Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pressure now mounting on Valley eyesores


The argument about whether the state or local governments have existing powers to force recalcitrant property owners to refurbish their dilapidated buildings is a “Mexican stand-off” where the image of Fortitude Valley continues to suffer, according to local long-term councillor David Hinchliffe.

In an email last Friday to local community and business leaders and The Independent, Cr Hinchliffe says: “This issue continues to bounce around like a tennis match. The state says council has the power to act. The council says it doesn’t. Lord Mayor Quirk in his most recent letter to me (yesterday) says the council doesn’t have the power to act.
“My suggestion is this: Can the property owners and the [Valley] Chamber of Commerce sign an open letter to both the Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and the Premier Anna Bligh, asking that both sides send their top decision-makers and legal brains down to the Valley to meet on site with businesses and property owners and decide once and for all who has the power and who has the will to use it!
“So far, the only one who has said he’s not going to pussyfoot around about this is [ALP Lord Mayoral candidate] Ray Smith. Everyone else wants someone else to do something. Ray at least is the first one who’s put his hand up and said I’ll do it!” Cr Hinchliffe wants concerned parties to sign an open letter saying “Come here. See it. Fix it”.
He has drafted a letter to state and local governments calling on “the Premier and the Lord Mayor to stop squabbling about who is responsible for cleaning up the Valley and get on and do it”. “While you are bickering, the image of the Valley is tarnished. We urge that the Premier and Lord Mayor to each appoint a senior person who has the power to represent them and to make decisions to meet with the business community as a matter of urgency.
“Our purpose is to ensure that one authority has the power to take action to clean up buildings and public areas which are letting down the image of the Valley. The vast number of property owners in the Valley are just wanting to get on and improve the Valley image, generate business and make a living. We ask for an answer within 48 hours of receipt of this letter.”
Cr Hinchliffe says it’s time for action and has urged others seeking change not to worry “about physically running around and getting signatures”. He suggests an email from a number of local community leaders should be done with some urgency to resolve the impasse as quickly as possible.
Valley chemist James Delahunty whose front-page article in The Independent several months ago called for action on the Waltons Building eyesore (above), says he’s more than happy to sign off an “a well-constructed letter/plan of action aimed to motivate the right people”. “The clock is ticking to the next March election and an even shorter deadline to the end of the Chinese New Year.”

Give us back our river!

An Independent Campaign

Well, this is it. Your view of your river from the so-called RiverWalk at Mirvac’s Waterfront project down at Newstead. Sorry, what’s that. You can’t see it? There it is, over on the right of this four-shot composite picture. A sliver of your river, so soak it up, take it in, enjoy it because it’s rightly yours.
Of course at the moment, what you’re mainly seeing is Mirvac’s Pier South building, where well-to-do folk spent a motza buying apartments that boast a view of the river uncluttered by the presence of the great unwashed in front of them. Yes, how tacky would that have been? Imagine having to share their river with Brisbanites out enjoying themselves on foot, on bike or blades, occasionally calling out to each other or their pets. Simply having fun.
Would have been bloody well near intolerable, don’t you think? Okay, enough of the dripping sarcasm. We’ve said it in the past that how Mirvac managed to privatise part of the river so they could charge much, much more for apartments there compared with the sister block, Pier North, is really no longer the point. It shouldn’t have happened but using council bylaws as they existed, it did. End of story.
The Indie’s only aim now is to get candidates and existing councillors for next year’s municipal poll to pledge themselves to building the “ missing link” in front of Pier South, thereby giving the river back to the people of Brisbane.
The argument is, to our minds, powerful and irrefutable. The only drawback could be the cost of building the thing, but we believe it would not be excessive. We point to the enthusiasm with which city council wants to rebuild the main RiverWalk alongside the Valley/New Farm sections of the river, and how much public goodwill former Lord Mayor Campbell Newman milked when he completed a missing link of RiverWalk several years ago between Waterfront and the Brisbane Powerhouse.
We’re no costing experts, but we suspect that piece of infrastructure cost a lot more than ratepayers would outlay to drive some pylons into the riverbed and throw a hundred metres of concrete boardwalk and railings along the front of South Pier.
Will resident of South Pier be upset when this happens? Well, sure. If we at The Indie had forked out the amounts they have for their apartments, our noses would be out of joint too. But equally so, our argument is, bluntly, bad luck to them. And if they want to blame someone, blame Mirvac for doing it that way in the first place.
What will make The Indie proud of this campaign when – and not if – it is realised is that it will set in stone once and for all an underlying principle for anyone who wants to build on the river – they must put the people of Brisbane first.
Maybe this will be known in future as the Mirvac principle: a clear warning to anyone developing anywhere along our river that any design must include a riverwalk on the river in front of their projects.
A case in point is the nearby stretch of unformed footpath between the Waterfront project and Commercial Road which, at present, is a high-risk area especially for parents with young children. This probably will be the next stretch of riverside property where a riverwalk should and must be constructed once the current industrial users move out. Hopefully, the Mirvac principle will be well enshrined by then and whoever develops that area will understand their duty to all the residents of Brisbane. Only then will we be on our way to achieving the ultimate goal – a public river walkway from Newstead House all the way back into the CBD – and beyond.

Smith unveils Valley vision


Labor’s Lord Mayoral candidate Ray Smith has outlined a series of initiatives that he says will revitalise the Valley as the city’s second CBD.

Mr Smith told a recent Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon that if elected, he would:
• Establish a Valley Renewal Authority
• Create a special planning and assessment unit within council to support the authority’s work
• For the first four years of the authority, cut infrastructure charges for building development started within 12 months of approval, that are completed in normal building times and are greater than $1 million in value, and
• Boost the day economy by moving large number of council staff into Valley buildings within 12 months.
“The Valley is a special place. It’s been at the sentimental heart of Brisbane for more than 150 years. It has a rich history and a wealth of heritage – amazing hotels, churches and public buildings,” Mr Smith said.
“But let’s face it: Life hasn’t been easy for the Valley community. The Valley has seen the best of times and it’s seen the worst of times. It hasn’t been an easy road. “The Valley is in the process of emerging from the past to become Brisbane’s second CBD. But that evolution won’t just happen. It must be nurtured … and promoted … and championed.
“Just as Australia is often said to have a ‘two-speed economy’, I think the Valley has a ‘two-speed recovery’. There are parts of the Valley, like James Street, Emporium and Leightons HQ that have undergone an enormous, positive change in recent years. But there are other parts – the traditional parts of the Valley heart – that are languishing.”
Mr Smith said that in the last 12 months the current LNP council administration had: • Sanctioned the removal of hundreds of former Brisbane Water staff out of the TC Beirne building.
• Approved a development plan for the Valley that talked big but in reality provided little incentive and little in the way of real investment in infrastructure.
• Ended the contracts of the Valley Place Management team.
He said the loss of TCB  staff had “gutted not only that building but the core, anchor tenant for the Valley heart’s daytime economy. “Development doesn’t happen simply because you talk about it.
The lesson of the Soorley Council’s urban renewal program was that you have to invest to get a return. If you want renewal, you have to work at it. Otherwise a new plan is not worth the paper it’s written on. The investment the Valley needs is in infrastructure,” he said.
“If you want to stimulate development, you don’t go out of your way to hold it up … like this council did with the massive Mosaic development in Ann Street. If we want the growth, we have to invest in social infrastructure – in childcare, in public transport, in parks and in community facilities to support that growth."
Outlining his Valley Renewal Authority plan, Mr Smith said he wanted to value the Valley as the second CBD for Brisbane, as well as the entertainment heart of the city.
“To do that, it needs investment and implementation. It needs the right priorities. The council has a vital role in promoting investment in the Valley. It can only do that if it gets serious about promoting the Valley, fast-tracking appropriate development, addressing issues of safety and social cohesion, supporting investment in both the day and night economies and leading by example.”
The authority would build on the successes of the Urban Renewal Taskforce and be “a new powerful engine to kick start investment”.
The Planning scheme would be overhauled to provide for fast-track assessment processes to allow for development to be priority assessed and decisions made quickly.
“A dynamic, action-oriented body will need a dynamic and action-focused director. Within 50 days of taking office, I’ll ensure we have someone with that experience and that focus to drive development in the Valley. To support the authority’s work, he would create a special planning and assessment unit within council with clear assessment criteria and key performance indicators to fast-track innovative development.”
For the first four years of the Valley Renewal Authority, his council would cut infrastructure charges for building development started within 12 months of approval, that are completed in normal building times and are greater than $1 million in value. Instead of infrastructure charges, his council would negotiate the in-kind provision of much-needed social and public infrastructure.
The Valley Renewal Authority would look at how each individual development could contribute to local improvements and provide for local needs that would support the growing Valley community. That way, developers would see a real and direct value for their contribution and the broader community would still benefit.

Be summer storm ready, urges Quirk


Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is reminding Brisbane residents to prepare their homes and businesses for the upcoming summer storm season as part of the launch of council’s Ready for Summer campaign.

