Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A BLOT ON OUR LOCAL LANDSCAPE



NEWS

A long-term and respected local business identity wants Fortitude Valley rid of the eyesore Waltons building – either cleaned up or preferably redeveloped – and support for his campaign is spreading.


Pharmacist James Delahunty (above), whose Cost-Less Chemists outlet in Brunswick Street is opposite the dilapidated building said of his neighbour: “It’s a scar on the face of the Valley. The interior is like the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami but this blight on the Valley has taken years of wilful neglect in coming.
“What use to be the No2 shopping mall in Brisbane must be No 100 and falling fast.” For many Valley visitors, Waltons was their first impression “and it turns them right off. They have to grit their teeth as they pass it”.
“This is not the Valley we want. We need a clean building with people in it.”
Mr Delahunty says he’s made the disgraceful state of the building his campaign for 2011. And he argues that if City Council currently does not have laws in place to force the owners of the Waltons building to clean it up both inside and out, then it should put them on the books as soon as possible.
He points to successful local government legislation that has seen the City of London crack down on dilapidated or unsafe buildings in recent years. A veteran of Valley businesss since 1979, Mr Delahunty asked Lord Mayor Campbell Newman at a recent Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Cloudland what could be done to force the Waltons owners to overhaul the building.
Cr Newman said council was fairly limited in its powers to make building owners improve their premises. “Truthfully, that’s a touchy one and quite difficult,” he said. “I do not believe we have the power to do something unless the building is unsafe or derelict.” He added that council “can’t force property owners to redevelop”.
Mr Delahunty said: “Is it derelict? Yes. Unsafe? That’s for council to decide. It’s certainly a place for vermin and rats.”
Mr Delahunty’s campaign has since been endorsed by the Valley Chamber of Commerce and long-term city councillor David Hinchliffe who says the building is a “total and utter disgrace”.
Cr Hinchliffe has asked the State Government to consider a change to the Queensland Building Act to ensure councils have powers to force owners to clean up “filthy” buildings such as the Waltons building in the centre of the Valley.
“Council officers say they have no powers to enforce the owner to clean it up. Council officers and the Lord Mayor say that the council’s powers extend only to making owners address structural problems – a dangerous ceiling or wall, etc. The State Building Act only allows action on “filthy” buildings if the building is both “filthy” and “infested with disease”.
If council could act simply on the basis of a building being “filthy” then it would have much stronger powers to deal with irresponsible, negligent owners. “British legislation allows councils there to take such action. We need to have the same thing here.”
Mr Delahunty’s campaign comes at a time when the internal walkway through the Waltons building has never looked more shameful. The ten-metre stretch between the end of the Valley Metro complex and the separate building that housed the former Chinese Club has been left uncleaned for weeks. Floor tiles are lifted or missing or cracked, and there is rubbish piled up in corners and against walls. Some weeks ago, a bowl of pasta was thrown against the southern wall of the walkway. The bowl stayed put for several weeks before being removed; the spray of food remains as an unsightly mess where it was first thrown (above left). For many train travellers seeking the entertainment precinct or retail shops, it’s their first impression of the Valley once outside the station confines. The building that houses the Wickham Street escalators – a nominee for our Valley Grot Spots campaign last year – is not much better when it comes to assailing the senses, with broken and exposed light fittings on a dirty ceiling, outdated and tatty advertising signs, graffiti, unclean walls and a grubby looking set of escalators down to Wickham Street that are often out of action, making its steep steps a real danger for the old and the frail.






Have your say on this issue!

Do you make your daily trek through Waltons on your way to work? Or see it in all its gory when you come in for a weekend coffee or to take in the pub and club music scene? Send us your thoughts on what should be done – legally that is – to: editor@theindependent.com.au or drop us your ideas to PO Box 476 Fortitude Valley Q 4006.

Cycle scheme on track, says council


NEWS

Six months on from the launch of the CityCycle bike hire scheme, City Council says it’s happy with its progress since October 1 and describes its growing usage as a “quiet revolution”.



The Independent
put a series of questions to the Lord Mayor’s office over the six-month milestone, and those questions and all the answers can be viewed online at our website. We’ll also look at the scheme in more detail next issue.
But Public and Active Transport chair Margaret de Wit said in response to our questions that the CityCycle scheme’s popularity was increasing with more journeys taking place each month.
“As more stations go live daily trips are increasing with the weekday average of 180 in February rising to over 250 in March so far and we expect this to continue with the onset of cooler weather,” she said.
“CityCycle is a great commuter transport option for those living in or near the inner-city and there is a quiet revolution occurring with more and more people taking it up every day.
“Every commuter who uses a bike instead of a car is one less vehicle on our congested road network.”
Cr de Wit said subscribers had taken more than 28,000 trips on CityCycle bikes since October.


HAVE YOUR SAY!

Is it too early to declare the CityCycle bike hire scheme a great success .... or for that matter a terrible and costly yellow elephant?


Was it doomed from the start because of our compulsory helmet laws? Was it rolled out in too grand a way? Or is it money well spent to make the inner-city less reliant on cars? And was council upfront in its answers to our many questions on the scheme ... or perhaps just a little too PRish for our own good? Email your thoughts to: editor@theindependent.com.au and we’ll run a selection of responses in our 13 April issue.

Where am I?



What’s this, then? Part of the bridge and superstructure of some rusty old freighter tied up somewhere in the Brisbane River?

Well, here’s a clue. It’s a sight that has only really become visible following the demolition of a large building deep in the Indie’s patch. Send your answer to editor@theindependent.com.au to reach us no later than 5pm on Friday week, 8 April 2011. Or drop us the answer in the post by the same deadline to PO Box 476 Valley Q 4006.
All correct entries will go into the barrel for the chance to win a $60 food and drink voucher at the Brunswick Hotel in New Farm.

Lindsay Anlezark of the Valley used some local knowledge to identify our recent Where Am I? – part of the facade of the Westpac Bank building on the corner of Wickham and Brunswick streets, Valley Enjoy the tucker at the Brunnie, Lindsay!

Park kiosk owner fights lease axing



NEWS

New Farm Park restaurateur Glen Boyle is fighting hard against a City Council decision to evict him – and he has an unusual ally in his battle.


Since Mr Boyle’s award-winning Summerhouse kiosk (pictured) was burnt to the ground 11 years ago Mr Boyle has been serving drinks and snacks to patrons of New Farm Park from a demountable kiosk while awaiting approval from Brisbane City Council to rebuild the Summerhouse.
Then several weeks ago, he was given an eviction order by BCC and told to vacate his business by the end of April.
It’s a decision that local councillor David Hinchliffe wants council to reconsider. Cr Hinchliffe said that while he and Mr Boyle had differed in the past over the scope of any redeveloped centre, he believed council should now allow Mr Boyle to rebuild the kiosk in its former guise.
“I think he is being dudded over this issue,” Cr Hinchliffe said.
Mr Boyle who has been busy in recent weeks gaining signatures to a petition backing his cause said: “I have been trying to meet with Campbell Newman since November last year when the mayor publicly announced he was willing to meet with me to discuss a way forward for the Summerhouse.
“Since then I have had no meeting and am now being evicted.” Mr Boyle said the eviction, while heartbreaking, would not deter him from his goal of resurrecting the kiosk which had previously resided in New Farm Park since 1914.
“While my young family and I are gutted by Brisbane City Council’s decision we are determined to stay positive and try and change the mayor’s mind,” Mr Boyle said. “We have been through fire, flooding, 11 years of stonewalling and now an eviction, but we won’t give up because we have that Queensland fighting spirit” he said. “The kiosk was a wonderful feature for New Farm Park and Brisbane until the fire and it really is worth all the effort to bring it back.”
“To show the Mayor what the Summerhouse kiosk means to Brisbane, I am calling on as many residents as possible to turn up to New Farm Park from 1pm on Sunday week, 10 April for a Family Day of Action and support. “For the kids there will be free face painting and balloons given away and there will be a free barbecue for everyone who is wearing some sort of yellow, which we are asking people to wear to show their support.
“We will also be asking people to sign a petition now or on the day to show their support. If you can’t make it along on the day, you can still sign an ‘e-petition’ at www.oursumerhouse.com.au or drop into the kiosk at New Farm Park;
“The Summerhouse was an institution in Brisbane for 86 years because of its charm and I believe the people of Brisbane would welcome it back with open arms.”
Mr Boyle said he would rebuild a replica of the old kiosk at no cost to the ratepayer if BCC agreed.
“After all the recent disasters I believe this would be a positive move by council to restore life to the inner city,” Mr Boyle said.

