Please Stop Using Spring Hill As A Rat Run

Residents of Bradley and Torrington Streets, Spring Hill are looking forward to the upcoming School holidays, when parents of students at Brisbane Girls Grammar stop using their streets as a rat run for a week or so.

Professor Ian Lowe Speaks At The Brisbane Workers' Community Centre, Paddington

President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Professor Ian Lowe spoke on nuclear power, and its consequences for the environment and civil society at the Brisbane Workers' Community Centre last evening [29/3/07].

Professor Lowe began his speech with an admission that forty years ago - as a young scientist - he saw nuclear power as a clean, modern alternative for the future.

His outlook changed not long after, when the Whitlam government launched an inquiry into the proposed Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory. Chaired by Justice Fox, the Fox report revealed that that uranium could be mined and sold and generate a modest amount of export income.

According, to Professor Lowe:

"The inquiry turned into a more wide ranging study of the nuclear fuel cycle and Australia's role in it. The Fox report also said that the mining and export of uranium were associated with two problems that were certainly not solvable at the time and appeared possibly intractable."

Those problems were radioactive waste and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the Fox report concluded that until those problems were solved, it was irresponsible to mine and export uranium.

"I found that argument very persuasive, and turned almost overnight from being in favour of a limited role of nuclear power, into being opposed to the mining and exporting of uranium," he said.

Since then, and with the tragedy of Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island accident, the nuclear industry has been in decline.

"About four years ago, people in the nuclear industry, who've never shown sign of an any interest in climate change suddenly realized that this was their last chance to salvage the nuclear industry," said Lowe.

Thus began a clever campaign (that started in the UK) of briefing journalists in key organs of mass media about the possible role that nuclear power could play as part of a portfolio of renewable and other forms of energy to solve the problem of climate change.

"The mass media took this up and the Murdoch press until quite recently were saying simultaneously that climate change is not a proven problem, but embracing nuclear power - which is a very interesting dual position," he said.

Professor Lowe was involved in the first major conference on climate change back in 1987, when it was becoming evident that the earth's climate was changing.

He said that everywhere around the world, decision makers (with a few notable exceptions) are agreeing now that we should be doing something about climate change.

"We are of course part of the coalition of the unwilling, a sort to axis environmental irresponsibility with the United States of America, that hasn't ratified Kyoto, and hasn't yet done anything serious to respond to climate change...But the public is now much more aware of the issue. I saw an opinion poll today where people were asked: "Is Australia's climate policy a sham?" 90% said "yes", and 10% said "no". People now accept that what we're getting is all smoke and mirrors. Malcolm Turnbull changing a few lightbulbs isn't going to solve the problem. We really need to think in a much more concerted way about what we're doing."

Professor Lowe highlighted a particular example here in Queensland, where only about 6 per cent of us use solar hot water - which is a lower percentage than in the ACT!

"If half of the households in Queensland used solar hot water that would save more electricity than a nuclear power station could generate," he said.

Professor Ian Lowe AO is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University in Brisbane, an Adjunct Professor at Sunshine Coast University and QUT, and an honorary research fellow at the University of Adelaide. He is also Chair of the Brisbane City Council's Climate Change and Energy Taskforce, who recently produced a 91-page report on climate change and oil depletion, called "Climate Change and Energy Taskforce Final Report - a Call for Action." You can download this report from the Brisbane City Council website.

I hope the Brisbane Workers' Community Centre get their Liquor License soon. They've been hosting some great, inclusive and intellectually stimulating events over the past few weeks, but a glass of chards wouldn't go astray!

Richard Flanagan Speaks At The Brisbane Square Library

Author Richard Flanagan spoke about his latest novel 'The Unknown Terrorist' at the Brisbane Square Library this morning [27/3/07]. His speech covered the inspiration behind the book, distilled from observations and feelings about contemporary Australia.

Flanagan began by extolling the virtues of public libraries and free state education, what he calls the "two bedrocks of a just and equal society," before discussing the more personal aspects behind the book's conception.

He feels Australia has been through a period of madness but remains hopeful that it is drawing to a close.

"The book is my own attempt to come to terms with what that madness was, and what it might mean," he said.
"It's a cliche, but true to say the world was different after September, 2001, I felt I'd become a stranger to my own time."

Flanagan was involved in the old growth logging debate in his home state of Tasmania, and subsequently wrote an article for 'The Age' suggesting there was a curiously close relationship between Gunns and the Tasmanian Government.

"All hell broke loose. For a week I was front page news on my home island," he said.

Lies and scuttlebutt about Flanagan were run as news and he discovered he had no recourse, as the local newspaper refused to publish his writing. The Minister for Forestry (presently up on a conspiracy charge) had called him a traitor in Parliament, and the Premier declared that neither he or his writing were welcome in Tasmania. What shocked Flanagan most was the way the media ran with the government spin, dictated by one corporation with almost no questions asked.

At this point in Flanagan's speech, I tried not to look at the two large 'Courier-Mail' signs plastered on the wall behind the podium - a glaring reminder that if you're not on the right side of the media in a one (or duopoly) paper town, you're either vilified, or ignored (see article below about Jim Dowling).

"People thought I was, I realised, what they were being told I was. For many, the lies of others were becoming the truth about me. I was far more upset about this than I could have believed possible. I felt something worse than humiliation, a sense something deep within me had been taken away. It's a very hard experience to convey to those who haven't experienced it. Then I realised that what was happening to me, was but a very small example of what was happening on a much larger, far more horrific way around the world."

Flanagan drew parallels with his personal experience and the endless lies being perpetrated about Muslims, terrorists, Iraq, refugees and our own freedoms and liberties as Australians.

"That was all being done to protect power and money, and no-one seemed to care," he said.
"The target of all this hate, and all these lies, were always the weak and the powerless. The ones we used to call, in this country, the battlers. It became possible to say anything outrageous, and the more outrageous, the more publicity it got. Aborigines hadn't really suffered, refugees weren't really genuine, torture wasn't torture if Americans did it, and Australians were doing their Australian duty doing whatever Americans told them. To protect our freedoms as Australians, laws were passed here in Australia whereby people can now disappear and we will not know. And if a journalist were brave enough to question what they might suspect to be an injustice in one such disappearance, they too could disappear and be jailed and we would not know about that. And the dreadful thing was, that no-one cared much about that either."

Flanagan's perception that truth no longer mattered in Australia crescendoed when he heard a senior American official say that the three prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who committed suicide, were committing an act of asymmetrical warfare, as a publicity stunt.

"I wanted to write a book that somehow captured all of this, but I needed a story that would make it work. It was no good doing it about a Muslim or an Arab because I wanted people who weren't Muslim or Arab to read this book and think, 'it could be me that they come for next'. And the truth is, it could be you, and if that happened what was an ordinary person to do?"
"I found I didn't like Australia much anymore. Because I felt it was my country too, and I was tired of watching it slowly being trashed and sold out. I was weary of the interminable nonsense about property prices, and Howard's generation, and investment seminars and what I should do with my super. I didn't like the new, rampant racism, the materialism, the inescapable stupidity, the way in which we embraced everything American, be it another war or another series of 'West Wing', or letting them anally rape an Australian Citizen and keep him locked up in Guantanamo Bay. And I didn't like they way we'd cop just about anything now with a smile, just as long rates stayed on hold."

Flanagan felt exhausted by the racist rantings of shock jocks and rabid opinion columnists, but above all, he didn't like the way Australians had lost faith in our uniqueness.

"Our land, our black identity, our mongrel society, our strong democratic impulses that once led the world. The way we've lost faith in the worth of our own experience, our own culture, our own stories."