Cr Quirk said the $300,000 campaign would include information about flooding this year in response to recommendations by the Queensland Flood Commission of Inquiry and council’s own independent flood review. He said 90 per cent of all recommendations were due to be completed by December.
He said council had also doubled the amount of preventative back burns it was undertaking this year in preparation for the bushfire season to 30 – about 75 per cent of which had already been completed – and had spent $1.2 million on 14 new custom-built fire management trucks.
The Lord Mayor said there were also plenty of simple things residents could do around the home that could make a big difference in the event of a severe storm, fire or flood this summer.
“It’s been a rough few summers for Brisbane and I’m sure the devastation of the January floods and even The Gap storms in 2008 are still fresh in many people’s minds,” Cr Quirk said.
“As a result we all need to be diligen
t about ensuring our homes and businesses are prepared for disasters ahead of time. “Council is doing everything it can to make sure Brisbane is prepared for any severe weather conditions that may head our way this summer, including spending $50 million on storm water drain upgrades and $2.5 million on supporting local SES volunteers.
“But there are also simple things like cleaning gutters and drains, raking up dry leaves and trimming trees away from roofs that you can do that will help minimise the risk of damage to your home this storm and bushfire season.”
Cr Quirk said one of the first things people should do is sign up to council’s free Early Warning Network, which issues alerts about severe weather heading towards Brisbane via email, SMS or phone.
“Personally I think this is one of the most important things people can do ahead of the storm season. It only takes a couple of minutes to join and doesn’t cost a cent but provides invaluable warnings about any severe weather conditions that are approaching Brisbane,” Cr Quirk said.
“Residents should also have an emergency kit consisting of a torch, radio, batteries and first-aid kit stored somewhere safe, as well as a list of emergency phone numbers such as family, Emergency Services (000), the SES (132 500) and council (3403 8888).”
Cr Quirk also encouraged Brisbane residents to download their free Floodwise property report and flood flag map from council’s website ( The $300,000 campaign included advertising on billboards, buses, social media, website and council publications as well as important fact sheets. Council would spend about $200,000 on the campaign with a further $100,000 in contra advertising such as the bus wraparounds, he said.

Corey snares Gladiators in a rugby league coup


They are known as The Gladiators. Their famous embrace adorns the NRL Champions Trophy and they are true icons of rugby league. And through a marketing coup by Valley businessman Corey Hamilton, Norm Provan and Arthur Summons are going to make a rare appearance in Queensland together.

Corey, who runs his Autographed Memorabilia shop in the McWhirters Building, has secured the appearance of the two famous players from the 60s for a special Bundamba raceday function on Friday 21 October.
The men featured in one of most memorable sporting photographic images ever captured in Australia – the 1963 NSW rugby league premiership grand final between long-term rivals Western Suburbs and St George was played in a torrential downpour and the moment the very tall Provan and more diminutive Summons as captains embraced in appreciation of each other’s stoic efforts was captured in an award-winning shot now known as The Gladiators.
Corey says he is having trouble convincing people he’s secured the famous duo’s appearance at the race meeting. They have made few joint appearances in Queensland and he believes it will be their first in Ipswich. “‘No way!’ is what people are saying to me. They can’t believe a sole trader has arrange such a unique occasion.” Corey says he’s grateful to have the Ipswich City Council on board as a sponsor for the event. “These things are exceptionally hard to organise, so their support has been essential.”
He says places for the event are limited, and the $150 ticket price includes entry to the races, racebook, a two-course meal, the chance to hear Norm and Arthur speak and the opportunity to ask them questions. The function starts at 12noon, and attendees will have their own lounge to watch the races, full TAB facility with beer, wine and softdrinks included until 5pm.
Those attending would be allowed one item each to be personally signed by these two legends of the sport. To reserve your seat, ring Corey on 0422 634 340 or send him an email to

Above: Valley businessman Corey Hamilton with a replica of the NRL grand final trophy featuring Norm Provan and Arthur Summons.

Valley right move: retailer

PROPERTY Commercial

A major appliance retailer’s decision to site the nation’s biggest kitchen laundry and bathroom showroom in the heart of Fortitude Valley has been vindicated with strong customer interest and sales.

After three weeks of trading, Winning Appliances and Bathrooms has already surpassed its expectations “not only for people coming to see what the hype is all about but also sales”, according to state manager Robin Maini.
On the corner of Brunswick and Alfred Streets in “the big blue building on Brunswick” Mr Maini said Winning Appliances had changed the landscape of Brunswick Street between Wickham and St Pauls Terrace by refurbishing the 2200 sq/metre building inside and out.
“Most of the people visiting the showroom have commented on the convenience of the location and the free parking in the rear,” Mr Maini said.
“We are more confident than ever that opening in the heart of the Valley was the perfect choice. As you know, some of the most prominent architects, developers, designers and builders are within a few kilometres of our massive showroom. They are already referring their clients to us in droves as there is no appliance and bathroom store of its kind in or near Fortitude Valley.
“We have had many customers come in telling us they have been watching the progress, while walking back and forth to work, of the renovation and have been waiting for the store to open. General comments have been that they love what we have done to the neighbourhood.”
At a two-night VIP gala opening recently, director John Winning and general manager John Murphy both acknowledged the incredible effort that had gone into getting the showroom ready in just over three months.
Mr Murphy in his address confirmed Winning Appliances would reinvest in Queensland. “We have some plans for growth in Queensland. The family and our staff are committed to this state. We hope the success of this showroom will be replicated in other locations.”
And Paul Bridgeford, Multyflex managing director (distributor of Sub-Zero and Wolf) complimented the company on its foresight. “I’d like to congratulate Winning Appliances on putting the resources behind a showroom of this kind. Sub-Zero and Wolf is exclusive to Winning Appliances and we’re delighted to be a part of the company’s expansion. This showroom is a striking presence in Brisbane retail.”
Mr Maini said the centre was the ideal destination for anyone renovating or building Winning Appliances offers sound, unbiased advice in addition to its wide range of brands and technologies.

Left to right. Winning Appliances CEO John Winning, Lisa Moricz, bathroom showroom manager, State MP for Brisbane Central Grace Grace, Deb Robson, appliance showroom manager, and Robin Maini, the company’s Queensland manager.

House still king of the castle: survey


A poll released by PRDnationwide shows a house within 15 kilometres of the CBD is on top of the agenda for house hunters.

More than a third of respondents (37 per cent) considered a detached house on a 600sq/m block within the inner 15km-ring of a CBD as the most preferable type of home. The PRDnationwide survey found 33 per cent considered a coastal or regional property the most desirable, while 18 per cent wanted to live in a townhouse located 6km from the CBD.
PRDnationwide researcher Josh Brown said the remaining 12 per cent wanted to live in an apartment only 3km from the city. Mr Brown said the poll of 1500 people nationwide revealed the “house is still king”.
“Certainly a growing number of purchasers are drawn to the low-maintenance lifestyle that comes with living in a unit or townhouse but Australians have always loved their own space and a backyard is still one of the most requested attributes of a property,” he said.
Mr Brown said it was not surprising that a third of respondents wanted to reside in a property away from the hustle and bustle of the inner city.
“Not all residents are dependent on the CBD for employment or other needs, and so living away from the CBD offers a number of advantages. Firstly, it means cheaper housing so larger lot sizes and better quality residences are more achievable in this area,” he said.
“Also, the quality of life in these areas can be alluring when you’re surrounded by the environment and serenity rather than building and noisy suburbs.”
The researcher said 30 per cent of respondents would prefer to live in a multi-unit dwelling being either a townhouse or apartment.

Just sexted ... and feeling dirty

FROM MY CORNER ... with Ann Brunswick

Your favourite columnist has become the unwitting victim of a sordid sexting – and I want to tell you how it happened. Well, within reason, seeing this is a family newspaper and there are standards of common decency to maintain.

