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Mon 20 Oct

Letters to the Editor

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Gavin King, Cairns, 28-01-14 14:09:
Dear Editor,

Mortgage broker and 'columnist' Roger Ward displays a lack of understanding about the dynamics and legislative oversight of the insurance industry in his column titled "Australia's equivalent of the Poll Tax of NQ".
Firstly, the Queensland Government absolutely understands how serious and outrageous the issue of skyrocketing insurance premiums in North Queensland truly is.

That's why Premier Campbell Newman has repeatedly said publicly that the insurance issue facing North Queenslanders is the number one priority for our government in North Queensland because population and economic growth in our part of the world is "being held back by almost punitive levels of insurance premiums".

The Premier made these public comments after attending a Cairns Community Forum I organised in October, where he had the opportunity to hear first hand from locals just how much pain the insurance issue is causing our community.

Our focus on tackling this issue is also why our government established the NQ Insurance Taskforce, chaired by myself. Our task was to compile an Action Plan to tackle this issue, which was released in November and featured 10-points to drive down the price of insurance premiums.
But in his article and related four point petition, Mr Ward fails to understand that the insurance industry is regulated by the Federal Government.

That is not buck passing. That is fact.

Just like policing, hospitals and schools are state responsibilities, issues such as national security/defence, Medicare and foreign affairs are Federal Government responsibilities. So too is the insurance industry.
While the state will do everything we can to address the issue, as outlined in our ten point Action Plan, most of the points Mr Ward raises requires Federal legislation Indeed, of the four points raised in his petition aimed at the "the state government of Queensland", only one of them (point 2) relates to the State Government. Points 1, 3 and 4 all require Federal legislation.

In his article, Mr Ward also claims that my website "has no reference at all to this issue", implying that I have not paid attention or acted on the insurance issue.

In fact, my website contains six separate articles dating back to October outlining the work our government and I have so far undertaken to tackle this complex issue.

Mr Ward fails to acknowledge any of the above, or the work we have already completed in terms of natural disaster immunity funding (such as our funding to help flood proof homes in the Cairns area around Moody Creek) or data sharing initiatives in partnership with the Insurance Council of Australia to force insurers to use the very latest and greatest sets of data when calculating premiums.

In terms of taking a lead on this issue, the Premier and I sought and attended a meeting with Federal Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos in Brisbane in December, where we agreed to formulate a bilateral policy response to this issue. Work on this bilateral Action Plan is currently underway within the Premier's Department and the Assistant Treasurer's office.

This complex issue is already causing enough pain in our region without misinformed articles further adding to the confusion and angst among local homeowners.

Kind regards,

Gavin King
Member for Cairns
Richard Lavender, Oak Beach, 14-12-13 10:12:
Hi Everyone! Some support for this idea would be helpful.

We all have opinions and we all want to be heard.

I suggest that council embrace an internet 'FREE' product called Disqus http://disqus.com/ This product allows an online 'real time' discussion environment where surveys, public comments, and debates can be held without leaving the comfort of your home or office. Using programs like this also reduce the carbon footprint travelling to and from meetings. It also allows shire residents living a greater distance away from a designated location to attend meetings.
Deborah Favier, Daintree, 13-12-13 12:52:
To the Honourable
Mr David Crisafulli
Minister for Local Government
Community Recovery and Resilience

Dear Mr Crisafulli

Re the costs of de-amalgamation, I commend you for standing firm to your word, & for clarifying that the costs of de-amalgamation are the responsibility of the successful proponent councils. This issue is still being dragged through the media which is certainly not helping any ongoing relationship between a fledgling Douglas Shire Council & Cairns Regional Council.

I wish to clarify certain points.

It has been stated in the media that Cairns Regional Council is attempting to shed unwanted staff. This is not only highly offensive to the staff concerned, but it contradicts the fact that CRC will be collectively losing a number of highly trained staff, with years of expertise that will be difficult to replace. The de-amalgamation process that has resulted in a loss of valuable staff represents a blow to CRC & it is one that was not initiated by the Cairns community.

As a resident in Daintree I see it as a distinct advantage & a cost saving measure to a fledgling council to inherit staff that could hit the ground running and who are already experienced & knowledgeable re our council. A new council will have enough problems without the added burden of having to source new employees from January 1.