He went to Sydney and spent time with cops around Kings Cross, junkies, pole dancers and the homicide and counter-terrorism police. During this time he set about creating a mirror to what Australia had become.

"A lot of what has shocked people in the novel are quotes directly taken from shock jocks and politicians. No-one, I thought, was doing fiction better in Australia."

His previous books may have been about love, land and memory, but Flanagan felt compelled to write a book about the opposite - "about people for whom love wasn't enough, or love wasn't sufficient, and money was enough. Who were lost, and who had no connection to history, or place, yet for whom tomorrow wasn't a promise, but a growing threat."

He adapted his writing style by shortening the sentences and using small words.

"I wanted the reader to pass through the words, like the eye does through a window and sink straight into the story. I wanted it to be one of those books people read in one or two sittings and feel like they've been in a car smash, and their life ever after is a little changed. I wanted it to be a book that anybody might want to read, and having read it some ideas escape into the citadels of suburban lounge rooms and people once more begin to think and to question. I searched for a tale that would allow me to do these things, and I ended up with a story about four days in the life a Sydney pole dancer called the Doll, who one day sees herself on national television being described as a terrorist."

Flanagan concluded his presentation with a hearty plug for books.

"Books are the last thing left that we have that remind us that we are not alone. Because in a world where the road to the new tyrannies is paved with the fear of others, books show us that we are never alone, nor in the end that different, that what joins us, is always more important than what divides us. And that the price of this division, is ultimately the obscenity of oppression. And if the book achieves nothing more than reminding one or two readers of these truths, if it encourages but a handful of people to pick up just one more book, by another author, that similarly offers a defence of what it is to be human, my creditors in Hobart, will be, as always, disappointed, but I'll judge the book successful."

Flanagan's talk was presented by the 'Courier-Mail's' 'The Big Book Club' - hence the huge 'Courier-Mail' placards on display. 'The Big Book Club' states on its website that it is a not for profit arts organisation. Its other partners (in Queensland) are the State Library of Queensland, 612 ABC, the Australian Government and the Australia Council. Dymocks Booksellers were present and had a stand from which they were selling books. I notice 'The Mercury' is not listed among the partners of the Tasmanian contingent of 'The Big Book Club'!

Queensland Police to trial Tasers

(From A Queensland Police Media Release issued 29/3/07)

Minister for Police and Corrective Services, Judy Spence MP, together with Commissioner Bob Atkinson today announced a 12 month trial of Electro Muscular Disruption Devices (Tasers).

Ms Spence said the deployment of the devices provides another option for police that may, in some circumstances, avoid the need to resort to lethal force.

“Overseas, the introduction of tasers has resulted in a decrease in the number of injuries among both offenders and police officers, and there have also been fewer complaints in regard to the use of force by police,” Ms Spence said.

Taser devices operate by transmitting an electrical current to the subject’s body which causes involuntary muscle contractions and loss of mobility, rendering the offender unable to fight or attack.

The current is transmitted either by placing the Taser directly against the person or via the firing of two barbed electrodes, each of which trails a small wire, into the subject’s body. The effect ceases as soon as the device is switched off, with minimal post-care required.

“Research has found Oleoresin Capsicum spray does not always have an effect on offenders under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” said Ms Spence.

The trial will begin on July 1st this year.

Stern supports Greens' climate policies

The Greens today [28/3/07] called on the Labor and Liberal parties to commit to legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emission, as called for by former World Bank Chief Economist, Sir Nicholas Stern.

"Sir Nicholas Stern says legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are essential. Both the major parties have failed to support legally binding targets in just the past week," said Senator Christine Milne.

"The Greens' Climate Change Action Bill, debated last week in the Senate, sets legally binding targets of 20% below 1990 by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The major parties failed to support it."

"Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett are happy to talk about action on climate change, but not to act. Just like John Howard, Kevin Rudd is not prepared to legislate for legally binding 2020 targets. Just like John Howard, Labor backs the coal industry and its distant hope of still unproven carbon capture and storage technology."

"Carbon capture and storage is 15-20 years away. What are Prime Minister Howard and Mr Rudd going to do by 2020? That is the question that they must answer."

"Prime Minister Howard and Mr Rudd both back logging of the greatest carbon sinks in Australia, the Tasmanian forests, in spite of Stern's warning that deforestation results in greater emissions globally than the entire transport sector. Kevin Rudd's green car plan will be neutered before it starts by emissions from clear-fell logging and burning," Senator Milne said.

Clean Coal Conference Hits Brisbane

The website states:

"At Clean Coal 2007 you will receive a comprehensive insight into the latest developments on both the policy and technology fronts and meet senior decision makers that hold the key to Australia's energy security future."

The conference will be held between 29 - 30 March at the Sebel (formerly Carlton Crest).

For more information see: http://www.seaaoc.com/

All Along The Yellow Line - Illegal Parking Day in Bradley Street!

Captured around the middle of the day [28/3/07]

Parking is at a premium in Bradley Street, Spring Hill - and it really should be reserved for residents and their visitors. Nevertheless, I don't care if you park in our Street, but could you please refrain from using it as a thoroughfare and SLOW DOWN ASSHOLE!

What's Happening With Ipswich Public Transport?

Since the March 5 announcement that the Federal Government would be investing $2.3 billion into the Goodna Bypass, Community Action for Sustainable Transport (CAST) have been waiting for the Prime Minister and Federal Minister for Transport to announce how much they would be spending on public transport, freight rail, walking and cycling to “solve” Ipswich traffic needs.

“We believe the decision by the Federal Government to only fund road infrastructure is socially inequitable, economically irresponsible, environmentally destructive and will lead to more road accidents in the future. They must take responsibility for providing a balanced solution” said CAST spokesperson Tristan Peach.

Sydney Switches Off To Save The Earth

World Wild Fund for Nature Australia (WWF) and 'The Sydney Morning Herald' are asking all Sydney companies, government departments, individuals and families, to turn off their lights for just one hour between 7.30pm to 8.30pm on Saturday 31 March. 'Earth Hour' is the launch of a 12 month campaign to reduce Sydney's greenhouse gas emissions by 5%. The plan is to involve all Australians in next year's 'Earth Hour'.

'Earth Hour' is part of the WWF's campaign to combat global warming. They say that their goal is to reduce Australia's emissions by 30% by 2030.

Well, we all know the Chairman of Fairfax, Mr Ron Walker is a good friend of the Prime Minister, but can we trust the WWF? In a chapter on Non-government organisations in their book 'Silencing Dissent', Sarah Maddison and Clive Hamilton write:

"While the World Wide Fund for Nature Australia (WWF Australia) appears to have had a close relationship with the Howard Government since the 1996 election, the events surrounding the enactment of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) were a turning point in this relationship. This Act brought wide-ranging and controversial changes to Commonwealth environmental laws. There was a sharp disagreement among the larger environment groups about the merits of these legislative changes and debate about whether they should publicly support the Bill. The endorsements of the Act provided by WWF Australia - joined by three other smaller groups - contrasted with the often scathing criticsims made by opponents of the legislation, including the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), The Wilderness Society (TWS) and Greenpeace.
After the legislation was enacted, people associated with WWF Australia and the other supportive groups were appointed to serve on federal government environmental advisory committees. WWF Australia was also awarded a contract to disseminate information about the Act among environment NGOS. A report in 2004 concluded that WWF has enjoyed extensive financial support from the Howard Government, with a five-fold funding boost since 1996."

You get the drift.