150 years young for iconic school



COMMUNITY Noticeboard

The 150th anniversary of the opening of Fortitude Valley State School has just been reached, with local state MP Grace Grace and past pupils (above) joining in to celebrate the milestone.


“It is a wonderful thing that we have such real, living history right here in the centre of Fortitude Valley,” Ms Grace said.
“While computers and the internet have replaced chalk and slate, the school is still helping our young Queenslanders get a flying start in life.
“These days it is known as the small school with a big heart but that’s just a small part of its rich history.
“At one point it comprised a boys’ school, girls’ school, infants’ school and opportunity school with more than 10 times the number of students attending the school today.
“The school has produced its fair share of notable Queenslanders including former Australian wicketkeeper Wally Grout, former captain of the Australian hockey team Doug Siggs, pioneering watercolourist Jesse Hilder and Major General Thomas Dodds. “This school is such an important part of our community,” Ms Grace added.



A little might and majesty.....

The Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra has grown from strength to strength since its inception in 1999 and aims to reach its biggest audience ever in 2011. Celebrating Youth Week, the first BPO concert for the year kicks off its 2011 concert season with a “Might and Majesty” performance this Sunday (3 April) at the Old Museum Concert Hall in Bowen Hills.


This concert launches the new emerging artist program that provides young performers the opportunity to work with seasoned professionals. Guest conductor John Curro will be joined by violinist Glenn Christensen (above) and the 90-piece BPO orchestra to perform Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and Mahler’s great Titan Symphony No 1.
Purchase tickets through 4MBS Classic FM by phoning 3847 1717 (9am to 5pm seven days a week)
For more information on BPO and full details of all performances this year, its regional education programs and other emerging artists visit the BPO website at www.bpo.org.au

***

ANZAC memories
Historic Newstead House in Newstead Park, Cnr Breakfast Creek Rd and Newstead Ave, Newstead, will celebrate Australian Heritage Week on Sunday 17 April 2011. Meet mounted troopers of the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) on the eastern lawn 1pm to 2pm.


There’s also an historical display of war memorabilia on loan from the 2nd/14th Light Horse Museum, Gallipoli Barracks and a ‘Then and Now’ photographic display showing how Newstead House looked in the early 1940s when an American photographic unit was living at Newstead House during World War II and how the house looks today, 69 years later.
And from 2pm, relax on the western lawns and listen to Anzac memories with the South Brisbane Federal Band featuring music that pays tribute to the great swing music of the 1940s and the tunes made famous by the wartime years. Sing along to favourites like Colonel Bogey March, Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. And enjoy a devonshire tea on the verandahs of the house overlooking Breakfast Creek and the Brisbane River from 2pm to 4.30pm, with last orders at 4pm. Newstead House will also be open for inspection from 12noon to 5pm.
***

Feisty fighter for female rights
Guest speaker Frances Clark, historian for her family, will give a talk on her grandmother Flora Harris whose diary shows she spoke at endless women’s meetings as she fought for the betterment of women and children.


It’s at the Queensland Women’s Historical Association headquarters, Miegunyah House Museum 35 Jordan Terrace, Bowen Hills on Thursday, 14 April at 10.30am for an 11am start for the talk. Cost is $8 for members and $10 for non-members, which includes morning tea. For further information and bookings, ring 3252 2979. The association’s email address is qwha@miegunyah.org and their website is at www.miegunyah.org

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple


NEWS

City councillor David Hinchliffe will devote all proceeds from an upcoming New York exhibition – his 36th but his first in the Big Apple – to the Premier’s Disaster Appeal.


Cr Hinchliffe, who has announced his retirement from Central Ward at the next municipal poll in March 2012 after almost a quarter of a century in local politics, will take leave from council for two weeks to prepare for the exhibition at the Australian Consulate on 42nd Street in early April.
With only his creativity for company, the long-term councillor will lock himself away in a small rented Manhattan apartment for some days to complete a number of canvases based on oil sketches done in Brisbane and Toowoomba.
Theme for all the paintings will be of the January floods in Queensland and all proceeds will be handled by the Australian Consulate and go directly to the Disaster Appeal.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd who will be in Europe at that time, will open the exhibition by video.

Natasha’s clean break from unhappy past

NEWS
By Melanie Rica

Leaving an unhappy home at a young age and having nowhere to sleep would cast a big shadow over – or even shatter – any child’s hopes for the future. But for Natasha Krause, now 24, not even finding herself at rock bottom could stop her from chasing her dreams, getting back on her feet and even opening her own cleaning business in Gordon Park.


Only 15 when she left home, Natasha was living on the streets until police contacted Brisbane Youth Service (BYS) who took her to a youth shelter in Windsor. Since then, the BYS have been working hard with Natasha through a youth development worker to help her reach her aspirations. She has completed two out of seven weeks of a certificate in small business management and her second week running her business, Cruzie Cleaning.
“I was sick of sitting on my arse all day, so that motivated me to do something,” Natasha says. She is now part of the champions program at the BYS and is a role model to others who come through the organisation.
“I’ve finally gotten to a place of happiness,” she says.
BYS fundraising and marketing manager Richard Langford praised Natasha for her progress in the eight years she has been with the service. “Now she has the ability to run her own business,” he says.
Mr Langford says each new client that BYS looks after is assessed on their physical and mental health. “We try to get them into stable accommodation for a six to 12 month period so they gain a tenancy history,” he says.
“We find out their hopes and inspirations and work with them.”
Natasha says the thing that helped her through was knowing there were other people worse off than her and she has this advice for others going through similar situations: “Be yourself … you don’t need to be anyone else.”
he says it is very important to “be honest with yourself and know when there is something wrong”.

• |The Brisbane Youth Service (BYS) works with homeless or at-risk young people aged 12 to 25 years. For help, ring BYS on 3252 3750 or go to their website – www.brisyouth.org



Been there, done that ... Natasha Krause looks over a photo at BYS of homeless Brisbane people living under a bridge on the river.

Ekka revival begins


PROPERTY News

The largest urban renewal project in Queensland’s history – the $2.9 billion RNA Showgrounds Regeneration – has begun.


After seven years of planning, Premier Anna Bligh this week officially launched the project which is projected to deliver more than 2000 jobs and $300 million a year in economic benefits to Queensland. The Premier unveiled the design of the first stage of the project – the transformation of the iconic industrial pavilion – known to the public as the showbag pavilion (above) – into a $59 million convention and exhibition centre. The new centre will importantly retain the key heritage facades built in 1937.
“This is one of Brisbane’s landmark historic precincts but after more than 70 years it’s desperately in need of a facelift,” Ms Bligh said. “This transformation will revitalise the area reflecting the modern, cosmopolitan Brisbane while at the same time protecting an important part of our history.
“It also provides the inner city with a major economic boost while creating thousands of jobs.
“This is a project that has been able to get off the ground because the government has facilitated the RNA’s $59 million funding contribution to the redevelopment of the Industrial Pavilion through a loan from Queensland Treasury Corporation when private finance for projects of this scope is not readily available.”
RNA Chief Executive Jonathan Tunny said the regeneration of the RNA Showgrounds – a famous landmark synonymous with Queensland’s social heritage and culture – represented an historic milestone for Brisbane and was a once in a lifetime project. “This is an important project for the state as it safeguards the legacy of the 22 hectare site, the home of the beloved Royal Queensland Show (Ekka), while also transforming the grounds into a lifestyle and cultural hub for the community to access all year round,’’ he said.
“The project will ensure the Ekka remains at the RNA Showgrounds making Brisbane one of the only royal shows in Australia to maintain its country and city links by holding the show right here at its original inner city location.
“It also means the Ekka’s history, traditions and unique atmosphere will be preserved by upgrading and replacing venues to provide state-of-the-art facilities.” Mr Tunny said stage-one construction works would result in some locational changes for attractions such as showbags at this year’s Ekka.
“Showbags will remain a major part of the Ekka, and this year will be housed in a purpose built $1.3 million facility offering the same great range as previously, and will be located in the sideshow alley entertainment precinct,’’ he said. “Once construction on the RNA’s new convention and exhibition centre’s ground floor is completed in 2012, showbags will return to their original home where the public can enjoy the new facilities.”
Mark Menhinnitt, chief executive officer of Lend Lease in Australia – the RNA’s development partner – said the company was excited about starting work on this transformational project.
“After two years of working closely with the RNA to turn this vision into reality, our project team is eager to get on site and start work from this Friday,’’ he said. “It’s very fitting that the iconic Industrial Pavilion, the home of the Ekka showbags, is the first building to be revitalised. Its conversion into a world-class convention centre will set the scene for the renewal of this entire precinct, creating a vibrant extension to the Brisbane CBD.”
The 15-year regeneration project represents the largest Brownfield development of its kind in Australia and includes 416,000 sq/m of new residential, commercial and retail buildings. Lend Lease will construct the revitalised industrial pavilion and other RNA facilities as well as develop 5.5 hectares of land into future residential, commercial and retail space.
Mr Tunny said the regeneration of the RNA showgrounds meant the site was finally getting the facelift it deserved and would become a destination synonymous with events, fashion, design, lifestyle and culture, hosting events and shows all year round.

