Thursday, 31 May 2012

Treasurer Wayne Swan attacks local council over dumping the Cairns Entertainment Precinct

Daniel Strudwick
Thursday, May 31, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Decision: Councillors Terry James and Rob Pyne vote on the entertainment precinct as protesters look on.

FEDERAL Treasurer Wayne Swan has served Bob Manning a shocking scolding, telling the Mayor and his councillors to "hang their heads in shame" for effectively killing off the Cairns Entertainment Precinct. 

In an 8-2 vote yesterday, the troubled waterfront project was suspended, rather than terminated, leaving it on life support while the council urgently negotiates to keep $97.3 million of state and federal funding in Cairns.

Cr Manning wants to "preserve and protect" that money, but put it towards a smaller and cheaper performing arts complex, and use any spare change for other projects. He has flown to Brisbane for urgent talks with the State Government today to secure $57.3 million the former Bligh administration pledged to the project. He will also have to convince the Federal Government not to pull its $40 million share. "I am sure that the Commonwealth – and the state, for that matter – will want to see all the benefits flow through to this city, which is one where things haven’t been too good for the last few years," Cr Manning said.

But his confidence in the Federal Government’s goodwill may be overblown, with Mr Swan yesterday blasting the new Cairns Regional Council for scrapping the waterfront precinct. "It is a project that would have supported hundreds of jobs during construction and 50 ongoing positions once operational," Mr Swan said. "For a region with a high unemployment rate, the new Mayor and all who have contributed to the circus around this project should hang their heads in shame."

The Commonwealth has confirmed its $40 million pledge to the precinct is still in the Budget. But it is understood the Treasurer won’t tolerate many more setbacks, considering the funding was originally committed in 2010 to stimulate construction jobs. The council’s decision to suspend the project means contracts remain frozen with companies in fields such as engineering and construction. About 160 workers – many of them local – face an uncertain future.

Cr Manning said he had sympathy for those workers, but the council had "to make the right decisions for this region". In an open letter sent to councillors before yesterday’s vote, one of the local building companies working on the site pleaded for the project to go on.

Richard Field Construction, which won the $351,000 contract for early works at White’s Shed, already has one worker facing retrenchment and others who are under-employed. "The construction industry activity in Cairns at present is at frighteningly low levels," site manager Tony Cawte said in his letter. "RFC does not understand why almost $100 million of external funding, available now, faces the possibility of being refused."

His sentiment was reflected by a minority of councillors who voted to carry on with the project, including Unity member Richie Bates who broke ranks with his teammates. Cr Linda Cooper said she was "extremely fearful" that scrapping the precinct would jeopardise the state and federal cash. "The construction industry is on its knees, so to take away or to knock back $100 million of funding for a project that we ultimately need, is something I cannot support," she said.

                                ____________________   |   ____________________

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Julia Gillard's future in the 'cross hairs'

Its on again...leadership speculation. I believe this round of speculation may well lead to the dumping of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The lynch pin this time will be the mining jobs issue. The rancour shown by Paul Howes ( one of the faceless men that endorsed the dumping of Kevin Rudd ) in his most recent interview about the jobs in mining issue, has given the ALP another reason to commit 'hurri currie'. For good measure Joel Fittzgibbon ALP whip no less, is out there in Labor caucus gathering the number again for anyone other than Julia Gillard.

This week will be dedicated not to governing Australia but to the preparation of the ground work that may well be the final nail in Gillard's coffin. Leadership speculation is paralysing the Labour Government and will be brought to a head.

The trouble is no other Labor member wants to be the sacrificial lamb on the alter of political expediency unless he/she wants to be Prime Minister for a year or so. Of course there is one person who will be prepared to become Prime Minister again and that is Kevin Rudd. The trouble is in installing Kevin Rudd, many of the existing Cabinet members who said they would not be able to work in Cabinet with Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister would resign or face personal ridicule. In the eyes of the public this would be a total farce and surely mean the end electorally of the ALP.  

                             __________________  |  _______________

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Titanic deck seats reshuffled

Focus on leading Cairns out of economic woes

Nick Dalton
Saturday, May 26, 2012
© The Cairns Post

 Hitting the ground running: Advance Cairns chairman Cam Charlton and the group's revitalised board members want to bring the Far North out of the economic doldrums. Picture: MARC McCORMACK

BUSINESS group Advance Cairns is determined to lead the Far North out of the economic doldrums with a new chairman and board, a restructuring and a fresh focus providing the impetus.

An enthusiastic and energised chairman, Cam Charlton, backed by an experienced and revitalised board, new and extra private enterprise funding and a relatively new chief executive officer, Stewart Christie, has hit the ground running, determined to bring the region and its various business and economic development groups together.

The board met for the first time this week and has started compiling a list of "can-do" ideas and projects.
Mr Charlton said it was the biggest overhaul in the 10 years of Advance Cairns and the group wanted to convert words into actions straight away.

One of the first tasks is restoring faith in the region. "We need to restore business confidence in the region and re-establish pride and self-determination," Mr Charlton said. "Too many people can’t see beyond their own grief and we need to restore enthusiasm, pride and self-belief."

One of the quickest and immediate jobs is to start enticing business investment in the city, targeting the resources sectors in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. He said luring head offices to set up in the CBD was a priority with recent examples including InterOil and Barrick, while in the 1990s, Chevron Oil established its head office in Cairns.

