Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Stateline (Qld) -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) CC - tonight on Stateline - changes coming from Queensland's Freedom of

Information laws. You had a

culture of secrecy being

Fostered at the highest level.

Your blooming lot at the

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.

An emotional final landing for

an army work horse.

an army work horse. Hello and

welcome to the show. With her

feet barely under the desk

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh

this week began to change

change the direction of the New

Labor government. She's

announced an audit of the troubled ambulance service, set

a date for the by-election to

fill Peter Beattie's former

seat and announced she intends

to change Queensland's Freedom

of Information laws. Queensland

introduced FOI legislation 15

#15 years ago in the wake of

the abuses and corruption of the Bjelke-Petersen National

Party years. Premier Bligh says

the FOI system is working as

well as any where else in the

country but concedes there is a

perception it isn't working as

well as it could. To allow

outsiders to probe the inner

workings of government. The

Queensland public hadn't

Commission.of inquiry sparked

by the Bundaberg hospital

scandal and the deaths of more

than a dozen people attributed

to Dr Jayant Patel found that

successive governmenthouse

misused FOI to conceal politically embarrassing

information. Making everybody

happy with the new laws won't

be easy, and Anna Bligh has set

a large murdle for herself

promising nothing less than a

complete overhaul of Freedom of

Information within

Information within Queensland.

Freedom of Information is one

of the important checks and

balances in a democracy. We

need to make sure that we are getting that balance

right. Successive governments

have tried to weaken it,

they've abused the loop hole

that is are in it, they've

created further legislation to

neutralise it when it concerns damagings information. They've

turn it had into something of a

laughing stock to save their

own political skins at times.

One week into her premiership

Anna Bligh's pledging action on

something that goes to the

heart of good governance and

democracy - FO rrd - Freedom of

Information. We'd be looking at the entire bill a complete

overhaul. We're not looking at

a set of amendments to the current legislation, I'm

looking at an entirely new FOI

rr. Tony Fitzgerald called for

a review commission to

investigate Freedom of

Information legislation and its

desirable. In his report he'd

signaled the importance of

signaled the importance of FOI.

It was in December 1991 that

FOI laws became a reality a

time before email and when doms

were still being typed up and

physically put away -

documents, in thousands of

archives. Even then there was

scepticism, that the laws might

not bring accountability to

public life in Queensland. For

the average citizen FOI should

mean the end of this

bureaucratic treatment of

public information now, it's as

simple as going to the right

government department or

government body making an

application, paying the fee and

getting what you want. That is

unless what you want isn't what

"They" want to give you. 15

years later the Government is

mostly happy with how things

have gone. But the coming of the information age means it's

time for a review. I believe

it's fair to say that

Information regime is operating Queensland's Freedom of

at least as well as any other

state in Australia. But I do

concede that's not always the

perception. Around about nine

out of ten of all FOI

applications are granted,

either wholly or partially. 90%

probably deal with issues the

Government doesn't mind

releasing, the 10% at least

that they attempt to hide would

be polit clay embarrassing.

It's not their information to

hide. Headly Thomas is an

author of a book on the Dr

Jayant Patel scandal and an

award winning journalist wits

the 'Australian' newspaper. He

has an intimate understanding

of FOI. I think politicians

should wake up to themselves,

they are our elected

representatives. It's not their

information to with hold from the people who thut them in

power. Until they take that

reality check and accept that

the documentation has produced

by somebody service that they

by somebody service that they

oversee, is our information we

are in a sorry undemocratic

state. It's this forum that

lies at the heart of criticisms

of Queensland's FOI laws.