Without prejudice, the publicly advertised Queensland Treasury Report made it distinctly clear to me that the proponent councils would be responsible for all costs associated with de-amalgamation. The QTC, Cairns Regional Council & the Proponent councils put forward their estimated costs, including the one-off costs, the fixed asset costs & the ongoing costs. The detail of costs was not teased out in any of these reports, so it is in my opinion erroneous to claim that the state government never informed us that the staffing cuts would be a de-amalgamation cost. This was understated as were other details of costs, but it was my interpretation that staffing costs would be covered by the section, “Governance, Planning & Implementation Costs” as well as the “Industrial Relations Costs” which the QTC estimated to be collectively $967,000 and the Proponent council to be $800,000. It should also be noted that the QTC Report considered its estimates to be conservative, ie estimates only. Please note also that the Proponent council had put forward an additional cost of $500,000 for “Other” costs.

Under the de-amalgamation guidelines established by the state government it appears that CRC could transfer up to 165 staff. Fewer than this number have been identified for transfer by CRC.

Minister, the QTC Report clearly states that the successful proponent council will be responsible for the costs of de-amalgamation & the costs of the remaining council. Mr Crisafulli, it is my concern already, that the dysfunction of the former DSC is being aired like dirty linen and that some of our council members may continue to argue for years, the point as to who is responsible for these costs. I am aware that your office has released a statement to clarify certain facts, but I urge you to release a further statement to end this dysfunction that is playing out in the media. Conflict may sell newspapers but it does not bode well for a harmonious community, tourist destination or a harmonious council.
Geoff Henderson, Forest Creek, 13-12-13 10:24:
Traffic lights at Mossman Woolies? Must be a ridiculous joke. Is there a serious history of collisions there that might justify the expense? Why was a roundabout built at the Port Douglas intersection instead of traffic lights where there is a history of vehicle accidents? And if the risk is so high at Woolies because shoppers and drivers can no longer manage an intersection, isn't the risk much higher and the stakes much more serious when the schools are active. Another set of light there too? That at least is worth some thought.

This is a case of deflecting some possible liability rather than addressing a demonstrated need.
Andrea Collisson, Oak Beach, 12-12-13 04:23:
Thank you Deborah. It is generous of you to compare me with Gandhi. I wonder if i could dine out on that notion.
Anna Addati, Oxenford, 11-12-13 17:37:
Hi My name is Anna and I live on the Gold Coast, while visiting Port Douglas, my family and I were very disappointed to find a severe lack in disabled facilities for my wheelchair Son. we had planed for a holiday to see the Great Barrier Reef for quite some time,we are from Melbourne, and after 20 years on the Gold Coast we finally managed to visit the North of Queensland. Our biggest problem was with transport, after a beautiful day at the barrier reef, we found we could not get back to our units in Palm Cove, because of NO wheelchair taxis in port Douglas, it took a little over an hour of phone calls to get some kind of transport to get us back, thanking the staff of Quicksilver tour who helped us find a taxi, the taxi came from Mossman.
The staff and the tour with Quicksilver were amazing, but very disappointed that such a big company like so has no facilities for disabled people, while everyone on tour gets picked up by coaches for an extra $26 per person return the person on a wheelchair needs to find their own way there, it coasted us $130 to get there and an extra $180 to return because the Taxi came from an other suburb, luckily we did not stay in Port Douglas as we did not know about this issue, we would have not been able to sight seeing, I would like to thank the staff from quicksilver tours, for making all those phone calls and the the Taxi that come to pick us up from Mossman,exclusive for us. Visitor from the Gold Coast
Michael Bolt, Mossman, 11-12-13 13:55:
To the Honourable
Mr David Crisafulli
Minister for Local Government
Community Recovery and Resilience

Dear Honourable Minister

I refer to my email to you of 29 November 2013.

I set out below the last paragraph of a release by your office on the matter of the DSC being lumbered with CRC redundancies and draw your attention to the attached QTC report.

“Any redundancies that result from this process are a cost of de-amalgamation. It has always been made very clear to the community that Douglas Shire Council would be responsible for these and other costs associated with de-amalgamation.”
With respect, it was never stated that redundancies would be a cost to be paid by the new council.

The QTC Analysis of de-amalgamation does not entitle or endorse the transfer unwanted staff to the new DSC. There is no reference in the report for DSC to pick the bill for CRC redundancies. At page 14 of the QTC report it clearly states the number of staff to be utilised by the new DSC at 150.

The proposal by CRC to transfer 163 staff is contrary to the Analysis and flies in the face of the logic of presenting the community with an efficient model.

I must draw your attention to the error of stating that 150 staff transferred to CRC from DSC at the time of amalgamation. Whilst the former DSC had 150 positions at the time amalgamation was announced in August 2007 there were only about 130 actual personnel transferred to CRC in March 2008, as many DSC staff had found alternative employment.

Furthermore also I draw your attention to page 17 of the QTC report where it states that 117 staff will transfer back to DSC from CRC at amalgamation and that the new Council will have to recruit 33 additional staff to bring its staff complement back up to 150.