It all began this Monday past, when I was making my way back into Brisbane by CityRail after servicing a client on the northside the previous evening and being invited to stay overnight – on his couch, please! – after we had concluded our transaction. I was standing in one of the new quiet carriages – you know the ones, where people still talk inanely and loudly on their mobiles about what the office sociopath has been up to of late or why they won’t be coming out on Friday night to get plastered – when I was struck down by this sordid and disgusting text message.
Firstly, don’t get me wrong. This sexting did not come directly into my unstate-of-the-art, turn-of-the-last-century Nokia brick mobile. But it may as well have done, for the impact was no less unsettling.
You all know how hard it is to block out those inane mobile phone conversations; in much the same way, my eyes were inadvertently drawn to a pretty young thing standing beside me who was texting away merrily on her modern device. It might have been a smart phone, but she certainly wasn’t being too bright as she went about her business.
Well, your Ann almost fainted on the spot. “I felt you harden as I moved my hand inside your underwear” was the message the blur of both hands created in a flash. How do young kids do that so fast? Type, I mean. Not putting their hands inside someone else’s delicates.
Naturally enough, I immediately averted my eyes. I’m not by nature a voyeur. I know I had accidentally observed a very private message and did not want to intrude any further. But it did get me to thinking. This frail slip of a thing could have been my granddaughter, for goodness sake. She hardly looked like she’d reached her teenage years, let alone someone who knows the hard facts of life, so to speak.
“I moved your mouth to my breast,” she continued to type. Well, yes, of course I had turned back to see what she was going to add next. And I make no apologies for that. You would have too!
So what was this wee lass up to? Maybe she’s one of those people who do very well writing Mills and Boons novels. Maybe she’s involved in a creative writing class at some sort of high school that I certainly never attended? Perhaps she just likes to type dirty. Maybe she indeed has a sex partner, and she simply wanted the vicarious thrill of reliving last night’s activities.
But I guess the upshot of all this is – and I hope I don’t sound like an old fuddy-duddy when I say this because I truly don’t think I am – is simply: do young things have to carry on like this in public. I suppose I should at least be thankful that she was using a relatively standard sized mobile phone screen. God knows what an eyeful I would have copped if she had been texting on one of those new-fangled I-paddy thingos.
All your Ann knows is that after stepping off the train at Fortitude Valley she had to rush to the toilets to dab some cold water over her still-pretty face to try to wash away the solid blush that had settled there.
Ann will be maintaining a steady outward gaze by a window the next time she has to travel on the city’s suburban rail network!


Can I trouble you with one more story of woe on the city’s suburban rail network? I must have been in an absolute reverie when I made a similar overnight trip to the northern suburbs recently because, when I touched on at Toombul railway station the next morning, the screen told me I had been pinged $10, taking my GoCard balance into deficient.

Your Ann is a very reasonable person, so I put my hand up and thought, fair enough. I obviously did not touch off the previous evening. I will make the point here, though, that the last time this happened the fee was $5. Can’t remember ever hearing that the authorities had decided to double the default to $10 to catch patrons playing silly buggers on long trips.
Anyway, I topped up the card with another $10 and returned to the touch pad to register my morning trip. The screen came up with words to the effect that no charge had been applied. End of transaction or some such thing. Not being exactly sure what that meant, I touched on again; this time the screen telling me that I had already touched on.
Any of my loyal readers guessed yet where this is heading? Yes, sure enough, when I touched off at Fortitude Valley a quarter-hour later the screen said I had been pinged another $10, putting me back in the red!
I talked to the man in the window who printed out my recent GoCard history and showed me what had transpired. Now here’s the rub. Without, I’m sure, any authority of his part to say this, he assured me that the second $10 fee was indeed a mistake because “the system is not foolproof”. I think he was talking about me there.
Further, he added, after I informed him that my generous offer to accept blame for not having touched off properly the night before might have to be rescinded now that I knew the system wasn’t totally Annproof, then he was pretty sure I’d get a $20 credit.
But here’s the rub – and I’m sure you all know what comes next. Some time soonish, when I’m feeling composed and settled and I’m pretty convinced that nothing will get me hot under the collar, I’m going to have to ring the TransLink number and state my case for the return of at least some of my hard-earned lost in the space of 24 hours.
Does anyone out there in Indieland think that that procedure is not going to end in tears? I’ll report back on how I went ... that is, as long as I’m not still on the phone waiting patiently for an operator to finally answer “as my call is important to them”.

Building a better mousetrap

Review: Phillip Bate

In faithful compliance with the conspiracy of silence entered into by everyone who has seen Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, I have agreed to continue this silence by promising not to reveal any of the secrets relating to its climax, therefore letting people enjoy discovering for themselves ‘whodunnit’.

Normally it’s a safe assumption to believe ‘the butler did it’ but in this long-running play there is no butler. Instead, the ‘whodunnit’ riddle is easily solved – namely the Chelmer-based Centenary Theatre Group (CTG) which secured amateur theatre rights to stage the play in Brisbane from September 3 to 24.
The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End on October 6, 1952 and has been running continuously since then. As such, the ‘conspiracy of silence’ predates Maxwell’s Smart’s ‘Cone of Silence’ by some 13 years.
Actually, it’s the second time I’ve taken the ‘oath of silence’ as I originally saw the play in London some 25 years ago. And in the best ‘whodunnit’ tradition I have a confession to make – I went to sleep in London so I couldn’t spill the beans even if I wanted to.
This time it was easy to stay awake as the plot thickens. While I’m not at liberty to reveal who actually ‘did it’, suffice to say that director Kurt A Lerps has assembled a fine cast of eight actors who could have ‘dunnit’. The action takes place in the Great Hall at Monkswell Manor.
While it’s a dark, snowy evening outside, set designer Sue Watson has created a cosy retreat inside as newly married couple Mollie (Sarah Fowkes) and Giles (Brad Ashwood) prepare to receive their paying guests. A radio newsflash – a desperate murderer is on the run. The guests arrive.. The trap is set.
It’s a case of who’s ‘taking in’ whom with five eccentric guests who wouldn’t be out of place in another famous guest house – Fawlty Towers.
Twee young architect Christopher Wren (Paui McGibbon), snobbish Mrs Boyle (Meredith Downes), retired Major Metcalf (Chris Guyler), demure Miss Casewlll (Meg Hinselwood) and broken-down motorist Mr Paravicini (Erik de Wit) all revel in their roles, as does the ‘ever-present’ policeman Detective Sergeant Trotter (Andrew Clulow). Not that the hosts aren’t equally devious. Brad Ashwood as Giles plays his role as a ‘worry-wart’ to perfection while Sarah Fowkes as Mollie finds it’s ‘murder’ trying to keep the customers satisfied.
As a point of interest, Chris Guyler is a son of original 1952 cast member the late Deryck Guyler who can still be heard more than 24,000 performances later, via a recording, reading the radio news bulletin in the London-based play to this present day.

Above: From left: Andrew Clulow as Sgt. Trogger, Brad Ashwood at Giles Raslton, Meg Hinselwood as Ms. Casewell, Erik de Witt as Mr. Paravicini and Paul McGibbon as Christopher Wren

Rudd a risky life raft if good ship Gillard sinks

POLITICS ... with Mungo MacCallum

So you’ve got a leader who is an almost certain loser on a catastrophic scale and a contender who looks like a probable winner; what do you do? Obviously it’s a no brainer, and if we were talking about any leader but Julia Gillard and any contender but Kevin Rudd – and perhaps any context but the Australian Labor Party – there would be little hesitation.

The factional warlords who used the opinion polls to destroy Rudd last year would strike without mercy or remorse. But the reality now is that to do so would be an admission that they acted out of personal spite and general stupidity in 2010, and their egos would never allow it. Nor would such a move be universally welcomed within caucus, even among those marooned in marginal seats; there are plenty of bruised egos among the rank and file, and Rudd has made very little effort to rebuild the bridges he burnt during his tenure.
And of course, if Rudd was to be reinstalled, the voters might decide that they didn’t really love him that much after all – although they would be unlikely to reject him as whole-heartedly as they appear to have rejected Gillard.
In practice, the solution is not as straightforward as it appears in theory. So let’s have yet another look at the problem: why has Gillard turned into such a clunker? John Howard, who knows a thing or two about unpopularity, says it stems from her lack of authority. Having knocked Rudd off, she needed a clean election win to establish her credentials and she didn’t get it.
And since then, she has failed to show clear leadership; the perception is that she is in thrall to the minorities, and to the Greens in particular. Hence the carbon tax, a broken promise that could perhaps have been justified in other circumstances but now looks like weakness as well as dishonesty. And there is the looming dilemma of Andrew Wilkie’s poker-machine legislation, which, it is believed, would never have happened under a “real” Labor government.
There are plenty of people both inside and outside the Labor Party who are passionately in favour of both proposals and are convinced that Labor should not hesitate to enter into alliances with the Greens and other progressive interests; but the proviso, always, is that Labor must be in control.
In the business of government the ALP must be the senior partner, the majority shareholder, and Julia Gillard, not Bob Brown, must be clearly seen as the CEO. This is the minimum requirement if Gillard is to regain the authority she needs, but with a shaky majority of just one in a hung parliament, it is unlikely to happen. And the lack of clear direction is compounded by the idea that Gillard seems to have no policies of her own; when she is not accommodating those of the Greens and the independents, she is doing little more than watering down and attempting to manage the legacy that Rudd left her. Much of this is inevitable; Rudd’s program was an extensive one and much of it was left as unfinished business. But apart from a few somewhat pie-in-the-sky announcements, the most significant of which was the plan for disabilities, Gillard has added very little to it. Her inactivity has allowed Tony Abbott and others to claim that she stands for nothing, which is untrue. Apart from her often-stated passion for education reform, Gillard is keenly interested in health and welfare issues and is developing a feel for economics which should lead to underlying changes in the tax system. Time and the everyday concerns of holding her government together have meant that she has not devoted as much energy to new policy as she might wish; but there is also a sense that a certain timidity is holding her back. Gillard seems to share with those who put her into the job an obsession with the polls; it is hard to explain her opposition to gay marriage, for instance, in any other way. She is now so far down herself that she feels she cannot afford to alienate any new vocal pressure group, even those that represent a minority of voters. But for many previously rusted on Labor supporters such procrastination will be seen not as caution but as cowardice.
And here is the key problem for Labor’s decision makers: if the polls are to be believed, it is not just the swinging voters of the middle ground who have deserted the Gillard government; the disillusionment is now eating its way into the party’s core supporters. The idea that Labor’s primary vote could be mired below 30 percent is inconceivable to politicians of the last generation (like Graham Richardson), who ran to the panic stations if it dipped below 40 per cent.
The significance of the Nielsen poll on Monday was that it suggested that there was, in fact, a way out of the slough of despond: simply by replacing Gillard with Rudd Labor could put on 15 primary points and be back in the lead after preferences. Perhaps fortunately for Gillard, Rudd is about to leave the country in his capacity as foreign minister, and there is no sign that his supporters have begun canvassing for numbers – yet. But the present position is clearly unsustainable.
If there were no alternative to Gillard, Labor supporters might emulate her own toughness, grit their teeth, resign themselves to a disastrous defeat and contemplate the mammoth and thankless task of rebuilding in opposition.
But Rudd offers the possibility – more than a possibility – of a life raft. The temptation to climb aboard, even under the cruel and autocratic Captain Bligh they so unceremoniously deposed just last year, may yet prove irresistible.