He said Cairns had cheaper rents, a safer environment, a better quality of life and better education, health, shopping and entertainment facilities than in PNG. Mr Charlton said as part of inspiring business confidence Advance Cairns was backing the chamber of commerce and the Cairns Regional Council in the upgrade of the CBD, filling empty shops and offices and tidying up tatty areas.

Advance Cairns will be an organisation for all, not just the top end of town, nor rely on political funding.
Charities, non-profit and community organisations would be invited to become members, Mr Charlton said.
He said Advance Cairns would not work in isolation but with all organisations, including the chamber and Tourism Tropical North Queensland. "We will have a regional focus, it is not just Cairns-centric and that is why we want board members who represent key industries in transport, agriculture, manufacturing, creative and technology industries from the Cassowary Coast, Tableland and Cook Shire," he said. "We will be politically active but not politically aligned."

Membership will be capped at 100, with 13 executive and 87 general members.
Mr Charlton said, while diversification was "a no-brainer" its emphasis had damaged the $2.3 billion tourism industry. "We have the building blocks. We do have to diversify. That is a no-brainer. But let us get the language right. That is not to diversify at the expense of our traditional industries. "It’s important to support existing industries such as tourism. "We need to get behind and support tourism and agriculture not diversify at their expense."

Mr Charlton said tourism operators had felt "alienated" by the diversification focus. The value of agriculture could not be underestimated, he said. He said Advance Cairns would emphasise the lifestyle that attracted people to live and work. Nurturing young people was another project, particularly long term unemployed and the young leaders of the future. "We are indeed fortunate that our region is blessed with a tremendous array of natural heritage assets, with an intrinsic and timeless market appeal that provides a secure foundation for our industries to build upon," he said.

                      _______________________   |   ________________________

My Opinion

I had previously called  for this board to be restructured by amalgamating it with Tourism Cairns.The restructuring  is a charade. A joke of classic magnitude. Fancy having a board of 13 members or whatever the number is. The left hand wont know what the right hand is doing. This 'Advance Cairns' party should be scrapped in its entirety and replaced by a board of 3 yes 3credible community leader that know how to get a job done.

Ross Parisi 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Gillard must go if Labor wants to still have a hand full of seats

Galaxy poll finds no Julia Gillard Government MP would survive election in Queensland, with 23% primary vote

And the majority of voters say this humiliation would be just desserts for Labor. Almost 60 per cent of respondents to the poll said Labor deserved to be reduced to a rump of one or two seats in Queensland.
Under Julia Gillard, Labor's primary vote has, for the second time, fallen to the lowest level recorded in the history of the Galaxy poll.

The 23 per cent primary vote marks a slump of more than 10 points since the last election.
It's a decline of seven points since the last state-based federal poll in November and takes Labor back to its low recorded in a Galaxy poll last August.

The Liberal National Party primary vote is now at 56 per cent. This would see Labor crushed in Queensland by 64 per cent to 36 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis, assuming preference flows from the past election.

The collapse in support suggests federal Labor has not gained any benefit after voters took out their anger on former premier Anna Bligh in March.

Galaxy chief David Briggs said the dire poll for federal Labor was in line with the two-party preferred figure observed in the state election.

"Support for the federal Labor Party has slumped in Queensland. Voters look like they are prepared to give Julia Gillard's federal team the same treatment that was meted out to the Bligh government in the recent state election," Mr Briggs said. The poll surveyed 800 people across Queensland last Tuesday and Wednesday.
It came just over a week after the Government used its Budget to promise $5 billion in new handouts to ease cost-of-living pressures for families and people on low incomes.

In the same week, the Government starting running advertisements promoting its coming suite of tax cuts and welfare boosts designed to compensate for the carbon tax.

But community opposition to the carbon tax appears to be growing stronger as the July 1 start date approaches.

Only 25 per cent of voters supported the carbon tax and 72 were opposed, the poll found.  Among Labor supporters, a small majority of 54 per cent supported the carbon tax. But among the LNP supporters who Labor needs to win over, only 8 per cent backed the tax.

Opinions have hardened in the nine months since a Galaxy poll in August found 28 per cent supported the tax and 67 per cent were opposed.

Why Julia will never win our hearts

AUSTRALIA is set to never love Julia Gillard. That's the verdict of marketing experts who say the Prime Minister has trashed her personal brand beyond repair.

While other politicians have bounced back from serious scandals, Julia Gillard's fight is all but lost because Australians don't know what she stands for, experts warn.

The brand trouble began when she knifed her boss Kevin Rudd, but things only got worse when she won a tricky minority government.

"Winning minority government meant she had to appease so many stakeholders," psychologist Adam Ferrier said. "It meant making promises to certain people and breaking them to appease others.

"This creates the general perception that she is not true to her word and will not stand by her convictions and that she is playing politics instead of setting a vision. It means she appears conniving and her brand is now a lost cause."

Ms Gillard has been accused of backflipping over issues such as a carbon tax and criticised for her treatment of scandal-plagued backbencher Craig Thomson
Mr Ferrier said problems faced by politicians such as former US president Bill Clinton and former PM John Howard were not terminal because their problems fitted with their brand and did not create confusion about what they stood for.