Unit market holding steady, says REIQ


PROPERTY News

The Queensland unit and townhouse market held its ground over the December quarter last year, even as the number of investors and first home buyers remained relatively subdued, Real Estate Institute of Queensland research figures show.


Completing a trend throughout 2010, the last three months of the year were characterised by lower overall buyer demand, particularly from the type of buyers who typically target the unit market. Similar to the house market over the December quarter, the REIQ figures show unit sales across the State easing over the quarter however some regions fared better than others.
“The unit and townhouse market at the end of last year was impacted by less overall demand from investors as well as the lower number of first home buyers in the market compared to the same period in 2009,” REIQ acting CEO Ian Murray said.
“Although we have experienced a number of natural disasters in Queensland in the beginning of 2011, it is hoped that the steady interest rate environment and the stable property pricing that now appear to be in play will result in a strengthening unit and townhouse market by year’s end.”
An increase in the number of unit sales above $350,000 in Gladstone, including some located on the waterfront, was behind the 40.2 per cent median unit and townhouse price change over the quarter. The new waterfront development also recorded unit sales above $700,000 over the quarter.
According to the REIQ, the unit market in Gladstone is relatively small and therefore is more likely to be impacted by any varying quality of stock sold over a particular period. The top performing region in South East Queensland was Redland City which recorded an increase in preliminary sales numbers as well as an increase in its median unit price. However it was sales of new waterfront units in Cleveland which helped push its median price up 7.7 per cent to $350,000 over the quarter.
In Brisbane and surrounds broadly, a drop in the number of unit and townhouse sales occurred predominantly within the $350,000 to $500,000 price bracket which is the price range usually targeted by first-timers and investors.
The inner city continues to be the most sought after for units in Brisbane with Brisbane City recording 76 preliminary sales, New Farm recording 48 preliminary sales, and Fortitude Valley recording 33 over the period. Over the December quarter on the Gold Coast it was the bottom and top end of the market that performed the best with preliminary sales increasing in the sub $250,000 price bracket and the $1 million-plus price bracket compared to the September quarter.
Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach were the star performers with each recording 20 more preliminary sales than the previous quarter. On the Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Beach and Caloundra recorded increases in preliminary sales numbers, while the region as a whole saw unit sales numbers hold steady.
New stock in Rockhampton saw its quarterly median unit and townhouse price increase 5.3 per cent to $287,000, while its number of sales held steady.
In Townsville, the increase in activity was largely recorded in Kirwan, Townsville City and South Townsville, which all also included the sale of new unit stock.

Govt must do more for housing: survey


PROPERTY News

A poll released by PRDnationwide reveals more than half of Australians don’t believe the federal government is doing enough about affordable housing.


Sixty-three per cent of respondents disputed that enough was being doing to house struggling families. The study, conducted by the real estate and research firm, found about one third (31 per cent) of respondents felt that enough was being done to fulfil affordable housing needs.
PRDnationwide research director Aaron Maskrey said seven per cent of respondents were not interested in the issue. “It’s certainly an issue which divides people,” said Mr Maskrey. “Property prices in Australia keep rising – but access to affordable housing is not keeping up with demand.
“As a result of interest rates rising, a dwindling supply of affordable housing is clearly on people’s minds.”

Voters revolt against spin over substance

FROM MY CORNER ... with Ann Brunswick

Well, the voters of New South Wales certainly made their views about the Labor Party government well and truly known last weekend. Watching ABC News 24’s coverage of the results made me realise that not once in the night was the expression “too close to call” used by any of the pundits on the national broadcaster’s panel when commenting on the likely outcome.


It seems the voters south of the border didn’t really like the idea of giving another term to a long-serving government that stressed spin over substance even though it was led by a premier more popular than her party and had previously relied on the incompetence of its opposition to secure re-election. Now, why does that situation sound so familiar?
One of the highlights of the previously mentioned ABC coverage came when host Kerry O’Brien, late of the late 7.30 Report and most lately hosting Four Corners later in the evening, told viewers that Premier Kristina Kenneally might be delaying her concession speech in deference to Earth Hour.
That announcement brought muffled yet audible hoots of derision from some on the floor of the tally room. Maybe they were among those who thought Kenneally shared with Earth Hour the problem of having a bit more spin than substance.
If you missed it last Saturday evening, Earth Hour is an idea that started in Australia. It is now held once a year in various locations around the globe with the aim of raising awareness of the need to save energy and help fight global warming. Somehow this is achieved by having major landmarks in participating cities turn off their lights for a full 60 minutes.
Exactly how it contributes to lowering greenhouse gas emissions has never been clear in my mind. The issue is further clouded if you happened to see the many banners hanging from light poles in the CBD advertising Earth Hour. It is not clear to me if the organisers count the emissions from the trucks running around our city streets, and the streets of other cities, erecting such signage.
The bottom line in my mind is the fact that none of our coal-fire power stations would have missed a beat during the 60 minutes when a handful of structures went dark. They would have continued pumping out their gases.
Don’t get me wrong. The aim of the event is sound, it is just that it is difficult to see how it actually achieves anything.

***
On the subject of global warming, perhaps the NSW election result could provide a solution to our planetary woes.


One of the supposedly safe Labor Party seats that fell last Saturday night was the electorate of Bathurst, one of the sacred sites of the labour movement having been the home town of former Labor icon and PM Ben Chifley. But after a historic swing of almost 37 per cent against Labor, Bathurst is now a safe National Party seat. That in itself gives some indication of the animosity towards the former government.
The solution to global warming could be to head out to Bathurst Cemetery and install a dynamo to harness the power generated from Chifley spinning in his grave after last Saturday’s election result. It is a simple idea, with as much likelihood of solving our energy problems as Earth Hour.

***
On the subject of state politics, a lot has been written in the past week or so about the prospects of Campbell Newman in his quest to lead the Liberal National Party to power at the next election.

Some commentators have pointed out that a popular lord mayor is not guaranteed a seat in State Parliament, and use the late Clem Jones as an example. True, Jones stood for the Labor Party in Yeronga at the 1972 state election after little more than a decade in office in City Hall. But his loss in the seat was not as straightforward as some have made out. You see, after Jones was announced as candidate to tackle the Liberals’ Norm Lee, a redistribution of electoral boundaries was held. In those bad old days the redistributions were conducted by an "independent" panel of commissioners. Most just happened to be on very friendly terms with the Bjelke-Petersen government. As it turned out, by the time the "independent" commissioners finished their work the Yeronga that Jones was seeking to win was not the Yeronga he originally sought. Needless to say he lost.
Nowadays of course, nothing as sinister as that could happen. Could it?

Tony should ditch friends like these

POLITICS ... with Mungo MacCallum

My mother used to have a homely saying for it: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are”. If this adage is to be applied to the events of last week, it would appear that Tony Abbott is a raving ratbag and a ranting bigot whose ignorance of science is matched only by his lack of manners.


