Saturday, March 27, 2010

Green Tea a refreshing alternative


Review: Imogen Hayes

Fortitude Valley is often a place I associate with drunken nights out. By 2am on a Saturday the streets are packed with partygoers. Young girls in shoes higher than heaven are tottering precariously on the edge of Brunswick Street and clubbers are bopping between Family and The Met.
The cool kids hang behind the velvet curtains of the Bowery and the rest loiter outside New York Slice, waiting for a feed before the long walk home.
Approaching The Valley at 5pm on a Sunday afternoon with grey skies and rain drizzling overhead is a dismal affair. The regulars drink at RGs and the dirt and grime hidden by the night is stark and apparent at this hour. The mall is empty and the clubs and cafes look shabby and desolate.
In Chinatown lies the refreshingly clean Green Tea Restaurant, shining like a beacon with its lime green interiors. At this hour the place is quiet, but the affable and friendly host Tom Tran quickly shows us to a table.
Following the host's recommendations, we order a roast duck salad to share as an entre, followed by soft shell crab and sweetened clay pot fish.
After I’d drunk half a beer (yes it’s BYO) the duck arrives. It is a traditional Vietnamese salad.
The duck is tender and the vegetables are light and crunchy with the mint adding a slightly sweet flavour to this dish. Most apparent is the fresh taste and noticeably fresh vegetables - a sign of good Vietnamese cooking.
The soft shell crab and fish clay pot arrived promptly after the salad, and although the crab is slightly oily, both dishes still manage to maintain the same crispness of the salad. The sweet caramelised fish helps to balance out the saltiness of the crab and the food proves a fantastic hangover cure.
The portions along with rice are generous and although the dessert menu consisting of fruits and puddings looks appetising we are too full to indulge.
We thank the charming host and leave the cosy retreat at 7:30pm as the place is beginning to fill up.
The menu at Green Tea is extensive with most dishes moderately priced,
between $14 and $25 for mains. Hiding amongst the surplus of Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants, Green Tea is a refreshing and healthy alternative that brightens up The Valley and is quickly being rediscovered after the year-long mall revamp.


Green Tea Restaurant is at Shop 1B 31 Duncan Street, just on the eastern edge of the grand arch in the new Chinatown Mall.
Mine host: Tom Tran
Trading hours: Seven days a week from 11am to 3pm and then 5pm til 10pm.
Bookings: Phone 3252 4855.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

New Valley plan sparks debate


Fortitude Valley has a new local plan that allows for building heights of up to 30 storeys in some precincts – but it’s a vision that has divided City Hall.
City Council earlier this month passed the Neighbourhood Plan that has been three years in the making, but according to the Council opposition it does not allow for sufficient infrastructure to cope with expected population growth.
Neighbourhood Planning chair Cr Amanda Cooper said in March last year that the plan would provide for 22,000 new residents and 75,000 new jobs for the Valley. Cr Cooper said the area would be the second CBD for Brisbane. The CBD currently has about 10,000 residents and about 70,000 office workers who enter the city every weekday.
The Opposition welcomed the population densities proposed and predicted in the plan but said there was insufficient infrastructure provided to cope with that increased growth.
When their amendments were not supported by the LNP Council, Labor councillors opposed the plan at the meeting in early March. Opposition councillors also claimed that heritage property owners should be compensated for their loss of development potential by having “transferrable development rights” which could be sold to other property owners in the Valley area.
Local Councillor David Hinchliffe (Central Ward) said that if the Valley Plan was to accommodate anything like the targets proposed by Cr Cooper, there would need to be a lot more public transport, footpaths, parks and community facilities, including public toilets.
“Opposition councillors support appropriate density in a place like the Valley, but as long as we have appropriate infrastructure to go with it,” Cr Hinchliffe said. “There are no new libraries, indoor sports centres, community centres or parks proposed in the Valley Plan despite the plan proposing a five-times increase in population.
“We don’t disagree with density, but for areas not to become soulless ghettoes we need to have the sort of community infrastructure that make neighbourhoods viable.
“Footpaths or plazas are not a substitute for proper community spaces.”
Cr Hinchliffe said there had been only 36 submissions on the Valley Plan. Some properties, such as Central Brunswick shopping centre owned by Sheik Properties, were shown on the original draft of the plan released for public comment in August last year as allowing up to 15 storeys in development.
The plan revealed in council shows that this has been increased to 25 storeys. Sheik properties were among a number of property owners who made a submission to the council to increase the development potential of their properties. An additional 20 properties would be listed on the council’s heritage register. Cr Hinchliffe said the Valley Chamber of Commerce and he supported all heritage-property owners being given transferrable development rights.
“I think it’s appropriate for some form of compensation for a heritage property owner in the Valley whose property has been sterilised from further development. The easiest way to do that – and at no cost to council – is to provide heritage property owners with the right to sell the 'potential' development of their site to another Valley property owner to add to that owner’s site.
“This benefits the heritage property owner who receives a value for the lost development potential which they can invest in their building and it benefits the buyer who can then add that gross floor area to their site. It costs council nothing.
“The Opposition’s amendments which included more infrastructure for the Valley as well as Transferrable Development Rights were dismissed by the Administration. The plan was then put without any amendments with LNP councillors voting in favour and Opposition councillors opposing.”

Cr David Hinchliffe with the new Valley plan

Valley has worst accident spot


The intersections around Kemp Place in the Valley are the most dangerous in Queensland, according to statistics released today by the Minister for Main Roads, Craig Wallace.
There were seven serious accidents in the last three years in the area around Kemp Place and Ann St and 6 serious accidents 50 metres away in the area between Kemp Place and Martin Street.
With 13 serious accidents in the combined area over the last 3 years, this precinct rates as the most dangerous in Queensland.
Local Councillor David Hinchliffe (Central Ward) said responsibility for the area was wholly in the hands of the City Council.
“I’ve repeated called on council for more pedestrian fences and more safety devices in this area,” Cr Hinchliffe said.
“After repeated calls, the Deputy Mayor finally relented and lowered speed limits at night, but we still obviously need to do more.
“The council should publish the list of serious accidents on its streets on a quarterly basis so that the dangerous traffic spots are completely transparent.
“At this stage, the Deputy Mayor doesn’t even advise local councillors when there is a report of serious accident. The starting point for fixing this sort of problem is providing information to the community and to their elected representatives.”

Mall madness unresolved


Pedestrians in the new Chinatown Mall are still at risk of being hit by cars being illegally driven through it, despite concerns raised by The Independent last issue.

This paper and local councillor David Hinchliffe both reported numerous cases of drivers leaving the Mall carpark and instead of driving down to Wickham Street they are making a sharp right turn and driving up under the grand arch, the mall’s centre piece, and exiting onto Ann Street, simply to save themselves a few minutes’ drive.
After that report, temporary bollards were placed as a barrier to prevent this dangerous practice, but as this edition of The Independent went to press, they had been removed.
Cr Hinchliffe (pictured above when the bollards were in place) said he had written to Councillor Jane Prentice whose responsibilities cover the mall to ask if these temporary bollards would become a permanent fixture.
He wrote: “These bollards were no doubt put up to stop the cavalcade of vehicles tearing up and down the mall on occasions causing pedestrians to run for safety.
“Will you please advise if they are to be made permanent? If so, when please? This is a basic element of the mall design”.
“Motorists continue to enter Chinatown through the exit driveway rather than the entrance driveway. This never used to happen. How and when will this please be addressed?”

Brisbane at risk of becoming a ‘bloated cultural backwater’


Brisbane is at real risk of becoming a bloated cultural backwater unless it moves quickly to improve its arts infrastructure, it was claimed this week.
Brett Debritz, a Brisbane-based blogger and cultural commentator, says the city is missing out on big arts events because of a lack of venues that is getting worse as the population increases.
“We’ve known for at least 30 years that this city is growing rapidly, but successive councils and governments have been very slow to react, meaning we are constantly playing catch-up,? Mr Debritz said.
“While this applies to roads and tunnels and bridges, it also applies to our cultural facilities. In fact, it's worse, because we are actually losing arts venues.
“For everything we’ve gained, such as the Judith Wright Centre and the Powerhouse, we’ve lost something else, whereas other cities are not only building new venues, they are bringing old ones back to life.
“In the past decade we’ve lost the Suncorp Theatre, and yet producers are now crying out for exactly such a venue. Festival Hall is gone and the Regent is about to close, meaning there will be no venue for ‘red-carpet’ cinema events, let alone big theatrical works the original Regent auditorium was designed for.
“Of course, these losses are on top of the orgy of destruction in the 1970s and 80s that claimed the Wintergarden, Her Majesty’s, the Paris, the Metro, Cloudland and many others.”
Mr Debritz, who runs the website, said news that the acclaimed production of Waiting for Godot starring Sir Ian McKellen would not come to Brisbane due to the lack of a venue was a disappointment but not a surprise.
“QPAC is a wonderful facility, but it’s not big enough or flexible enough to accommodate everything producers want to bring here. “In Melbourne, for example, they at least four big venues that can stage an open-ended run of a big musical. We don’t even have one, because the Lyric Theatre has commitments that limit any production to a maximum of a few months.
"That’s why a lot of big shows don’t ever come here, or come at the end of long runs after many Queensland arts lovers have already travelled south to see them. “Short-sightedness on the part of government s has put us in this situation, and short-sightedness will keep us behind.
"The State Government and council should have insisted on the restoration of the original Regent theatre, providing the city with another arts venue in much less time, and arguably for a lot less money, than it will take to build a new one.
“There are many examples from around the world where old theatres have been restored as part of the development of modern office towers. Why nobody in the council or the state government had the gumption to insist on this is completely beyond me.”
Mr Debritz said Brisbane was losing out on the potential of valuable arts-tourism dollars, and was in danger of gaining an unfounded reputation as not just a cultural desert put a place that actively destroys its arts heritage.
“We have wonderful performing arts companies here in Brisbane, but to grow the ‘cultural pie’ we need venues that can accommodate touring companies as well as the excellent local groups,” he said.
“Having access to the best the world of arts and entertainment to offer is as important to society as having roads, railways and sporting facilities.
“There are already people who call the city ‘Boganville’, and I would hate to see that become a reality.”

