Sunday, March 31, 2013

There is always drama when high school is involved.

Having an 11 year old girl going on 12 is hard. No, not because she is going through puberty. That parts the easy stuff. Mood swings including active defiance, sadness, stubbornness and superiority are nothing new to this household. And frankly the five year old is better at it!

No. What makes this age so difficult is a change in circumstances which is still months away but is already needing review and consideration. Yes, my darling daughter is heading to high school.

Next February may seem like a long way away, particularly in light of the simple fact that it IS. However, upon investigation, it seems that high schools require locking in and filling forms much sooner than I imagined.

My mission to find the 'perfect' high school for a quirky, clever kid has been eye-opening and fraught with angst. My angst. The first step was to call every high school in the vicinity, and then a few further away. One is Catholic, the others all State schools.

Most of the phone conversations went well. In one instance I was actually transferred to the curriculum advisor....who told me to try another school. At least she was honest! Another was most put out when I asked for the prospectus and enrolment forms to be sent to me and after stumbling for a good while over my O....s....t...o, agreed to post it straight out.

One week later. There I sat, surrounded by glossy covers and forms as complicated as my surname, trying to decipher the information and facts from the waffle and choose what will become the launching pad for my daughters future.

The first one mentioned Art, Sport, Cookery, Choir, Music and the basics....English, Maths and Science. This one I carefully placed on the bottom of the pile as it was uninspiring and had very little to offer in terms of diversity of education or creative thinking. Catholic School....out.

Next came one with a high gloss cover and a 10 page introduction to what many consider the best school in the region. A school which places value on it's 'Tradition of Success' is one worth noting. 44 subject choices for years 11 and 12 and in Junior High School, 8 in the Arts. So far so good. The specialist facilities boast such things as a Performing Arts complex, Recording Studio, 9 science laboratories, Sporting complex and others. Although it was possibly unnecessary to include the sick bay in it's list, it certainly sounds impressive. The school even boasts Yoga Meditation as a co-curricular activity.

Right, sounds great. So, how do we apply? Well, after your child writes an essay on why the school should accept them and you provide any and all awards they may have received, the only thing left is a simple two page application form. We don't live in the catchment so we need to apply for what is referred to as SELECTED ENTRY.

There are four categories here; 1) Academic. This must include report cards (2), photocopies of academic achievements and indicate interest in the International Baccalaureate program. (yes, it's Cairns High). 2) Visual/Performing Arts. This requires relevant qualifications and/or achievements in one of four areas. These students are required to attend an interview as well, in April. 3) Sporting. This one requires verification of achievements and it is noted that District Representation is the minimum level needed. The last category is General. This is for students applying on the basis of Leadership, Community involvement or inability to enrol elsewhere.

Good grief! This is high school? Still, with applications closing last Thursday (yes, last Thursday), I ensured all details were complete and off went the Application. We are not holding our breath however and with years 11 and 12 costing well over 2'000 per year, this is an example of a public school which is not accessible to all.

Then I came to the last one received so far. Two others are on the way but will not be available till mid year. Trinity Bay State High School. My old stomping grounds. Well to be more accurate, it was the place I was stomped on.......repeatedly. At this point I should probably confess I HATED high school. With a passion. I was ridiculed, harassed and left bloodied and bruised and never felt comfortable in my skin. It was the most horrific of times and left me with permanent scars.

On the plus side, I had three notable teachers at that school. As a teenager who felt so very alone, good teachers became my refuge. I was clever and obstinate and quite enjoyed correcting teachers, much like my daughter and possibly a good part of the reason I never fit in. Of the three teachers I admired, one is now the Principal of the school and as much as I was initially determined not to consider the school, here I sit with it's forms in my hands.

Nice matt finish and a simple but clever tri-fold design means it's easy reading and well set out. One segment features two glaring grammatical errors and I thought to myself......Really? On a prospectus? For a school? ....and then I moved on.

