Saturday, October 30, 2004

Planes to land in William St

Contrary to serious concern about allergenic reactions to plane trees, 80 of which are set to be planted in William Street, Council has received advice that they do not cause serious allergy problems.

From a Clover Moore press release:

'Allergy experts at North Shore Hospital, Concord Hospital and the Woolcock Allergen Unit (Sydney University) confirmed that whatever is planted will be an irritant or allergenic for some people. Sheryl Van Nunen, Head of Department of Allergy, at North Shore Hospital, advised that Plane Trees are safer than many other trees as they do not produce comparatively high levels of pollen.

The consistent advice from experts was that Plane Tree pollen is "not on their radar as a primary allergen". Suspected Plane Tree allergic reactions were more likely to be caused by grass pollens, which people react to during the same season as plane trees are producing pollen.

Our research also found that some information being circulated in the community and to media is wrong or taken out of context. The following claims, in particular, need to be corrected:

* "Plane tree pollen counts of 3000 grain per cubic metre": This is a figure for the entire season. A study done in Homebush found an average daily count of 35 grains per cubic metre, well below the 80 grains commonly recognised as inducing rhinitis.

* "Plane trees have a three month pollination season": Plane Trees in Sydney have a maximum season of one to one and a half months.

* "Pollen is the number one cause of asthma and hay fever": Viral infection, rather than pollen, is the number one cause of asthma attacks.'

Funny then, how so many people are launched into coughing fits from the seeds (and their hairs) getting stuck in their throats. Coughing fits, I imagine, would trigger asthma attacks among sufferers. This doesn't seem to be 'on the radar', though.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Community forums fail to deliver

Commitments made by council at community forums don't seem to be worth the hot air they generate, at least where Kings Cross is concerned.

Months after several main street issues were brought up at council and PACT community police meetings, nothong much has changed.

Repeated assurances that the library would be closed for only (another) two weeks are now shown to be laughable in the face of continued renovation activity in council's building. It will be open 'on Monday', we are told, and smick glass doorways leading to a formidable staircase are being revealed as I write. While that is a mere two weeks longer than promised, it it is still double the estimated time and part of an all-too-familiar pattern -- I have a brochure with Lucy Turnbull's face on it promising the library would be opened 'in a grand heritage space' IN EARLY 2004.

More interesting to those affected, though, is the snails pace of work on the eastern side of Darlinghurst road, and which businesses are getting work completed outside their premises and which are not.

Locals, doing the thinking for Ford Civil Contractors and council, came up with the idea that parking bays on that side of the street could be progressively opened for parking as they were completed -- proximity to parking is a great boost to turnover. Great idea, replied councillors and staff.

One subsequently was -- although it is full of contractors' vehicles all day which seem subject to no time limits and are not policed by the ever-vigilant council rangers. Two other bays now complete are occupied by stored granite tiles in one case and cement-mixing materials in another.

We note that the bay outside council's own property is complete, but businesses towards Bayswater road which have now been hidden behind construction fencing for seven months now, are still looking at cyclone wire and bare concrete.

On the other hand, as predicted by yours truly at the last Council Forum, the Bourbon already has its seating back on fresh new pavements (and good luck to them -- that's how it should be).

It certainly doesn't contradict the commonly held local opinion that the whole purpose of the streetworks was to drive 'the wrong kind' of businesses to the wall so the Cross could be opened up for unlimited cafes and the ubiquitous franchises so beloved of those selling over-priced units, and people desperate to get onto some sort of social 'A' list.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Now it's a February finish for streetworks

Those sick to death of the eternal roadworks blighting the Cross will be pleased to know that the latest finish estimate is February 2005, according to a business person who is waiting to open a vacant shop. Latest excuse: the rain. Meanwhile work continues at the usual snail's pace, with no extended hours in evidence. What's the bet that the original nine-month job will actually double?

Better news is another well-sourced rumour that a Doyles seafood restaurant will be moving into the top floor of the new council building. The new library, however, still isn't open (remember, it was going to be closed for only two weeks!).

Redfern to be gentrified

You can't improve an area without gentrifying it, stated Frank Sartor this morning on 702 radio while touting Labor's intention to re-develop the Redfern area with another 'grand plan' .

He was responding to Angela Catterns who was concerned about the impact of the 'grand plan' on the Block and the Redfern indigenous community, which suffers 60% unemployment and a much bigger heroin problem than the rest of the community.

The only logical conclusion is that Sartor thinks the re-development will either gentrify the indigenous community, or displace it. Judging by the results of Frank's plans for the Cross, displacement is the real agenda. Gentrifiers love displacement -- for example the push by Stephen Carnell of the Kings Cross Partnership to have the public phones removed from the corner of Bayswater and Darlinghurst roads because drug dealers use them. This ignores the fact that those phones are so well-used only because the phones from in front of the station had been removed for the same reason, forcing the phone traffic closer to businesses which are now worse affected. A great analogy would be re-arranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic. Displacement is no solution.

I can remember in 1973 when the Block itself was supposed to be the magic bullet, the theory being that problems would be solved by granting communal ownership of an area so tribal patterns could operate -- as distinct from shoving Aboriginal families into white communities and expecting them to adopt a nuclear family culture. That didn't work -- according to Anglo standards and statistics, although getting rid of the Block is not necessarily an answer either.

Clover Moore has responded, agreeing that action is needed, but it must be 'the right action' (click headline for ABC story).

In both Redfern and the Cross, the biggest single action which could mitigate the worst problems is controlled supply of heroin to registered addicts. This would, over time, reduce daily dosages, slash the demand which supports the illegal dealer chain, and remove the motivator for most of the real crime inflicted on the rest of the community. Bob Carr however totally rejects this. After all, the other path will make massive profits for developers and fuel ever more expenditure on policing and jails.

A clue about the 'grand plan' was revealed when the president of the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce phoned 702 to complain that they had not been consulted by Sartor. Sound familiar? Breezy Frank said he would welcome a call, even managing a hint of a chuckle.

