Rough Week For the Bush

This week it was revealed that Nathan Turner did not die of COVID19. As I said in last week’s newsletter, there has been no official cause of death issued as yet.

I have been spending some time in Blackwater and I am so proud of how the community have come together in what has been a terrible time.

A moving candle lighting ceremony has been held with Blackwater residents placing candles in their driveways to commemorate Nathan’s passing.

All Clear – But What Was That About?
The town has been officially given the all clear but many residents, including close connections of Nathan and Simone, are left wondering what it was all about.

A young man dies with pre-existing medical conditions. He lives in an isolated town hundreds of kilometres from any corona virus hotspots and he hasn’t left town in months.

Yet, the Queensland Government seizes on the death with such urgency that they tell Nathan’s fiancée they must brief the media, immediately, that same night.

Then somehow, identifying personal details are given to the media and the family and friends of the deceased are pinned by the media spotlight. If you needed to keep the story running, tossing bits to the media will do it. The culprits prefer to call it “background briefing”.

Not Blackwater’s First Rodeo

It’s no surprise that Blackwater people feel their town is singled out for this type of treatment. The town had already been named as a potential source of infection for a man who works in a Blackwater mine but lives on the Keppel coast.

He hadn’t even been to Blackwater for three weeks, when he returned a false positive test to COVID19. Yet, he is still being reported as a “Blackwater man”, to this day.

A Third False Positive
And then there is the nurse from the North Rockhampton Nursing Home and the haste to link her to Blackwater – however tenuous. This poor lady has been pursued relentlessly by Labor MPs, to the point of being referred to the CCC by the Premier. This is not the way to encourage people to come forward for testing.

The strangest thing about that case is not one patient or staff member in the aged care home seems to have caught COVID19. Could it be a false positive, too?

Apologies Well Deserved

I was pleased the Chief Health Officer and the Health Minister apologised to Nathan’s fiancée. There was a lot to apologise for. None of this would have happened if they had waited 24 hours, or even just overnight, before rushing to the media. That wait would not have increased any dangers or delayed any testing of others.

Getting the facts correct and protecting people’s patient privacy are basic standards that must be met, even in a pandemic.

By the time the apologies came, the good people of Blackwater had very much worked out the game being played. They deserved an apology too.

It Has Been a Rough Week for the Regions

At a time when regional Queenslanders need to speak with one voice like never before in our history, News Corp announced they would be closing down their regional newspapers.

There will be no more printed editions of the CQ News, the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, the Mackay Daily Mercury and many other proud titles. Some will survive online behind a pay-wall; others will be gone forever.

News Corp is blaming the loss of advertising to digital disrupters like Google and Facebook.

The truth is, this is the result of neglect over many years and, more recently, dirty deals in southern board-rooms. The people making this decision didn’t know how to value their stable of regional locals or how to make them work.

Treating Diamonds Like Dirt
If they had valued these titles, they would not have cut and cut the staffing, so that the papers became less and less local.

If they had understood what they held, they would have realised that taking the regionals on-line back in 2010 would have future-proofed the businesses. It would have allowed them to sell advertising packages to local advertisers by offering them a presence in both the online and print editions at a time when many local businesses needed a way to do just that.

Ten years ago, the field was wide open and a title like the CQ News could have established itself as “the” website to visit if you wanted to know what was happening on the Central Highlands. It should have been the first and only place people searched.

Removing the Local Voices

The CQ News used to have an editorial staff comprising a full-time editor, five photo-journalists and two weekend photographers. It published twice a week and also published the Blackwater Herald weekly.

Now, there are two journalists, no Blackwater Herald and one edition of the CQ News on Fridays. And a lot of those stories have already run on other News Corp sites. So, between News Corp and Facebook, what do they have to sell by Friday’s print date.

CQ News Honour Roll

I must pay tribute to some of the great names behind the CQ News of old.

 Margaret Gibson was an outstanding editor. Her commitment to reporting “without fear or favour” was so authentic that she famously reported her own DUI conviction. The leading lights of the community always opened the CQ News with a flutter of trepidation in Margaret’s day and council meetings were fully reported.

Margaret’s brother Norm was the general manager responsible for all production matters. Norm was a much-loved figure in town and a driving force behind the Emerald golf club, planting many of the beautiful trees we enjoy today.

Following in Margaret’s footsteps came outstanding editors like Paul Osbourne, Debbie Hall and Di Stanley. There was also room for local contributors of longstanding, like Fred Wild, whose columns are still missed.

Will A Phoenix Arise?
We need local papers to be local. We need to ensure those locals who can’t access the internet can still read a local paper to keep abreast of events on their own doorstep. These won’t be covered by the Courier Mail or TV News.

The most infuriating aspect of the announcement was the fake hand-wringing that “this was the only option”.

It wasn’t.

They could have called for interest from local groups and offered to sell them the mastheads.

They didn’t.

I am still hopeful that a phoenix may rise from the ashes. And I am very grateful that the Longreach Leader and the Barcoo Independent remain in local hands, governed by locals for locals.

Save Our CQ Newspapers Petition
The federal member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, is running a petition to save our newspapers. You can read it and sign it here. I also have hard copies in my office that you can pop in and sign.

Latest COVID19 Easing of Restrictions

Now that Queenslanders can travel within the state for non-essential purposes, I know all our local governments are hoping we are busy planning holidays and mini-breaks in our own back yards. Here some facts to help with the planning:

National Parks Camping Allowed Again

From yesterday (Thursday, June 4, 2020) we are once again allowed to camp in Queensland’s beautiful National Parks, forests and recreation areas.

