Saturday, 31 December 2011

Censorship versus free speech's new comment policy is here

Saturday, December 31, 2011
© The Cairns Post

Stand up and be counted: is introducing important changes to our comment policy we believe will lift the quality of debate. 

From tomorrow, is rolling out our new comment policy, as we enter an exciting year for our region, a year featuring State and Council elections guaranteed to polarise opinion.

Since launching in 2008, has become the essential bookmark for those keen to engage in daily discourse on the past, present and future of Cairns and Far North Queensland.

Each day we receive hundreds of comments that are mostly opinionated, intelligent and thought-provoking.

Most days we publish hundreds of comments, the vast majority adding a great deal to the way our readers think about Cairns and the region.

Often, the comments we receive are colourful or controversial and generate heated discussion.

Wherever possible we encourage free speech and as broad a debate as possible.

Our readers can comment on almost every article we publish (some articles have comments closed for legal reasons). aims always to be inclusive and safe, and we strive to ensure that you will find reliably stimulating, entertaining and intelligent debate.

To help us achieve these goals, from January 1 2012, readers who submit comments to must provide their full name (first name and surname) and a suburb or town before comments are considered for publication.

All commentators must also include a genuine email address (which will not be published).

These changes bring in line with the newspaper, which boasts a century-old tradition of Far Northerners standing up and being counted.

The new policy also mirrors our relationship with our large community on, who, knowing anonymity makes comments valueless, are happy to have their real names attached.

From now on, if you have something to say, you need to put your name to it.

Some of our most regular posters contribute anonymously, and we very much hope engaged commentators such as Beliak, Davo, Eeeek, The Grey Ghost and Veritas will join Alison Alloway, Leigh Dall’Osto, Clem Wright and the hundreds of others posting under their own names.

Some regulars will be unhappy with the changes, but we are unapologetic.

We have no desire to stifle debate, we simply wish to make everyone commentating on accountable for their comments.

Our moderation team carefully review each comment before publishing and will be following our new comment policy.

Comments will be rejected if they do not add to the debate, are offensive, illegal or meaningless, or contain clear errors.

If what you want to say is too sensitive to attach your name to or you feel that commenting publicly could you place yourself, your family or your job at risk, contact our news desk privately by emailing

We love that our community includes such a wide range of voices, and encourage you to join in by demonstrating and sharing your intelligence and passion.

Thanks for participating, you make our website what it is.

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Cr. Blake and Cr Bonneau should stand down

Councillors face conduct scrutiny

AN independent panel has been formed to determine whether a Cairns councillor breached codes of conduct when he voted on matters that affected his election campaign sponsors.
Cr Sno Bonneau allegedly accepted campaign donations from business owners and developers during the 2008 election, but failed to note the money when he cast his vote in favour of their projects at subsequent council meetings.

The allegations were raised by Cr Rob Pyne in February, and the matter was referred to Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission.

The watchdog confirmed it had passed the matter on to the Department of Local Government and Planning, which has formed a regional conduct review panel to determine any wrongdoing or punishment. A decision on the matter is expected in the New Year.

The CMC is overseeing similar allegations against another Cairns Regional councillor, Alan Blake, who is also accused of breaching conflict of interest laws under the Local Government Act.

Those allegations were raised by former council candidate, Janine Aitken, in October.

Author | Daniel Strudwick strudwickd@ | The Cairns Post | 27th December 2011 

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My Opinion

Cr Bonneau and Cr Blake should stand down from any official position and not participate in any Cairns Regional Council duty while they are under investigation for possible breach of conduct.

Any elected position is one of trust and for that trust to be compromised is not acceptable under our Westminster system of democracy and public accountability.

The allegations that they may have accepted undeclared donations from Developers and may have voted in development applications are serious matters and go to the core in public probity.

One of the major tenet in our parliamentary government/democracy is that all citizens are subject to the law and that justice needs to be done but also is seen to be done.

The above mentioned Councillors should be given the opportunity to stand aside and falling that the Cairns Regional Council's CEO should demand that they stand down and refrain from any Council engagement while the allegations are investigated by the Regional Conduct Review Panel.

Ross Parisi

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Sunday, 25 December 2011

View 2011 as seen from space

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Sad farewell to Cairns' Rex Theatre

Saturday, December 24, 2011
© The Cairns Post

While it was certainly expected it was no less disappointing for many in the community as the final stages of demolition of the Rex Theatre unfolded yesterday.

After months of council negotiations, legal threats and community protest the heritage-listed building will be seeing its last days as those who fought for its survival remain bitterly disappointed.

Cairns Historical Society secretary Dawn May said it was a sad day for Cairns to lose such an important link to the past. "It’s a terrible day for the people of Cairns to lose such a significant building. What we’re seeing is our cultural heritage disappearing before our eyes and soon there won’t be anything left," she said. "We have very few old buildings remaining and they’re disappearing at an alarming rate. We can’t afford to lose any more and risk Cairns becoming a bland city."

Dr May called for harsh penalties against the Sydney-based owner Eldav Properties Pty Ltd.

