Saturday, January 23, 2010

Top cop questions media focus on pub violence



The police officer in charge of the nation’s first designated entertainment precinct has question whether media coverage of glassings and other violent acts in and about licensed premises is causing more harm than good.

Inspector Steve Donnelly, providing a report to a meeting of the Valley Liquor Accord late last year, is recorded in the meeting’s minutes as saying “very likely” when asked by a venue representative if media coverage had contributed to an increase in glassings in the local area.
The senior police officer had told the meeting that the use of glasses in assaults was increasing, from seven in 2007, 10 in 2008, and 24 before end of May in 2009. The minutes record that Inspector Donnelly made it clear it was only a person opinion, but The Independent has been told by a participant at the meeting that the inspector to stress his point mentioned that the media did not publish reports on suicides as it was known to lead to more suicide attempts.
According to the minutes, another participant later
asked whether the media could be encouraged then to stop using the term “glassing”. Inspector Donnelly’s comments followed a lengthy series of articles by The Courier-Mail under the banner Punch Drunk, highlighting what the paper sees as increasing violence across the state’s entertainment precincts.
The inspector’s report to the VLA meeting tended to back that claim. He told attendees approximate statistics for October last year showed 112 assaults in Brisbane central district, 56 of which occurred in Fortitude Valley. This was up from 100 last year.

Above: The Valley boasts its image as an entertainment hub.

Council stays firm on no compo for mall losses





Renewed calls by the local councillor and The Independent for traders to receive compensation for the much-delayed Chinatown Mall makeover have been rebuffed by City Hall.


This paper contacted the Lord Mayor’s office on Monday, asking whether the administration would reconsider compensation after council first reopened a large section of the mall on December 18, only to close it again at the beginning of January. As of Monday, the site was about as public-unfriendly as it has ever been since construction began in the first half of last year. The project is now expected to be at least six months over its original completion date.
And councillor for Central Ward David Hinchliffe weighed in: “The Lord Mayor should offer some form of tangible compensation for all mall traders for this delay.
“These people have done it tough and the cruellest blow is to be told they can start work again in December only to be presented with even more obstacles in January.
“If Campbell [Lord Mayor Campbell Newman] can’t say ‘sorry’ to traders and residents, then I am prepared to do that on behalf of council. I am sorry that this Newman administration has taken so much time on this project and has decided not to compensate traders or apologise to traders and residents for the inconvenience.”
Economic Development chair Jane Prentice said of this paper’s request for compensation: “No. We are providing local traders with an $8 million upgrade of Chinatown mall without requiring them to make any contributions to the project.”
Cr Prentice did apologise to local traders for opening up much of the mall in December, only to close it again.
“We sympathise with local traders and thank them for their patience. Chinatown Mall is one of the oldest areas in Brisbane with numerous unmapped or poorly mapped services including public and private storm water drainage and sewer mains and connections.
“This has caused a plethora of problems including having to find these services and then repair and relocate many of them. This was only made more difficult by the hard rock (Brisbane Tuff) that workers had to try and smash through. Then there was the decision by Energex and gas providers to upgrade their infrastructure while we were down there.”
Asked what were the chances of late December being repeated come Chinese New Year – with the barricades coming down for the festivities but then going back up again – Cr Prentice said only: “Although it will be tight, the mall will be open and ready for Chinese New Year celebrations."
Cr Hinchliffe said: “The February 14 deadline is absurd. It was supposed to be finished in August last year. “The very least he [Lord Mayor Campbell Newman] should do is to apologise in person to traders and residents for the incredible delays, broken promises, noise and disruption.”

Above: The mall on Monday, looking west to the grand arch that is still only just over half cladded. The bottom half of the redevelopment remains a no-go zone for the public.

Non, non ... a hundred times non!

FROM MY CORNER .... with Ann Brunswick


First, the good news. The old Milton tennis Centre is to be redeveloped after being left vacant for the best part of a decade.

Now, the bad news. The developers are hoping to build something akin to the Emporium in the Valley on the site with retail, residential, and office spaces.
“We’re thinking it would be a modern version of the Emporium in the Valley,” a spokesperson for the developers was quoted as saying in one of our city’s bigger fish-wrappers.
Well, that’s just what this city needs – another overdeveloped precinct chock full of ordinary architecture tarted up with faux-French touches.
Please, can’t someone do better?
In the past month the Brisbane City Council had cause to send me a letter. Let’s just say the BCC and I are having a slight disagreement about a certain matter.
Having penned a reply to their letter, the next step was to address the envelope to send it off to the council.
But, a thorough scan of the BCC’s letter revealed no return address.
Of course the original envelope containing the council’s letter had long been despatched to my recycling wheelie bin.
Certainly as a ratepayer, it annoyed me to have to track down the council’s postal details. Don’t you think it is basic good manners to include a return address on letters you send? Obviously the BCC doesn’t.

Has anyone told Her Majesty?


The Victorian Government has just scrapped references to the Queen in criminal legal proceedings.
The state’s Attorney-General Rob Hulls says references to Her Maj are outdated. How right he is.
From now on criminal cases will be mounted in the name of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
One wonders if Queensland will dispense with the Queen in the same way.

We’ve got the bad bottle blues



My column last issue about how hard it is to open those little metal tops of bottles of Schweppes ginger ale led to a litany of letters from fellow sufferers.
Why, even this paper’s wine writer David Bray sent me an email. You can probably tell from his photo on the wine page in this issue that he is an absolute dearheart, but he’s a thorough gentleman to boot. We mix socially every now and then outside of work, and he has never, once made a move, although I suspect he’d like to. Anyway, here is just a sample of the letters, postcards and emails I received.

My dearest Ann,
Although of the gin-and-tonic persuasion I write to add my penn’orth to support your opinion of that recent venturer into the arcane arts of torture, the one and only Schweppes. I have before me a diminutive, yet in the realm of instruments of torture a giant, bottle of Schweppes Indian Tonic Water stamped “BB 18 NOV 10 00:59 3212 9323 3” on its side.
Attempts at opening it engender instant wrist contusions, then scalded fingers in holding it under the hot tap, more frictions burns in resorting to towel, sponge, or anything else handy, and then serious risk of lacerations when finally resorting to a Stanley knife to attempt to part the nibs on the cap from the ring holding it in. To do that one needs to hold the bottle on its side and push very hard on the utility knife while holding the cold wet and slippery bottle firm—‘tis exceedingly difficult.
Once success is achieved in cutting through a couple of those connecting pieces of reinforced steel the top may then give way to one of the earlier removal methods. It’s totally beyond the pale!
The only item coming close to ruining a calm evening is the ring pull inside the cap of a 1-litre carton of Devondale UHT milk. Either the ring breaks or the whole assembly comes off leaving the carton forever open to the elements (and the elements inside our fridge are often none too benign, I might add).
Thank you for bringing up these irksome matters. Let’s hope the Authorities Take Note.
With very best wishes

Austin Adams
Kangaroo Point
Via email


Hi Ann
Love your nom de plume!
We all have our pet peeves and the Schweppes twist bottle is just one of mine. The difficulty of opening, the reduction in size and same price for less is enough to make one turn to another brand. I have not had the same problem with other brands. However, there is no other brand for me, not even Kirks. I am rather fond of a splash of soda water with my single malt and only Schweppes does it for me.
Speaking of single malts…not only did Schweppes reduce the bottle size but not the cost without so much as a “by your leave”, the spirit bottlers did the same! Slyly, in the dead of night, the size of all spirits went from 750 ML down to 700 ML, again without any reduction in cost! My Scottish ancestor would spit in their eye.
Keep telling it like it is. I am an avid reader.
Regards
Peter
via email January 12


Dear Ann
I know how you must hate those pesky screw tops. Soft drink is a bit out of my territory (water only with single malt), but the good Mrs B had almost nightly struggles with those wretched wine bottle screw tops. Mind you, we won't buy wine that has a cork, which is even more difficult for her arthritic hands. Often around 6pm I hear the sounds of struggle in the kitchen and know the unscrewing time has come. Do you not have a gentleman to come to your aid?
Yours in understanding and emerging from the far reaches of this publication.
David Bray

Oh, Ann
How I laughed when i read your column about trying to open those jolly little bottles !!
I thought it was only me and my weak wrists
I agree with you too, that Schweppes is a much better drink than Kirk’s
Love your column too
Deb
via email January 18


I also received a lovely postcard for Barbara Curtin who wrote: “Re. bottle top removals. You need a pair of large white kitchen scissors with a grip on the handles.”
Thanks Barbara!

Pub spooked by mysterious spectre






By John Orr

Spirits have always been available at the Story Bridge Hotel for a century, but one in particular is causing staff some concern – it’s a ghost that dwells on the top floor.