Good fight lost? ... Regent’s mezzanine bar could soon be demolished.

Easing climate change ... on a shoestring


Australian home owners have been urged to take grass roots action in their homes through a ‘Climate Change on a Shoe String’ program to complement current environmental programs aimeda at improving sustainability in Australian homes.
Fix leaky taps, showers and toilet cisterns and change to low-flow shower heads in the bathroom of your home. Archicentre, the building advisory service of the Australian Institute of Architects, and Australia's largest supplier of pre-purchase housing inspections and renovations said 'Climate Change on a Shoe String' is a simple combination of management and basic upgrading of fittings, many being low cost.
Angus Kell, Archicentre Queensland spokesperson said the management and maintenance of small fittings around the home such as dripping taps, the installation of a water efficient shower heads and turning off lights and electrical equipment such as Plasma TVs or computers when not in use, are all part of the simple plan.
Mr Kell said most established homes were neither designed nor built with much regard for energy efficiency or water conservation.
“Ironically, many of our earliest homes came complete with verandahs and water tanks, but recently these features have been abandoned as homes have become bigger, more energy-hungry and more water-thirsty than ever before over the past two decades.
“This ‘Climate Change on a Shoe String’ concept will be driven home by the rapidly increasing prices in energy and water which are set to increase by 70% to 100% in the next three to five years as governments move to pay for expensive new infrastructure to secure water and energy supplies."
Mr Kell said the challenge for Australian families is to improve the performance of our existing homes… to reduce the demand for energy and water but at the same time maintain the quality of life.
“It is also important that homeowners renovating ensure that any home improvements or renovations are sustainably designed by someone qualified and experienced to maximise the potential.”
The first step is simple - conduct an audit of your home to find out where and how energy is wasted in your home. The Federal Government website, is a good starting point to find information and make a list related to your home. If there are children in the home it is a good idea to involve them in developing the list as they will also play an important part in the implementation.

The second step is to implement as many of the changes you can by:
• choosing energy efficient appliances when purchasing
• fixing leaky taps, showers and toilet cisterns
• turning lights off when you leave the room
• don’t leave computers or appliances on standby
• reset the thermostats on your heating and cooling - (18° in winter and 24° in summer)
• install low-energy light globes
• fit weather-seals to your windows and doors
• install external blinds
• put in a ceiling fan
• change to low-flow shower heads
• plant a drought-tolerant garden
• If you run a home office make sure you set your office up to utilise natural light by having your desk near a window or put in a skylight and turn your equipment off when not in use.

Archicentre has a Guide to Sustainable Homes in pdf format which can be downloaded from: Sustainablehomes309.pdf

Minister ‘abandons emergency housing’


The state Minister for Community Services and Housing has been accused of turning her back on the men, women and children across Queensland who are forced to sleep rough because a lack of emergency housing.
LNP Housing spokeswoman Rosemary Menkens said she was disgusted by the minister’s answer to a parliamentary question about the number of people on emergency housing waiting lists.
“As the minister responsible for social housing, you would think that Ms Struthers would be interested in the number of adults and children sleeping under bridges, in cars and in parks because they cannot access emergency housing.
“But the minister has just wiped her hands of this growing problem stating ‘the Department of Communities does not manage emergency housing waiting lists’.
“This minister has approved $78.5 million in funding for non-government organisations to manage emergency housing waiting lists — but she has no idea how many people requires these services or how many people are being helped.
“People seeking emergency housing are usually in dire need – many are women and children escaping domestic violence and situations which place them in real danger.
“Without adequate emergency housing these families can be forced into worse situations that place their children and their own lives at risk.
“The Minister’s pitiful response suggests that not only is she out of touch with the needs of people who are living in social housing, she simply does not care for those who do not have a roof over their heads.”

HQ for a major public space

The soon-to-be-completed HQ is set to become Fortitude Valley’s new major public event space following an agreement between joint venture developers Leighton Properties and Leighton Contractors, and the Valley Chamber of Commerce (VCC) this week.
Located on the corner of Wickham and Brookes streets (across from Emporium), HQ will comprise two world-class office towers, boutique shops, restaurants, wine bars and a 2,500 square metre central public plaza.
The partnership will allow the the Valley chamber to use HQ’s expansive central plaza for public events. As a part of the agreement Leighton Properties and Leighton Contractors will also donate 70 square metres of premium retail space within HQ for the VCC to operate from rent free for nine years. The VCC partnership with Leighton Properties at HQ was announced onsite on Wednesday March 17.

Crafty buyer secures the block lot


A Queensland buyer has snapped up four luxury townhouses in a mortgagee sale handled by PRDnationwide New Farm. The Brisbane investor paid almost $6 million cash for the properties at 69 Kingsholme Street, New Farm, on Brisbane’s inner north.
Nick McGuire, director of PRDnationwide New Farm, said while the four townhouses were offered for sale separately, the buyer was eager to secure all four. “The developer had the properties on the market for one year through another agency who didn’t make a sale,” he said.
“The developer’s bank took possession and appointed me to sell the properties.” After 150 inspections, five auctions, 20 registered bidders, and 15 contracts the buyer was successful.
“The buyer wanted all four properties so he could control the body corporate and make repairs and alterations to the properties. The four town homes will provide a good passing income and represent a strategic piece of land for future capital growth,” he said. Mr McGuire said the dominant buying groups were Generation X and Baby Boomers.
“We undertook a thorough marketing campaign over four weeks and had in excess of 150 qualified buyers through the properties,” he said.
“We received 14 cash contracts prior to auction and had competitive bidding for all five auctions on the day.” The properties were passed in at auction but sold one week after. Jason Andrews, director of freelance auctioneering firm Jason Andrews Auctioneers, conducted the auctions.
“There was a room full of people with plenty of registered bidders very excited by these properties,” he said.
“There is huge interest in mortgagee sales as people are looking for a good buy and they always draw out a crowd,” he said. The townhouses range in size from 254sq m up to a massive 510sq m spread over three or four bedrooms. They all feature roof terraces, city views and pools.
"The result was the cause of the pressure put on all buyers by the exhaustive marketing campaign and intense public display of activity,” Mr McGuire said.
“Everyone who wanted to buy had to deal, because they could all see the competition. It was a terrific result for all parties.”

Crafty buyer secures the block lot


A Queensland buyer has snapped up four luxury townhouses in a mortgagee sale handled by PRDnationwide New Farm. The Brisbane investor paid almost $6 million cash for the properties at 69 Kingsholme Street, New Farm, on Brisbane’s inner north.
Nick McGuire, director of PRDnationwide New Farm, said while the four townhouses were offered for sale separately, the buyer was eager to secure all four. “The developer had the properties on the market for one year through another agency who didn’t make a sale,” he said.
“The developer’s bank took possession and appointed me to sell the properties.” After 150 inspections, five auctions, 20 registered bidders, and 15 contracts the buyer was successful.
“The buyer wanted all four properties so he could control the body corporate and make repairs and alterations to the properties. The four town homes will provide a good passing income and represent a strategic piece of land for future capital growth,” he said. Mr McGuire said the dominant buying groups were Generation X and Baby Boomers.
“We undertook a thorough marketing campaign over four weeks and had in excess of 150 qualified buyers through the properties,” he said.
“We received 14 cash contracts prior to auction and had competitive bidding for all five auctions on the day.” The properties were passed in at auction but sold one week after. Jason Andrews, director of freelance auctioneering firm Jason Andrews Auctioneers, conducted the auctions.
“There was a room full of people with plenty of registered bidders very excited by these properties,” he said.
“There is huge interest in mortgagee sales as people are looking for a good buy and they always draw out a crowd,” he said. The townhouses range in size from 254sq up to a massive 510sq m spread over three or four bedrooms. They all feature roof terraces, city views and pools.
"The result was the cause of the pressure put on all buyers by the exhaustive marketing campaign and intense public display of activity,” Mr McGuire said.
“Everyone who wanted to buy had to deal, because they could all see the competition. It was a terrific result for all parties.”