It remains in the best interest of the new DSC to allow the Transfer Manager to recruit the appropriate and necessary staff and for you to support that outcome in conformity with the QTC report and not permit staff that are unwanted by CRC and unsuitable to the new council to be transferred to DSC.

Your faithfully

Michael Bolt
Deborah Favier, Daintree, 11-12-13 11:26:
Andrea, points taken. I agree that civil disobedience has its place. It's just that in this case I don't see Cairns Regional Council as the bogeyman. If one wants to go to the source, the original cause for amalgamation was the DSC dysfunctional council. I see no point in blaming a council for following due process, a council that never wanted to marry us in the first place.

I resisted by responding to information that didn't sit right with me. I would expect any one else to do the same.

It's important therefore, that we have a council (& governments) that can function with accountability & transparency & that listen to their constituents, rather than follow their own one-tracked agendas. This is the ideal situation. Unfortunately egos come into play & unfortunately also, our world is becoming over-governed, over-regulated because of fear of litigation, eg. a council chopping trees down, from fear of being sued if it comes down on someone's house during a cyclone. Your suggestion to replant trees has merit.

Civil disobedience also has merit. When Gandhi, at the peak of his political career, was asked in a British court what his professional career was, he answered, "Resister". If he was in a situation that conflicted with his ethics or beliefs in what was right, he felt compelled to resist, consistently, but effectively, until the situation was set right.

It's important that we all speak out if we see or read something that upsets us, be it a tree that's being cut down, an animal that's being hurt or the truth being distorted. Andrea, you are, like Gandhi, a passive resister.
Andrea Collisson, Oak Beach, 10-12-13 11:57:
Sandy I commiserate with you, although it sounds silly to say that. The loss of any big tree is an occasion for sadness and even anger when it seems to be done so stupidly or contra the rules.

Of course we don't know if there is good reason for its removal but having seen the way these things tend to be done by those in power even on my own land, and what a hack job these contractors tend to do.

All i can suggest is that every time a big tree comes down like this, a replacement is immediately planted in its place. I happen to have a spare rain tree seedling that you could have if you want it. Its about 2 foot high and they grow really fast. Do you want it? If so, send me a message via Facebook and we can work something out.

Previously i had written a long reply to each of the points made by Deborah. Luckily in a way it didn't go through because it was long.

However given more time to think about it, rather than rebut each of her points, i will just say that i had no expectation that someone like Deborarh would consider boycotting Cairns. And the suggestion of the boycott was only a wild suggestion.

Really i wanted people to come up with ideas of civil disobedience that would be effective and more fair against the CRC.

I would also point out that when i suggested a boycott, i had no intention of suggesting people don't go to the botanic gardens or any other free events or experience that would have no impact on the council. Whatever civil disobedience is done, has to be something they could feel in the bank or as public pressure.

Short of breaking the law - because i am not recommending that in any dimension. Its seems to me that civil disobedience is perhaps what we need more of in this region because the legal structures and processes seem to be having no positive effect when the mass majority of the public rejects the governments and councils actions. eg forced amalgamation, tree removals, forced changes to water, and so on.

I'm not an activist by nature but i'm starting to think i might become one.
Sandy Simpson, Port Douglas, 09-12-13 15:02:
To Div 10 Cr Julia Leu
Cairns Regional Council

Hi Julia,

I am compelled to write you after once again confronting tree loppers removing a huge (at least 30m ft high) rainforest tree with enormous, dense canopy, from the state-owned rainforest strip behind 20 Solander Blvd, Port Douglas.

I confronted MPBD tree loppers, who told me they had approval. As I doubted that it could be possible to remove such a significant tree, I phoned Mossman council, who told me they didn't have approval for it and would send someone out. I requested they also telephone MPBD to stop work on it immediately.

As nobody came out within the hour and logging continued, I phoned Cairns Regional Council office, and was informed that Sean Cooper had authorised the tree removal.

I am informed by John Sullivan that this person is not qualified to authorise the removal of such a tree from state land.

I then phoned DNRM who informed me that new laws came into force on the 2nd December, governing the protection of these trees. I thought you may be interested to know this, if you were not aware already.

Apparently, Cairns Regional Council are still informing people that they can still self-assess these trees if the tree is on their land and remove them without any approval, which is apparently no longer the case.

They are still sawing this beautiful tree down and it is too late to save it, but it would be wonderful if you could please inform the people who are sanctioning this behaviour to stop it forthwith, otherwise we may not have any significant trees left protecting us from cyclones.

If it is left up to out-of-state investors who own these holiday let houses and the loggers, this will be the case.


Sandy Simpson
Port douglas news daily