"Clinton got away with his salacious behaviour because it wasn't at odds with his charismatic personality. In a way, it built into his brand," Mr Ferrier said. "And while Howard was often disliked, the way he was disliked built into his brand - you always knew what he stood for."

QUT marketing expert Edwina Luck said political marketing and branding was critical given the rise of the swinging voter.

Dr Luck said Ms Gillard suffered from not being accessible to the public and not showing her true self. "She is not coming across as warm, she is not showing off her true persona, and that has harmed her image," Dr Luck said. Changing the perception of Ms Gillard's image was "very very difficult".

"It's going to take much more than the delivery of promises because people don't see her as real and accessible," she said.

Dr Luck said Ms Gillard needed to relax in front of the camera and do more interviews where voters could see her as a real person. However, she warned taking to Twitter too forcefully could see her labelled simply a Kevin Rudd copycat.

                                              ______________________   |   ____________________

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Bob Manning's team discards 'Unity' tag for the sake of unity

Daniel Strudwick
Thursday, May 17, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Cairns Regional Council: Top: Cr Max O’Halloran, Cr Steve Brain, Cr John Schilling, Cr Linda Cooper, Cr Jessie Richardson, Cr Richie Bates and Cr Greg Fennell. Front: Cr Rob Pyne, Cr Terry James, Mayor Bob Manning, CEO Lyn Russell and Cr Julia Leu.

BOB Manning's triumphant election team will drop its Unity tag for the sake of unity in the council chamber now that the official business of the new-look Cairns Regional Council is under way.

A packed gallery watched yesterday as the council CEO Lyn Russell swore in the new cohort of councillors, seven of whom are Unity team members and four who are independents.

As the group embarks on its first orders of business – preparing the upcoming Budget and dismantling the Cairns Entertainment Precinct plans – the new mayor has promised a fair go for all councillors, Unity natives or not. "I’m very confident this will be a united and decisive council," he said."What I’ve found is that there’s a great feeling within the group of wanting to work together."We operate as a council – not as a local government and an opposition, but a council."

The promise of equality was welcomed by the council’s independent members, who are outnumbered by the majority formed by Unity councillors. "I think there’s a very pragmatic and workman-like group of people who are going to achieve great outcomes for the people of Cairns," returning Division 3 councillor Rob Pyne said.

The council includes only three councillors who served during the last term, and the group says its top priority will be to bring the newcomers up to speed.

The council staff spearheading the Cairns Entertainment Precinct plans will brief councillors on the existing project today, and Mr Manning says "settling" the matter will be the new group’s first big task. "We’ve got some contractual matters that have to be resolved, at the same time we need to be having conversations with the State and Federal governments. We want to protect that money flow that is coming in."

It is likely the new council will officially start dismantling former mayor Val Schier’s $155 million waterfront vision at its first ordinary meeting on May 30. "I fully appreciate the disappointment of those who supported the Cairns Entertainment Precinct in its current form, the promotion of which became a divisive issue within the community," Cr Manning said in his inaugural speech.

He bared his softer side during the 11-minute speech, choking up when paying tribute to wife Claire. "Claire’s put up with a lot over the years and, as I said, she’s always been the wind beneath my wings," he said.

                                  ________________  |  _______________

Far North MPs down to business to start delivering election promises

Daniel Strudwick
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
© The Cairns Post

New faces: Far Northern MPs David Kempton (Cook), Michael Trout (Barron River), Gavin King (Cairns) outside Parliament House in Brisbane. Picture: SARAH MARSHALL

WORK has officially started for Cairns' new political leaders who must now tackle the delivery of campaign promises that saw them elected in sweeping victories recently.

David Kempton, Gavin King, and Michael Trout were sworn in as members of Queensland’s 54th parliament yesterday and will cast their first votes as parliamentarians tomorrow.

It comes as the new-look Cairns Regional Council prepares to be sworn in today, led by Mayor Bob Manning who said his team would get straight to work to deliver its election commitments.

"I would like to think that any councillor in Queensland who doesn’t get straight down to business is not making a very good start," Mr Manning said.

The new Barron River MP, Michael Trout, said the North and Far North complement of the new State Government would be a formidable presence in the 89-seat parliament."We’re all sitting together, which is a good thing for the voice of the region," Mr Trout told The Cairns Post.

Although the new parliament’s first legislation will not be introduced until tomorrow, Mr Trout said the Far Northern contingent would get straight to work after they were sworn in. "We’re having a meeting this afternoon with (Attorney-General and Justice Minister) Jarrod Bleije to discuss youth crime on our streets," he said yesterday.

Cairns MP Gavin King said the first Bills to be passed tomorrow would help ease cost of living pressures such as car registration bills. Although only 11 members of the parliament do not belong to the Liberal National Party, Mr Trout insisted the appointment of Fiona Simpson as parliamentary Speaker would ensure robust debate. "The party’s gone to great lengths to ensure there’s fairness on the floor of parliament and the Speaker will be there to hold everyone to account," he said.

                               ___________________  |  ____________________

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

'Hillybilly Watch' itself now under the microscope.

Radio 4CA John MacKenzie 'Cairns Hillybilly Watch' has been brought to my attention that itself is now under the microscope for the very reason it freely criticises others.

