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Brisbane ABC suppresses alternative candidates in state elections despite listener dismay with major parties

Brisbane's local ABC radio station 612 disregarded its own listeners' expressed dissatisfaction with both the major parties when, during the 2009 Queensland state elections, it refused any air time to local independent candidates. Instead, virtually all the available time was given over to candidates from the governing Labor Party or the Opposition Liberal National Party, who even according to the ABC's own listeners, provided little useful information.

See also: ABC's response in "ABC dismisses complaint claiming privatisation not 'newsworthy' in 2009 Queensland elections" of 10 Jun 09, "Courier Mail, ABC back Department of Main Roads land grab" of 29 Mar 09, "Why the Brisbane Mayoral elections should not have been 'boring'" of 23 Mar 08, "Courier Mail provides 'boring', yet unbalanced, coverage of Brisbane City Council elections" of 17 Mar 09.

See also: ABC's response in "ABC dismisses complaint claiming privatisation not 'newsworthy' in 2009 Queensland elections" of 10 Jun 09, "Courier Mail, ABC back Department of Main Roads land grab" of 29 Mar 09, "Why the Brisbane Mayoral elections should not have been 'boring'" of 23 Mar 08, "Courier Mail provides 'boring', yet unbalanced, coverage of Brisbane City Council elections" of 17 Mar 09.

Population-growth-driven chaos observed by ABC, but ignored as election issue

On Friday 20 March 2009, the last day of the hectically brief Queensland state election campaign, a listener phoned Brisbane ABC radio 612 to say:

"It would be a lot better if the Queensland Government would stop inviting people to come to Queensland."

The following morning, on the day of the actual elections, Tony Eastley, ABC radio's national AM program presenter, reported:

"... Transport is increasingly a problem because of the huge population that's coming to south-east Queensland. Thousands and thousands of people arrive each week in south-east Queensland to take up employment, searching for something new in their lives, and the infrastructure in those places has really struggled to keep pace.

"When we were down there the other day there's always road work going on, there's always something happening, and I think people just genuinely get frustrated. Anyone listening to this program who lives in a city knows that there's an ongoing battle between what you want and what you get in cities as far as infrastructure goes."1

The fact that the Queensland Government had deliberately encouraged the population growth that had needlessly resulted in the "ongoing battle between what you want and what you get," as Tony Eastley had put it, and fully intended to continue doing so2, should have been a hot issue in the election campaign.

However, the Queensland Opposition is every bit as committed to the reckless encouragement of population growth as the Government,3 although this has not prevented it from taking cheap political shots at the Government for the problem of traffic congestion mentioned by Eastley and other problems that simply would not exist but for past population growth.

The Queensland Greens, on paper, stood opposed to population growth, but said nothing about it during the election campaign.4

So that only left myself, and possibly a few other independents, who were prepared to speak out against population growth. None were approached by the ABC as far as I could tell. Even though I had sent a lot of material on population growth, the ABC ignored the issue or ignored me.

This meant that the majority of Queenslanders opposed to population growth, were kept ignorant by the ABC of how to express those views at the ballot box.

Voters' wishes for information on alternatives to the two major parties ignored

During the elections there was abundant evidence of voter dissatisfaction with both the ruling Labor Party and the Opposition Liberal National Party. Population would have been one of many factors.

On 6 March, the Courier Mail newspaper's Galaxy Poll showed that 56% of voters did not believe that the Labor Government deserved to be re-elected. 57% of voters did not believe the Opposition Liberal National Party (LNP) deserved to win. Immediately prior to the date of the elections, two weeks later, on Friday 20 March, the same poll showed that attitudes had barely changed. 57% of voters believed that the LNP did not deserve to win and 57% believed that Labor did not deserve to win.

These poll results were confirmed throughout the election campaign by many listeners' calls to the ABC's local Brisbane Radio station 612.

One listener objected to the LNP because they supported Uranium mining, but he said he didn't like the Labor party either. Another said she would be voting for the LNP, but not because she liked the LNP, only because she saw it is preferable to Labor. Still another stated, "None of them are any good."

One listener stated that he wanted to vote for a good independent and explicitly asked that more information be provided.

The fact that most of their listeners had expressed dissatisfaction with the major parties did not deter the ABC from devoting nearly all the available election coverage to those same major parties -- usually state government ministers and shadow ministers -- and to almost no-one else.

Of what was said on air by the major party spokespersons, one listener complained, "they come on and waffle on and on." That they had indeed waffled on, and that the ABC had wasted its listeners' time was further confirmed immediately after the elections.

On the Monday 23 March, at least two listeners phoned in to say that the ABC had provided them with insufficient policy detail about the major party candidates. One of them stated that she consequently voted for Anna Bligh only on the basis of her having been depicted well in a personal light in interview with her husband (referred to also below).

Open ABC disdain for independent candidates

It was incumbent on the taxpayer-funded ABC to encourage any independent candidate who overcame Anna Bligh's engineered time constraints and had information ready for the voting public despite often limited campaign budgets. Instead, one ABC presenter effectively ridiculed an independent candidate before her audiences on one occasion, when, on Friday 20 March, the day before the elections, a morning presenter5 told listeners of an independent candidate who had only managed to release his policy statement the previous day. Then she remarked:

"They're leaving their pitch until a little late, aren't they?"

No useful information was given to the audience about that candidate.

Requests for air time ignored

In fact, one candidate, namely me, had provided the ABC with plenty of information, and in plenty of time, but the ABC presenter neglected to tell her audience this.

I was not given air-time and the information I made available was not used, in spite of its clear relevance to concerns expressed by ABC listeners during the election campaign.