The howling mob who surrounded him at the mini-rally outside Parliament House last Wednesday undoubtedly included some who were genuinely concerned about the impact a carbon tax might have on their household budgets and the wider economy, but the ones making the noise – including the majority of the speakers – came straight from la-la land.
If Abbott really believes that this manifestation of his people’s revolution represents a snap-shot of middle Australia, he has a truly bizarre picture of the nation he seeks to lead. Not many middle Australians seek to spend a working-day morning paying to be bussed to Canberra for a campaign supported by the shock-jock Chris Smith, a gibbering demagogue in the style of Alan Jones but without the couth.
And those who did would hardly have felt comfortable surrounded by the wild-eyed conspiracy-theorists of One Nation, The League of Rights, and the self-appointed Consumers and Taxpayers Association, to name but three of the right-wing rent-a-crowds who leapt gratefully on board Chris Smith’s bandwagon. As another homily has it, a man is known by the company he keeps. Abbott must have seen that the gathering was pretty much out of control before making an appearance.
To have done so at all was crazy-brave, but to have done so with out taking the elementary precaution of moving the more offensive placards out of camera range was madness. After all, there is a precedent.
In 1970 Gough Whitlam as opposition leader was called out of Parliament to address what was advertised as a rally against the Vietnam war. Unfortunately not all the protesters were pacifists; some were waving Viet Cong flags, and an enterprising photographer from the Sydney Daily Telegraph set up a shot which made it appear that Whitlam was speaking underneath them.
There were immediate and thunderous repercussions; the deputy Prime Minister of the day, John McEwen, declared in Parliament that Whitlam should be charged with treason. Eventually other photographs were located which showed Whitlam had actually been nowhere near the offending flags, but a great deal of damage was done.
Abbott and his loyal supporters tried to get out of their predicament by saying that in objecting to being labelled “Juliar: Bob Browns Bitch” the Prime Minister was just being precious; after all, John Howard had been called some mean and hurtful things too, on placards at rallies which had been addressed by Labor ministers Greg Combet and Bill Shorten.
True; but at those rallies neither Combet nor Shorten was presenting himself as the alternative Prime Minister. In fact neither was even in parliament; they were simply trade union officials. And if Abbott could not see the difference, a lot of his colleagues were uncomfortably aware of it. Most, including his deputy Julie Bishop, his treasury spokesman Joe Hockey and of course Malcolm Turnbull, had declined the invitation to show themselves.
In the end his praetorian guard consisted of Eric Abetz, Barnaby Joyce, Bronwyn Bishop, Sophie Mirabella and Cory Bernardi – fringe dwellers all. In any situation it would not have been a good look; at that rally with those placards it was a public relations disaster.
And the final irony is that Abbott didn’t even endear himself to the ralliers. Of course they cheered when he inveighed against the carbon tax, but there were gasps of horror, mutterings of discontent and even a few audible boos when he told them that the scientific evidence was that climate change was real, and at least partly man-made.
This was not what they had heard from Alan Jones and Chris Smith; and it should not be forgotten that Abbott’s personal religious adviser, Cardinal-Archbishop George Pell, was a fervent and vocal denier of climate change. But here was Abbott, mouthing heresy – even blasphemy. Was their hero turning, God forbid, rational?
This, of course, is Abbott’s ongoing political contradiction. He says he believes the science, but rejects the scientific solution. Instead he proposes “direct action”, which is populist nonsense, and calls for a people’s revolution to oppose the only effective measure, a price on carbon.
But if the people believe the science, very few of them will join the revolution; for his shock troops, he has to rely on sceptics and denialists, who inevitably include large numbers of nutters. And there will be more rallies, perhaps bigger and better and noisier.
Will Abbott continue to address them? If he does he’s asking for trouble but if he doesn’t he risks being seen as a coward and a hypocrite. There is an old political rule: never set up an inquiry unless you are certain of the result. Abbott should consider a corollary: never call for a revolution unless you can choose your own revolutionaries.

***

So the long-awaited ritual slaughter has taken place in New South Wales, and the righteous bloodlust of the electorate has been assuaged, at least for the time being. But there is more, much more, to be done if those who are really guilty are to be included in the purge.


The surviving true believers must don protective clothing and make their way into the cesspool of Sussex Street with flamethrowers and fire hoses. Only when the poisonous blindworms who have masterminded the catastrophe have been utterly expunged can the party begin its long overdue task of renewal.
The signs are not good; just about the only person to have emerged from the debacle with any honour or credibility, Kristina Kenneally, has effectively abandoned the front line. In these parlous times it will be hard to find anyone else with the courage or stamina to lead the attack.
But unless the brutal work is done, New South Wales Labor’s malaise will remain beyond human aid.

This Bier is a complex, enjoyable brew



FILM ... with Tim Milfull

In a Better World (MA15+)
Director: Susanne Bier
Stars: Mikael Persbrandt, Markus Rygaard, Trine Dyrholm
Rating: 3.5/5
118-minutes, now screening.

Those who have been paying attention might have encountered Danish writer-director, Susanne Bier, after her film Brothers was remade by Jim Sheridan in 2009 under the same title and starred Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as siblings competing for the attention of one woman under the shadow of the conflict in Afghanistan.


She later also made the compelling drama After the Wedding starring Mads Mikkelsen, and has consolidated a well-earned reputation as a teller of excellent family dramas.
Bier’s latest film, In a Better World, again unfolds across two continents as she relates the story of two fractured families struggling to deal with the realities of globalism, and the intricacies of interpersonal relationships. Swedish doctor, Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) divides his year between his new home in Denmark, and an increasingly violent refugee camp somewhere in Africa.
Both environments provide their challenges, with his failing marriage traumatising his son, Elias (Markus Rygaard), who also is being bullied at school, and a ruthless warlord terrorising his patients in Africa.
When Elias finds a new friend in Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), things initially appear to be looking up, until Elias realises that Christian has significant problems of his own.
In this just slightly overlong film, Bier skilfully manipulates all of these narrative threads into a tapestry that slowly builds to a very dramatic climax in both Denmark and Africa.
Her characters are sympathetically and believably created, in particular Anton and his estranged wife, Marianne (Trine Dyrholm), and the two young boys trying to cope with the challenges of adolescence. In a Better World is a complex, thoughtful film that asks difficult questions about how we perceive and behave in the face of conflict.

A summer worth weathering

How I Ended This Summer (M)
Director: Aleksei Poppgresbsky
Stars: Grigory Dobrygin, Sergei Puskepalis
Rating: 4/5
124-minutes, screening from 7 April

Watching the Russian film How I Ended This Summer made me realise that its director Aleksei Popogrebsky has some pretty strange ideas about the concept of work experience for university students.


In the case of the unfortunate Pavel (Grigory Dobrygin), the summer break involves being cooped up on a remote Arctic weather station alongside a taciturn supervisor who actually grew up on the island during the glory days of the Soviet Union.
A man of few words, Sergei (Sergei Puskepalis) is uncompromising in monitoring his charge and has little patience for Pasha’s desire to use his spare time to sit, smoke, listen to his music, and occasionally chat with their only contact with the outside world via shortwave radio.
When Sergei takes advantage of a lull in their work to skip down to a southern bay to do some unauthorised salmon fishing, Pasha relishes his new solitude until a dramatic communiqué from home leaves him struggling to work out how to pass the message on to his colleague. The resulting miscommunication plunges the small weather station’s workers into a dramatic and frightening conflict.
Popogrebsky’s choice to film on location at the eastern-most tip of Russia makes the small island a central character in this gripping story, as Pavel and Sergei work to negotiate their challenging relationship.
The director uses some stunning imagery of former Soviet glory amid this punishing, isolated landscape, and further contrasts the dramatic differences between the elder supervisor and his younger apprentice.

THE BINGE

Audi German Festival of Film screening from 7 to 12 April at Palace Cinemas
Kaboom (MA15+) screening at Tribal Theatre from 7 April
Ip Man: The Legend is Born (M) now available through Madman
A Town Called Panic (PG) now available through Madman



The Audi Festival of German Film visits Brisbane again at the end of the first week of April, bringing 20 films to Palace Centro Cinemas. The festival opens with Goethe!, a whimsical treatment of Johann Goethe’s early adult life as he finds his feet before becoming Germany’s greatest poet.


The rest of the program features nearly all new German films, including Nanga Parbat, a story of the first great mountaineering feat of legendary climber Reinhold Messner; The Poll Diaries (above), an enigmatic story set in Estonia just before the First World War; a quirky road movie in Vincent Wants to Sea, which sees three dysfunctional inpatients uniting toward a common goal; and two moving performances from Bruno Ganz and Senta Berger in Colours in the Dark.

• For more details of the festival’s program, visit http://www.palacecinemas.com.au

Screening from 7 April at Tribal Theatre is indie director Gregg Araki's science fiction drama Kaboom, which was seen recently at last year’s Brisbane International Film Festival. Focussing on the sexual awakenings of college student, Smith (Thomas Dekker), Kaboom quickly veers into some strange and terrifying territory.
Adding to an already long list of films about the mentor of one of martial arts’ greatest proponents, Bruce Lee, Ip Man: The Legend is Born tells the story of the Grand Master of Wing Chun, Ip Man (Dennis To) in the lead-up to his confrontation with Japanese forces during in the Second World War. Now we need to wait for Hong Kong director, Wong Kar Wai to finish his film The Grandmasters in 2012 to cap off Ip Man's story.
And in a little bit of light relief, A Town Called Panic brings a feature-length version of the animated series to screen, as Cowboy, Horse, and Indian screw up an attempt to build a backyard barbeque after they end up with 50-million bricks and have to deal with the consequences.

