That being the case, it should directly reflect the views of the community, not just the person that they elected.

Secondly, I chose independence because I wish to retain the right to think and act independently, according to what the needs are of this community. In this case, running as part of a 'mixed' team was also not an option for me. A mixed team is usually made up primarily of one particular political leaning...right or left....with the odd member who gives the team the ability to reject the idea that they are politically affiliated with each other.

My personal opinion on this idea, is that it is misleading and is far too engineered.

I'm all for collaboration and there are many candidates who have announced they are running who I believe share my values and principles, but aligning myself with people I do not share those ideals with would essentially be a lie. Making decisions primarily on the basis of securing a win is no longer a viable option.

People are smarter than that. They will look at their Candidates with a discerning eye and judge them based on who they are, what they stand for and how well they believe they will represent them in the job. Collaboration with the community should always be the first step (and is the most important) for any representative.

That makes honesty paramount. I could not do something during the course of this campaign that did not sit right with me or my community. If elected, I will continue to make decisions which sit right for those I represent.

That is the basis of my decision to run as an Independent. Because that is exactly what I will be. An independent thinker, with the needs of my Division and the wider community the first concern, at all times.

I've mentioned many times that collaboration is key to a successful Council. It's true. This is why I would hope that all those who vote take that into account. Choose those you believe have the ability to collaborate. But even more importantly, those who share ideals and views with YOU. The voter. Because ultimately, if you choose representatives who are in a team based only on that idea, you may well end up with representatives who are making decisions that you do not want them to make.

As for funding of a campaign. I'm not sure how many of you know how expensive running a campaign can get. For me, the corflutes, flyers, business cards and calling cards have already cost quite a bit. There is still more to do, and more money to part with, before March rolls around. Some are lucky enough to have savings set aside for this purpose. They are therefore able to fully fund their own campaign. That's fantastic. It's always preferable to be able to do that.

I do not have that luxury. Like many others living in this area, I live in a household with three small children, household expenses, vehicle expenses and a mortgage. I have only accepted donations for my campaign from friends and family and all have given small amounts. I will continue to accept donations from those who wish to support me but will absolutely NOT be taking any money from developers or from businesses. It is heartening that many wish to help out in some way toward my campaign and the offers of assistance have so far ranged from letter folding, door-knocking and leaflet delivery, to offering to hand out How To Vote Cards and donating $50 to purchases of t-shirts.

All of these people have been encouraging of my efforts and I believe they have contributed for the right reasons. If you live in a Division with a Candidate who is going it alone and you believe they will represent you well if elected, I urge you to contact them and offer your support. It's a long, tough road, which can be made easier by knowing that the community has your support.

Ok. That's me and my campaign in a nutshell. I'm sure there are more questions I will need to answer as time goes by and I will endeavour to do that outside of this forum. In direct conversation or via alternate media. In this case, the answer being a detailed one, I felt that this option was more suitable.

Thank you to all those who have offered support and guidance over the past few months. Your assistance has been invaluable. I look forward to continuing to campaign with all of you right beside me and hope that all of your hard work pays off with good results on election night.