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Christmas 2011

To all my Blog readers that celebrate Christmas; merry xmas and hope that you all have a memorable day for the right reasons.
Like all momentous days it is an opportunity to take stock of our individual lives and see where we can better ourselves and humanity in general. Have fun but like all things memorable they are better enjoyed in moderation.
Take care. Ross

Friday, 23 December 2011

Australia | Reserve Bank

Minutes of the Monetary Policy Meeting of the Reserve Bank Board

Sydney - 6 December 2011

Members Present

Glenn Stevens (Chairman and Governor), Ric Battellino (Deputy Governor), Martin Parkinson PSM (Secretary to the Treasury), Jillian Broadbent AO, Roger Corbett AO, John Edwards, Graham Kraehe AO, Catherine Tanna
Members granted leave of absence to John Akehurst in terms of section 18A of the Reserve Bank Act 1959.

Others Present

Guy Debelle (Assistant Governor, Financial Markets), Philip Lowe (Assistant Governor, Economic), Tony Richards (Head, Economic Analysis Department), Anthony Dickman (Secretary), Peter Stebbing (Deputy Secretary)

Financial Markets

The Board had an extensive discussion about the situation in Europe. After a positive reaction to the European Union summit in late October, financial market sentiment deteriorated through most of November, reflecting the difficulty European policymakers were having in dealing with the debt crisis, as well as political instability in several euro-area countries. Sentiment improved again late in the month, however, following the co-ordinated announcement by the major central banks of a reduction in the access price for the US dollar swap lines.

The deterioration in sentiment in the early part of the month saw yields on sovereign debt of most euro-area countries rise sharply, particularly in the case of Italy and Spain, but the rises were reversed late in the month.

Members noted that European banks would be required to achieve core capital ratios of 9 per cent by mid 2012. It had become evident that, rather than raise new equity capital, a number of banks were seeking to increase their capital ratios by selling assets, particularly assets outside the euro area, and by scaling back trade finance. This risked dampening economic activity.

The strains in European interbank markets also intensified in November, with an increasing number of banks effectively shut off from new funding and having to rely instead on the European Central Bank (ECB). Some banks also appeared to be running short of the collateral necessary to obtain funding from the ECB and were undertaking collateral swaps with non-bank institutions or turning to their national central bank.  While wholesale debt markets globally appeared to be closed to many financial institutions, non-financial corporations were still able to raise debt. Issuance of corporate debt in the United States had been solid.

Global share markets ended November little changed, notwithstanding falls of around 10 per cent in the first part of the month. The Australian dollar had traded in a wide range against the US dollar, generally following movements in the euro. Thin market conditions had contributed to volatility in share markets and exchange rates over recent weeks.

Sovereign yields in some countries outside Europe – for example, the United States, United Kingdom and Australia – had fallen to historically low levels. Yields on 10-year government bonds in Australia reached a 50-year low of 3.85 per cent during November. The market for Australian state government debt (semis) had not fared as well, with the spreads between semis and Commonwealth Government debt widening. Nonetheless, yields on semis ended the month lower in absolute terms, and from a historical perspective were quite low.

While Australian banks had found long-term debt markets dislocated, there were no signs of strain in local money markets through November and banks had also been able to access short-term offshore markets with relative ease. They continued to be beneficiaries of the shift of US investors away from European bank debt. Deposit growth had also been solid, and well in excess of growth in lending. Two of the four major Australian banks issued covered bonds during the month at spreads that were a little higher than initially expected, mainly reflecting the difficult conditions in funding markets.

Members noted that Standard and Poor's (S&P) had been implementing a new framework for bank ratings. As a result, S&P had downgraded the ratings of a number of the world's large financial institutions and, in the days preceding the meeting, had lowered the ratings of the four major Australian banks by one notch to AA-. This had minimal impact on market sentiment toward these banks, given the downgrade had been well anticipated.

Following the Board's decision at the November meeting to lower the cash rate by 25 basis points, most indicator interest rates on housing loans and residentially secured small business rates had been lowered by a similar amount. As a result, housing and business lending rates were around their post-1996 average. Looking forward, market expectations were for another reduction in the cash rate at the December meeting, with further reductions anticipated by the middle of the coming year.

In other countries, the People's Bank of China had changed its policy direction, lowering banks’ reserve requirement ratios by 50 basis points, after having increased it considerably over the past year. Brazil had also reduced its policy rate target by 50 basis points. In Europe, markets expected the ECB to cut the policy rate at its meeting later in the week.

International Economic Conditions

The recent data for the world economy confirmed the weak state of the euro-area economy, but more positive conditions in other regions. GDP in the euro area had risen by only 0.2 per cent in the September quarter, with Germany accounting for much of the growth that had occurred. Consumer and business confidence had continued to fall. The unemployment rate had been rising gradually over the past six months. Most analysts now expected the European economy to record little, if any, growth in 2012.

Members noted that European governments were still looking to craft a full response to their financial problems and that tighter fiscal policy was contributing to weaker near-term growth prospects. They also noted that if these problems were occurring in a single country with its own currency, they could be addressed through some combination of exchange rate depreciation and looser monetary policy, but these options were not available to individual members of a currency union. It remained very difficult to judge how events would ultimately play out in Europe. On the one hand, if recent efforts were successful in moving towards a solution, confidence should improve. On the other hand, a much worse outcome was possible, involving a severe contraction in the European economy, which would have global effects notwithstanding the capacity of the authorities in Asia to apply more stimulatory policies.

