Saturday, July 21, 2012

It’s show and tell time for TEL – Townsville Enterprise boss David Kippin is about to take his begging bowl to Townsville Council for his annual dollop of ratepayers’ gruel. But will his struggling organization become a victim of the local and state Razor Gangs?

Yep, the Daddy Warbucks of Townsville Enterprise is probably a worried man right now – the old saw that comes to mind is ‘as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs’. Perhaps with good reason.

In other matters, the Nanny State Award of the Week goes to those horse racing authorities who rule on suitable names for the neddies – another case of not quite having a handle on the English language, or common sense.

It was a case of pride going before a fall for one Astonisher journo recently ... and, of all things, we look at the capsules that time forgot … the week’s most curious story concerns Rule Number One for time capsules – it is more or less important – nay crucial – that you remember where you buried the bloody things. You’ll be surprised how many people don’t. And both you readers are invited to nominate what should be included in a Townsville time capsule if it was buried now.

All that plus Bentley uncovers a cunning pensioner plan to improve their lot, all here in this week’s nest at

In all the flapdoodle about the council budget to include rate freezes and water rebates –The ‘Pie’s tip: they won’t see the light of day - no one seems to have mentioned it but you can bet that the generous three quarters of a million smackeroonys that the council has been coughing up annually for Townsville Enterprise (TEL) will be under close scrutiny in these tight times.

TEL can be almost masonic in its close chested guarding of its financial position, details of which seem to be obscured behind the somewhat spurious (although technically correct) claim that they are a private, membership-based outfit. Be that as it may, TEL is generously propped up by grants from various councils in the region apart from Townsville (Mt Isa, Hinchinbrook, Burdekin, Charters Towers et al) as well as a an unspecified amount from Tourism Queensland. Probably some federal money in there, too.  

There seems to be a growing mood about the place that TEL has run its race. Many people, business movers and shakers and TEL members alike are asking if they are getting any value from what is seen as a Dudley Do Nothing outfit punching well below its weight. Put-upon Townsville ratepayers  - who stump up more than $750,000 a year to prop up this enigmatic organization - and those regional councils may well be asking the same question.

The Magpie has been contacted by more than one business leader cheesed off with the TEL tactic of jumping on the bandwagon at the last minute and taking credit for the effort of others. The new Navy Terminal (for PR purposes called the Cruise Ship Terminal) is a case in point. All a bit like the cheerleaders at a Cowboys game, high-kicking on the sidelines while the real heavy lifting is happening out on the field. Mind you, the image of Dave Kippin, Ross Contarino et al in glittery gym slips, white knee boots and waving pom-poms could have some attraction for tourists. Maybe.

In the financial year 2010-11, TEL’s wage bill for its 22 or so staff (personnel turnover is disturbing) was around $1.7 million, with an extra $400,000 spent on external consultants. The 'Pie has not been able to discover details of this latter amount.

It is also widely accepted - although not confirmed for obvious reasons - that not only is membership of smaller operators dwindling (because they believe they are getting diddly-squat for their membership fee) but the bigger players have drastically slashed their contribution by up to 80% (TEL has various levels of memberships at various prices).

Now this is pure speculation, but The ‘Pie wonders how those figures stack up against the accepted business wisdom regarding the percentage of income spent on wages. It is generally regarded that staff costs over 35% of income is heading into stormy governance waters. Given what numbers are available and the negligible outcomes made public in solid terms, The ‘Pie wouldn’t be surprised if TEL is operating way above this percentage, which would mean the outfit is in deep financial doo-doos.

When Dave Kippin has his little chat with the councilors, you can bet it will be behind closed doors, and that although we the great unwashed will be stumping up some amount of our hard-earned for this mob, we’ll never know how or why that decision was reached – and what the real state of TEL’s finances are.

But God forbid things are as dire as this pessimistic old bird would have it … crikey, Dave, mate, you may  otherwise have to volunteer take a cut in your cleverly engineered $240,000 annual salary package.

As if.

Other matters.

The racing industry people who rule on the suitability of names for race horses – Hoof Hearted was a definite no-no – have come up with a prizewinning bit of  politically correct nincompoopery.