Although I presented it to the ABC through e-mails, media releases, text messages, telephone calls and even a printed brochure, delivered to the studio on Saturday, one week before the elections, no information was passed on to the public. Nor did the ABC give me any opportunity to put that information to voters myself. If any other candidate also campaigned actively for those policies, they certainly got no exposure either.

The total return on all my efforts was only two tiny instances of exposure (see, also, below):

  • When I phoned in around 8.00am on Monday 9 March, I was able to introduce myself as an independent candidate for Mount Coot-tha and then announce a 'meet the candidates' night for my electorate scheduled for Monday 16 March;
  • After the 10:00am news Friday 13 March, Madonna King put to Andrew Fraser a question on my behalf: Would he commit himself to not privatising any more Government owned assets? His response to that question, which I considered unsatisfactory, was accepted without further pursuit.

Spurious justifications for refusal of air time

On the two occasions I spoke to ABC staff to request more time, they protested that I had had more than a fair amount of coverage. They argued that they could not allocate air-time to every independent candidate.

However it was Anna Bligh's decision6, and not mine to hold an early election of less than four weeks duration.

So, far from compensating the electorate for Anna Bligh's own decision, the ABC lavished her and other Labor candidates with air-time. At the same time the ABC seemed to go out of its way to ensure no Greens or independents like me, might challenge her policies with substantially new or different ones.

The ABC even found time to broadcast an interview with Anna Bligh's husband Greg Withers, who, unsurprisingly, depicted Anna Bligh sympathetically, but gave no useful policy information.7

Thus the ABC, the nation's public, tax-paid broadcaster, utterly failed to disseminate vital information to taxpayers on the core business of government - a state election. It did not just fail; it seemed to present an obstacle to a real election choice.

Much of the little time scheduled for election coverage was often taken up with other stories of little practical relevance to ordinary voters. For instance, one session discussed an article by Murdoch journalist, Glen Milne, in the Australian,8 which advocated that Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman join the campaign on Lawrence Springborg's side. Whilst the article may have held interest for LNP strategists, it is clear that these sorts of programming decisions prevented many of the ABC's listeners from being able to arrive at informed decisions when they voted.

Why didn't the ABC schedule enough time to interview all the candidates? In fact, that is the policy of the ABC's local Adelaide Radio Station. On 22 Mar 09 the following was posted to a forum discussion:

"Here in South Australia, we enjoy the award winning ABC 891 Adelaide who make a feature of giving all the independents adequate time to present their policies and issues.

"Listeners obviously appreciate being fully informed, a fact which seems to have gone over the heads of ABC 612."9

If it could be done in Adelaide, then why not also in Brisbane?

Madonna King refuses to hold Labor Government to account for public asset fire sale ...

As part of my efforts to obtain air time on the ABC, I sent a number of ABC presenters, including Madonna King, copies of an e-mail concerning privatisation, which I had sent to Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser (see Appendix 3).

The e-mail pointed out that a large number of publicly owned assets had been privatised since the Labor Party won government in 1998, but that those privatisations had not been put to the Queensland public at election times, nor had the public been consulted in any other way. I concluded the letter as follows:

"If the public had been consulted, none of these privatisations would have occurred and the Queensland public would have been spared the harm caused to them.

"I therefore ask that you give, to the Queensland public, a categorical assurance that you will not privatise any more assets during the coming Parliamentary term.

"If you are not prepared to give such an assurance, then privatisation is an issue at stake in these elections and should be openly discussed.

"Accordingly, I would ask that, as a candidate opposed to privatisation, you justify your stance before the Queensland public in a debate10 with me.

On the following day, Friday 13 March, when I heard that Andrew Fraser was to be interviewed by Madonna King, I created the text message which follows as fast as I could and sent it off as the interview was proceeding:

"James Sinnamon, Independent for Mount Coot-tha asks: Why weren't Qld public consulted about privatisation of Brisbane, Mackay Cairns airports, Energex, etc?"

It turned out that Madonna King had already decided to put a question to Andrew Fraser on my behalf as James Sinnamon, an Independent candidate for Mount Coot-tha. She asked him:11 would he commit himself to not privatising further Government-owned assets?

Andrew Fraser responded by telling listeners that he had already sent me a letter in response to my question.

In fact, no posted letter ever arrived and I only received an e-mail later that day, which means that it could not have been sent at the time Andrew Fraser claimed. The e-mail actually arrived three and a half weeks after I had first e-mailed my question to Andrew Fraser.12

Any impression audiences may have received that Andrew Fraser was in this case responsive to the concerns of his detractors, would have been misleading, in fact.

Mr Fraser then claimed that the Government had no plans to privatise more assets and that he was ideologically opposed to privatisation.

Nothing further was asked by Madonna King concerning privatisation.

None of the many other facts contained in my e-mail, my text message, or my web site, were put to Andrew Fraser. The fact that he neither made the firm commitment I was seeking, nor agreed to defend his stance in a public debate, was not pointed out to the audience. The interviewer did not confront him with the general failure in the previous election to consult the public about the privatisations which had followed, including Mr Fraser's own enactment of airport privatisations. Nor did she put to him that the public overwhelmingly opposes privatisation.

To my knowledge, that was the only time during the whole election campaign, that I am aware of, that the ABC ever raised the issue of privatisation with the Labor Government, although the ABC's listeners did raise it themselves on a few occasions.

After I received the promised letter from Andrew Fraser, I found its contents differed significantly from his account on the ABC. At one point the letter stated:

"We will only ever agree to such sales where there are demonstrable benefits to the Queensland community."

This was clearly different to Fraser's stated claim that he had "no plans to privatise" and it obviously fell even further short of the assurance I had been seeking.

