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The Magpie

Sunday, September 30th, 2018   |   143 comments

As The Pie Was Saying Before He Was So Rudely Interrupted …

The ‘Pie will not dwell on it, but suffice to say’ Those whom the computer gods wish to destroy they first make mad’.  And this old bird is quite gaga by now. At least Longfellow’s quills didn’t die on him mid-poem, and anyway, if they did, his replacement costs would not be so wallet whacking. But anyway, here we go again

Laid bare in black and white: proof of Mayor Mullet’s vandalising of Townsville economy, as detailed in a council-commissioned report she didn’t want anyone to see. On this evidence, it’s a local version of the American saying, it’s  like putting trailer park trash in charge of the Treasury.

The Townsville Council’s well-documented (and officially criticised) culture of secrecy is alive and well …just ask the council contractor ‘sacked’ after 23 years of successful work because, he says, he continually raised questions about the council’s workplace safety practices.  But he is struggling to get to the bottom of the problem. And  a transcript of a meeting between the contractor and the council officers throw light on a culture of arrogance and bullying.

The mysterious case of the Trackless Trams proposal for Townsville …. will this be Mayor Mullet’s latest brain fart in her continuing, ratepayer-funded quest for re-election?

And in overseas fake news, can Trump The Musical be far away? The first hilarious and biting song for it has already been recorded … The ‘Pie has an exclusive preview.

But first …

How Refreshing – A ‘He Said-She Said’ Controversy That Doesn’t Involve Sex

Although he knows many a reader does not share the view, The Magpie is happy to declare himself an avid fan of THE IDEA of the ABC.  Born little more than a decade after its founding, The Magpie has had the ABC as part of his entire life, starting in pre-TV radio days – Blue Hills by Gwen Meredith (episode 3, 872 or some such) Russ Tyson’s unmissable Breakfast Show followed by the music requests of The Hospital Half Hour, to the the thrilling and exotic  test cricket broadcasts from England, listened to on a crystal radio set under the blankets. Then came the considerable wins of early television (This Day Tonight, Four Corners) , ground breaking kids TV,  to the introduction of the first REAL television reporting (Moonlight State, the Cash for Comment scandal et al) to this day, the exposure of the modern rorts and injustices, home grown Australian drama and comedy, and, then as now, the country’s most reliable news service. 

To The Magpie’s generation, an Australia without the ABC – warts and all – is unthinkable, indeed unimaginable. Sure it has its faults, perceived and real biases and minor conceits, but for The ‘Pie, it is a most necessary balance to the predatory almost Fascist ranting of dark revisionary forces  like Rupert’s sinister empire. So the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but truth is a moveable feast these days.

So it was with alarm at the unseemly nature of it all that The ‘Pie observed this week’s managerial uproar at Aunty. Mind you, it was a novelty to have a national ‘he said, she said’ controversy that did NOT involve sex. 

But Bentley got the blues by it all, seeing the claim and counter claim as a continuation of a disturbing trend started far from these shores.

pastedGraphic.pngFACTS

On The Home Front, Our Wrecking Ball Mayor Owes The City An Explanation

pastedGraphic_1.pngJenny Hill

While others may make ambiguous and challenged statements, it is what Jenny Hill doesn’t say that is the scandal of her economic rampage since taking office. Her Adani airstrip imbroglio is almost laughable and her twisting and squirming under justifiable questioning about lying to councillors to win their approval for this little venture (if you can accept $18.5million of your dough can be termed little) has made her the subject of a current CCC/Dept of Local Government investigation. 

But what is far more tangible is the now-available report Culture Matters commissioned by the council itself regarding the state  and value of the arts to Townsville’s economy. Now before you sigh and mutter ‘No big deal, here he goes again’, here’s the thing … it turns out that it IS a big deal, and it is clear the arts have been vandalised by Jenny Hill and her Nous Consultancy-inspired ‘council restructure’ implemented by Adele The Impaler Young. 

Put aside the sheer spite of unknown origin involved in the sacking of Shane Fitzgerald, one of Australia’s most successful regional gallery directors  (although it has been widely reported to The ‘Pie that he and Mayor Mullet didn’t get on). A polite request by a major arts donor to reconsider that action was simply ignored, and subsequently cost the city’s cultural tourism $10million in bequest support. 

At a stroke, through the national arts media, Townsville was made both a ‘hicksville’ laughing stock and a cultural pariah, impacting on tourism in not a small way.

 

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Indeed, it is inexplicable why our two fright bats were hell bent on so comprehensively damaging an institution that, as the chart shows, is more value to local business and the overall city economy than either the Cowboys or the V8 supercar. 

We are used to empty words about accountability and transparency, but we really are owed an explanation for this action alone, given the lie by a report hidden for years. Maybe the Chamber of Commerce might like to ask … oh, what’s that, not their remit, just matters that affect their members? Well ….

And of course, when all that’s been cleared up, maybe we can have a peek at KMPG report that said the CBD stadium was a you beaut move, which it clearly isn’t going to be. In fact,, there are those who firmly believe that it said quite the opposite but we’re not allowed to see because of spurious and unprovable Commercial In Confidence shields.

