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The Magpie

Saturday, March 10th, 2018   |   170 comments

Spun Sugar … The Townsville Council’s Fairy Floss Reply To A Damning Official Finding That It Hides Information.

The Townsville City Council agrees with the independent State Information Commissioner’s Compliance Audit Report finding that it operates in a ‘culture of secrecy’ and says it couldn’t ‘sugar-coat’ the findings … then proceeded to do exactly that.

But to see if they’re sincere in coming clean, The Magpie puts a simple, easily answered question about a surprise and so far unreported development in the battery factory saga.

And it seems the white shoe brigade still sees the Townsville market an easy pickin’s … until they come up against a no-nonsense NSW judge … a Palmer Street scammer gets pinged for more than a million bucks in damages. But did the council waive procedure for his family company on his way to his comeuppance?Also, the hopelessly compromised Astonisher seems to be de-canonising some its sacred cows.

But first …

This week it became even clearer that the first weapon – the most dangerous weapon – that should be banned in America is Donald Trump’s scattergun. As pointed out in the tell-all book Fire & Fury, Trump ricochets around like a pinball and at such speed that there is no time for any issue to become the subject of sober debate, because literally within hours – ping – there’s another thought fart on twitter about something else entirely.

This week was a minor example … further waffle and backtracking on arming teachers in high schools wasn’t playing well, so – ping – big tariffs on imported steel and aluminimum … then because of the universal howls of outrage, – ping – maybe not Canada and Mexico, and then maybe some others, but this also wasn’t playing well, so out of the blue …ping… he’s going to meet with the man he disparagingly calls Rocketman, that North Korean bad haircut who should kidnap Jenny Craig and not release her until he’s lost a couple of tonne.

But our Bentley is a man of strong concentration and won’t be bustled. He’s also a man who believes we should think globally but act locally, so he sees some value in The Trumpet’s call to arm teachers, applying it to one of our own Aussie school problems.

Naplan 2 small

The ‘Pie reckons Bentley is on to something here … why not fully-loaded AK-47 to the speaker of the House of Reps? Question time might suddenly become more civil if a tad dull.

But the US armed teacher argument provided proof during the week that humankind have a knack for laughing in the face of adversity, and we don’t always need words.

IMG_4294

Is Rupert Rooted (In The Ultimate Sense)?

It has never been the ‘Pie’s private or public practice to wish the ultimate censure – dispatch to the next world – on any other human (with the possible exception of the person who wrote Achy Breaky Heart), but the old bird couldn’t help wondering what happens if an ailing Rupert Murdoch finally trips over his wallet and bids us farewell. The old boy – he’s 87 –  is said to be in an extremely bad way and confined to bed after a fall on his son’s yacht in the Caribbean (some claim he fell in the Hall way). I’s a pretty serious back injury, aggravated by his age.

The ‘Pie mentions this because the eventual meltdown could see papers like the Townsville Bulletin go under the hammer. And such a meltdown wouldn’t take long in coming because, with the exception of his TV savvy daughter, Roop’s kids are all blithering nitwits.

Just sayin’, ya know.

A Quiz Question For You

What is the difference between this man – Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock ….

stephen leacock

… and this man. Matt Thompson, head of the TCC’s Business Services division.

Matt Thompson

Here’s the first clue: years ago Leacock wrote this about reporting matters of public interest. ‘Special Correspondence. I learn from a very high authority, whose name I am not at liberty to mention, (speaking to me at a place which I am not allowed to indicate and in a language which I am forbidden to use)—that Austria-Hungary is about to take a diplomatic step of the highest importance. What this step is, I am forbidden to say. But the consequences of it—which unfortunately I am pledged not to disclose—will be such as to effect results which I am not free to enumerate.’

And here’s the second clue: this week Matt Thompson said this:

(The damning criticism) of the Townsville City Council (by an independent audit which found the TCC had a ‘culture of secrecy’) was historical … and the council’s dealings concerning millions of ratepayers money for that Adani airstrip was ‘commercial in confidence’.

So what’s the difference. Just this – Leacock was joking, Thompson wasn’t.