Gee, who would have thought it was so easy to stop global warming? I feel better already, and it's such a novel idea. So let me get this right - turn your lights off for an hour on Saturday night, then afterwards drive down to Maccas in your stinking 4wd for a big bag of trans fats, then bring it all home so you can sit in your air-conditioned "Media Room" and watch mindless garbage on your flat plasma telly - why not? After all, it's all good, and you deserve it!

Bashed Peace Activist Abandoned By The CMC

This is a photo of peace activist Jim Dowling the night he was arrested. He lives in ex-policeman Peter Dutton's Queensland electorate. A year and a half ago Jim Dowling was assaulted by police at a public meeting at Queensland University of Technology. This week he received a letter from the Queensland Police informing him that he was wrong in his assessment that the police had acted unlawfully.

He says the Assistant Commissioner of Police informed him:

“These enquiries revealed that the allegations subject of your complaint could not be substantiated. Therefore I do not propose to take any further action and I now consider the matter to be finalized.”

Mr Dowling says that at no stage has he been interviewed or questioned about what happened by the police or anyone from the CMC (Crime and Misconduct Commission).

He says, "After a day or two of recovering from a small dose of self pity I dutifully filled out a CMC complaint form available online. There were only a few lines to explain my complaint so I attached the short article I had written about the event... I naively thought this was just the start of my complaint process rather than the only thing the CMC would ever want to hear from me."

The police told him they wouldn't investigate the matter until the charges against him were heard and determined. It was to be six months before this occurred and a further two months of deliberation before the Magistrate ruled that he had done nothing for which the police could detain him and the charges were dismissed.

"She said the evidence of all my witnesses (who included lawyers and former federal attorney general Michael Lavarch) was credible. She declined however to state the obvious: that the contradictory police and security guards' evidence was therefore not credible, and that they had therefore perjured themselves," said Mr Dowling.

He then informed the CMC in writing of the outcome of the trial and said that his complaint now also included the allegation that the police and security guards had perjured themselves in court.

"This was in June 2006, immediately after the Magistrate had ruled police acted illegally in arresting me. It was to be a further five months before a friendly “investigating” police officer contacted me. His name escapes me because, other than that few minutes of conversation, I never heard from him again....I asked him when he was going to interview me. He told me that would not be necessary, as he had enough information from my initial complaint and a transcript of the court case of charges against me...

"When I insisted he at least try to interview Peter Dutton’s assistant (she was present at my assault, but police had tellingly declined to produce her as a witness), he reluctantly took details...

"Not a few weeks, but four months later, the only “report” I have received is the abovementioned sentences from the assistant commissioner. It is interesting to note that the commissioner had still watered down my complaint to, 'Essentially you complained that police assaulted you and used excessive force during the course of your arrest and detention. Further that handcuffs were applied too tight and that police had accused you of stealing oxygen.' I had never complained that handcuffs were too tight, but rather that Constable Jennings had lifted me up by my handcuffs behind my back as he was dragging me. This had caused my wrist to bleed. I also was not complaining about feeling insulted by police accusing me of 'stealing oxygen' but was merely mentioning his smart-alec reply when I told him I could not breathe with his hand on my neck forcing my head between my legs.

"There is no mention of most of the assault, no mention of illegal arrest, perjury, police collusion in evidence etc. The 'investigating' police obviously think there is nothing wrong with police officers having word for word the same personal recollection of events in their sworn statements, including the same spelling mistakes.

"Oh well, maybe it was all a dream………Not sure if I want to wake up to the real world though…."

Stradbroke Island Burnoff Smokes Out Brisvegas

Sunset Wednesday [21/3/07] - taken from Wickham Terrace, looking west, over the Roma Street Parklands

For the past couple of days Brisbane's CBD and inner suburbs have been surrounded by smoke. According to the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, there's been a controlled 412 hectare burnoff on Stradbroke Island. Apparently there was a media release on Monday [19/3/07], but of course you wouldn't hear it in this town - the media being what it is.

Tess had to call the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Media Unit at 1.00am today [22/3/07] because her eyes were sore and she wanted answers.

Just another example of the local corporate media and government agencies working together for a better Queensland!

*UPDATE* Doing a bit more research about Consolidated Rutile's exploitation of the mineral sands, I bumbled upon a media relase from the Department of Natural Resources and Water - 'Hazard reduction burn at North Stradbroke Island', dated 13 February 2007:

http://www.nrw.qld.gov.au/about/media/feb/13_stradbroke_burn.html

Fashion Excitement Hits Brisbane

Last week was a momentous one for Brisbane fashion fiends. Sass & Bide's store on James Street was finally opened, and much madness ensued when a range of Stella McCartney's was launched at Target.

The designers behind the Sass & Bide label - Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton - hail from Brisbane, so it's pretty poignant they have opened a store here after many years building an international reputation. It's also nice to know that their coveted jeans and other unique designs are produced in ethically aligned factories. A spokesperson from Sass & Bide confirmed that they pay a higher premium for the work they get done.

Stella McCartney is well known for her refusal to design clothing or accessories using leather, furs, or other animal products, but the company has not yet responded to my query to confirm whether Stella McCartney fashion is produced in factories where workers have decent working conditions, and are not exploited or oppressed.

The brand was launched in partnership with the Gucci Group in 2001, and parent company, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) has been accused of "indifference" to international labour standards, by Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) (An international campaign, focused on improving working conditions in the global garment and sportswear industries).

And while we're on the topic, what about those "Made In China" teddy bears currently being sold at the cash register at Coles to raise funds for the Australian Red Cross? A spokesperson from the Australian Red Cross said, "We screen all our suppliers very carefully and I can assure you that the company producing the merchandising are a very credible company with high standards around working conditions."

Council bows to commuter pressure

The Bus To UQ - Outside The Brisbane Square Building

The academic year may have returned to full gear, but the same cannot be said for buses to and from the University of Queensland. Already struggling to keep up with the demands of the 15,000 commuters travelling to and from the University of Queensland, the Brisbane City Council have announced that 19 new bus services will be added to existing bus services.

The current overcrowding puts pressure on the driver, and makes for very unpleasant, if not dangerous travel.

Community Action for Sustainable Transport (CAST) have suggested that Route 209, which travels along Old Cleveland Road from Carindale should be given priority at traffic lights to reduce travel times for public transport users.

“Increasing the capacity and reducing travel times on these routes will reward existing public transport users, and entice others to get out of their cars and onto the bus,” said CAST spokesman Mr Tristan Peach.

CAST believe if Translink can get this right then there may not be a need for Brisbane City Council to build the controversial Hale Street Bridge.

Boarding a crowded Council bus at Chancellor's Place at the University of Queensland a couple of weeks ago, I observed a Council bus driver refuse a student permission to board the bus. The driver then told the Council employee taking the fares, not to let the student on the bus and proceeded to close the back doors of the bus.

"That young lady is not to get on this bus," he said, giving no explanation whatsoever. The Council employee taking the fares took the student aside, and managed to smooth things over. The student was eventually allowed to embark on the bus and travelled back to the city. This young lady posed no obvious danger or inconvenience to other passengers.

A Council spokesperson said that Bus drivers are instructed not to refuse entry to any fare paying passenger except in limited circumstances such as the following:

- If the bus already has full passenger capacity.
- If the condition of the intending passenger is such that, in the bus driver’s opinion, he/she may cause damage to the bus or offence toward the driver and other passengers.
- The intending passenger is using abusive or offensive language, which in the bus operator’s opinion, may interfere with the safety and comfort of other passengers.
- If the intending passenger attempts to evade paying a valid fare as per Translink policy.
- Passengers are not to bring firearms, fuel or any other object that may, in the bus operator’s opinion, be liable to damage the bus or cause injury to other passenger.
- If a customer intends to consume food, drink or smoke during the bus trip then drivers may also consider refusing them passage.