 

Our Local Newspaper Isn’t The Only Bully In Town

 During the week, The ‘Pie was contacted by Alan Sheret who runs a company called Mackenzie Road Repair. Mr Sheret says he has been effectively ‘sacked’ by the Townsville City Council after 23 years of successfully and satisfactorily doing council contracts. Mr Sheret claims, and appears to be supported by documents, that he was removed from the preferred tenders list, which is tantamount to ‘sacking’ in common terms. The council has clearly indicated to him that they had taken into account the number of ‘engagements’ i.e his complaints mainly about workplace safety, when declining a recent tender application.

The ‘Pie has been willing to accept that what Mr Sheret says is substantially true, because he was so aggrieved at his treatment he spent $4500 on an independent report by Employer Protect, investigating his allegations. The 40 page investigation, much of it involving industry and council jargon and technical detail was clear enough in its intent, and spell out in the opening context statement:

1. Context 

The Report arises from a belief by Mr. Alan Mackenzie Sheret regarding an issue that arose due to him making complaints to the Townsville City Council (‘TCC’) regarding various issues regarding health and safety when his workers worked for TCC onsite. Mr. Sheret feels like he is being alienated by the TCC and not being asked to tender for projects anymore due to the complaints that he has made. 

Employer Protect (EP) was engaged by Mr. Sheret to conduct an independent external investigation into the allegations made. The investigation was conducted by Antoine Franken a Senior Human Resources Advisor/ISO Team Lead Auditor from EP. 

Thinghs immediately became interesting when this was followed by Employer Protect’s suggested course of action. Note (e) in the recommendations, worthy of looking into under any circumstance. 

2. Recommendations 

Step 1: Initial Recommendations 

. 2.1  Arrange consultation with Townsville City Council officials to explore: 

a. Common ground to avoid unnecessary conflict and misunderstanding in future;
b. Related issue of reduction in work allocation;
c. To improve relationships between client and city council officials;
d. Obtaining clarity in regard to Council’s Accreditation; and
e. Establish whether exemption from Workplace Health and Safety Act exists, as proclaimed by Council Official.

The ‘Pie will be looking in to that last one.

Things get even more interesting when one looks at a transcript of the resultant consultation that took place on July 31. Present were Alan Sheret, Colin Dorber, a 43-year professional in such matters for Employer Direct, and the council reps, Mike Bissel, Lisa Jones, Scott Owen and Tony Bligh.

The talks proved inconclusive and at times verged on the unprofessional and almost abusive, particularly by council long serving step[‘n;fetchit lawyer Tony Bligh. And given the fractured culture of the council, this aspect is of much community interest, if it indicates the treatment that can be expected by someone who challenges the council’s work safety practices.

Mr Bligh, with whom The ‘Pie had a friendly professional relationship when The ‘Pie was the Bulletin’s Legal Affairs editor, has always given the impression that he sees himself as a no-nonsense legal hard ass, who calls a spade a bloody shovel. But it would appear on this occasion, even just on the written words, that Mr Bligh’s attitude descended into hectoring bluster and lofty arrogance.

The following quotes do not depend on context to convey the council’s approach to such ‘negotiations’.

Dorber: So the files disclose those as to be arguments between people. 

Bligh: Colin, I’m not going to do this backwards and forwards about I say this and you say that and then I have to correct you because you’ve misinterpreted what I’ve said. 

And a little later:

Bissell: I don’t know why you’re not hearing what’s been made very explicit to you several times now. 

Colin – Well give me one example if you can. 

Bligh: No we’re not going to go down this, you give me an example and you then criticise, you can do it as you choose. 

And Mr Bligh was not shy in calling Mr Sheret a liar …. but carefully phrased, it when Mr Sheret said he had never received a promised report regarding his company’s performance.

Bligh: I accept your claim about that Alan, whether it’s accurate or not I don’t know, but I accept your claim about it. 

And he does a nice line in off-hand insults with an airy and totally inappropriate dismissal of a respected industry professional.

Dorber: … you especially would be in no doubt how much money people spend on these sorts matters, I’m not going to recommend he spend a dollar dealing with a Council if the Council has a rock-solid position that is unchallengeable. But will spend a lot of money if we think it doesn’t and out of respect to you, the position holders, not the people, I don’t know any of you personally, we have a duty on behalf of Alan to look at process, procedure, practices, published policies, tender protocols, assessment guidelines, immune to the names of the people involved, and that’s what we’re doing. 

Bligh: …we’ve heard that before today as well, during this meeting, we’ve heard it during this meeting, so; 

Dorber: Well I think it’s important; 

Bligh: We don’t need that repeated to us. 

And then toward the end of the meeting, when Mr Sheret had said he didn’t  understands the action against his company because he had only ever received praise council employees:

Bligh: Alan, we, look I’ll simply place on it on record, that your little soliloquy a moment ago, is not agreed to, I’m not going to argue about it today, it’s not agreed to.