At the end, his letter stated:

"We ... will not pursue an ideologically driven agenda of privatisation."13

Again different to Mr Fraser's claim that he was "ideologically opposed to privatisation".

I believe that I was entitled to air time on the ABC, to rectify that misinformation.

However, my subsequent e-mailed requests for more time were also ignored.(see Appendices 8 and 9)

My e-mail to Andrew Fraser and Anna Bligh (see Appendix 6 ), CC'd to Kellie Riordan and Madonna King, pointing out Mr Fraser's self-contradiction and re-affirming my challenge to debate him on privatisation, was also ignored by all recipients.

... but proves capable of asking hard questions when she chooses to

In contrast to her lightweight handling of Andrew Fraser on privatisation, the following week, on Wednesday 18 March, Madonna King showed that she could, when she applied herself, nail politicians down with their own words.

A listener called in to ask if Anna Bligh was prepared to apologise to electricity consumers for promising them that electricity charges would not go up as a result of privatisation of Energex - the retail arm of the state's electricity service, when, in fact, they had faced massive hikes, with the caller's own annual electricity having risen by $450.

Anna Bligh did not apologise. Instead, she claimed that she merely promised that no-one would have been any worse off than they otherwise would have been (which, if it had been made at the time, would have been regarded as the meaningless guarantee that it was). She attributed much of the increases to the need to build more electricity infrastructure (which would have been unnecessary if she had not encouraged population growth, although she neglected to mention this).

Madonna King confronted Bligh with the question:

"Are you absolutely sure that you didn't say that it would be cheaper?"

Anna Bligh responded:

"I didn't say that."

The next day, Anna Bligh's words from Hansard of 28 Sep 2005 and which had been looked up by a researcher from the LNP were quoted by Madonna King:

"Most importantly, it does not matter where you live, nobody--not one Queenslander--will be worse off under the government's proposal."

So, whilst no evidence that Anna Bligh had explicitly told the Queensland public that electricity prices would be cheaper was found, her guarantee that nobody would be worse off had been unconditional and it would have appeared that Queensland consumers were, after all, entitled to the apology that had been asked of Anna Bligh.

Over the following days, the ABC rightly reminded its listeners of this.

If Madonna King could have held Anna Bligh to account on that one issue, then why not on others, and why not also with Andrew Fraser on the issue of privatisation, when she had all the information provided by me at her finger tips?

The fact, that the link to the question put to Andrew Fraser about privatisation the previous week, which should have been blindingly obvious, was not pointed out to the ABC's audience, contributes to the impression that these rare examples where politicians are asked truly hard questions are part of a token, rather than systematic approach.

The ABC shifts the goal posts

On the morning of Monday 16 March, I received a mobile phone voice message from Kellie Riordan, the ABC Radio's news director. The message advised me once again that they could not give me any more time than I had already been given. However, if I sent them anything that could be considered newsworthy, I might stand a chance.

I sent an e-mail back (see Appendix 9) restating that I believed that I was entitled to time, anyway, in the circumstances, but that I would do my best to provide material that was newsworthy.

The following day, I sent a media release "Andrew Fraser's three different responses to a question on privatisation" (see Appendix 10) to Kellie Riordan and other ABC staff, but they still did not report it and they still failed to give me air time.

During the rest of that last week before the election I sent to the ABC's Brisbane radio station:

  • On Wednesday, an e-mail to Madonna King asking for air time in response to listeners' expressed dissatisfaction with major party candidates (see Appendix 11);
  • On Thursday, an e-mail asking that they publicise a survey sent to all candidates I could reach and the responses to which had been published on my web site (see Appendix 12).
  • On Thursday, a text message sent at the time Lawrence Springborg was being interviewed: "Could u ask Mr Springborg if he would agree to respond to my survey at candobetter.org/qldelections/survey ? James Sinnamon ind 4 mt coot-tha"
  • On Thursday, an e-mail to Lawrence Springborg challenging him to defend the pro-privatisation view that he had espoused in an interview in a public debate (see Appendix 13), which was CC'd to the ABC;
  • On Friday, a media release about my challenge to debate Lawrence Springborg (see Appendix 14);

All of these communications were ignored. None were used in any news broadcasts as far as I am aware and no air time was given to me as a result.

Survey ignored

The survey mentioned above was to inform voters of candidates' attitudes towards the issue of privatisation and population growth, mentioned previously, as well as:

  • Premier Bligh's plans to triple Queensland's already record levels of coal exports by 2030 entailing the destruction of agricultural land and nature refuges;
  • the construction of a second massive Chinese-owned aluminium smelter in addition to the existing smelter at Gladstone;
  • making access to affordable housing and water a human right; and
  • a government sponsored full-employment program.

The list was not comprehensive, but, nevertheless covered a good many more important issues that I believe the Queensland public had a right to be informed about before they voted.

Evidently, the ABC did not agree.

I had set it it up to make it as easy as possible for any voter to quickly work out where each candidate standing in his electorate stood on each of these issues. I included a table with an entry for each candidate in each electorate. Where a candidate would not have been able to simply provide a 'yes', 'no' or 'undecided' to any of the questions, a further column included a link to another page containing comments.

By the morning of 19 March I had received responses to the survey from some of the Greens and Independents and had published them. Although not one major party candidate had answered and although the ground covered by the survey was far from complete it was a start and provided an opportunity for voters to gain more vital knowledge of the candidates' policies. Had other politicians been encouraged to respond to the questionnaire and had its existence been made known, it would have filled a major deficit in electoral policy information.

As I have said above, I sent an e-mail (see Appendix 12) to Madonna King and other presenters on Thursday 19 April, advising her of the survey. I also asked that the ABC use its influence to prevail upon the major parties to respond and, on the following day, a text message was sent whilst Lawrence Springborg was being interviewed.