A quick background. Last Monday, March 5, a independent report on the practices of the Townsville City Council was tabled in Parliament. And a damning document it was, too. This was the thrust (with graphic grabs courtesy of Linda Ashton on Facebook … just easier and quicker, dear).

audit 1 audit 2 audit 3

The loss of local knowledge through the hundreds of redundancies is also lamented in the report

So you’d think that should really have set the hare running, with high level meetings between the Mayor Mullet and the council CEO Adele The Impaler Young, working out what to say to the media. A grave but brave face, ‘fessing up to shortcomings and promising to do better in future.

Good luck with that. Alas no, when the media sought a response, the mayor was otherwise engaged – amongst other things, a photo shoot for International Women’s Day – and Adele Young wasn’t around either. So what did we get? We got Matt Thompson, the council’s head of the Business Services division, a bean counter who a) isn’t what the media would call ‘good talent’ – well, he is an accountant, and b) as in his position, has been given a hospital pass on something he probably has little if any control over (only two shot callers in th Walker Street Wankery) and even less knowledge of. The fright bats cleverly left him to sip at the posoned chalice.. Our Matty gave some carefully scripted non-answers (‘Oh, dearie me no, we can’t have a culture of secrecy can we?) which showed us a few things.

First of all, the cocksure contempt with which the Mayor and the CEO hold the community, not only by hiding in corners on this most telling of issues, but trotting out an executive who really has fuck all to do with the issue they have nurtured and promoted.

But this button-down buffoon wittered on about how these serious lapses were ‘historical’ – which seemed to mean it was before his time (he joined the council in July last year, and it was ergo not his fault and nothing to do with him). But when asked about the secrecy surrounding the Adani airstrip deal, he smoothly slimed ‘That matter is, of course, commercial in confidence.’

Really? So much for the transparency Mr Thompson espoused with such shining insincerity. Let’s have a quick look at this, the supposedly legal modesty screen for Mayor Mullet’s biggest secret.

Commercial in confidence. A classification that identifies information that, if disclosed, may result in damage to a party’s commercial interests, intellectual property or trade secrets. You must not disclose any information marked ‘Commercial in Confidence‘ without permission from the party who supplied it.

If we’re giving money to Wagners to build an airstrip, surely that cannot apply. What commercial interests may be damaged, what trade secrets? And (stop laughing even if we are talking about the council) intellectual property? Come on now.

So Mr Thompson confirmed that it will be secrecy as usual in the Walker Street Wankery. Instead it would be nice if Mr Thompson, instead of having his chain jerked by the two fright bats, could at least explain why the truly absurd KPMG report that was a precursor to the Adani airstrip money is also Commercial in Confidence. When you project fantastical findings 30 spurious years into the future, what’s commercial in confidence got to do with anything. Commercial in Connivance, more like. It was our money, but we’re not allowed to even know why we have been so unwillingly generous.

But Here’s A Chance For A Bit Of Transparency, Madam Mullet.

We keep getting occasional filler reports of no substance like this, with no probing background questions even attempted – and boy, are there a few of those (which we’ve asked in this blog before … to no avail.)

batery plant

Then a real WTF hits us between the eyes.  Hey, Mayor Mullet, put on your transparency knickers … no, no, wait, make that … your transparency goggles, and tell us what this all about in the respected Queensland Industry newsletter. Note the second paragraph.

Screen shot 2018-03-10 at 9.13.17 AM Screen shot 2018-03-10 at 9.14.28 AMSo, nothing to do with the proposed lithium battery plant. So what’s going on that you can’t prance and dance at this good news? Care to share madam … just in the name of transparency. Or is this matter also Commercial in Confidence (although this newsletter didn’t seem to think a mention was breaking some pact.)

As a commenter recently said, ’I thought a Jenny was for spinning wool, but apparently its also good an spinning a yarn.’

Honestly,  everything this woman touches turns to shit. Now we are left to wonder how much we may have funded to Mr Durie’s legal obligations. From the weekend SMH.

durie to pay

A Dodgy Family Company Gets Its Come-uppance In Court – But Did It Get A Hand In Its Dealings From The Council?

 solarus

One Peter Bega and his family have been up to some not very clever shady shenanigans in connection with the Solarus/Allure development over on Palmer street next to the Metropole Hotel.

