Game of Mates

Dr  Cameron Murray is an economist whose interests are environmental economics, rent-seeking and corruption, and property markets. At the Cracks in the Concrete conference he spoke about his research, which examined the characteristics of landowners whose lands were rezoned by the Queensland government agency, the Urban Land Development Authority, and landowners whose proposals were rejected..

The rezoning of their land by the authority very generously gifted successful  landowners, increasing the value of their holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars.  Dr Murray discovered that you were far more likely to be rezoned if you had connected relationships – common business connections, membership of lobby groups, or had directors with business connection to the regulating board.

In the successful group, 90% were clients of professional lobbyists. The lobbyists had a 100% success rate, with no landowners who employed lobbyists missing out on the rezoning. And 70% of rezoned landowners were political donors. These donors special mostly donated to both sides of politics – they were “equal opportunity” donors.

Dr Murray concluded that success depended on how well you played the Game of Mates, which was a process of joining the club of insiders who were connected to the regulators. He identified three core ingredients in the political favouritism that contributed to the Game of Mates.

The first was that there must be a honeypot; a valuable economic gain able to be given to private entities with a degree of discretion about who receives it, and in his study, this was the untaxed wealth gained through the process of rezoning.

The second ingredient necessary is that there must be loyal group of mates who are able to sustain an implicit system of trading favours, a powerful club, which other powerful players can join, and which has a revolving-door relationship with the regulating authority.

Thirdly, there must be a plausible story to let the public believe that this trading of favours is in the public interest.

The Honeypot
The honeypot arises from the many discretionary decisions in the planning system. Councils have a massive amount of discretion over the interpretation where developers seek to exceed codified limits, such as height and density restrictions. Worse, under the new planning laws recently passed in Queensland, the person making these interpretations can now be chosen by the developers themselves.

Dr Murray argues that we can remove the honeypot  by charging for additional rights given to landowners and developers through the planning system.

Such a system has been successfully implemented in the Canberra since 1971. They charge landowners 75% of the value gains from the higher value uses they undertake. They also do not allow private developers to convert land from rural to urban uses, ensuring a public agency captures these value gains as well.

The ACT raised $183 million from these systems last year. Scaling up, that could be $1.8 billion in revenue in a single year to the Queensland government and councils that is currently given away to landowners through planning decisions.

Loyal group of mates
The second ingredient the Game of Mates needs is a loyal group of mates. Handing out favours is only politically expedient when you get something in return.

By establishing a loyal group through common membership of clubs and industry groups, family and business connections, and by signalling your intention to reciprocate with political donations, politicians and other group members are able to give favours, knowing they will receive them in the future. The code is simple: mates look after mates. Instead of taking direct bribes for each decision, they simply give favours to other group members, who later reciprocate, ensuring that any wealth diverted to the group is eventually widely shared amongst all members.

The property mafia

Dr Murray describes this as a Mafia-like system, and argues that it must be tackled by making it more difficult to return favours, such as extending cooling-off periods for politicians. At present Queensland politicians are able to walk out of the government office on Friday, and start work f a develope r on Monday. The independence of the planning system needs to be policed.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Game of Mates

Looking for the alternative heart of West End on a Friday night as related by the Reverend Hellfire

Looking for the Alternative Heart of

West End

songsnotbombs

Songs not Bombs

on a Friday Night

As Related by Reverend Hellfire

And so our Expedition set off for the bright lights and overwhelming aroma of Souvlaki that is West End’s Boundary Street on a Friday night.

Our Mission; to celebrate Kurilpa Poets’ Secretary John Treason’s advancing years and, on a professional level, find the legendary, Alternative Heart of West End on a Friday Night.

 

“It’s there out somewhere”, the Editor of the Kurilpa Citizen assured me, “possibly lying broken in a gutter, but it’s still there! I know it!!” and he wiped away a tear as he turned back to his 1978 Whole Earth Catalogue (1968: Ed.).

*

Now my Editor may be a sentimental old hippie, but he had a point. I mean, West End/Kurilpa has a Reputation doesn’t it?

Only the other week the Courier Mail’s right-wing crank-in-residence, Des Hougton, was calling us Kurilpa residents a bunch of progress-hating, sandal-wearing, carrot-chewing, bicycle-riding vegan anarcho-lesbians, and he made it sound like a bad thing.

But it’s a Reputation, ironically, that those most inimical to it’s interests often like to trade off. You’ve seen the glossy ads spruiking Real Estate to yuppie property investors; “Come live in vibrant, cosmopolitan West End and help drive out those who made it colourful and vibrant in the first place”.

And indeed, how much of that Reputation is still deserved these days, with the concrete towers rising up around us and the remaining pockets of tin and timber becoming the preserve of the Gentry who bought property here to fall within the State High Catchment Area. Does West End/ Kurilpa still have a Rebel’s Heart? Does it tuck that Heart into its sleeve like a pack of cigarettes and go strolling down Boundary Street on a Friday night? Does Rock n Roll George‘s phantom FJ Holden still come rolling down from the hills like fog? It was my job to find out.

*

I assembled a lively crew of ratbags, and as we rolled down first Sussex Street and then Boundary Street, our Mass attracted smaller bodies who became trapped in our Gravitational field and joined our group. Singer/waitress, Jem Sparkles, aka, the Queen of Sussex Street, was a valuable addition to our quest at this stage and later we enlisted the talents of local Poet & “Life model”, Fiona Privitera in our search for West End’s Revolutionary Soul.

