With the election now over, and the start of a new Cairns (un)Regional Council term at hand, progressives in Cairns are left wondering about the future of our community with this team at the helm.
Frankly, we're not much concerned about Bob "Sleepy" Manning and his "big ideas". This is a mayor and council obsessed with turning a profit and spending as little as possible on the growth of our community. Keeping council rates at minimal levels to "help the battlers" does little to inject the enthusiasm and spark necessary for a community growing at Cairns' historical rates. This Sleepy Manning philosophy of government is the reason we've had an inadequate, too-small replacement for our current inadequate, too-small Civic Theatre shoved down our throats with no consultation. It's the reason we'll never see anything like the proposed light rail system (which would require a local government investment of over $280M plus the state and federal components). It's the reason so much of Cairns still has no kerb and channeling - even on major thoroughfares.
The Manning team is rumoured to have spent upwards of ten times the money then spent by their opposition. Who benefits from spending this much money on council positions? We all know the answer to that one.
And when the state and federal governments see a community like Cairns unwilling to take risks and invest in their future, they quickly recognise that their investments in Cairns should reflect this council position. Hence, no money is forthcoming from them. The bureaucrats remember how all their time and effort was expended to secure over $125M for the waterfront Cultural Precinct and CBD upgrades, only to see their work squandered by Manning and Gavin King. They're not likely to work very hard to help us again in the future.
We however believe there is a much more serious issue plaguing Cairns. While residents blame politicians on both sides of the aisle for the malaise that's gripped Far North Queensland, we prefer to look at the bigger picture. And one of our huge problems is the one-sided and amateurish news media that is doing bugger all to hold our politicians to account.
There is no journalistic integrity available to the residents of Cairns and Far North Queensland. Not when our "local" newspaper is mostly written and assembled 350km away and our local TV news has "anchors" that do a half-dozen or more "local" news bulletins a day.
The publishers of journalism must show an ultimate allegiance to the citizens. They must strive to put the public interest and the truth above their own self-interest or assumptions. This core journalistic principal is absent in the Cairns Fourth Estate. Hence the electorate struggles for the truth and the "big end of town" can rule the roost by manipulating just a few lazy and talentless news writers.
A case in point is last week's "secret" visit to Cairns by the carny barker known as Tony Fung. The post reported ahead of time on this "secret" visit, because it was fed to them. And the Cairns Post returned the favour by feeding the community a stripped down, one-sided, bullshit-laden story. Where is their allegiance to the citizenry?
And at the same time Tony Fung was spruiking a stripped-down, staged development, his PR team was giving the original $8billion "Fantasy Land" story to overseas news media. Lies designed to extract money from apparently ignorant investors.
The oddest part of the Cairns Post story is how the same Fung event was covered by OTHER News Limited-owned outlets. The report on Fung in the Australian about the project was far more balanced and probing than the dreck we got from Nick Dalton at the Cairns Post. Possibly the worst news reporter in the southern hemisphere.
Dalton promotes the new Fung proposal by saying the first stage of $2B includes "4000 hotel rooms". The original $8B proposal was said to have 8000 rooms. How can this be? Dalton takes any nonsense and prints it. And the $2B proposal has an aquarium, theatre, exhibit halls, golf course - in fact ALL the same amenities as before. For 75% less.
And despite public announcements that the project will proceed WITHOUT a casino, Dalton quotes local engineer Pat Flanagan as saying "The project WILL include a casino" (Emphasis added - ed.)
The same report in The Australian is far more balanced and questioning of the project, thanks to reporter Emma Reynolds. In her story she points out all the big questions that have plagued the project - the Aquis location being planned in a 10-year floodplain, the missing plans for roads, bridges, water, water treatment, transport, and schools.
And not a peep out of the Cairns Post and Nick Dalton about the announced Mainland Chinese partners in the project - CCCC International Holding and Tandellen Group Ltd. CCCC Group has been disbarred by the International Monetary Fund for any funded projects due to "big rigging". And Tandellen apparently has direct connections to the Chinese Communist Party and Military. These aren't hard facts to discover - they're deliberately ignored by reporters at the Cairns Post who believe they're role is to act as PR firm for any nonsense that crosses their desk. Or is pushed across their desk by Bob Manning, Warren Entsch, or whoever is the politician of the day.
There is not a farthing of investigation in the Cairns Post journalism. No statement is fact-checked. Ever. Dalton has never once asked Fung about where the construction and operational workers will come from. No hard question is ever asked, because the Cairns Post is little more than a PR extension of the business community. To the detriment of the community at large.
So it's no surprise when the story of the massive, multi-year ground pollution of the airport is ignored for years DESPITE INSIDERS GIVING THE INFORMATION TO THE CAIRNS POST FOR YEARS!
You've got to wonder how these horrible journalists drag their sorry arses into the city to rewrite the press releases day after day. Have they no pride in themselves and their community?
John MacKenzie, the only other (with admittedly limited reach) voice of the media in Cairns routinely blames everything on the "ratbag greenies". So arrogant was he during the election that he encouraged Cr. John Schilling to launch bitter and false personal attacks on Mayoral candidate Jim Brooks with impunity. MacKenzie routinely allows commentary "on the air" that is in violation of the law. Only after the lawyers went after 4CA's owners did MacKenzie and his other radio station brethren come to heel. It is a sad confirmation on the collapse of media in Cairns.
Those of us here during the 90's remember the robust debate about the appropriateness and environmental impact of the Skyrail project. Sure MacKenzie attacked the "ratbag greenies" for not rolling over, but the Cairns Post presented both sides of the issue in the fair and balanced way. Debate was vigorous but respectful. The result was that the community got a much better project than what was originally proposed - it was constructed in a less-invasive manner and was required to include safeguards that, in hindsight, made the difference. We all benefit from open, robust consultation that is organized around a fair and robust news media.
As a federal election begins to loom on the horizon, it's obvious that Warren Entsch is already confident that the Cairns Post won't ask any hard questions. Why has the "insurance crisis" now collapsed with the homeowner as the loser? Why are our regional medical facilities so grossly underfunded? And the Cairns Post has no problem publishing Entsch brainfarts - the tunnel under the Trinity Inlet a gross example of something so technically unfeasible to be a joke, and yet the Cairns Post gave it cover space!
While blogs in Cairns have made up some of the missing investigative analysis, bloggers alone can't be the core of a healthy community. Clearly the Cairns Post is operating outside of the norms of even NewsCorp operations in other cities around Australia.
It's time the Cairns Post, the ABC, and other news media started doing their jobs.