I have observed other instances where Council bus drivers appear under extreme pressure to meet scheduling deadlines, so much so that a flustered driver, after jamming a passenger in the front doors, simply said, "Sorry, are you OK?" and took the fare. I have also seen commuters stranded at the Cultural Centre Busway after racing from the far end of the platform trying to catch a bus.

The Council spokesperson said that for scheduled bus trips, the run prints and timetable are used as a guide for the length of time a trip should take.

"Events outside of the bus driver’s control such as weather, accidents, road works and full loads, all impact on the ability of the bus to run on schedule. When these incidents occur, bus drivers contact the bus control unit to schedule additional vehicles, where available, to pick up passengers. Bus operators are not penalised financially or through a disciplinary process for running late."

Bring back the T3 lane now!

Community Action for Sustainable Transport (CAST) believes Brisbane City Council’s decision to re-open the T3 lane on Coronation Drive is another step in the wrong direction for Brisbane ’s transport system.

“Just like the tunnels and Hale Street Bridge , the decision to scrap the T3 on Coronation Drive will increase congestion,” said CAST spokesperson Tristan Peach.

“At a time when government should be encouraging and rewarding people for car pooling and catching public transport they are doing the exact opposite,” he said.

1 full bus takes 40 cars off the road, a car with 3 people in it takes 2 other cars off the road.

CAST believes removing the T3 lane means travel times for car poolers and bus users will blow out, and the lane will soon be just as congested as the other lanes.

“Why is Council punishing car poolers and public transport users and rewarding single-occupant vehicles drivers?” asked Mr Peach.

The Lord Mayor’s claim that only 5% of vehicles on Coronation Drive can use the transit lane totally misses the point.

“It’s not about the number of vehicles they move – it’s about the number of people. Transit lanes are designed to carry more people with fewer vehicles,” said Mr Peach.

“T3 lanes reduce congestion by making more efficient use of existing road space,” said Mr Peach.

“If the Lord Mayor is serious about reducing congestion he should be promoting the use of transit lanes and adding more across the city,” he said.

“If people choose not to car pool or catch the bus during peak periods then they must accept that there will be a certain level of congestion,” said Mr Peach.

CAST are demanding:

(i) The Coronation Drive T3 lane is reinstated

(ii) Council develop internet-based car pooling systems for local communities and workplaces so people can develop car pooling networks

Take the heat off the Bombay Express

Community Action for Sustainable Transport (CAST) calling on government to improve travel conditions and reduce travel times for train commuters travelling between the Gold Coast and Brisbane .

“We want to see more trains on the Gold Coast line, particularly during peak hours, to ensure all passengers are comfortable,” said CAST spokesperson Tristan Peach.

“We also want the government to look seriously into another rail crossing of the Brisbane River , to relieve the congestion that occurs on the Merivale train bridge,” said Mr Peach.

The limited capacity of the Merivale Bridge can lead to delays for train commuters.

CAST are interested in a rail link between Dutton Park Station, QUT Gardens Point Campus, Riverside ( Eagle Street ) and Cathedral Square , with a link back into either Brunswick Street or Central Stations.

This would spread the load of commuter traffic entering the CBD across a number of stations, and give people better access to areas of the CBD not currently serviced by train.

A duplication of Merivale Bridge may not solve the problem because Roma Street Railway Station could have trouble handling increased capacity.

It recently lost two train platforms to make way for the inner-northern busway.

For longer trips (+10km) in urban areas CAST support rail over bus travel and are also urging government to fast-track rail links between Petrie and Redcliffe, and between Darra, Springfield and Ipswich.

Green Cross Nearly Here

One of the world’s leading peace and environmental crusaders should be in Brisbane soon.

In a Press Release dated 8 March, Premier Peter Beattie announced the Australian headquarters of Green Cross International has moved a giant step closer to Brisbane, with the State Government's investment of $400,000 in establishing the new Brisbane office and developing its highly-regarded programs.

The State Government funding will be provided by the Department of Natural Resources and Water, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Primary Industries, with a $100,000 contribution this financial year and a further $300,000 in 2007-08.

Griffith University is leading a steering committee to develop the organisation’s local constitution and structure, its budget and educational programs.

Green Cross International provides unbiased environmental analysis and expertise, develops education programs and raises public awareness about peace and sustainability. It is acclaimed for Earth Dialogues – a series of public forums around the world that raises awareness of ethics and human values for peace and sustainable development.

Last July, Earth Dialogues was a highlight of the Brisbane Festival, and its keynote speaker was former Soviet President and Green Cross International head Mikhail Gorbachev, who spoke at City Hall.

In an engaging speech, which was translated on the spot, Gorbachev, who is now the Chair of Green Cross International, outlined security, poverty and the environment as the three challenges the world is currently facing.

Gorbachev said that although the end of the cold war accelerated the process of democratic change, the world is currently swept with concern and alarm, and new dividing lines have appeared. International politics is lagging behind global events, and there are emerging signs of a new arms race. “We cannot leave things as they are,” he said.

He also said we have wasted too much time when it comes to saving our environment. “We need to aggressively seek new and alternative sources of energy,” said Gorbachev, and referred to the example of the Global Solar Fund which could be established with $150 billion, allocated over ten years. “The US found $100 billion for the war in Iraq overnight and $210 billion in subsidies are given to the oil and coal industries,” he said. He also seeks to dispel the myth that nuclear energy is the cheapest and cleanest form of energy.

Following Gorbachev's speech, the forum was opened up to questions from the audience. Senior National President of the ALP, Barry Jones dropped a clanger when he asked Gorbachev a long-winded question about how we should deal with the division between the modernisers and anti-modernisers in the Islamic world. Gorbachev replied, “Are you writing a thesis on this?” He went on to explain that religious fundamentalism is not as great a danger as people think, and that it is more important to look at the politics. “We should make sure there is no conflict of civilization.”

Calling for a dialogue between the world's religions in favour of global peace, Gorbachev said, “Political leaders alone cannot solve the global problems we are facing in the early twentieth century.”

Of course, somebody had to ask Gorbachev what he though about dams and he replied, “You cannot make more water from what exists.” Suggesting that as Australians, we address the water shortage democratically, everybody (apart from the politicians sitting in the front row) laughed.

For more information on Green Cross International see: www.greencrossinternational.net

International Day Of Action: Four Years Since The Invasion Of Iraq

A rally was held in Queens Park today [17/3/07] as part of an international action to protest the four years since the invasion of Iraq. Speakers, including Senator Andrew Bartlett and Senator Claire Moore, called for troops out of Iraq, the release of David Hicks and closure of Guantanamo Bay, an end to racist scapegoating and attacks on civil liberties.

About 300 protestors marched from the park, along Elizabeth Street, down Edward Street and back up Charlotte Street. Approximately one hour earlier, the St Patricks Day parade took a similar route to reach celebrations in the Botanic Gardens. On this dry, hot Brisbane day, the pubs were fit to burst, and the CBD was buzzing with revellers in an assorted array of green outfits!

Today's rally and march was a colourful and eclectic demonstration. Brisbane's anti-war protesters are cleverly adopting a creative approach, and appear to be attracting more folks from all walks of life. The young and old mingled with peaceniks and anarchists, carried placards, red flags, black flags, parasols, took photos of one another and chanted "No more blood for oil, US off Iraqi soil!"

As the marchers passed Irish Murphys, one joker, clearly full of Irish spirit, yelled from the balcony, "Get a job!" and "Why don't you join the army?" I presume this was in jest - surely one of Irish descent would appreciate the similarities of the invasion of Iraq to the subjugation of the Irish people by the British?