It was good to see that St Andrews Church on the corner of Sussex and Vulture is still contributing to the area’s Alternative Vibe. With a large billboard out the front boldly proclaiming support for the Rights of Refugees, in the hall out the back you’ll find the Ecstatic Dance mob whirling and twirling every Friday night between 7-9 pm.  There’s a kind of sufi/hippie vibe happening here, a little bit of bush-doof culture sprouting in a suburban church hall. It’s always looked like enormous fun when I’ve peered through the windows, and one Friday night when I have itchy feet and $15 in my pocket (apparently the door charge) I shall go in and join them.

*

But dancing was scheduled for later in the evening so we proceeded on down towards the Big Lizard, where we were rendezvousing at the Rumpus Room. As always Buskers were strategically placed along Boundary street’s length providing a smorgasbord of sound, honing their craft, paying their dues and hopefully making a few dollars in the process. (I never made any money busking; decent folk would cross the street to avoid me while the street lunatics would cluster round, taking me for one of their own.)

The Boundary Street Buskers help stoke the pulse and beat of the Street scene on a Friday night. Make sure you have some change in your pocket and lets hope some Bureaucratic Bastard doesn’t get the bright idea of making them get a permit.

*

I must admit a growing fondness for the Rumpus Room (though I do think they should change the name to “The Big Lizard”).

The relaxed vibe, the friendly, casual staff, the regular “happy hours” and the usually excellent music grooving away inside, (not too loudly for conversation) all contribute to a suitable setting for sociability.

It also possesses what may be Brisbane’s best DOSA  (Designated Outdoor Smoking Area) where you can smoke in the company of civilised, consenting adults. Yes, when it’s not raining, the smoking section of the Rumpus Room is the place to be, right at the tip of the little spearhead of land where Russell Street meets Boundary and the Big Lizard looms large and lordly on his throne. The mixed crowd has a kind of “Ric’s Place” ambience (Casablanca reference here) and you never know who’ll happen by and join you. This is the perfect place to sit and watch the Heart of West End pulse and throb on a Friday night. Or if you don’t want to spend money, sit on the other side of the railings with the street people hanging around the Big Lizard, who it must be said, makes a very comfortable backrest.

*

Anyways, it was here we made our Base of Operations.

At intervals people went off to forage for a cheap meal. The Night Markets are now located in the warren of former alleyways and car parks behind the shops lining Boundary Street and were doing a roaring trade that night.

Several of our crew went grazing there and their reports indicated the food was generally satisfactory if a bit on the pricey side. My Personal Assistant sniffed something about “Botulism Alley” and opted for a huge hamburger from GRILLD down the road, which she promptly gorged and pronounced, “Better than McDonald’s”.

The Night Market’s food-stalls looked a bit touristy to me, and besides, I was looking for West End’s Alternative Heart.

Something old school was called for.

So I went back up the street and around the corner to KING AHIRAMS on Vulture Street, a genuine West End Institution and still home to the best (and cheapest) Falafel Roll in Brisbane. Ahirams has been there as long as I can remember (circa 82) and while I think it may have had the odd name change along the way, it’s generally always been known as “the Falafel Shop” by its many patrons.

Succeeding generations of back-packers, students, musicians, punks and drunks, hippies and vegetarians have all been nourished at its ancient, scratched counter, and pecked at by its feral pigeons.

Happily they haven’t felt the need to make any changes to fit in with West Ends’ new up-market image. No, they will never smile at their customers, but who cares? I get a damn fine Falafel with chilli, a couple of hot, crumbly cheese puffs, and a big hit of sugar in the form of one of Ahirams deadly Turkish Delights.

“Ah when Ahirams goes, that’s it for the Old West End!” I prophesized darkly to my Personal Assistant as I retook my place in the DOSA.

We fell prey to Nostalgia for a moment then for old Icons lost; Remember the Hellas Deli and the lovely ladies who worked there, we sighed? What about Georges, the best old-school fish and chip shop in Brisbane- now just another plastic eatery for the well-heeled and called the Catchment. Ah well, time for another Gin & Tonic.

Back in the Present across the road in the little People’s Park, the big-hearted “FOOD NOT BOMBS” crew have cooked up a great alternative-style feast for all, and are busily distributing to the Dispossessed, and those who choose to eat with them. The food is generally the traditional share-house rice and beans type vegetarian concoctions; hot, simple and satisfying on a cold Winter’s night.

Also in the park, providing a suitably alt-rock soundtrack is a kind of avant-garde girl punk band. (Though they have a boy drummer who appears to have mounted his drum-kit on a bicycle) I’ve been told they’re called “Songs Not Bombs“, though I can’t vouch for it. Their raucous sounds really seem to capture the mood of Boundary Street on a Friday night and I made a note to look out for future gigs.

*

Interesting noises had also been drifting down from the Boundary Hotel for some time, so eventually we decided to investigate. Alas we missed the band that had been playing upstairs, but we were in time for to see Spook Hill start their set in the Public bar. They immediately won our esteem by virtue of having a Theremin on stage. Always been a sucker for a good Theremin. It’s all those B grade 50’s science fiction/horror films I watched as a child. Anyways Spook Hill were smart enough to use it sparingly, and thus, rather than just a novelty noise, it provided another tasty texture to their overall Mix, a classic, gritty sound in the Brisbane Pub-rock tradition.