Accountability and transparency applies to all including supposed whistle blowers. If allegations are cast and defamatory opinions printed by an undisclosed author then its is appropriate that the shy author be exposed so that accountability can be sheeted home to the illusive author.

I understand as I write that investigations are well underway to establish who the sponsor of the HillyBillyWatch is. At this point of time there is 'one person of interest' whose name is familiar to many follower of the Ross Parisi Blog and Facebook. I will refrain from further clues as it may prejudice enquires underway.

I will keep you posted of further development.

                                            _______________  |  __________________

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Tablelands Regional Council | A fresh start for

Nikki Taylor
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
© The Cairns Post

The new-look Tablelands Regional Council was officially sworn in at a ceremony at Atherton yesterday.

 Peter Hodge, Gaye Taylor, Shaaron Linwood, Jenny Jensen, Rosa Lee-Long, Evan McGrath, Rod Marti and Geoff Stocker. Picture: Darryl Day

Led by fresh-faced mayor Rosa Lee Long, the seven councillors each performed a Declaration of Office in accordance with the 2009 Local Government Act.

Within the seven divisions there are three returning councillors including Division 2’s Shaaron Linwood, Jenny Jensen for Division 8 and Evan McGrath in Division 7. The three will be joined by Geoff Stocker in Division 3, Gaye Taylor in Division 1, Division 4’s Rod Marti and Peter Hodge in Division 5.

Cr Stocker beat Rhonda Sorensen by 64 votes to take his seat. He said his first priority was to get to know council staff and identify the issues affecting his area.

"We need to look at the economic development of the region via other industries and job creation," he said.
Cr Lee Long told the Tablelander her primary focus was on the next budget.

"It’s time to let the dust settle and learn processes," she said. "In terms of the budget I am happy to keep rate rises down to a minimum and give people a bit of a breather. Over the next year we will look at cutting the fat and identify cost-saving areas."

Cr Marti said he was both "daunted and excited" by his new role.

"I’m under no illusion this will be an easy job," he said. "The priority for me is to try and respond to the issues in my division and identify areas for future economic development on the Tableland."
The TRC will hold their statutory meeting at the Atherton board room this Thursday.

                                      ________________  |  ______________

Monday, 14 May 2012

ALP in NSW still in tatters

Mob rule fails to dent Barry O'Farrell popularity

Barry O'Farrell
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has increased his command over Labor, according to the latest Newspoll. Source: The Daily Telegraph
A SPATE of shootings on the streets of Sydney and a messy scandal involving a senior staffer have done nothing to dent the popularity of NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, according to the latest Newspoll. 

Nor has Mr O'Farrell been damaged by suggestions he is averse to making tough decisions, such as selecting a site for a second airport for Sydney.

The poll, which was conducted exclusively for The Australian during March and last month, shows Mr O'Farrell increasing his lead as preferred premier over Opposition Leader John Robertson.

In a worrying sign for state Labor, as well as for Julia Gillard and her federal colleagues, the poll shows Labor mired on less than a quarter of popular support in NSW.

It shows state Labor with a disastrously low 24 per cent of primary support, compared with 25 per cent in the previous poll and 25.6 per cent at the state poll in March last year. The latest federal Newspoll registered Labor's primary support at 27 per cent.

Federally, Labor holds 25 seats in NSW, including five of its 10 most marginal.

The NSW Newspoll shows the Coalition with primary support of 47 per cent, compared with 49 per cent in the poll reported in February and 51 per cent at the state poll.

The two-party-preferred split is 63 per cent for the Coalition and 37 per cent for Labor.

If repeated at an election, such an outcome would probably result in Mr O'Farrell retaining his 49-seat advantage over Labor in the 93-seat lower house. Satisfaction among voters with Mr O'Farrell's performance is up marginally, from 46 to 48 per cent.

Satisfaction with Mr Robertson is also up marginally, to 28 per cent, but the former union boss remains in negative net approval territory, with 37 per cent of voters dissatisfied with his performance.

This is the highest level of dissatisfaction with Mr Robertson during his year in the job.The strongest number in the poll for Mr O'Farrell is preferred premier, where his lead of 52 to 15 per cent, in the previous Newspoll, has widened to a lead of 56 per cent to 14 per cent.

The result comes despite apparent problems for Mr O'Farrell on a number of fronts. In March, the NSW Premier declared he was opposed to a second Sydney airport, after a federal government report suggested another airport would be needed by 2030.

Mr O'Farrell's position was attacked as timid by business groups and in newspaper editorials. Last month, Mr O'Farrell lost his communications director, Peter Grimshaw, after an internal inquiry found Mr Grimshaw had shown a lack of judgment by forwarding to his girlfriend an email from Mr O'Farrell.

Mr Grimshaw has also been caught up in a public inquiry by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority into The Star casino, where Mr Grimshaw previously worked. But the most serious problem faced by Mr O'Farrell during the period of the poll has been gang-related lawlessness in Sydney.

                                    _____________________  |  ________________

New Cairns mayor Manning outlines priorities

Damon Guppy
Saturday, May 12, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Getting started: Incoming Cairns mayor Bob Manning will be sworn in on Wednesday, in the council chambers. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS

WHEN Bob Manning officially takes the mayoral reins, he will have more than rates, roads and rubbish on his mind.

The seasoned businessman knows the modern-day mayor needs to think beyond the traditional duties of a council.