Staff report and management confirm that an apparition makes its presence felt late at night in the Martini Bar Function Room after patrons have left and staff are locking up. “I’ve seen it – an apparition in the mirror; a shadow that seems to sprint when you confront it,” duty manager Andrew Thornton said.
“It is inexplicable, you lock your doors, you leave the lights on – in the morning they’re unlocked and they’re out – yet no-one’s been there.”
Functions room staff and management confirmed his account. One who preferred to be only known as “Sue” has been at the Martini Room since its 1996 opening and she stated: “When the people go and you close, things happen without reasonable explanation. There is a presence, it’s definitely male, but its not threatening. Unlike some men, I’ve never felt it predatory … just lonely. There is just extraordinary sadness and its tangible I kid you not, ” she said.
“I spoke to a psychic and she thinks it’s friendly – more like the cartoon character, Casper The Friendly Ghost than the Phantom of the Opera or the X Files, or like horror films with things that go bump in the night.”
She speculated it was a man with issues of injustice to resolve and could not move on until done so. “He’s feeling awful about something wrong or unsaid.”
The Martini Room is in the oldest section of the hotel – recently voted Australia and Queensland’s best – and until five years ago was used for accommodation, offices and storage. Reports from staff that cannot been unexplained have been constant since then Mr Thornton conceded some staff refused to be alone in the Martini Room after dark. H
e also confirmed that another duty manager had left the hotel after an encounter with the ghost. On condition of anonymity that manager who works at another prominent inner-city hotel told The Independent: “I was happy at The Bridge but I will not visit up there alone. I felt no menace but there is no question it is frightening. It seems to seek out company after the crowds are gone. It wants to communicate but can’t but it likes to be around you.”
Another duty manager, Andy “Capper” Johnston has been investigating and researching records as to deaths in the area at the John Oxley Library to attempt to establish the identity of the spirit form. “As a long-term KPR [Kangaroo Point Resident] I have two theories. It’s the miner Patrick Mayne allegedly butchered – murdered – in the abattoir adjacent to the hotel in the mid 1800s or Edwin John Baldock who used to drink here and was decapitated by the Vampire Killers.”
Mr Johnston also noted Kangaroo Point was the oldest part of Brisbane and had seen indigenous wars, massacres, been a jazz favourite of American soldiers in World War II and the favourite drinking place of the Painters and Dockers until they were disbanded after the Costigan Royal Commission into organised crime .
SBH chief manager Andrew Ford said he was not concerned about the ghost: “I’ve been fully informed of the issue. I’ve been the boss of a number of old Brisbane hotels – the RE, The Regatta, the Breakfast Creek before the Bridge and I’ve never seen anything like this.
“I’m reassured that all staff who have experienced this tell me it is benign not malign. There is no safety issue here. It only manifests itself at closing time and at extra cost we roster on double staff to close that room down at night. It’s a mystery is all I can say.
“The presence seems to be localised only to this room after everything is quiet. However, I will consult with the proprietor Richard Deery about that on his imminent return from Europe.”

Writer’s disclosure: Blessed with healthy scepticism, I asked and was permitted to enter the top floor alone, late after all had left. All was empty, doors locked, lights on. The air-conditioned room suddenly became very warm and I was absolutely certain there was someone looking at me. I turned and looked across at the city and the lights went out in the room and then in the city across the river. A gaseous human thing I understand is called an ectoplasm appeared – and then vanished – and the lights came on. I now believe in the Ghost of the Story Bridge Hotel. And as a lapsed, nay collapsed Catholic I again believe in the Father, Son and The Holy Ghost. I had not been drinking that night, but after writing this story, I headed out for a very large whisky.



Top: The famous Story Bridge Hotel. Above: the stairwell to that apparently haunted room.

Labor turns up heat over square

Brisbane City Council Labor leader Shayne Sutton has call on Lord Mayor Campbell Newman to take immediate action and re-think the design of King George Square, after its temperature reportedly reached over 50degC on Monday (January 18).

Councillor Sutton made the call yesterday at the Morningside Ward Office, Bulimba, where she displayed photographs of the “old” King George Square on hand.
“The new King George Square has been open for three months now, and it’s clear the design is not suitable,” Councillor Sutton said.
“Brisbane residents have clearly said the square is too hot and they would have preferred more green space in the final design –- and Labor councillors have always agreed.
“Cr Newman has been at the helm of this project from the start, but it’s time for him to swallow his pride and seriously re-think the stark, arid design of the square,” she said.

Be climate smart in 2010


Climate change is the single biggest environmental threat facing the world today. It’s affecting us all in the community and we need to start making changes in the way we do things, and Member for Brisbane Central, Grace Grace MP, is encouraging all households to register for the ClimateSmart Home Service program that can help save energy in and around the home as a great start to the New Year.


“This program is a great way for households to learn about what is using too much energy in their home and then making decisions on how to lower their usage,” Ms Grace said.
“For a $50 service fee, a qualified tradesperson will visit your home to conduct an energy audit, provide energy advice, install energy saving tools such as a household energy monitor and a water efficient showerhead, and also supply 15 compact fluorescent light globes.
“This service is a bargain as it is usually worth $250,” she said. One of the most important elements of the ClimateSmart Homes Service is the installation of a wireless household energy monitor. The monitor will provide you with real time data about your energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
“This means you can make informed decisions about how much power you are using at any time.” “Every little bit helps and the ClimateSmart Home Service program is a fantastic way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your home for the environment’s future.”
To register for this service, complete your details at www.climatesmart.qld.gov.au/your_home/climatesmart_home or phone 1300 130 372.

HQ set to give Valley a big boost




Several thousand extra workers will provide a welcome boost to the Valley’s day economy when the massive HQ project on the corner of Wickham and Brookes streets opens in a few months.

And it will connect a few more dots on the way to making the area’s day economy stronger, according to Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Carol Gordon.
“Approximately 3000 extra workers into the area from early April 2010 is definitely a positive input into the area,” Ms Gordon said. “It will provide connectivity and be complementary to the Emporium and the two Homemakers centres as well as James Street and service the RNA development and Waterfront Newstead development.
“Restaurants and eateries, takeaway food and convenience shopping will complement many of these adjoining retail and business precincts.”
Ms Gordon said the chamber had actively been seeking support for both the day and night economies in the Valley as they were vitally import ant. The chamber continued to submit letters to council, make government submissions and sought funding applications on a regular basis and worked with Commerce Queensland on business pulse surveys to gauge impacts.
The chamber continued to have councillors address many of the monthly meetings in the area and Lord Mayor Campbell Newman would address the chamber’s February luncheon meeting on his vision for the suburb and environs. Ms Gordon said the chamber had been actively pursuing the town planning process with the Valley Neighbourhood Planning process due for final approval now at the first council meeting for the year in February.
“It has always been the overriding objective to increase the number of office workers moving into the area as this is primary way of increasing the customer base for the day economy,” Ms Gordon said.
• The Lord Mayor’s address to the chamber luncheon is on Wednesday, February 3 from 12.30pm to 2pm. It’s in the executive function room Level 3, Cloudland 641 Ann Street Fortitude Valley . Tickets are $55 for chamber members and $60 for non members (plus booking fee) and includes a two-course lunch and glass of wine. Inquiries to Warren Wackerling on 3235 0128 or 0438 320 162 or via email to: wwackerling@valleychamber.com.au

Stepping out to a different Valley of old



Performance

Hey Scenester!
Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse
Thurs to Sat January 28-30
Tickets: Phine 3358 8600 or visit
www.brisbanepowerhouse.org



Want to take a peek at the Valley entertainment scene in the years before it became the throbbing, hobnobbing, flashy, trashy entertainment precinct that it is today?

Or in the words of Claire Marshall “before Fortitude Valley had become a boganised tourist attraction and district of megaclubs.” Claire is the driving force behind Hey Scenester!, a contemporary dance, pop culture inspired work, looking at ‘scenesters’ and Fortitude Valley’s nightlife and playing at the Visy Theatre at the Brisbane Powerhouse in New Farm later this month.
Choreographed by Claire Marshall in collaboration with dancers and drawing inspiration from research, interviews, and observations in the Valley over the past 20 odd years - and they were pretty odd years by all accounts - Hey Scenester! is a flash back to Brisbane alternative, and indie clubs in the early-mid 1990s and explores club culture in Brisbane when “corruption was rampant, but self-expression was permitted”.
Explains Claire: “Embracing the gritty, dilapidated clubs that once existed, clubs that a gust of wind could easily blow over, or the Dean brothers could knock down overnight, Hey Scenester! is a tribute to a scene now gone – that many claim to have been part of, but than no one can remember the exact details of.
“ If you remember Funkyard, Mass, Bleach, or Pop Scene (to name just a few), Hey Scenester! looks at the good, the bad, and the ugly side of club culture and human behaviour – which transcend time and an era of a club.”
Claire Marshall was a recipient of the Ausdance Queensland Brisbane Front Program Choreographic Residency, which saw the first development presented in November 2009 at the Judith Wright Centre shop front space.
Hey Scenester! sees the Visy Theatre transformed into a non-traditional theatre space for the second installment of the work.
Hey Scenester! is billed as an eye-opening look at changes in nightlife and club culture in Fortitude Valley, exposing the scene and not so seen!

Clint makes our day ... again



Films ... with Tim Milfull


Invictus (PG)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
Rating: 4/5
133-minutes, screening from tomorrow, Jan 21


Veteran voice Morgan Freeman has been trying to make a film about legendary politician and leader Nelson Mandela for decades. Rather than documenting his entire life, Freeman chose a specific “chapter” to tell a larger story, which is becoming something of a tradition in the production of biopics.