Says it all really! Captured [17/3/07] on Elizabeth Street near the entry to the Wintergarden

A Song For David

Today in his blog, Anonymous Lefty mentions 'Wish Hounds' (Melbourne based singer/songwriter Justin Parker) who has released a song about David Hicks.

Here's a portion of the lyrics, to give you a taste:

Each day that he survives,
Un-tried in the hole.
Our nation, for all it's good,
Slowly sells it's soul.
And, again, the minister lies.
Says he's done all he can.
I, for one, am tired of this.
Together we make a stand...

To bring him home
Bring him home...

For a nation's pride,
He is someone's child.
For the Rule of Law,
And for so much more...

To hear the song and for more information, visit: http://www.myspace.com/wishhounds

A National Party MP At A Green's Fundraiser?

The Brisbane launch of 'The Damning Of Mary', Dean Love's film about the proposed dam on the Mary River at Traveston Crossing, was held at the Metro Arts this evening [15/3/07].

'The Damning Of Mary' questions the political motives of the Beattie government, and examines the social impacts the proposed dam has had on the residents of the Mary Valley. If you get the opportunity to see this film, make sure you take a hanky. Even if your heart is already hardened by the knowledge that our government has no interest in representing their constituents anymore, you will be moved by the folk up there who have had their lives devastated.

Unfortunately, the movie did not contain footage of one crucial moment when Premier Beattie famously met the vocal local residents of the region (not a Labor area). He said that he understood residents' concerns but repeatedly said that it was a "done deal". Apparently one exasperated local asked: "Alright, you say it's a done deal, but who has the deal been done with?" He simply refused to answer and that question has never been asked nor answered in Parliament nor in the 'Courier Mail'. Perhaps someone could let us know.

Surely it's time to question why the people in the Mary Valley have been treated so callously?

Prior to the screening, 'Them Rusty Halos' warmed the crowd with a selection of toe-tapping, wholesome sounds, which also feature in the film's soundtrack.

The event was a Greens fundraiser, but State Member for Gympie, National's MP David Gibson, (who makes a significant, albeit emotional, appearance in the film), was in the audience. The two party preferreds should be worried when Nationals and Greens can agree on such an important issue, and this can only be a good thing.

Mr Gibson also won the lucky door prize - a lovely bottle of organic red!

Hey city slickers! Stay posted for information on future screenings throughout Brisbane.

Drought Forces Parklands Lake To Be Fenced Off

Yes little ducky, it'll be 'round the outside for you for the time being [captured 15/3/07]

Luckily, global warming is all fiction and no fact (if you believe everything you get fed by big papers). The lake in the Roma Street Parklands has been temporarily fenced off until the drought eases and the water level rises. The gentleman who was working on the fencing advised that the safety barrier is required because the lake currently poses a danger to unsuspecting parklands visitors. I presume he means folks who have had one too many glasses of champagne with their Sunday barbeque, or those unpredictable little ones.

The water in the lake is being used to irrigate the parklands, and as the water level is so low, parklands visitors who might not realise how shallow the water is could do themselves a damage should they fall in.

Although they have to waddle a little bit longer to get up to the celebration lawn for their afternoon grazing session, the local quacks didn't take long to adjust.

It is lovely in the Roma Street Parklands at the moment. Not too hot, and you'll always see something out of the ordinary!

You May Not Believe It, But There Is Something You Can Do About Climate Change

Seasoned environmental activist Mr John Seed presented the 'Climate Change Despair and Empowerment' roadshow at the Paddington Workers' Club this evening [14/3/07]. The roadshow, which premiered at last year's Woodford Folk Festival, features a multi-media presentation including video footage of Al Gore speaking on the Australian situation.

Now a Grandfather, John is currently travelling the world to inspire folks to get together and redirect the feelings of hopelessness associated with climate change into positive action. Believe it or not, a sense of empowerment can percolate from utter despair.

Essentially, he says we need to reconnect with our family, friends and neighbours if we want to influence big business and government to agitate to curtail climate change. This goes hand in hand with getting together and working out how a community might be able to influence local issues like sustainable and renewable energy and locally grown food. We also need to start re-listening to our gut feelings and challenging the things that we know in our hearts are not right.

When you really think, and read a little bit (anything other than Packer, Murdoch or Fairfax) about eco light bulbs, carbon sequestration and trading) you'll realize these things will not solve climate change and are clever tactics that government and industry employ to blur the real issue.

In Australia, 6.5 billion dollars goes to subsidise the coal and oil industries and it's time for a change. We are facing a monumental environmental catastrophe. The difference between the current cost per kilowatt of "green" and fossil fuel (coal/oil) electricity is remarkably small and yet the billions go to fossil fuels and about zilch goes to non-fossil. If the subsidy was switched to alternatives, or even removed altogether, those options would be even more closely competitive. Nuclear is not an option, unless radiation pollution is quite OK with you.

The roadshow will visit Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Blue Mountains, Coffs Harbour, Northern NSW, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

For more information visit: http://www.climate.net.au/

Pavilion Gets A Workout

Snapped at lunchtime [14/3/07] at the Harry Oakman Pavilion

Usually reserved for weekend weddings, the Harry Oakman Pavilion at the Spring Hill end of the Roma Street Parklands was taken over by a group of lunchtime bootcampers today. This enthusiastic group of ladies and gentlemen were brushing up on their boxing skills.

Groups of fitness fanatics are regularly spotted in the Parklands, running up and down the amphitheatre stairs and kickboxing on the celebration lawn.

Working For Rupert

Could there be a future Frances Whiting or Mike O'Connor amongst this group of fresh faced youngsters snapped in King George Square [14/3/07] getting ready to do battle for the Rupert Murdoch version of "free media" in Brisbane's afternoon rushour? Rupert's is "free",' The Independent' is free (but also free of the corporate message), independent AND locally owned! Funny, Rupert's noisy outlets keep telling us that a free and independent media is vital to democracy! Oh, that is a neo-con classic isn't it? And aint Rupert the classic neo-con!

The International Hotel gets a new, huge, flashing "pokies" sign [captured 12/03/07]. Wonder if residents in the adjacent apartment building, or patients at St Andrews will complain?

Does the Lord Mayor support the Green Flea Markets in Davies Park?

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman says he is supportive of markets all around the city, including the Green Flea Markets at Davies Park.

"Markets are a great way to bring communities together as well as attract tourists to our city.

"While I support the continuation of the Green Flea Markets at West End, it is important that Council regulations are met to ensure the health and safety of patrons.

"I am committed to working with the organisers to make the markets more enjoyable for residents and tourists through compliance of these regulations.

"I envisage the Green Flea Markets at Davies Park becoming even more popular as the population grows in the West End area."

Jurists Conclude that Hicks’ Charge is Retrospective

(A Press Release from the Australian Law Council)

The only remaining charge against Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks is retrospective, according to expert legal advice released today by the Law Council.

All previous charges against Mr Hicks have been abandoned, leaving only the new charge of ‘providing material support for terrorism’.

Law Council President Tim Bugg said, “The advice, authored by nine of Australia’s leading international law experts, concludes that, without doubt, this offence is not a crime known to the law of war.”

According to the advice, prior to the enactment of the Military Commissions Act last September the offence simply did not exist in its current form. Furthermore, the legal experts are of the view that the domestic US offences, on which the charge is roughly based, had no application to David Hicks in Afghanistan in 2001.

“The disturbing conclusion reached is that, although the charge against David Hicks violates the US Constitution, because Mr Hicks is a non-US citizen held in the legal black hole of Guantanamo, the Constitution may not protect him,” Mr Bugg said.