Excellence is written into no less than four of it's numerous titles. This school claims to have a Tradition of Excellence, Academic Excellence, Visual Arts Excellence and is a place where excellence is nurtured. Excellent!

It has a 1:1 student to computer ratio which is better than the alternate schools. It boasts a Centre for Artistic Development (or CAD program) which was implemented while I was there and has grown and now thrives. There is a planetarium, an astronomy room, Science Academy, Visual Arts Centre, Sporting Development and Gifted and Talented programs.

All sounds fantastic as a parent but the thing which impressed me most was something missing from the other two.

In bold type, this school boasts it is a place where community is valued. This school has won a national award for it's anti-bullying program; Speakup, Speakout. They value respect, friendship, kindness and happy students.

THESE are the marks of a good school. Quality education includes personal development and a commitment to providing the best academic, sporting, creative AND well adjusted member of the community possible. This is what was missing during my years there. And this is the reason we are hoping our enrolment forms will be accepted.

High school is not a simple choice any more. Each one specialises and offers different degrees of achievements, with focus on alternate areas. How many children aged 11 or 12 really know who they are or what they want from life? Not too many I would guess. Possibly the best piece of advice she has received so far came from a teacher who said it doesn't really matter much where you spend years 8. 9 or 10, it's years 11 and 12 that count and you can always change schools.

When asked what she wants to do as an adult, she says animator. It will be interesting as a parent to see if that changes or stays constant through the next few years. She was the child who as a 5 year old dressed in an outfit depicting her future career as an entomologist, I can't wait to see what happens next.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Popularity or policy?

In international news Australians are already a laughing stock. The state of our economy is the number one reason for the giggles they are having at our expense. Apparently we are the envy of the world and we are too stupid to realise it. Some commentators are wondering how we could possibly be considering voting for a man and a Party which will, for the first time in history, repeal every major legislative change made by the current Government.

What that means in real terms is that it will seem as if the years since Howard did not happen at all. It will cost substantial amounts of tax payer funds to repeal these numerous bills. Strangely, people have embraced the idea, without having any inkling whatsoever as to what the alternative will be. That a Party can put itself in a winnable position without announcing policy and only announce what will be stripped away, is intriguing and at odds with reason.

Ask people what they think about the potential to lose their School Kids Bonus. "Yes, it's going to be disappointing to lose that. But there's not much we can do about it is there." Umm.......yes there is. Don't vote LNP!

Ask them about Gonski. "It's going to cost money though and it's not really worth it anyway." Who said that? Did the Government? No......the LNP did, and they believe them.

What about the NBN? "My internet works ok. Do we really need to compete with other countries? I think we should concentrate on ourselves first before we worry about everyone else." No mention of the benefits for rural Australia or the burgeoning IT industry or the health sector. Why? Because the LNP never mentions them.

An interesting situation where it is not so much a battle for Labor to get the message out as it is seemingly impossible.

Today Abbott trotted out his two daughters to remind us all he is human and not an unfeeling robot (something that Gillard is accused of regularly). They mentioned his skills as a parent and his support of them as they pursue careers and lives as independent women. Fantastic stuff! Brilliant human aspect of a man who will presumably be our PM. No obvious stunt there at all!

As with all news items on politics, I took some time to read the comments below both news source's articles. There were the usual "Really? This is news?" and "FAIL" comments from those who have better things to worry about than the parenting skills of a politician. Then there were these......

"Bravo girls. Finally the truth is out there. Abbott is a fine upstanding citizen who will be a great leader of our country. Much better than the childless, atheist ranga currently lying her way through the job."

"How lovely to see a picture of a man who has raised two beautiful women rather than the barren witch who is so out of touch."

"The love that Abbott's family show for him is a marked contrast to the inept so called partner of the PM and her cheating past."

And on it went........comment after comment on the differences between the PM's family and Abbott's. The perception that his makes him relatable and more 'in touch with ordinary Australians' is an interesting observation.

It begs the question....Have we really evolved our ideas past traditional values and into the modern era?........It appears not.