Time to come clean

WINE ... with David Bray

There are cleanskins and cleanskins, or perhaps slightly less cleanskins. We are all looking for good ones. A particular friend, a man who knows his wines and is a very long way from being impoverished, makes major forays into the local cleanskin racks.

There is a huge range of barely labelled, carrying minimum legal information, almost anonymous bottles out there. But now and again someone in the marketing department has a crack at lifting the price, just a bit. And the best of luck to them. Here’s an example: Browsing recently through a suburban emporium, Mrs B was attracted first to a bottle by the price, then by the information on the label that here was a 2010 Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
The label also proclaimed it to be a Clean Skin and more creatively that “this wine has lively green straw hues and displays luscious gooseberry aromas. An uplifting palate with passionfruit and melon flavours and a crisp fresh finish”. All this at $7.99. So we bought some and enjoyed it so much we went back and bought more. Still around at time of writing, in the same rack.
But then the courier service delivered a neat parcel containing a bottle with a very similar label, differing only in colour (grey as opposed to the original white) and adding “Taster’s Choice” to the title. Looks, smells and tastes the same to me. The accompanying blurb says the recommended retail price is $9.99.
There are less expensive sauvignon blancs around, some labeled. There is also a CleanSkins Taster’s Choice DW31 Shiraz Barossa Valley 2009 at the same price. Fair enough wine, too. The handout, among other things, that ”the CleanSkins Selection is backed by Woolworths Best Value Guarantee: Our CleanSkins are sourced by our wine experts directly from wine makers. . . The range avoids expensive packaging in favour of a clean and simple label. . . The . . grey label . . . comprises varietals drawn from the best-suited regions”.
Look in BWS and Dan Murphy’s.


Gewürztraminer. How long since we last heard of this one? Some time; years, I reckon. So it is good to be reminded of a grape we enjoyed when we first encountered it and have it brought to our attention by a winemaker we have similarly unjustly neglected.

Here it is from John Cassegrain (pictured at above), whose Cassegrain Wines is to be found on the Pacific Highway just south of Port Macquarie on the mid-north coast of NSW. He tells us he practices a heritage of French winemaking skills combined with Australian technology to produce a wide range of wines that are “full-flavoured, yet soft and elegant”.
The wines in question are Cassegrain 2010 Edition Noir Gewürztraminer ($25) and 2005 Limited Release ($35). The grapes are from Toppers Mountain vineyard on volcanic basalt at Tingha, just south of Inverell. Mr Cassegrain says this provides “the perfect terroir for producing great gewürztraminer”.
He points out that the vineyard is on the western side of the range at about 850 metres – “about the same as Orange, another area that grows the variety well. . . (though) New England is generally a bit more temperate, the environment a bit gentler for what is really quite a delicate grape variety”.
And he is firmly of the belief that the grape is capable of producing “great long-living wine as long as it’s grown in the right area and treated with compassion in the winery”.
"The variety’s reputation in Australia suffered . . . during the 1970s and 1980s when it was grown in decidedly warm climates and blended with riesling to produce sweetish, fairly ordinary, entry-level wines.
“What we are looking at here, though, are wines that will sit comfortably alongside the great gewürztraminers of Alsace. They’re fragrant and quite seamless on the palate without any of the coarseness or oiliness that have sometimes dogged the variety in Australia.”
So how does it go with a bit of age? Very nicely, thank you. Mr Cassegrain says that if the grape grown in the right place and handled properly handled in will cellar nicely.
“The 2005 clearly shows that and the 2010 is good for at least five or six years.” As for food matching, “the younger wine works beautifully with quite spicy but not too hot Thai dishes such as grilled fish with lemongrass-based sauce and fresh coriander.
The older wine has developed some lovely depth and complexity and can take more substantial dishes, perhaps even a laksa or Szechuan-style chili mudcrab...(or) oysters grilled with Roquefort cheese.”
Nothing much your reporter wants add to that.

Top cast gets this classic just White.

FILMS ... with Tim Milfull

The Eye of the Storm (MA15+)
Director: Fred Schepisi
Stars: Geoffrey Rush, Charlotte Rampling, Judy Davis.
Rating: 4.5/5
114-minutes, now screening

Let me assure you that you’ll not be at a disadvantage heading into Fred Schepisi’s film The Eye of the Storm without having reading its inspiration: the novel of the same name by Patrick White.

The Nobel Prize winner set this story in the early eighties that revelled in the excesses and shenanigans of millionaires like Alan Bond who later inspired monumental failures like Christopher Skase.
But while this novel and film somewhat frowns on the trappings on wealth, White and Schepisi were looking more to what led to this point, rather than what lay ahead. Yes, Schepisi has his characters rubbing shoulders with the awful glitz of the Sydney social scene of the time, and some absolutely reprehensible politicians—here, I’m thinking of Colin Friels’s duplicitous Athol Shreve—but the true focus of The Eye of the Storm is on a family from the landed gentry, those privileged few whose wealth grew from a century or so of the squattocracy that gave Australia its own perverted class system.
And at the head of this particular family is ailing matriarch, Elizabeth Hunter (Charlotte Rampling), who lives in a sprawling mansion sparsely populated by loyal but harried servants, and laments the absence of her globetrotting, shamefully parasitic children, Basil (Geoffrey Rush) and the “Princess” Dorothy de Lascabanes (Judy Davis).
Yet when both Basil and Dorothy return to see their mother shuffle off, it soon becomes obvious that both are more concerned with divvying up the spoils, than comforting their admittedly arch mother in her final days.
Rich with scriptwriter, Judy Morris’s pitch-perfect dialogue delivered by veterans of stage and screen, and filmed and scored masterfully by cinematographer, Ian Baker and composer Paul Grabowski, The Eye of the Storm marks a triumphant return to Australian shores for Fred Schepisi.

Lucky 13 for fans of this genre

13 Assassins (MA15+)
Director: Takashi Miike
Rating: 4.5/5
114-minutes, now screening

Japanese director, Takashi Miike often terrifies potential audiences on the reputation of films like Audition or Ichi the Killer, but you’d be making a big mistake to avoid him, because this very talented man is one of the best Japanese filmmakers alive.
And to the delight of his fans, Miike refuses to be pigeonholed, moving from extreme horror and violence of the films I’ve already mentioned, to David Lynch-like weirdness in the television series, Multiple Personality Detective Psycho, and lately the just plainly bizarre Ninja Kids!!!—with three exclamations, no less.
13 Assassins marks an homage to the Japanese samurai films of yesteryear, visiting territory that fellow director Takeshi Kitano honoured in 2004 with Zatoichi.
But while Kitano was paying his respects to Shintarô Katsu’s legendary television blind swordsman, Miike looks back further to the work of one of Japan’s most famous popular directors, Akira Kurosawa, and films like Seven Samurai or Yojimbo, where the legendary filmmaker often focused his attention on the influence of ronin (masterless samurai), who wandered Japan, often taking on the causes of villages filled with peasants tormented by ruthless gangs.
In 13 Assassins, however, Miike ups the socio-political ante, examining the dying days of the Shogunate in the Edo period, where extended peace meant bored and often broke samurai craved the good old days of blood and gore.
Set mostly in a village primed for one of the most violent extended ambushes in the history of cinema, a group of politically motivated samurai join forces to destroy a psychotic Shogun lord determined to revive the glory days he never really knew.
Beautifully choreographed, unremittingly violent, and eschewing the neatness of CGI for some absolutely astonishing stunts, 13 Assassins is simply one of those films that must be seen on the big screen.