Fortunately, none of the unit owners has been affected by the financial dirty water back-wash involving the Begas, who have just received one of the most comprehensive and un-judge-like bollockings from a NSW judge over the financial finanglings. Scroll down to the witness assessments and you’ll see what The thank Christ the judge decided on the bench instead of banking … check out those interest rates at the top. Whew!!! But there’s more than a raised eyebrow about a lack of diligence on behalf of the Townsville council (and we know there is no point in asking them about it).

Here’s what The ‘Pie has been able to learn.

Peter Bega had a controlling interest in buying the Allure construction site (the one behind Solarus) for a bargain price – from his original company, which he put in liquidation

Council apparently granted the new Allure development company a rebate of around $190,000 of fees paid on the original Solarus/Allure development which went into receivership. Some locals believe this money should have been paid to the liquidators and not to a company in which the Bega family was involved

Bega’s son, Matthew, has been involved in two other companies associated with the Allure development, both of which were put in liquidation but he is now involved in Allure Events, which operates from a function centre. These premises were originally meetings rooms in the Allure building and controlled by the Allure body corporate, but council gave approval for it to become a function centre WITHOUT the need to lodge a material change of use application.

The question of how a common area was transferred into the ownership of a private company connected to the Bega family remains a question that perhaps Transparent Jenny can answer for us.

The stench is wafting all the way down the creek, and it ain’t rotten fish.

The Bulletin Goes Even More Schizoid

There seems to be some sort of internal tussle going on with the bulletin’s policy wonks. There are signs that Jenna Cairney is slowing coming to see (perhaps via The Magpie blush, blush, humblebrag) that the paper has been backing the wrong horses under her predecessors, which blatantly turned the paper from an observer and impartial reporter to a player in the game. Today, (Saturday) was Tony Raggatt Day, and one gets the feeling that the somewhat moral Mr R is fed up with being muzzled. In all, a frustrating edition for the paper’s most senior and respected reporter.

Screen shot 2018-03-10 at 11.37.24 PM

First he got this front page, which was a rewrite of the latest (and oh so heavily qualified) flapdoodle research from the paper’s pet economic poodle, the affable Colin Dwyer. The real worth of the story, with a myriad of if, buts and maybes which Raggers clearly pointed to, is that the inside story on page 7 takes just a quarter of page.

But then Raggers seems to hit the ‘mad as hell and not taking it anymore’ button on pages 10 and 11, with a double page spread laying into the council and the government about inexplicable delays in promised project. Some of which Raggers points out, were not favoured by the public in the first place.

DP spread

But wait, said the steak knife man, there’s more … our boy really hits his straps on the Op Ed page, in a column that points out the childish absurdity of Kevin Gill’s pathetic furniture shifting antics as a churlish response against Qantas’s refusal to help fund an airport upgrade through a passenger tax.

Better late than never to the party on that one Raggers, you owe The Magpie a spotter’s fee.

Oh, and Ms Cairney, if you want to file today’s front page with it’s like, just pop it into the file with this one.

Fairytale front page

How’s that one going for you, dearie?

But The ‘Pie Wants To Leave You Laughin’

In case you missed it in comments during the week … nothing surprises me about this paper, but have has the schoolgirl done – refused to subscribe?

bully schoolgirls

And looking forward to BarnBundle of  … umm … joy. There paternity possibilities are many. First, proof that the kid is Barnaby’s.

baby barnaby

Then bub and Barnaby both get a surprise …

baby boo

And then the unthinkable …

mySupeShorten baby jpg

But Barnaby leaves the public consciousness, up steps Michaela Cash and her incredible performance before that senate committee.

michaela Cash

And that prompted this side splitting spoof imagining the PM’s reaction … stay with it right to the end.

https://www.facebook.com/BigMalTurnbull/videos/340462366450401/

And with Easter just around the corner, make sure you get the message right.

Easter stutterer

……………..

That’s it for another week, keep the comments rolling in on any topic on which you wish to be transparent. And always remember, a donation to help the blog along is always greatly appreciated … and much needed. Ho to donate button 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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