In contrast to developments in Europe, recent data in the United States had shown a more positive tone than was the case around the middle of the year. Retail sales had been trending higher, with early reports of post-Thanksgiving sales being quite positive. Consumer confidence had improved a little, although it remained low. There had been a gradual improvement in the labour market, with growth in private-sector employment more than offsetting ongoing falls in public employment, and the unemployment rate had fallen recently. The Federal Reserve's latest forecasts were for growth of 2½ per cent or a little higher in 2012. Members noted that if there were no further changes to legislation, a very significant degree of fiscal consolidation would occur in the 2012/13 fiscal year.

In Asia, the rate of growth had slowed over recent months, although the region was still expanding solidly. The poor outcomes in Europe were weighing on Asian exports, and growth in domestic demand had moderated somewhat. In China, most of the monthly indicators, including for industrial production and retail sales, were still consistent with solid GDP growth. However, conditions in the housing market were noticeably weaker than over the past couple of years, reflecting the effect of controls on buyers and tight credit supply for developers. Members noted that this slowing was in line with the authorities’ intentions. The slowing in private housing construction was being offset by growth in construction of social housing, but production of crude steel had fallen somewhat in recent months.

The Japanese economy expanded by 1.5 per cent in the September quarter, as consumption and exports picked up after the natural and nuclear disasters in March. In contrast, Thailand had been severely affected by flooding, with a large decline in industrial production in October. This was expected to result in a modest disruption to global supply chains.

Prices of most exchange-traded commodity prices were broadly unchanged over the past month. Overall, the price indices for rural commodities and base metals were around 15–20 per cent below their peaks earlier in the year. In contrast, spot iron ore prices had risen in November, after falling significantly in October. The general easing in commodity prices had resulted in a decline in inflation pressures in many parts of the world. In China, year-ended inflation had fallen to 5.5 per cent, and a further decline was expected in coming months. Monthly rates of inflation had also moderated in a number of other countries, and the ECB, Bank of England and Federal Reserve were all forecasting significant reductions in inflation over the coming year.

Domestic Economic Conditions

The recent data on the domestic economy had been mixed but, on balance, had been slightly stronger than was the case around the middle of the year. The recently released capital expenditure survey and data for construction work done pointed to very strong growth in business investment. Members noted that while mining-related expenditure was exceptionally strong – estimated to have grown by over 50 per cent over the past year – there were also solid increases in investment in other sectors, including manufacturing. Consistent with the rise in investment, imports of capital goods had been growing particularly strongly over the past year. The capital expenditure survey also confirmed that the investment outlook remained very strong, with a small upward revision to spending plans for 2011/12 from what was an already very positive outlook. There had been further announcements of new iron ore and coal projects over the past month and the expansion of the LNG sector was continuing.

The national accounts for the September quarter would be released the day after the meeting. Growth in private demand was expected to be strong, led by business investment. Growth in output, however, was expected to be less than that of demand because of the high import intensity of much of the current investment and the appreciation of the exchange rate.

In contrast to the strong capital expenditure data, the value of private non-residential building approvals had remained at a fairly low level over recent months. Residential approvals had continued to decline, with the large fall estimated to have occurred in October in contrast to the recent upward trend in grants to first-home buyers. Approvals in Victoria had fallen significantly in recent months after the sharp run-up through 2010, while housing indicators for New South Wales were showing some signs of a pick-up. In recent liaison, some contacts, including in the property industry, had reported signs of a tightening of credit conditions, and overall growth in business credit outstanding remained weak.

Measures of business confidence had, however, generally picked up a little over the past couple of months, after earlier large falls. Measures of current conditions were around average, although large differences continued to be evident across industries. The gradual recovery of coal exports from last summer's flooding was continuing, although the Bureau of Meteorology was reporting an above-average probability of wetter-than-usual conditions this summer.

Retail sales had increased at a moderate pace over recent months, after little growth in the June quarter. Surveys suggested that consumer sentiment had also picked up and was now back to a little above its long-run average level, although consumers remained pessimistic about their own finances. Members noted the divergences across different types of household spending, with strength in services but weakness in the value of sales at clothing and department stores.

Conditions in the housing market remained subdued. Housing prices were estimated to have fallen in October and were down by around 4 per cent over the year. Members noted that prices had fallen by more in higher-priced suburbs. Housing credit was increasing at an annualised rate of 5–6 per cent, as it had for much of the past year.

Employment was estimated to have risen by 10,000 in October and the unemployment rate had declined slightly to 5.2 per cent, which was ¼ percentage point higher than earlier in the year. The various forward-looking indicators continued to point to moderate employment growth, although well below the pace in 2010. Liaison had indicated significant caution in hiring intentions, with firms waiting for evidence of growth in demand before looking to increase staff levels.