In Mandela’s case, Freeman chose John Carlin’s book, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation, an account of South Africa’s road to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. In the first few years after his release from Robben Island, the new President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) quickly realised that one of his biggest challenges was balancing the momentum of his people’s power – almost forty-million non-whites – with the risk of losing or entirely alienating the new minority: the former Afrikaans nation.
One of the key symbols of Apartheid power was the Springboks rugby team, with its flag, name, and colours. In fact, at international games non-whites in South Africa delighted in cheering on anyone but the ’boks.
So one of the first orders of business for the ANC was the renaming and rebadging of the national football team. In a far-reaching decision, Mandela intervened during the voting process, and convinced his government that such a move would be a mistake.
Mandela called on the captain of the Springboks – Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) – to lead by example, and the somewhat befuddled captain initially struggled to galvanise his teammates into a winning style. In fact, the Springboks were only playing in the Cup because they were the host nation. This is a simple story with a complex background, and Freeman’s roles as executive producer and leading man are ably complemented by the elegant direction of his mate, Clint Eastwood. The result is a stirring, exciting, and inspiring triumph.




Director shines with loopy shenanigans

In the Loop (MA15+)
Director: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander
Rating: 4/5
106-minutes, screening from Jan 21


A conflicting sense of disappointment and excitement comes with the discovery that something that’s been flying under my radar, and Armando Iannucci’s In the Loop is a perfect example – disappointed at the thought of having missed out on so much, and excited at the prospect of finding out what else he has made.

Iannucci has solid history in satire, writing, producing, and starring in his own comedies, and working alongside heavyweights such as Steve Coogan on The Alan Partridge Show, which is criminally difficult to find in Australia. In a series called The Thick of It, Iannucci revived a public passion for backroom shenanigans that was once glorified in Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. T
his mutant British version of The West Wing ignored all the gloss and glamour of politics and celebrity, concentrating on foul-mouthed powerbrokers like Whitehall Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). Only Tucker makes the transition to the big screen, and even though he is such a larger-than-life figure, Tucker is now just one member of an ensemble cast.
The director’s latest minefield involves an incompetent junior minister – Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) – who inadvertently has let slip that an international coalition is planning to invade a Middle Eastern country. Sound familiar? Of course, the evidence justifying such action is a little more difficult to obtain, and Foster and his underlings are caught up in a maelstrom of political intrigue, as various shadowy figures manoeuvre behind the scenes.
As a series of innocuous comments from Foster are blown out of all proportion, Tucker is forced to spin the implications and splatter the walls of Whitehall, the West Wing, and the United Nations with his bitter invective.
Iannucci’s hilarious impression of Gulf War II features standout performances from James Gandolfino and David Rasche, but In the Loop will always be remembered for Peter Capaldi’s loathsome Tucker – something like Paul Keating on PCP.



Good idea blurred in making

Law Abiding Citizen (MA15+)
Director: F. Gary Gray
Stars: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx
Rating: 2.5/5
108-minutes, screening from Jan 28


Jamie Foxx has top billing in this action-vengeance thriller, but I think that the wrong character prevails in Law Abiding Citizen. Foxx plays Assistant District Attorney Nick Rice whose conviction rate is so close to perfect he’ll make all kinds of compromises to keep it from dropping.

When he tries a case involving the murder of a mother and daughter, Rice makes a plea bargain with the defence to put one man behind the bars and the other on death row. The problem is that the bereft husband and father – Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) – cannot come to terms with Rice’s machinations. In his view, both crims deserve the needle – there is no grey. Jump forward 10 years, and Rice is nearing the pinnacle of his career.
When the home invader he once put on death row experiences a particularly gruesome execution, the authorities quickly determine that the man was murdered by someone other than the state. Enter Clyde Shelton, who has been rather quiet in the last few years. It appears the aggrieved widower has a score to settle with anyone who stood between him and justice for his murdered family.
Unfortunately, Clyde is no ordinary hubbie – that much is obvious in the opening scenes when we see him wielding a soldering iron – the man is an inventor who has worked in some shadowy territory since the destruction of his family. And he plans to use all of his new skills to make everyone pay.
While Butler is treading a similar path to Charles Bronson here, the ethical implications in Law Abiding Citizen are unsatisfying and blurry. Director F. Gary Gray takes an interesting idea and overcomplicates it with explosions and intrigue.

Abbott knows a cunning stunt when he pulls one

By Mungo MacCallum


Tony Abbott’s planned private member’s bill to override Queensland’s Wild Rivers legislation may be, as his opponents claim, a political stunt. But they can hardly deny that it’s a bloody good one.

Not only does it wedge the Labor Party from two different directions, but like all the best stunts, it combines skill and daring with a core of plausibility. Premier Anna Bligh’s declaration that the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart river systems of Cape York should join six others already gazetted as wild rivers was itself seen as something of a stunt by many political cynics. According to this view, it was a straightforward deal with the Greens, trading the rivers for Green preferences at the last election.
Certainly it outraged the Aboriginal residents, in particular their charismatic leader Noel Pearson and his brother Gerhardt who had been putting together plans for the development of the area to provide employment and eventual self-sufficiency. Pearson denounced the decision as “foreclosing on a future for our people ... the state cannot rip the future out from under indigenous children's feet”.
Bligh has denied that this would be the effect of the law; development of a sensitive and sustainable kind will still be welcome, she insists. But there is no doubt that the gazettal has placed severe limits on the Pearsons’ options, nor that it has interposed another layer of bureaucracy between them and land which was found by the High Court’s 1996 Wik decision to be in traditional indigenous ownership.

There is a certain irony in the fact that the Wik decision was largely gutted by Abbott’s mentor John Howard, and that Abbott is now proposing to effectively reinstate it. But unlike Howard, Abbott has credibility on indigenous issues. Indeed it could be argued that no politician in the current federal parliament is better qualified to argue the Aboriginal case for Cape York.
Not only is Abbott a personal friend of the Pearsons, but he is a regular visitor to the peninsula and has done volunteer work at the troubled community of Aurukun at the mouth of the Archer River and inland at Coen. His private member’s bill may have a tinge of political opportunism about it, but at least he knows what he is talking about. Furthermore, although such a bill would almost certainly trigger a constitutional challenge, it is one the commonwealth would probably win.
The Opposition’s legal affairs spokesman, the lawyer George Brandis, made a convincing case for it last week. He notes the similarities to the 1983 case involving Tasmania’s Franklin River Dam, which the Commonwealth won, and suggests that much the same arguments would apply, but in the Queensland case they would be even more clear cut.
The commonwealth could invoke not only its constitutional power to make laws for people of the Aboriginal race, but also its External Affairs Power; only last year Australia signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which, among other things, provides that “indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources they possess by reason of traditional ownership or traditional occupation”.
At the time, of course, Abbott and Brandis vigorously opposed the government’s move. Now it looks rather handy. Abbott’s bill will, of course, not be passed; Kevin Rudd is not about to overrule the embattled Labor premier of his home state, especially if it involves setting what could be a far-reaching and potentially embarrassing precedent. But opposing the bill will bring its own problems.
One of Rudd’s first commitments as Prime Minister was to “close the gap” between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. By refusing Abbott’s challenge to do something concrete and practical which has the support of some of Australia’s most active and respected Aboriginal leaders he risks being seen as putting political considerations ahead of good policy, and worse, of joining Bligh in sacrificing legitimate Aboriginal interests for more electorally valuable Green support. Not that Rudd owes the Greens anything after their contemptuous dismissal of his Emissions Trading Scheme, but their preferences could be useful at this year’s election, and in any case he will almost certainly have to deal with them after it. Very much a Catch 22, made worse by the fact that the issue will also divide two groups which both traditionally support Labor.
A cunning stunt indeed. In keeping with his carefully cultivated image as Action Man, Abbott has also thrown himself vigorously, if somewhat confusingly, into the whaling controversy; last week he seemed to be suggesting sending a gun boat (or at least the hapless Oceanic Viking) back to the Antarctic to interpose its body between the forces of Japan and Sea Shepherd. And he wants to set up some kind of workforce to look after the environment in general. He is, as promised, going in with all guns blazing.
But hang on a moment: just what are they blazing at? Surely Abbott was elected leader as a sop to concerns that the party under Turnbull was moving too far to the left, getting too close to Labor. Abbott was to take them back to their conservative grass roots. But last week all he seemed to worry about were Aborigines and whales, the darlings of the elitist bleeding-heart chardonnay-sipping lovey-doveys.
Come on man, get back to basics. Smash the unions! Tax cuts for the rich! What do we want? More profit! When do we want it? All the time! That’s the trouble with political stunts. No matter how clever they are, in the end they’re just distractions. Good fun, sure, but not like the real thing.

Moscato proves it has bite


WINE
With David Bray

Here is something to make all those of us who tend to be rather superior about moscato think again. Or at least go out and buy a bottle, cool it a bit, and sip.