He’ll be a lobbyist constantly in the ear of State and Federal governments, a savvy business negotiator, an ambassador for several industries and a champion for all of Cairns’ causes.

"For a mayor, the issue of advocacy for your town or city is greater than what it used to be," Mr Manning said.

"You’re expected to take on a greater role at a faster pace and there is so much that councils can do nowadays beyond the traditional duties like rates, roads and rubbish. Those things are still very important, of course, but it comes down to what the people think is most important."

Mr Manning yesterday outlined his top five priorities to The Weekend Post, which he can officially begin addressing once he is sworn in as mayor on Wednesday.

He and his team, most of whom are new councillors, will launch into a frantic schedule, including budget deliberations, following the ceremony."We’re going through an induction program that will be spread over a couple of days," he said."Then there are a number of sessions set aside to work on the budget."

The new administration’s first ordinary meeting is planned for May 30. Generating business confidence was a common theme in Mr Manning’s priorities.With experience in directing roles in organisations such as the Cairns Port Authority, Tourism Tropical North Queensland and marine engineering firm NQEA, Mr Manning said he was keen to work with state and federal members to champion local industries ranging from tourism and aviation to education and retail.

The expansion of HMAS Cairns, as recommended in the Federal Government’s review of defence assets, was a real opportunity to improve the city’s economy, he said. "There’s an opportunity to make it (HMAS Cairns) into a significant base," Mr Manning said. "The confidence level that the community would take out of this would be absolutely massive.’’

With long-term affiliations with welfare groups Anglicare and the Salvation Army, Mr Manning said he would ensure his council served people of all socio-economic backgrounds.
"I’ll be an advocate for all issues that affect Cairns," he said.

                                ___________________  |  ________________

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Speaker Slipper on the bananna skin!

I urged Slipper staffer James Ashby to go to court, says Mal Brough

Former Howard government minister Mal Brough with his wife Sue
Former Howard minister Mal Brough with his wife Sue at their home in the Glass House Mountains north of Brisbane. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen Source: The Australian
FORMER Liberal cabinet minister Mal Brough has admitted telling James Ashby to go to the police and take legal action over allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of taxi vouchers by Peter Slipper after a series of secret meetings with the political staffer earlier this year. 

After a Gillard government campaign to link federal opposition MPs to the court action that led Mr Slipper to step down as Speaker, Mr Brough yesterday revealed he was briefly a confidant to Mr Ashby, even organising him legal advice, in the weeks before the adviser launched his explosive law suit against his then boss.

Mr Brough, who is standing for pre-selection in Mr Slipper's Queensland seat of Fisher at the next federal election, rejected speculation the Liberal National Party turncoat had been snared in a "honey trap" set by Mr Ashby with the backing of senior Coalition figures.
The one-time indigenous affairs minister in the Howard government, who lost his seat in the 2007 election landslide, revealed his role in Mr Ashby's court action as Labor stepped up its bid to tie Tony Abbott and Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne into setting up the Speaker.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Brough outlined the chain of events that led Mr Ashby to file his legal claim in relation to the sexual harassment he alleges to have suffered at Mr Slipper's hands, as well as the veteran MP's alleged misuse of taxi dockets, now the subject of an Australian Federal Police investigation. Mr Slipper has denied all the allegations.

Mr Brough said Mr Ashby had sought him out for help on the advice of local party official Valerie Bradford. Ms Bradford, a grandmother and 38-year member of the Nationals and now the LNP, had recruited Mr Ashby to join the party early last year after meeting him when he was working at a local strawberry farm as a marketing manager.

Despite initially being "suspicious", Mr Brough met the parliamentary adviser on three occasions in March and April - each time advising him he "needed to sit down with a lawyer". "I said to him that my strong view was that you need to make sure you are on extremely strong ground because the media, the government and Mr Slipper will tear you apart," Mr Brough said he told Mr Ashby during the second meeting in late March.
"I said that you had better know that what you are saying is true and beyond any doubt."And, if it is, my strong advice to you is to go to the AFP with your claims of criminality and you had better get yourself legal advice regarding the civil matter."

In between the meetings, Mr Brough said he consulted only a few trusted people about the allegations - without using any names - but that he brought a person "with a legal background" to the last meeting to advise Mr Ashby, who, he says, then informed them he had already engaged his own lawyers.

Mr Brough denies ever speaking to any opposition MPs, their staffers or the LNP about Mr Ashby and his allegations. "I did not speak to Pyne, or Pyne's office, or to Abbott or anybody like that," he said. Mr Brough, who waged a two-year campaign in the LNP branch to oust Mr Slipper as candidate at the next election, said he had had little interaction with Mr Ashby before the "distressed" parliamentary adviser approached him.

A local LNP branch chairwoman, Mrs Bradford said she had tried to convince Mr Ashby to reject Mr Slipper's job offers, made before and after he was elected Speaker last November, and then progressively heard his allegations of harassment over the months he worked for the party turncoat, including being urged to shower with the door open.