Unit and townhouse sales soften


Continuing a trend in Queensland’s residential property market, the number of sales of units and townhouses reduced markedly during the tail end of 2009, according to the latest research from the Real Estate Institute of Queensland.
The REIQ research report, Queensland Market Monitor (QMM), has found the number of preliminary sales of units and townhouses fell 24 per cent between the September and December quarters last year. The number of sales under $500,000 was also down 28 per cent over the period.
REIQ managing director Dan Molloy said the drastic reduction in sales – especially in the affordable price range – mirrored the retreat of first home buyers from the market. “Unit and townhouses are popular with first-time buyers as they provide a less expensive way into the property market, especially in south-east Queensland,” he said.
“However, first home buyers have now fallen to lows not seen since the high interest rate environment of mid 2008 which means demand for this segment of the market has lessened.”
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics housing finance figures show that lending for all Queensland buyers fell dramatically in January to be down some 20 per cent on the year before.
“The recent batch of interest rate rises, even though inflation appears to presently be under control, is obviously having an impact on the Queensland market with sales numbers well below what they were during the global financial crisis last year,” Mr Molloy said.
Across the state, the December quarter median unit and townhouse prices edged upwards as sales in the affordable end of the market softened.

• Queensland Market Monitor is a 36-page quarterly, electronic publication entirely focused on residential sales and rental research data for regions throughout the state, on a suburb-by-suburb basis and is available via

The dangers of giving birth to a hastily thought-up plan

POLITICS .... with Mungo MacCallum

For once you have to sympathise with Tony Abbott. His parental leave policy may be a disaster, but if so it is not for the reasons being trumpeted by the government and the media.
In spite of what his apologists are now claiming, there is no doubt that its unveiling was both rushed and rash. Abbott may have spent some months reconsidering his old “over-my-dead-body” stance on paid maternity leave, but there is no sign that he took more than a few micro-seconds working out the details of his new one. This explains his remark about it being easier to apologise to his party room after the announcement rather than asking its permission beforehand. Had he done so, it is hardly likely that it would have emerged in its present amorphous form.
The idea of six months leave on full pay for everyone is appealing in its simplicity, but it hardly adds up.
Giving the cleaners $600 a week to have their babies while the executives get $3000 a week seems, at the very least, a trifle unfair. Abbott obviously subscribes to the view articulated by a correspondent to the Sydney Morning Herald back in 2004: "The rich need more money than the poor because they have greater expenses."
But considerations of equity aside, the scheme is vastly more generous than the government's, and more than ten times as expensive and the money has to come from somewhere. Abbott proposes a levy of 1.7 percent on companies that earn more than $5 million a year - or perhaps that turn over more than $5 million a year, or perhaps that pay tax on more than $5 million a year, or perhaps that pay more than $5 million a year in tax, no one seems entirely sure.
The levy would be, we think, on the total taxable income of the companies, but again we are not quite sure. What we do know is that only the 3200 biggest companies in the country would be affected, and that they can all afford it. If not, they could always try putting a levy of their own on the salaries of the CEOs and directors – about 75 per cent might be appropriate.
The companies are kicking of course; even Peter Anderson, the die-in-a-ditch Liberal Chief Executive of Abbott’s normally rusted-on support base, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the policy didn’t make sense and Heather Ridout of the more moderate Australian Industries Group said she couldn’t believe Abbott was serious: the priority should be to lower company tax, not raise it.
And when not only the feminist groups but the Greens came out in support of Abbott, the economists crowed that this proved the idea was totally crazy: fairies in the bottom of the garden stuff aimed at undermining our prosperity and destroying our way of life.
But this criticism was mere distraction from the big problem, which is that Abbott, as opposition leader, is proposing a Big New Tax. This breaks the first rule of opposition: never, never admit that you might increase taxes in any way, let alone introduce a new one.
Even in government it’s a huge risk, as John Howard found out with the GST; in 1998, after a gigantic campaign funded by all the resources the taxpayers could provide, Howard barely scraped back with less than half of the popular vote. In Opposition it’s suicide: just ask John Hewson, or for that matter Mark Latham, who in 2004 refused to play the tabloids’ silly game and guarantee no tax increases.
There are times when good policy cannot be delivered without tax increases, even a new tax: if Kevin Rudd is serious about reforming the health and hospitals net work to the standards the media are demanding, taxpayers – or some of them – will have to foot the bill. But you can bet he won’t spell this out in an election year. He is not that crazy-brave.
There is much to criticise in Abbott’s policies and this column will continue to did so. But right now he is being pilloried not for a matter of substance, but for having the courage to defy one of Australia’s more mindless political shibboleths. Like I said, you have to sympathise.


But save your real applause for the Indonesian President Susilo Bambam Yudhoyono whose visit to Australia last week was a long overdue breakthrough.
SBY, as he likes to be known, was serious, frank and supremely constructive. And he identified the biggest problem between his country and ours: not the governments, but the people, who remain mutually suspicious and still feel vaguely threatened by each other.
I can relate to this; only a few years ago I regarded Indonesia as a sort of post-colonial Javanese empire, dominated by doctrinaire Moslems and tenuously held together by a corrupt and expansionist military, an international loose cannon which could only be treated as potentially hostile to Australian interests.
But in an astonishingly short time it has all changed: Indonesia is now emerging as a fully-fledged secular democracy, increasingly prosperous and confident of its place in the world, an unambiguously good neighbour.
There is still work to be done but SBY, building on the foundation laid by the brilliant, if eccentric, Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), has helped to transform not just his country, but the entire region, for the better. The politicians on both sides accept and welcome this, but the public in general has not caught up: a recent survey showed 54 per cent of Australians still regard Indonesia as irresponsible in international relations, and we can assume the sentiment is returned in the archipelago. This outdated view must be corrected.
Educational and cultural exchanges and even tourism will help, but the most important step is to restore the teaching of Asian languages, and particularly Indonesian, in Australian schools and institutions. The program was thriving until it was inexplicably terminated under John Howard. Kevin Rudd has promised to reinstate it; SBY’s visit should encourage him to start doing so at once.

Bean there, done that

You might possibly think that there are two things that the central Fortitude Valley area doesn’t need any more of – and that’s coffee outlets and certainly no more convenience stores.
But they keep coming – and seem to thrive – which just goes to show that this silly old fossil knows diddly-squat about what makes a good business decision. But seeing these places keep opening– and supposedly thriving in the process – could I be just a little indulgent for once and give a shameless plug to a new venue being run by two very close friends of mine.
I was going to say “old” friends, but as you can see from the photos, Annette Gillespie (that’s her on the left in both photos) and Christina Hatzepetrou are far too young and sweet to deserve that moniker.
To me, they’re like the granddaughters I never had, so I’m delighted to mention their new little venue, Flamingo, in a little laneway behind the Zoo musical establishment on Ann Street.
To my mind, the venue seems so very Melbournian in style and look, with arty-farty (if you’ll excuse the French) fittings and not much more than a “hole in the wall” feel to it.

It’s going to be interesting to see if these sweet young things can make a go of it, seeing Flamingo is a little away from the main mall traffic flow. But they should do okay, for it’s not as if they are new to the hospitality scene.
Christina used to run The Main Squeeze in nearby Brunswick Street, and I did enjoy a mango/eggplant smoothie there on many occasions. Proud newish mother Annette also has a lot of barista work under her belt. She was a popular staffer at Fat Boys for quite a while – long enough to feature on our front page celebrating one of our birthday editions – and she was a co-owner of the Cantina at West End. So please go and say hello. Tell them Ivor sent you!

Blues goes off with a bang ... without Asa

Now that the 18th annual Brisbane Blues Festival at the Jubilee Hotel last weekend is just a fading memory of a hangover, spare a thought for one of the event’s main acts, Asa Broomhall.
The gig’s owner Rob Hudson tells me that while the rest of the bands on the bill tried to out do one another with the number of hot sweaty bodies they could coax onto the dance floor, poor Asa was at home under doctor’s orders and on serious meds trying to tame a raging throat and chest infection.
“He was the first act to miss their set in the event’s entire eighteen-year history but all was not lost,” Rob explained. “Asa being the stand up guy that he is had already sent in a ringer to take his place, a band called The Delta Monarchs and they duly keep the punters happy and busy shaking their hips.
“Doug Wilshire (pictured below) tried out tracks from his brand new album Cuz Of You to a great response and Mojo Webb was on fire and had a large segment of the female population up on stage with him helping to push the music to new heights.”
Rob also reports that elsewhere Doc Span and Ross Williams filled the Jube with an amazingly full sound considering they performed as only a duo, Jimi Beavis and the 385s had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands and The Hipshooters brought the night to a rousing close.
“The weather gods were kind almost the entire night and the heavens didn’t really open up until most people were on their way home.
“It seems the blues are still alive and a post gig phone call confirmed that the unfortunate Asa was still with us as well.
“Next year I’m making sure he stops kissing babies and shaking hands at least three weeks before the festival.”