The advice was authored by Peter Vickery QC, Professor Tim McCormack, the Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC, Professor Hilary Charlesworth, Gavan Griffith AO QC, Professor Andrew Byrnes, Mr Gideon Boas, Professor Stuart Kaye and Professor Don Rothwell.

“When advice this important from jurists of this calibre is made available to us, we believe it should be shared. The debate should be informed, and we have provided the advice to all Australian MPs” Mr Bugg concluded.

Surf's Up At Southport

Work took us down the coast today [9/3/07] and as luck would have it, the surf was glorious. About twenty surfers descended on Southport around 11 am to take advantage of clear, high waves, breaking on a sandbank nearly 50 metres offshore. Even Channel 9 were there to capture the excitement.

A flat tyre on the way home did not diminish the marvellously restorative properties of a quick dip in the best surf we've swum in for months!

CASTing Comments On the Lord Mayor's $37 billion blueprint

Community Action for Sustainable Transport (CAST) have a number of initial comments on Lord Mayor Campbell Newman’s $37 billion transport plan for Brisbane 2006-2026.

(1) The cost of the plan could be significantly reduced by removing the Northern Link tunnel and the East-West tunnel (part of TransApex). Massive spending on roads will not be necessary if Council is serious about increasing the proportion of trips made via public transport.

(2) The proposed bus buying program of 110 buses per year for the next 10 years and 64 per year after that is positive. The Lord Mayor will have to prove himself with Council’s 2007/2008 budget by allocating at least $150 million to public transport.

(3) The Lord Mayor's reluctance to introduce more bus lanes shows that he is more concerned about keeping car drivers happy than he is about improving travel times for public transport users. The plan must be revised to include bus lanes on all major bus corridors (e.g. Lutwyche Road , Gympie Road and Old Cleveland Road ) with priority for buses at traffic lights. This is one of the most cost effective methods of improving conditions for public transport users.

(4) The Lord Mayor has ignored far more cost effective methods of reducing congestion. His reluctance to put a peak hour congestion charge on the Brisbane CBD (with exemptions for motorcycles, scooters, people with disabilities etc.) and his refusal to reduce parking spaces and increasing parking costs in the CBD shows he would rather increase congestion and general rates than offend some people who drive into the CBD during peak hours. Congestions charges work, and the CBD is so well serviced by public transport that in most cases driving is unnecessary.

(5) The Lord Mayor's target to have 5% of trips made by bicycle by 2026 is a significant downgrade from the previous Transport Plan for Brisbane 2002-2016 which was aiming for 8% of trips by bicycle by 2016. Newman’s target to have 12% of trips made by foot by 2026 is also a downgrade from the previous plan, which was aiming for 15% of trips on foot by 2016. These conservative targets for walking and cycling mean there will be more congestion.

(6) The Lord Mayor must release a detailed budget to show the public how much spending is being allocated to roads/tunnels/car infrastructure, public transport, walking and cycling.

Bike Ride Goes Off Without A Stitch

About 30 cyclists bared their bodies this afternoon [10/3/07] for the Brisbane leg of the 2007 World Naked Bike Ride.

It's the first time Brisbane has participated in the event (organised by Dario Western), which has occurred internationally since 2004.

The cyclists rode along the Coronation Bikeway from Toowong to Milton and back. Some wore intricate, and colourful body art, others donned fairy wings and other creative adornment, but all wore pants. The cyclists were riding for sustainable transport, peace and acceptance of the naked form.

A number of police were present at various points along the bikepath, but no arrests were reported.

Brisbane's Grey Matter Gets A Work Out

Last week [w/b 5/3/07] I had the opportunity to attend three public lectures which really gave my soggy old grey matter a good workout.

Two of the lectures were presented by Professor Terry Fisher from Harvard University and hosted by Queensland University of Technology. The first lecture, entitled 'Copyright and the Future of Entertainment', was held at the mean, green themed auditorium at the new State Library of Queensland. Professor Fisher argued that creators and consumers need to take advantage the recent changes in the technology surrounding the entertainment industry. He says that the entertainment industry is in crisis because the older business models are legally reactive to new technologies, and that we need to find solutions to this situation.

His second lecture was presented in the Banco Court, one of Brisbane's more civilized venues, and was entitled 'Drugs, Law and the Global Health Crisis'. Nine million people die needlessly from infectious disease in developing countries, and Professor Fisher argued that pharmaceutical companies are developing too few preventative vaccines and drugs to counter this global crisis. He proposed several ways in which the legal system could be modified to encourage pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines and drugs to remedy this catastrophe.

Chief Justice Paul De Jersey and Professor Michael Lavarch, Executive Dean of Law at QUT, both spoke at the conclusion of Professor Fisher's lecture and stated that they felt it was one of the more interesting talks they had listened to in the Banco Court.

Dr Jackie Huggins AM, Deputy Director of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit at the University of Queensland gave a seminar recounting her experiences at the Australian National History Summit (convened by the Prime Minister) last year. Twenty-three leading Australian Historians participated in the summit, which was convened to seek ways to strengthen the integrity of Australian history in schools and universities.

Dr Huggins said the opportunity to participate in the summit made her feel very humble, and fulfilled a lifetime goal to redress the lies, falsehoods, myths and stereotypes prevalent in previous coverage of indigenous history. "Presently we are teaching kindergarten stuff to Postgrads, and an enormous catch up is required," she said.

Dr Huggins went on to say that the Prime Minister John Howard and Education Minister Julie Bishop addressed the summit and both stressed the importance of incorporating indigenous history into the school curriculum.

This seminar was filmed by for ABC TV's 'Message Stick' program as part of a forthcoming story they are doing with Dr Huggins.

It's Only Rude If You're A Prude - Brisbane Joins The World Naked Bikeride

Brisbane cyclists will lose the lycra and dare to bare on 10 March for the 2007 World Naked Bike Ride.

It's the first time Brisbane has been included in the event, which has occurred internationally since 2004.

Brisbane organiser Dario Western, a Spring Hill resident and naturist for the last 17 years, says that as well as being a creative way of drawing the community's attention to issues of climate change and sustainable transport, the ride is about social acceptance of the human body.

"When it comes to public nudity, Queensland is 50 years behind other places," said Mr Western.

According to the 1991 Anti-Discrimination Act, "indecent exposure" is mentioned alongside "offensive telephone calls" in the context of unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. *

Mr Western is meeting with Police this week to discuss the event's planned route.

The Brisbane leg of the World Naked Bikeride begins at 4.00 pm at the ABC studios in Toowong, and participants are encouraged to paint their bodies before the hour long ride to Milton and back.

A post ride party is planned for the Regatta Hotel, but I think they have dress regulations which require clothes!

For further information on the World Naked Bikeride, contact Dario Western, on 3852 3156 or 0437 428 859.

* In May 2005, 30 cyclists held a ride over the Goodwill Bridge to protest the North-South Bypass tunnel. According to the 'Courier-Mail' ('Hi-Ho silver tricyclist put on best behaviour', June 25, 2005, Jasmin Lill), one protester Morgyn Quinn (who wore only a pair of silver cowboy boots and a silver space helmet) was arrested for wilful exposure. A conviction was not recorded, but he was sentenced to a six-month good-behaviour bond.

Labor Councillors Consider Climate Change

Community Action for Sustainable Transport (CAST) say Brisbane City Council should put their money where their mouth is when it comes to climate change.

Council's 2006-2007 budget allocates only $412,000 to Greenhouse Gas Reduction, while allocating $503 million into planning for increased car use.

"If Council are serious about reducing greenhouse emissions then they must massively increase funding to their Greenhouse strategy and stop funding projects that will increase emissions," said CAST spokesperson Tristan Peach.