Mrs Bradford said she eventually had told Mr Ashby to contact Mr Brough over the allegations after seeing some mobile text messages allegedly exchanged between the adviser and his boss. "I had been speaking to James for weeks about what was happening and he was becoming really distressed," Mrs Bradford said. "I told him to see a doctor, which he did, and talk to a solicitor, but he didn't have one."He had been staying with Mr Slipper and at the time he told me about the shower door incident, and the text messages and him even asking if he could kiss James. "In early March, James came back to town and he wanted to talk to someone who knew about the parliamentary processes and what could be done. He didn't want to talk to an MP, and we talked, and I could only think of Mal Brough."

On the eve of Queensland's March 24 election, Mr Brough said he had received a telephone call from Mr Ashby, asking to meet him. Mr Brough said he was suspicious of Mr Ashby, because he was a staffer of his political rival and a party member who had unsuccessfully run for election as an LNP official last year against Mr Brough's own team, which eventually took over the branch.

The former MP, who lost the neighbouring seat of Longman in the 2007 federal election, said he had relented and agreed to meet Mr Ashby on March 23. The meeting with Mr Brough and his wife, Sue, acting as a "witness", went for several hours and initially focused on whether Mr Ashby was behind a social media campaign that had been attacking Mr Brough over his planned pre-selection bid, scheduled for later this year. "We went over that (the attacks) and around that for a very long time and the whole time there is this background, 'There are things in Slipper's office that aren't right'," Mr Brough alleged. "And I was going, 'Yeah, well, surprise, surprise'.

"It wasn't until very late in the piece that he started to put a bit of meat on the bone, so to speak, and say that he felt he had been harassed, and talked about the Cabcharge stuff." Ms Brough supports her husband's recollection that Mr Ashby offered few details of the allegations at the first meeting and that he had said he wanted the former MP's advice on what to do.

The first meeting ended with Mr Brough warning him the allegations were "extremely serious", he should go to the AFP over his concerns about Mr Slipper's use of taxi dockets and that he would seek some advice on Mr Ashby's behalf. The following week, Mr Brough said he had had another meeting with Mr Ashby in which he advised him to seek his own legal counsel and outlined the advice he had received, concerning the alleged sexual harassment.

"I had taken some soundings as to all this - I spoke to someone in the legal fraternity - and I had learnt his (sexual) allegations were ... a civil action if he chose to take it and the other matter was a criminal matter, if he chose to take it," he said.Mr Brough said Mr Ashby then showed him a text message that went into more detail about his allegations against Mr Slipper.

He said a lawyer friend was at the next meeting with Mr Ashby early last month and began to go through the material with the adviser, who then revealed he had engaged his own lawyers in Brisbane and was meeting them on April 10 "He rang me from Brisbane where he had some long conversations with lawyers, that was on the Tuesday after Easter (April 10), and that he was going to Sydney to have further discussions with lawyers," Mr Brough said.

He said he had "no regrets" about his involvement with Mr Ashby and dismissed the conspiracy theories that the adviser was placed in Mr Slipper's office to entrap him and bring down the government, which had installed Mr Slipper to gain an extra vote on the floor of parliament. "All these people are crawling over it and I won't lie," Mr Brough said. "I just feel there is this storm of innuendo, that the LNP was behind it, that he (Mr Ashby) was a 'honey-pot' and it is all drivel."

Mr Brough said he believed he had a "moral obligation" to listen to Mr Ashby and would offer the same advice to anybody making similar claims. Mr Brough said he believed Mr Ashby had "clearly spoken to other people" when he was considering taking action.

Mr Brough's revelations came as Wayne Swan yesterday called on Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne to face questions about their dealings with Mr Ashby before he filed his Federal Court action last month. Mr Abbott yesterday admitted that Mr Pyne, manager of opposition business, had sent an email to Mr Ashby after the pair had drinks in the Speaker's office on March 19. But Mr Abbott said Mr Pyne had not made further contact with Mr Ashby.
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Thursday, 3 May 2012

Climate scientists' claims of email death threats go up in smoke

Changing climate
Source: The Daily Telegraph
CLAIMS that some of Australia's leading climate change scientists were subjected to death threats as part of a vicious and unrelenting email campaign have been debunked by the Privacy Commissioner. 

Timothy Pilgrim was called in to adjudicate on a Freedom of Information application in relation to Fairfax and ABC reports last June alleging that Australian National University climate change researchers were facing the ongoing campaign and had been moved to "more secure buildings" following explicit threats.

In a six-page ruling made last week, Mr Pilgrim found that 10 of 11 documents, all emails, "do not contain threats to kill" and the other "could be regarded as intimidating and at its highest perhaps alluding to a threat".
Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, who was the ANU's vice-chancellor at the time, last night admitted he did not have any recollection of reading the emails before relocating the university's researchers. "I don't believe I did," Professor Chubb told The Australian.
Instead, he said he had responded "as a responsible employer". "I had a bunch of concerned staff and they thought they should be moved to a more secure place so I moved them," he said. "With hindsight, we can say nobody chased them down. What do you do?"

The FOI application was lodged by Sydney climate blogger Simon Turnill. It requested the release of "emails, transcript of telephone calls or messages that contained abuse, threats to kill and/or threats of harm to the recipient" sent to six staff members of the ANU's Climate Change Institute. His request resulted in the discovery of the 11 documents.

The university refused to release the documents, citing a clause in the Freedom of Information Act that exempts documents that "would, or could reasonably be expected to ... endanger the life or physical safety of any person" from disclosure.