In Their Own Words (M) now available through Madman
Mrs Carey’s Concert (PG) available from 21st September through Madman
Biutiful (MA15+) available from 14th September through Madman
Snowtown (MA15+) available from 21st September through Madman

Lovers of literature will relish the opportunity to see some of the twentieth-century’s greatest novelists and essayists speaking about their craft in the documentary, In Their Own Words: British Novelists.

Drawing on the extensive audio and video archives of the BBC, a team of filmmakers relates conversations from such luminaries as HG Wells and EM Forster, and more contemporary figures like Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, William Golding, JG Ballard and Doris Lessing—astonishing stuff.
Also astonishing, but in a much more restrained manner is Bob Connolly and Sophie Raymond’s documentary (above) about the eponymous Karen Carey, a no-nonsense music teacher at an exclusive Sydney girls school, who works tirelessly every two years to stage a concert at the Sydney Opera House that involves every student in the school.
Focussing on three talented, but occasionally problematic young women, Mrs Carey’s Concert marks a welcome return for Bob Connolly, whose other documentaries include Rats in the Ranks and Joe Leahy’s Neighbours.
Set in Barcelona, and directed by Mexican maestro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Biutiful follows the final days of Uxbal (Javier Bardem), a vaguely shifty street grafter, who is desperate to reunite his troubled family, maintain a very dodgy counterfeit clothing operation, and cope with a sudden diagnosis of terminal cancer. This stunning film offers a very different impression of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
And finally, some harrowing drama on our own shores, as debut director Justin Kurzel dramatises the activities of a group of Australia’s most grisly serial killers.
Set in and around the actual territory where John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) and his grubby mates picked off an incredible number of innocent and not-so-innocent victims, Snowtown is a very difficult film to watch, but at the same time, a very important story.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A decade of service to our city


By Don Gordon-Brown

Ten long years, eh? I’m a decade older, my knees are dodgy from carting bundles of Indies about. The paper’s bank balance is woeful. We owe our printers too much, and I ask myself the question regularly: why bother?

Probably the simplest answer is that I’ve done nothing else in a four-decade career in journalism that has made me prouder. I know The Indie is well liked – and has its detractors too.
And that it’s the only realistic print-media advertising option for many small and medium businesses in our circulation area. But if you can forgive me a little bit of navel-gazing as we reach this amazing milestone, I’m forced to ponder the possibility that, when it’s all said and done, we haven’t really achieved a lot that’s good over those 10 long and exhausting years.
The sad reality is that since a little band of well-known and respected Brisbane journalists and myself began The Independent in August 2001, our chosen patch is now not as well served by community newspapers as it was back in August 2001.
Or put another way, the competition that The Indie has provided over that time has not really done its job in making this paper – and its Quest competitors – serve both readers and advertisers just that little bit better.
Doubt my claim that readers and advertisers alike have poorer choices now then when we started? Here are the facts. The suburbs we decided to target back in 2001 – the Valley, New Farm, Newstead, Teneriffe and Bowen Hills among them – were at that stage serviced by Northern News. Our CBD competitor was another tabloid City News. Northern News from memory had the story of a new police station at Banyo as its front-page splash about the time we started.
If nothing else, we made Quest rediscover the inner-north, albeit for a short while.
A few short years after we began, Quest rebranded City News as a newsmagazine and boasted that an almost doubled circulation – from around 22,000 to 40,000 – would be delivered to readers by a brand-new method – directly into the letterboxes of a specifically targeted demography by none other than Australia Post itself! It was all marketing hype, of course, and not too many months went by before the whole marketing strategy was junked, in secret, for no other reason that to save money. Besides, it was never a marketing strategy executed with any conviction or enthusiasm. But that’s Quest for you. Cooking up slick spiels and slogans that sound great and wet the collective pants of pretty young things of both sexes in advertising agencies is all that matters.
Quest then axed Northern News and expanded City News by a further 10,000 to cover more or less our home-delivery footprint at that time. Imitation is the finest form of flattery, so they say.
Fast forward to September last year, when Quest axed the newsmagazine, returning City News to a basic tabloid on dull-looking newsprint stock. True to their form and their need for meaningless marketing buzzwords and gimmicks, they declared the new publication was brighter and bolder. You only had to look at the old and the new to know that was simply not true.
They cooked up the laughable notion of a two-speed newspaper, where busy readers could avoind reading it - and its advertisements! But never let the facts or logic get in the way of a good pitch ... and the pitch is everything, remember?
So 10 years down the track, The Indie’s main competitors have shrunk from two to just the one – City News, a publication that is shamelessly pitched at the young female city worker. It retains a circulation based largely on that failed marketing strategy of many years ago.
And yet it doubles as the home-delivery community paper as well, with about a fifth of its circulation going to a residential market almost the same as The Indie’s. But anyone who can put up their ad rates by 30 per cent since last September shows they are not in the least bit afraid of The Indie.
They could care less about the small to medium sized businesses that operate in our shared patch and who they have largely deserted. If those people want a quarter-page ad in City News, they can fork out the best part of $1400 for it, thank you very much! So what has The Indie really achieved over 10 years, if it hasn’t forced Quest to do the right thing by advertisers and readers.
Well, admittedly, we’ve had some fun along the way ... and we’ve fought some good campaigns. As the two front-pages (at top) early 2007 show, we took the then Beattie Government to task over and over again over the redhot porkies his awful government told us about the much delayed makeover for the Brunswick Street railway station, as it was back then.
It’s still head-shaking stuff to recall that Beattie could brazenly declare the final tenders had been awarded for the project – only to have to fess up that in reality the project was still in the early planning stages. Beattie trotted out a poor senior public servant to front the media and say how difficult the job was going to be and how much work still needed to be done on it.
We take an enormous amount of pride that when Beattie finally decided to come clean, he chose City News – a publication that belatedly joined the debate at the death – for one of his sickening “I’ve been a naughty boy, I need to be whipped and whipped really, really hard and I promise to do better” confessions that we were all quickly tiring of.
With covers like those above, we suspect that towards the end of his Premiership, Beattie didn’t like us one little bit. Well, all we at The Indie can say to Peter “I’ll never, ever take a government job” Beattie, the feeling was mutual.
We’re also very proud to have been probably the first city publication that questioned Beattie’s successor Anna Bligh’s plan for the North Bank project that would have extended a third way across our flood-prone river (below).
“But the people want us to do something there,” was the mantra she bleated along with her deputy Paul Lucas. But we sussed out community feeling about that issue long before the likes of The Courier-Mail stopped thinking about advertising revenue and reluctantly started to understand the strength of public resentment to the project.
Sure, our influence was certainly minor. But we took it up to the government early over the issue – and we can all be left to wonder what might have happened back in January if that scheme had been green-lighted and our riverbed had a whole heap of concrete pylons driven into it when our dams overflowed.
Have we paid a price for getting stuck into the Queensland Government over the past decade on such issues? We suspect so – and we’ll wear that with pride too. It’s true that state government departments, agencies and quangos have spent diddly squat with us over the past decade. Yet our arguments for having just a fair and reasonable share of the amounts that this government swings City News’s way week in and week out are compelling.
But the last time we wrote to Premier Bligh outlining those arguments and asking for a meeting with the right people to put our case once more for just a fair share of such government print-media advertising, we weren’t even given the courtesy of a reply. That was in late 2009. At least we know where Bligh stands.
But if putting out a loss-leading paper for 10 long years has shown anything, it’s that we at The Indie are extremely patient. If current polls prove correct early next year, we’re hopeful that the new LNP Government might actually want to spend taxpayers’ money wisely, instead of it being thrown lazily at Quest because that’s the way it’s always been done and it’s so much simpler allocatingadvertising budgets when you don’t have to think about it too much..
On other issues, we were proud last year to run a campaign with local councillor David Hinchliffe in a bid to clean up the Valley’s “grot spots”.
And over recent months, we have run an active campaign to try to get some recalcitrant Valley landowners to clean up their acts and make their buildings cleaner and safe – and with a look befitting the Valley heart. Can’t claim much success there to date, I’m afraid. Another ongoing campaign is this newspaper’s attempts to try to get our civic leaders to make amends for developer Mirvac’s decision to privatise a section of the Brisbane River so it could charge more for the units in their Pier South complex.
The “Give Us Back our River” campaign began in late 2008 and we can proudly boast a major victory in this campaign – we’re on pretty safe ground when we say that Mirvac Waterfront has not, and never will, advertise with us! What’s more, we’ll resurrect the campaign in earnest in our next issue on 14 September, so as they say in the trade “watch this spaced!”.
Finally, we’re proud of our slogan of “putting our local community first”. We’re proud to have won two Community Action Network awards for our work in the local community. And in each and every issue of The Independent, we proudly run free advertisements for worthy local organisations that could do with that publicity – and this milestone issue is no exception.
And I also want to place on record my heartfelt thanks to a small but very loyal band of advertisers who have stuck with us for so, so long and made it possible for us to hit the streets.
So, there you have it. Ten years on, and a heart-on-sleeve admission that I’m not at all sure we’ve really made any positive difference at all. Maybe we’ll do better in the next 10?