Opposition leader John Brogden thinks it is a plan for a new government authority above Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, according to today's Telegraph. In that he is correct -- but his solution of bulldozing the lot is essentially the same as Labor's -- just less subtle.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Spike spikes Abe

Spike's little piece on Abe Saffron in today's SMH has instigated a bit of would-be revisionism.

Abe is to be commemorated in one of the brass plaques to be unveiled by the Lord Mayor at 7pm Saturday 13 November near the El Alamein Fountain, followed by 'Mother Inferior does the drag' hosted by the Sidsters of Perpetual Indulgence -- part of the Kings Cross Arts Festival, now on.

The plaque pays tribute to the musicians of the Cross and Abe Saffron is included because he employed so many of them at his nightclubs -- and, apparently, paid them well.

But some locals are a bit upset about Abe's infamy in other areas and are asking Council to exclude him -- even though other pavement plaques, all written by council historian Shirley Fitzgerald, include Tilly Devine and Kate Lee of Razorhurst Fame, and deal frankly with the mixed history of the Cross. Maybe you have to be dead to be acceptable. Mr Saffron is only on a cruise.

Tanya swings into the limelight

Tanya Plibersek, federal member for Sydney, has landed the Family and Community Services shadow ministry in the Labor opposition front bench, after being returned with an increased majority.

She will be well in touch with her job as she is expecting her second child in February.

How we voted:

Overall swings:

Labor +2.76% Liberal -0.14% Greens +6.79%

Local booth results:

Kings Cross: _____Labor 44.68%__Liberal 26.50%__Greens 16.67%

Roslyn Gardens: __Labor 39.30%__Liberal 37.70%__Greens 13.07%

Potts Point:_______Labor 38.24%__Liberal 37.70%__Greens 13.78%

Darlinghurst: _____Labor 40.00%__Liberal 37.35%__Greens 12.45%

Woolloomooloo:___Labor 50.04%__Liberal 31.26%__Greens 10.64%

Monday, October 25, 2004

Clover reveals election funding

Another press release from Clover Moore follows. Funny how the weekend papers failed to cover this:

Election campaign funding reports for March local government election show some City of Sydney candidates received large donations from development interests, while many funding sources for the major party
candidates are hidden by head office collections.

In contrast to the other candidates, my campaign was supported by small donations from the community. I received $29,201 in donations of amounts of $1,000 or less. Of this, $20,000 came in donations of $500 or less. I also received $30,000 from the Living Sydney group.

As a community independent, I have relied on community donations in all my campaigns. Many large donors expect access and influence in return, and the domination of developer funding to the major political
parties clearly tips the balance against residential and environmental amenity.

In the recent election I returned a $2,000 donation because I had suspicions it had potentially come from someone with developer associations. I did not receive any donations from developers and went to great lengths before and during the campaign to ensure that I did not accept any donations—financial or in kind—from developers.

I strongly support a motion proposed for the local government association conference next week, by Mayor of Manly, Peter McDonald, my former independent colleague in State Parliament, for a Charter of Political Reform that deals with open and accountable reporting of election funding.

We need to improve transparency and accountability in campaign funding and political donations.

New Business Forum good for big business

Below is a press release from Clover Moore about a new business/council forum. While this sort of thing is needed, small business people still lack an effective voice. A simple way to end a lot of the excess bureaucratic load being placed on small businesses would be for Council to survey them about the ten most onerous and unnecessary council measures they suffer. Then a working party could analyse these and put forward changes designed to support small business instead of opressing them. Anyone want to take it up?

The press release:

Council has been working with major City business groups to create a forum to cooperatively advance the City's interests. It is the first time that the City of Sydney and the CBD business community have come together in such a coordinated way.

Our CBD is the commercial centre of Australia. About a quarter of Australia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stems from Sydney and many residents live in the inner city to access employment.

Founding members of the new City of Sydney Business Forum are the Australian Retailers Association (NSW), the Committee for Sydney, the NSW Urban Taskforce, the Property Council of Australia, the State
Chamber of Commerce and TTF Australia (Tourism & Transport Forum).

The founding business organisations have also nominated high profile individuals to represent various sectors in the CBD, including general business, commercial property investment, residential development,
small and large retailers, transport and communications, architecture, planning and heritage and the cultural and entertainment sectors.

We have identified five priority issues for the Forum to work on initially–the transport needs of the city, the economic and growth needs of the city, city amenity, sustainable development and development and planning issues.

The City of Sydney Business Forum recognises that the city represents business as well as residents. The Forum complements the community forums we are holding across the wider City of Sydney.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Fig tree blues

A well-written comment posted somewhere below:

Here's a copy of the e-mail I sent to Council today 22/10/04.

Dear Clover and Councillors,

Further to my e-mail of 6/10/04 re the destruction of the giant fig tree in Macdonald Lne, Potts Point:
I read with interest your 'city forest' approach to the greening of Sydney in Monday's newspapers. It is very commendable and necessary. Congratulations on your initiative.
It was, however, a great pity that more effort was not made to save the magnificent Port Jackson fig tree which was chainsawed on Wednesday 6th October in Macdonald Lane (behind Challis Ave)
Potts Point.
The owner of the property Rucksack Rest was allowed to have this wonderful tree removed because the roots were damaging his sewer pipes. What rubbish - pipes can be replaced with plastic pipes.
This tree was irreplaceable.
I have spoken to the City Council arborist, Matthew Waring, and he assures me that the tree was destroyed on condition that a replacement tree is planted.
Now, here is my point. I have spoken to the owner of Rucksack Rest (and voiced my disapproval of his action). He said he will have the stump removed in a year (as it has to die properly) and then
build a car garage where the tree was. (He did not mention a replacement tree.) DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN !! The property in question is on a blind corner and is unsafe and unsuitable for car
SOLUTION: I would like Council to remove the stump and plant an established tree with pipe-friendly roots as soon as possible. This could be part of your 'greening initiative.' It would give the many
apartment dwellers, who like me have had their wonderful tree destroyed and now look at other apartment windows, a peaceful and attractive outlook once again. The countless species of bird who have
lost their haven would sing with joy once more. And this part of Potts Point would once again have contented and happy citizens.
I would appreciate a reply.