It is a real opportunity to visit areas like Carnarvon Gorge and Diamantina National Park  that are usually crowded with southern visitors enjoying our winter sunshine.

You need to book a camping permit to take advantage of this. You can book on-line here, as well as checking out details about the different camping areas. You can also book vehicle permits.

Great Time to Travel in Gregory

Gregory has so much of Queensland’s truly iconic landscapes starting with the sandstone wilderness of Carnarvon Gorge and the Blackdown Tablelands, some of Queensland’s most beautiful bodies of water including Queensland’s second largest lake, Lake Maraboon, artesian springs from Barcaldine west to Bedourie and Blackall, and – of course – the Channel Country itself.

History is very close in many of these areas and there are a lot of man-made attractions as well. Some of these have been forced to close due to COVID19 restrictions but are busy preparing to re-open by the school holidays.

Go West to See…

Australian Workers Heritage Centre, Barcaldine – hope to reopen for school holidays

Waltzing Matilda Centre, Winton – Re-Opened this week, June 3.

Australian Age of Dinosaurs Natural History Museum, Winton – Will re-open June 15

Drovers’ Sunset Cruise, Longreach – Hope to be open by School Holidays

Smithy’s Outback Dinner and Show, Longreach - Hope to be open by School Holidays

Kinnon & Co’s Cobb and Co Coach Tours, Longreach - Hope to be open by School Holidays

The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Longreach – Plan to re-open on June 26

The Qantas Founders’ Museum, Longreach – Plan to re-open by July 1

COVID19 Means Book Online

All these attractions will have COVID19 management plans in place. As part of that, they urge you to book on-line so they can manage numbers. This will be a gem of a time to visit these famous attractions without too many crowds.

Come East to See…

Likewise, if you are from the west and want a break, you can’t beat the Central Highlands: redclaw and boating at Lake Maraboon, bushwalking at Blackdowns Tablelands, fossicking for sapphires on the Gemfields and Emerald for shopping and dining.

Follow me on Facebook Lachlanmillarmp as I will be posting about some of the sights to see in Gregory. You can share it and get the rellies up for a winter adventure.

Attention all Learner Drivers – Test Back On

The Department has announced it will re-commence practical driving tests again from June 15. I urge you to book online here.

Because there is quite a backlog, they will be granting priority to certain drivers, including those whose previous bookings were cancelled and to people who require the license for employment. You can read about these criteria at the link above.

Misuse of Fire Levies

As Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers, I was disgusted this week to learn that Labor has been draining taxpayers’ local fire levies to pay for its corona-virus quarantine hotel accommodations for returning overseas travellers.

It is bad enough that COVID19 is being used as an excuse not to deliver a budget, to then find $16 million has been drained from a levy dedicated to local fire protection is outrageous. Especially following two catastrophic fire seasons.

Blue Card Back Down Continues the Bungling

With cool burning in full swing to prepare for the coming bushfire season, I am not at all surprised that the Minister backed down this week on blue cards for volunteer rural firies.

The Minister has never been able to say why they all must have one. As with first aid qualifications, surely any requirement could be met by asking First Officers to hold a blue card.

This week he discovered the damage he has done and extended the deadline for blue card applications for volunteers rural firies until after the next fire season (election).

None of this, of course, affects city seats.

No Apology, No Invitation to Return

Unfortunately, QFES has already sent out very rude dismissal letters to thousands  of rural fire volunteers and many have already “walked” as the result of such bullying.

In announcing the extension, the Minister did not withdraw those termination letters or apologise to the volunteers. He certainly didn’t invite them to return to their brigades.

And make no mistake, this is only a deferral, not a sincere change of heart.


Rural Brigades Unsettled

We now face the fire season with the state of the volunteer brigades unknown and no-one seems to be able to supply firm numbers. All of this harm has been done for no apparent outcome that I can see. And they’ve been draining the budget as well.

A Big Win for The Bush

I cannot finish today without congratulating the NT Cattlemen’s Association and the Brett family in their moral victory. The practical victory is yet to be decided. With compensation in amounts around $600 million being bandied about, it is bound to be more than a moral victory. It is a very big and well deserved win.

The Federal Court’s Justice Stephen Rares found then Labor Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig committed “misfeasance” in public office when he made the live cattle trade ban on June 7, 2011.

Misfeasance Defined

“Misfeasance” is a legal term meaning the performance of a lawful action in an improper way.

Justice Rares found the Minister knew there were supply chains in Indonesia that were compliant with Australian welfare standards. Furthermore, there were other plants that could easily be made compliant.

Justice Rares said the Minister knew this and ignored it, as he ignored the damage done to Australian livelihoods. As he ignored the fact that he was cutting off a huge proportion of Indonesia’s protein supply.

In other words, it was knee-jerk reaction to an ABC TV program based on footage supplied by animal activists.

This shameful 2011 episode has taken six years of court proceedings to vindicate the complainants. I congratulate them on their tenacity. Thanks to Joe Ludwig, Australian taxpayers will now have to pay the bills due to his reckless conduct.

Thank You For Reading

As always, if it will help someone you know, feel free to share this information by forwarding the email.

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If You Need Help

If you need help or advice, please don’t hesitate to ring me and we will do our very best for you. (Emerald Office PH 07 4913 1000; Longreach office PH 07 4521 5700.)

If you have a comment or an issue to raise, you can simply reply by return email.

Kindest Regards,

Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.