Jacob's Creek Sparkling Moscato has won the National Australia Day Council's perpetual trophy for Best Australian Sparkling Wine - Aperitif Style at the 2010 Sydney International Wine Competition. Sydney International Wine Competition director Warren Mason tells us the wine is a crowd pleaser, great for celebrating big moments or enjoying quiet ones and makes a great wine ambassador for Australia Day on January 26. The Moscato was the competition judges' highest pointed Australian sparkling wine from among many high profile, higher priced methode champenoise Aussie sparklers. Moscato is the Italian name for wines made from the muscat grape in a style from the northern region of Piedmont, Italy.
“The Jacob's Creek sparkling moscato is low in alcohol, low in price, but not low in flavour! It is truly an all purpose wine of high quality which will appeal to a wide audience of Australian wine lovers on Australia Day and throughout the year," says Mason.
This is the first time a sparkling moscato has won the Australia Day trophy in the trophy’s 17 year history. “The fact that this wine has a rrp of $12.99, such a very accessible price point, makes it a truly pleasing Australia Day trophy winner."
At which point your correspondent would like to make the point that Jacob’s Creek is French-owned. It is part of the giant Pernod Ricard business, and none the worse for that, I guess.
The Sydney International Wine Competition is in its 29th year and is unique in that wines are judged alongside food. This year’s Australia Day “Sparkling Wine – Aperitif style” Trophy winner was judged against Smoked Salmon Timbales . Some of the judges’ comments from the final tasting: “Excellent straw green colour.
A nose of honeysuckle and ripej tropical fruits with a viscous mouth feel and loads of tropical flavours. The piquant nature of the food accentuated the riper fruits in this wine.” Ken Dobler, NSW “Honey jasmine and lime cordial notes on the nose. Dry on the palate with crisp acidity and good concentration.
A light to medium body and medium to long finish.” Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Singapore “Pale lemon straw with a slight green hue. Green apple and greengage fruit on the nose. On the palate, well structured palate with medium body, more subdued fruit with a mineral edge and firm acidity at the finish.” Martin Williams MW, Vic “Ripe citrus tropical fruit characters on the nose with some banana/lolly characters. The wine is juicy in the mouth with ripe grapefruit flavours; the finish is a little hard but becomes more juicy and grapefruit like with the food.” Neil Hadley MW, NSW
This moscato won its trophy status from an original category of 74 sparkling wine entries.
The 17 finalists included wines from Champagne, Australia and New Zealand which included mainly straight chardonnays (blanc de blancs) and chardonnay/pinot noir/and or pinot meunier blends.


Here’s what the Jacob’s Creek drop went well with....


RECIPE Smoked Salmon Timbales
Recipe by SIWC chef Jacqueline Mason

Serves 6
600g Smoked salmon slices
2 gelatine Leaves
Dash of Tabasco
½ tsp Worcestershire Sauce
100ml fish stock
10g unsalted butter
150ml thick cream
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp lemon juice
12 tbsp mixed fresh green herbs (parsley, chervil, basil)
Ground pepper

Soak gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes to soften. Heat the fish stock. Remove gelatine from water. Squeeze to remove water, then stir into the hot stock to dissolve. Cool lightly.
Line 6 x 120ml ramekins with one or two slices of smoked salmon (depending of size) leaving some overhang.
Place remaining smoked salmon in a food processor with butter and mix until smooth. Add stock mixture, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Process until well combined. Add cream and process until smooth.
Divide mixture amongst the 6 ramekins. Fold the overhanging salmon over the mousse, cover and chill overnight.
Remove ramekins from the fridge 30 minutes before serving. Invert each mousse onto the middle of each plate. Mix olive oil, lemon juice and herbs. Spoon the herbed dressing over the mousse. Serve with toasts.

Seriously, give it a go. And be delighted.

Jube has the blues again




Where does the best part of two decades go! Blues afficianados might be alittle surprised to read that on Saturday, March 13, the eighteenth edition of the Brisbane Blues Festival will return to The Jubilee Hotel in Fortitude Valley.

The day will be like a gathering of old and new friends as the high powered Hipshooters (pictured) and harmonica ace Doc Span and guitarist partner Ross Williams return after many years away. T
he line-up will also include new acts to the festival stage, The Trophy Brides, Jimi Beavis & the 385s (winner of the Blues Association of Southeast Queensland’s 2009 live performer of the year) and red-hot Gold Coast act Bluesville Station. Old favourites Asa Broomhall going solo and The Mojo Webb Band will also be performing full sets. The event will also feature Doug Wilshire & the Tailspinners who will be launching Doug’s new solo album on the day.
The heritage-listed Jubilee Hotel has grown to be a mainstay on the local music scene and what better place to host this all day event. With its expansive covered outdoor courtyards and inside air-conditioned chill rooms, this venue really has what it takes to provide a great day and night out. Still featuring a two-stage format so the live music is non-stop from 4pm till late. The band times are sequenced so the punters can catch the complete set of every band on the bill.
The open-air venue also features a fine restaurant that will be open during the event. Doors will open at 3pmwith the first act from 4pm.
Tickets will be available at the door on the day and all day admission is only $20.
More information can be found at http://www.brisbanebluesfestival.com/

Get your hands on a winning cockie!




Leave your bedroom open tonight for there’s a very good chance the Makybe Diva of the insect world might just fly in and make you famous.

A little bit of training, chasing breadcrumbs tied to the end of a long piece of dental floss, and before you know it you could be holding up the Gold Cup at next week’s 29th Annual Australia Day Cockroach Races at the Story Bridge Hotel.
Training is one thing; thinking up a name that pleases the punters is another spray of Moretein entirely.
Past winners on race day at the Bridge have included Drainlover, Crawlin’ Hanson, Cocky Balboa, Ita Buttroach, Osama Bin Liner and Sir Roach-a-Lot.
All went on to even greater glory, to a very satisfying career at stud or under someone’s foot, whatever came first. Gates open at 11 am with a massive 12-race program. There’s DJS, a Miss Cockie competition and best stable costume competition where a group that takes a little bit of effort and imagination with their attire will win a $2000 party at the pub!.
Entry is my a gold coin donation, which publicans Jane and Richard Deery as is their custom each cocky raceday will donate to a worthwhile cause, and this year it’s Variety, the children’s charity.

Check the hotel’s website at www.storybridgehotel.com.au for more details.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day economy in the doldrums?




Top:  Final days for the Loot outlet in McWhirters. Above: police handle a possible drug overdose on the steps of McWhirters.

Is this the Valley of slow returns....



Another bout of business closures is damaging Fortitude Valley’s bid to establish a sound day economy to even remotely match its nightime and weekend reputation as a pulsating entertainment precinct.
Paradiso fashion store in the TCB closed over the Christmas-New Year period, another of the smaller fashion outlets that dot Ann Street also gave it away, and McWhirters will suffer a setback when its biggest retail tenant Loot closes its doors at the end of this month. Just metres from the Loot shopfront, lease signs stand where two separate pharmacies
have tried to make a go of business in the past year only to close their doors. Paradiso was a long-term TCB tenant that had already been established and so missed out on a free fitout and year’s rent after 10 new fashion outlets were lured to the revamped centre several years ago. Some of those have closed since the free rent period ended, and the centre already has some three lease signs on retail spaces on the ground floor apart from the now empty Paradiso shopfront.
The normally slow festive season and the ongoing Chinatown Mall makeover delays have not helped local businesses, and The Independent understands that a number of stores dipped into their overdrafts to see them through to 2010.
Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Carol Gordon told The Independent the chamber had been concerned about the day economy for sometime. “It is the heart of the Valley that is still of most concern … but some major improvement are taking place.
“Big solutions are generally needed for large problems and this is the approach the Valley Chamber has taken to improve the day economy,” she said.
Long-term Valley businessman Joseph Origliasso who has run shops in the Valley for 15 years, including for the last three-and-a-half his budget fashion outlet, nvy, in McWhirters near the main entrance off the Valley mall, said the Valley mall no longer had a day economy to speak of.
“I have seen a change in population over the years, and workers have been replaced by residents. And contrary to popular belief, a worker spends more than a resident does,” Mr Origliasso said. He believes 2009 had been tough on all local traders, from fashion shops to fast-food outlets.
“I estimate that my takings are down about 30 percent over the year,” he said. Local business closures were becoming quite common. “I reckon by March we’re going to see another five or seven closures. I don’t want to sound alarmist but it’s a fact of life.”
As The Independent was talking to Mr Origliasso, he parted some frocks hanging near his counter and pointed to the front of the Valley Mall and said: “That’s also part of the problem.”
The paper took the photograph (above) of several mall police beat officers giving aid to a young man who had collapsed on the steps leading up into McWhirters. He had possibly overdosed on drugs.
Mr Origliasso also questioned the look of the local business area. “Someone needs to enforce the building codes and force landlords to clean up their shopfronts,” he said.
Ms Gordon said the Valley Chamber agreed that more workers were the key to improving the day economy. “The chamber’s overriding objective to increase the number of office workers moving into the area as this is primary way of increasing the customer base for the ‘day economy’.
“The Valley is starting to connect the dots, making it easier for shoppers, workers and visitors to the area. A lack of street parking is still a major issue but we are lucky enough to at least have three car parking stations which other areas lack.
“Importantly, the Valley Chamber of Commerce truly welcomes the BCC initiative to have the Rapid Bus Transit system in place this year. This will allow more people to efficiently commute West End to Newstead and return via Wickham and Ann streets in the Valley with stops planned every 800 metres or so.
“Obviously this mean changes to road conditions for vehicles and deliveries and these are important and serious issues to be addressed with a workable solution found. But the most important benefit will be more people will be able to easily move around the area between the precincts and it is the heart of the Valley, ie the Valley Malls area that has the most to benefit with more potential customers.
“Fortunately the area’s connectivity is starting to be addressed by both the council and state government as part of the major planning for the area and the Valley is still leading the way with new large-scale developments that will bring the office workers and along with this new retail and small business opportunities.
“It will be interesting to see what Lend Lease does with Valley Metro as the railway station located within this shopping centre continues to play a vital role in the revitalisation of the Valley Malls area. Businesses are still continuing to relocate to the Valley.”
The Independent also emailed local councillor David Hinchliffe to comment on the possibility that the massive publicity given to the Valley as a “loud and proud” entertainment zone – Australia’s first such designated precinct – might have inadvertently damaged the Valley’s brand, with would-be shoppers reluctant to travel to the area in the daytime. Cr Hinchliffe is holidaying overseas and had not responded as this issue went to press.