Thanks and regards,

Thursday, October 21, 2004

KX questions to Council

After four days there has been no answer from Council after emailing Kings Cross Place manager Linda Mearing with some urgent questions (see story below, same headline). My email was down briefly yesterday morning, so just in case, this email was sent a minute or two ago -- 11.45am, 21 October 2004:

'Dear Linda,

Did you receive the urgent email I sent you on Monday on behalf of readers of the Kings Cross Times? It is now
Thursday and I haven't received any answer or any acknowledgement. (text below)

regards, Michael Gormly'

Watch this space!

Miranda flays Clover

The right continues its campaign to undermine city councillors with a tirade from Miranda Devine in today's SMH (click the headline to see it).

Long on rhetoric but very short on substance, Devine shows either gross insincerity or apalling research skills by trotting out the old line that Clover Moore is inconsistent because she opposed the destruction of the Domain figs trees but approved the removal of those in Hyde Park.

I have pictures of the trunks of both sets of trees, taken in cross-section after they were cut down. The Hyde Park trees are rotten from the core, and Miranda Devine could have ascertained this fact just by walking up to the park and looking at those sections left behind to prove the point. The Domain trees were relatively healthy and posed little danger to the public, and the Botanic Gardens Trust had reports to this effect. Widely available press releases from Clover's camp clearly debunk this and other furphys, but Devine fails to quote any of this information. She also fails to mention that councillors were not even informed by staff of the impending chop until the day before.

Devine goes on to praise Robert Domm and Frank Sartor at Clover's expense, then quotes Liberal Councillor Shayne Mallard who jokes about Clover pulling out the 'blame the bureaucracy' card from one of three envelopes.

But Mallard then goes on to say that Clover 'is locked into a cultural battle between a well-oiled "autocratic, centralised" council bureaucracy and a new community-minded council. "We demand a different type of council to the CBD, big-end-of-town council it was."

You can't have it both ways, Shayne, assuming you have been quoted correctly.

Devine's criticism boils down to an assumption that an autocratic undemocratic council is the only acceptable kind, and that a council which listens to the community cannot work. This is rubbish.

She goes on to typify community activists as people who 'oppose change of any sort'. This is also rubbish.

What about those activists, Miranda, who CALL FOR changes such as the reform of an autocratic staff culture which is actively undermining the ironclad mandate of an elected council? That is a far greater wrong than listening to the community, but it mysteriously doesn't bother Miranda and her right-wing colleagues. They are democrats only when it suits them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

400 rally for Sacred Heart Church

Saturday saw a large rally protesting the demolition of the Church and related buildings at the corner of Victoria and Oxford Streets (see Paul Keating story below).

The Catholic Church wants to build a medical centre on the site, close to St Vincents Hospital and under the Auspices of the Catholic Notre Dame University, based in Perth.

The church offered a compromise proposition which was supported by Clover Moore at the meeting but rejected by the rally.

The Archdiocese now proposes to preserve the 1880 school building & keep most of the church nave. The church would be closed, 18 to 20 metres of the east section of the church demolished, the mosaic made in the Vatican mosaic workshop removed to some unspecified location, and a six storey building for the medical school attached to the nave and going over to Victoria Street. There would be one office for a priest and an underground carpark. Rally organiser Laelie Schwartz said she didn't think it reasonable that the parish or community should have to book a room in competitioin with the university to be able to use the facilities.

A new community group was being formed to fight the re-development, with representatives from existing resident groups 2011 and DRAG. Click the headline to see pictures from the church - click 'gallery'.

Monica breaks out the saxophones

OK, the pressure has become too great to ignore this topic. Starting with a comment someone posted below:

'In today's Daily Telegraph the Lord Mayor says that she and her husband are the Bill and Hillary of Sydney.

Anyone for a cigar?'

Apparently the reference is to Hillary Rodham Clinton's close involvement with Bill's Presidential decisions.

Two heads are better than one, I suppose, especially if you are holding down two jobs.

Oh to be a fly on the wall of Town Hall's Oval Office.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Business people talking legal action

Some business people in the Cross are so annoyed at the slow pace of work on Darlinghurst Road they are talking class legal action against Council and/or the contractors. Legal advice has been sought.

Their intention is fuelled by rumours that businesses affected by Cross-City Tunnel works have already gained compensation.

Council has specifically ruled out any financial compensation for Kings Cross businesses. All of those we have spoken to, from pharmacies to internet businesses, report turnover being down from 30% - 80% compared to the same time last year.

Village politics erupts at Council

Low-level sniping aimed at Clover Moore from Labor and Liberal Councillors erupted last night when the Lord Mayor tabled an un-announced Mayoral Minute decrying such politicking.

Let's hope all the councillors remember their first task is to represent us and manage the city. Most of the sniping so-far smacks of politics and has lacked much substance, but it seems to be getting to Clover. Her attack has only worsened the political dynamics, although its own political intention might have been to mitigate the criticisms by exposing them as political. Read the SMH story by clicking the headline.

A reader posted the comment below. My toes are still tappin'.

'Labor councillor Tony Pooley in todays Sydney Morning Herald has given a name to the Clover Moore team. Well done Tony and why had it not been thought of before. THE VILLAGE PEOPLE.

In the Council
Yes, you can just do what you please
In the Council
Yes, you can put your mind at ease
In the Council
Come on now, people, make a stand
In the Council, in the Council
Can't you see we need a hand
In the Council
Come on, protect the cityland
In the Council
Come on and join your fellow man
In the Council
Come on people, and make a stand
In the Council, in the Council, in the Council (in the Council) '

Monday, October 18, 2004

KX questions to Council

The following email was sent to Kings Cross Place Manager Linda Mearing at 4.34pm on Monday 18 October. The answers will be posted here when they arrive.