GIVEAWAYS




Courtesy of Hoyts Distribution, we have two double DVD packs to giveaway, with Dirty Deeds and The Upside of Anger in each. To be in the running for one of the packs, send us an email with your postal address to giveaway@theindependent.com.au and put “dvds” in the message field. All such emails received by 5pm by Friday week 8 April will go into the draw and two lucky winners selected at random will have their prizes mailed out in the following week.


And courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, we have 10 in-season double passes to My Afternoons with Marguerite, a new and uplifting French comedy that opens in local cinemas on Thursday week, 7 April. It’s the story of one of those improbable encounters that change a person’s life: in a small public garden, Germain (Gerard Depardieu), 50 and barely literate, meets Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus), a little old lady passionate about reading. To be in the running for a double pass, email: giveaway@theindependent.com.au to reach us no later than 5pm Friday week, 8 April, put the words “big nose” in the subject field and please include a mailing address.

Truckin’ good vintages


WINE ... with David Bray

A good idea is a good idea. Anywhere. There’s always something new in wine. Look at The Trucks, apparently really big in the USA.

Red Truck Wines began when Fred and Nancy Cline who ran California’s Cline Cellars in Sonoma fell for a painting of an old red truck by Sonoma-based artist Dennis Ziemienski and bought it at an auction raising money for the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. We learn that “the light-filled painting of a vintage truck set against a typical Sonoma landscape of soft, golden hills, bright blue sky and cotton ball clouds seemed destined to become a sensational new wine label with universal appeal’’.
Red Truck wine, a blend of syrah, petite syrah, cabernet franc, mourverdre and grenache, appeared in 2002. At first it was the label that attracted customers, but wine lovers quickly discovered the wine, made by talented winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos, and kept coming back for more.
Today’s Red, White and Pink Truck wines are driven by 585 Wine Partners, who bought the brand in 2005. They have put out several new models, still made by Mr Tsegeletos, who is said to be “puttin’ the pedal to the metal to make bold, bright wines that rev up the palate and make the engine purr . . . not too serious, yet full of bold, classic style. Wines sure to make you smile.”
On our side of the Pacific, the story as related in the blurb is as follows: After the success of The Trucks wines in the States, 585 Wine Partners suggested to their mates in Australia at Cheviot Bridge that they recreate the wines here. Cheviot Bridge licensed the brands in Australia and put winemaker Shane Virg, in charge of putting an Australian engine in this American classic.
The labels remain the same but the wines are made from 100 per cent South Australian fruit. Following the philosophy of the original wine, Shane and the team behind The Truck wines are serious about making great wine, but they don’t take themselves too seriously.
Mr Virg’s line is: “We had a great time jumping in our utes and driving all over the South Australian countryside in the sunshine, selecting the best quality grapes to use for these new wines.”
“Then the serious part kicked in and we went through a rigorous selection process. We tasted lots of different varieties and involving lots of different vineyards and winemaking techniques. We must have put over 50 different blends up on the bench at least five times, for each wine.
“The driving factor for selection was definitely quality but we did also keep in mind reflecting the original style of the wines – a smooth ride of big-hearted, bright, juicy flavours, full of youthful energy and fun. It is a great added bonus that the wines are also distinctively Australian, with shiraz being selected for the red blend and chardonnay for the white .”
. The Red Truck 2008 Shiraz is made from 60 per cent Barossa Hills grapes, 20 each from McLaren Vale and Clare.
. The White Truck 2009 Chardonnay is from Adelaide Hills and Eden Valley. They are cheerful, easy drinking and interesting wines. Each will set you back $15 or less in the local shop.

Tracking the human condition



FILM ... with Tim Milfull

Last Train Home
(M)
Director: Lixin Fan
Rating: 4/5 90-minutes, screening from 17 March

In the two years leading up to 2007, Lixin Fan worked as the sound man and associate producer on Up the Yangtze, a Canadian documentary that charted the human impact of the Three Gorges Dam project in China.

In this sublimely poetic film, documentary maker Yung Chang made a beautiful, tragic story about little people making huge sacrifices for the greater good. Now, in his first feature documentary, Last Train Home, Lixin follows a similar path, examining one of the greatest annual human migrations in history. Each Chinese New Year, more than 130-million itinerant workers catch all manner of transport back to their home towns to visit their families for a few weeks. The resulting jam of humanity is something to behold, and is only complicated when factors like the weather intervene.
Over a period of a year, Lixin followed one family as they made the journeys back and forth from the mundane factory work in the big city to the poverty of their homes. Changhua and Sugin Zhang made significant sacrifices in early adulthood to be able to offer their children opportunities that they had missed out upon.
Working long hours in back-breaking jobs, they hope – like many of their peers – to see their children have better lives. But as their daughter, Qin nears the end of high school, the pair realise that she seems headed for a similar fate to their own.
Demonstrating the skill and patience of a veteran documentary maker, Lixin captures much of the emotional impacts that geographical dislocation has upon this fractured family. The desperation and frustration of both parents and child are palpable and heartbreaking, and treated with utmost respect by those recording their lives. This is truly a beautiful and touching human story.




Fail mark for public schooling

Waiting for “Superman”
(PG)
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Rating: 4/5 111-minutes, screening from 17 March

Just over 10 years ago, Davis Guggenheim went into several Washington primary schools to examine the experience of first-graders as they made the transition from carefree childhood to the first step towards being an adult.


The resulting documentary, The First Year, won a couple of awards and propelled Guggenheim towards perhaps the most dramatic production of his career: An Inconvenient Truth. Recently, as his own children neared school age, Guggenheim realised that the public system he had most vehemently defended a decade before might not actually make the grade for his own children.
He subsequently faced his own inconvenient truth – placing his kids in the public system was not really an option.
As he set out to find an appropriate private alternative, Guggenheim decided to see what exactly has gone wrong with the public school system in the United States, and the result is Waiting for “Superman”.
As he uncovers a raft of nightmarish statistics about inevitable failure in many schools, and some abhorrent descriptions of these institutions as “academic sinkholes” and “drop-out factories”, Guggenheim follows the stories of five children who are searching for a route away from the inevitability of their educational futures by applying for scholarships at “charter” or independent public schools. Supported by their hardworking, low-income parents, all of these kids passionately embrace the hope of a better education, and count down the days to the various lotteries that will allocate scholarships.
Waiting for “Superman” is a devastating indictment of teachers’ unions, endemic bureaucracy and incompetence, and wilful negligence; this documentary serves as an abject lesson for parents and administrators alike, for the United States is rapidly falling behind the rest of the world in terms of education. All of this was hard enough to digest, without the heartbreaking emotional trauma awaiting Guggenheim’s five subjects.

THE BINGE....



Mangaificent breasts

Big Tits Zombie (MA15+) now available through Madman
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (MA15+) now available through Madman
Lemmy (MA15+) now available through Hopscotch
Gainsbourg (M) available through Hopscotch from 17 March


With such a title, you’re not really going to have any misconceptions if you pick up Big Tits Zombie from the shelves – this is really going to be one for the hard-core zombie tragics. And after all, director, Takao Nakano has already made films like Sumo Vixens and Sexual Parasite: Killer Pussy so zombies and breasts should come as no surprise. Based on popular manga, and featuring performances by several Japanese porn actresses, everything about this film is what you might expect, and certainly brings nothing new to the genre, or anything else for that matter. This is one for the cult followers. Oh, and if it makes any difference, the DVD comes with old-style 3D glasses!)
I’ll confess to my relative ignorance about Joan Rivers before watching this documentary about her, other than being aware of her reputation for smoky-voiced controversy and an extraordinary devotion to plastic surgery.
But Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (above)sheds a different light on one of the hardest working 75-year-olds in the business.
Following Rivers over a year, this film offers a surprisingly sensitive view of such a publicly caustic figure.
And just quickly before I finish up for this issue of The Binge, I think aficionados of the heavy metal band Motörhead will be keen to pick up the Hopscotch doco, Lemmy, which examines the life of Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister. With the tagline, 49% Motherfucker. 51% Son of a Bitch., the DVD’s extras offer a significant chunk of Motörhead performances and an extended session with Metallica.
Finally, Gainsbourg dramatises the life of legendary French singer-songwriter, actor and director, Serge Gainsbourg; based on the graphic novel by Joann Sfar, the film recently picked up three Césars in France.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mall trader anger mounts


NEWS

A meeting earlier this week between Chinatown Mall traders and City Council officials has failed to dampen growing concerns by local businesses over ongoing issues that have plagued the mall since its multi-million dollar makeover.


