Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Daily Astonisher seems to think our Mayor Mullet has been withholding a very personal secret from us – and why JCU‘s Vice-Chancellor is (probably) pissed off with her Douglas neighbor Townsville Hospital’s economy-sized Napoleon Jolly John Bearne.

But that won’t be the only battle for Mr Bearne, who generously spreads his unique management style across more than one arena – so get set for a monumental finger-pointing, down and dirty eye gouging and nut-crunching blue over the work at Jezzine Barracks – the project looks to be in more strife than the early explorers, described by council as ‘overdesigned’ well beyond budget

We also ask the question – and answer it – who is Senator Barmaids?

And The Magpie is proud to announce a new award, the Kathleen Skene Engraved Brass Spittoon For The Best Spray of the Month – and to get it rolling, The ‘Pie will tempt another Astonisher journo to become eligible when he says nice things about her.

All that and more, here in this week’s nest at

As usual, let’s laugh before we cry.

Those who support Mayor Mullet have never been shy of suggesting that she has political ‘balls’, but it seems they’ve heard about this down at The Astonisher and taken it literally. Or so it seems in this excerpt from a vacuous recurring ‘we’re the bestest city’ yarn during the week.

‘…he said’? Presumably The Astonisher doesn’t know the difference between Jenny Hill and Benny Hill. 

There were some gremlins in The Orstralian, too, but it seemed a touch more mysterious than the simple omission of a single letter. A reader spotted it.

Guess it happens in the best regulated families.

The ‘Pie has two historical favourites when it comes to corrections.

The New Zealand Herald many years ago placed the following correction:
‘In Wednesday’s edition, we said that a man was arrested by Defective Inspector Tom Kyle of the New Zealand Police Force.  That of course should have been Detective Inspector Tom Kyle of the New Zealand Police Farce’.

But the best of all time for The ‘Pie (which he admits he’s quoted here before) was the English provincial newspaper in the fifties, which po-facedly made right a cub reporter’s hilarious wrong:
‘In last week’s social pages, we said that the happy couple would be living with the bride’s father. We would like to point out that actually, they will be living at the Old Manse’. The reporter must have been a simpleton.

But staying with The Astonisher for a moment, it appeared that during the just ended silly season, one journo used the occasion to have a none-too-gentle dig at the paper’s management practices – or so one would think.
Shari Tagliabue

Columnist Shari ‘Taggers’ Tagliabue is not so much a trained journo – there’s no such thing nowadays, not in News Ltd anyway - as much as she is a natural writer, one with a neat turn of phrase and an entertaining organized manner of putting her arguments and observations. She appears to be that Ogden Street rarity in that she seems pretty good at English, too. Taggers is, or was, also a first rate, ‘fair and balanced’ restaurant reviewer, entertaining while informing.

But now, The ‘Pie is wondering whether she has taken a foolhardy but bold risk with her prospects within the rapidly depleting ranks of The Daily Astonisher. This question is raised by her forthright observations – printed in the paper itself - about life and professional death when trying to co-exist with the likes of Ann ‘Attila the Hen’ Roebuck and other workplace eviscerators, psychopaths, sociopaths and outright tuggers.

Last Saturday, Shazza decided to give her jocular views on a couple of scientific reports, the sort of thing that are meat and veg for columnists.

The first report was about wrinkly skin, presumably a subject with which young (ish) Ms Tagliabue is yet to experience herself, but about which The Magpie knows only too well (although Ms Tagliabue will never be concerned with the type of wrinkles with which The ‘Pie is so sadly intimate).

It was the second report that had the old bird applauding the damn-the-torpedoes’ bravery of this straight-arrow gal. She started out on the ‘Habits of Managers' report in a fairly sanguine manner, but it quickly seemed to degenerate  to a ‘tell all ‘ glimpse of life at the sadly dysfunctional Townsville Bulletin.

Read the whole rather clever column here, but the jaw-dropping bit went as follows:

Apparently the good (managers) feign emotions to maintain good working relationships with their staff.
Seriously? So the pats on the back, the hugs, the handfuls of tissues thrust in the direction of blubbering workers weren't necessarily genuine, sympathetic gestures? This is a shock, although not to a colleague, who announced flatly, "Managers are psychopaths". Another colleague then chimed in, helpfully explaining the difference between psychopaths (born without empathy) and sociopaths (no empathy but a product of their upbringing), and we all agreed that perhaps in the long run it was better to be the one bawling in the loo, rather than the bluffing board member.
Thanks to that fascinating bit of research, interactions with management will now be difficult to take at face value.
Armed with this knowledge, it'll be: "Do they really mean what they're saying, or are they saying that because they think I can't tell that they don't really mean what they're saying?"
Cor, phew. Absolutely lucid. Brave girl, m’dear, but you can now expect the nipple clips hooked up to car battery, as management try to find out who those ‘colleagues’ are.