‘…little soliloquy?’ From a man defending not only himself but his employees from what he believes is economically damaging discrimination?

Christ, The Impaler must love you, Tony.

 And a footnote of interest from something Mr Dober said at one stage of the meeting, quote: 

I wrote to the Mayor, saying who do we sit down, who do we talk to, who do we try to address the issues we’ve identified here with and like no other Council I’ve dealt with, I didn’t even get an acknowledgement you’d received a letter, let alone the report. So I’ve got to help Alan understand what to do with that. 

‘Like no other council I’ve dealt with?’ We hear you, pal, we hear you, should be on a sign hung over the front door of Walker Street.

Are Trackless Trams Going To Be Mayor Mullet’s Latest Trinket ?

pastedGraphic_3.pngtrackless tram

This mildly interesting little article in The Conversation during the week suddenly became intriguing during the week when we read this:

“Cities across the world are lining up to trial these trackless tram systems. So far, Australian cities moving to use them are Townsville, Hobart, Melbourne (in Fishermans Bend and other sites), Sydney (in Liverpool and perhaps Parramatta Road where the first studies were done) and Perth – where five separate corridors are competing to run the first ART trial.”

Townsville, eh? Well, that was the first anyone had heard of that, so we wondered what was fermnting in the toxic fantasy factory of the Walker Street Wankery, and started to investigate.

Turns out that the idea … worthy no doubt but of little immediate practical value to a city that needs some here and now action … is an initiative of JCU and the council has shown some interest.  And the author of the article, Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at WA’s Curtin University, will be gracing us with his presence on October 24 to sing the praises of this new transport system. 

Which is all OK nothing like a little bit of an academic navel gazing to while away the until the emeritus tag is bestowed, but the acadils and boogademics involved are sensible enough to know that this is not about to happen any time soon, although Townsville is seen as an ideal layout to test some theories for practical application, perhaps in a couple of decades( however, it’s a sure bet that it will happen well  before any battery factory opens in the ‘ville.)

But The ‘Pie isn’t alone in betting that Mayor Mullet has considered trotting out this little bauble to dazzle the local punters in the fervent hope they will be their shame X in the box next her name come March 2020.

In fact, regular Nester Mike Shearer, despite looking like a bargain basement Dumbledore, has a nice witty turn of mind occasionally. He reckons sooner or later, Mayor Mullet will claim the trams are her initiative, they’ll be powered bt batteries from Woodstock, and they’ll be great for Adani FIFO workers getting to the airport. Or day trips to view our brimming dam. Or, The ‘Pie might add,  a trip to Mayor Mullet’s planned retirement business of a unicorn shoeing service. 

But talk is cheap (unless you’re paying the professor’s air fares accommodation and fee to prate about this … oh, what’s that, we are? Oh, yeah, guess we are, given either ratepayers or taxpayers money will foot the bill). So rather than just sit in lofty judgement from the top branch, The ‘Pie will give a short and sharp example of the more beneficial way to assist our city in the here and now, rather than maybe-could-perhaps land so beloved of our mayor and her paper.

It’s simple really … reinstate the rail motors that radiated out of from Townsville a couple of decades ago. The environmental aspect alone should persuade the necessary dollars from state and the feds. Commuter stations all along the North Shore to Rollingstone and beyond, Ayr, and Charters Towers, would be an immediate and permanent boost to the flagging fortunes of local business. If we create a commuter culture, promising more affordable housing outside the urban footprint, and take literally thousands of cars off the roads each week, crikey, even the Greens might get aboard – with the developers. 

In Passing

The humble comma can be a miracle worker – when it goes missing.

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As someone noted on Twitter, he was probably even more generous when he was alive.

 

And is Donald Trump doing headlines for the Astonisher. This probably isn’t the ‘most biggest’ mistake in the paper, but it’ll do.

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Oh, well, we’ll all be a little bit dead one day.

And speaking of The Trumpet, what a boon this buffoon has been to the arts.  His nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh is in more strife than the early explorers, and his dilemma is so neatly and so very funnily summed up in this chortle-worthy version of Camelot from the colourfully named Randy Rainbow.

……………..

And that’s it for this week, bit shorter than usual while the new gear is whipped into shape … and what a bugger of a week its been in the Nest. A big thanks to all those who generously helped with offers to ease the sudden financial disaster of a complete computer meltdown. The ’Pie is still encountering some annoying glitches, so if emails aren’t replied to (as they usually always are), hang in there, hope to have everything back ticketeyboo early in the week. And happily, The ‘Pie has discovered he can still receive the thoughtful donation or two from his ‘most unique’ readers … the how to donate button is below.

 

The Magpie's Nest is now more than five years old, and remains an independent alternative voice for Townsville. The weekly warble is a labour of love and takes a lot of time to put together. So if you like your weekly load of old cobblers, you can help keep it aloft with a donation, or even a regular voluntary subscription. Paypal is at the ready, it's as easy as ... well, easy as pie. Limited advertising space is also available.

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