A well-deserved arrogance

WINE ... with David Bray

Like the name, like the bottle, love the cheeky approach. Talking about The Arrogant Frog, a wine with so much appeal I have even bought it from time to time. They say it has been on sale here for six years and is doing nicely, thank you.
There's an invitation to lunch on March 24 “to celebrate 10 years of Australia’s most popular French table wine”. Something astray here: we learn that M. Jean-Claude Mas took ownership and control of the family business (est.1892) in 1999. Then “he launched the Arrogant Frog label in 2004 and over the six years, it has became one of the best-selling French wines overseas”.
He is, the press stuff tells us, “a leading exporter of French wine with one-million cases exported in 2009”.
People love the concept of these easy drinking, new-world wine from the south of France, but the quirky label featuring an arrogant frog, has more than a bit to do with the success of the launch.
They aren’t great wines, mind you, but good ones – mostly delicious and nicely priced around $11. It is a good story. A fourth-generation winemaker, M. Mas was born in what is said to be the biggest vine-growing area in the world, Languedoc. The story goes that at three years of age, during vintage, Jean-Claude ran away from his mother and walked 1.5 miles to the winery where his grandfather Raymond and father Paul were fermenting wine. And that was the start of something big.
At university he studied economics, graduated then went car and motorcycle racing for three years. In 1992, a chance meeting with one of the leading Italian winemakers, Giorgio Grai, re-established Jean-Claude's interest in wine and taught him the art of blending and creating 'wine with style'.
It was in the mid 90s, while he was a director of Domaines Virginie, a large winery in the south of France renowned for its varietal wines, that Jean-Claude decided it was time to return home to the family estate and start producing wines under his family name. Today, with a team of six winemakers and viticulturists, he runs his 120-hectare property in the Pézenas Montagnac area and a 70-hectare property in Limoux. He also sources grapes from another 450 hectares of contracted vineyards located in Limoux, Minervois, Cabardes and Coteaux du Languedoc regions in the south of France.
“The vineyard is where inspiration starts; it is where you start to draw in your mind a rough picture of the character and the personality of the wine that will be the fruit of 12 months’ work,” he says. J
ean-Claude has also been recognised as a French business leader receiving the Grand Prix de l'Entrepreneur award in 2006. In 2008, lading magazine L'Express named him in the 'New wave of French wine: 30 winemakers of tomorrow".
Along with his wife and two daughters, Jean-Claude Mas lives in a castle in Pezenas and still likes racing fast cars. The Arrogant Frog wines are made at the Mas winery Domaine Nicole, Montagnac. The Ribet White is sauvignon blanc from grapes grown near Carcassonne.
Tasters find "a brilliant twist of lemony acidity'' and in the Ribet Red a cabernet merlot blend, a mix of red and blackcurrant'.

Still on matters French, we come to a university course in wine tasting. You may think there is very little need indeed for such a project, but it has been seriously proposed in France.
Yep, a government-commissioned report is advising French university canteens to hold wine-tasting sessions to educate the young in the virtues of moderate consumption. The Guardian quotes Jean-Pierre Coffe, a television presenter and celebrated gastronome who co-wrote the study, as advocating that universities should give young people an education in wine as well as in academia.
“Why is there sexual education and not viticultural education? You can learn wine too,” he told French radio. He believes students can be taught the joys of drinking with restraint. “Drinking is not drinking a bottle. Wine is pleasure. It’s like love. It’s the same.”
There is plenty about and M. Coffee on line though you need respectable French to get the full benefit of his thinking. The report was commissioned by Valérie Pécresse, the minister for higher education. It offers a range of recommendations on how to improve student drinking, but the proposal outlining "initiation to a moderate consumption of wine" has attracted most attention.
Jean-Robert Pitte, a former director of Paris's Sorbonne, believes lunchtime canteen tastings would provide the perfect opportunity for students to learn to drink sensibly.
“In order to avoid the total freak-out that happens every Friday night and Saturday night, we want to try to teach students a sense of responsibility, to allow them to taste wine in very moderate quantities, and to show them that it is both a pleasure, good for their health and a part of their national heritage.”
But the proposal, which comes as France faces the fact that its young people are sometimes overdoing the drink bit, has gone down less well elsewhere. Alain Rigaud, president of the national association for the prevention of alcoholism and addiction, reckons “it’s naive to think we're going to reduce binge drinking in this way”. He sees the proposal as marketing for the wine industry.
In November, the Paris city hall launched an awareness campaign aimed at the capital's 15-25-year-olds, warning of the dangers of "le binge drinking".
The Guardian reports that experts believe such heavy and rapid drinking, unfamiliar in a country that has relied on watered-down wine being given to children as an introduction, increased by about 10% between 2005 and 2008.
According to the Paris authorities, a fifth of 17-year-olds now drink at least five glasses of wine in a single sitting at least three times a month.

Damon in zone again

FILM .... with Tim Milfull

Green Zone (M)
Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: Matt Damon
Rating: 4/5 9115-minutes, now screening

Even before Matt Damon came along, director Paul Greengrass was making taut thrillers like the IRA tragedy, Bloody Sunday. His partnership with the young actor seems to be paying off in spades, with another Bourne flick, the superbly wrought 9/11 drama featuring mainly unknown actors, United 93, and now another Damon outing, albeit with slightly less fisticuffs, and a whole lot more subterfuge.
The title – Green Zone – refers to the little oasis of peace that for many years offered sanctuary for Iraqi mandarins and expats sent to Baghdad to bring democracy to the former dictatorship. Here, soldiers, contractors, government hacks and spies alike could escape from the high probability of death, injury or escape that loomed outside the fences in Iraq-proper.
Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller heads a team charged with locating the infamous Weapons of Mass Destruction, and by mid-2003 is going slightly loopy on one ridiculous goose-chase after another, all the while assured by government flacks that their intelligence is bullet-proof.
When a chance encounter raises the possibility of apprehending one of Saddam Hussein’s generals, Miller is convinced that the truth behind the WMDs or lack thereof is within reach. Working with the weary CIA spook, Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), Miller dodges red herrings thrown by the duplicitous government advisor, Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), and gradually treads closer to an answer that he might not be able to cope with.
Greengrass and scriptwriter Brian Helgeland use Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone as their compelling template, and the result is an exhausting thriller, constantly ratcheting up the tension.

Monsters made for 3D

How to Train Your Dragon (PG)
Director: Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders
Stars: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler and others
Rating: 4/5 109-minutes, screening from March 25

If the main non-human character in the latest 3D adventure – How to Train Your Dragon – looks vaguely familiar, it’s probably because ‘Toothless’ has similar features to another mythical and mysterious creature: the Stitch in Lilo and Stitch.
Directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders created both monsters from stories they had also written. But their new film has characters that make Stitch look simply primitive by comparison. The medieval world in which the hapless Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) lives is a harsh, wondrous coastline regularly terrorised by dragons of all shapes and sizes.
Surviving in such an environment means adapting, and the Vikings – led by the humongous Stoick (Gerard Butler) – have made an art-form of protecting their turf and bulking up for battle. But Stoick’s son, Hiccup is the kind of weedy, super-geek disappointment that will never amount to anything, and would certainly never qualify for dragon-fighter training.
When a test-firing of his latest wacky invention brings down a never before seen Night Fury, Hiccup thinks that his ticket to legitimacy has finally arrived. But as he builds a grudging relationship with this strange creature, Hiccup realises that the time-honoured hatred between his people and the dragons has very shaky foundations.
I’m not one to fuss over 3D – Avatar was pretty cool, really, but other animated 3D features like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs end up being a tired novelty – this new film, however, is simply extraordinary. The humans might be exaggerated in their proportions, and the dragons wild and sometimes ridiculous, but DeBlois and Sanders delight in the finer details, with How to Train Your Dragon evolving into a rich and rewarding fairytale.


Heartfelt view on climate change

The Burning Season (M)
Prime Mover (M)
Genova (M)
Public Enemy #1 (MA15+)
All now available through Madman Entertainment

The Burning Season has been a labour of love for a number of years now. Known for her extremely personal documentaries – like The Man Who Stole My Mother’s Face and Losing Layla – one of Australia’s most successful documentary producer-directors, Cathy Henkel again wanted to make a difference, this time in the climate change debate.
The result is a tense examination of the effect deforestation has on local and global scales, from the political corruption and life-changing influences on subsistence farmers and the resulting near extinction of orang-utans, to the innovative solutions offered in carbon trading. Moving to the magic-realism of life on the road outside Dubbo, David Caesar – Mullet and Idiot Box – reunites Suburban Mayhem stars, Michael Dorman and Emily Barclay in Prime Mover, a bittersweet love story that replaces gypsy wagons with semi-trailers. And on to more continental fare, ever avoiding categories, British writer-director, Michael Winterbottom transplants a grieving young family to Genova to lick their wounds. While not quite as satisfying as his other exciting work, Genova proves the English filmmaker is prepared to take risks.
The same could be said of the versatile French actor Vincent Cassell who started in local independent productions like La Haine, moved on to big budget Bond and Ocean’s movies, and now, in Public Enemy #1 brings to the screen the story of one of France’s most notorious real-life criminals: Mesrine – a violent, psychopathic gangster who terrorised his homeland.

Watching the public service inaction

FROM MY CORNER .... with Ann Brunswick

It’s no mystery to me that the state government’s reputation is so low among voters. A colleague recently offered me an insight into the offhanded attitude government departments take to the people they are supposed to serve.
He lives in an area that has been under study for some possible changes in traffic flows, road widths, and car parking. He contacted the Main Roads Department’s badly named consultation team by email at the end of January to discuss the proposals.
He waited for a response that still hasn’t arrived. But in the meantime, after 15 working days without even an acknowledgement, he thought he would drop a line to the director-general of the department to alert him to the lack of responsiveness among his underlings. That was in late February, also more than 15 working days ago. Maybe the director-general and all his staff should grab a dictionary and look up the words “public” and “service”.