Don’t forget, Shazza, you can only get the Kath Skene cuspidor if you give The ‘Pie a spray for being nice (well, sort of) to you.

Other matters.

Life was perhaps never meant to be easy, but does it have to be so bloody confusing? Police Commissioner Ian ‘Hurricane’ Stewart blew into town on Friday, to chat to the local rozzers about job cuts, but at the same time suggested to the media that case management will be one of the main tools in fighting crime on his watch. Err, wouldn’t that be the manager -level wallopers he is sacking by the score? And which one doubts will put a single extra copper on the beat?  Bentley reckons the Commish. is a touch conflicted himself.

Moving on, it is now emerging that one of the best political pea-and-thimble sleight of hand from the Newman Government has been the return to local hospital boards, in order to,as it was so grandly put  ‘represent community wishes’ in the running of the hospitals. proponents included Kid Crisafulli when he was Deputy Doo-Dah in Walker street.  The idea was that this arrangement would result in ... wait for it, wait for it ... discussion, listening to what the people wanted, (snurffle gurgle) setting priorities (erkk, stobbit, I'm chokin')  and accountability (please explain!) 

Now, The ‘Pie is all for this approach, the theory is fine. But the practice? It is now apparent what we have now is exactly the same outcomes we’d have without local boards, but when iniquitous and cynical money grabs like the proposed parking fees at TH are lobbed on us, it appears there is no one to blame: board chairman Jolly John Bearne says in essence, ‘Don’t blame us, the government hasn’t given us enough money in the first place’, while the government says ‘Nothing to do with us, the board handles the budget however it sees fit’.

Health Minister Springborg, he of the Dad and Dave verbal delivery, plods into this imbroglio with an extra smoke grenade that ‘the Federal Government has slashed its funding – don’t blame us’.

John Bearne, Chairman of Townsville Hospital Board 
Funnily enough, The Magpie somehow missed the clamouring of the community wishes for Mr Bearne and his board of mostly millionaires to introduce money-grubbing car parking fees at the hospital, using the excuse of budget shortfalls and the Hitler-Youth justification, ‘they’re all doing it’.  The ‘they’ is this case is other hospitals, particularly in Brisbane, which charge for parking – but those hospitals aren’t miles out in the middle of nowhere in a city with, at best, patchy public transport. Cabs are priced out of the equation for most people.

This piss-poor imposition on people who have little choice, many of whom are already under duress and financial strain, whether patient or visitor, - should be re-thought, and economies found elsewhere. Or even maybe a defiant deficit.

Hey, here's a bit of community input for you, Johnno. How about you and your board, all being well-off people who have been made very comfortable by this community, have your occasional meetings as unpaid volunteers. That would save more than half a mill each year, if the rumored board member remuneration of $80,000 each and chairman’s stipend of well in excess of $100,000 is true.

The projected move to paid parking has been met with alarm at the adjacent James Cook University, which reasonably fears that TH patients and visitors will start flooding their free spaces. The ‘Pie is told that as we speak, signage is being re-arranged, with free parking areas, provided for students visitors and some faculty, being re-located as far away from the hospital as possible, and permit parking – where action can be taken against transgressors - moved over next to the hospital boundary. Looks like any good neighbor award will have to wait.

But the hospital hootenanny may well soon be the last thing on Mr Bearne’s mind. There have long been breathy suggestions down the MagpieFone that something seems amiss down at the re-development of Jezzine Barracks, where Jolly John is chairman of the Trust appointed to oversea the project.

There was a budget of $40 million allocated and the Trust members were appointed more than five years ago. The snail's pace has many people baffled. Questions have been asked why things took so long to get started, and just what is the state of the budget at the moment, where have monies been spent.

After five long years, work finally started in the middle of last year … but guess what - it may soon suddenly grind to a halt.