*

The Boundary Hotel was starting to get a bit of a “Meat Market” thing going last year (all air-head, bleach-blonde bimbos in embarressingly short dresses and an attendant swarm of predatory and aggressive males) but after local objections, the Boundary, to its credit, has listened to Community sentiment, reversed direction and now seems more inclined to continue the tradition of supporting local bands. A lesson learned; Boundary Street, West End is not the Brunswick Street sleaze-strip in the Valley.

Neither is it a yuppie eatery enclave like Oxford Street, Bulimba.

Boundary Street is untidy and alive and in a flux of social forces jostling for space. It is the last place in Brisbane where posters and flyers adorn every wall and telegraph pole. The Blacks and the Street People still maintain a presence despite continual police harassment (Hey Jonathon SRI! How about more benches for Boundary Street so you can sit down without having to buy something?), buskers still ply their trade, students can still afford to eat out cheaply here, young people still come here to live an “Alternative Lifestyle”. But the Forces of Greed are salivating over our little enclave, and it is rare that They don’t get Their own way.

Boundary Street is in the process of becoming something Unique. Or it’s being swallowed up by Faceless Gentrification.

Time will tell which.

*

Come the Chimes of Midnight we are dancing in the Public Bar of the Boundary Hotel to the sleazy rhythms of Stagger Lee as rendered by Spook Hill. Slippin’ and sliding over the tiled floor, it seemed an appropriate climax to the evening.

“Well” asked Secretary Treason, as the Bouncers later moved us inexorably towards the Exit,” Did you find it?

Did you find West End’s Alternative Heart?”

“Yes, actually, I did”, I replied, “It’s here”.

“The Public Bar of the Boundary Hotel?” he frowned,

“well, I guess..”

“No you Fool,” I cried, “Its Here!”

And I placed my hand on my Heart.

“For wherever I go, surely there is the Alternative Heart of West End!”, I said, smiling like a Saint, or possibly ET.

He looked at me with what I first surmised to be Wonder.

“Amazing,”he said at last, in a deadpan tone that turned out to be sarcasm, “it’s like you’ve got absolutely no Ego at all”.

“Mocker! Doubter!” I levelled an accusing, Old Testament finger, “For I tell you, where-ever two or three are gathered in my name and sitting on a bench waiting for cheque day or up a quiet back alley sharing a joint, there I am also! For I am the Spirit of West End! Seriously, I should get a grant from the West End Traders Association just for turning up in my traditional native costume and amusing the bus loads of Asian tourists that are always carefully shepherded to the Sushi Joint near Nandos“.

“Yes, and you could pose for pictures with Scandinavian backpackers at $5 a pop”, Mr Treason proposed, well, that or sell them drugs.”

“True”, I agreed, “we must be flexible and nimble in today’s shifting market conditions. Privileged First World Tourists cannot be overlooked as an income stream if the West End Counter Culture is to survive as a parasitic organism! There are Lifters and Leaners in Life, John, and I intend to do all the leaning I can!”

 

“By the Gods!”, he exclaimed”, “you really are the Alternative Heart of West End!”

“I always suspected I was”, I humbly confessed.

 

 

***

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Looking for the alternative heart of West End on a Friday night as related by the Reverend Hellfire

Brisbane residents break the Boundary

boundaryOn the last Saturday of winter, as the sun set over West End, local residents created a new public square by occupying Russell Street and throwing a protest party.

The headline act, local eight-piece The Mouldy Lovers, electrified the crowd with their big band beats prompting dancing to spontaneously break out in the street. What had moments ago been a dead sea of bitumen was instantly transformed into a buzzing social space.

Dubbed a protest with a twist, Break the Boundary was organised by Right to the City Brisbane. The group had held an ideas fiesta, Cracks in the Concrete, earlier that day. Pushing for more public space with greater community control, the group employed tactical urbanism as a means to achieve their goals on the night, if only temporarily.

In recognition that Brisbane was built on stolen  land, the Sovereign Women United were invited to participate in the occupation. Old hands at impromptu, powerful  actions, they arrived with red, yellow, and black paint for children to mark the giant fig with hand prints.

Roundly declared a success, the street occupation lasted for just under three hours before it was peacefully shut down by police with no fines issued. In refusing to apply for a protest permit, the organising group intended to raise the question as to who has the right to regulate and control how communities organise and exercise their democratic right to peaceful assembly.

In order to explain the logic behind the group’s actions, a beautifully illustrated zine was distributed on the night. Now available online, the zine included a call for a community debate to decide whether support existed to move ahead with a trial of the proposed square.

Break the Boundary challenged the traditional notions of what constitutes a protest. There were no political speeches and many passers-by may not even have realised it was a political event at all. Inspired by LGBT+ Pride, an event which is equal parts protest, community event, and a celebration of diversity, one of the goals of the night was always to blur the line between protest and street party.

Volunteers from the night reported a natural high that lasted for several days after the event. In exercising our collective right to the city, they experienced a rush of power quite alien to those of us who have grown used to contemporary Australia’s extreme regulation of public space.

In the months leading up to Break the Boundary, volunteers from Right to the City Brisbane put forward the idea to local residents and businesses and found there was almost universal support for the trial square.

Confidence piqued, the weekend prior to the event organisers knocked on the doors of local residents and popped into nearby business to let them know of the planned closure. There were no objections raised, many accepting the invite to come along on the night.