The fact that Gillard was an immigrant with a loving supportive family who encouraged her to educate herself and become all she could be, despite adversity, appears lost on people. The fact that Abbott was born into a middle class family with opportunities presented to him which Gillard could only have dreamed of is also escaping peoples notice.

She may have no children and no 'husband' but she knows what it is like to struggle. She knows how it feels to fight for a good education. She knows how to dream big and work hard to make it happen. She is frankly inspirational.

Not many politicians can claim working class backgrounds. It's a fact. Most were born relatively privileged. Somehow, Abbott having children and a wife in the traditional family way, has given him claim to that which is patently untrue.......the ability to relate to ordinary Australians. I've no idea how an ordinary Australian is defined. I'm certainly not one, how boring. The term is thrown around by both major parties on a regular basis though so it must be important.

People (those ordinary Australians) are constantly lamenting the fact that politics has become a circus based on a popularity contest and the policy of the Party is what they should be judged on. It is said by the media, by the population and by other politicians. And it's a LIE.

If it were in fact the case, no one would care if the PM was childless. No one would care what Abbott's daughters thought of him. Most importantly though.......people would be concerned at the lack of policy produced by the LNP.

They couldn't care less actually. As long as their electricity bill goes down (which it won't because the Carbon Tax has only grown it by 3%. The rest is out of the hands of political interference and is here to stay, and continue rising, regardless of PM), the boats are turned back and a surplus is reached they'll be happy.

Education of our kids, caring for the disabled, mitigating climate damage, protecting the reef, increasing pensions, subsidies for child care workers......blah, blah, blah...... Irrelevant waffle. Not important and largely misunderstood.

A man who has gorgeous daughters that's worth voting for. God help them if either one decides to be PM one day.....

Friday, March 22, 2013

A study of contrasts.....

Taken from websites directly, without editing in any way. This is how the two major parties present themselves.

We Believe

In the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples; and we work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives; and maximises individual and private sector initiative.

In Government that nurtures and encourages its citizens through incentive, rather than putting limits on people through the punishing disincentives of burdensome taxes and the stifling structures of Labor's corporate state and bureaucratic red tape.

In the most basic freedoms of parliamentary democracy - the freedom of thought, worship, speech and association.

In a just and humane society in which the importance of the family and the role of law and justice is maintained.

In equal opportunity for all Australians; and the encouragement and facilitation of wealth so that all may enjoy the highest possible standards of living, health, education and social justice.

That, wherever possible, government should not compete with an efficient private sector, and that businesses and individuals - not government - are the true creators of wealth and employment.

In preserving Australia's natural beauty and the environment for future generations.

That our nation has a constructive role to play in maintaining world peace and democracy through alliance with other free nations.

Liberal view states several times the need for Government to ease back and the private sector to be given all opportunity for wealth creation. Does this reiterate the rumblings regarding public service slashings and privatisation? Certainly seems that way. Note also that they have mentioned Labor in quite scathing tones. Perhaps unnecessary to state that a Liberal must by default abhor Labor. Is it just me or is it bothersome that freedom to worship is ahead of speech? Perhaps they are not in order of importance and it is just a case of reading too much into that section.. I do like the last two however. Environmental protection and world peace are very important and lofty goals. Slashing world aid and abolishing the climate change legislation are against their core beliefs as it turns out.

We believe in:

● giving all Australians the opportunity to achieve their potential and contribute to their community and national life
● empowering all Australians to shape their own lives for the better
● making available the dignity and benefits of work to all those Australians who can participate
● providing the best education, from cradle to grave, where background is no barrier to achievement
● supporting family life and improving living standards and quality of life
● rewarding the effort of hard work and supporting people to enter, re-enter and progress in the workforce.
● providing access to employment, education, housing, health care, a strong social safety net, information technology, culture and recreation, and legal rights
● building an economy which provides sustained economic growth and opportunity, decoupled from the growth of emissions and environmental damage.