'Hi Linda -- Readers of the Kings Cross Times have expressed concern about the library not yet being ready. Three related questions keep popping up, and I have promised to report on answers:

1. Can you provide the community with a new opening date for the library, and reasons for the extended delay?

2. Likewise, in reference to today's Telegraph story, people are asking why there appears to be little or no roadwork being done after 3pm even though extended working hours have been signalled for months. Is it a matter of no-one wanting to pay overtime rates?

3. The Llankelly Place lights have now been off for two months. Is Council still having trouble with parts suppliers, as you last indicated? When are they likely to be on again?

The above delays are particularly unfortunate considering the Arts festival has now officially begun. We are marketing it across inner Sydney, and part of our purpose is to promote Kings Cross. Is there any chance of Council fixing any of these problems in the next week or so? It would require someone fairly senior to change some priorities. Any likelihood?

These matters are now (again?) urgent. Can you help with information and /or some remedial action?

Best regards, Michael Gormly

Shayne throws curly ones to Clover

Local resident and Liberal Councillor Shayne Mallard has posted some probing questions on notice for tonight's Council meeting. He has picked up Robert Domm's criticism as published in the press last week that Clover couldn't handle the job and was appointing a 'royal court' of extra staff at the Office of the Lord Mayor (OLM) to compensate. Part of the Lord Mayor's answer follows:

'So that the Council can clearly compare staffing levels with those of former Lord Mayors, Frank Sartor with a residential population of 35,000 had 12 staff. Lucy Turnbull with a residential population of 84,000 had 12.6 staff. The residential base is
now 147,000 and the OLM establishment staff level is currently set at 18, there are currently 14 employed in the OLM, with 4 vacancies to be recruited.'

However other answers were more evasive. Mallard asked why the former General Manager Robert Domm had received nine months' pay upon his resignation when he was reported as having asked for only six months -- a difference of $69,333 by our calculations.

'Answer by the Lord Mayor
The amount of the payment to the former General Manager was made after obtaining legal advice, and I successfully negotiated within the parameters of that advice, and in line with the terms and conditions of his employment contract. '

Construction workers reject library books

People started turning up today to return books to the new library in Darlinghurst Road. However workers at the construction site would not accept them. One borrower had travelled from Newtown especially to return his book.

Council had promised to open the library today -- at the last Crest Forum we were assured that the two-week gap between the closure of the temporary library and the opening of the new one was just to move and sort books etc. Glimpses into the site reveal, not a library entrance, but the renovation from hell. We'll pursue council for a new opening date.

Meanwhile there is no appreciable speeding-up of the roadworks despite announcements that some night work would and has taken place. See today's Daily Telegraph story by clicking the headline.

And the Llankelly Place lights have been blacked out for two months now. Council said they were having trouble with parts suppiers. Shame to see the roads still dug up, the lights off and no library as the Kings Cross Arts Festival begins. Part of its purpose is to promote the Cross, but this stuff doesn't make it easy!

Anyone would think Council still doesn't give a stuff about the Cross.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Church Sacred to Paul Keating

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating has lent his support to People trying to stop the redevelopment of the Sacred Heart Church on the corner of Victoria and Oxford Streets.

'If it's a case of God or dollars,' Mr Keating said, 'let's have God without the dollars.'

'These important buildings... have a civility of a kind that would be dramatically altered by a campus and any retail and commercial development -- let alone the added traffic and parking.'

'A development of this kind pays scant regard to the body of the Church community of the Sacred Heart and is typical of the kind of railroading over which some Diocesen administrators have earned a bad name,' he said.

The church dates from before 1850. Archbishop George Pell wants to demolish it and the associated buildings to erect a campus of the Catholic Notre Dame University plus commercial development on Oxford Street.

There will be a rally tomorrow Saturday 16 October, on the site at 12 noon, when Lord Mayor Clover Moore will speak.

Click the headline for the full story.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Smokers chased down the road

Smokers will not be allowed to indulge their addiction either inside or outside pubs and venues if Council gets its way, according to today's SMH.

The reasoning is that they toss their butts into the gutter (cigarette butts, that is) and they end up in the harbour. It's true -- that surreptitious flick of the butt is really interesting to watch -- each smoker has their own technique and as a result these people cannot really complain about the ban as they have brought it on.

Perhaps though, rather than banning every possible risk out of existence, venues could be required to provide outside butt bins and service them.

My problem with smokers being relegated to one room in pubs etc (NSW legislation) is that most of my friends are smokers (they have more fun) and I will cop twice the smoke if I socialise with them.

To see full article click the headline. Here's a comment posted by a reader:

'Yeah and if you read todays Herald 14 October you will not be able to light up in a pub and according to Clover you will not be able to even stubb out the butts on the footpath. Kings Cross is the best place to go if you want to buy and have a smoko. This demonisation is a standard tactic of those who support prohibition and criminalisation. You have to ask why they have to distort the facts to justify their position.'

Have a say on Bourke St traffic study

The traffic gurus are deciding what to do with the intersection of William and Bourke once the Cross City Tunnel is finished. There are several options up for discussion although the preferred one is a ban right-hand-turns from William into Bourke (where the entrance to the Eastern Distributor will be re-opened), and a loop via Palmer St to get to the distributor. Hate that right-hand turn off Palmer into Cathedral -- the risk of a hard rear-ender is extreme. This will affect Cross and Darlinghurst travellers heading east, and has an impact on proposed East Sydney road closures.

There's a meeting hosted by Clover Moore at 6.00pm, 20 October at the Mary MacDonald Centre in Charles St Woolloomooloo (behind the cop shop).

You can download an information flyer by clicking the headline.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Council throws some light on Kings Cross

Kings Cross has been given the opportunity to come to life if Council's new draft signage plan is adopted.

The plan gives a green light to flashing and animated signage, and relaxes specific restrictions applied to sex industry premises by the previous council, which had attempted to limit these premises to only one sign.

'Creativity and innovation' in signage design has replaced a regime that enforced 'restraint' . Neon signage is to be encouraged in line with a strong push by locals and the Art Deco Society to have the neon heritage of Kings Cross recognised.