Cabinet. That inner sanctum of

executive government. Under the

FOI laws anything looked at

here can then be locked away

from public scrutiny for decades. Governments have

successively abused this,

they've received a request they

don't like, they've bundled up

the material, had a look at it,

realised that it might cost

them a couple of points or a

little bit of embarrassment if

it's released so they apply the

Cabinet exems, they say that

they are going to consider this

material in cabinet therefore

thist has a 30-year secrecy rule. I think there has become

a culture that the mere fact a

document has been sighted by

Cabinet means it should not be

made public. That was never the intention of the Cabinet

exemption. It is I think far

too broad an interpretation of

the Cabinet exemption. Last

year Commissioner Jeff Davies

handed over his report into Queensland's hospital system

and the Dr Jayant Patel

scandal. The debate over FOI

can often sound like a turf war

between nosey journalists and

control fixated governments.,

but Commissioner Davies drew a

link between government secrecy

and a culture of concealment in and a culture of concealment in a d a cul re of concealment ?n

the Health system including

over issues of unsafe care. Unsurprising

Labor and coalition

governments were Chrisicised. A

former senior health bureaucrat gave evidence of all

governments exploiting the

cabinet rule to cover up

surgical waiting lists.

For years the Queensland

Health system lagged the rest

of Australia. This indirectly

contributed to the Bundaberg

disaster and it has indirectly

caused deaths and injuries of

patients, so I believe that

successive governments do have

a lot of responsibility, they

do to some extents have blood

on their hands for this

culture. Premier Bligh wants a

new FOI Act before Parliament

by next year, a 3-member Pam

has been appointed which will

prepare a discussion paper for

public consultation and a final

report for Cabinet consideration. But there is

still a balancing act for the

government - between

transparency and the need for

secrecy. Well informed

ministers are absolutely

imperative part of good

government. To be well informed

they have to get frank and fearless advice from their

public servants and that frank

and fearless advice in many

respects - at particular times,

in my view, needs to be confidential. This week Anna

Bligh went west for her first time as Premier to Charleville

to introduce herself to people

outside the south-east

corner. One issue she talked

about was council

amalgamations, the new Premier

says she supports the changes

and won't be pulling the

process apart now. One small

Shire in Queensland believes it

has a case for change. The

Taroom Shire west of Bundaberg

is to be split non two, half

going into dalb, the other into

Banana Shire, its councillors

accept being amalgamated but

say it makes sense for the

whole Shire to be merged rather

than snrit up. They're on a persistent campaign to convince

the government despite the

enormous odds against them.

Earlier I spoke to councillor

Col Boyce from the Taroom

Shire. Welcome. Why shouldn't

the Taroom Shire be broken up and merged with

and merged with its

neighbours? Council has

resolved that the best outcome

in this amalgamation process is

that the Shire be retained as a

whole. The Shire residents are

firmly against the amalgamation

process, however the government

is firmly for it. We have to

reach some common ground,

council as I said has resolved

the best outcome we feel would

- with the Shire be retained as

a whole. Then possibly at the

government's whim, it may be

amalgamated either south, north

or west. What is it about the

Taroom Shire then that makes it

special, that you believe it

shouldn't be split in two? The

Taroom Shire is a basin,

basically surrounded by natural

boundaries, by sandstone

escarpments in the north, by

the Great Dividing Range in the

south, the entire Taroom Shire

is on the eastern fall of the

Great Dividing Range, and it's

the water shed of the Dawson

River. Hu reports showing there

are no natural boundaries

impeding, if you like, the

council being split. The reform

Commission's determination are

flawed and wrong. We have tried

to point this out constantly to members of the Government,

senior policy advisers, to no

avail. We are still seek ing

meetings with the Premier and

the minister on the matter.

We're not going away until we

get a fair and equitable answer

as to why they split the Shire

in half. How many times have

you tried to talk to Peter

Beattie first and now Premier Bligh? Premier Beattie has been

rung dozens of times, his

office requesting a meeting, on

every occasion we've been

refused. We had one three

minute meeting wi the Minister at the local government

conference at the Gold Coast.