Townsville's Deputy Doo Dah
Vern Veitch
Townsville’s Deputy Mayor Vern Veitch puts out a regular newsletter, and he runs true to form in print as he does in person, calling a spade a bloody shovel. His January newsletter gave detailed updates on a number of projects around town, including Jezzine Barracks work. All along, the Townsville City Council had counseled for a less expensive model than the one envisaged by Chairman Bearne, who is reported to have continually vetoed calls for financial prudence and a less grandiose scheme from both the council (represented by the then mayor Les Tyrell and Clr Veitch) and several prominent citizens who had put in their time to gain the land from the Commonwealth in the first place. Clr Veitch’s newsletter contained some startling and unvarnished information, the most disturbing being the following:

More asbestos has been discovered (coastal boardwalk) contributing to additional costs. Telstra assets were not coordinated in the design phase, the design and scope has now been coordinated and Telstra has provided a cost to undertake the works. Telstra costs and impacts were unanticipated. Generally, the project is significantly impacted by an over designed and specified product that exceeds the available budget. The discovery of artefacts, asbestos, bad ground, unstable ground and existing infrastructure that clashes with designs have caused additional unforeseen costs that would normally have been allowed for in a contingency sum, however as a result of this project not having contingency sums the project team is exhausting much effort in identifying opportunities to save money. The risk is that the scope and quality will need to be reduced. More options for savings (were) presented to the project leadership team in December 2012.

That’s clear enough. And mightily disheartening.

So the question that has to be asked here is whether this parlous and potentially costly state of affairs is the result of the much-commented John Bearne ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ style of management and negotiation, which many suggest became evident during his time as CEO of Townsville Enterprise. During that tenure, Jolly John was reported to be anything but jolly with the staff, apparently constantly injecting himself and his own agenda at every level of management. There was an unkind joke around at the time that his stewardship led TEL to install a turnstile at its staff entrance to keep track of arriving and departing staff.

The ‘Pie wonders if this style of dictatorial dialogue was to the fore during the concept and planning meetings for Jezzine. One report from a reliable source says that at no time did the design and architectural team meet with the building contractor before work started. If that is true, it’s sure as a hell funny way to fly an aeroplane , as they say at Garuda Airlines.

Get set for a monumental barney over this one.

Another unhappy-ish bit of news, and another dart in the city heart; optometrists Stacey & Stacey, who have been in the CBD for close on 90 years in one guise or another, are moving out of their arcade shop next to the Perc Tucker gallery, and heading off to a shopping mall out west. Apparently, the goggle makers and squint testers just weren’t getting the custom to remain viable where they are. The ‘Pie understands they’ll move within a month. Pity.

Finally, a sporting note from the tennis world and a modest marker in the game’s history this week.

It is that annual fortnight in which we are regaled with tongue-twisting tennis commentary from Melbourne and the Australian Open – none of your straightforward ‘Laver serves to Rosewell’ or ‘Court  and Wade to do battle’. Nowadays, it is almost incomprehensible to old curmudgeons like The ‘Pie, what with Tumblova to play Kumagutza, the winner to go on and face whoever prevails between Ima Akuty  and Korblimi Waddakorka. This has all happened because Dementia didn’t turn up. In the men’s draw, Serge Trouserin is expected to beat the flannel out of Hu Dat ….’ and so forth.

But not all names in the Tennis Hall of History were champions, some were known for other reasons. Such was the case with Gertrude ‘Gussie ‘Moran, who died during the week, aged 89.

In 1949, the American player, one of better than average ability and a better than average figure, scandalized the creaking old coprolites of the All England Club by taking to the Wimbledon courts wearing lace-trimmed undies under her tennis dress. 
Why Pommy reporters were considered unflappable.
Note the sagging sock.

Instantly christening her Gorgeous Gussy and her frilly knickers Gorgeous Gussies, the press of the day went wild, (so did a prepubescent Magpie at the time) and the All England wallahs went puce, fulminating that she had brought ‘vulgarity and sin into tennis’. That was a bit rich from the same clenched buttock brigade that 30 years later lacked all spine and refused to sanction that tiresome twerp John McEnroe for abusing line officials and umpires, and thus starting the ruin of sportsmanship in a generation of horrible little ball bangers.

Vale, Gussy, at least you made one little Aussie boy in the bush inexplicably happy - although it was a few years before he realised why.

Speaking of which, it is now away to Poseurs’ Bar, where The ‘Pie will risk all by bebubbling a suitable lass with a view to an eventual outcome that he trusts will not involve the words 'defective' or 'farce', but perhaps lots of 'vulgarity' and 'sin'. Fingers crossed.