Break the Boundary is only the first of many interventions Right to the City Brisbane will be staging. We hope to have inspired our fellow neighbours to look at our city in a slightly different light. There is power in numbers and for those who wish to get more involved, join us at 6:30 pm on September 15 at The Red Brick Hotel, Woolloongabba for our next strategy and organising meeting, Streets of our Town.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Brisbane residents break the Boundary

Comrade Reeves: Tony Reeves (1940-2013)

JNmrdr 2

Tony Reeves 2007

The award-winning author and journalist Tony Reeves was your classic leftie, a genuine class warrior and true believer. He strove hard to be a modest and common man but was continually undermined by his uncommon compassion, commitment, larrikinism, humanity and grace.

He defied being pigeonholed but would not have objected to being variously labelled as a Marxist and a socialist – he would proclaim in a rare deviation from his unswerving atheism, “God forbid, call me anything but a rat and class traitor, an ‘effing’ Trotskyist”.

Tony Reeves was born on May 6, 1940 in Essex, then the family moved to Wales, away from the war. Treeves, as he was commonly known, learnt the language and his later Welsh choirboy impersonations were frightening.

In 1954 Treeves moved to Australia and turned his hand successfully to activities from cultivating roses to silversmithing, and also sewing. But his innate love of life, dedication to truth, unavowed commitment to bolshie left-wing beliefs and love of all things wordy and English led him into journalism.

No formal education, no degrees, but an uncanny love of the language and unadulterated life experience drew him to journalism on the chance he may be able to right the wrongs in his obsessive dislike of perpetrated corruption, deception, duplicity and outright criminal tendencies.

Starting as a copyboy on The Daily Telegraph, Reeves worked through his grades – no mean feat as he had no respect for authoritarian chiefs-of-staff and editors. He quickly became an investigative journalist and went on to work at the Daily MirrorThe Sunday Telegraph, the Sunday Australian, the Nation Review and the ABC. It was his forensic and multi-dimensional reporting that helped to bring about the Moffitt royal commission into organised crime.

In 1975 Reeves joined his close friend and investigative journalist Barry Ward in trying to unravel the apparent murder of Kings Cross newspaper publisher Juanita Nielsen.

They were continually rebuffed in their efforts to have the book published or to force a commission of inquiry to expose the truth behind this sordid tale of police and political corruption, of betrayal and heinous brutality.

Early on in Australia, Reeves also decided that the Labor Party was the best vehicle to implement his radical agenda, particularly his fearless advocacy of public housing, public transport and support of the green bans movement.

His drive and energy led him to spend seven years as a councillor on the Sydney City Council from September 1977.

Reeves fought to preserve Sydney’s historic sites from demolition and worked overtime to save inner-city suburbs, such as Woolloomooloo and The Rocks.

He was prepared to talk any time on urban conservation and his various campaigns saved many inner-urban tenants of low-rental homes from eviction and communities from disruption and dislocation.

In 1992, he moved to Queensland with his partner Kamala and organised a super-leftie branch of the ALP.

He was impressed by a rather left-wing barrister at one meeting saying, “I would far prefer to have a small cadre of left-wing comrades in this branch than a thousand careerist apparatchiks destined to embrace the ministerial leather in some sellout Labor government.”

In Brisbane Reeves returned to his freelance writing and publishing career. His interest was rekindled in investigating the criminal behaviour and corruption he had witnessed first hand as a young reporter in Sydney. His first book Mr Big: Lennie McPherson and His Life of Crime (2007) won the Crime Writers’ Association Ned Kelly Award for true crime. He followed this with Mr Sin: the Abe Saffron Dossier (also 2007) and The Real George Freeman (2011).

 

Jack Saunders

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Comrade Reeves: Tony Reeves (1940-2013)

Brisbane residents break the Boundary

On the last Saturday of winter, as the sun set over West End, local residents created a new public square by occupying Russell Street and throwing a protest party.

The headline act, local eight-piece The Mouldy Lovers, electrified the crowd with their big band beats prompting dancing to spontaneously break out in the street. What had moments ago been a dead sea of bitumen was instantly transformed into a buzzing social space.

Dubbed a protest with a twist, Break the Boundary was organised by Right to the City Brisbane. The group had held an ideas fiesta, Cracks in the Concrete, earlier that day. Pushing for more public space with greater community control, the group employed tactical urbanism as a means to achieve their goals on the night, if only temporarily.

In recognition that Brisbane was built on stolen  land, the Sovereign Women United were invited to participate in the occupation. Old hands at impromptu, powerful  actions, they arrived with red, yellow, and black paint for children to mark the giant fig with hand prints.

Roundly declared a success, the street occupation lasted for just under three hours before it was peacefully shut down by police with no fines issued. In refusing to apply for a protest permit, the organising group intended to raise the question as to who has the right to regulate and control how communities organise and exercise their democratic right to peaceful assembly.

In order to explain the logic behind the group’s actions, a beautifully illustrated zine was distributed on the night. Now available online, the zine included a call for a community debate to decide whether support existed to move ahead with a trial of the proposed square.

Break the Boundary challenged the traditional notions of what constitutes a protest. There were no political speeches and many passers-by may not even have realised it was a political event at all. Inspired by LGBT+ Pride, an event which is equal parts protest, community event, and a celebration of diversity, one of the goals of the night was always to blur the line between protest and street party.

Volunteers from the night reported a natural high that lasted for several days after the event. In exercising our collective right to the city, they experienced a rush of power quite alien to those of us who have grown used to contemporary Australia’s extreme regulation of public space.

In the months leading up to Break the Boundary, volunteers from Right to the City Brisbane put forward the idea to local residents and businesses and found there was almost universal support for the trial square.