A few specific signs are to be retained after being identified in a heritage report commissioned by council -- for example the neon under-awning sign at 3C Roslyn Street.

The provisions recommend that signs are to be visually interesting and 'respond to the significant role of Darlinghurst Road as an entertainment precinct'.

The plan will be on exhibition for 28 days. Click on the headline to download the draft plan (item 3)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Street life no solution for mentally ill

A press release from Clover Moore:

I have again raised concerns about poor inner city mental health services, and met with the Minister for Health to get action, following an earlier meeting with both the Chief Executive and Acting Director of Mental Health of St Vincent's Hospital.

I asked the Minister to fast track the redevelopment of the inappropriate and dangerous nineteenth century Caritas psychiatric facility, which was promised by the Premier in the 1999 election, but still only listed for initial funds in 2008/9. The Minister agreed to try to fast track this project.

The Minister also agreed to look at ways to increase ongoing support for people with chronic mental illness, particularly those who have little prospect for rehabilitation and need more than crisis care. Because there are no supported accommodation places with intensive support, seriously ill people are left on the street. I raised several examples to demonstrate the shocking distress for many people with a mental illness.

Police, welfare, homelessness and health service providers tell me that they cannot get help for many people who have a mental illness. The majority of people sleeping rough live with an untreated or undiagnosed mental illness, service providers cannot get help for them, and they cannot get accommodation unless their mental illness is being treated. One third of St Vincent's Hospital patients are from
'out of area', but their funding is based on a formula based on the area's population. St Vincent's Hospital officers tell me that the 27
Caritas beds are always full, and they usually have others waiting for beds or waiting for assessment in the Emergency Department.

The hospital is restructuring mental health services but this will not solve the lack of service, withdrawal of outreach support into the community, or make up for the lack of help for people with a mental illness.

I am very concerned that the hospital must be funded to expand services and not just re-organise existing resources, and will report back again when I have received a response from the Minister for Health.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Now comes the real challenge for John Howard

It appears the hip pocket has spoken. The fear of rising interest rates, according to the pundits, has overcome all other issues including Iraq and climate change to return John Howard with an unprecedented increased margin in his fourth term.

Congratulations to Coalition supporters, and also to the Greens who increased their vote across the board. Sympathies to Labor supporters, who really seemed to be in there with a chance.

But now John Howard faces his biggest challenge. Not one independent economist agrees that a coalition victory would succeed in preventing an interest rate rise. Most see it as inevitable with US rates on the rise and a booming Australian economy. These are the last conditions in which an government should instigate the biggest spending spree in living history.

Both parties promised spending like there was no tomorrow in order to win this election, running down the very surplus which is credited with keeping rates steady. The spending will be highly inflationary and the inevitable interest rate rise will hit Australians hard. Record levels of debt have made us highly vulnerable to even a modest rate rise. The Coalition made much of the high interest rates we saw under Paul Keating but the fact is we are much more highly geared now because we have borrowed far more than we did in those days, and the debt load is not only now greater but there is no relief in sight -- then, interest rates could and did come down. Now, debt just won't go away and interest rates will rise.

If you add in very dangerous current account and trade deficits, John Howard will face treacherous economic ground over the next three years and is locked in to spending any future surpluses if he keeps his election promises. Deprived of his chief economic weapon, there may not be much he can do -- except blame world economic factors.

So the next election will present a very different scenario. Parties will have to present real solutions to real problems in order to gain peoples' votes and spending promises just won't cut the mustard. Meanwhile, don't get too heavily in debt!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Death drug was not ecstasy

The tragic death of a 19-year-old woman last Monday was blamed on the drug ecstasy by the Daily Telegraph yesterday.

However other news media report that the drug was PMA, which reportedly comes in tablets dubbed 'red mitsubishi' because of the three-pointed logo stamped on them, or 'orange CK'.

Ecstasy is the common name given to MDMA, a different drug which is far less dangerous.

People suffering a bad reaction from PMA present with unique symptoms resulting from a breakdown of their body thermostat, and doctors say this is very difficult to treat.

The Telegraph claimed there were 'at least 50 brands of ecstasy, or MDMA on the market,' making its misinformation very specific. It claimed that over 20 people had died in NSW alone since 1995 'since popping the party drug'. This figure was not sourced, and may include non-MDMA drugs.

What's the difference, you might ask -- especially if your information about recreational drugs comes from such inaccurate and sensationalised stories.

In fact it makes a lot of difference. MDMA is a relatively safe drug and the millions using it every weekend around the world know this by experience.

So when presented with the sort of inaccurate demonisation published yesterday by the Tele, many simply discount it as more propaganda, so genuine warnings about dangerous drugs such as PMA or GHB are discounted.

This demonisation is a standard tactic of those who support prohibition and criminalisation. You have to ask why they have to distort the facts to justify their position.

The death of the 19-year-old can equally be blamed on prohibition itself, as the girl and her friends did not seek medical help in time. Teenagers especially are known to avoid getting help because they are scared to admit to using a criminalised substance.

In addition, the supply chain behind these drugs is outside the law, therefore completely deregulated, and purveyors of PMA and GHB commonly mislead innocent buyers by selling their wares as ecstasy.

The far religious right have been screaming that regulated supply of drugs would put teenagers at greater risk.

The above case shows the opposite is true. For a more balanced appraisal of the dangers of MDMA, see a well researched site by clicking the headline. And if you don't believe them, try Dr Norman Swan's rundown at

BTW, we strongly advise people not to take red mitsubishi or orange ck tablets. GHB is often sold as 'liquid ecstasy' and should also be avoided.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Who gives a fig about heritage?

More chainsaw massacres.

An amazing old fig tree in McDonald Lane, Potts Point, was completely pulped yesterday morning in a dawn raid 'chain-saw massacre' says the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Society.

This was despite last minute attempts by Cr Phillip Black and strenuous efforts by Cr Chris Harris to make enquiries on how to save it. No evidence of this tree now exists.

The Heritage Society is now asking that all such further applications for removing trees over 5m be subject to normal DA procedures, with full resident notification and the DA going to council as a matter of course.