Mr Turnill appealed against the decision.In response to the appeal, Mr Pilgrim found 10 documents did not contain threats to kill or threats of harm. Mr Pilgrim said of the 11th, a further email offering an account of an exchange that occurred at an off-campus event sponsored by members of the Climate Change Institute and other bodies: "I consider the danger to life or physical safety in this case to be only a possibility, not a real chance."

Instead, he found "the exchange as described in the email could be regarded as intimidating and at its highest perhaps alluding to a threat".

The commissioner noted in his decision that Mr Turnill had confirmed he was not seeking "the release of personal information about the people who sent or received the emails or were referred to in calls or messages".

Mr Pilgrim has ordered edited version of the documents to be released. "There is no evidence to suggest disclosure would, or could reasonably be expected to, endanger the life or physical safety of any person," he said.

The commissioner noted that the emails "contain insulting and offensive language" and expressed fears "there is a risk that the release of the documents could lead to further insulting or offensive communication being directed at ANU personnel or expressed through social media".

But Mr Pilgrim also found: "Even if the threats were highly credible, the question would be how release of the documents would add to the expected threat."

ANU Climate Institute director Will Steffen, who is also one of the government's Climate Commissioners, is believed to have been a target of the emails. Professor Steffen was overseas yesterday and unavailable for comment.

The ANU has until later this month to appeal against the commissioner's decision. A university spokesman said it stood by its decision to oppose the release of the documents. "We are reviewing the Privacy Commissioner's decision and considering our response," he said.

Professor Chubb said he believed the tenor of the climate debate was improving. "I don't get the sense that there's the same level of nastiness," he said. But he insisted "we should keep the debate civil and not threaten or intimidate whether the threats are physical violence or death".
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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Julia Gillard on the ropes...this time its all of her making.

Disillusion with PM saps national confidence

This is much worse than just the wash-up of a few scandalous allegations against a Labor MP and the Speaker of the House - this is fundamental disenchantment with the Gillard government that began with the announcement of the carbon tax and the loss of respect for the Prime Minister in February last year.

No sudden, surprise and ill-explained standing down of the elected Labor MP, Craig Thomson, over allegations of misuse of union funds or the Labor-selected Speaker, Peter Slipper, over allegations of fraud and sexual harassment, is going to stem this long-term rot and the erosion of confidence it breeds.

This is evidence of a long-term trend and voter concern over much deeper issues such as the carbon tax, the cost of living, illegal boat arrivals, economic growth and business confidence. The prospect of the carbon tax and global uncertainty is destroying consumer confidence and business is applying a "Canberra discount" to share prices and investment decisions.

The Labor Party's primary vote has returned to its lowest levels on record. The only prime minister held in less personal regard than Julia Gillard was Paul Keating, and Tony Abbott has a clear lead as preferred prime minister.

MPs are confused and despairing as the pre-Christmas rise out of Labor's longest and worst period of support evaporates.

The optimistic "plan" to get Labor's primary vote back to the mid-30s and hence within striking distance of a less than disastrous outlook has proven forlorn. Labor's primary vote in Newspoll has been in decline since February and is now within one point of its record low of 26 per cent in September last year.

The numbers for Labor are actually worse than they were in September because voter support has shifted directly to the Coalition and the Opposition Leader. The Coalition's support is now similar to what it was at the peak of the Howard government after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and just before the 2001 election victory.

In September last year when Labor's support was at 26 per cent, the Coalition's support was lower than it is now and the Greens and "others" had higher support than they do now. At 51 per cent, the Coalition's primary vote translates into a two-party-preferred support of a whopping 59 per cent because Labor's lost vote is no longer parked among the Greens and others but going to the Liberals.

While Wayne Swan prepares for a budget which he insists must be back into surplus - even if only nominally - with spending cuts and imposts, the danger for Labor is that all the political and economic gain from a solid budget will not only be lost but also have the reverse of the desired effect. Gillard's lack of authority and the disproportionate concern about the state of the Australian economy relative to the rest of the world give an otherwise weak Liberal economic team the opportunity to play up negatives and score cheap shots in the realm of economic management and the cost of living. None of this helps the Treasurer's struggle to instil confidence.

The tough budget could provide the final straw in public and business confidence and exaggerate the caution and fear that are limiting the economy right now. Concern about the carbon tax is not abating, the prospect of a turnaround when compensation is paid is likely to prove delusional without real changes - particularly the implementation date and floor price of $23 a tonne for carbon - and the Gillard government and the economy will face even greater setbacks.
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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

$42m plans for Tablelands sugar mill

Natalie Dixon
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
© The Cairns Post

 Sweetener: Plans to upgrade the Tableland Mill will make it capable of crushing 900,000 tonnes a season.

THAI-owned MSF Sugar is on the cusp of a $42 million investment in the Tableland Mill, designed to boost capacity and add an annual $15 million to the local economy.

The company has long-term plans to upgrade the mill so it is capable of crushing 900,000 tonnes a season, up from the current 630,000 tonnes and is calling for growers to commit to supply it with more cane.

The upgrade also includes plans to allow syrup to be turned into raw sugar on site, instead of being taken to South Johnstone or Mulgrave.

MSF Sugar chief executive Mike Barry said the company was in the middle of a $2 million upgrade at the mill but was asking growers to give a firm commitment that they will supply enough cane to keep up with the expected capacity before it starts the second stage.