Liaison also indicated that most firms (outside of those employing specialised skilled labour in the resources sector) expected wage pressures to remain contained. In the September quarter, private-sector wages (as measured in the wage price index) increased by 0.9 per cent, to be 3.7 per cent higher over the year, which was around the average rate of increase since the mid 2000s. In contrast, there was a marked slowing in public-sector wage growth, although this was partly due to delays in reaching new agreements.

According to the Australian Government's mid-year budget review, the budget deficit for 2011/12 was expected to be 2.5 per cent of GDP, compared with an estimate of 1.5 per cent of GDP at the time of the May Budget. This increase reflected a combination of factors including lower economic growth, lower-than-expected capital gains tax revenue and changes in the timing of some policy measures. The Government had announced a series of measures in response and was still forecasting a small surplus in 2012/13.

Considerations for Monetary Policy

In the global economy, the recent news had been mixed. The data for the US economy had been better than in earlier months. China's growth had been slowing, as policymakers there had intended, and most other economies in Asia had also slowed as trade in Asia was seeing some effects of the significant slowing in economic activity in Europe. Nonetheless, growth rates in Asia remained solid. The news on Europe, however, had been notably weaker and it remained unclear as to how the current situation would be resolved. It seemed highly likely that the sovereign credit and banking problems would weigh heavily on economic activity there over the period ahead, and there was a non-trivial possibility of a very sharp contraction. Global financial markets had experienced considerable turbulence, and financing conditions for banks had become much more difficult, especially in Europe. Overall, members concluded that growth in the world economy was likely to weaken over the coming year.

Domestically, some of the recent economic data had been more positive than a few months earlier, and overall growth was consistent with trend. However, conditions varied significantly across sectors. Investment was picking up very strongly, and measures of household and business confidence had improved in recent months, though liaison reports suggested consumers remained cautious. The unemployment rate had been broadly steady, at a little over 5 per cent, after rising around mid year. The financial side of the economy remained relatively subdued, with soft credit growth and declining asset prices.

Against this background, the Board considered the question of whether a further reduction in the cash rate would be appropriate following the reduction in November. On the one hand, there had been further evidence that a major investment boom was in progress and the overall economy was expanding at a pace broadly in line with trend. Australia's main trading partners were also still recording solid growth. This did not suggest any strong need to cut interest rates. Against this, developments in Europe continued to pose downside risks to the global economy and, consequently, also to Australia. These risks had, if anything, increased though the timing and magnitude of any effects that might flow from them remained very difficult to predict.

In these circumstances, and given the expectation that inflation would be consistent with the target over the next couple of years (abstracting from the effect of the carbon pricing scheme), members felt that there was scope for a modest reduction in the cash rate at this meeting.

The Decision

The Board decided to lower the cash rate by 0.25 percentage points to 4.25 per cent, effective 7 December.


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Sunlander Train mishap | central locking the answer?

Boy, 5, falls from moving Sunlander train

Michael Serenc
Thursday, December 22, 2011
© The Cairns Post

Boy, 5, falls from moving Sunlander train
A boy, 5, is recovering from head injuries after falling from a moving train at Aloomba last night. He was taken to Cairns Base Hospital in a stable condition after the accident about 7.30pm.

Passengers on board the packed Sunlander, travelling from Brisbane to Cairns, said police were waiting at Gordonvale to meet the train.

The train stopped briefly at Gordonvale station where the boy’s parents reportedly disembarked."Everyone on the train was bloody upset, they had no idea what had happened," passenger Trevor Erlan said. "When it happens to a little kid like that, it’s one of those things where you say, ‘Shivers, how did it happen in the first place?’"

It was not known how the boy fell from the "slow-moving" train and Queensland Rail was not able to give any further details last night. The train arrived at Cairns Central station after 8pm, almost 30 minutes late.

Queensland Rail and workplace health and safety officers launched investigations last night to try to determine what happened.

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A National Disgrace | Not fit for a 3rd world country

RACQ slams Bruce Highway

Nick Dalton
Thursday, December 22, 2011
© The Cairns Post

THE Bruce Highway between Cairns and Townsville will continue to flood and there are still sections of high crash risk, according to a report released yesterday.

Motoring body, the RACQ, called for urgent works to improve the region’s main highway from the south to stop flooding during the wet season and to improve black spots.

The report details assessments made by the RACQ’s road safety engineers, who drove the length of the Bruce Highway from Cairns to Brisbane as part of the motoring club’s annual regional road tours program and calls for:
  • Additional southern lanes into Cairns and duplication of the Edmonton to Gordonvale stretch to reduce congestion.
  • Higher level bridges and approaches to Cattle and Frances creeks and the Gairloch floodway to Ripple Creek.
  • Reducing the number of intersections with direct access to the Bruce Highway to improve safety.
RACQ senior traffic and safety engineer Greg Miszkowycz said flooding was still an issue on the highway, despite this year’s repairs and reconstruction works with natural disaster relief money. "The disaster relief funding has provided an opportunity to reconstruct the highway and improve resilience to future flood damage," he said. "But the funding does not extend to raising the level of the roadway, which means parts of the Bruce Highway are likely to be cut or flood damaged again, as early as this summer."