Again, all these meetings have

result end a decline to answer

why the Shire was split in half. Do you believe the

government is concerned that

any changes benefitting the

Taroom Shire may unravel the

whole agal mamgation

process? The previous Minister,

Minister Fraser quoted this at

our meeting, that if he were to

make any changes that this may unravel the process they'd put

in place. So then what does

that mean for you? That leaves

us sitting high and dry. We

have still not been given a

fair and equitable answer. We

don't believe we've been

treated fairly as the rest of

Queensland have. The then

Premier Beattie stated no

Shires would be split in the

original Commission's ah...

guidelines. You don't believe

if the Government were to

change this in your favour it

thank it would open the flood

gates? That other councils across the state would like

this amalgamation process

reviewed or changed in their

favour? It's our view it would

abminor boundary change to

retain the Shire as a whole.

The residents of the Shire are

firmly against at a-a

amalgamation process. We feel

that if we were given the

opportunity we would put it to

the public to give them the

opportunity to determine twh

which way they would like to

go. What effect is this having

on people living in the two

main towns (Taroom and won

doughen, the Shire is over 100

years old, it has had a

devastating effect on their

viability and their recognition

and their history. Again, there

is no reasoning to why they

should throw all this history

out. How far are you prepared

to go? We're keeping going

until it's over, we're not

stopping and we're not giving

up until we get a fair and

reasonable answer. And a

meeting with Premier Bligh? We

would like a meeting with the

Premier Bligh and we're seeking

one as we speak. Councillor Col

Boyce, thanks for joining the

program. Thank you very much.

This weekend residents of

Toowoomba on the Darling Downs

and thousands of tourists will celebrate the 58 Carnival of

Flowers, an annual event

showcasing the city ace floral

and horticultural delights.

Drought and bad publicity over

recycled water have taken a

toll on the carnival and the

city's economy. Organisers have

embarked on a major publicity

campaign in an attempt to

entice more visitors back to

Queensland's Garden City. It's

a celebration of all things

spring time, the carnival of

flowers has been a part of the

Toowoomba community's way of

life for the past 58 years.

It's the country's longest running horticultural event attracting visitors from

interstate and overseas.

Thousands of people flock to

the city centre for the floral

parade, lining it's streets to

watch clofrful floats, marching

bands and the characters who

proud ply make up this community. The gardens are the

biggest draw card.

Devoted green thumbs likeitea

are the heart and soul of the

carnival. She and her husband

Glenn have been involved in the garden competition for the past

six years and were last year's

winners. We love gardening, we

enjoy what we do. I just

believe that the amount of

people that visit twoom barks

the amount of people that come

back to live here we'd have any

where between 25,000 and 30,000

people come through the garden,

they're from all over

Australia, overseas, Japan,

South Africa, UK, and the nice

part about it is most times you

do receive a postcard back from those people to say thank you

for the pleasure you gave

us. The carnival has taken some

knocks in recent years, a

worsening drought and fiery

public debate over a

controversial proposal to add

purified waste water to the

system divided the community. You go round

Australia and they call it

"Shit city" and "Poo city" It

doesn't matter if the water is

safe, it's coming from

toilet. It's very easy to toilet. It's very easy to raise

fears. There was a lot of neck

tift around Toowoomba itself

last year which was provoked by

a water debate. This year we

are coming to the fore, I would

say, we've done many

things. Council and private

gardeners had to rethink their

gardening habits. We do use our

water sparingly, we do believe

by putting compost in the soil

and the water Crystals we do

preserve a bit. Water. Many of

the competition gardeners rely

on water tanks which have been

topped up this year by the

council. They're planting more

permanent varieties and fewer annuals. I do believe this the

- this year the colour's

better. I don't know whether

that's the season or whether

it's what we've put in the soil. Despite efforts to adapt

some in the community think the

scarnr carnival should be axed,

leaving orss with the

improvision - others with the impression it might

be. Communities outside

Toowoomba went - no water,

drought, no carnival. That was

never so. So for the first

time ever the launch of the 10-day event was held in

Brisbane. Letting one of

Toowoomba's most important

tourist markets know it's

on. Ladies and gentlemen,

welcome to ready steady snip

and all the dirt you can get on politicians in one

afternoon. The floral

arrangement face-off between

Toowoomba's outgoing mayor and

Brisbane councillor Geraldine

nap attracted the attention

they were hoping for. Scissors

down! Green's got it.