William Street trees for the chop

A letter to the editor:

Destruction of 27 Mature London Planes on William Street -- approved!

Shame Sydney City Council, Shame RTA, Baulderstone Hornibrook -- Local East Sydney Residents demand that the 27 wonderful leafy London Plane Trees on William Street, set down for the chop within the next few months be saved.

In a drought with water restrictions there is absolutely no excuse in suggesting these should go because of their 'distorted forms' with a replanting plan of 30 new trees to 'replace them'

How do you replace 27 mature established trees 30 to 50 years old, and for what? It was not the previous Council's decision to fast track the hideous granite paving program we are informed, but the current one's .

Leave us with our much loved trees -- please.

Robbie Hall

'Family impact' in Iraq

John Howard has come to an agreement with the 'Family First' party to include a 'family impact statement' with all new legislation if he is re-elected.

This is really touching, heart-warming motherhood stuff and a great way to preference-swap.

As these people all support the invasion of Iraq, perhaps they would like to write 'family impact statements' on the several children killed there last week while lining up to get sweets from the Americans, not to mention the growing list of adult deaths both Iraqi and American.

Or is it just our families who matter and the rest of the world can go to hell -- for the sake of higher profits for oil barons and arms manufacturers.

I wonder where Jesus preached that? I'd like a Bible reference please.

'Knives out' for Robert Domm

'A culture of secrecy' had been encouraged by Council's former General Manager Robert Domm according to Greens Councillor Chris Harris.

A perfect example, he said, was that councillors had been informed of the removal of trees in Hyde Park only at 4pm yesterday afternoon.

Angela Catterns on 702 radio asked Harris about Robert Domm's attacks on Clover Moore in the press, commenting that the 'knives seemed to be out' against the Lord Mayor.

Harris replied that 'the knives should be out' for Robert Domm as he had encouraged a culture of secrecy and had kept councillors badly informed.

A new, more open culture among staff would now be encouraged to enable them to work more closely with councillors.

Asked about Domm's claims that the Mayor was unable to properly do her job because she is both member for Bligh and Lord Mayor, Harris said she worked extremely hard and the staff culture of secrecy had been the real problem.

'Knives out' for Hyde Park fig trees

Several old fig trees in Hyde Park are to be removed by Council because they are diseased, according to a report on 702 radio this morning.

Tests done by Council's arborist and two independent arborists show that three separate diseases have weakened the trees which are an imminent danger of falling. Up to 75% of the roots have been turned to pulp.

In July a mature fig fell across the main avenue, one of several over the past year.

Greens councillor Chris Harris said the situation was totally different to that of the figs recently removed in the Domain by the Botanic Gardens Trust because those trees had turned out not to be diseased, despite repeated assertions to that effect from the Gardens and the state government.

An exhibition on the Domain and that tree-felling is running now at Town Hall, featuring photos by local Glenn Lockitch.

The Hyde Park figs will not be replaced immediately as the neighbouring fullgrown trees starve the younger trees of nutrients and light, and the soil is contaminated by the diseases, said Council's arborist.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Archibald challenge to proceed

Kings Cross Artist Tony Johansen's court action challenging the declared winner of the Archibald Prize has been cleared by the Attorney General to proceed. The first court action will happen tomorrow, Thursday.

At stake is the eligibility of Craig Ruddy's portrait of Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil to have been accepted in the $35,000 competition. The prize, according to the bequest of John Feltham Archibald, or as he was later known, Jules Francois Archibald, was to be awarded to a painting done from life.

Rules stipulated that 'the painting must be painted during the twelve months, preceding the date fixed by the Trustees, who may then exhibit the winning picture in the Gallery for two months after the award and who do not have to award the prize if "no competing picture shall in the opinion of the Trustees be painted worthy of being awarded a prize". - Note, no Prize was awarded for 1964.

The Johansen challenge notes that the blurb next to the painting at the NSW Art Gallery lists the medium as 'charcoal'.

It will be interesting to see how the trustees now defend this as a painting. Click the headline to link to the challengers' weblog and a further world of Archibald links.

Domm attacks Clover yet again

Departed Council General Manager Robert Domm has had yet another go at Lord Mayor Clover Moore -- this time in today's Daily Telegraph.

It's mostly the same old stuff about Clover being a part-time Mayor and having her eye off the ball. However Domm has added Clover's appointment of more personal staff to his attack menu. The paper does point out, however, that Council's area has doubled in size since the Sartor days.

Clover is pictured on a Queen of Hearts card with a list of her sins, including her diplomatic handling of the Aboriginal tent embassy in Victoria Park, going to the beach and, (sic) 'was criticised for attacked the use of sniffer dogs to fight crime'.

All this proves little except that Domm truly has it in for Clover, backing up allegations that he had been actively subverting the spirit of council and community decisions. Our council now has the chance to appoint a new GM who will reinforce the mandate of elected councillors.

It's raining doubletalk in the house of God

There has been some classic poppycock on the airwaves lately.

Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen gets the prize for his convoluted explanations why women are equal to men but should not become bishops. He quotes the Bible as the 'constitution' of the church and then says 'I believe the Bible says...'. So it's just a matter of belief, really.

While a clear majority of the three synods voted for female bishops, a two-thirds majority in all three is required for a change -- and this did not eventuate. Jensen tried to describe this as some sort of a mandate by boasting about the 'strong minority' that voted against women bishops. By that logic, Easts should have won the grand final on Sunday night because they scored a 'strong minority'.

Then there's the line that women are equal but they are different. God apparently gave men 'different' responsibilities eg they should be the 'leader' of a family, and therefore of the church. So, according to Jensen, a leader is equal to a subordinate -- just with different responsibilities! He brushed off questions about the many families headed by women.

Meanwhile the hard-core religious right is weighing into political propaganda -- these are the people who, along with Fred Nile, are getting a large share of Labor and Democrat preferences in the Senate this Saturday (a desperate attempt to block the growing Greens vote).