Early Xmas gift turns sour for traders



Does this look almost finished to you? The pictures above were taken in the Chinatown Mall on January 4.

City Council’s early Christmas gift to Chinatown Mall traders – to have large areas of the mall open to pedestrians a week before December 25 – has proved a hollow gift indeed for business owners struggling to survive through the much-delayed $8 million plus makeover.
Council was true to its word and removed many barricades on December 18, but council claims that the move would give traders a much-needed boost in Christmas trade as people flocked to look at what had been done did not eventuate.
Claims by traders that festive season bookings had already been badly affected by the ongoing noise and dust of the makeover proved correct, with reports of poor trading figures up to Christmas and beyond.
And the project builders have now rebarricaded the area under the grand awning, with many other sections of the mall, including the fish sculpture and water feature on the mall’s northern side, still behind construction panels.
The dust may no longer be a major problem, but noisy jackhammers were still working just outside his Green Tea restaurant when owner Tom Tran spoke to The Independent earlier this week.
“It’s a maze again,” Mr Tran said, pointing to the solid barricades metres outside his doors. “How to people know where to walk?
“We were led to understand that once it was opened it would stay open. It is very disappointing to see the machinery back and the fences up again.”
Outside his restaurant, a workman was putting an undercoat on the main supports of the grand arch, but the arch’s canopy – a red and white structure in the pattern of a fish’s scale – remained only half completed.
Mr Tran said the first half had taken some weeks to do, and he was staying hopeful that the second half would not take as long. Of his pre-Xmas trade he said: “Christmas was really nothing this year compared with last year. We continue to dig into our pockets and we shouldn’t have to do that.”
Mr Tran said some night trading in the week after Christmas had been sound. But he doubted council claims that “all finishing touches” would be completed by the end of January, in good time for Chinese New Year on February 14.
“I’ve heard from construction workers that we will be lucky to have things done by March.” He also questioned whether the look of the new mall when completed was going to engage people. “I have heard no-one say anything good [about the design.] They’ve been saying: ‘We’re spending eight million over eight months for this?’”
Down the mall, Nelson Long at the Mandarin Palace said ongoing nightworks had cruelled his festive season trade. “They’ve been going from 9pm every night for weeks and our late-night trading has suffered. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Mr Long criticised the lack of information from council about when the mall would be completed.
“We’ve had no official word of when it will be finished. No one knows and we can’t really do any planning until we know.”
Mr Long said he had become frustrated with the way work had been undertaken on parts of the mall reconstruction. In any particular area “they seem to do about 80 per cent of the work and then stop it and go and start somewhere else”, he said.

Police presence ‘must continue’

Valley licensed premises want the recent police surge to continue – but they also want harsher penalties for those drinkers caught playing up.
Valley Liquor Accord chairman Danny Blair said an increased police presence in the Valley during November and December had proven successful in reducing incidents. “And that’s the approach the government should continue to take in addressing the issue,” he said.
“We want an increased police presence in the Valley every weekend as it’s proved to be successful in reducing anti-social behaviour. “The police need their actions and hard work supported with harsher penalties in court.”
He called on the Queensland Government to get serious about tackling alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and introduce harsher penalties for serial offenders. Mr Blair said the VLA was extremely disappointed that a man who had faced the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday on his fourth public nuisance charge in 12 months yet was only fined $300.
Mr Blair said the man had showed disrespect for the court by swearing during his hearing and was fined an amount that would not be deemed harsh enough to act as a deterrent. “For someone to face court four times in 12 months and only be penalised the cost of two Big Day Out tickets, shows we are losing the battle in educating people on anti-social behaviour,” Mr Blair said.
“We’ve invested a lot of time and money in increasing our security, launching a safety campaign and falling into line with government directives to make the Valley a safer precinct to socialise.
“I assume this man was sober, yet swore in court, so what hope have we got when he gets in a public place and consumes alcohol knowing the worse that can happen is a $300 fine.
“What we need are penalties which mirror the government’s rhetoric on clamping down on anti-social behaviour against individuals.”
Mr Blair said this incident occurred before midnight and flew in the face of the Ambulance and Police Unions calls for a 2am shut down.

Visions vary on city’s future

Both sides of politics have traded jibes over their visions for the River City.
Brisbane would become a “sardine city” under Labor’s Soviet-style housing density targets, according to LNP infrastructure and planning spokesman Dave Gibson.
And the Labor leader in City Hall, Cr Shayne Sutton, said a joint State Government and Brisbane City Council announcement to develop a River City blueprint was “just the gracious and leafy Brisbane suburbs, especially those along rail and bus corridors would be destroyed under Labor’s South East Queensland Regional Plan (SEQRP) which dictated high-density housing.
Mr Gibson said Labor’s SEQRP had been embroiled in controversy, with Labor mates facing CMC inquires, and local residents and suburban groups up in arms over the destruction of their suburbs and lifestyles.
“The biggest worry is the high-rise, high-density housing that Labor wants to force into our suburbs,” Mr Gibson said. “Queensland families want a backyard …not a balcony twenty stories up,” he said.
“No one wants to be forced into a ‘sardine city’ type lifestyle that Labor is proposing and already we’ve seen that market demand for high-rise in the suburbs is far less than Labor’s targets. “Growth in Brisbane and the South East should be driven by market fundamentals – buyer’ choice, market conditions, and dwelling and location preferences, not by Soviet era style housing targets.”
“Labor’s spin that high-rise development is better for the environment, reduces traffic and travel time, isn’t necessarily supported by the facts.
Councillor Sutton said it was essential the Blueprint prioritised more active transport river crossings.
“If we are serious about congestion busting we must prioritise other forms of transport to help Brisbane residents move around the city more easily,” Cr Sutton said.
“Pedestrian and cycling bridges are a win for everybody. They are cheaper to construct, encourage people to be more active and by decreasing car use, they are better for the environment.”
“If Brisbane is to become a New World City, we need New World infrastructure that will help us beat traffic congestion and keep our city active, healthy and green.”
Mr Gibson said a 2007 report by the Australian Conservation Foundation (Consuming Australia), found that in almost all Australian cities, higher density housing produced higher per-capita greenhouse emissions and had larger environmental footprints than outer suburbs, despite the greater access to public transport.
“Opportunities for relatively efficient, compact living appear to be overwhelmed by the energy and water demands of modern urban living, such as airconditioning, spa baths, down lighting and luxury electronics and appliances, as well as by a higher proportion of individuals living alone or in small households.
“Suburban homes traditionally have a higher number of people per household than high-rise developments.
“Labor’s spin that high-density developments are somehow more environmentally sustainable shouldn’t be accepted on face value.

2010 ... steady as she goes



The Independent asked Adam Gray, director and principal of PRDnationwide New Farm, to reflect on recent real estate trends in the Indie’s patch and ponder what the future holds for both investors and individual homebuyers.

The last five years in real estate has been considerably turbulent. The market has been either racing ahead, coming to a complete stop or in some sections of the market, dropping off a cliff.
Now at the beginning of a new decade it is interesting to ponder what will happen over the next two to three years. Having been in real estate for over 20 years, I have seen cycles not dissimilar to the current situation. Now that we have had the full effect of the Global Financial Crisis with regard to the normal residential market, I believe the next few years will be steady as she goes.
In the New Farm/Newstead area, I expect all prices to increase steadily from their “current market value”. I say “current market value” because some owners have not realised that the price of their property has dropped considerably from the height of the boom at the end of 2007.
The upper end of the market has seen considerable price reductions over the past two years. It is interesting to note that this end of the market has started to bounce back and we could see some higher than expected growth for properties over $1 million.
The residential market around the $500,000 price bracket was not greatly affected by the downturn over the past two years. We have noticed continued price growth and expect this to be a very stable market over the coming years.
With the lack of new supply of apartments in this area, we can only suggest that rental pricing will start to increase again. It is the simple case of high demand for the best area of Brisbane with limited added supply.
We are currently marketing a project in Newstead called Aris and we have noticed a high level of enquiry from owner occupiers and first home buyers. As nearly all the apartments are under $500,000, it goes to show that tenants are realising that now is the time to buy to avoid having to pay higher rents over the coming years.
The introduction of Mirvac’s and FKP’s Newstead Riverpark will bring a whole new perspective on Newstead and surrounding suburbs. With the addition of such an elite project, we expect pricing in neighbouring areas to rise considerably.