Even the fact that on Thursday morning the ABC's own listeners had, yet again, expressed their dissatisfaction with the major parties and had asked for information on alternative candidates, as I pointed out in the e-mail, failed to galvanise our public broadcaster.

Dave Zwolenski's campaign material also not good enough for the ABC

Dave Zwolenksi stood as an independent candidate in the same electorate in which I stood. He campaigned on the more limited, but, nevertheless, important platform of total truthfulness and openness in our politicians. During the campaign he produce some polished and original material included a media release, posters and a YouTube video.

In the YouTube video, he appeared in a succession of scenes in the Mount Coot-tha electorate, each progressively closer to the Queensland Parliament, itself not far outside the electorate. In each successive scene, he takes off more and more clothes. In the final scene, he removes his pants and stands stark naked, although with an electronic equivalent of a figleaf in from of him, in front of the Queensland Parliament as a metaphor for the openness for which he was campaigning.

This campaign was also totally ignored by the ABC as well as by nearly all of the rest of newsmedia.14

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the ABC never seriously intended giving substantial air time to me or any other independent candidate. Had they had the courtesy to say so at the outset, then I could have used the time I had spent trying to get air time on the public broadcaster more productively elsewhere.

ABC's election coverage denies voters the right to hold elected representatives to account

Democracy was famously defined by US President Abraham Lincoln during his address following the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 as "government of the people by the people for the people."

In Australia, in the early 21st century, democracy has been effectively redefined by the mass media to mean something far more limited. It has come to mean no more than the right of the electorate to decide, every three or four years, which of the two major parties, promoted by Australia's corporate elite, may make the sweeping decisions they claim via the mainstream media to be in the electorate's best interests.

In the intervening period between elections, voters have practically no right to influence what the elected government can and cannot do.

Even during the elections only a small subset of policy areas is ever discussed. In the 2004 federal elections, as examples, Prime Minister John Howard made no mention of his plans to savagely attack the wages and conditions of ordinary workers with his so-called "Work Choices" legislation, and discussion of his plans to fully privatise Telstra was almost completely avoided. In the 2009 Queensland state elections, the issues covered were mostly limited to fiscal management, health, road transport (but not public transport), water, and power supply and only within very restricted parameters.

In effect, this means that the public are usually left with very little to choose from between the major parties when they reach the polling booth and are largely ignorant of candidates, like me, who question the status quo.

This practically guarantees that politicians who have poorly served their constituents will continue to be re-elected or, at worst, only be replaced occasionally by one from the other major party who is unlikely to be any better. New candidates stand hardly any chance of being heard, let alone winning.

This is how the ABC has itself largely brought about the circumstances of which its own listeners complain, that is, about how they are ruled by governments that 57% don't believe deserve to rule.

In the past, the ABC in Queensland was rightly viewed as a fierce and independent critic of the state government, particularly during the Bjelke-Petersen years. However this is no longer the case. The ABC is no longer part of the solution. It has become part of the problem.

1: E-mail of Fri 6 Mar 09 to Kellie Riordan requesting air time
2: E-mail of Tue 10 Mar 09 to Madonna King requesting air time
3: E-mail of Thu 12 Mar 09 to Premier Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser
4: E-mail of Thu 12 Mar 09 requesting air time
5: E-mail of Fri 13 Mar 09 to Kellie Riordan
6: E-mail of Fri 13 Mar 09 to Andrew Fraser
7: E-mail of Mon 16 Mar 09 to Kellie Riordan advising that anti-privatisation Greens candidate Robert Huston would like air time
8: E-mail of Mon 16 Mar 09 to Madonna King requesting air time to counter Andrew Fraser's misleading statements of Friday
9: E-mail of Mon 16 Mar 09 to Kellie Riordan in response to voice message
10: Media release on privatisation sent to Kellie Riordan and others
11: E-mail of Wed 18 Mar 09 to Madonna King asking for air time in response to listeners' dissatisfaction with major party candidates
12: E-mail of Thu 19 Mar 09 to Brisbane ABC local radio staff asking that survey be publicised in response to listeners requests for more information
13: E-mail of Thu 19 Mar 09 challenging Lawrence Springborg to debate privatisation
14: Media release of 19 Mar 09 challenging Lawrence Springborg to debate privatisation

Appendix 1: E-mail of Fri 6 Mar 09 to Kellie Riordan requesting air time

Subject: Air time on ABC 612 for independent candidate for Mount Coot-tha?

Dear Kellie Riordan/Anna Reynolds,

Could you tell me what my prospects are to have air time on the ABC in these coming two weeks?

I am essentially available at any time.

Whilst I am slow off the mark, you will find some information about my campaign at http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha http://candobetter.org/QldElections.

There's more about me on my home page, included below.

Throughout the years I have been interviewed on radio, mostly on the issue of privatisation of Telstra(1). I also stood as candidate for Lord Mayor and was interviewed once last year in the studio at Lissner Street.

If you know of anyone else you think may be interested, please let me know. Also, please feel welcome to pass on my contact details to such people.

Best regards,

James Sinnamon
Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
james -dot- sinnamon |AT| gmail -dot- com
0412 319669
http://candobetter.org/james

1. Some information (although now largely dated) can be found at http://citizensagainstsellingtelstra.com.

Appendix 2: E-mail of Tue 10 Mar 09 to Madonna King requesting air time

Subject: Please give more air time to discuss election issues of substance

CC'd to Kellie Riordan, Richard Fidler and Spencer Howson.

Dear Madonna King,

I believe that yesterday's discussion on whether or not Lord Mayor Campbell Newman should enter the Queensland election campaign could have been better spent discussing issues of substance at stake in the elections.