Traders are becoming increasing upset over:
• Cars being driven through the mall proper, right under the central grand arch because of the new mall’s poor design
• Accidents involving pedestrians, paticularly tourists, who are even unaware of the two designated roadways in and out of the Chinatown carpark.
• Declining business patronage
• A sub-standard Chinese New Year celebrations amid allegations of little to no promotions funding to herald in the Year of the Rabbit; and
•General lack of promotion by council for mall activities.
Chairman of the Chinatown Committee, Chiu-Hing Chan and other Chinatown traders met with Brisbane City Council staff on Tuesday, who offered to look at the traffic code but offered no timeline for improvements.
“This is red tape at its finest,” Mr Chan said. “It is ridiculous it would take this long, and we still have no solid commitment from Brisbane City Council to permanently fix this problem. People are hurting and there are simple solutions,” Mr Chan said.
A Chinese tourist was reportedly run over by a vehicle in the Chinatown mall last week, just days after traders had again aired concerns raised since last year over pedestrian safety.
“I have time and time again highlighted this issue with Brisbane City Council and within days the exact accident I warned against has occurred,” Mr Chan said.
Local businesses had criticised the Lord Mayor’s mall representative for over a year for failing to taking permanent action on the safety issues in Chinatown.
“It is simply confusing. There are no clear line markers painted on the drive way or visible speed limit signs. “The Chinatown Committee and even council’s own Valley Mall Advisory Board have expressed concern over pavements colour and material.”
Mr Chan said the city council have been aware about the many safety issues since last February, and the Chinatown Committee had again reminded Brisbane City Council last October of the need for safety barriers but no action has been taken.
Labor’s Lord Mayoral candidate Mr Ray Smith said it was obvious there was a clear conflict between motorists and pedestrians in the two driveways running through the mall to the Chinatown Carpark.
“This mall is dangerous and it needs to be fixed now,” he said. “I have spoken to Chinatown traders who have witnessed many near misses and last week there was an accident involving a tourist.
“The Lord Mayor spent more than $12 million of ratepayers’ hard-earned money on this mall last year. You’d think he could have made the mall a safe place to walk.”
He said local traders had also called for the contract for Chinese New Year and Autumn Moon Festival to be axed. “There’s a lot of bad Feng Shui in Chinatown,” Mr Smith said. “I’ve met with traders who are very bitter about the poor communications and promotion of Chinatown during its signature event, Chinese New Year. The total sponsorship council was able to achieve was less than $4000. Many traders didn’t even have programs.
“This is after all the disruption that businesses had to put up with during 12 months of construction in Chinatown. The traders are paying around $200,000 a year in depreciation for the mall, on top of a levy for promotion and maintenance. They’re paying through the nose, but they’re getting kicked in the backside.”
Mr Smith’s comments come after the Chinese Australia General Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the Lord Mayor asking for the mall’s tender not to be renewed to eTranslate.

• This story came in very close to press time and The Independent was unable to obtain comment from the Lord Mayor’s Office on these issues. Those responses will be sought and published on the Indie’s website and in our next hardcopy issue on 16 March.

Strong words fly over ward pamphlet


NEWS


Our front-page story last issue on whether a city council election leaflet had been designed deliberately to create the impression that a candidate was already a sitting councillor sparked a strong response from readers. Here are their comments.

Dear Editor

I refer to your article in The Independent Vol. 11 No 3 Wednesday 16 February 2011 regarding the Vicki Howard pamphlet. As I am a council employee, I am directed by the Lord Mayor that I may not make any representation to the media in relation to council matters.
However, even though the pamphlet uses the official council cleat on the left margin, and Ms Howard purports to represent the interests of Central Ward residents in council, the pamphlet is not a council publication and is deliberately misleading, erroneous and downright shonky.
Had Ms Howard placed blue and white checks along the margin and purported to represent the Fortitude Valley Police Station and the Police Commissioner in the same way, charges would have been laid.
As a member of the Labor Party, my opinion may seem biased; however the gall of this woman attempting to usurp the authority of the elected representative Cr David Hinchliffe irritates me. Her arrogance and blatant misrepresentation are the clearest indication yet of the LNP attitude, and demonstrates the current LNP team’s philosophy.
Oh, the propaganda we can expect over the next 12 months. Please withhold my name for the sake of my job and my family.

Name supplied but withheld
New Farm via email February 25


Dear Editor

Vicki Howard’s Christmas leaflet is a deliberate misrepresentation of her political status, so I am wondering if there were similar leaflets distributed in other wards? Very sneaky indeed.

Lynne, Newstead
via email February 24


Dear Editor
Tricky Vicki Howard is not getting my vote at the next council elections should the obfuscations and spin in her Christmas mailouts be an indication of her political nous.
I want my local representative to be genuine, straightforward and savvy, qualities which may have eluded Ms Howard thus far in her fledgling political career.
I am not a member of any political party but take an active interest in politics.

Robert, New Farm
via email February 28

Time once again to connect!

NEWS

Brisbane residents have been encouraged to give generously ahead of the City Council’s 10th Homeless Connect event on Wednesday 11 May. The Salvation Army has come onboard as partner for the bi-annual event to be held at the RNA showgrounds.


More than 6000 homeless people have accessed services such as free medical care, accommodation referral, legal advice, personal grooming items and clothes since the event’s inception in 2006. Donations of clothing, toiletries, linen and canned goods are now being accepted at ward offices and Salvos stores in Brisbane for the event, with Brisbane residents asked to consider those displaced by January’s flood event.
A donation of a few items such as shoes or tins of food will mean the world to those in need.
More than 1000 guests accessed assistance through last November’s Homeless Connect event. The guests were aided by 180 volunteers, who helped serve meals, and distribute crates of clothing, toiletries and linen.
Council is partnering with The Salvation Army and Volunteering Queensland to deliver the event.
To volunteer, contact Volunteering Queensland at www.volunteeringqld.org.au.
To donate goods, go to your local councillor’s ward office. Visit www.brisbane.qld.gov.au for office locations.
Donations will also be accepted at Brisbane Salvos stores. Visit www.salvosstores.salvos.org.au.
• For more information about Homeless Connect, phone council on 3403 8888.

Where am I?



A lot of cruise ships dock in Brisbane so what’s the big deal about taking a closeup of a couple of portholes?

Actually, this shot is on dry land and a lot closer to the CBD than our world famous international ship terminal. If you have an idea as to where exactly, email your answer to editor@theindependent.com.au to reach us no later than 5pm on Friday week, 11 March 2011. Or drop us the answer in the post by the same deadline to PO Box 476 Valley Q 4006.
All correct entries will go into the barrel for the chance to win a $60 food and drink voucher at the Brunswick Hotel in New Farm.
***

Eagle-eyed Ron Freiers of Chermside was the winner of our 16 February Where Am I? for correctly identifying the old Walton’s building facade in the heart of the Valley. Perhaps Ron also knows the phone number for the Deen Brothers? Enjoy the tucker at the Brunnie, Ron!

Confidence needed in months ahead: REIQ


PROPERTY Residential

Queensland’s major regional centres shone brightest during the December quarter of 2010, according to the latest Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) median house price report. Mackay, Toowoomba, Bundaberg and Townsville all recorded median price growth and healthy sales numbers over the December quarter as buyers made a cautious return to the property market.


The majority of other centres, including south-east Queensland, posted steady results over the period. Prior to the floods in January, Brisbane’s market was holding its ground with a stable volume of sales and solid prices however the impact of the flood may take some months to be fully understood.
“Listings in flood-affected areas have obviously been most affected with agents in these areas reporting that many sellers have withdrawn their properties from the market even if they were not directly affected by the floods,” REIQ chairman Pamela Bennett said.
“Unfortunately the flood and cyclone crisis have really affected confidence levels across the board and lenders have also reportedly further tightened their finance criteria which is making it difficult for sales to occur.
“It important to remember as we move into this recovery phase that the vast majority of homes in Brisbane, Toowoomba and Cairns specifically were not affected by the recent natural disasters, and that the fundamentals that were in play at the end of 2010 remain.”
The second and third tier of home buyers remained the predominant buyer type across Queensland over the December quarter with many taking advantage of market conditions at the end of 2010 to upgrade their homes. First home buyers have also started to return to the market after sitting on the sidelines for the majority of last year.
“First-home buyers were noticeably absent from the market in 2010; however with prices steady and interest rates appearing to be on hold until the latter part of this year, it is hoped they will recognise the opportunities that currently exist,” REIQ managing director Dan Molloy said.
“The Queensland property market experienced an easing of property prices directly following the floods of 1974 but this had corrected itself within six to 12 months. Given that fewer properties were impacted this year, and our population base is also much larger, the REIQ does not expect the impact this time to be as pronounced or as prolonged as it was back then.”