Trainer David Hayes trains a promising filly named Blackman. The horse is the daughter of Excellent Art and it seemed appropriate to name the horse in honor of our great painter Charles Blackman.

But the racing authorities, acting on a single complaint, have ruled that Blackman could be offensive to some, who might hear it as black man, and the name had to be changed. As if that wasn’t silly enough, what did they change it to? Lady Blackman! In one hit, they’ve managed to be offensive themselves to any number of quarters, including Hayes himself for coming up with the name in the first place, the Blackman family, anyone named Blackman (as in TV’s John of Hey!Hey! fame) and anyone with half a brain in their head. The one person who approved of the new name was a caller to a Melbourne radio station, who described him/her self as a black transgender person and thought Lady Blackman was ‘kinda nice’. It will no doubt add a dimension to his/her next Thai holiday.

This opens up an interesting line of inquiry. What if other interest groups get onto this lurk. Those folks who go about munching wholemeal organic lentil pomegranate fruit and nut bars (slow cooked in the tears of unicorns) could take offence to well performed geegee Fat Albert? Or even worse, an old Magpie favourite Likealunch? And the wowsers haven’t yet got onto Merkin (Dear Mystified of Mysteron – that’s a pubic wig) and they obviously missed a horse called Sex Machine, named because its dam was Shagga. The famous cartoon horse Radish might be banned by vegans objecting to a red-blooded animal being named after a vegetable.

But in all this flinching at shadows, no one seems to have asked the bleedin’ obvious – just what is offensive about calling a horse ‘Black Man’ anyway?  How is that offensive to anyone? If you’re a man and black, how is that infra dig? Would White Man get the same treatment if a single person complained about it? ‘Black’ and ‘white’ in terms of race only become offensive when certain nouns which act as pejorative emphasisers are attached, as both sides of this divide well know here in Townsville.

In another matter, The 'Pie does not wish to alarm anyone, but he feels compelled to report that Astonisher scribbler Lendl 'Mickey Mouth' Ryan is OK, so don't panic, folks. 

Mickey Mouse and Mickey Mouth.
Many will remember Lendl in his former role as the paper's happy-go-lucky, ever helpful and self-effacing Chief of Staff. He was forever sending witty emails filled with clever adjectives, gently chiding those who diverged from his world view. The 'Pie takes this opportunity to thank Lendl for his kind words, although his helpful suggestions in one or two of the emails are anatomically impossible. All of you who have had a light-hearted and obliging contact with him will be concerned to hear of a recent mishap. 

Sad to say of such a humble bloke, but it appears that pride went before a fall a few weeks ago (and before youse blokes in the sports department pick up The 'Pie for this quotation, he knows the correct saying is: Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall - Proverbs 16:18). 

Seems Lendl was being a little too forthright about his prowess on his newly acquired motorbike, and went on so much, he was invited to give a demonstration of his skills out the back of the Ogden Street bunker. 

Ever obliging, this he did, resulting in a spectacular tumble which required an ambulance, a couple days in hospital with concussion and some skin off the hands and legs, and a few weeks off work. But he's OK now, although The 'Pie hears  his ego will remain in intensive care for a while yet.     

It is the international divide that has caught the eye of resident doodler Bentley this week. He has been pre-occupied with the needs of the older generation in Australia, and thinks he’s uncovered a cunning plan by at least one senior citizen to better his lot.
A brief note now on time capsules. The Magpie thought he would make merry at the chortle-worthy ABC news report that the small school of Yelarbon, on the border near NSW, has it’s centenary coming up and they wants to unearth a time capsule buried in the school grounds in 1975. But they don’t know where it is buried and can’t find it, no record was made of just where it moldering away.  Now, The Magpie has no experience of burying anything in school grounds –although the mad caner of class 3A Mr Howard at Tamworth High came close – so the old bird thought this loss to be most chuckleworthy. What wallies, eh, unique in the annals of losing things?