Are you, like me, in a state of excitement about the imminent opening of the new Clem 7 tunnel?
The stepped-up advertising campaign on TV telling us to buy a new toll tag for our dashboards also tells us that the new tunnel will take millions of cars each hour, allowing them to miss something like 457 sets of traffic lights, and enabling them to go from the Gabba to Bowen Hills in less than 14 seconds.
I may have misheard some of the statistics. Nevertheless, as one with routes all over town including between those two points, it will be a great relief when the Clem 7 takes its first vehicles. All those cars being funnelled underground and off our roads should really clear the way for motorists like me who plan to continue using the old roads. I just can’t wait.

Speaking of my routes, last week a social engagement took me to Mitchelton during the past-work rush hour. Trundling outbound along Waterworks Road from Red Hill in my trusty Land Rover, it was quite noticeable how many drivers abuse the rules of the peak-hour T2 lane.

The lane is meant to be reserved in certain hours for people with at least two people in a vehicle. Yet while my lane was making slow but steady progress, cars were zipping by in the T2 lane to my left. A quick and unscientific count revealed about three in every five vehicles using the T2 lane had only a driver inside.

This column was not going to make mention of Michael Clarke and Lara Bingle, but scanning other media in the past week it seems there must be some sort of law mandating coverage of the two. So now I have no fear of arrest.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mad Rush to see the sights of Rome


By Don Gordon-Brown

For most of my life, I’ve only ever been to places that always close down – from Shorncliffe to Ipswich and old Brisbane town. So it’s fair to say that I was literally gobsmacked by the sights that enthralled me on my very first scheduled afternoon in ancient Rome.
I just couldn’t believe that I was seeing, for the very first time, the famous Trevi Fountain, below right. And I just had to give my camera to my travelling partner who took the photo, top right, of me standing at the top of the historic Spanish Steps.
And to snap away at the centuries-old facades of the city’s historic heart... okay, okay, enough!
Some of the more widely travelled among you who have actually been to places that never close down might have sussed out already that the photos at right are not of the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps. They are, in fact, pictures of a backyard pump and some beachside steps taken at a quaint little seaside village a 32 Euro taxi trip from Dublin Airport.
Let me explain how this happened, because I want your input later as to who has to shoulder the blame for my being in rustic Rush, and not romantic Rome.
It started out okay, taking a flight from JFK Airport in New York after my Ho and I had spend eight days in the hood with my Harlem rappers, gangsta and numba runner nigga mates. But that’s another story for another day.
We were en route with Aer Lingus to the Italian capital, and had to change planes in Dublin early the next morning to start an Intrepid tour of central and northern Italy.
We were fashionably late into Dublin; even more so after the terminal walkway to our new departure gate appeared to get there by the Ring of Kerry. Our luggage had been forwarded, so we made good time to get to the gate the same day, only to look up at the departures board to see our flight to Rome was DELAYED. Now please remember what I just said there. DELAYED!.
Not BOARDING. Not FINAL CALL. Not CLOSED, which is international terminal language for YOU’D BETTER START RUNNING AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.
No, the board said DELAYED, so we stopped in our tracks and I said to my girlie: “Why the rush? Let’s have a cup of coffee.”
We steered our way into an adjacent cafe, found a seat where we could see the departure board, and waited patiently while the cafe staff forgot our order. My partner refreshed their Irish memory to get things under way.
After enjoying our cup of coffee, and hearing nothing over the PA, we decided it might be best to go to the gate and see what was happening.
We found the gate and milled about with all these other passengers who seemed to know what they were doing – and more importantly, where they were headed. Soon after, the PA announced that a certain flight to somewhere exotic – but definitely not Rome – had changed gates. All the people around us changed gaits and left us alone.
Something is wrong here, we thought, an idea compounded by the fact that on the departure board, our flight to Rome had just changed to DEPARTED. Not TYRES BEING PUMPED UP or WINDSCREEN BEING CLEANED. Just DEPARTED!
We could be in trouble here, I told my babe.
We ran back up to the main terminal level, where some cute Aer Lingus staffers told us our plane had in fact DEPARTED, and where the bloody hell had we been because our names had been called out for ever and ever and the only reason the flight had been DELAYED was because we had been delaying it.
Well, they didn’t say bloody hell but they did make it clear that their schedules had gone to putty because it has taken forever to find and remove our luggage in the hold. They subsequently lost half of it for a week by sending it inexplicably on to Germany but the discomfit that caused is also a story for another day.
What’s worse, they didn’t believe one word of our defence that at no time had we ever heard our names being called. I mean, really! Is there anywhere in Europe where people wouldn’t stop and take notice if they heard the British Prime Minister’s name being called repeatedly, seeing he’s so much on the nose? Exactly. But come to think of it, we hadn’t heard any announcements in the cafe at all.
We finally made our way back to Check-In – ever tried to exit a departure lounge the wrong way?– and the sweet young colleen there made us feel very foolish before finally finding two seats on the next morning’s flight.
No major harm done, we thought. We’ll miss the first day in Rome, but we’ll stay at an airport hotel or in the city overnight and cut our losses. Wrong! The sweet young thing at the tourism counter couldn’t find us a room in any of the airport hotels, or anywhere in Dublin itself. She tried a few nearby towns and just as she was about to start on the suburbs of Belfast, she found a cute little B&B at the aforementioned Rush. Nice little town but without quite the history or allure of Roma, of which we got to see a suburban train station for about one minute the following afternoon.
So who caused this debacle that had left us without a single, unforgettable moment from one of the great world cities? Was the DELAYED sign a cunning Aer Lingus plot to keep this paper’s junior travel reporter in Ireland for an extra and rather expensive night?
Or was he just a hopeless and inexperienced tourist who couldn’t cope with the vagaries of wearying world travel. Just unable to read the signs!
I’d like your input. If you agree with me that the sign that said DELAYED was not only contrary to internationally accepted airport terminal nomenclature, but totally and very unreasonably misleading, where it was only human nature for anybody with even half a brain to think they had heaps of time to catch the flight, then email me RIGHT NOW to:, and I’ll add it to the legal portfolio for when we make our claim for full restitution from Aer Lingus. Personally, I’m looking at an all-expensed paid, pointy-end-of-the-plane trip back to Rome for both myself and my Ho/Girlie/Babe.
If you think I stuffed up big time, then email:

Footnote: We made sure we were very, very early for the next morning’s flight. We had a coffee at the same table in the same cafe and couldn’t hear a single word, if indeed any announcements were made while we were in there. Trouble was that even when we sat in the main departure area and could hear the announcements, we couldn’t make head or tail of them anyway. They were in Irish English – and who can understand that?

Little ambassador’s charm calls for Reunion


The prelude to a full home exchange often comes in the form of a simple hosting or inexpensive homestay – both ideal ways to forge new friendships and for both parties to discreetly check out the people they might eventually trust their homes to. Carol Campbell reports.

Reunion Island, the jewel of the Indian Ocean, is pretty much an unknown destination to the average Australian, unless you are either a vulcanologist or an avid surfer.
An active volcano, rainforest walks and a magnificent surf beach, touted to be one of the world’s best, are some of the better known attributes of La Reunion, as it is generally known throughout the world.

The pretty little island, population 710,000, lies 200km west of its larger fellow French colony Mauritius, and 700km east of Madagascar.
All of the above facts we learnt, indirectly, through home exchange – hosting some delightful visitors from Reunion in recent weeks.
Justine and her engaging two-year-old son Corentin, who spoke no English other than a very cute “G’day mate”, spent a week with us as part of a very well thought-out 10-week trip to Australia – and all through the one home-exchange site that offers home-stay, hosting, home exchange and holiday home rentals around the world.
First stop was Fremantle, where Justine had a home stay for a week with a single mother and her two young children. Home-stay properties are usually family homes with a spare room or two set aside for paying guests.
And at under $200 per week, with all meals provided – and with the benefit of having someone to point you to the best tourist spots, public transport tips, etc – it is a bargain deal for the budget traveller.
Next on Justine;s schedule was Melbourne, where she and Corentin were hosted by a friendly couple living in one of the city’s outer suburbs. A week seeing the sights of the Victorian capital and its surrounds, with the help of her host family, meant Justine saw more than the average tourist.
Melbourne was followed by a five-week home exchange in Foster, on the mid-north coast of NSW. Justine and Corentin were met at the airport by her exchangers, a couple in their mid-50s with a grown-up family. They had a week to settle in and meet other members of the family before Justine drove the couple, in their own car, to the airport.
Four weeks later, after a month of exchanging not only house and cars but also family and friends at both destinations, Justine was there to collect them at the airport and hear all about their holiday in her home and stories about her friends and family on Reunion.
Justine and Corentin then continued their Aussie trek north by train and coach to us at Brunswick Heads in the Northern Rivers.
They were the perfect guests. We took in the sights of Byron Bay, the Mullumbimby markets, the Gold Coast beaches, Brisbane and Springbrook, and we even had a beer at Billinudgel, a fair-dinkum, old Aussie pub.
Justine was great company, although Corentin was the star attraction. Not only did he win our hearts but those of everyone he met, whether in restaurants, shopping or dancing to the band at the Brunnie on Sunday arvo. His friendly smile and engaging manner meant he was everyone’s friend – a great young ambassador for Reunion Island.
Justine insisted on contributing her share, taking us out for dinner, paying for petrol, and cooking us a fabulous spicy Creole meal – although she didn’t have to kill and pluck the chicken as she sometimes does at home. And she proved to be a dishwasher extraordinaire. My pots and pans have never been so clean.
We dropped Justine and Corentin at Coolangatta Airport, ready for their final stop in Australia – McMahons Point in Sydney, where they were being hosted for eight days before they made the long flight to Reunion.
Justine and Corentin are back home now, reflecting on their holiday of a lifetime. I’ve since heard from Justine, who says she is extremely grateful for the warm welcome she received everywhere. Now she is looking forward to repaying the favour and meeting all those Australians again on Reunion.
In her words, after a stopover on her way home at poverty-stricken Mauritius: “I realise once more how lucky we are and I am, to live the lives we live and to be able to choose our way of living.
“But that’s the way it goes. Or maybe I simply saw things like that because my mind was full of beautiful memories from Australia, who knows.
“Well, I hope you will still come this part of earth in 2010. We’re waiting for you, we’ll be very happy to welcome you as you welcomed both of us in your home and lives.
“I’m very happy to have met all of you – you are so lovely people.”