Summer over but storm threat lingers

PROPERTY Residential

Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean the threat of severe storms has passed for south-east Queensland. Storm season runs until around the end of March each year and Brisbane City Council is encouraging residents to make sure they are prepared for severe weather with more storms possible in the weeks ahead.


Council says the simplest step you can take to prepare for storms is to sign up to its Brisbane Early Warning Alert Service. By signing up to the free service, you will receive an alert by SMS, email or voice message to landline when severe weather such as storms and flash flooding may affect their residential address. To date, more than 42,000 households have signed up to the service.
On getting an alert, residents should make sure their home and yard is prepared for the approaching severe weather, such as securing loose items in their yard, getting their car under cover, moving valuable items to higher ground if they live in a flood prone area and listening to their local radio station for updates.
You can easily sign up to the Brisbane Early Warning Alert Service by visiting www.brisbane.qld.gov.au or phoning council on 3403 8888.
As the storm season continues, residents should make sure there are no tree branches overhanging their home, gutters and drainpipes are clear of leaf litter, and their emergency kit is up to date.
An emergency kit should contain a first aid kit, battery operated radio, spare batteries, torch and waterproof bags containing important documents such as emergency contact numbers, insurance papers and birth certificates. Canned food is also a good idea in case of power outages. Residents are also reminded that severe storms can often result in flash flooding.
To find out more about the potential for flooding on your property, you can get a free FloodWise Property Report and download the Flood Flag map for your suburb from the city council’s website at www.brisbane.qld.gov.au
The FloodWise Property Report and Flood Flag maps shows how flooding from overland flow paths, rivers, creeks and storm tides may affect your property. For emergency assistance inside your property boundary resulting from storms, flooding or strong winds, contact the SES on 132 500.
To report issues outside your property such as downed trees across roads or footpaths, loose manhole covers or blocked stormwater drains, contact council on 3403 8888.

Inner-city pads faring well

PROPERTY Residential

Sales of new apartments in Brisbane’s inner ring are at a five-year high, according to the latest Colliers International Brisbane Apartment Report for the December 2010 quarter.


The report says the 1433 transactions recorded for all of 2010 are the highest since 2005, and well above the long-term average. Those 1433 sales when compared with 795 for 2009 represented an increase of 80 per cent.
Colliers International research manager Josh Daly said activity in the new inner-Brisbane apartment market was being driven primarily by investor demand, with investors accounting for around 80 to 90 per cent of all transactions.
“Recently, owner-occupiers have been largely absent from the market due in part to expectations of flat prices in the short to medium term, higher borrowing costs and the removal of fiscal stimulus measures,” he said.
According to the report, demand continued at trend levels over the final quarter of 2010, with 339 unconditional sales. The inner north accounted for the majority of sales with 172 transactions, followed by the CBD with 94 and the inner south with 55.
Mr Daly said during 2010, transaction activity in the inner north, CBD and inner south has been more resilient due to the large supply of price-pointed affordable stock.
“With regard to supply, the number of new apartments available for sale in Inner Brisbane rose to 2228 during Q4 2010, from 1801 in the previous period, ” he said “Supply is now at the highest level it has been in over 10 years and is wel
l above previous highs observed in 2002 and 2004, which was circa 1500 apartments. “Most of the new apartments currently for sale in inner Brisbane are located in the CBD and inner north, which account for 34 per cent and 41 per cent of the total respectively. “New apartment stock in inner Brisbane is largely comprised of two and one bedroom offerings, which account for around 50 per cent and 30 per cent respectively of the total.”
Colliers International director valuation and advisory services, Troy Linnane, said the weighted average price of unconditional sales has been trending downward since late 2008.
“Despite above trend levels of demand during 2010, prices have continued to fall, although the pace of decline has eased significantly,” he said. “A continuing decrease in the weighted average sale price is reflective of the large proportion of price pointed affordable stock that transacted during 2009 and 2010.
“The weighted average price of unconditional sales for Inner Brisbane during Q4 2010 was $556,200, a moderate increase from the previous quarter.
“The market generally is strong for affordable price-pointed stock.” The report found that the unconditional sales of new apartments in Inner Brisbane during Q4 2010 were comprised largely of affordable stock, with 84 per cent of transactions involving properties less than $650K in price. More specifically, 42 per cent of the unconditional sales in the fourth quarter involved properties less than $450K in price. Mr Daly said the future remains uncertain for several projects in the supply pipeline.
“Furthermore, the timing for their release is heavily dependent on securing finance and investor commitment, both of which are closely tied to the ability of projects to achieve required levels of pre-sales,” he said.
“However, supply is currently very elevated and with a large pipeline of new projects yet to reach the market, it shows little sign of falling in the near term.
“The demand for new apartments in Inner Brisbane is currently well above trend levels and is rising, however available supply is the highest on record and will remain elevated due to the release of a large number of apartments during 2011,” Mr Daly said.
High levels of available supply would limit any significant appreciation in prices or growth in rental values in the short term.
“The interest rate outlook is likely to involve a marginal tightening of the cash rate in response to emerging inflationary pressures, which will have an impact on transaction activity and apartment prices,” he said.
“In the near term, investor returns are likely to be driven by rental income rather than capital growth.”

Affordability the key

PROPERTY Residential

Contemporary affordably-priced properties close to all the mod cons were the most popular with southeast homebuyers last year, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland's (REIQ) most popular suburbs report has found.


And across the State, it was the variety of homes - from contemporary to those ripe for renovation - on offer, and the availability of stock, that most appealed to buyers. "Across the state, the most popular suburbs tend to offer a variety of affordable or mid-range properties and are also located close to amenities and infrastructure.
These attributes have long attracted buyers and will continue to do so," REIQ managing director Dan Molloy said. Brisbane's Forest Lake was again the most popular suburb in Queensland with preliminary sales of 412 over the 2010 year - a result testament to the diversity, and amount, of stock available. Its median house price for year ending December 2010 was $400,000.
"Forest Lake is continuing it popularity as it offers affordably-priced contemporary homes that often have all the mod cons. It is also located amongst a wide variety of infrastructure from shopping centres and retail outlets to educational precincts," Mr Molloy said.
A master-planned community 22km southwest of Brisbane, Forest Lake is also particularly popular with first home buyers and young families given this extensive range of learning facilities on offer.
The second most popular suburb in Queensland for 2010 was North Lakes which recorded 389 preliminary house sales over the year. Its median house price was $452,500. A master-planned community about 28km north of Brisbane, North Lakes was first developed in the early 2000s. Formerly a pine plantation, the estate development spans some 1,000 hectares and is expected to be home to about 20,000 people on its completion.
It was officially made a suburb in 2006. Given its youth, the majority of homes in North Lakes are single-set brick-and-tile houses, while the suburb also has a smattering of Queenslanders., Surrounded by the suburbs of Mango Hill and Deception Bay, North Lakes is also very popular with families and couples.
The third more popular suburb for houses across the State was Buderim with 383 sales. Its median house price for the year was $530,000. Buderim - located atop Buderim Mountain southwest of Maroochydore - has evolved from a holiday destination to a bone fide desirable residential area over the past 10 years. It offers a range of property including acreage living, new residential developments, and prestige property boasting uninterrupted views of the coast line.
The fourth most popular suburb was Kirwan in Townsville which recorded 307 preliminary house sales and a median of $375,000 over the year.
The fifth most popular suburb was Upper Coomera on the Gold Coast which has a median of $420,250 and recorded 290 preliminary house sales.

Careful ... or costs could go through the roof!


PROPERTY Residential

Australian homeowners and owners of commercial premises will be spending more on roof repairs and water damage in the future as houses and commercial premises face roof stress from increased storms and rainfall intensity, Archicentre says.