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition also recently raised concerns about climate change with Labor Councillors and Deputy Mayor David Hinchcliffe.

"It is our future that is at stake in this climate crisis. Today's young people did not create this problem, yet we will be the first generation to deal with its effects and must be at the forefront of solving it," said coalition founder Ms Anna Rose.

Cr David Hinchcliff said that Labor Councillors were on to the issue of climate change in 2001.

"In 2001 we came up with an initiative to reduce Council's greenhouses gas emissions 7% below what they were in 1990," he said.

Cr Hinchcliffe and Labor Councillors have established the Climate Change and Energy Taskforce, headed by Australian Conservation President Professor Ian Lowe.

"Once we receive the report in the coming weeks we will have a long, hard look at it, run it through a "reality check" and work out which of its recommendations are do-able and affordable," said Cr Hinchcliffe.

"We've also introduced incentives for developers who incorporate sustainable design elements, such as water saving devices and green roofs," he said.

CAST say that consultation undertaken after the establishment of Council's climate change taskforce in 2006 shows that the community know the best ways to reduce transport emissions. Suggestions included: Reducing the cost of public transport, increasing frequency, destinations, and connectivity of buses, restricting car parking in the CBD and introducing a CBD congestion tax, extending CityCat services and improving connectivity and safety of pathways and bikeways.

Dissent In Brisbane's CBD

You bet your sweet bippy there's dissent in Brisveguarse - there's a lot to be pissed off about if you're not a clown and actually give a rats about anything.

The Quakers were out in force this evening [2/03/07] in what public space remains in King George Square as construction continues on the Inner Northern Busway. This monthly protest has been held by the Quakers, since the large Peace Rally held in Brisbane before the Invasion of Iraq by the USA and its allies four years ago.

Obviously, the rest of us don't give a toss about peace anymore.

At the same time another rally for David Hicks was held in Reddacliff Square (public space between the Casino and the new Brisbane Square Building, which co-incidentally was officially opened by the Lord Mayor today - thanks for the press release MC!)

Speakers included Ross Daniels - Human Rights Lecturer at QUT, Senator Andrew Bartlett, Samuel Wagan-Watson, Mark Gillespie and Lee Rush, Father of Bali 9 prisoner, Scott Rush.

Today's rally went off without incident - only one whiteshirt casually strolled by - and I perceive increasing numbers of folks expressing an interest in the issue.

Fingleton House On The Market

After changing hands during the property boom two years ago, 490 Boundary Street (Fingleton House) is on the market again.

A Development Application relating to the property, lodged with Brisbane City Council last year and proposing the construction of a new unit at the rear of the house, has been approved.

490 Boundary Street was made famous by Anthony Fingleton's book 'Swimming Upstream', which was made into a film of the same name starring Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush.

The Fingleton House today.....and in 2004

In 'Swimming Upstream' Anthony Fingleton (who grew up in the house) recounts:

"During the six to eights weeks of summer holidays, we spent the greater part of our lives in the Spring Hill Baths which were less than fifty metres from our house. Every day we crossed the street on which we lived, Boundary Street, ran the twenty metres to the International Hotel on the corner and turned right. About another twenty metres down Torrington Street was the pools - our own oasis of watery wonderment. We ran, not just because we were anxious to get to the pool but because we rarely wore shoes and our feet were burning on the road and footpath which baked in the sun."

Today's [10/3/07] 'Courier-Mail' reports that the film 'Swimming Upstream' was filmed here in 2003.

In fact, 'Swimming Upstream' was filmed (around Brisbane) in 2001 and released in 2002.

The Spring Hill Baths in Torrington Street featured in 'Swimming Upstream'.

In an August 2002 article in the 'Courier-Mail', Kris Olsson wrote that the Fingleton family home was re-constructed for the film at a South Brisbane studio.

490 Boundary Street will be Auctioned at 6.30, 29 March at the Broncos Leagues Club.

Australia's 'Magic' Secret Past

Author and researcher Mr Ian Evans gave an illuminating presentation entitled 'Bewitched: Ritual, Magic & Witchcraft in old Australian Houses & Buildings' at Queensland Museum yesterday [7/3/07]. Mr Evans discussed his recent research, which sheds light on the unchronicled darker recesses of Australia's history. Countering the prevailing view that witchcraft had dissipated by the time Australia was settled, Evans revealed that our forebears often resorted to magic and witchery to protect their homes from supernatural forces.

Mr Evans experienced a "eureka moment" when, researching the subject in Britain, he realised that if folk magic rituals were being practised in England in the 18th and 19th century, they were bound to be happening in Australia.

He suggests that King James 1 was a firm believer in witches, and his 17th Century book 'Demonology' resonated down the centuries and continued throughout the settlement of Australia.

"Common folk saw things differently," said Mr Evans, referring to the Europe from which they came where healers, charmers and members of secret societies were commonplace. In an era when people died from minor illnesses, specialist practitioners were said to have the power to remove evil spells from your cows and toad doctors dealt with skin diseases. People counted on wisdom such as the miller and horseman's' word.

"These practices and rituals and beliefs provided some comfort in Australia to those half a world away from home," said Mr Evans. "The fears that prompted this activity opens the door to an entirely new take on the history of Australia."

People planted charms such as old shoes, dried cats, children's toys and trinkets to protect their families. Mr Evans said that these artefacts are distinguished by the context in which they're found, for example, old shoes are often found in chimney voids or built into a wall.

"They're in the wrong place in buildings and in the wrong country," he said.

Finds of these artefacts in Australia date from circa 1830.Witch bottles (containing hair, urine, hearts cut from felt, bent pins and nails), ritual marks, and shoes were common items placed throughout houses and buildings. Often a new home owner would get up in the ceiling and drop items in cavities. Sub floor scatters, including shoes, children's toys, spring tops, balls, bottles and phials, were also very common.

As an entry point to a house, chimneys posed the major threat to the safety of a home, as King James I wrote. Tradesmen carried on an ancient ritual of placing an old shoe (reputed to possess the essence of a person) in a specially constructed void. If tradesmen couldn't get a shoe, perhaps because the new tenants had not yet arrived, a concealed cat provided a generic form of protection. Discoveries of shoes and cats have been reported in every state except the Northern Territory. Often the dead cats are in "staged" poses, such as with a few dead mice.

When the Brisbane's Commissariat store was renovated in 1913 (the roof was removed and a new storey added), a small shoe was found in the roof cavity. This shoe was a rugged piece of footwear - government issue, steel heel, toe irons and hobnails. Mr Evans said it was a serious workboot, and possibly once used by a gatekeeper or in the quarry at Kangaroo Point providing the stones for construction. A child's shoe was also found, and Evans said this kind of discovery reveals a darker story of Brisbane's antipodean gulag i.e. children working in very hard labour.

The discovery of these artefacts raises questions about their preservation, and moreover, that we need to adjust our mindset about the people (those staid, godfearing forebears) who came to Australia. Evans stressed the importance of incorporating this secret part of our past when writing about Australia's social history. Whether these items should be preserved in situ needs to be debated and the formation of a database at the state or national level is also worth considering.

In February 2004, my husband and I found a lonely left shoe in Rogers Street, Spring Hill - near the Brisbane Central School. It was lying deep amongst the roots of an uprooted tree, which had toppled over during a dreadful storm.

The shoe is 'Windsor Smith' and the lining says:

"Made in Australia, Admance, Leather Upper, Non-Leather sole, Quarter lining'.

It appears to be a ladies 'slip on' and there is a small, diamond shaped clasp or buckle on the top of the shoe. The shoe leather has been exposed and is thus quite brittle.