The report revealed sections of the highway were still of substandard design with narrow lanes and shoulders, a lack of overtaking lanes and dangerous roadside objects posing a serious risk to motorists.

The damning report comes as the State Government released a 20-year plan to upgrade the national highway. Local Government Minister Paul Lucas was in Cairns to launch the Bruce Highway Upgrade strategy yesterday, saying the ultimate goal was for the highway to have four lanes between Cairns and Gympie.

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My Opinion

When it comes to forwarded planning, ienquiries and process no government does it better than the Queensland government. Sadly though most of these governments instruments that require direct State Government action for one reason or another remain unfunded.

Due to Government priorities, regional road infrastructure funding does not receive the funding that growth demands. If Government policy encourages growth then there should be adequate funding to ensure that infrastructure does not lag behind.

The maxim that 'the squeaky door gets the oil' is apt when it comes to Government funding. While the Beattie Government was excellent at public relations it allowed infrastructure to go neglected for 10years.

The Bligh Government aware of this neglect is pouring 'billions'  into the south east corner road works. This is fine but do not neglect regional Queensland which is currently the case.

The political scene is ready for the picking and the LNP/ Campbell is tapping into this disquiet.

Ross Parisi

Death trap to be finally upgraded

Wrights Creek bridge upgrade

Daniel Strudwick
Thursday, December 22, 2011
© The Cairns Post

$10 million upgrade: Transport and Main Roads regional director Tony Potter on the Bruce Highway at Wrights Creek. Plans have been announced to upgrade the notorious black spot. Picture: ANNA ROGERS

Residents fed up with the narrow and dangerous Wrights Creek bridge have had their voices heard, with the State and Federal governments finally going ahead with long-held plans to upgrade the crossing.

A $10 million overhaul was originally earmarked to take place in five to 10 years, but the project will start in 2012 after community consultation highlighted the need for urgency.
The bridge – on the highway between Edmonton and Gordonvale – is a black spot for drivers and cyclists, with only a narrow passage for cars and no road shoulder for bikes.

"This bridge has been an upgrade prospect from a time when I was a boy," Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt said. "I’m a cyclist and I say a Hail Mary every time I go over this bridge."
Money has been committed by the Federal Government, and the State Government has fast-tracked design work under its Bruce Highway Upgrade Strategy, released yesterday.

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My Opinion

Not before time mind you. We are talking about the Bruce Highwy here not some bridge in a third world country. It is a national disgrace that so many lives were lost on the approaches to this bridge. Curtis no doubt you had to use a brick bat over the head of both Governments. What the Cairns region now needs is the construction of another access into Cairns, starting at Wrights bridge and existing at Portsmith.

Ross Parisi

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Perth | Deadly crash fireball on Riverside Drive

Two young men were killed early this morning after their car hit a palm tree at high speed on Riverside Drive in Perth.A police spokesman said the male passenger died after he was thrown from the car, while the driver was incinerated.

The impact of the crash split the Commodore in half and it immediately burst into flames.
The driver has been identified as a 20-year-old from Muresk and the passenger a 19-year-old from Northam.

The car had been travelling east towards the Causeway before they crashed just after Plain St. The fire was quickly extinguished but its speed and intensity left the car in an almost unrecognisable twisted state. Pieces of the wreck were found 75m from the palm tree on the road’s median strip.

Both men died at the scene. Major crash officers are investigating. There were no skid marks visible at the scene. The car was only recently taken from the scene. Riverside Drive between Plain Street and the Causeway was reopened by 8.55am.
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Sugarworld Water Park reopens with a bang

Laura Packham
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
© The Cairns Post

AFTER an almost two-year hiatus and a $5.5 million overhaul, the gates to the revamped Sugarworld Water Park opened yesterday. 

A growing line of eager children and families stretched down the road outside Edmonton’s waterslide wonderland, as thousands of people poured in. Excited young faces queued in snaking lines to the three major slides, with a mat or raft in hand, ready to test-run the ride and give their verdict.

And the biggest show-stopper on opening day proved to be the Four Lane Racer. Children, teens and adults fired down the four 75m slides in a battle to the bottom, gaining plenty of air along the way. "It’s great," Redlynch student Chelsea Haben, 15, said.  "I never thought they’d ever do it."

The yellow Raft Slide was also hugely popular with one to two-seater person rafts shooting down three loop-turns, before a big-splash finale at the bottom. With no rafts required, the fast-paced red 100m Supajet Body Slide attracted plenty of thrill-seekers, who blasted down the two-looped adventure ride.

Sugarworld spokeswoman Ersilia Phipps said she was overjoyed by the opening day success. "Edmonton needed this and, more broadly, Cairns needed this too, given the economy at the moment," she said. Edmonton mother Sue Mann, who lives adjacent to the park, said her family would reap the benefits of the water park. "I’ve got two young kids so I can’t wait for the kids section to open," she said.

Kids Interactive Play Station is due for a February finish.

Open 10am-4.30pm, seven days a week over the school holidays

After January 22: Open Sat & Sun from 10am-4.30pm

Closes 3pm Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Closed December 25 & 26.