Injecting room call needles pollies, traders


Politicians at state and local level have strongly rejected the basis of a lead story in last week’s City News that street drug injecting in the Valley precinct had reached such an level that safe injecting rooms were needed.

And local traders have reacted in dismay to the thrust of the article, with one who has just spent around $70,000 on a fitout to his new business venture in McWhirters building labelling the article a “beatup that causes nothing but harm”.
In a joint statement, Grace Grace state MP for Brisbane Central), Cr David Hinchliffe (Central Ward) and ALP candidate for Central Paul Crowther, said: “The Valley community is desperately trying to get back on its feet – particularly in the Valley heart area around Brunswick Street.
“It doesn’t need this sort of facility and it doesn’t need this sort of negative debate.”
In the article run on page 1 and 3 of last Thursday’s City News, a spokeswoman for the Queensland Intravenous AIDS Association was quoted as saying: “Currently there is street-based injecting happening in the Valey” . She said her organisaton would support an injecting centre for the Valley.
But the two sitting politicians and current candidate said in a joint statement” “We are totally against this.” “
We do not see the need nor the desirability of having such a facility in the Valley. We understand how it functions in Kings Cross, but we do not want to see it in the Valley.
“There is a role for needle exchange facilities. That debate has occurred and there is general acceptance that needle exchanges have reduced the spread of infectious diseases among injecting drug users.
“However, it takes the issue to a whole new – and undesirable – level to create injecting rooms where those who are addicted can go to get injected.”
The Independent approached a number of local traders and typical of the response when told injecting rooms were being mooted for the Valley was one trader who exclaimed “Whereabouts?”
Asking not to be named, he added: “Anywhere but near [this building]!”
But Joseph Origliasso who has only recently opened Pronto Expresso Bar in the McWhirters building and has run businesses in the Valley for two decades said that in all that time, he had never once seen anyone injecting drugs in a public place.
"I found the article devoid of any credible information. “And I call on local traders and the Valley Chamber of Commerce to chastise this puiblication for its poor reporting.”
And while doubting a street illegal drug injecting problem even existed, he said that if safe injecting rooms were needed “they should be up at the Royal Brisbane Hospital where all the support services and health care is available. It’s only a few thousand metres away”.

Will free helmets save bike scheme?


The City Council has rolled out hundreds of free helmets in a bid to get the wobbly CityCycle scheme back on a steady course – and it's one of a handful of initiatives that the councill opposition claims is simply pouring good money after bad.

Cr Quirk believes the 400 free helmets now attached to bicycles as part of a three month trial will be made it easier for people to access the CityCycle scheme.
Other initiatives announced recently by the Lord Mayor include
• A cut a daily subscription from $11 to $2 and the introduction of an $11 weekly subscription.
• the introduction of corporate subscriptions
• express cards to allow instant access to the scheme for new subscribers
• a new web mobile site, and
• a fast tracing of terms and conditions to join the scheme.
“Providing 400 courtesy helmets with CityCycle bicycles will make it easier for users to take a spur of the moment trip without having to remember to bring their helmet,” he said.
“Feedback indicates that subscription costs, access to helmets and the subscription process have been barriers to more people subscribing to CityCycle, so we’ve focussed on these issues when developing these improvements.
“I want to remove the barrier to spontaneous trips by having helmets available on bicycles and hope that people will not abuse that trust,” he said. “We will monitor the trial and see if it is viable to continue.”
But the ALP’s Brisbane Lord Mayoral candidate Ray Smith says the Quirk administration “needs to stop throwing good money after bad on CityCycle”.
“Ratepayers are already paying millions of dollars each year to prop up this scheme, while council’s debt is spiralling out of control and services are being cut in the suburbs,” he said.
“This bike hire scheme is already costing ratepayers $10 million, when it was supposed to be cost-neutral. “The changes will do nothing to bring down the cost of this scheme for Brisbane ratepayers, who are saying loud and clear that they don’t want to see any more of their hard-earned money wasted on this scheme. “The Lord Mayor needs to stop dithering and halt the roll out of this scheme until he can get it right and it stops costing ratepayers more money.
“There are hundreds of CityCycle bikes sitting idle on Brisbane streets every day and by the end of this year, Brisbane ratepayers will be paying out over $20,000 per week to operator JC Decaux, just to have yellow bikes sitting on the side of the road gathering rust and dust.
“This scheme is a clear example that this administration has their priorities wrong for our city, and they’re incapable of spending ratepayers’ money wisely,” Mr Smith said.
Cr Quirk said: “These initiatives I have announced will be at a fixed cost of $18,000 for helmets, express cards and software changes that will be paid for by a reallocation of marketing funds within the CityCycle budget,” he said.
“There will be no additional cost to ratepayers and JCDecaux will bear the liability for any possible reduction in subscriber costs.”
Cr Quirk said the enhancements were developed by council in partnership with JCDecaux. He said daily trips had increased as more CityCycle stations opened around the city.
The average of 1300 weekly trips in the first seven months of the scheme rose 50 per cent to about 2,000 since the 100th station opened in May. There were more than 65,000 trips since the scheme began in October last year with about 6,000 subscribers.

Bye, bye Barry ... for now


Barry the Butt ... look, we got to know him so well over many weeks that we gave him a name, okay! – finally disappeared from the dirty Walton’s walkthrough to Valley Metro as our 3 August issue was due to hit the streets.

We at The Independent are still not sure who did the right thing and gave the 10-metre stretch of public walkway the much-needed sweepout that claimed Barry – but a big thank-you to whoever did it!
Sure, they didn’t mop out the food stains and other horrible-looking smears but at least the trash and balls of fur, dirt and other detrius did disppear, along with the butt of recent Indie jokes.
Barry’s close neighbour, Bertha the half-eaten hamburger bun, was a close companion to Barry for almost as long as Barry held court in the area. The two pieces of bun disappeared some days before Barry himself went up in smoke, so to speak. We’re kind of hoping it was rats that took Bertha away, rather than some homeless and hungry person.
Bertha’s wrapping, along with other general rubbish, went in the general broom-through that took Barry from us.
Then, for a few weeks there, we thought Barry had made a return. A butt that looked suspiciously like Barry took up residence in a different part of the walkway – in another crevice where a tile had broked up and been removed.
That butt lasted a few days but disappeared before we could take a pix of him abd collect a DNA sample that could have proved any family connection.
But The Indie’s prediction that the big pile of broken tiles that had graced a corner of the walkway for many weeks before disappearing some days before that general cleanup would soon be replaced has proven spot on. Other shoddily replaced tiles that have broken up under pedestrain traffic now make up three little piles of broken tiles. No-one seems to want to remove them. As usual, no one cares.
The lighting is still poor, with a number of tubes broken. The aforementioned food stains still blight the area. As we’ve mentioned before, whoever is responsible for this state of affairs obviously could not care less about the Valley or how it looks.
The owners should be thorougly ashamed of themselves but we suspect they couldn’t give a toss.

Above: The ALP’s Lord Mayoral candidate Ray Smith and the party’s candidate for Central Ward Paul Crowther were taken by The Independent on a guided tour of the Walton’s walkthrough some weeks ago and were introduced to Barry the Butt.

Anger lingers over child centre axing


Families in New Farm and surrounding inner-city areas now face an even tougher time finding child care following the announcement by provider C&K it plans to sell its Fortitude Valley centre to property developers.

If the sale proceeds, it will mean inner-city families have lost two C&K centres in less than three years with the community-based association providing no convenient nearby replacements.
At a heated meeting between parents and C&K management earlier this month, a motion of no confidence was passed in the group’s chief executive officer, Barrie Elvish. Parents were angry that the Robertson Street centre’s closure would aggravate a shortage of quality child care in the Valley/New Farm area and cause them to drive longer distances to and from alternative centres. A further meeting was expected to be held tonight (Wednesday, 31 August 2011) at which C&K board members were to meet concerned parents.
The Independent understands C&K plans to vacate its Robertson Street centre and use the sale proceeds to help establish a new state headquarters and child care facilities on a former Education Department site at Ashgrove where it would be collocated with the Hear and Say Centre for deaf children.
C&K, formerly the Creche and Kindergarten Association of Queensland, established its first day nursery for use by working women in the Valley in 1907. The closure of the Robertson Street centre would mean the inner-city has lost two child care centres operated by C&K in less than four years.
In late 2008 the C&K-operated Kindercraft centre formerly on the roof of City Hall closed because of concerns about its age, accessibility in the event of fire, and the need to renovate City Hall.
But plans announced by C&K at the time to open a new day care centre at the Brisbane City Council’s Green Square in St Pauls Terrace have never eventuated. At the time the state government committed about $1 million to assist the association establish a replacement child care facility.
The Independent understands the government’s commitment was made to enable the Green Square centre to be established, but C&K did not agree to sign a 20-year peppercorn lease with the Brisbane City Council on the grounds it could not be guaranteed its rent would not jump to commercial rates after the lease expired.