This is home exchange at its best. Now if only all our world leaders could embrace the same philosophies.• Home stay: accommodation in family homes, with meals (from $180pw)
 • Hosting: reciprocal visits, if timing is unsuitable to exchange (no costs)
• Home exchange: simultaneous or at mutually agreed times (no costs, can include use of car)
• Holiday rental: payment made direct to owners of properties

House swaps an entree to the world’s wonders


By Carol Campbell

Sitting in the bubbling waters of the steaming hot tub beneath the pine trees in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley, our Brisbane home never seemed so far away – both in distance and in lifestyle.
We were staying in a typical North American barn-style house, in rural surrounds, and all around huge snow-covered mountains dominated the skyline. It was May, early summer in this part of the world, but still the icy white blanket lay thick in the high country.
And where at home we’d be cooling off by way of a late-evening dip under the twinkling lights of the Southern Cross, instead we were keeping warm under the bubbling waters in an eerie twilight, the long precursor to the few hours of darkness that constitutes summer nights in the Northern Hemisphere.
Alaska – North America’s last frontier – and we were there because of an email requesting a home exchange.
Only a few months earlier I had listed our beach house on a free website. The Alaskans were after a break from their snow-bound home and sought refuge in a beach holiday in sunny Oz.
Had we ever considered a swap in Alaska? Well, not until I received this request. We were already booked to go to Vancouver and, suddenly, the icy frontier at the ‘top’ of the world seemed an exciting addition to our itinerary, especially with two weeks free accommodation and transport awaiting us.
This is the thing about house swaps; you can end up visiting places you had only ever dreamed of. In the last 12 months, we’ve had offers from England, the United States, Norway, Reunion Island, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and southern France.
Our Alaskan exchange to rural Palmer went off without a hitch. The young couple loved our beach house, the long deserted stretches of coastline and the picturesque northern rivers hinterland. And they loved our February heat.
We, in exchange, were rapt in the beautiful Alaska scenery.
The quaint three-level house, set on two acres and surrounded by spruce trees, was very comfortable with all the trimmings, including broadband and the biggest fridge, washer and dryer I had ever seen.
We learned to drive on the “wrong side” of the road and visited the spectacular Hatcher Pass, the world-famous working-dog Iditarod Museum in Sarah Palin’s home town of Wasilla and the frontier city of Anchorage.
We feasted on Alaskan king crab legs and wild salmon, and sampled local produce from the valley that hosts the annual Alaskan State Fair.
And we got through quite a few bottles of champagne. A steaming hot tub late at night, under the pine trees and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, will do it every time.
Now for exchanges to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in the Fall.

• Log on to to see where in the world you might like to go. Free with friendly, helpful service.
There are many on-line home exchange sites but only one that I can find that offers free listings and free inquiries. Go to to register, and then the world is your oyster.


Of course, there is an inheritant risk in exchanges: someone might trash your home, they might run up a huge phone bill, or, worse still, what if you get to the other side of the world and find that their house doesn't exist!!
But these seem highly unlikely scenarios, given the people we have read about - some have had up to 20 exchanges - and met through home exchange.
There are several obvious precautions to take: adding drivers to your car insurance, limiting your outgoing phone calls etc.
But what a way to make friends across the world, like our London mates. We ended up not exchanging because the dates were wrong but we have stayed with them several times and have even house sat their beautiful Victorian masion in Brixton for them while they holidayed in Ireland.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hours cutback ‘will mean club closures’


Significant licensed venue closures would follow any State Government decision to scale back opening hours, an industry leader warns.

Valley Liquor Accord chairman Danny Blair told The Independent: “If it comes back to a 2am or 3am closure, you will see half the clubs in the Valley close down over the next 12 months.
“The young kids don’t come out to 1am. It’s a lot different from when I was young.” It would be a cultural shift for them if they had to come out earlier, said Mr Blair, who added that research had shown that it took two years before such a shift in behaviour became the norm.
Venues would not be able to survive until that happened. Mr Blair said: “We are waiting with bated breath for the parliamentary inquiry recommendations to come down on March 18.”
Asked to comment on recent mainstream media reports suggesting not only that the parliamentary inquiry recommendations would be for scaled-back hours and the compulsory introduction of tempered glass and patron scanners but that the government would adopt those measures, Mr Blair said: “I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion.”
Industry insiders say that Premier Anna Bligh’s decision last year to let the existing 5am rules remain in force until mid-2010 had everything to do with the government not wishing to refund any of the millions of dollars paid by venues for staying open late, and nothing to do with her views on the matter.
Mr Blair said: “We would be opposed to any hours reduction.” He said there was no hard evidence to suggest that venues had more troubles with antisocial behaviour at 4am rather than at 3am. To the contrary, available evidence suggested that between 10pm and 1am was a more troublesome period and a 2am or 3am closure would do nothing to resolve that.
Mr Blair said an early closing would simply mean “we’ll flood the area with people” earlier in the night. “I have said repeatedly that the safest place in the Valley is to be inside a licensed venue with security.”
Mr Blair’s comments come as a separate lobby group Queensland Locked Out (QLO) has organised a protest rally outside Parliament House on March 11 against what it calls the Premier’s “temporary political fix of an earlier shut down of entertainment precincts”.
Rally organiser Zach Salar said it was time for the people “to stand up for their rights and stop being bullied by a government looking for the populace (sic) vote”.
“There are solutions to the issues confronting alcohol-related violence and it’s not taking away the rights of the majority and also reducing employment,” he said. “Harsher penalties, increasing police numbers in entertainment precincts and working with the licensees on the introduction of ID scanners is how the Bligh Government should be looking at rectifying these issues.
“Too often we have people like Anna Bligh who are short on statistics and other relevant data, who look for the emotional vote from mum and dad as a cheap way of staying in power.
“The QLO will show Bligh people’s power is alive and well when they rally outside the gates of Parliament against proposed plans to reduce licensees trading hours which cost the economy and many students and entertainment industry workers their livelihoods.”
The QLO is also organising a petition aimed at maximising the vote against the government at the next election if trading hours are reduced.

• For more information about the rally and petition, go to

It’s a mall speedway


Rat-running motorists are using the new Chinatown Mall as a shortcut to the city, putting the lives of mall visitors at risk.

One local worker told The Independent that over a relatively short period last week, he saw four cars illegally drive up through the mall to turn citybound on Ann Street. Law-abiding drivers who are leaving Forwin’s Chinatown carpark exit on the western side of the mall (pictured above) and do the right thing by going down to the end and turning right onto one-way Wickham Street.
If they are heading up to the city, they then turn right on Warner Street behind McWhirters or on other streets to the north.
The illegal drivers, to save just a few minutes, turn right at the carpark exit, drive under the grand arch, the centrepiece of the new $8 million-plus mall makeover, and then turn right onto Ann Street. The Independent has been told that some of these drivers are reaching dangerous speeds in this manoeuvre as they clearly want to minimise the time taken for the illegal shortcut.
Local councillor David Hinchliffe (Central Ward) says barriers need to be erected immediately before someone gets hurt.
“My office has already counted more than 30 cars driving up and down the mall - and that’s just in one week. One of the cars even crashed into a seat. The most basic part of any mall design ought to be to make sure it is pedestrian-friendly.
"Pedestrians are being honked by motorists to get out of the way as they drive up the mall."
Cr Hinchliffe said he had raised the issue with Councillor Jane Prentice who oversaw the mall design. Her response had been: “Council’s malls section is reviewing arrangements that will maximise use of the mall and minimise unnecessary vehicle movements. In addition, the Feng Shui characteristics of the mall must be considered.”
Cr Hinchliffe told The Independent: “I can tell you now the pedestrians who are diving for cover as motorists tear up the mall aren’t impressed with its current Feng Shui!”

Many changes in decade ahead


The next decade will hold many changes for the real estate industry, according to a survey of PRDnationwide agents.