Confidence piqued, the weekend prior to the event organisers knocked on the doors of local residents and popped into nearby business to let them know of the planned closure. There were no objections raised, many accepting the invite to come along on the night.

Break the Boundary is only the first of many interventions Right to the City Brisbane will be staging. We hope to have inspired our fellow neighbours to look at our city in a slightly different light. There is power in numbers and for those who wish to get more involved, join us at 6:30 pm on September 15 at The Red Brick Hotel, Woolloongabba for our next strategy and organising meeting, Streets of our Town.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Brisbane residents break the Boundary

Tony Reeves (1940-2013)

The award-winning author and journalist Tony Reeves was your classic leftie, a genuine class warrior and true believer. He strove hard to be a modest and common man but was continually undermined by his uncommon compassion, commitment, larrikinism, humanity and grace.

He defied being pigeonholed but would not have objected to being variously labelled as a Marxist and a socialist – he would proclaim in a rare deviation from his unswerving atheism, “God forbid, call me anything but a rat and class traitor, an ‘effing’ Trotskyist”.

Tony Reeves was born on May 6, 1940 in Essex, then the family moved to Wales, away from the war. Treeves, as he was commonly known, learnt the language and his later Welsh choirboy impersonations were frightening.

In 1954 Treeves moved to Australia and turned his hand successfully to activities from cultivating roses to silversmithing, and also sewing. But his innate love of life, dedication to truth, unavowed commitment to bolshie left-wing beliefs and love of all things wordy and English led him into journalism.

No formal education, no degrees, but an uncanny love of the language and unadulterated life experience drew him to journalism on the chance he may be able to right the wrongs in his obsessive dislike of perpetrated corruption, deception, duplicity and outright criminal tendencies.

Starting as a copyboy on The Daily Telegraph, Reeves worked through his grades – no mean feat as he had no respect for authoritarian chiefs-of-staff and editors. He quickly became an investigative journalist and went on to work at the Daily MirrorThe Sunday Telegraph, the Sunday Australian, the Nation Review and the ABC. It was his forensic and multi-dimensional reporting that helped to bring about the Moffitt royal commission into organised crime.

In 1975 Reeves joined his close friend and investigative journalist Barry Ward in trying to unravel the apparent murder of Kings Cross newspaper publisher Juanita Nielsen.

They were continually rebuffed in their efforts to have the book published or to force a commission of inquiry to expose the truth behind this sordid tale of police and political corruption, of betrayal and heinous brutality.

Early on in Australia, Reeves also decided that the Labor Party was the best vehicle to implement his radical agenda, particularly his fearless advocacy of public housing, public transport and support of the green bans movement.

His drive and energy led him to spend seven years as a councillor on the Sydney City Council from September 1977.

Reeves fought to preserve Sydney’s historic sites from demolition and worked overtime to save inner-city suburbs, such as Woolloomooloo and The Rocks.

He was prepared to talk any time on urban conservation and his various campaigns saved many inner-urban tenants of low-rental homes from eviction and communities from disruption and dislocation.

In 1992, he moved to Queensland with his partner Kamala and organised a super-leftie branch of the ALP.

He was impressed by a rather left-wing barrister at one meeting saying, “I would far prefer to have a small cadre of left-wing comrades in this branch than a thousand careerist apparatchiks destined to embrace the ministerial leather in some sellout Labor government.”

In Brisbane Reeves returned to his freelance writing and publishing career. His interest was rekindled in investigating the criminal behaviour and corruption he had witnessed first hand as a young reporter in Sydney. His first book Mr Big: Lennie McPherson and His Life of Crime (2007) won the Crime Writers’ Association Ned Kelly Award for true crime. He followed this with Mr Sin: the Abe Saffron Dossier (also 2007) and The Real George Freeman (2011).

 

Jack Saunders

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tony Reeves (1940-2013)

Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016

medical-marijuana-leafThe Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 is a bill to enable Queenslanders to get legal access to medical cannabis, which has been written by people who are opposed to medical cannabis, and who believe cannabis is a dangerous drug.

Consequently, it is unnecessarily lengthy, complex, ambiguous and written in an unclear way, the better to hide its conflicted intention, which is to frustrate medical cannabis users until the pharmaceutical companies are ready. In contrast to the 8 pages of the medical cannabis provisions in the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulations, currently in use, the bill has 143 pages of provisions. Queensland Health have devised a procedure so restrictive and bureaucratic that even a very determined applicant like Lanai Carter felt like caving-in to the stone-walling and the uncaring inactivity of their bureaucracy.

When he introduced the bill in May, Health Minister Cameron Dick boasted that Queensland had become the first state in Australia to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis as a result of legislative changes in November 2015. Ten months after the claimed legalisation of medical cannabis, there is still no one obtaining medical cannabis legally in Queensland, while tens of thousands are getting their cannabis illegally from family, friends, and the compassion movement.

Throughout his speech on the bill, Health Minister Dick stressed that medicinal cannabis was a dangerous drug, and was particularly dangerous if people were able to grow their own, or if they used it improperly as an alternative to proven conventional treatments without close medical supervision.

To address these dangers, a set of comprehensive and robust regulations were to be legislated. It would remain illegal to grow your own cannabis, even if intended for your own therapeutic use. The bill contained strong penalties for unauthorised use of prescribed medicinal cannabis products. The minister revealed that during implementation of the regulatory framework, the Department of Health will run a public awareness campaign, highlighting that any unauthorised use of cannabis remains illegal. A new police force will be created to enforce the medical cannabis laws.