Their radio ads go back to the Reefer Madness days of the '40s with bad actors screaming that the Greens are going to expose YOUR children to drugs. The fact that your children are already exposed to drugs through a completely unregulated black market escapes their notice. Anyone with their eyes open who has raised a teenager lately knows that is is in fact easier for teenagers to get illicit drugs than alcohol because they don't need ID to buy them! Ironically, decriminalising the drugs and regulating their supply would limit access to drugs by teenagers -- the population group most prone to drug abuse because of their immaturity, and the group most vulnerable to potential harm.

So these fundamentalists are in fact advocating a system that increases harm to teenagers. (They also support the Iraq invasion even though children are being blown up all over the place as a result.)

You will be voting for these thin-lipped puritans if you vote above the line for Labor or the Dems on Saturday. To reduce the very real possibility of Fred Nile and his crew getting the balance of power in the Senate, fill out the whole form, making your own preference choices. Take a sharp pencil!

Keeping to the 'God on our side' theme, Donald Rumsfeld has finally admitted there is no hard evidence of any link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida. Gee, I thought that's why we invaded Iraq! And Paul Bremer has said that the US just didn't send in enough troops, and while he was administrator there,George W. refused his requests for more troops. You'd think if God was on their side they'd have better intelligence.

Police rammed TJ, say officers

Two Aboriginal Liaison officers from Redfern testified in the NSW Parliament last week that Police had rammed TJ Hickey during the police chase that led to his death, and the subsequent televised riot.

The teenager was found speared on federation-style fence posts after falling from his pushbike. His mother claimed at the time that she had seen the bike and the back wheel had been pushed in. Police denied that they had been chasing Hickey.

There are claims that the two Liaison Officers were pressured by police to remain silent. They did not testify at the Coburn Inquiry.

Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon and the Indigenous Social Justice Association are calling for the Coronial Enquiry to be re-opened and that independent legal representation be provided for the Hickey family.

'I have also written to the NSW Minister for Police to find out what investigations are being made into the allegations that police applied pressure to the Aboriginal Liaison officers not to speak out,' said Rhiannon

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Domm again attacks Clover Moore

See SMH story below in 'comments'.

Former Council General Manager Robert Domm's aggrieved comments cast little new light on the events surrounding his recent departure.

To interpret events accurately, one would have to know the nature of council's negotiations with the Johnson Review -- which the state government buried with unbelievable haste when this affair became public.

This hurried under-the-carpet action indicates the government must be very sensitive about the contents of the review.

If Clover Moore and John McInerney were keeping Domm in the dark about this review, one would have to wonder why there was apparently so little trust shown in the Council's top administrator. That might become more clear if the contents of the review were known.

While whoever gave the SMH Domm's letter seems to be no friend of the council we elected, it raises issues which need to be aired.

Clover's apparent generosity over Domm's payout, revealed in the letter, whatever its reason, is not a good look for this council -- and it is now incumbent on Clover Moore to clear the air. That's $69,333 of our money that needs explaining.

Noise complaints justified

A reader posted this fair comment underneath the first noise story below. There are other comments worth a look in that conversation, too.

'I am one of the noise complainants and a resident in Kings Cross, so I feel compelled to defend myself against the editors' comments.

'Right up front, let's establish that I am not an elderly spinster who is being disturbed reading the bible or a 'delicate soul'. I am a long time resident who works from a home office and can be objective about the noise levels in Darlinghurst Rd.
There are only 2 consistent objections I have against noise in the Kings Cross area.

'Strip Clubs - These clubs are pumping out music from external speakers for almost 18 hours a day into public airspace. This is against Council regulations in the City of Sydney. They are not live music venues but are trying to attract punters into the clubs.
Spruikers - The strip club spruikers yell from 9.00 p.m. till sometimes 06.00 a.m. in the morning, 7 days a week. This yelling has no real purpose but again to attract punters into the clubs. Most of the time they seem to be yelling at each other in conversation across Darlinghurst Rd or at the street sex workers.

'I do not have a problem with nightclubs or live music venues as that would be hypocritical as I frequent these venues. You will find that these venues are not the problem as most of them comply to licensing regulations, i.e. Bourbon, Vegas, DragonFly. Mostly, they contain the music within the venue, have security who attempt to control the noise levels of the clubbers waiting to get in and respect residents.

'The same cannot be said for the strip clubs as some of them are not licensed and are not governed by any licensing regulations. Moreover, their spruikers are supposedly self regulated, which means nothing.
Added to the roadwork noise which commences at 07.00 a.m. 6 days a week and you have a fairly intolerable situation for almost 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

'I have tried everything to block out noise and resent being accused of being a wowser. Earplugs are useless and I don't see why I should have to pay $1,000's to double glaze windows. I also don't see why residents should have to consider relocating to satisfy a few dodgy strip club operators, who seem to believe that they operate under their own rules without consideration to anyone else.

'I want Kings Cross to remain a place where people can come and listen to live music, party late and have a good time. The strip clubs and their spruikers contribute nothing towards enhancing this atmosphere.
I do not ever expect or want Kings Cross to be silent - that is a ridiculous concept, but is it really too much to expect that venues contain their noise within the walls of the venue, even if it is just after midnight ?'

Knitters unite for cold humanity

(A project under the auspices of the Kings Cross Community and Information Service)

The aim of our knitting circle is to knit,sew,crochet and create complete wraps for Wrap With Love, the highly successful program created by Woolloomooloo resident Soni Gidley-King.

'Cold humanity is our concern, humans caring about other humans' is the Wrap With Love motto which tells an inspiring story.

So if you're enthusiastic (or you know someone who is), can knit, sew, sort wool and needles, make the tea or would like to learn how to knit, please join us at

Reg Murphy Centre, Greenknowe Ave., Potts Point, every Monday at 10 a.m. Wool and a motlley assortment of needles available. Sewers and crocheters please bring own needles and hooks.

For further information ring Annette on 9358.2509

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Clover's got a better grip

Click the headline to see today's SMH story about an inside reshuffle of planning responsibilities in Clover's team. It's connected with the departure of Robert Domm, although we remain in the dark about all the details.