Councillor Geraldine Nap...

Carnival of Flowers

ambassadorlya Hudson has also been spreading the word both

here and overseas. It's the No.

1 tourism event on the calendar

for Toowoomba for the year, getting involved is very

important for businesses but it

gives them the opportunity to

have friends and family come

and visit and see the Darling

Downs. The organisers are

determined to make the carnival

the Premier event it once

was. With attendsance figures

falling in recent years they're

testing new ideas to try to

entice more visitors to the city. The Carnival of Flowers

is no longer just about the

blooms. They're very important

for this little piece of

England it nearly is up here on

the top of the range. It's the

other things that are relevant

to young people, sit around and

listen to some good music,

drink some wine, have a lovely

afternoon sitnight park. This

year the avant-gardens is going

to be great, due to the drought

and we have only 50% of our

flower beds being planted

that's from a public garden

pers pectdive, we have our

artists filling the spaces with

art works. The carnival's also

about music with a number of

high profile performers lining

up to entertain festival goers

this weekend. But with no real

rain fall on the horizon at some stage in the future the

council may be forced to

reconsider its position on the

floral event. For now, though, it's determined to see the

tradition continue. It would be

like saying you're not going to

go up tomorrow morning, and

stop breathing. I think it

willed be finding other focuses

so you can have it that if

times change, if climate change

allows for that, then maybe

there is more gardens planted

when that happens. I think

we've just got do do the

gardens in a different way.

Most of North Queensland will

have their eyes firmly on the

TV set Saturday night cheering

the Cowboys towards the NRL

grand final. Some culture

lovers and a group of thespians

will be enjoying a victory of

their own. Three theatre

companies from the north banded

together to produce the stage

play 'Constance Drinkwater and

the final days of

Somerset'. Northern theatre

professionals are being given a

chance to show their skills at

home. It made more financial

sense. Historically being an

actor in North Queensland has

been a hard slog. Really, sir,

what wrong with you? Precious

little money and next to no

corporate support has forced

playwrightings and actors south

by the hundreds, in search of

their 15 mots of fame. But this

year, 3 theatre companies from

Darwin, Cairns and Townsville

joined forces to change that. A

lot of actors are simply not

able to do it. There simply

isn't the work. So when we

begin to make arrangements like

this it makes it possible for

the actors to be there and to

keep the skills we have. To regional theatre you can't afford, you don't have the

audience normally to run for

more than a week or two. It

means more actors can be

employed, more people see better quality work and the

production values can be much

higher. Christopher Glover grew

up in London. When he moved to

Townsville 3 years ago he

thought his life under the

lights was over, knowing his

chances of taking centre stage

again would be limbed. But the

new collaboration of theatre

companies has offered him the

opportunity to tour extensively

this year with the production

of 'Constance Drinkwater and

the Final Days of

Somerset'. What's that, you

say? A ship wreck. The

awards-winning play by Steven

Carlton is set in far North

Queensland on the eve of

federation. Described as a

Gothic melodrama with the plot

of a thriller the State stage

production is a tight snap shot

of the north's history, humour

and humiliation. Yes, I

remember now,... Though it may

be set a century ago it deals

with mod rn dea stereotypes of

northern Australia. The

perception of the north as

being some kind of wild place

or a place full of bandits or

red necks or whatever people

like to say, the reality is

northern Australia's completely

different from that, and also

issues about this is the place

that's closest to potential

invasion and during the second

Worlds War Darwin and Townsville both experienced

that. Then worries about

immigration and those issues.