How wrong can a bird be! Get this – dozens of schools have been in the exactly the same time warp, including – just to name a few – Redbank Plains High, Warwick High and just so NQ doesn’t miss out, Slade Point State School near Mackay. Haberfield Demonstration School in Sydney was also on a capsule hunt. One school near Brisbane has an even bigger problem …. The school is 100 years old, and a time capsule was buried on founding and every 25 years on, so they have lost four of the damn things.
That's more like it - they won't lose the four capsules under this spot in Amarillo, Texas.

But it turns out that this is a world-wide occurrence, with literally hundreds of capsules lost to rapid progress and a changing urban landscape around the globe. Puts one in mind of the old Goon Show gag when Eccles hastily buries a treasure chest in the desert before galloping off from pursuers. But he had carefully noted where his booty was buried ‘five paces to the north-west of the camel’s right hind leg’.

But all of this got The ’Pie apondering about what we put in a time capsule for Townsville if we buried one now? Maybe Capt Snooze would donate that famous red leather thong in which he disported himself on a Magnetic Island beach some years ago. Perhaps we could rustle up the toga and laurel wreath headdress worn by Tony His Radiance Mooney in the last three or four years of his reign.  Les Messagebank Walker could spare his mobile, let’s face, he doesn’t need it. Ditto The Moaning Mullet’s  hairbrush (‘Goodness, look at this, dear, it seems almost new and looks like it’s hardly been used!!’)

Any other suggestions? And for God’s sake, give yourselves a name – any name, Black Man, Yellow Fever, Blue Balls, Jew Fish, Adolf, whatever, just spare us ‘anonymous’. It's easy - write your comment, go down to name and URL, type in a name and that's it. 

Enough now, it is away to Poseurs’ Bar, where the old bird will seek out a suitable lass, boast of his prowess and hopefully have a tumble of his own, swerving to avoid a child and falling out of bed.      



  2. time capsule: hot red V8 drunken jacket.

  3. Problem here is John, you've written your post in all caps so therefore it is unreadable.

  4. MAGPIE While we are talking about racehorses names, Try this one which relations of mine had in the early 70,s trained by T Lopes at Flemington LADS LOVE X MOMENT OF TRUTH named PERFECT CLIMAX it had a few starts but retired a maiden

  5. Time capsule: all Townsville councillors, especially the hairdresser, the wannabe sports caller, and Messagebank. Blimey, if we can't work out how the hell they got on the council, how will Townsvilleans in years to come????

  6. Your piece on the TEL sounds suspiciously like a beat up to serve some disgruntled source. A bit too much like the Astonisher. As for the time capsule, maybe you should jump in.

  7. Re Vested Interest: Sounds like a self-serving defence without any facts. Want to argue the facts and not the messenger? Re The Astonisher: have you noticed that for the past year or so, the Chamber of Commerce's Dawson Wilkie is the go to man for comment on civic matters in the paper (as he should be), with Daddy Warbucks Kippin now only occasionally called on to don his cheerleaders gear and pom poms on very selective, largely wish list issues. That is, when it is not TEL's Director of Disappointments Ross Contarino who is trotted out ('Gee, disappointed copper string never got up', 'Gosh, how disappointing no instant new entertainment centre', 'Golly, sad that tourism's getting such a raw deal' etc etc). A beat-up? Only ime will tell about TEL.

  8. TEL - bunch of wannabe posers. $240K a year? For what? Continuously and monotonously stating the bleeding obvious? What, precisely, has he achieved for that amount of doss?

    Best horse name - years ago there was a filly running around called "Way to Go". Apparently the sire died on the job, but still managed to do the job before he fell off the, mare.

    And don't forget Packy's horse "Partiva". If you have to ask...look up Part IVA of the Tax Act. Very clever.

    Vested Interest - how are things at Ogden Street, anyhows? The Bull-Tin over the last two weeks has sunk to new lows with its anti-LNP bias and low-brow reporting, so don't start preaching the high ground here, old mate - or should that be "young mate"? Jerk.

  9. I thinkng about breaking into John Nankervis' house at midnight, in order to rip out the Caps Lock button from his PC / Laptop Keyboard. #PublicService

  10. Like the Astonisher, Queensland might become another 'Spain' but without the bull fighting. Oh Lei!