The medical cannabis community are outraged by the bill, seeing it as a betrayal. Despite the pretence of consultation by Minister Dick, they were completely ignored. They see this bill as written for the pharmaceutical companies. The clear intention of the legislation is to ensure that herbal cannabis remains banned for the benefit of pharmaceutical companies that are seeking to patent and register single molecule cannabis products, with the ultimate goal of acquiring a Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme listing, which will be worth billions. Their medicine will be expensive, probably won’t work, and will be based on  genetically modified cannabis and synthetics (so Big Pharma can charge for intellectual property rights).

The bill has been devised in a Queensland Health version of the Game of Mates. Economist Cameron Murray has identified the basis for the Game of Mates in property development as being: firstly, a honeypot, a valuable economic gain able to be given to private entities with a degree of discretion about who receives it, (medical cannabis licences); secondly, a loyal group of mates who are able to sustain an implicit system of trading favours, a powerful club, which has a revolving-door relationship with the regulating authority; in this case, the politicians, the bureaucrats, the lobbyists and the regulators who have designed this bill; and thirdly, the plausible story to let the public believe that this trading of favours is in the public interest, which in this case is the reiteration of the claim that home-grown cannabis is a dangerous drug, whereas the genetically modified, synthetic cannabinoids the pharmaceutical industry will offer will be  safe, at least until the patents run out.

In July, the government requested submissions on the proposed bill and stated they would announce their response on September 30. Sixty-nine submissions were made.  The Australian Christian Lobby, the AMA, Queensland Health, and the police were broadly in agreement with the government approach.

Queensland’s medical cannabis community was vehemently opposed to the bill, and the Medical Cannabis Users Association, representing ten thousand medical cannabis users,  wanted the right to grow their own medicine and publicly declared they will continue to grow their medicine illegally, which sets them on a collision course with the new police.

On Sunday November 13, The Kurilpa Citizen will be holding a public debate on the issue of medical cannabis at Kurilpa Hall. There will be two members of Queensland’s medical cannabis community, who both wrote submissions about the bill, Deb Lynch and Lanai Carter; a spokesperson from the Civil Liberties Council (who also wrote a submission); councillor  Jonathon Sri (no submission from the Greens), and we are inviting a representative from the government.

 

Dr John Jiggens

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016

Lanai Carter’s story

lanai2I am the carer of my son, a patient with a brain tumor and associated epilepsy.
Lindsay is the first person in Australia and Queensland to be approved by the TGA for schedule 9 Botanical Medical Cannabis.
The TGA approval is for Cannabis oil in a specific formulation including THC/CBD and other cannabinoids for treatment of his brain tumor, epilepsy, pain, nausea/lack of appetite and he is approved for Indica bud for vaporization for pain, nausea/appetite and epilepsy.
My son’s brain tumor causes intractable epilepsy which has not been able to be effectively controlled with anti – epileptic pharmaceutical medication and he has experienced a number of negative side effects from the pharmaceutical anti – epileptic medications.
My son and I spent most of 2014 in the USA for his medical treatment. After approximately 1 month in the USA obtaining medical treatment my son was recommended cannabis. He responded favourably to this treatment which controlled his epilepsy effectively. It also reduced his nausea, relieved his chronic headaches and assisted him with appetite stimulation.
The cannabis treatment has helped relieve debilitating symptoms so he could have a better quality of life. There has also been shrinkage and stability of his brain tumor when he is consistently on medical cannabis treatment. The treatment has also reduced the substantial Oedema (swelling around the tumor).
Since diagnosis with a brain tumor in 2013, Linday has lost a significant amount of weight. The medical cannabis is the only thing that helps to stimulate his appetite and enables him to eat most days. It has also helped him feel happier in general and able to cope better with his illness.
Unfortunately when my son would return to Australia and have weeks without cannabis oil we witnessed growth of the tumor on the following scans, along with a return to increased seizures, headaches and nausea and difficulty with appetite. My son suffered up to a maximum of 20 seizures per day (witnessed during awake hours) when he was not on cannabis oil. Cannabis provided quality of life which wasn’t available to him before the treatment.
Lidsay can now begin planning for a career and a life in the future with some level of independence instead of being reliant on a carer 24/7 because of seizures.