In my view far too much air time and newspaper column inches has been given in recent years to topics which, whilst of interest to members of the LNP and Labor Parties, hold far less interest to members of the broader public.

I am an independent candidate contesting the seat of Mount Coot-tha. I am standing, in part to raise, before the broader public, issues of critical importance which I believe are at stake in this election, but which are not being adequately covered by the newsmedia.

These include:

* Privatisation, of which my electoral opponent Treasurer Andrew Fraser has been principle architect.

* The run away housing unaffordability crisis, which is literally impoverishing many Brisbane people, including even well-paid professionals (such as a surveyor who lives near me who had to cancel his annual flight back to Europe because of recent rent increases).

* The destruction of businesses in Inner city Brisbane also due to excessive rental increases. Only the weekend before last week the Baboa Art Gallery, which had operated on Latrobe Terrace Paddington for only two and a half years had to close its doors because its rent had doubled in that time. On Monday last week I walked by to see the interior of the Gallery, carefully constructed by its operator Joan Winter only two an a half years earlier already destroyed by workmen in preparation for the next tenant.

Since early 2008, virtually a whole retail community further down Latrobe Street closer to Given Terrace has been similarly wiped out by rent increases, actively encouraged by local real estate agents.

I could not recognise a single business that had been there when I wrote and talked of it during the Brisbane City Council elections as Lord Mayoral candidate (See "Rent gouging threatens Brisbane inner city retail community" at http://candobetter.org/node/360).

* Population Growth, which is the principle driver of all our social, environmental and economic problems (including housing unaffordability).

* The despoliation of Queensland's natural habitat (see "Coal mine threatens Queensland Nature Refuge" at http://candobetter.org/node/1129) and the rest of the world by Queensland's mining industry. (see "Why I am contesting the Queensland state elections as an independent").

* etc., etc, etc.

I think if you or other ABC presenters can find the time to interview me about these issues and others I have raised in my article "Why I am contesting the Queensland state elections as an independent" at:

http://candobetter.org/node/1121
http://candobetter.org/QldElections
http://candobetter.org/QldElections
http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha

... your listeners will be very grateful.

yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon

Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
http://candobetter.org/james

Appendix 3: E-mail of Thu 12 Mar 09 to Premier Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser

Subject: Independent candidate seeks assurance from Government against any further privatisations

CC'd to: Madonna King, Kellie Riordan, Spencer Howson, Annie Guest, Lawrence Springborg and others.

Dear Premier Anna Bligh and Treasurer Andrew Fraser,

In the letter I sent to both of you on 17 February, before the elections were called I asked for "your firm assurance that if you do intend to privatise any (publicly owned) assets that you state your intention to do so to the public before the forthcoming elections, or, alternatively, that you will put any planned privatisations to the public at referenda."

I have still not received that simple assurance.

I ask this because I believe that, in a democracy, the public should be consulted by their elected representatives about all questions that will affect their lives, particularly decisions the (claimed) need for which can be easily foreseen.

However, as you are both surely well aware, the Queensland public has never been consulted about any of the numerous privatisations that have occurred since your Government came to power, starting with the full privatisation of the already partially privatised State Government Insurance Office (SGIO - now called SunCorp) in 1998 against a specific election promise made by former Premier Peter Beattie.

Had the Government retained ownership, or at least partial ownership, then at least one insurance company could have been directed by your government not to have resorted to the unconscionable business practices that have been described on the Madonna King radio show over the last two days.

Other privatisations, which have been imposed on the Queensland public since
then include:

* The remaining government stake in Brisbane airport in 2009

* Cairns Airport in 2009

* Mackay Airport in 2008

* The Qld Government's stake in the Emu Downs wind farm in Western Australia in 2008;

* The Enertex (not be confused with Energex) gas business in 2008;

* The Golden Casket state lottery agency in 2007;

* Ergon Gas in 2006;

* Energex, the retail arm of Queensland's electricity generation utility in 2006;

* the Dalrymple Bay coal loader in 2001

* TAB in 1999

I believe all have been detrimental to the public interest and some, including the privatisations of Energex, Ergon, the Dalrymple Bay coal loader and the SGIO, as discussed above, have been indisputably disastrous.

If the public had been consulted, none of these privatisations would have occurred and the Queensland public would have been spared the harm caused to them.

I therefore ask that you give, to the Queensland public, a categorical assurance that you will not privatise any more assets during the coming Parliamentary term.

If you are not prepared to give such an assurance, then privatisation is an issue at stake in these elections and should be openly discussed.

Accordingly, I would ask that, as a candidate opposed to privatisation, that you justify your stance before the Queensland public in a debate with me.

Yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon

Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
http://candobetter.org/james
http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha

Appendix 4: E-mail of Thu 12 Mar 09 requesting air time

Subject: The prospects of air time discuss privatisation, population growth, climate-changing coal exports, etc.

Dear Kellie,

I tried to phone today to find out whether or not I was likely to get air time on ABC 612 in the coming days.

I believe that the issues I want to raise are of immense interest to the Queensland public.

It seems to have been implied that because I was heard once on the radio at Breakfast show I should not be heard again before the elections.

If that is what has been decided, then I think that that would be a mistaken decision, that is, unless you are giving air time to other candidates, who are raising the same issues which I am trying to raise (see below) -- which I would welcome.

Whatever, I want to see all the candidates are properly scrutinised by ABC journalists on all the questions I have raised so that at least ABC audience will properly informed of the choices before them at these elections.

I trust that you will do what you can to bring this about.

So, could you phone me on [...] to discuss this?

Yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon

Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
http://candobetter.org/james
http://candobetter.org/QldElections
http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha

Appendix 5: E-mail of Fri 13 Mar 09 to Kellie Riordan

Subject:Re: The prospects of air time discuss privatisation, population growth, climate-changing coal exports, etc

Date: 13/03/09 02:02 pm
CC'd to: Madonna King

Dear Kellie,

Further to yesterday's e-mail, I would still like to know whether or not it will be possible to have air time on Brisbane local radio in the coming days.

I appreciate that Madonna King put my question to Andrew Fraser this morning, but it seems to me that she left him off the hook far too easily.

His response that he had no plans to privatise electricity and that he was ideologically against privatisation should have been easily anticipated by anyone familiar with this issue.

Points I had made in my correspondences which could have been used but were not put. Even a text message I sent to Madonna King could have been easily use to follow up but was not. That text message was:

"James Sinnamon, Independent for Mount Coot-tha asks: Why weren't Qld public consulted about Brisbane, Mackay Cairns airports, Energex, etc?"

Consequently, our politicians, who should be being held properly to account in this period are getting off far too lightly making the current elections a pale imitation of true democracy.

I suggest once again, you give time to candidates like myself to candidates who are raising the issues of real concern.

Another candidate you should get in contact with is Robert Huston, Greens candidate for Mount Ommaney who wrote a short article which I posted on my web site.

"Qld Greens: 'competitive' market a calamity for electricity consumers" at http://candobetter.org/node/1139

He can be reached at mount.ommaney[AT]qld.greens.org.au 0428 XXX XXX

I am sure he would be happy to speak to you.

Yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon

Appendix 6: E-mail of Fri 13 Mar 09 to Andrew Fraser

Subject: Categorical assurance against privatisation has not been given by Andrew Fraser

Date: 13/03/09 04:45 pm

CC'd to: Madonna King, Kellie Riordan and others

(Subject was: Response)

Dear Andrew Fraser,

The letter I have received from you is not the categorical assurance against privatisation that I was seeking from you.

Furthermore, it significantly contradicts what I recall that you told Brisbane listeners on Madonna King's Breakfast show this morning.

This morning, according to my recollection, you said that there were no plans to privatise any more of Queensland's assets and that you were ideologically opposed to privatisation.

In contrast, your letter states:

"The Queensland Government's record on the Sale of Government. We will only ever agree to such sales where there are demonstrable benefits to the Queensland community."

Further along, in marked contrast to my recollection of your statement that you were ideologically opposed to privatisation, the letter merely states, "We have not and will not pursue an ideologically driven agenda of privatisation."

So can you please make clear to me whether you are ideologically opposed to privatisation or just merely not ideologically in favour of privatisation?

Either way this doesn't provide the categorical assurance I was seeking.

I therefore repeat my challenge to you, and to other candidates, who appear to favour privatisation during the next term of Parliament, including, it would seem, the opposition leader Lawrence Springborg, that you publicly debate the issue of privatisation with a candidate opposed to privatisation, such as myself.

I will also be asking all candidates for categorical assurances that they will oppose privatisation during the course of the next Parliament. I trust that the ABC, the Courier Mail and other newsmedia will make the responses known to electors so that they can be fully informed when they cast their votes.

Yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon

Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
http://candobetter.org/james
http://candobetter.org/QldElections
http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha

Appendix 7: E-mail of Mon 16 Mar 09 to Kellie Riordan advising that anti-privatisation Greens candidate Robert Huston would like air time

Subject: Robert Huston, Greens Candidate for Mount Ommaney confirms that he would like air time

Date: 16/03/09 12:21 am

CC'd to Madonna King.

Hi James,

I would be happy to talk to local radio about the disaster of electricity supply management.

Regards

Robert Huston BVSc. BEnv.Sc. MPhil.
Greens candidate for Mt Ommaney
...

Appendix 8: E-mail of Mon 16 Mar 09 to Madonna King requesting air time to counter Andrew Fraser's misleading statements of Friday

Subject: URGENT: request air time to correct misleading statements by Andrew Fraser broadcast on Friday

Date: 16/03/09 08:51 am

CC'd to: Kellie Riordan and others

Dear Madonna King,

Further to my e-mail on Friday, I request that I be given air time on your program to correct the misleading and incomplete response, given by Andrew Fraser, the sitting member for Mount Coot-tha in response to my question.

That question which attempted to establish whether or not Queenslanders can expect even more of their assets to be privatised in the next term of Parliament. How Andrew Fraser's answer misled your audience was explained in an e-mail, sent to Andrew Fraser (included also below), which was cc'd to you:

"Furthermore, (the letter) significantly contradicts what I recall that you told Brisbane listeners on Madonna King's Breakfast show this morning.

"This morning, according to my recollection, you said that there were no plans to privatise any more of Queensland's assets and that you were ideologically opposed to privatisation.

In contrast, your letter states:

"'The Queensland Government's record on the Sale of Government. We will only ever agree to such sales where there are demonstrable benefits to the Queensland community.'

"Further along, in marked contrast to my recollection of your statement that you were ideologically opposed to privatisation, the letter merely states, 'We have not and will not pursue an ideologically driven agenda of privatisation.'"

I believe that your audience is entitled to have this misinformation corrected.

This is all the more urgent as I am a candidate who represents the overwhelming opposition of electors both in Mount Coot-tha and the rest of Queensland to privatisation. That popular rejection of privatisation has been repeatedly defied, in practice, by both the Labor Government, in particular, the Treasurer Andrew Fraser and the LNP opposition, which, in Government, has conducted its own privatisations and, in Opposition, has voted for all the Government's privatisation bills, should be treated as a serious election issue.