Adults $15, Children 5-13 years (110cm & over) $12. Family Rate (2 parents & 2 children)

$46. Children 3-5 years (under 110cm) $4 (includes use of pools only).

Children under 3 free.

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Monday, 19 December 2011

Anna Bligh's clawback may entice her to delay Queensland state poll

    Anna Bligh has clawed back part of the commanding lead opened up by the conservatives in Queensland under the leadership of former Brisbane lord mayor Campbell Newman, in a Newspoll that may entice her to delay a state election tipped for February.
Mr Newman's satisfaction rating levels slipped during the October-December survey, conducted exclusively for The Australian, while Labor's base vote lifted from a near rock-bottom 27 per cent, to 31 per cent, against 44 per cent for the Liberal National Party. Once preferences are factored in, the ALP trails the Liberal National Party by 12 points, 44 per cent to 56 per cent.

While Newspoll shows that Ms Bligh has narrowed the gap on Mr Newman and the LNP, Labor would still lose at least half of its 51 state seats in Queensland and be bundled out after 13 years in power. The Premier, in an end-of-year interview, acknowledged there was "a mood for change" in the electorate, compounding the challenge for Labor of securing a sixth successive term of government at an election to be held in the first half of next year.
Mr Newman accepted that the polls would tighten as the election drew nearer. "The Labor Party are trying to paint themselves as the underdogs," the LNP leader told The Australian.
"They are the government. They are a relentless political machine. They know how to campaign effectively."

Today's Newspoll is the first in which Labor has made up ground since Mr Newman audaciously switched in March from running city hall in Brisbane to lead the LNP from outside parliament. In the previous survey, for July-September, the LNP jumped to a 22-point lead over Labor, 61-39 per cent two-party preferred.

The latest poll suggests recent controversies over his pecuniary interests declaration and a "dirt file" on Labor MPs, commissioned by the LNP from a disgruntled ex-ALP staffer, ostensibly without his knowledge, have affected his standing with voters.

Satisfaction with his performance as LNP leader slipped from 51 per cent in July-September to 45 per cent, while dissatisfaction increased six points to 33 per cent. Ms Bligh's satisfaction levels were basically stable, with 39 per cent approving of the job she was doing as Premier, against 50 per cent dissatisfied. But her net satisfaction rating -- the difference between those happy and unhappy with her -- is stubbornly negative at -11 points, against +12 points for Mr Newman.

While she has closed the lead of Mr Newman in the head-to-head comparison of who would be better premier, he continues to outpoint her by 43 to 39 per cent. The encouragement Labor will draw from this Newspoll, of 1123 voters, will be tempered by the fact that it was mostly taken before the revelation of the alleged $16 million embezzlement involving former Queensland Health grants officer Joel Barlow, who has been charged with stealing.

This may have the effect of arresting the political recovery suggested by the poll, after Mr Newman seized on the affair as being a competence issue for the state government.
Ms Bligh, who is now on leave, will carefully weigh election dates during her time off. State cabinet is set to reconvene on January 23 to consider a report into systemic problems exposed by Mr Barlow's alleged defrauding of Queensland Health, a department that has caused headaches for both Ms Bligh and her Labor predecessor, Peter Beattie, and which is to be broken up.

The favoured scenario is for Ms Bligh to call the election in late January for either February 18 or 25. She has said she will not have the poll on the same day as local government elections on March 31, leaving four other dates in March open. However, she can officially govern until June, and the Newspoll findings will strengthen the arguments of those in the ALP who want her to string out the term to create distance from the Barlow affair, and to build pressure on Mr Newman. This will increase the attraction of a March poll, most likely on March 10 or 17.

Ms Bligh said she expected Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan to be involved in the state election campaign. Mr Newman is counting on winning the seat of Ashgrove at the state election, held for Labor by former minister Kate Jones on a margin of 7.1 per cent. This is substantially higher than the overall swing of 4.5 per cent needed by the LNP to win office in its own right.

The Greens vote in today's Newspoll is steady at 10 per cent, while other minor parties and independents -- including Bob Katter's start-up Australian Party -- have 15 per cent between them. The margin of error in the poll was plus or minus 3 per cent.

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Vaclav Havel dies | Czech revolution icon

Jan Flemr, AFP Updated December 19, 2011, 4:22 am

Former Czech president and hero of the Velvet Revolution Vaclav Havel, has died at the age of 75.

Former Czech president and hero of the Velvet Revolution Vaclav Havel, who steered his country peacefully to independence from Soviet rule in 1989, has died at the age of 75. The one-time dissident died in his sleep at dawn on Sunday in his weekend house northeast of Prague after a lengthy illness, his secretary Sabina Tancevova said.

Tributes poured in for the statesman and playwright who was hailed as a "great European" and the "soul of the Czech revolution" that peacefully toppled communism in his country.
People held vigils in Prague's central Wenceslas Square, the focal point of anti-communist rallies in 1989, and at Prague Castle, the seat of Czech presidents.

Havel, president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992 and of the successor Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003, had long battled poor health, partly caused by the five years he spent in communist jails. A one-time chain smoker, Havel had grappled with respiratory problems since he had part of his lung removed in 1996 to stop cancer. Current President Vaclav Klaus said Havel had become a symbol of the modern Czech state.