Labor view. No mention of Liberals. No mention of private sector OR public sector. Just people, and communities and living well. Education rates a mention here and is deemed important enough to have it's own statement. Lots of mentions for work and working but not in terms of wealth. No mention either of freedoms which is interesting or perhaps they consider that a given being that we live in a democracy which has no freedom of speech laws.

Take what you will from either of these. I found them interesting and a study of contrasts. Hopefully you find the same.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Who's been paying attention?

Let's talk Labor. Have you heard that they have 'gone off track'? Perhaps you are inclined to think they have 'moved away from their core values' or maybe even that they have become a bit of a disorganised circus? Really?

Let's start in 2010. One week of scrambling following the election from both sides and a hung parliament ensures that the PM has told her first (and as far as I can tell, only) lie. Ok. Let's call her Juliar. Why not. It's catchy. And a lie was told. We all saw it, we all heard it. In fact, we've seen and heard it so many times we could all probably recall her outfit and the date at the time. Yes, she also said that there would be a price on carbon. But that's irrelevant. She lied!

Then, before the eyes of the Labor faithful, the Federal Government passed laws allowing uranium to be sent to India, tried valiantly to 'Stop the BOATS!' and refused to consider legalising same sex marriage. OOPS! There goes Labor. The brand is tarnished. Mass exodus and turning up of noses, followed by months of inner turmoil, leaks and leadership speculation and nothing changed.......or did it?

The leadership is fairly obviously secure. At this point, it is Julia Gillard leading Labor to the election and that is highly unlikely to change.

There is no infighting. Each ALP member of Parliament, including those supposedly after the top job, have come out and reiterated their support for the PM and have kept a dogged determination to stick to policy goals.

The ALP is focussing on the big issues. NDIS, NBN, Carbon Tax, Mining Tax and Gonski reform. Those are all designed to benefit society, benefit the disadvantaged and give everyone in the country a 'fair go'.

I admit to finding it slightly ironic that Labor have excelled at economics yet that is what they are most derided for. Did they spend big? Yes they did. Did it avert a national recession? Why yes, I do believe it did. Now, after the spending is over are they fighting hard to get the surplus back? Indeed it does seem the case.

Here we have a Government which is implementing major legislation to aid those with a disability.

A Government reforming education to help ensure all children have equal opportunity to excel.

A Government which is fighting against the biggest dilemma of a generation, climate change, and is now being mirrored internationally.

A Government which is creating an internet based network which will transform the lives of those in rural and remote areas while allowing education, health and employment an easier ride all over the country.

A Government working hard to create a fair go for all Australians.

Labor have listened, they are paying attention. While the rest of us were not noticing, they returned to their core values.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How to win over a population - without doing anything useful.

The Federal election is still 7 months away and a lot can happen between now and September but perhaps it's a good time to reflect on the past few years and what has gone so terribly wrong for the Government. And it's not even Labor's fault! Or Julia Gillard's for that matter.

Let's focus for a minute on policy. Somehow in the process of juggling a balancing act, Labor, with the help of the Green's and Independents, have passed more legislation and bills than Howard did in his entire political career. Big items such as the Carbon Pricing, Mining Tax, the continuation of the NBN have also occurred but many others pass through Parliament daily and nobody notices. That's because the very act of Governance requires it. Ergo, they are Governing.

Australia is in a better position financially than any other country, is more respected on the world stage than at any time in recent history, and didn't have to sell assets like Telstra to do it.

On the surface, this country is being governed very well.

So, why is Labor failing?

Well, they aren't actually. Oh, plenty will blame Thompson, or Rudd, or the Greens, but the fact is, it's not the fault of any of them. All previous Governments have weathered scandals, infighting and public spats. No Government has been immune from it's own set of problems, but the problems rose quickly.....the PM of the day answered numerous questions on the issue......and they died down just as fast.

From the moment a deal was struck which created a shift in power to Labor but balanced precariously on a precipice, the Opposition began their assault. It's widely noted that the intense campaigning against Labor and Gillard occurs on a daily basis and in some circles it is denounced as an appalling act of treason (perhaps a bit harsh but the sentiment remains).