I am the only candidate in Mount Coot-tha, and one of very few across the state, who has attempted to give this critical issue the prominence it deserves.

I am happy to be interviewed on my own or together with Andrew Fraser.

In my view, to not agree to my request for air time in these circumstances would amount to withholding to Brisbane electors, information about a vital issue at stake in these elections.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
James Sinnamon

Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
...
http://candobetter.org/james
http://candobetter.org/QldElections
http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha

(Subject was: Response)

Dear Andrew Fraser,

The letter I have received from you is not the categorical assurance against privatisation that I was seeking from you.

(See Appendix 6 for the rest of this included e-mail.)

Appendix 9: E-mail of Mon 16 Mar 09 to Kellie Riordan in response to voice message

Subject: Robert Huston, Greens Candidate for Mount Ommaney confirms that he would like air time

CC'd to: Madonna King

Dear Kellie,

Sorry I missed your call just now. I will try to keep the phone closer to me from now on, but a return number would also be helpful.

I don't think your response addressed my concerns, so my request for air time still stands. I have shown that Andrew Fraser misled your program's listeners and did not fully answered my question, so on that grounds alone I believe I am entitled to air time.

If there is insufficient time to allow such misinformation to be corrected and to force candidates to adequately answer questions of electors and other candidates, let alone for views, which enjoy overwhelming public support such as opposition to privatisation to be put, then this election is a farce and the ABC should be telling that to its listeners.

However, as I wrote before, the ABC programmers could help by focusing more on substantive issues rather than pondering whether or not it would be a good idea for Campbell Newman to help Lawrence Springborg.

I would also suggest that whilst the story about Anna Bligh's husband Greg Withers was not altogether without interest, given the time constraints, of which you complain, that should have been left until after the election.

I will, as you suggest, send news items, but you must appreciate that it is more difficult with few resources and not enough time.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon

Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
...
http://candobetter.org/james
http://candobetter.org/QldElections
http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha

Appendix 10: Media release on privatisation sent to Kellie Riordan and others

Andrew Fraser's three different responses to a question on privatisation
Media release of 17 Mar 09

Queensland voters, who overwhelmingly oppose privatisation, have a right to know which candidates can be relied upon to block any further sell-offs of public assets, said James Sinnamon, independent candidate for the Brisbane inner-north-west seat of Mount Coot-tha.

"The privatisation of the Cairns, Mackay and Brisbane airports, the Golden Casket, Energex and Ergon during the last term of Parliament, demonstrate that privatisation was an issue at stake in the 2006 state elections," said the independent candidate, "yet where were the electors told of this?"

(For the rest of the media release, see "Andrew Fraser's three different responses to a question on privatisation" of 17 Mar 09.)

Appendix 11: E-mail of Wed 18 Mar 09 to Madonna King asking for air time in response to listeners' dissatisfaction with major party candidates

Subject: If listeners are dissatsifed with major parties, why aren't others given air time on your program?

Date: 18/03/09 11:39 am

CC'd to: Kellie Riordan, Richard Fidler

Dear Madonna King,

As you have just heard from your own listeners, a lot of electors are extremely dissatisfied with what both major parties have to offer.

So, why are candidates, who stand for something different and, on many issues,such as privatisation and population growth, actually represent the majority view, getting so little air time on your program, and on the ABC in general?

Yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon

Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
...
http://candobetter.org/james
http://candobetter.org/QldElections
http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha

Appendix 12: E-mail of Thu 19 Mar 09 to Brisbane ABC local radio staff asking that survey be publicised in response to listeners requests for more information

Subject: Please advise listeners of my online survey sent to all candidates

Dear Madonna King, Richard Fidler, Kellie Riordan, Annie Guest et al,

I have heard a number of listeners saying to Madonna King on her program that they are dissatisfied with the major parties and that they want more information about policies.

Could you please advise your listeners that they can find answers to much of the information they seek printed in results to a survey on my web site.

Late last night and this morning I sent out survey questions concerning privatisation, population growth, the environment and full employment to every candidate I was able to e-mail. That survey is included below.

As I write, I am receiving responses. I am publishing the results at:

http://candobetter.org/QldElections/survey

I am also publishing any more detailed comments I have received.

Could you please advise your listeners of this survey and do you think you could use your good influence to prevail upon candidates from the major parties to respond to my survey?

So far, none have responded.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon

Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
...
http://candobetter.org/james
http://candobetter.org/QldElections
http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha

Appendix 13: E-mail of Thu 19 Mar 09 challenging Lawrence Springborg to debate privatisation

Subject: URGENT: Please justify your pro-privatisation stance in a public debate

Date: 19/03/09 02:37 pm

CC'd to: Madonna King, Kellie Riordan, Richard Fidler, Annie Guest and others.

Dear Lawrence Springborg,

If you intend to privatise any more of public assets I believe you have an obligation to satisfy Queensland voters that this is justified.

To date this has never happened and all privatisations have been overwhelmingly opposed by public opinion.

All privatisations, without exception, have been public policy disasters and any further privatisations undertaken by a further LNP Government or a future Labor Government are almost certain to be no different.

I therefore challenge you or any other LNP candidate to justify in a public debate before the election your refusal to rule out any more privatisations, or, else commit yourself to not doing so until you have obtained the specific consent of the Queensland public.