"His personality, name and work substantially helped the Czech Republic swiftly become a part of the community of free and democratic countries," he added. Under Havel's presidency, the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and later became a member of the European Union in 2004.

Havel was born in Prague on October 5, 1936 into a wealthy family which lost its assets as the communists took power in 1948. He established himself as a leading figure on the scene of the Czechoslovak theatre of the absurd in the 1960s, before being banned from theatres after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. He was responsible for drawing up Charter 77, a 1977 manifesto challenging the communists to live up to their international promises to respect human rights, and he kept fighting the regime which earned him five years in prison.

As communism was toppled in the peaceful Velvet Revolution, Havel was the first choice for the top job in Czechoslovakia, which then split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. "His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon," US President Barack Obama said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Havel had "devoted his life to the cause of human freedom" and "led the Czech people out of tyranny". "Europe owes Vaclav Havel a profound debt," Cameron said in a statement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, also hailed Havel as a "great European" whose "fight for freedom and democracy was as unforgettable as his great humanity".

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle described him as "the soul of the Czech revolution". France's President Nicolas Sarkozy said the Czech Republic had "lost of one its great patriots, France a friend and Europe one of its wisest men". Poland's former president Lech Walesa, who, like Havel, went from anti-communist dissident to become head of state after the 1989 peaceful collapse of communism, also paid tribute to Havel.

"He was a great spokesman in the struggle for freedom, for democracy and for freedom from the yolk of communism," Walesa told AFP. "His voice will be greatly missed in Europe, especially now when it's in great crisis." Havel's health woes stemmed from a poorly treated case of pneumonia he suffered while he was jailed by the communist regime in the 1980s for dissident activity.

Earlier this year, Havel was taken to hospital with acute bronchitis, from which he was never able to fully recover. The illness also caused "a loss of balance, memory loss and weight loss", Havel said in an interview. A few months ago, Havel retreated to his country home to convalesce and last returned to Prague to meet Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on December 10.

Havel married actress Dagmar Veskrnova, 20 years his junior, in 1997, following the death of his first wife Olga a year earlier. He had no children.
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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Pavarotti & Bono - Ave Maria

Queen + Luciano Pavarotti - Too Much Love Will Kill You

Barcelona (Live) - Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé - 1988

The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert

Queen- live at Wembley Stadium 12-07-1986 Saturday (25th Anniversary Edi...

Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

In Memoriam

Photograph by Gasper Tringale.

Christopher Hitchens was a wit, a charmer, and a troublemaker, and to those who knew him well, he was a gift from, dare I say it, God. He died today at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, after a punishing battle with esophageal cancer, the same disease that killed his father.

He was a man of insatiable appetites—for cigarettes, for scotch, for company, for great writing, and, above all, for conversation. That he had an output to equal what he took in was the miracle in the man. You’d be hard-pressed to find a writer who could match the volume of exquisitely crafted columns, essays, articles, and books he produced over the past four decades. He wrote often—constantly, in fact, and right up to the end—and he wrote fast; frequently without the benefit of a second draft or even corrections.

I can recall a lunch in 1991, when I was editing The New York Observer, and he and Aimée Bell, his longtime editor, and I got together for a quick bite at a restaurant on Madison, no longer there. Christopher’s copy was due early that afternoon. Pre-lunch canisters of scotch were followed by a couple of glasses of wine during the meal and a similar quantity of post-meal cognac. That was just his intake. After stumbling back to the office, we set him up at a rickety table and with an old Olivetti, and in a symphony of clacking he produced a 1,000-word column of near perfection in under half an hour.

Christopher was one of the first writers I called when I came to Vanity Fair in 1992. Six years before, I had called on him to write for Spy. That offer was ever so politely rejected. The Vanity Fair approach had a fee attached, though, and to my everlasting credit, he accepted and has been writing for the magazine ever since. With the exception of Dominick Dunne (who died in 2009), no writer has been more associated with Vanity Fair. There was no subject too big or too small for Christopher. Over the past two decades he traveled to just about every hot spot you can think of. He’d also subject himself to any manner of humiliation or discomfort in the name of his column.

I once sent him out on a mission to break the most niggling laws still on the books in New York City. One such decree forbade riding a bicycle with your feet off the pedals. The photograph that ran with the column, of Christopher sailing a small bike through Central Park with his legs in the air, looked like something out of the Moscow Circus. When he embarked on a cause of self-improvement for a three-part series, he subjected himself to myriad treatments to improve his dental area and other dark regions. At one point I suggested he go to a well-regarded waxing parlor in town for what they indelicately call the “sack, back, and crack.” He struggled to absorb the full meaning of this, but after a few seconds he smiled a nervous smile and said, “In for a penny . . . ”

Christopher was the beau ideal of the public intellectual. You felt as though he was writing to you and to you alone. And as a result many readers felt they knew him. Walking with him down the street in New York or through an airplane terminal was like escorting a movie star through the throngs.