Heritage listing for Valley historic building


One of Queensland's first child health clinics, located in the Fortitude Valley, has become the first building of its type to be entered in the Queensland Heritage Register.

Queensland Heritage Council (QHC) Deputy Chair Chris Buckley said the Fortitude Valley Child Health Centre was constructed on Alfred Street in 1923 as a baby clinic and maternity and infant nurse training centre. “In the early 20th century there was a high infant mortality rate due to disease and mismanagement and women's organisations were lobbying for the establishment of baby clinics," Mr Buckley said.
“The Fortitude Valley Child Health Centre was purpose-built following the introduction of the Maternity Act 1922, which was part of a national and international movement to improve the health of mothers and babies.
“Public health and social reform was implicit in the growth of the town planning movement,” he said.
“The Fortitude Valley Child Health Centre was the first training centre for maternal and child welfare nurses in the state.
“The centre was also the headquarters and administration centre for all other Queensland baby clinics, operated as one of the first baby clinics, and provided accommodation for mothers.” Mr Buckley said in 1925-26, the Fortitude Valley Child Health Centre had the highest number of attendances and visits to newborns compared with other clinics in operation throughout Brisbane.
“By July 1927, the number of patients attending the clinic for treatment had increased and accommodation was insufficient.
“The centre was expanded in 1929 to include ante-natal care and during the 1930s the accommodation at the clinic was regularly overtaxed.
“A large clinic was planned for South Brisbane at the time but was never built. “In 1938, a 4.5m wide two-storey extension with a basement was added to the Alfred Street building, adding many new rooms and additional space.”
Mr Buckley said the centre was a good example of an interwar Queensland Department of Public Works institutional building characterised by good quality design and materials.
“The centre remains as one of the two operational child health clinics from a group of 13 built across Queensland between 1923 and 1930.
“It is significant for being highly intact and, as of 2011, having been in continuous use as a child health centre,” he said.
The building was identified as part of the statewide heritage survey, being carried out by the Department of Environment and Resource Management's Heritage Branch. The Queensland Heritage Council is the state’s independent advisor on heritage matters and determines what places are entered in the Queensland Heritage Register.

Places that are entered in the Heritage Register are considered of importance to Queensland's history and are protected under heritage legislation.

Views sought on backflow devices


City council will hold a series of public meetings to discuss whether backflow devices are needed to help prevent a repeat of January’s damaging floods.

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said the sessions were being run as part of an investigation into the feasibility of backflow devices in flood-affected areas of Brisbane being undertaken for council by engineering firm Max Winders & Associates. Cr Quirk said the main aim of the sessions was to give residents the opportunity to provide their views on whether backflow devices were needed in certain areas of Brisbane.
He said as that while the sessions were being held in specific flood-affected suburbs, any resident from any suburb in Brisbane could attend to provide their views.
“Backflow devices are a tricky subject because in certain circumstances they can actually make flooding worse, particularly if they are not maintained religiously," Cr Quirk said.
“That said, this administration is committed to mitigating the impacts of flooding on this city as best we can, which is why we're out there doing this study and asking residents where and how they think backflow devices might work in Brisbane.” Cr Quirk said the sessions were scheduled to be “drop in” sessions, meaning residents could turn up at any time within the three hour window to discuss their ideas.

The meetings are at: • Riverside Receptions 50 Oxlade Dr New Farm Saturday 3 September 1pm to 4pm Thursday 15 September 6pm to 9pm
• Mercure Hotel 85-87 North Quay Brisbane CBD Wednesday 7 September 4:30pm to 7:30pm Tuesday 13 September 4:30pm to 7:30pm
• Milton State School Bayswater Rd Milton Saturday 10 September 1pm to 4:pm Wednesday 14 September 6pm - 9pm

Give our Valley a break!


Fortitude Valley is home of a number of organisations that help the homeless, the needy and indeed the afflicted, and there’s nothing wrong in that at all. They are services the precinct should be proud of.

But it’s also a vital part of town trying its hardest to develop a strong day-time retail economy to go with its image as a fun destination for music lovers at nights and weekends. So unless City News can point to a real problem that needs to be addressed, its report last week – especially given its prominence and total lack of balance – besmirches the Valley’s image at a time when local traders to trying their best to make a bob in hard times.
We can all be compassionate – but should the interests of these traders going about their lawful business and trying to make a living take second place to people who are risking their own lives doing something illegal? 
An article that gives potential customers the impression that the Valley is a place to be avoided is simply bad news for those businesses. The City News article quotes a Sydney-based injecting room supporter and director of the alcohol and drug service at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital Dr Alex Wodak as saying the Valley has two to three drug overdoes a week that require ambulance callouts and “a lot of these people will die”.
Averaging that out at 2.5 a week means 125 a year, and he’s saying “a lot” of these will die! We respect his expertise but it’s a big call from a long way away. The Indie will seek police statistics on the issue and report back next edition.
Our local pollies think the scenario painted in the story – that street injecting is now at a level where safe injecting rooms are needed – is simply wrong. And in the absence of any real evidence to the contrary, we agree with them. And we believe that the unanimous attitude of the limited number of traders we spoke to would be endorsed by many; many more. Injecting rooms? No!
Sadly, City News has form in tarnishing the Valley’s image. In years past they’ve collaborated with The Courier Mail’s Punch Drunk campaign to portray the Valley as a dangerous place to visit – a place where you’re likely to be king hit at best; glassed at worse.
We thought some of the stories were beatups then, and The Indie at the time ran a story from a top Valley cop worried that such articles highlighting glassings and other violence did more harm than good.
With this latest assault by Quest Newspapers on the Valley’s image, spare a thought for Winnings Appliances, the company that has invested well over $4 million on its recently opened outlet in the Valley heart. Or the developers behind the Melba residential project in nearby Wickham Street, where work on 112 boutique apartments has begun. Our bet is that neither of those company’s research before opting for the Valley heart for their projects suggested an area plagued with a level of street drug injecting that called for safe injecting rooms?
And our guess is that they would be pretty upset over an article that suggests that anyone making a trip to the Valley stands a very real risk of seeing that illegal street drug injecting first hand, or even standing on one of their used syringes, for that matter.

Not the messiah; she’s just a naughty girl

FEDERAL POLITICS ... with Mungo MacCallum

Two weeks of parliamentary recess, and the general view is that the government must be pitifully grateful for the relief. But this is not necessarily the case.

Despite Tony Abbott’s assurance that the row over Craig Thomson (for which the Opposition is almost entirely responsible) has paralysed the government, in fact the legislation has been getting through; 22 bills in the last fortnight, bringing the total to an impressive 185 for the year.
Julia Gillard needs the parliament; in the current poisonous atmosphere, delivering the goods is her only hope of appearing positive. It is also the only place she can show what the electorate increasingly sees as her best features, her courage and persistence. Without it, there will be something of a vacuum; backbenchers will return to their electorates to be assailed with questions and complaints about Thomson and the media will become a breeding ground for yet more leadership speculation.
At the weekend the independent Andrew Wilkie gave it a kick start by opining that we might see new leaders as soon as May next year; this should not be a real news story, he added hastily, and it isn't; but nor will the speculation go unnoticed. While the Labor Party has not yet succumbed to the despair which the Murdoch press regards as its due, a faint murmuring can be heard among the understandably nervous nellies on the backbench that it might just be time to be starting to consider a plan B.
It has become something of a chicken and egg question: with the party vote and the leader's standing equally on the nose, are they both irretrievable or is one dragging the other down? And if so which? And in the circumstances would a change of leadership make any difference? On the face of it, the move would be suicidal. There is still a substantial Rudd rump festering in the party room; to add a Gillard rump would risk open and bitter divisiveness.
Moreover, it would confirm the already substantial impression of a party desperate for survival and without any sense of purpose and direction. And most importantly, it could undo Gillard's pact with the independents, who have pointed out that their deal was to support a Gillard government, not just any old Labor government.
Better to hang on and hope for a miracle - after all, if there are no serious accidents (which in the wake of the Thomson affair may be an overly-optimistic assumption) there is still two years to go. But, say the doubters, that is precisely the point.
Two years is a bloody long time - more than long enough for the voters to forget all the current kerfuffle and embrace yet another new Messiah. Gillard is doomed; the people have stopped listening to her and if they do hear anything she says, they don't believe it.
The unrelenting hostility from the miners, the clubs and pubs, small business, the farmers and of course the shock jocks and Murdoch press is aimed directly at her: Juliar, Brown's bitch. A new leader would not be greeted by these groups with joy and delight, but at least he - it would inevitably be a he - would not be carrying quite as much baggage.
But even if this line of argument were to be accepted by the caucus - and there is no sign of that happening at present - the problem remains: finding the new Messiah. Kevin Rudd is the voters' choice, but absolutely unacceptable to the powerbrokers who killed him off once and would blow up the party rather than have him back.
The deputy, Wayne Swan, is totally identified with the Gillard government and in any case is too boring. Defence Minister Stephen Smith has been mentioned as a relatively unknown cleanskin, but is hardly the man to excite the imagination of millions.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet is competent and convincing but tied to the unpopular carbon tax. Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten is a down to earth figure who has had a moment in the sun with the disability proposals but is still remembered as one of the faceless men from 2010.
And this is the catch 22: all of the above were apparatchiks - party officials or union bosses, precisely the people most to blame for the Labor Party's decline as an inclusive, open political movement.
This may be an unfair assessment of the individuals involved but nonetheless it is the public perception; they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. And, given that the same stricture applies to more than half the caucus, it would seem that any real improvement in Labor's fortunes will have to involve change starting from the bottom, not the top.
Let's face it, there is no plan B. For better or worse, Labor is stuck with Gillard, so the nervous Nellies had better just stick up for her. But Wilkie was talking about leaders, plural; is there any real threat to the smashing, bashing, crashing Tony Abbott? Well, obviously not immediately; with the polls the way they are he will cruise into government without having to consider what Tony Windsor claimed he threatened as the ultimate sacrifice: selling his arse.
But the same polls indicate that the voters will elect him with considerable reluctance: a clear majority neither like nor trust him. And it should not be forgotten that he gained the leadership by just one vote, and a lot of those who didn't want him back then have not changed their minds.
If he can get them back on the Treasury benches, that's terrific, but it doesn't end there; having done the job he was selected to do, he might find his use-by date approaching more quickly than he thought.
And the irony of all this, of course, is that if there were to be a popular vote for Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull would be a shoo in. Abbott will always have lurking behind him the real Messiah, slouching towards Bethlehem, waiting to be born.