Building a work of art in itself



Architecture

A 45-metre artwork looming above the traffic at Kangaroo Point is fast becoming a new Brisbane landmark. Waterford Properties has spent more than $2 million on the work of art to adorn its 15-level $100m residential project Scott Street.
Made from interwoven precast concrete, the structure weighs a staggering 350 tonnes. “Our brief to the architects Jackson Teece, more than three years ago, was to design a striking contemporary luxury apartment building that would set it apart from all others in Brisbane,” said Waterford Properties managing director Mike Kavali.
“We were also encouraged by the Brisbane City Council development assessment team to incorporate a distinctive external treatment to the south-eastern part of the building as a gateway to the city-bound approach to the Story Bridge.” Mr Kavali said these days a new luxury city apartment building needs to make an artistic statement reflecting its quality and to establish its enduring identity.
“We wanted to enhance the public space around the development and draw attention to it at the same time," he said.
“The sculpture piece also responds to the architectural issues of providing comfort and privacy to the residents, while acting as a filter to the environment.” Mr Kavali said the giant vine-like motif is under construction and will be complete by the end the month. “The structure is gaining lots of attention from motorists and pedestrians crossing the Story Bridge,” he said.
“We are delighted with the outcome – it’s certainly becoming a public talking point, particularly with some other exciting and bold new designs for innercity bridges and buildings now happening in Brisbane.”
Mr Kavali said such a bold statement is relevant considering Scott Street’s colourful recent history as Ryan’s on the River and the historical precinct dating back to the early 1800s and the first settlements in Brisbane.
“We believe it will become an instantly recognisable landmark,” he said. The art work, designed by Damian Barker and Andrew Tesoriero of Jackson Teece, was inspired by Melaleuca forests and mangroves found along the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay.

What really aled me over Christmas!

FROM MY CORNER .... with Ann Brunswick

Want to know what really aled me over the festive season?
My festive season was totally ruined by an uncaring and thoughtless multinational company and I want to share the details with you!
You’re wrong if you thought it was Telstra. Understandable guess though, under the circumstances. And no, it wasn’t some mobile telephone company or power supplier that tried to stiff me with an inflated bill. That happens a lot, too, doesn’t it? TransLink charging me a motza cos I’m an old fashioned gal who likes paper travel tickets? Not that, either.
No, it was one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of softdrinks – the Schweppes organisation. Here’s how it unfolded. At the end of a long day or night, the final trick to winding down after working a corner for as long as I do, is to get home, kick off the high heels, discard the wig and enjoy a scotch and dry. Surprised, loyal readers?
I bet many of you saw your Ann as a gin and tonic sort of gal, but no. To get the bitter taste of a day’s hard grind out of the system, your Ann turns to a nice highland malt, a few ice cubes and a splash of dry to take the edge of the spirit. Heresy, I know, to true whisky afficionados, but there it is. And herein lies the problem.
My bitch is with Mr Schweppes and his little 330ml bottles of ginger ale. And I’m not talking about how they reduced the amount to 330ml a few years ago when they stylised the bottle a tad. Didn’t reduce the price then, did they, but that’s a bitch for another day.
No, I’m talking about how it’s just about bloody impossible to unscrew the tops of these blasted things. True! I know some people out there in Indieland see me as Wonder Woman, but while we might look alike, sadly I don’t have the strength of that glorious creature.
You just simple cannot get the top off these bloody things You can try a very dry tea towel, run the top under hot water for a half-hour and all you get is sore hands, sorer shoulder muscles and a really bad mood.
Was it just a bad batch where the tension meter was too highly set during the bottling process;? No, because it’s been a problem your Ann has faced for months now. Unless you’ve got some pliers in the kitchen, or a piece of sandpaper handy, you just get angrier and angrier as you try without luck to open the bottle.
These things are just badly designed, and I want the head of this company’s CEO on a platter. I want their bottle designers sacked. And I’m calling on all Indie readers to boycott their miserable tight-sealed product so that they never operate in this country every again.
Why do I keep putting up with this problem in the first place? Kirk’s ginger ale is a mighty fine, albeit sweet softdrink that’s great on its own. But it just doesn’t mix well. So it looks like I might have to drop into a hardware store after work today and get a few sheets of coarse sandpaper – anything to avoid in future this nightly hissy fit I’ve been working myself into trying to open a bottle of Schweppes ginger ale!
Please make me feel better by letting me know if you’ve had similar problems with this product – or any other well-known brandname for that matter. Email me at ann@theindependent.com.au

***

The Valley certainly lives up to its “Loud and Proud” image from time to time.
Your Ann was having an evening meal in one of those cafes on the northern side of the Valley Mall over Xmas/New Year and it turned out to be a very distressing and unpleasant experience, what with the wall of sound that was thundering across the mall from the Royal George, Ric’s and Kalibar. Honestly readers, Phil Spector would have sat bolt upright in his prison cot with pride at the mega decibels throbbing out of those venues. It became one almighty roar whereby you simply could not even begin to guess what particular deluge of decibels was coming out from which venue.

Uncomplicated diversion



Films ... with Tim Milfull




It’s Complicated (M)
Director: Nancy Meyers
Stars: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin
Rating: 3/5 120-minutes, screening from tomorrow, Thursday January 6


Alec Baldwin has been enjoying something of a renewal in recent years with his performance as the charming if vaguely sociopathic studio executive Jack Donaghy in Tina Fey’s excellent sitcom, 30 Rock.
In It’s Complicated – written and directed by Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give and What Women Want) – Baldwin stars alongside Meryl Streep as Jake, a baby boomer who suddenly realises that he may have made a mistake a decade ago, when he left Streep’s Jane for a much younger woman.
Aside from raising three children into adulthood, Jane has built a thriving bakery – shades of Julie & Julia, perhaps? – and pretty much healed over the scars of her failed marriage. When the family unites in New York to celebrate the graduation of Number One Son, Jane and Jake find themselves sharing a drink in a hotel, and later … a bed.
Suddenly, Jane is the Scarlet Woman, and Jake discovers what he might have lost. Writer-director Meyers has a well-developed talent for Hollywood rom-coms – if we can forgive the execrable The Holiday – and It’s Complicated is the kind of flick that will have the cinemas crowded with baby boomers keen to find a rom-com they can relate to.
Streep offers a good performance as the hapless Jane, while Baldwin’s shameless Jake is consistently amusing. If you can set aside some atrociously wet characterisation in their adult, but very sulky children, and the wasted Steve Martin as Jane’s new love interest, It’s Complicated is a pleasant enough diversion.


Clooney’s character no air head



Up in the Air (M)
Director: Jason Reitman
Stars: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga. Anna Kendrick Rating: 4/5
109-minutes, screening from January 14


Apparently, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) has one very clear, simple goal in life: to earn a certain number of frequent flyer miles. As a high-flying specialist executive who rarely spends more than forty days in his hometown of Omaha, Ryan is in the perfect position to realise his dream.
The rest of the year sees the highly organised, commitment-phobic Ryan jetting back and forth around the world, living in hotels, drinking in airport lounges, racking up points, and occasionally taking directions from his reptilian boss, Craig (Jason Bateman). But when Ryan is suddenly called back to base – and his dingy one-bedroom apartment – he learns that his dream is under threat; a fresh-faced Ivy-League graduate, still wet behind the ears, has convinced the company that there might just be a much cheaper way of getting his job done.
When he points out that there’s more to his job than simply setting up a video link, Ryan is saddled with an unwelcome sidekick – new media wunderkind, Natalie (Anna Kendrick) – and told to show her the ropes on the road.
Clooney is excellent as the vapid corporate funky who is willing to step in where cowardly bosses fear to tread, and Kendrick is perfectly cast as the icy twentysomething careerist with no idea about the harsh truths of the real world. But Ryan and Natalie are small cogs in a larger story adapted by Reitman and Sheldon Turner from Walter Kim’s novel about the devastation of corporate downsizing. I found Up in the Air powerful, engaging, and oddly tragic.