Every time Lindsay and I would return from the USA we would hope that the laws may have changed in Australia or even in NSW so that we could simply move across the border and he would be able to obtain legal medical cannabis treatment but this was not an option.
When we returned from the USA we had already exhausted finances and options of obtaining legal treatment . We were not prepared to watch our son deteriorate further without access to treatment.
As a family unit we were struggling because we had been separated across two continents (my husband and younger son in Australia and my older son and me alone in the USA). This was a sacrifice we had made in order for to get the medical treatment which was working for him. This was a difficult position to be in.
In Australia we could sense no urgency from the government in changing the laws. We were tired of the constant rhetoric by the government about doing something. There was plenty of talk and little action and by this stage we knew that even the announced trials (which were supposed to have started months ago now), would be unsuitable.
We knew that the proposed trials for Qld and NSW would not include medical cannabis in the correct cannabinoid ratios or forms that had been recommended and proven to control his epilepsy, fight his tumor and manage his symptoms.
There was definitely a failure by the government to acknowledge the urgency of this matter for our son and all of the other patients suffering.
I notified the state justice and health departments in writing that doctor would be applying for access to Medical Cannabis treatment to be imported from overseas for him through the TGA Special Access Scheme.
I told Qld Justice that we were not prepared to watch the tumor grow again without treatment. We were not prepared to watch his seizures, pain and nausea return and we notified justice that we would be sourcing cannabis locally until his TGA approval was in place and the approved medicine was available from overseas.
This was a very difficult time for our entire family. No parent should have to deal with the added burden or stress of breaking any law to just simply protect the life of their child, but health and future was at stake here. We had already witness tumor growth, seizures and debilitating symptoms return when he had been off treatment between trips to the USA. I was not about to watch that happen again.
As a mother my desire was to do my absolute best to be upfront and honest with the justice and health departments as well as doing everything I needed to protect health, life and future.
I knew at that time that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t make that decision to fight for my son’s life.
I faced the reality that politicians have more responsibilities on their hands than just the life of my son, to them he was just a number. I knew I was the only one who would truly fight for him. I was not prepared to wait for the government’s timeline because if I took that risk that it may be too late.
Every day in life mattered to us. Every day that passed without treatment would be another day I was at risk of losing him.
We had already lost 2 years of his life and education prior to diagnosis with this debilitating illness; I could not bear to think of more time lost. At the point of the doctor putting the application in to the government my son had already been suffering for almost 4 years.
Every day I would have to wait for his access to medical cannabis was another day where tumor could be growing, another day that he could suffer up to 20 seizures in one day, another day where my son would struggle to eat and lose weight because he had no appetite, another day where he would be suffering debilitating nausea and headaches.
It was another day where he would miss vital education because his sickness was impacting on his quality of life and future opportunities. It was another day where our family life was turned upside down.
During the year whilst we waited for the TGA approval, my son suffered multiple seizures where he aspirated. The saliva he breathed into his lungs during these seizures ended up turning to pneumonia and then lost even more weight as a result of that illness. As a family we were exhausted, so exhausted that we started even sleeping through his night time seizures.
As time progressed and delays occurred with the processes at a Federal and State level we commenced some legal processes and we also had to start petitioning and protesting. This was a very stressful time for me as and carer and also for us as an entire family. I had surgery and was protesting within a week and a half of coming out of hospital.
It was an agonizing and stressful time, stress that we didn’t need as a family but I continued to feel that this entire situation was unjust and wrong and was fully prepared to take this matter to court… I did not want to see any patient, carer or family have to endure this kind of ordeal just to simply get medical treatment.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Lanai Carter’s story

In fear of Ice: The great Australian methamphetamine flood

When Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale suggested Australia should adopt Portuguese drug policy and decriminalise all drugs, the Courier Mail denounced his remarks as reeking ‘of juvenile university politics and cheap Thursday night drinks’. Their editorial linked to a News Corp Australia website, which featured a videgraphiceo about the horrors of ice.

The video began with the words, ‘epidemic’, ‘scourge’, and ‘emergency’, fading in from a black screen, while a frightening sound track of music and shouting and screaming played. Horrifying stories of ice users followed, amidst even more horrifying images of heavily-armed police raiding a house. It concluded (with more screaming) that ice was everywhere, it was easy to move, and the profits were enormous!

The aim was not to inform, but to terrify. Like their hero, Tony Abbott, the Murdoch press are fear-mongers who love to play on public anxieties.  Abbott called ice “the worst drug scourge Australia has ever faced” while his Justice Minister Michael Keenan called ice a “mind-eating drug”. They launched an expensive advertising campaign, Ice destroys lives, which began with a young ice addict slapping down his mother and ended in a hospital emergency scene where another ice user head-butted a nurse, attacked his police guard, and then hurled a chair through a glass partition before going on a hospital-wrecking rampage, while the narrator repeated the campaign slogan, Ice destroys lives. It was fear-mongering on steroids.

Dr David Caldicott, an Emergency Consultant at the Emergency Department of the Calvary Hospital in Canberra, described the campaign as poorly-designed, fear-based advertising. He questioned the considerable expenditure on the ad, which would be dismissed by the people who were consuming meth, who would regard it with disdain as not reflecting reality, while those who didn’t use the drug would be suitably horrified and continue to not use the drug. As an Emergency doctor, he experienced far greater negative consequences from alcohol abuse.

Australia has about two hundred thousand methamphetamine users and only a tiny few act like the addicts in the Ice destroys lives ads. These few need treatment for their addiction, which is generally unavailable because of lack of funding, rather than drug law enforcement.

The war on ice

The war on ice, now into its seventh year, is portrayed as an outstanding success by the media and government. Under this tough-on-drugs, lock-all-users-up approach, Australia has spent billions on law enforcement, while spending very little on treatment, trying to arrest our way out of the problem. The result? Use has doubled. The policy has proved counter-productive because the anti-ice propaganda is dismissed by users, despite its appeal to non-users. Most users are not having problems and when they do, being demonised cuts their support from family and friends, which is unhelpful.

Unlike Portugal, which treats drugs as a health problem and pours its money into treatment, we try to solve the problem with police, with shock tactics, with military-style thinking, believing that we will win the war through shock and awe.

So between 2009/10 and 2013/14, the number of amphetamine-type-stimulants (ATS) arrests in Australia doubled from 13,914 to 26,210. All that police attention should have caused the price to rise, but after an initial spike, the price of ice remained puzzling stable, nonchalantly navigating the crackdown.

Record-breaking seizure followed record-breaking seizure; with every seizure, premiers and police commissioners claimed victory. But no matter how big the seizures were, or how many stunning victories they announced, they never had any effect. The methamphetamine market wasn’t a market any more. It was an unprecedented flood.