Newspaper ads have been placed calling for expressions of interest to supply cane to the Tableland Mill and MSF will hold forums with peak body Canegrowers in the region. "We are hoping to increase capacity by about 100,000 tonnes of cane each year for the next few years," he said. "Once we can confirm there is an appetite among the growers we will get stuck in with our proposed nvestment.  "In the past growers have been interested but the mill’s capacity was the problem, when we took over in April last year we decided that wouldn’t be an issue. 

Mr Barry said the proposal would add an extra 200,000 tonnes of sugar which was selling for $500 per tonne. "This investment could add an extra $15 million to the Tableland’s economy if growers get on board."

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Mixed response to Cairns Regional Council mayor-elect Bob Manning

Daniel Strudwick
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Top job: Bob Manning and his wife Claire go to vote in Saturday's local government election, which swept Mr Manning to power in Cairns Regional Council.

Cairns business leaders have given mayor-elect Bob Manning a warm welcome to the region's top job, but local green groups and arts figures are anxious to see how their sectors will fare under a back-to-basics council.

Cairns Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Mirotsos said Unity’s promise to tighten the council’s belt does not mean the region will be without vision and growth. "It will be the opposite – there’ll be a real confidence developing in business and that means growth will follow," Mr Mirotsos said.

He was critical of the outgoing council, led by Val Schier, for not doing enough to restore confidence in local businesses. "If your legacy to council is Zumba on the Esplanade and the Ukulele Festival, then there can only be a better alternative," he said.

But Advance Cairns chairman Stewart Christie said the outgoing council should be commended for its fiscal innovations. "We welcome the Unity team’s economic focus and we think they’re starting from a good spot because of what the last council was able to plan and implement", Mr Christie said, referring to the economic development unit and investment attraction fund. KickArts chairwoman Gayleen Todd said the incoming councillors should not underestimate the economic value of the former council’s creative initiatives.

She hopes the State Government’s recent cuts to arts budgets are not a sign of things to come in Cairns. "Everyone’s looking to diversify the economy, and arts is an area where there’s tremendous potential," she said. "The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, for example, has brought in thousands of visitors and they’re all interested in spending big dollars."

Mrs Todd said Unity’s promise to downsize the proposed Cairns Entertainment Precinct would be a "lost opportunity", which is a sentiment echoed by the local theatre community. "It would be unfortunate if the desire to save money results in such a significant, once-in-a-lifetime development being drastically reduced in size and placed on a second-rate site," JUTE theatre’s bosses Suellen Maunder and Keith Whenmouth said in a joint statement yesterday.

The region’s peak environmental lobby group, CAFNEC, wants the new council to continue the green initiatives of their predecessors, particularly the climate change strategy. "We encourage the council to acknowledge that economic prosperity and social cohesion must also be hand-in-hand with environmental protection," CAFNEC co-ordinator Sarah Hoyal said.

                                  _______________   |   ____________________

New Cairns Mayor Bob back to basics

Daniel Strudwick
Monday, April 30, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Well done: New mayor of Cairns, Bob Manning, and his wife Claire, with a congratulatory sign an unknown person placed at their doorstep yesterday morning. Picture: MIKE WATT

BOB Manning will act quickly as the new mayor of Cairns to ensure the struggling community that elected him begins to get a reprieve from the sky-rocketing cost of living.

After a campaign built on back-to-basics promises, Mr Manning says his landslide victory is a mandate from the people of Cairns to tighten the council’s belt and pass on the savings.

His first order of business will be "serious briefings" from Cairns Regional Council’s top brass so that the incoming group of councillors is fully aware of the region’s financial position. Attention will then turn to the Unity council’s inaugural Budget, to be handed down in the coming months.

"We want to go into this Budget holding things as tight as we possibly can, because the cost of living is such an important issue for our people," he told The Cairns Post yesterday. "There are some assumptions in the Budget in regard to the entertainment precinct and perhaps some other major projects that will have to be revised and that may have a positive impact on the Budget," Mr Manning said.

As ballot counting resumes this morning, Mr Manning has clinched 56 per cent of the primary vote and easily seized the mayoralty from Val Schier. He will have the backing of a supportive majority in the council chamber, unlike the outgoing mayor, Ms Schier, whose single term was dogged by a deep divide between councillors.

Six of Mr Manning’s Unity team are poised for election, and the remaining four councillors will likely be independents. The Far North’s swing towards a conservative-led council reflects the results of the recent state election, when three of Labor’s longest-held seats in the region fell easily to the LNP.

Mr Manning has already received phone calls from the new LNP Premier Campbell Newman and the state’s Local Government Minister, David Crisafulli, welcoming him to the role. "We can’t go head-to-head with Brisbane, we need to be working with them,’ Mr Manning said.

He will attend a meeting with Mr Crisafulli soon to discuss the upcoming term and the controversial entertainment precinct, which faces an uncertain future. He acknowledges that tourism will remain Cairns’ biggest industry, but hopes to support the region’s nascent employers such as mining, the marine sector and tertiary education.

Mr Manning, 66, said he decided to run for the council when Cairns lost the $300 million contract to build an air warfare destroyer for the navy in 2009. "It was just so unjust, so stupid to Cairns, and I decided that I couldn’t just sit back when it seemed like no one was standing up for our city."

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