THE BINGE

Beautiful, terrifying and weird
I have something for everyone in this first chat about DVDs in 2010, with a kids’ show, a strangely beautiful and terrifying tale from Australia’s convict past, the latest weirdness from Korea, and a compelling documentary about the fashion industry.
Ponyo is the latest gorgeous film from the prolific anime master Hayao Miyazaki, whose Studio Ghibli prides itself on old-style, hand-drawn animation. This film is no exception, echoing Miyazaki’s now customary theme of the interaction of humanity and the environment.
In Van Diemen’s Land, Tasmanian writer-director, Jonathan auf der Heide took his film school short, Hell’s Gates, and fleshed it out into a feature-length exploration of similar territory: man’s relationship with his surroundings. But this dark tale – based upon Australia’s most infamous cannibal, Alexander Pierce – eschews the saccharine beauty of Ponyo, and focuses on the harsh wilderness of Tasmania, and the desperation of lost convicts.
Korean director, Park Chan-wook (of the Vengeance trilogy fame) uses his latest film, Thirst, to throw another hapless victim into an awful situation and see what happens. After a terrible accident, Father Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho, from The Host) suddenly has to learn how to manage as a vampire. His coping strategies include a perverse relationship with the desperate Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin.
Finally, documentary-maker, R.J Cutler spends a month in the New York offices of Vogue magazine charting the publication of The September Issue, edited by the legendary Anna Wintour. The resulting film is surprisingly compelling, especially given that in the shadows of the woman whose life was portrayed in The Devil Wears Prada, there lurks a team of remarkably talented individuals.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gloves off as bloody election looms

By Mungo MacCallum



Welcome to another bloody election year. And yes, it will be a bloody election. Tony Abbott knows that he is on a hiding to nothing and will fight it the way he won his boxing blue at Oxford, a way that had a journalist report: "No-style Abbott's a real smasher … he has no defence when going forward".
He has already signalled that he is going to make border security an election issue; this, of course, is code for race. Abbott, like his mentor John Howard, will not hesitate to appeal to the worst instincts of Australians if he believes there are votes to be won.
What makes his opportunism even worse than Howard's is that Abbott himself is not racist; unlike Howard he is comfortable associating with all creeds and colours and is an enthusiastic convert to multiculturalism. But desperate elections require desperate measures, and Abbott has shown throughout his career that he is ever ready to embrace the Jesuitical teaching that the end can sometimes justify the means.
He will need all the distractions he can get, because his position on climate change - Kevin Rudd's chosen battlefield - is pathetically vulnerable. When Abbott unexpectedly became leader of the Liberal Party his supporters insisted that one of his first jobs was to tell the voters a story; and he did. The problem was that the story was a barefaced lie. It consisted of the assertion that Rudd's Emissions Trading Scheme was a great big tax on everything, and that he could deliver the same cuts at no cost to anybody.
Rudd's ETS is in fact not a tax, but a market-based solution of the kind free enterprise parties such as the Liberals are supposed to applaud. The idea is that the polluters have to pay for their permits to pollute. They will of course pass the extra cost on to consumers, but the government will use the money raised by the sale of permits to compensate those worst affected. Competition between the suppliers will force them to look for cleaner alternatives, which will eventually become economically viable, making everyone a winner.
This, at least, is the theory, and Abbott has not attempted to refute it; his only response has been to say that an ETS is a great big tax on everything, which it clearly isn't; indeed, Treasury modelling suggests that it will have far less impact than the introduction of the GST, which Abbott praises as a great economic reform.
His own approach to the problem of reducing carbon emissions (he now accepts that they are a problem, despite not long ago calling the science of climate change "crap") is through what he calls "direct action".
This apparently involves government regulation over the supply and consumption of energy, anathema to Liberal philosophy and more importantly to Liberal voters, and/or subsidising alternative energy sources and the elimination of carbon from the process, a solution previously derided by the Liberals as a Greenie fantasy. But whether the idea is practical or not, it would be expensive; indeed public and private economists calculate that the cost would be roughly double that of an ETS, to deliver less than half the reduction in emissions.
Moreover, the government would not have the income generated by the sale of permits to pay for it; the scheme would have to be funded entirely from consolidated revenue, and paid for, presumably, by a great big tax on everything. As a strategist on climate change, Abbott makes General Custer look like Alexander the Great.
The other key battleground during the campaign will, as usual, be the economy; and here again Abbott is on shaky ground. He is trying to appeal to the Howard-Costello legacy of economic management, but the hard fact is that Howard and Costello have both gone in somewhat humiliating circumstances and their replacements hardly seem up to it.
Abbott's own economic expertise is, if the above policy is any guide, close to zilch. His shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has no real track record other than to insist that if tax cuts are on the agenda they should go to individuals rather than companies, an about face on Liberal policy hardly likely to appeal to the party's most important donors.
And then there is Barnaby Joyce overseeing the vital and wide-ranging Finance portfolio and already proving that he can piss in the cabinet tent just as effectively from inside it as he did from outside it.
By contrast Rudd can point to the proven reliability and steadiness of Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner, and to Australia's success in weathering the Global Financial Crisis through swift and decisive action that has since been endorsed by the vast majority of economic authorities, both national and international. Labor can justly declare that it has reclaimed the title of superior economic manager, and unless things go drastically wrong in the next few months, Abbott's talk of debt and deficit will most likely be dismissed as carping and whingeing by a largely relieved electorate.
This is not to say that Rudd is a shoo-in; the halo has slipped a bit in the last few months, and the idea that he is a timid leader who would rather talk than act to deliver real reforms is starting to gain some traction. But it can hardly be denied that he is starting from a long way in front, and that the government over the last two years has been a model of stability compared with the alternative, whoever has been leading it.
To unsettle it, Abbott will have to fight hard and dirty, and the preliminary signs are that he is ready and willing to do both. Like I said, another bloody election.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Call the cops ... I've just been plasticed!




DGB



I’ve been a really bad binge drinker all my life.
I remember one night - let me rephrase that - I don’t remember one night when friends took me to a night club while I was travelling overseas. Okay, some people would call it by another name - a girly bar. Fair sauce of the shake bottle, but it was a pretty high-class joint. At least I hope it was.
For you see, I drank far too much for my own good, and there’s a very good chance that in my time in this establishment I may have inadvertently seen something naughty. I’m not saying I did, mind. It’s just that with the night being a complete blank, there’s every chance that I did.
Anyway, the very first thing I did when I awoke the very next morning was to ring my beautiful wife back in Oz and apologise for the things I had no memory of seeing but could very well have.
I did this for three very sensible reasons.
One, the things I didn’t recall seeing might have been very naughty indeed. I’m talking perhaps exposed nipples here. Mine or someone else's.
Two, my beautiful wife deserves better than to have a husband who even wanted to see such naugthy things in the first place, even though, as I stress, maybe I didn’t see anything naughty after all which sort of makes the apology unnecessary the more you think about it.
And most importantly, Three: Recounting this story in this way didn’t lose me any votes with the Australian people, no matter how implausible my non-recollections were and the fact that there wouldn’t be one normal red-blooded Australian male anywhere who so lacked in testicular tissue that they would even bother apologising to their missus for not remembering what they might possibly not have seen.
Anyway, enough extracts from our Prime Minister’s upcoming autobiography, Lost Moments. I’m sure it’s going to be a riveting read.
But I thought I’d share just that short extract with you, as it seems so pertinent at the moment, coming from Australia’s most famous binge drinker, our very own lip-licking, earwax nibbling nerd of a leader. “I’m Kevin, I think I’m from Queensland and can’t remember why I’m here to help”.
At least he’s not a hypocrite. His history of binge drinking entitles him, as he has in recent months, to declare war on this social scourge that appears to be blighting our society more and more.
His calls come as we are bombarded with suggestions that our state’s entertainment precincts are out of control, that glassings and other violent assaults are on the rise, that drunkenness on our roads is worse than ever and that all sorts of things need to be done to stop these social ills — from earlier closing times for clubs and pubs, for glassware to be removed from such premises, that maybe the alcohol tolerance level for driving should be cut back to dead zero.
Leading this campaign, especially on the licensed premises front, has been the Courier-Mail’s excellent Punch Drunk campaign, one I wholeheartedly endorse. The paper has had some fairly average results with its public campaigns of recent years, so let's hope that Punch Drunk gets them at least an honorable mention at the next annual internal New Limited awards night, of which best public issue campaign is highly coveted. Such matters should never be just about filling up news pages, you know.
And the paper is to be commended for its sheer determination and persistence in making sure the campaign is a success. "Last drinks!" declared their splash a while ago after “another increasingly violent weekend across the state’s entertainment precincts". Senior police were "reeling" over the level of violence. Cops were being attacked at a northside railway station and at a suburban domestic disturbance, although somehow linking violent punter behaviour in bars for those incidences seems akin to blaming your mother for your wife’s looks.
Clearly this campaign needs to succeed - and I wish the Courer well come awards night - but if I have just the one criticism, it's this: why do we all have to pay a price to bring into line the lowest common denominator - the cowardly moron who thrusts a glass into someone's face?
Take enjoying a beer. I’ve made a lot of overseas friends over the years, and I like nothing more than spending a few hours with them, in a beer garden if at all possible. Signors Peroni and Moretti and I get on very well, and I like nothing more than to pour only small amounts of their beer at a time into a frosty glass, a habit picked up in a hot country. It’s also nice to turn their bottle labels towards other drinkers, just to let them know I’m a self-made man who can afford such luxuries of life.
With all the Courier-fuelled publicity over alcohol-fueled violence, such enjoyment is now fast becoming a thing of the past.
I checked out three Valley venues over the weekend. First up was Cloudland and can I say that I quite like what they’ve done there, although I have read somewhere that its interior design has all the appeal of the stomach contents of a post-mortem examination. Just then, actually.
If I had handed over $9 to the friendly barman, I would have been handed a stubbie of Peroni and if I wanted one, what I understand was a tempered glass.
Cloudland had a victory of sorts some months back against the powers-that-be after being put on a naughty-venues list. It seems a glass that had been thrown turned out to be tempered glass. Tempered glass apparently is the only thing ill-tempered people should throw or thrust faceward. So far so good for this sophisticated drinker of the world. Tempered perhaps but it’s still glass.
Around the corner, the Royal George Hotel has gone down a different path. With a big range of draft and bottled beers on offer, I could get a stubbie of Peroni for $7.80 but they would have given me what they called a “rock” glass to drink it with. Rock, the bar lady told me, was not plastic. The perspex you have when you don’t have perspex perhaps sums up her explanation. On the bottom of these glasses are the words “Remedy of Rocks” from which the name obviously springs.
Next door at Ric’s, where all beer sales are stubbie-based, a Peroni would have set me back about $8, again with a plastic, sorry, perspexy sorta container to drink it out of. The only real glass they use is for champagne. Champagne drinkers aparently are refined people who don’t smash glass into someone’s face, regardless of what they may or may not have said.
So all three venues allow me to go and sit down and drink from safe containers filled from a stubbie. But wait on, that’s an untempered stubbie, is it not?
Courier, get onto this immediately! Isn’t this akin to confiscating an airline passenger’s nosehair clippers but then allowing them to eat inflight meals with a steel knife and a fork? Someone’s going to get mightily pissed and smash a stubbie and push in into someone’s gob.
So here’s hoping in an installment of Punch Drunk very, very soon, the Courier calls for all stubbies to be BANNED!
Instead of handing me a stubbie of my favourite foreign lager in future, bar staff will be pouring the whole shebang into a 15oz container, be it plastic, perspex, paper or plain tempered. I'll be forced to sit with my plastic/perspexy/paper/tempered schooner of beer - just like at the Gabba - and try to drink it quickly before it gets too hot.
Then drinking hot beer too fast is going to make me crankier than normal. And then fights will break out and tempers will flare, and before any dinky-di Aussie can say fair shake of the suck bottle, we unruly patrons will be plasticing and perspexing and papering and tempering one another in the face and some new Courier-Mail campaign will have be launched - Off your faces! perhaps - I think it works on several levels? - urging the state government to force licensed venues to serve only single sars and ginger, horehound and root beers in paper cups with paper straws. Over much shorter hours too!
And if we patrons don't learn our lesson then - and please, let's all just calm down here for god's sake! - for such licensed premises to be shut down forever! It should be a great campaign. No-one in the News stable will top it! No other daily newspaper in Brisbane would stand a chance!
And what a great night it will be! The envelope please .... and the winner for best public issue campaign goes to.....