Christopher was brave not just in facing the illness that took him, but brave in words and thought. He did not mind landing outside the cozy cocoon of conventional liberal wisdom, his curious, pro-war stance before the invasion of Iraq being but one example. Friends distanced themselves from him during those unlit days. But he stuck to his guns.

After his rather famous 1995 attack on Mother Teresa in these pages, one of our contributing editors, a devout Catholic, came into the office filled with umbrage and announced that he was canceling his subscription. “You can’t cancel it,” I said. “You get the magazine for free!” Years ago, in the midst of the Clinton impeachment uproar, Christopher had a very public dustup with his good friend Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton White House functionary—the dispute was over which part of a conversation between them was or was not on the record. Christopher wound up on television a lot defending himself. He looked like hell, and I suggested we bring him to New York for a bit of a makeover and some R&R away from the cameras. The magazine was pretty flush back then, and we set him up with a new suit, shirts, ties, and such. When someone from the fashion department asked him what size his shoes were, he said he didn’t know—the pair he had on was borrowed.

I could not begin to list the pantheon of public intellectuals and close friends who will mourn his passing, but it would most certainly include Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Richard Dawkins, James Fenton, Christopher Buckley, and Hitchens’s agent, Steve Wasserman. Christopher had his share of lady admirers too, including—but certainly not limited to—Anna Wintour, back when he was young and still relatively fragrant. His wife, Carol, a writer, filmmaker, and legendary hostess, set a high bar in how to handle a flower like Christopher, both when he was healthy and during his last days. An invitation to their vast apartment in the Wyoming on Columbia Road, in Washington, D.C., was a prized reward for being a part of their circle or even on the fringes of it. We used to hold an anti–White House Correspondents party there in the 90s and 2000s; the Salon des Refuses, he called it. You could meet anyone there. From Supreme Court justices to right-wing windbags to, well, Barbra Streisand and other assorted totems of the left. He was a good friend who wished his friends well. And as a result he had a lot of them.

Christopher had an enviable career arc that began with his own brand of fiery journalism at Britain’s New Statesman and then wended its way to America, where he wrote for everyone from The Atlantic and Harper’s to Slate and The New York Times Book Review. And we all called him our own. He was a legend on the speakers’ circuit, and could debate just about anyone on anything. He won umpteen awards—although that was not the sort of thing that fueled his work—and in the last decade he wrote best-sellers, including a memoir, Hitch-22, that finally put some money into his family’s pocket. In the last weeks of his life, he was told that an asteroid had been named after him. He was pleased by the thought, and inasmuch as the word is derived from the Greek, meaning “star-like,” and asteroids are known to be volatile, it is a fitting honor.

To his friends, Christopher will be remembered for his elevated but inclusive humor and for a staggering, almost punishing memory that held up under the most liquid of late-night conditions. And to all of us, his readers, Christopher Hitchens will be remembered for the millions of words he left behind. They are his legacy. And, God love him, it was his will.

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Friday, 16 December 2011

Molly Meldrum in critical condition after fall at home in Richmond

Ian "Molly" Meldrum

Music guru Molly Meldrum at his home in Richmond, Victoria. Picture: Aaron Francis
Source: Herald Sun

UPDATE 6.53am: MUSIC legend Molly Meldrum is fighting for his life after a fall at his home while reportedly putting up Christmas decorations.

Meldrum, long-time host of top-rating television pop/rock show Countdown, was found unconscious by his gardener before ambulance officers arrived at his Richmond house at 6.40pm. It is believed Meldrum, 65, fell from a ladder while he was placing decorations on the roof in preparation for a Christmas party planned for Sunday.

But Garry Spry, who has been Meldrum's friend since 1964, said Meldrum was putting up decorations around the upstairs spa at his home when he fell. Mr Spry said he believed Meldrum had fallen down a flight of stairs from the spa which is about 10ft above ground - not a ladder.

Ambulance officers, including mobile intensive care paramedics, took Meldrum away in a critical condition. He underwent surgery late last night to relieve pressure on his brain.
He remained in intensive care in The Alfred Hospital where he earlier had been placed in an induced coma.

Mark Klemens, managing director of Profile Talent Management, provided a statement on behalf of gathered family and friends. "Unfortunately late this afternoon Molly had a fall at home," he said. "As a consequence of that fall he suffered significant injuries." Mr Klemens said the next 24 hours would be crucial. "I'm a half full person, I'm always preparing for a better outcome," he said.

Many major music identities offered their best wishes to the man they knew well socially and professionally, in a career dating back to the 1960s.

Russell Morris, who had seen Meldrum only a few hours before, said the pair were planning a recording session for next Monday. "We are recording some versions of the Tom Petty song I Won't Back Down," he said.

MTR morning host Steve Vizard spent 30 minutes chatting to Meldrum on-air yesterday.
Vizard, a long-time friend of Meldrum's, said he was devastated to hear of the accident.
"He is a great friend of our show. He was in great form. He was fit and happy and was looking forward to Christmas,'' Vizard said. "He was talking about spending time in Bangkok and Phuket with his partner. "He has had the most brilliant year and was happy and joking about his upcoming holiday. "Everyone is wishing him well.

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