Those are subjects that

interest me. The entire cast is from North Queensland except

for two, or the Northern

Territory. The actors say it

adds an extra dimension to an

already multilayered production. The fact that

people have been able to see it

and feel that they've got

something that is about them

from them by them. ... Forming

ourselves into a major production house of the north

if you like. It will equal in size some of the smaller

organisations down south and

the funding bodies are fou

beginning to look to us and say

"OK, can you provide a menu of

possible touring products" and

that sort of thing. John da fur

reckons Constance Drinkwater

could be the play to regain respect for the northern productions. I think it's got a

lot of possibility, yes. A lot

of people are seeing it and for

all of us it's been a

successful enterprise, the -

the scale of the audiences has

been very good, the enthusiasm

of the audience has been

excellent. Yes, I think it has

a possibility. I should say so.

(Laughs evilly) The Australian

military today farewelled its

work horse in the sky. The

Iroquois helicopter or Huey has

it came to be known, first flew

into service in Australia in

1962. It came to national

prominence during the Vietnam

war as both an instrument of

death for the communists and

one of rescue and hope for

Australian troops. Today drew

an end to the machine service

with a ceremony held in and

above Brisbane.

Hueys in formation over

Brisbane. This was a tribute to

the machines and the Mentha

have flown them over the past

45 years as the Hueys fly out

of service. As is the case with

all aeronautical equipment

there comes a time when e e comes a time hen there comes a time when it has

to be retired from service. I think the time ? iLk h m think the time is about right.

# I was only 19 # Brisbane

from the air is far removed

from the theatre that

established the reputation of

the helicopter, Vietnam. It was

perhaps the single most

important piece of equipment

for Australian troops,

supporting combat operations as

gun ships, ferrying supplies,

or helping the wounded. There

are many Vietnam veterans walking around today who

wouldn't be walking around if those helicopters hadn't been

able to snatch them from the

battlefield and get them back

to medical facilities very

quickly. It thish that very

distinctive sound about it, the

whok whok whok, sound, which to

this day brings a tear to the

eyes of veterans of that

time. The moment you heard that

coming there was a great sigh

of relief. And much joy. S time

and technology has advanced the

Hueys have gradually been

phased out, their capabilities

replaced by other helicopters

like the Black Hawk and the

MRH90. Those who have flown the Hueys have fond memories. They're a wonderful

machine to fly. It was very

much a pilot's aircraft. It was

all hands and feet no, auto

pilot, Hu to fly it every inch

of the way. Today the

helicopters flew into

Australian military history,

destined to be museum pieces. I

understand a lot of people

round the country side have put

bids in to get an Iroquois to

put on a stand outside Returned

Service League clubs and so on.

I imagine a lot of them will

appear around the country side

as, if you like, static

displays. Their last operation

over Brisbane marked the end of

an era for the pilots and crew

and Australia. It was an

amazing experience, I was

flying beside a general who

came along for the last ride, I

didn't get to touch the

controls much. Disappointed. I

have flown it down the Brisbane

River a few times previously t

was an excellent experience. The helicopter's

just bit of machinery. Fellas

who flew them should be

acknowledge ed, the pilots and

crews on them got the very best

out of that machine. We can all

say farewell to the helicopters

but we shouldn't say farewell

to the crews, take them for

granted. They just did a magic

job with a very good piece of

equipment. (whok whok whok)

That's the show for the wiek.

We'll leave you with your say

on thanthon Thurston's

clearance to play.

How important was it to get

him back? Snmplets he's the heart of the Queensland

Cowboys. I think it's really important. He's such a great player. He deserves to be

there. He's contributed so much

this season. I'm really happy

he did. Very important. We need

him. He'll lead the side

around. Very important. What do

you think about JT?

you think about JT? Pretty

important because our team - we

needed JT as well as everybody

else, just to boost our

confidence up. Oh, we'll win

alright. Hand down. Very well.

If we didn't get - he didn't

get off then the game would be

disappointed, eh. A major role

with him and Matty Bowen