On yer bike for a Bali good time

TRAVEL ... with David Bray

Downhill all the way. It’s the way to go when you’re part of a genuinely good day tour in Bali. Now travel writers for the glossy mags and the metropolitan dailies tend not to do tours. Don’t have to, because their hosts whiz them around in time-efficient luxury. Your reporter had some years of such junketing and saw quite a lot.

Once the freebie phase was over, it was back to Gray Line and suchlike, and it must be said they almost always proved to be enjoyable, informative and fair value for money. One such expedition not so long ago provided all of the above and a bit more. A bicycle tour without the need to ride a bike.
We see an advertisement in a tour shop as we pick our way with considerable care along the atrocious footpaths of Ubud. The brochure offered an eco/cycling day tour, down hill, suitable all ages. Just the thing, at a mere 350,000 rupiah each. Say $4.
Around 7.30 next morning Wayan picks us up at our accommodation in an air-conditioned van and we drive around town picking up others until there are seven of us, including a couple of fit-looking young men.
An hour’s drive takes us up into the cool, green hills for a nice enough breakfast at Kintamani overlooking Lake Batur and lava leavings from historic volcanic eruptions. It’s a pleasant place, good view, nice people. Next to a farm to learn what grows well here in the tropics. We are familiar with many plants. Guide Wayan (aren’t they all so named?) is a first rate teacher, well informed and with good English.
We know now that the Balinese can’t do without BBC _ bananas, bamboo, coconut. We get to sample some of the drinks. Wayan must have been looking us over, because he asks, politely: “”Mr and Mrs Bray, how long since you rode a bicycle?’’ Many years, mate. Let’s see how we find things. So soon we pick up the bikes, and helmets. They’re excellent machines, but after some surprisingly strenuous cycling around the flat ground, Mr and Mrs B accept the offer to ride the course in the comfort of the van. The five fit ones roll off and it must be said all of them make it to the finish, back in Ubud, 25 kilometres on, almost all of it downhill and on quite roads.
They, and we, visit a Balinese family who make their living from a bamboo plantation. Almost every member of the family has something to do, even granny who is weaving a mat. We learn a little about the family/social system, and later at a temple stop, discover some of the basics of the Hindu belief system.
At one stage we pull off the road to enjoy a passing colourful procession of villagers on their way to prepare for their new year celebrations. Lunch is well into the afternoon, a brilliant meal set out in a pleasant pagoda-style building surrounded by lush green rice fields.
We feel very relaxed and pleased with the whole expedition and are interested to hear the women who made the ride say they had been so busy avoiding dogs and traffic that they had not really been able to take much notice of what was around them. The blokes, more experienced cyclists, had no such complaints. For some reason none of us could be bothered doing the last bit of the tour, Monkey Forest. Nasty, greedy, thieving little wretches.
As for us, we couldn’t be more content with the day.


There are plenty of direct flights between Brisbane and Bali. Bus services and taxis run Denpasar to Ubud. Resorts and hotels arrange transfers and tour bookings. Since our effort there has been a remarkable rise in the number of cycle tours on offer in the area. Expect to pay $35 to $45. Plenty of choice on the internet.

Do as we say ... not as we do

FROM MY CORNER .... with Ann Brunswick

Three years ago a colleague registered a business name with the state government's Office of Fair Trading for a hobby-based enterprise he wanted to develop. The registration period of three years expired in mid-June, so in May he sent off a cheque to keep the name for a further three years.

But months later, no receipt or acknowledgement of having received the payment had been sent to him by the OFT people. So, he checked his bank statements and found the cheque had been cashed in early June.
So, last week he dropped into the state government's service centre in the CBD to ask if his payment had been recorded and to make sure his business name was still registered. A few clicks of the keyboard by the very helpful woman behind the counter soon turned up the fact that his payment had indeed been received by the OFT.
"But I didn't get a receipt or a new certificate saying the name had been registered for another three years," he stated. The very helpful woman's response stunned him. "Oh, the OFT doesn't send receipts or new certificates," she informed him.
Well this was odd news to my colleague, given the OFT is the agency overseeing consumer rights in our state. Plus, a quick glance at its website reveals the following advice: "Businesses must supply you with proof of transaction (a receipt) for goods or services valued at $75 or more. Examples include a GST tax invoice, a cash register receipt or a receipt number provided for a telephone or internet transaction."
It goes onto say if they do not, you have the right to ask and receive one within certain time frames. My colleague had paid more than $200 to renew his business name, so he felt that perhaps the body giving such advice might actually follow it and issue receipts or renewal certificates when they are paid for.


Remember Tony Blair? He was British Labour Party PM for a decade from 1997 and will be remembered mostly as a compliant performing poodle to former US president and failed military strategist George W Bush.

Now as an unconvicted war criminal, Blair spends his time globetrotting and being paid lots of money to make unrevealing speeches to big rooms full of big wallets. He is also paid as a Middle East peace envoy, and his and Bush's record in Iraq must have been overlooked on his CV when they chose him for that one.
Anyway, enough of my spleen. Blair was in Sydney recently giving one of his fatuous, self-serving speeches to an audience that included one of our former PM's, Bob Hawke.
In his speech Blair made reference to a remark made at the lunch table by Hawke, now almost 82. Apparently Blair had asked Hawke what kept him looking so fit. "Sex," the Silver Bodgie replied, according to Blair. Pleeeeeeeease Bob. Too much information.
Having of late regularly been subjected to sights of Hawke puckering up to much, much younger women when on the campaign trail in the past year at the federal and NSW polls. One thing we do not need to live with is the image of Hawkie and Blanche in the throes of passion.
Hawke was once regarded as a sex symbol, especially in his younger, hard-drinking years. From all reports his reputation as a ladies' man was well deserved. But at 80-plus it is perhaps time for him to call in quits on that image, don't you?


This column has previously complained about the high cost of those microscopic ink cartridges used in home printers. Recently my latest printer ran out of ink in three of its four cartridges.

So, lucky me, there was a generic brand of cartridges in my cupboard that were purchased for when my brand-name ink cartridges ran dry. Well, it was a good plan to start with.
What I had not counted on was the sneakiness of IT hardware makers these day, especially those peddling printers that cost less than $100 but whose brand-name ink cartridges cost almost as much to replace.
You see, the current brand of printer sitting on my home desk has little electronic chips on each of its cartridges. They tell the printer that the right brand of cartridge (ie: the really expensive ones made by the people who make the cheap printer) are installed.
On opening the box of generic cartridges, which incidentally cost around $60 compared with almost $100 for the brand-name ones, it at first seemed this problem had been foreseen. The generic cartridges came with a little plastic tool for prising off the chips from the brand-name ones, plus instructions on how to do the job, and a little plastic glove to use when doing it.
Well it worked a treat until the printer went on strike and refused to recognise what it clearly thought were imposter cartridges. So not only did I spend $60 on the unusable generic cartridges, the next day saw me visiting the stationery store again and forking out close to $100 with little change for brand-name cartridges.
Technology – and those who profit from it – wins again.