Most PRDnationwide agents polled said there will be less face-to-face contact with agents, more reliance on technology and more international buyers thanks to travel times to Australia reducing.
PRDnationwide New Farm director Adam Gray said he believes the day of the small corner agency is dead. “I do believe agencies will get bigger and service larger areas,” he said. Mr Gray said video will play a much bigger part in the selling process.
"We will be putting a cinema in our building to showcase off-the-plan projects. We already have the room designed and are waiting for the price of technology of creating the programs to drop - they are nearly affordable now,” he said.
“By 2020 we are likely to have planes that can fly from around the world to Australia within five hours. Richard Branson is suggesting this could happen in five years.
“When this happens, Australia will be the flavour of the world. Instead of having 20 million people buying property in Australia we will have the potential of seven billion. I have seen what happened in Turkey when the Germans and English decided they wanted to holiday there. Watch what happens here,” he said.
PRDnationwide Ballina/Lennox Head sales consultant Brett Jones said during the next ten years the roles of agents will change in a massive way.
“With search engines and social networking controlling the buyers, the agent’s role will be to control and manage the listings in more intense way,” he said. “There will be fewer agents with larger areas to cover,” he said.
Mr Jones believes instead of town based agents it will be region-based agents. There would also be much less face-to-face time with buyers.
“Generation Y will look to get more out of an agent with less face to face communication. Social networking and instant communication will be a key in the industry,” he said.
“We are seeing currently business on Facebook or Twitter - this is just the beginning of a huge change of things ahead.”
PRDnationwide Mudgeeraba agent Karl Grossman said while real estate will always be a people business, agents will need to become more specialised.
“Buyers will have more information available to them through the internet so they will expect an agent to be more knowledgeable about the product they are selling,” he said.
“Online social networking tools will be very important in some markets for prospecting, but not all.”

Teneriffe festival on way


The recent awarding of “suburb” status to leafy Teneriffe is to be celebrated soon with the inaugural Teneriffe Festival.

Some vigorous and enthusiastic local steering committee meetings have begun planning for the celebrations – after all, it took a very long time and a lot of local agitation before the suburban status was finally given.
The Indie is told the committee membership is collectively very representative and impressive. And although it’s still very early days, July 3 has been earmarked for the inaugural Teneriffe Festival. We’ll keep readers informed as plans for the big event unfold. But in the meantime, keep Saturday July 3 free!

This grand old dame continues to radiate class

by Louis Nowra
Directed by Jo Peirce
Brisbane Arts Theatre SEASON OVER

Brisbane Arts Theatre looks good for a 74 year old. As Brisbane’s longest running independent theatre BAT has “re-invigoration” as its overriding theme for 2010. With an impressive program of Australian and international plays, BAT is focused and forging ahead with artistic director John Boyce at the helm.
And Radiance is a wonderful mix of mystery, anticipation and pathos. Already a hit on film, Radiance is a series of interconnected stories, focused on three sisters. Each sister gradually reveals their shadows selves or ghosts in the midst of grieving their recently deceased mother.
Radiance is beautifully translated to stage by director Jo Pierce. The opening scene was superb. Georgia McBride-Levi entered the performance space with slow reverent steps while completely focused on the empty chair where her mother had died.
The vision of ghostly presence was conjured so thoroughly by her constant gaze and slow prowling that I felt as though I was at a séance about to meet the departed. McBride-Levi as Mae was the strong constant presence for me throughout the play.
She was the linchpin that held the play together. Her thorough immersion in character was balanced beautifully by the irrepressible Louvel Yapali-Purcival as Nona.
Yapali-Purcival provided the kinetic energy that motivated and at times pushed for a more connected narrative. There were some silences that required quick dialogue to cover and Nona was the life line. She was perfectly cast by Jo Peirce who spent months researching before choosing her three actors.
Josifini Hawkins as Cressy was the most “elusive” sister who had the motherload of secrets to eventually reveal.
What a theatre! I love the age and patina of the place, truly a Brisbane icon. It is both proudly vintage and hopefully youthful.
BAT continues to breathe still more life and inspiration into the Brisbane theatre landscape. And BAT does harbour ghosts of the most gentle kind that do not require fire to exorcise them.

Lynette Shanahan

Some big names, some lesser ones, shine in Sydney

WINE ... with David Bray

Some well-known names triumphed in the 2010 Sydney International Wine Competition, and so did some lesser-known ones. Regular and attentive readers will be aware of this reporter’s admiration for the competition, which is unique in that the final round of judging is run with appropriate food.
Competition director Warren Mason says this “offers a realistic consumer guide for matching appropriate wines to diverse food dishes”.
“The competition’s main aim is to encourage consumers to make up their own minds about which wines to choose. It’s built around helping consumers make considered choices, to take full advantage of the vast array of wine styles that are available and to choose what to drink with a given dish with a purpose in mind. We aim to help them become their own, informed sommelier.”
We don’t usually give much mention to show results, but reckon this one is different enough to give space to.
Some of the highlights of this year’s results: First, a couple of trophies of special significance to me and no doubt many among you, the best value: d’Arenberg The Dry Dam riesling 2008 was judged best value dry white and Fox Creek Red Baron shiraz 2008 (pictured above) best value dry red.
The trophy for most successful winery or brand went to Westend Estate Wines, Griffith. Westend took out nine awards from 20 wines entered. Considering only 15 per cent of all entries receive any award, this was a remarkable achievement.
Three red wine trophies went to the Young area in the Hilltops region, Central NSW. Considering Hilltops has only three boutique wineries plus about another five growers, this was a remarkable achievement.
Look for Grove Estate and Moppity Vineyards. Peter and Margaret Lehmann’s Margaret Barossa Semillon 2004 took out the Joy Lake Memorial championship trophy for best wine of competition for the second time in three years. A wood matured semillon from the Barossa! (Please note that your traditionally trained reporter does not use the exclamation mark, ever!)

The white wine winners: Delatite riesling 2008 was best aromatic wine (One judge’s comment: “Pale straw colour. Honeysuckle and tropical fruit salad on the nose. Spicy tropical fruit on the palate. A nice refined palate which was not overblown. It had good cleansing acidity. Those riper tropical notes seemed more obvious with the food.’) Continuing the winning list: Vavasour Awatere Valley sauvignon blanc 2009 best savvy, Saddlers Creek classic Hunter semillon 2005 best lighter bodied dry white, that Peter Lehmann Margaret Barossa semillon best medium bodied dry white, Sacred Hill Rifleman’s chardonnay 2007 and Serafino reserve chardonnay 2009 equal best fuller bodied dry white.

The red winners: Angove Nine Vines grenache shiraz rose 2009 was best still rose, Gibbston Valley reserve pinot noir 2008 best pinot noir, Grove Estate Cellar Block shiraz viognier 2008 best lighter bodied dry red, Moppity Vineyards reserve shiraz 2008 best medium bodied dry red, Sticks No 29 shiraz 2008 best fuller bodied red.(One judge’s comment: “Very deep cherry purple colour. Very clean fruit aromas. Some liquorice and vanilla oak. A warm, generous palate. Quite savoury. Balanced acid and very tight, ripe tannin. Good length. The food highlights the finesse, the length, the sleekness and the smoothness.”)

Sparkling and sweet: Konrad Sigrun Noble Two riesling 2007 best dessert wine, Morris Wines Old Premium liqueur tokay best fortified, Jacob’s Creek sparkling moscato nv best Australian sparkling wine aperitif style. All 2010 results have been published on the competition’s website – – with individual judges’ comments for each award winner and recipes of all the food dishes presented. Well worth a visit.

STAR SIGNS .. with Horace Cope

PISCES (Feb 20 to Mar 20)
You are aghast to discover some so-called friends have posted a string of anecdotes about your outrageous drinking exploits on the social networking site, Offyourfacebook.

ARIES (Mar 21 to Apr 20)
A sudden power blackout has you and your partner looking at your own reflections in your TV screen while watching an episode of The Biggest Loser: Couples.

TAURUS (Apr 21 to May 20)
You and your spouse are rushed to hospital in an awful tangle after foolishly trying to spice up your sex life by attempting a juxtaposition.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 21)
You hadn’t realised just how on the nose Kevin Rudd was until you read the news pages of a couple of editions of The Australian.

CANCER (June 22 to July 23)
It didn't work in the long run for Peter Beattie, so you wonder why Kevin Rudd is trying the media tart's old "I've been a naughty boy and deserve to be spanked really, really hard for a really, really long time" routine.

LEO (July 24 to Aug 23)

You wonder how Channel 9 can promote Top Gear as Australia's No 1 TV show when it hasn't started yet.

VIRGO (Aug 24 to Sept 23)
You go to your local library to see whether this week’s book written by James Patterson has come in yet.

LIBRA (Sept 24 to Oct 23)
You fully support Lord Mayor Campbell Newman's belief that through a mixture of climate change and the city's emergence via the Clem 7 tunnel opening as one of the world's truly exciting cosmopolitan centres, Brisbane one day will host the Winter Olympics.

SCORPIO (Oct 24 to Nov 22)
Your stable and happy home life is shattered after a surprise weekend visit by the team from Domestic Pitz.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov 23 to Dec 22)
Now that they have an extra digital channel to play with you can't help but notice how the free-to-air TV channels have jumped at the opportunity to promote oft-repeated shows with lines such as “First time on Seven2”.

CAPRICORN (Dec 23 to Jan 20)
On that note you are really grateful that federal communications minister Stephen Conroy gave the networks a $250 million cut in licence fees because it will allow them to invest in more cutting-edge shows like I Dream of Jeannie, The Flintstones and Bewitched.

AQUARIUS (Jan 21 to Feb 19)
It was a good idea for the BCC to throw an pen day and allow people to walk through the Clem7 tunnel, but you do think the council was being a bit tough by requiring you to carry an electronic toll tag.