On the day of a new Parliament forming, the Opposition began placing itself as the echo of Parliament. Every time the PM opened her mouth, Abbott was there to do the same, immediately after. This means that his response is always printed, his Party's thoughts given credence and he ALWAYS has the last word. This is not normal operating procedure for Government.

In the past, the Government has had the job of explaining legislation and bills which pass through Parliament, not to get support, but to INFORM the general public. So, it stands to reason, if the information being passed to the media is immediately refuted as being poor or lacking judgement by the leader of the Opposition, it will have less impact and create a muddle in the minds of many. Muddy the message and it doesn't get through. Simple fact.

Labor have no control over this new phenomenon and the best they can do is repeat their message again and hope like hell that Abbott is not ready with his denigration in the next sound bite. It's very, very clever and is quite obviously working but it has a significant impact on the country as a whole, quite aside from the impact on Gillard's Government.

We are left now with a population who are ill-informed. Through no fault of their own. The message has been twisted so many times it is akin to a Government playing Chinese Whispers and the outcome is waffle which makes sense to no one. Small excerpts of sense make their way out but are few and far between and are generally missed because someone chose to wear glasses that day.

Taking the Opposition (or as someone kindly pointed out to me recently - the alternative Government) into consideration on merit alone let's take a look at what they have achieved for the significant part of the population which voted for them in 2010.

............... Oh dear. Precisely nothing. Frankly, if I had an inclination to vote Coalition, I'd be feeling pretty damned ripped off about now. How can they be considered an alternative Government if they have not been practising any governance? All Oppositions in the past have put their stamp on bills and legislation in some way, shape or form, ensuring that those who received their vote had a say. Even prior to this Parliament, Independents contributed to debate and added to the outcomes. Here we have a Party which achieved almost 50 percent of the vote and it has silenced them in Chambers. Unless it is derogatory, inflammatory or an outright 'NO', they have contributed zilch.

They had a unique set of circumstances this time around. With a hung Parliament they had the opportunity to inject a huge part of themselves into the daily workings of government but chose instead to concentrate all of their efforts on getting rid of Labor.

Admittedly, all Oppositions have a duty to tell the population why they are a better option. They have a duty to speak up in Parliamentary sittings if they object quite strongly to something being said or done. They do not however, have a duty to follow a Prime Minister around the country and the world, ensuring they have the last word. They do not have a duty to declare a government unfit at every minor stumble along the way. They do not have a duty to sit in very expensive chairs which the taxpayers fund....and do NOTHING.

They have become so effective at these 'skills' through practice and determination, that the media are now going along for the ride. They have them so convinced that Labor will lose it is frankly feeling like Abbott now has more say in this country than his superior. And no matter which side of the political spectrum you sit, that should not sit well with you.

The PM is in Western Sydney this weekend to talk to residents about the plan to tackle increasing crime in the area. Guess who popped in to say "Labor have a dismal record on crime?" Go on....take a guess. Oh yes, Abbott. With script in hand and smug grin, he fronted the media immediately following Gillard, and said precisely NOTHING. After his little speech, was anyone wiser as to what his plan would be? Ah, nope. Did he mention he even had one? Not as far as I could tell.

I bet it works though. Tomorrow's articles will have parts of her speech, followed by parts of his, and his will be what people remember. It seems they have a plan alright, and it consists of just one thing, WIN THE ELECTION! I suppose they will worry about actual governance later.....

Very, very clever. And quite insidious.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Park for Sale - but at what cost?

Cairns is growing. There is no real argument there. The speed with which it is expanding is fluctuating and is currently quite a bit slower than what was predicted just a few years a go but it is still on the increase. With growth comes development.

The new highway over-passes and extra lanes on the south side attest to that. When they began, we lost part of a mountain and Forest Gardens lost it's beautiful entrance. Both disheartening initially as they went with great speed and the impact was quite an eye-sore. That said, this is, in the long term, a good idea. The mountain is grassing up and will be green and lush in no time. The better road will increase traffic flow whilst making the drive into or out of the city a much safer one. With the population on the south the heaviest growth area, highways and bypass roads are required.