Since May 2011 the Australian record for methamphetamine seizure has increased fourfold, going from a then record seizure of 240 kilos that month, to a new record of 306 kilos in July 2012, to a newer record of 585 kilos in November 2012, to the current record ice seizure of 849 kilos in November 2014. All of these were hailed by our leaders and journalists as proof that the war on ice was a great success because the police were taking billions of dollars of drugs off the street.

When the Australian Federal Police (AFP) conducted the first of these enormous seizures on 4 May 2011, it earned breathless praise from Matt Doran, reporting for TEN news, who exhausted his superlatives describing how this massive bust had delivered ‘a monster blow to those who organise the traffic in deadly and illegal drugs’. It was, Doran continued, ‘an extraordinary 240 kilograms of ice with a street value in excess of S50M, the biggest bust in Australian history’. He declared it had ‘dealt a major, major blow to organised crime in Australia’.

But this major, major blow had no effect at all. It was the first small wave of the approaching flood. In 2011, a two-hundred-kilo seizure was extraordinary. Since then they have become almost commonplace.

In the five years since, the market has been in flood and the seizures have been huge because of the unprecedented size of the flood. In the past two years, the police have claimed two seizures with a street value greater than a billion dollars each! Australia’s current record ice seizure  in November 2014 was valued at $1.5 billion; another seizure in February 2016 was valued by the police at $1.2 billion. In 2011, Matt Doran called a $50 million seizure ‘a major, major blow’. Five years later, the big seizures are worth over $1 billion!

Since the launch of the war on ice, arrests have doubled, use has doubled, price has remained stable, and Australia has experienced an unprecedented methamphetamine flood. Yet when an intelligent and medically-qualified professional like Dr Richard Di Natale contrasted these outcomes with Portugal’s, the no-nothings of the  Courier Mail dismissed him as an undergraduate drunk who was sending the wrong message!

The great methamphetamine flood

What the Drug War warriors won’t admit is that the cause of Australia’s ice flood is the war on ice itself, and the blowback from the police attempt to arrest their way out of the problem.

Before the flood, amphetamine-type stimulants were largely manufactured in Australia. In their 2012 annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board suggested that the recent crackdown on precursor chemicals in Australia caused the price of amphetamine-type stimulants to rise, which has in turn attracted the attention of foreign traffickers, seeking to take advantage of the potential for profits.

The initial police crackdown on home-bake and precursors shifted the balance of the methamphetamine market toward importation, and this seems to be the reason for the record seizures. Since the Australian price for methamphetamine is one of the highest in the world, any shortage caused by local law enforcement will only drive prices higher, making Australia even more attractive to the overseas gangs.

Australia’s methamphetamine market was globalised and outsourced to the global amphetamine industry, the Mexican cartels, the Southeast Asian triads, and the outlaw motor cycle gangs of Canada and the US, who  found the Australian ice market very attractive. The great Australian methamphetamine flood rolled in.

Our policies criminalise all drug use, when our aim should be to treat drug abuse. While 90% of Australia’s illicit drug budget goes into law-enforcement, the Portuguese turned this on its head by decriminalising and diverting the money going to police into health and treating drug addiction as a health problem. Arresting your way out of the problem hasn’t worked.

 Dr John Jiggens

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on In fear of Ice: The great Australian methamphetamine flood

West End Festival 2016

It is that time of year when the jacarandas are getting ready to bloom and when the streets of West End arthumbnail_img_0105e preparing to burst into that riot of colour that is the West End Festival.

Between October 22 and 29, Boundary Street will come alive with a week-long program, starting with the Kurilpa Derby, when Boundary Street is closed for cars and a cavalcade of bikes, skateboards, wheelchairs and carts take over, sharing Boundary Street with dancers and strollers and prams.

West End Community House, which manages the Kurilpa Kiosk in the small park opposite the goanna (aka People’s Park), sees the upcoming festival as a wonderful opportunity to use this space to showcase the diversity and vibrancy of West End.

Robin Taubenfeld of West End Community House says the park will come alive during the festival with a week-long program of activities, forums, happenings and pop-ups.

The West End Festival People’s Park program will highlight the work of local community groups already using the Peoples Park and the Kurilpa Kiosk, including the Sovereign Women United, Community Friends, Food Not Bombs, West End Create program and West End Community House.

Events for the Peoples Park program include community forums on public housing, social inclusion, public space, mental health issues and local politics, as well as yarning circles  and local history tours.

Community art planned include a 4101 artists exhibition and a week-long community art project. As well, there will be craft workshops, include dressmaking, beading and costume-making, and singing and songwriting workshops, Tai Chi, and cups of tea and chats.

A host of musicians will perform including: Dame Beryl & Her Misfits, the Whoopee Do Crew, Rod Tyson Band, Electric Shock Rock & Roll Therapy, Gerald Keaney and the Gerald Keaneys, Micah & Place to Belong Music Groups, Transformers Choir, as well as open mic sessions.

It is an ambitious program, and Robin Taubenfeld says help is needed to make it a success. People wishing to get involved are needed for stage management, prop designing and prop making, administrative tasks, supporting artists, running workshops, helping with  promotion, personing the fort, making cups of tea and having chats.

For more info on how to get involved contact Robin Taubenfeld at Community House  (which has temporarily moved to the Sussex Street Uniting Church).

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on West End Festival 2016
« Older posts