Burton’s wonderfully wacky land

FILMS ... with Tim Milfull

Alice in Wonderland (PG)
Director: Tim Burton Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway
Rating: 4.5/5
109-minutes, screening from March 4

The only surprising thing about Tim Burton directing a version of Alice in Wonderland is that it has taken so long to come to fruition – but given the wondrous result, many will agree that it was well worth the wait.
Collaborating with Linda Woolverton – whose most famous credit to this point was a little film called The Lion King – Burton brings an interesting new twist to the Lewis Carroll tales Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, introducing us to a nineteen-year-old Alice (the latest Aussie to assault Hollywood, Mia Wasikowska), who is dreading the prospect of fulfilling her mother’s wishes to marry well.
After narrowly avoiding a marriage proposal, Alice tumbles down a rabbit-hole and promptly decides that since subsequent bizarre events must be a dream, she will maintain the firmest grip on what unfolds. And as all fans of the novels will appreciate, these are most bizarre and curious events indeed: diminutive but very wide twins (played by Little Britain’s Matt Lucas); a randomly appearing Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) mellifluous in voice, attitude, and manoeuvre; a curmudgeonly caterpillar (Alan Rickman); an insanely jealous and self-interested Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and her absent-minded sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway); and finally, the delightfully unpredictable Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp).
The preview I saw was in Real-3D, and made Avatar look almost primitive, which says much considering how much I enjoyed James Cameron’s film. If I had any complaint, it would be to slam Danny Elfman’s choice of Avril Lavigne to sing over the closing credits; then again, Alice in Wonderland wasn’t really made for me but for tweens and teens – I won’t hold it against him.

Director’s debut proves firth-class

A Single Man (M)
Director: Tom Ford Stars: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore
Rating: 4/5
99-minutes, now screening

Tom Ford might be more recognisable to some people as a fashion photographer and designer of clothing and fragrances, but this very successful creative recently branched out into cinema, adapting, directing, and producing a film version of Christopher Isherwood’s seminal sixties novel, A Single Man.
Ignoring some not so quiet whispers mentioning the words “vanity project”, Ford chose to finance the entire project himself, and the aesthetics of his quite beautiful film hint at the influence of two very influential art-house directors: Hong Kong’s Wong Kar Wai and Pedro Almodovar from Spain.
In his film, Ford slots Colin Firth firmly into the role of George, a forty-something college professor quietly mourning the death of his long-term lover, Jim (Matthew Goode). As the movie opens, George is going methodically through the motions of preparing for his last day on Earth, and all the while, friends, acquaintances, and new temptations skip in and out of his life.
This simple premise – the novel was less than two-hundred pages – unfolds into a fascinating examination of one man’s grief and the single-minded remedy that he thinks will offer relief, or at least oblivion. Ford’s visual aesthetic echoes those of Wong Kar Wai – with delicate slo-mo and grainy flashbacks – and Almodovar’s vivid palette, but Ford stamps his own mark on the film, with impeccable fashion and architecture complementing excellent performances from Firth, Moore and others.
This lush, achingly tragic story presses all the right buttons, and has me hoping that Ford found the experience of making A Single Man rewarding enough to step behind the camera again.

France flavour of the month at Palace

Alliance Française French Film Festival 2010 – March 17 to 31
More details at

Some festival news this week, with the Alliance Française French Film Festival touring through Brisbane in the latter half of March. Before the traditional after-party at Palace Centro on James St, the AFFFF will screen Micmacs, the latest film from magic realist director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and from all reports this new effort is a melange of his earlier works, Delicatessen and Amelie, which really says a great deal.
I managed to catch several previews, including Army of Crime – a dramatic true story about Jewish members of the Resistance wreaking havoc on the Nazi occupation of France. There’s also a raft of romantic films, from Sophie Marceau as a mother struggling with her hormonal teenager daughter in LOL, and some very satisfying personal growth in Queen to Play, featuring chess manoeuvres by Sandrine Bonnaire as Helene, a cleaning lady working for misanthropic expat, Dr Kroger (Kevin Kline).
Lovers of family drama will lap up the dynamics of The First Day of the Rest of Your Life, while those who like thrillers will appreciate the tense Skirt Day, an impressively cast hostage drama set in a classroom. Finally, I could barely contain myself when I heard that the impossibly handsome Jean Dujardin would be stepping back into the shoes of French superspy, OSS 117 – aka Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath – as he heads off on the hunt for Nazis on the run around Brazil in the very silly OSS 117, Lost in Brazil.(pictured)
There are many more films on offer – check out the festival’s program on

Patriotism always precedes a poll in Terror Australis

POLITICS ... with Mungo MacCallum

It's election year, so our politicians are all getting really patriotic. They love their sunburnt country, the sweeping plains, the ragged mountain ranges. The droughts and flooding rains aren’t bad either, providing multiple photo opportunities and the chance to look compassionate while handing out the bribe money. The far horizons, the jewel seas – yes, the environment’s a political must. And of course there’s the beauty; but then there’s the terror.

Ah, yes, the terror. There’s something we can really get patriotic about. Kevin Rudd did so last week with a statement which was dismissed by some in the opposition as merely a distraction from pink batts, themselves no more than a sideshow, albeit one to which we shall return. But in fact the opposition had been demanding it for quite a while, and would have complained loudly if it had been delayed.
The white paper had been commissioned back in 2008, after the Mumbai attacks, so it could have been expected to be rather more substantial than it was; its essential message was that there was a fair bit of terrorism about, and that the government was against it.
And so was the opposition, insisted Tony Abbott in a rare moment of bipartisanship. But he was more against it than the government, so there. Terrorism, we were warned portentously, had emerged as a permanent feature of Australia’s security environment. Well, in an election year it would, wouldn’t it? But here is the switcheroo: it’s not just suicide bombers, and it’s not just from overseas.
Now the danger is far wider, and the perpetrators are likely to be amongst us – not just maddened jihadists, but the absolute scum of the earth, the vilest form of people on the planet, traders in human misery who should rot in hell– yes, people smugglers.
In a spectacular piece of political sleight of hand, Rudd has conflated the threat to national security posed by organisations such as Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah with the challenge to border security posed by asylum seekers in boats. Yes, really; our top counter-intelligence agency, ASIO, is now to be unleashed against the wretched of the earth. ASIO, it will be recalled, was originally set up to investigate the espionage activities of foreign interests in Australia.
Over the years it was expanded to deal with what was loosely described as internal subversion, which generally meant lefties. In intellectual circles in the 60s and 70s, not to have an ASIO file was to be seriously socially disadvantaged. But the essential criterion remained: ASIO dealt with perceived threats to the nation's security.
It was expressly forbidden from investigating criminal activities, or if it ran across any by accident, from passing the information on to the police forces. Now Rudd has broadened its powers dramatically; ASIO and the other spy agencies will target the people smugglers and their accomplices, both in Australia and overseas, with the aim of securing criminal convictions under new and draconian laws.
This will be time consuming and expensive, so yet again the ASIO budget will be increased, as it has been every year since the organisation's formation in 1945. The political aim is to show, yet again, that Labor can be just as tough on border security as the coalition, and to take the heat off the accusation that the government has lost control of the influx of boat people. And who knows, it might even reduce the numbers a bit – although that would be an unexpected bonus. As long as the policy generates the right headlines it will be seen as a success. And so far it has; even The Australian’s Greg Sheridan gave it an A plus, thus proving it can satisfy even the most devout paranoiac in the industry.
It did not, however, satisfy the Liberal senator Simon Birmingham, who called it a diversion: “The greatest threat to the safety of many Australian families over the last 12 months has been the home insulation program and Peter Garrett’s mismanagement of it and tragically that's an ongoing threat to safety,” he proclaimed and was promptly slapped down by his leader.
This was a bit unfair; after all, it was Abbott who had talked of Garrett being charged with manslaughter, and who had hammered away at him for three parliamentary weeks to the exclusion of any other topic. Clearly he was not against a touch of hyperbole if there was political mileage in it. But that particular juggernaut had obviously ground to a halt.
Garrett’s defence had held up surprisingly well. The opposition had thought it had finally found a smoking gun in the Minter-Ellison risk assessment report, which had been stuck in the bureaucracy for none months; the fact that Garrett had not even been shown it smacked of serious maladministration. But it turned out that the report was a pretty Mickey Mouse affair, just one of a number of sources the department had received and its serious recommendations had already been acted on. And most importantly, in spite of what the opposition and the media had claimed, it had not warned of deaths, fires and other disasters at all.
Ironically the main warnings had been about the political problems associated with the scheme, and these had proved all too correct. As Rudd finally admitted, the program had been implemented ineffectively and a fair bit had gone wrong. He took personal responsibility and would go about setting things right. By the end of the week Garrett was off the hook and was even being applauded in the party room. He had lost some of his old portfolio, but he remained a cabinet minister.
By any normal measure he’s still a winner. Rudd’s position is more equivocal: if Garrett was worth supporting and preserving, why was he demoted? It proved a point Abbott, as a veteran of the Howard years, should have known: ministers are sacked not because of negligence or incompetence, but because they have become political embarrassment; when the cost of losing them becomes less than the cost of hanging on.
Rudd did not believe Garrett had reached that point so end of story – for now. But Garrett has been shown to be vulnerable. The opposition will not give up the chase, and could have better luck next time.