My past challenge to Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser (or any other Labor candidate) to publicly debate their pro-privatisation stances also still stands.

yours sincerely

James Sinnamon

Pro-democracy independent
candidate for Mount Coot-tha
...http://candobetter.org/james
http://candobetter.org/QldElections
http://candobetter.org/QldElections/MountCoot-tha

Appendix 14: Media release of 19 Mar 09 challenging Lawrence Springborg to debate privatisation

Subject: Media Release: Lawrence Springborg out of step with the public on privatisation

Date: 19/03/09 06:44 pm

CC'd to Madonna King, Richard Fidler, Kellie Riordan, Annie Guest and others

Lawrence Springborg out of step with the public on privatisation

James Sinnamon, independent for Mount Coot-tha
Media Release, Thur 19 Mar 09

During an interview on Brisbane ABC local radio's Madonna King show, today, Lawrence Springborg told listeners that he has 'no objection' to the further sell-off of publicly-owned assets.

However, Mr Sinnamon pointed out that only the day before, Mr Springborg's Liberal National Party had rightly taken Premier Anna Bligh to task for misleading electricity consumers by promising that no electricity consumer would be worse off as a consequence of the privatisation of Energex.

(For the rest of the media release, see "Media release: Lawrence Springborg out of step with the public on privatisation" of 20 Mar 09)

Footnotes

1. "AM's Tony Eastley live from Brisbane on polling day" in ABC radio's AM archive of 21 Mar 09.

2. In "Have your say" in the Village Green section of the Courier Mail of 21 March, Lavinia Wood also commented on Premier Anna Bligh's deliberate encouragement of population growth when she commented on the draft South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009-2031:

"No one but the developers thinks that bringing an additional 1.3 million people into a region that is already under stress is a good idea. Yet the South East Queensland Regional Plan is driving this agenda, touting a target of 4.4 million by 2031."

See, also "Exposing Queensland Government population growth duplicity" of 1 Apr 09.

3. See, also, my letter to Lawrence Springborg within the article "Lawrence Springborg responds to Brisbane Save The Mary River Questionnaire" of 10 Mar 09.

4. During the 2007 Federal elections, Greens Queensland Senate candidate Larissa Waters, who also stood in 2009, as a Greens candidate in Mount Coot-tha, in which I stood, advised me that the Greens had judged that raising the issue of population growth could make the difference that could cost her the Senate seat. As it turned out, Larissa Waters did not win a Senate seat anyway. This raises two questions:

  1. Why is opposition to population growth judged by the Greens to be an electoral liability? and
  2. Even, if it is, then when is a good time for the Greens to begin educating the public in order that opposition to population growth eventually does not become an electoral liability?

In regard to the first point, all opinion polls show that population growth and immigration are unpopular, so why the Greens apparently believe that a stance against population growth would harm them is not obvious. In regard to the second point, the Queensland Greens are noted for doing very little outside election campaign periods, so, if they are reluctant to raise the issue at election time, then when do they ever intend to educate the Queensland public about their opposition to population growth.

5. I can't recall whether the presenter was Madonna King, the mid-morning presenter or Kellie Higgins-Devine who, for that week, replaced Spencer Howson as the early morning presenter. However, it was definitely one of the two.

6. Anna Bligh's stated reason, that early election speculation was destabilising our economy, seemed disingenuous. If that had truly been her concern, she needed only to reaffirm her March 2008 promise to serve her full term. Instead, she remained silent whilst early election speculation was fueled by the Courier Mail from at least November of the previous year. (See also "Courier Mail misreports water recycling to demand early election" of 5 Jan 09.) So, by by her own logic, Premier Anna Bligh had allowed needless harm to be caused to Queensland's economy for at least two and a half months.

When she did call the election on the morning of Monday 23 February, water from devastating floods was receding in the north of Queensland, which still faced threats of further cyclones. Both these factors made it harder for many candidates to campaign and harder for some to vote.

The very night on which she called elections, TV stations began broadcasting Labor Party election advertising in slots which had to have been booked well in advance.

7. The ABC also sought to interview Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg's wife, but she declined.

8. "Springborg's hope lies with can-do Campbell" by Glen Milne in the Australian of 9 Mar 09.

In any case, Milne's prediction that Newman's intervention would help Lawrence Springborg badly misfired. Newman turned out to be considerably less popular than Milne believed him to be and his association with the LNP's campaign appears to have turned Brisbane voters against the LNP. As one ABC listener pointed out on the morning of Monday 23 March:

"When I saw (Campbell Newman's) photo in an advertisement with Lawrence Springborg, I knew it was 'all over Red Rover.'"

In the 2008 Brisbane City Council elections in which I stood against him for Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman earnestly promised not to increase rates beyond the rate of inflation. He broke that promise only weeks later and imposed savage rate hikes on high rise dwellers. For this and a number of other reasons he now appears to be widely disliked in Brisbane. On the night of the elections he headed towards the Brisbane tally room in order to share the limelight with the Lawrence Springborg, whom he assumed would win. However, before he reached the tally room, he learnt that voters had turned against the LNP and he ordered his driver to turn around.

9. Forum discussion "My election night" on johnquiggin.com on 22 Mar 09.

10. Whilst some may judge a relatively unknown independent candidate to have been audacious in challenging the state's leading politicians to publicly debate privatisation, no other candidate had done so and no journalist, as far as I am aware, had confronted the Government over this issue. So as far as I am aware, this was the only attempt to hold our Government leaders for having sold off publicly owned assets without the consent of the owners of those assets.

11. This has already been mentioned in my article "What was achieved by my election campaign?" of 22 Mar 09.

12. See Open letter to Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser asking that any planned privatisations be put to the public at forthcoming elections of 17 Feb 09.

13. This has been covered in the article "Andrew Fraser's three different responses to a question on privatisation" of 17 Mar 09.

14. The only substantial coverage that either Dave Zwolenski or I received during the course of the campaign, was from the University of Queensland-based community radio station, 4ZZZ. Dave was interviewed twice by 4ZZZ, whilst I was interviewed once for 5 minutes.

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