Deputy Mayor John McInerney's Planning responsibilities have been split into three -- Phillip Black in charge of DAs under four storeys, Robyn Kemmis in charge of those over four storeys and McInerney in charge of policy and strategy. Clover Moore chairs all three divisions.

Noise mafia exposed

This email received from a Kings Cross resident throws an interesting light on the noise mafia.

'Met a woman last week in the next door building who is possibly a local ringleader in this kind of activity. She's set her own curfew for local noise and believes that all sounds must cease at 11pm. And she'll walk the streets at night searching for distant sounds that she can then go home and phone the police about. (She is also sensitive to distant lights that are too bright too). She won't let the police into her building to investigate her complaints any longer because too often they haven't really found enough to justify the complaints. I would've hoped by now that she would be considered a nuisance by the KX Police but apparently she still has a high level of success. Her husband doesn't have the same sensitivity to sound.'

It's reminiscent of the old lady who complained about lewd flashers living over the road. When the cops came, they couldn't see anything. The old dear replied, 'but if you climb up onto the wardrobe and look down at an angle you can!'

Cyclists defend Centennial Park pedalling

An offended cyclist has posted a long comment beneath the cycling 'U-turn' story below, defending the use of Centennial park by cyclists and tearing up Alex Mitchell's story in the Sun Herald.

If the roads are death traps for cyclists, where are they supposed to go? The people complaining about this should look at their NIMBY syndrome and take a bit of 'live and let live' antidote.

Cllick the headline to see the centennial cyclists' web page.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Delicate souls suffer noise

The licencee of an entertainment venue in Kings Cross said today that every entertainment venue in the area had this week been on the sharp end of action resulting from noise complaints.

This raises the question: is there anywhere people can still go to listen to a bit of music and have a good time?

Those who complain about noise in the Cross might ask themselves why their particular sensitivity should totally overrule, in every last nook and cranny of Sydney, everybody else's right to party.

In all these cases it is one or two complainants exercising their particular preferences over those of tens or hundreds of others.

And the ridiculous noise laws of NSW support this uneven bias, as if the only valid reality is that of a mild-mannered spinster wishing to read the bible in total quiet.

If any of the complainants have ever patronised a venue where loud music is played, they are guilty of intolerance if not hypocrisy.

Meanwhile people living next to serial major development projects wonder why the noise they have to suffer, sometimes for years, is allowed.

The stupid thing is, the quieter the surroundings get, the more annoying become the slightest noises to these people -- as in the case of the Oxford Falls residents who recently complained about the noise of horses clip-clopping past.

Tip: annoyance at noise actually exists in the mind of the annoyed, and can be dealt with by means of basic mental discipline techniques, assisted by a recognition that other people have rights to their enjoyment as well.

Having lived in the centre of a 40-acre property surrounded on three sides by national park and fronting a river, I can assure you that potentially disruptive noise existed even there. (Think guns, chainsaws, roosters and bulldozers.) It's up to you whether you let it get to you.

Council to U-turn on bike lanes

It appears council's Richard Campbell (Manager Transport & Traffic) has lost his fight to banish the separated bike lanes proposed for William Street in favour of shared bus/bike lanes.

Cycle activists last night met with Deputy Mayor John McInerney and say that he is willing to reverse council's 13 September decision in favour of shared lanes. A BikeSydney spokesperson (no pun intended) said Campbell had 'hoodwinked' councillors. Many of these staff date from the Sartor days when council was notoriously anti-cycle and had taken no action on several council bike plans since the early '90s.

Liberal Cr Shayne Mallard, backed by Labor's Tony Pooley and Greens Chris Harris, had called for separated cycle lanes, Copenhagen style, to avoid the 'suicide lane' effect of shared lanes which expose cyclists to car doors being suddenly opened, and vehicles including buses crossing and stopping in the lane.

In most Western cities, 10% of passenger journeys are by bike. In Sydney it is less than 1%, with obvious impacts on traffic congestion, public transport crowding, and pollution. Cycle activists say the main reason more people don't commute by bike is the sheer danger of mixing with vehicle traffic on the roads.

Motorists should also welcome the cycle lanes -- they would not only get many cyclists out of their way, but it takes five or more cyclists to occupy the space of one vehicle on the road, so driving conditions and safety on the roads would improve disproportionately with every driver who switches to cycling.

Those resignations at council

Today's Telegraph story and editorial about six key staff resigning bring into the open what a lot of us had known for a long time -- that they were former senior South Sydney staffers with, as the Tele claims, 100 years' council experience behind them.

Word was that their lives had been made pretty miserable by the Robert Domm-dominated City administration to the point where leaving and taking a big payout was the only viable option.

Union sources say staff turnover in the merged council stands at 18% while the state average is 4-5%.

It is clear that, rather than a merger of the two councils, what has occurred is more like a takeover by the city. This is especially obvious on the streets where city rules have replaced South Sydney rules in every area from removing pole posters to parking fine practices. Much of this occurred during the caretaker period before this council was elected, so we are in effect living with an authoritarian takeover of former South Sydney territory by a council which none of those residents had elected.

The Tele's line is that Clover Moore's council is falling apart because she holds the position only part-time along with her job as MP for Bligh.

But most of the damage was done before she was elected, and the new council was forced to get on with it and live with the fait accompli of a dirty, anti-democratic takeover engineered by the state government.

Ms Moore clearly has a mandate that bears little relationship with the top-down culture of the old city council and the departure of Robert Domm opens the way for that mandate -- accountability to the community -- to filter into the attitudes of the administration.

This council is a quality line-up and opposing factions have shown the ability to work together on many key issues, political sniping being largely limited to sound-bites for the press, although there is no doubt the Labor and Liberal councillors are circling, waiting for cracks to appear among the Clover camp and their close ally, The Greens Chris Harris. That is to be expected.

However council will most likely ride out this storm and we will see real results later in their four-year term as their new policies mature. The only alternative is the old formula of developer-influenced major-party elitism.