Friday, January 1, 2010

Still the Sometime State for quality

WINE
With David Bray

There is some very ordinary wine out there and some of it is made in Queensland. Okay, to be basic, this state’s grape growers and winemakers are still putting more than their fair share of bad bottles out into the market. Usually the stuff is grown and made here, sometimes it comes up from southern places and has a local label stuck on it.
This is no pleasure to write. Regular readers will probably know that your reporter has tried his hardest over quite a long time to promote Queensland wine. Has an award from the RNA for his efforts. And put a modest sum of money and work into a vineyard project and another winery project. One didn’t do so well, the other is going nicely.
This little rant is prompted by the recent arrival of samples sent in by three southeast Queensland operations, none of them particularly well-known. I will not name them, though it could be argued that to do so would be doing both the wineries and potential customers a favour.
The first two parcels contained wine that, to my palate, didn’t reflect the grape variety (varieties) on the label. Given the wide geographical range of this country’s vineyards, that is not necessarily a bad thing. But then they had very little in their favour, or indeed flavour.
The third batch, the most recent arrival, was under a label not previously encountered. Research revealed excellent credentials for both growers and winemaker. First bottle opened had an unusual and unattractive smell. Tasted worse. Undrinkable. Screw top, too, so couldn’t blame cork-influenced spoilage. Shame.
There is plenty of good quality Queensland wine around, and some that is excellent. Some time soon I will tell you about the goodies. When I get to taste them.

***
In the meantime, here are two interesting recent arrivals from other parts of Australia.

Climbing 2009 sauvignon blanc is from the Orange region, high and cool, and is delicious. The person in charge, Debbie Lauritz, says in the blurb that “the winemaking team aimed to capture considerable complexity from several months of vigorous lees stirring and the inclusion of a small percentage of wine fermented in subtle French oak".
She points out that sauvignon blanc “can have a range of flavours depending on ripeness. At one end there are the less ripe green herbaceous flavours through to the more ripe tropical fruit flavours. This wine sits squarely in the middle of the fruit spectrum, dominated by citrus and lemon notes". Around $22.

Jim Barry 2006 Clare Red shiraz cab, which Peter Barry believes is and will continue to be “the quintessential Australian dry red”.
He gives us a nice little bit of wine history, as follows: “My late father Jim wasn’t the first Australian winemaker to blend shiraz and cabernet sauvignon and I’m sure he wasn’t the only one to create the blend out of pragmatism.
“Jim knew about the inherent qualities of cabernet sauvignon from his days at Roseworthy College immediately after World War 11, especially through his contact with Samuel Wynn, of Wynns Coonawarra fame.
“Sammy entertained the six students in their final-year tour and encouraged them to use their skills and knowledge to produce the sort of dry table wines he required for the Melbourne market. He quite rightly believed that the influx of European migrants after the war would lead to much stronger demand for dry table wines and that sales of fortified wines would diminish."
There was not a lot of cabernet net sauvignon in this country in the 1950s and 60s but there was plenty of shiraz.
“The two varieties provided a natural marriage. On the bouquet the dark berries and spice of shiraz mixed well with cabernet’s leafy, cassis-like notes, while on the palate the full, soft, richness of shiraz was the perfect foil for the leaner, more elegant cabernet sauvignon."
Good stuff, great red. Around $15.

Five-star on a two-star budget



TRAVEL

By Carol Campbell

Talk about luck! Picture us – two-star travellers by nature and financial necessity – on the colonnaded balcony of our accommodation in a luxury hotel overlooking the magnificent blue-green waters of Lake Como, one of the jewels of northern Italy.
A crystal-clear, glacial lake surrounded by lush Mediterranean vegetation and steep mountain peaks, and where the rich and famous – from Roman emperor Julius Caesar to Hollywood hunk George Clooney – have chosen to holiday.
We could hardly keep the smile from our faces when we were dropped off at the door of the aptly named lakeside Grand Hotel. The plush foyer of the Cadenabbia establishment shouted money at every turn – huge marble columns down to the mirror-finish floors and a sumptuous red-carpeted staircase complete with golden banisters leading to the rooms on the upper floors.
A full English-style breakfast, swimming pool and a massive rooftop balcony with breathtaking views in all directions completed the deal.
Not so special, you might think. But we were there by default. We were part of a 12-person Intrepid tour of the highlights of northern Italy, one of the Australian adventure travel company’s most popular trips.
Our little two-star digs had been overbooked and we were among the six lucky travellers to be moved up the road.
We vowed to keep quiet the quality of our accommodation, but there were a few discontented mutterings among our group when word somehow leaked out. As the others pointed out, where they were staying they had to pay for a very basic breakfast, and there was no pool, no balconies and not even a hint of marble in the foyer.
It was no easy task to leave the comfort of our hotel but we had little time and day-long ferry tickets to explore this little gem of Italy, lying midway between Milan and the Swiss border.
Once out in the middle of the lake, Europe’s deepest at 411m, it is easy to be impressed by the massive limestone mountains that rise up out of the glassy waters on all sides.
Although quite lushly vegetated around the water’s edge, the mountainous upper reaches are mostly craggy grey rock with the occasional glint of a church spire the only evidence of habitation.
First point of call was luxury village Bellagio, known as the “pearl of the lake” and the inspiration for the plush Las Vegas hotel of the same name. It is one of the must-see towns in Lake Como, with its beautiful pastel-shaded, red-roofed buildings dotted around the edges of the lake.
Bellagio was discovered in the 19th century by the aristocracy of the day – people like the musician Franz Liszt and Emperor Ferdinand I spread the word about its delights. Today it has a 3000-strong population and is the haunt of artists, politicians, intellectuals and scientists. The township featured all you would imagine of medieval Italy – narrow cobbled streets, trendy little eateries and fascination little galleries and craft shops.
The island of Mennagio was our next ferry stop. With a spectacular mountain backdrop, this lively village with its lakeside promenade is popular with outdoor enthusiasts, who hike up into the mountains, and swim and windsurf on the lake.
Nearby Varenna is a less-crowded little fishing village located below a castle on a steep hillside with picturesque narrow alleyways leading down to the water’s edge.
After our day out exploring, it was back to the Grand to enjoy a late-afternoon drink on the huge terrace with its spectacular mountain and lake views. And we made the most of it, all the while feeling just a little sorry for our tour mates down the road.
Our luxury stay would be over the next morning, when we boarded the local bus to take us back to Como railway station and then by train to Milan and on to Venice.
Yes, Venice with all its romance and history was all you could imagine but if there had been a cat in our hotel room it would have remained unswung. It was all we really needed, but I must confess we did hanker, just a little, for the luxury surrounds of that bonus hotel in Cadenabbia.

AT A GLANCE
La Dolce Vita
Intrepid Original
15 days Rome to Venice, via Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Levanto, the Cinque Terra, Portofino, Milan and Lake Como.
Price: from AU$3000
www.intrepidtravel.com

Grand Hotel Cadenabbia: 192 rooms
www.grandhotelcadenabbia.it
From $AU225 per night (low season) to AU$680 per night (high season) for lake-view room for two including buffet breakfast