The roof is one of the most integral parts of the home and needs to be regularly checked and maintained. With thousands of Australian homes already severely damaged through the storms over the past three months there will be a major spike in the number of roof repairs leading to a potential shortage of skilled tradesmen and a drop in the quality of some repairs.
Archicentre Queensland state manager Ian Agnew said the recent extreme weather patterns of less rain but in more intense falls simply mean house roofs and plumbing fixtures such as guttering, downpipes and drainage would be placed under more stress.
“It is clear the recent storms across Australia, with record rainfall resulting in massive floods, will be the catalyst for a re-think in the size of guttering and the number of drainage points and downpipes required for a home,” Mr Agnew said.
“Often overflowing guttering, especially internal guttering, can fail and flood the interior of the home causing major damage running into thousands of dollars.
“The increased intensity of storms with high winds, and in some cases cyclones, puts extreme structural pressure on roofs, which are also increasingly damaged by falling trees, power poles or other building debris picked up by the winds.”
Mr Agnew said in the case of tiled roofs, once a couple of tiles have been blown off and air pressure can increase in the interior of the roof space, it could lead to the entire roof being stripped of tiles leaving the house and its contents vulnerable to expensive water damage.
Poor drainage at ground level could also lead to water being left under homes, causing problems such as damp, timber rot and encouraging termites.
“In some cases flooded homes can break down termite barriers requiring systems to be renewed,” he warned. Mr. Agnew said the recent intense storms raised the importance of roof maintenance, which was often hard as the roof was usually out of sight, and difficult and dangerous to access, especially after a storm.
“The roof is one of the most integral parts of the home, however, as it is mainly out of sight it is often out of mind.”
A survey of Archicentre’s national pre-purchase home inspection data base of some 100,000 inspections reveals that almost 50 per cent of homes have a roofing problem. Mr. Agnew said the roof was often one of the least inspected areas of a home for sale by many home buyers as it was difficult to access, but once they had purchased the home they might discover major leaks with the first storm.
The giveaway can be a freshly painted or patched up ceiling He said home buyers serious about purchasing a home should have a professional independent pre-purchase inspection carried out before signing any contracts.

Show goes on for RSPCA


THEATRE

The RSPCA as well as the audience will get a lot out of Stage Door Dinner Theatre latest production, the Australasian premiere of Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical. The theatre will donate $10 from each show-only ticket sold to support the RSPCA in their 2011 Flood Appeal.


And the theatre’s Damien Lee says that means more than 1400 seats will be on offer to help the RSPCA continue their valued work and repair their badly flood-affected operations.
“You may not be able to turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again!” is how the theatre is touting the new show, which stars a talented ensemble of Brisbane’s best musical theatre performers, “Mid-Life is guaranteed to make you laugh about some of life’s more challenging moments, as it takes a comical look at the ‘joys’ of growing older, and strikes a chord with anyone regardless of age,” Damien says.
A series of scenes and sketches poke fun at the frustrations of mammograms, love handles, lost hair, Botox, having kids, weekend warriors and proctology exams. The cleverly crafted songs celebrate forgetfulness, reading glasses and menopause, but also touch on the sentimental wisdom that the later years afford us.
“If you loved Menopause the Musical you cannot miss Mid-Life,” he said.

• Tickets to the show can be booked now on 3216 1115.


Centenary kicks off 2011 season

Touted as one of the most-produced plays in the world, Visiting Mr Green is the first production for 2011 for western-suburbs based Centenary Theatre Company.

After 86 year old widower Mr Green is almost hit by a car driven by young corporate executive Ross Gardiner, Ross is found guilty of reckless driving and ordered to spend the next six months making weekly visits to Mr Green.
What starts off as a comedy about two people who resent being in the same room together develops into a gripping and poignant drama, as family secrets are revealed and old wounds are opened. The internationally-acclaimed story about parents and children, lifelong secrets, and finding friendship in unlikely places.
This bittersweet comedy shows that wisdom and folly come at any age, and that sometimes, the unexpected visitors are the ones we need the most.
The season starts this Saturday and runs until 27 March, with performances on 5, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 25, 26, 27 March. Friday & Saturdays are at 8, Sundays at 6pm. It’s playing at the Chelmer Community Centre, corner of Queenscroft and Halsbury Streets, Chelmer

• All bookings & inquiries to 0435 591 720 and for more information, go to: www.centenarytheatre.com.au

Broken promises carbon copies of each other

POLITICS ... with Mungo MacCallum

Some political promises should be broken, and this is one of them. So chorused the economic rationalists, the gurus of business, the moral arbiters of the media and the entire Liberal Party of Australia back in 1998, when John Howard reneged on his “never-ever” pledge about the GST and put the great big new tax back on the agenda. This wasn’t really a broken promise claimed Howard – well, it was, but it didn’t count as one because he was giving the public another chance to vote on the hated impost.


And to help them make up their minds he was going to spend untold amounts of taxpayer funds on an advertising blitz which revolved around the slogan that the proposed GST was not actually a new tax; it was a new tax system. Government advertising was supposed to be used to explain legislative changes which were already in place: Howard used it as part of an election campaign to boost proposals which were not even in draft form, let alone before parliament – indeed, if he lost the election they never would be.
This was an extraordinarily corrupt precedent that Howard's government was to repeat, and one which Kevin Rudd vowed to end. But he didn’t; the crisis over the mining tax proved too great a temptation. With both sides apparently committed to the subversion of public funds for party politics, Tony Abbott should not complain when Julia Gillard takes the same course when she is ready to start selling her plans to put a price on carbon. He will, of course; he thinks that’s his job. But he cannot expect to be taken seriously. Nor, given the history of the GST, is he on much firmer ground talking about broken promises.
But unlike Howard, Gillard is vulnerable on the grounds of inconsistency. Howard always believed in a GST; Gillard was in the forefront of those who persuaded Rudd to end his crusade for an Emissions Trading Scheme because they were scared of Abbott’s Great Big New Tax line. She is now a born-again evangelist for the cause.
A bit suss, perhaps; but then Abbott spent a long time insisting that the ETS had to be passed for political reasons, and now vows to spend every second of every minute fighting it (there is an upside to this commitment: it will leave him no time for biking in lycra and surfing in budgie smugglers). A
nd it should not be forgotten that for nearly three years an ETS was bipartisan policy, first between Howard and Rudd, then between Brendan Nelson and Rudd and finally between Malcolm Turnbull and Rudd.
Abbott is now repudiating former leaders from the right, the centre and the left of his party, as well as his own previous stance. The public has a right to be confused. But in a way that is just where Abbott wants them: it is in a state of confusion that scare campaigns flourish and Abbott is off to a flying start. Figures about the crushing burden a carbon tax will inflict on families are being flung about in the tabloids and because the details of the compensation package are still being negotiated, there is no effective way of repudiating them. Electricity bills up by $300 a year, petrol up by 6.5 cents a litre, an overall cost of more than $2000 a year to households – no claim is too extravagant.
Gillard assures us that every cent raised by her tax (which will be paid by business, not directly by consumers) will be returned households or businesses, or will be used to promote clean energy, but until she can produce actual numbers to reassure the potential victims, Abbott will have the field pretty much to himself. The vague promise of unspecified new jobs just won’t cut it.
And he will continue to ask the question: for all the pain, where is the gain? Even if Australia reduces its emissions to close to zero, it won’t make any difference unless the big boys do the same, and there is little sign of it so far. In fact, this is not quite true: in Europe progress is significant, and there is a good deal of movement in both China and India.
Even the United States is setting firm targets. Gillard is right in following Labor’s climate change guru, Ross Garnaut: even if Australia does not lead the pack, we cannot afford to fall too far behind. Not only are we one of the worst polluters per head of population, but the longer we delay taking action, the more it is going to cost and the more unpleasant the process will become.
This logic will not deter those worried only about short term advantage in the parliament, in industry or in the media, but it should make some sense to the majority of the public who still, according to the polls, favour taking some action –- although they are not quite clear what.
Gillard can count on at least a residue of good will among the true believers, even if she will still have to contend with the invincible ignorance of the sceptics. Ah yes, the sceptics, Given the state of the science, it is about time we stopped dignifying them with that name, which suggests some sort of commitment to rationality. Even the alternative – deniers – implies they have given the question some serious thought. Let us call them what they are: mendacious, stupid or at best delusional. Some may sincerely believe the science is still not settled, or that it is all a vast conspiracy; many others are feeding the doubters out of sheer self interest in search of commercial or political advantage.
But their opinions are important only to each other. Their views should no longer be part of any rational discussion and they must not be considered at all by Gillard and her fellow decision makers.
The misguided will, of course, be among those compensated; it is to be hoped that they spend at least some of the windfall on catching up with the science or, if that is too much effort, securing long term accommodation in homes for the terminally bewildered along with their fellow flat earthers.
Clowns are all very well in their place, but in the words of the immortal Stan Cross cartoon, it’s time to stop laughing – this is serious.