The Windsor Smith shoe company commenced production over 60 years ago, so it is possible that the shoe is of that vintage.

As forensic amateurs, we decided that a child from the neighbouring public school probably lost it amongst the tree roots when the tree was young. Makes sense? Well, the storm was huge and this tree was uprooted and ended up on its side with its roots hanging out of a hole about 1.5m deep. We went for a walk after the storm and took photos of some of the damage. When we saw this felled giant tree we looked into the hole and there was this single shoe amongst the deep roots. Kids did not lose single shoes back then as they were very expensive items (do they lose single shoes these days?) and, anyway, in light of this lecture it seems that the shoe was actually placed under the roots of the tree when it was planted. It was obviously too deep to have been lost accidently, unless the kid threw a shoe at the moment the young tree was being dropped into its hole!

So what? Well, by coincidence, we've been looking at old Brisbane City Council minutes at the new Brisbane Square Libarary in the City and the other day noted that in the early 20th Century a resident of Rogers Street was granted the right to chop down some Moreton Figs said to be uprooting the pavement. The tree that blew over was one of four or five deliberately and specifically spaced along Rogers Street outside the school. And from their size it seems quite possible that they were planted during that time.

Perhaps it is possible that the practice even extended to tree planting?

In his response to my email about the Spring Hill shoe, Mr Evans said that he hadn't heard of this before but it didn't really surprise him. "Trees have always had a significant role in human life, history and mythology. It seems quite possible to me that this is a deliberate placement, intended perhaps as protection for the children at the school," he said.

End Of The Line For The S.S. Forceful?

It was reported on ABC news this evening [22/3/07] that Brisbane icon, the 'S.S. Forceful' needs $250,000 worth of work to bring it back into operating condition. According to the Queensland Maritime Museum Website, the S.S. Forceful was commissioned on the 16th of February, 1942 and served most of her time in Darwin doing routine work and towing lighters to Marauke in Dutch New Guinea. On occasions she acted as a rescue vessel for aircraft returning from bombing missions.

She was paid off as a naval vessel on the 11th of October, 1943 and returned to her owners the same day. Her life as a museum ship started on the 10th of June, 1971 when she was handed over to the Queensland Maritime Museum Association. Since that time she has been steamed and maintained by the dedicated members of the Association, purely on a voluntary basis.

Two years ago on a sunny autumn Saturday, Mr Cole Seem and I took a ride on the 'S.S. Forceful', from the Maritime Museum at Southbank downstream to Pinkenba. Mr Seem's thoughts on the trip (which were published in 'The Independent') follow:

As we boarded, along with a hundred other souls, we were struck by the authenticity of the steam tug. From 1964 until 1970 it was the last coal burner servicing Brisbane. It is, as much as is possible, unchanged from its original condition when it left its manufacturer in Glasgow on 21st December, 1925 for the dangerous and eventful 76 day maiden voyage down the Suez and into service in Brisbane.

As we peer into a hatch and cop a blast of heat, confirming the boilers are fired up, one of the engineers shouts up from the furnace that "it's a lot hotter up there than down here!" There are plenty of very helpful volunteers along to do everything from catering and engine room to handing out information and answering questions. Which is how we know our engine is a "three cylinder, coal fired, triple expansion reciprocating" steam engine.

The ship is marvellously graceful as we slide away from the jetty and slowly turn downstream toward Pinkenba. You don't really hear the engine as much as feel its powerfully slow rhythm.In those early days the papers carried all sorts of advertisements for the competing steamships' passenger services to Sydney. Forceful was strictly a working tug unlike those passenger steamers but, though we don't even enter Moreton Bay, it is easy to picture those times and imagine such a trip.There is an excellent commentary along the way about aspects of the river less known such as the rail tunnel from Southbank through to Woolloongabba.

There is shipping news as we pass Brett's Wharves and see today's working boats registered in Nassau and heading to PNG or beyond. Two US Navy ships are in town with their young marines wandering Brisbane's streets unannounced and unbeknown to readers of the local press. It is surprising that there is no great fanfare and welcome for our brave allies but, being a time of war, perhaps they fear that "loose lips sink ships"?

A Wise Talk About Brisbane's 1893 Floods

Queen Street during the 1893 floods

Multiplex and the Queensland Government might want to consider the possibility of future flooding in Brisbane as they work towards their development proposal for "Northbank".

In Brisbane, flooding was reported in the 1860s and the most disastrous flooding occurred in 1893. According to the Bureau of Meteorology website, eight feet of water was recorded in Edward Street, houses at Ipswich and Brisbane were washed away (sometimes with people still in them), seven men drowned through the flooding of the Eclipse Colliery at North Ipswich, and the lndooroopilly Railway Bridge and Victoria Bridge were destroyed.

The devastation bought about by the 1893 floods was brought to life at Marilyn England's informative presentation at the Commissariat Store building in William Street last week.

Ms England drew on her research on the flood, showing pictures and reading from newspapers of the time. She also relayed contemporary accounts of the floods, written by Brisbane residents who were rescued, and those who bravely pitched in to hold back the effects of the deluge.

Although the last big Brisbane flood was in 1974, it is not unimaginable that another flood might occur in the the near future. We do live on a river - and structures tend to get washed downriver during floods!

Check the Royal Queensland Historical Society's website for upcoming lectures and events:

http://www.queenslandhistory.org.au/Events.html

No Cheers At The Inter

This time last year, yours truly gave Cheers (now 'The Inter') on Boundary Street, Spring Hill, a very flattering review of its meals and service in 'The Independent'. Since then, the hotel has changed hands and we have dined there a number of times. Unfortunately I have to report that last Sunday evening, my beloved and I were bitterly disappointed by the Inter's lack of hospitality.

Our cupboards were bare, and it was approaching the dinner hour, so we decided to toddle down for a 2-4-1 steak. We arrived at 8.30pm, the supposed time for last meal orders. The Manager said, "Sorry, they've turned everything off."

The quirky, yet comfortably shaggy decor may have been updated, but the service leaves a lot to be desired.

Although the Inter has recently been modernised, the quality and value of the meals has declined over our last three or four visits, to the point where I have no difficulty saying I will never eat there again.

I probably won't even go there for a drink, given that you're also not allowed to lounge about and have a smoke anymore. Standing on the footpath like a social pariah is not my idea of fun. They tried live music for a while, but that gave way to the yankee doodle dandy "Texas Hold Em" caper, and that quintessential, smoky/beer pub aroma has been replaced by the overpowering scent of cheap toilet deodorant.

Yeah. So bohemian in inner-city, Spring Hill.

Ithaca Creek - [captured 24/3/07] - Dry As A Dead Dingo's whatsit.

July, 2005, when the CBD was a lot more peaceful and Brisbane had a pigeon man in King George Square! Anyone know where he went?

Surely you could have found a bin (it's 20 feet up the road)? As well as illustrating what pigs some people are, I suppose this burger abandonment also reveals that even being pissed on a pre-mixed can of calamity fails to make a multinational burger appetising!Captured [17/3/07] in Albert Street.

Milton is an interesting suburb. Here's some snaps I took today [10/3/07]

Park Road's shallow compartmentaliser (matey, I doubt David Hicks and other victims of sexual and political violence would agree with the philosophy you subscribe to) and far more pleasing Mojo Cat. Heussler Terrace's beautiful face on a telegraph pole.

The wonderful Art Deco brewery building and adjoining administration (I think) building on Milton Road. Look at the dilapidated state of the historical signage and awning. Despite spending millions on "image" I guess XXXX's new Japanese owners don't care about the heritage of this building.

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