What is also required is our green space. With so much development and so many areas filling fast with new homes, the small patches of green are desperately needed.

Why? They help create communities. They encourage kids out of the house and onto bikes, kicking a soccer ball or playing on swings. They give room for families to gather, for bbq's to be fired up and for our community to meet.

This is especially important in areas of growth. Most of the residents in these pockets of suburbia are new. Most have never met the neighbours. Our green spaces, whether small or large, give room for a suburb to become a community. Older areas of the south side have some of the largest green spaces. Provided for the residents before open space became unpopular.

Is it necessary to fill these parks with professional sporting clubs and not-for-profit organisations? No. It is a useful thing to do and for many of our parks, an ideal use of the space. For plenty of others however, an informal area, with no goal posts or lighting, is just as important for those who are able to access them.

Last week, Cairns Regional Council voted to look further into the use of 7 such green spaces. Parklands on the southside, in Division 2 and Division 3. Cr Rob Pyne voted against the motion and I completely agree with his vote. This is why.....

In the report given to Councillors there was discussion regarding the parks being 'under-utilised'. In the context given, it was assumed that a park without a sporting club is a useless waste of space. Not-for-profit groups were indicated as another option for the parks in question and 5 were considered useful so long as one of the two options could be achieved.

Little Fretwell for example, was slatted for possible use as a sporting clubs 'home', as long as the club in question could pay for the upkeep of the park, thereby reducing the cost of maintenance. This includes upgrading the car park. Little Fretwell is predominantly used by skateboarders, for BMX riding and for it's small but useful basketball court. What it is really best for is what it is already used for and in an ideal world, those existing facilities would be upgraded and expanded to better fill the space.

Two of the parks however, had a very different report given. One was in White Rock, near the school, and it was suggested in the report that if no group could be found to utilise the park on a permanent basis, it should be offered to White Rock School for development as an expansion of their car park.

At no time should a perfectly good park, situated in the middle of a densely populated suburb, be considered as a future car park. That's just absurd.

The second was Down Park. A park in Edmonton, on the other side of the highway, near B&D Landscaping. This park was previously used as the gathering point for ANZAC Day marches, is currently housing a small hall which is utilised by several groups including the Seventh Day Adventist Church and Choi Kwon Do and is available to hire by members of the community. I have attended many events there, trivia nights, picked up billets from America who were staying a few days and am well aware it is constantly in use.

There are also tennis courts and a large playground on the park area. This park is very large. It is completely surrounded by old Queenslanders (the majority of which are two story) and it is used by residents every single day. They walk their dog's there, they play games, they kick a football and they socialise.

The report states that Council should allocate part of the park for sale to developers for housing. This would apparently then pay to upkeep the remainder and to upgrade it's facilities. On paper, the proposal doesn't sound too bad. Sell off a sliver and fix up what's left. Brilliant!

Here's where I have an issue. If we sell off green space, even a small sliver of it, where will it end? Would this set a precedent? Would our green spaces and parks be looked at for their financial value rather than their value to the community? Or even worse, is it already happening?

If you take a good look at the entire report and the motion itself, it certainly appears that way. In each instance where a park is seen as under-utilised, it's options for use are wrapped up in financial gain for Council. That is not acceptable.

Our parks are for our use, as homes get smaller and blocks of land shrink, they are becoming even more valuable to our community. We need to keep them, but more than that, we need to ensure they are maintained and are well looked after. They are the safe environments for our children to play. They are the spaces where we go to breathe deeply and forget the four walls at home or at work which are at times suffocating. They are the places we go to get exercise, and to give our animals a run.

Do NOT let our parks be sold off! Contact your local Councillor TODAY and let them know it is NOT ok! We are the people who live beside these parks. We are the ones who use them. We are the ones who should dictate what happens to them.

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?