  1. Hasn't the entrepid John Bearne (hander out of drinks at the old Playpen after the LNP State election victory) Been appointed to the Board of Townsville Enterprise in the last couple of months...??

  2. Conan the GrammarianJanuary 19, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    That photo of Vern Veitch is getting tattered from overuse. See if you can find a pic of Uncle Fester, complete with light-bulb, and see how many people notice?

  3. Well 'Pie, the only question I have is, why did Cubby Reporter Simpleton miss the opportunity of placing the banners, "Exclusive" and "Revealed" on top of the ground breaking front page headline about TCC workers taking sick leave??? Surely he hasn't suddenly realised that such action is puerile?

    1. Are you kidding Fed Up Idalia - he doesn't realise anything!

  4. For Magpie & John N ; The TEL website shows John Bearne as a Director as of today

    1. Now class, your not paying attention.

      In the blog of November 24, 2012, inter alia The 'Pie wrote:

      'By the by, another notable absentee (fromTEL's AGM) was former TEL CEO and Chairman John Bearne. He was succcessfully nominated and returned to the board - but perhaps that was too smaller beer for him. Instead, he was lunching with a former TEL colleague at Michel's for, we hear, her birthday. The devotion to friendship, if not civic duty, is touching.'

  5. Pie, Outstanding work.

    Shari is a wonderful lady and is a wonderful editor. She's a beacon of kindness and class.

    However, has anyone asked Atil of the Hun why Atil wanted to make The Eyeful's advertising all the editorial in the magazine?

    As for Wimbledon's knickers, I say ask Venus Williams to try them on for size. Sharapova should market her lollies with her signature grunt as she eats a piece of candy. SAm Stoza needs to choke like in her last match.

    Nice work...

  6. Always Good and entertaining.

  7. My oh my! So Mr Bearne (or should that be Mr Bean)has been at it again, and again, and again, and......
    Just what qualifications does this Liberal brown noser have apart from having a very brown nose?
    And when is TEL going to come clean about why Mr Bean really got the boot from that organisation?
    Oh the politics of it all.
    Furthermore, when is the Astonisher going to investigate just where the money has disappeared on the Jezzine Barracks project? For example, what consultants were appointed, were tenders called, how much were they paid, was the price reasonable, and did they have any connection with the Liberal Party?
    We wait in anticipation for answers to these questions.
    Come on Mr Bean, come clean.

    1. Many responsible community figures have contacted The 'Pie, appalled and mystified by the inordinate delay in getting the Jezzine project - a fully funded gift to the community - underway.

      Perhaps the answer lies within the answers to the questions you pose - but one thing is certain; John Bearne should be required to publicly explain how this situation developed to the point where it could now stall - it comes with the responsibilities of being the Trust chairman. And if he is blameless, why shouldn't he speak out? Was it the council? You can bet that'll be canvassed. We are entitled to know.

      And if he isn't blameless, and therefore his management track record catches up with him, the community - and the government - are entitled to know that, too.

      Is there something in the background that may prompt the government to re-think giving this businessman the pivotal say over a $630 million health budget that is supposed to deliver the best outcomes for the safety and well-being of the general population? That would be a stretch, because, as you say, Watcher, he's an LNP groupie (although very chummy with Mayor Mullet) - and this is a government that loathes owning up to mistakes - and with its majority, doesn't think it has to.


    2. Yes Pie you are spot on with Bearne. His time as Chair of TEL and then acting CEO was hell for the staff and he was a nothing but a talent drain.

    3. At the TCC Council meeting today Cr Walker requested that John Bearne give a report to Council (at the next Council Meeting) re the reported Issues at Jezzine Barracks It was agreed to by Councillors & the Mayor this should occur

    4. John n, since you are a council groupie, can you inform us as to if Oh-Jenny has reported on her junket to the US of A??

    5. For Grumpy No she has not at least not to a full Counci Meeting She did have a folder on hand to present at the Nov 2012 meeting however the meeting got a bit bogged down and she indicated she would present it at a later meeting . Not presented at the Dec or Jan full Council meeting So much is done in house for example TEL no longer report in the Public arena of the meetings they do it 3 monthly in house Magpie had a blog on this I was advised yesterday that as they are a corporation they do not have to present their report in public. They must answer to someone in the public domain

    6. Re John N's point about TEL 'secret TEL business with ratepayers money': Indeed The Magpie did a blog - several in fact - questioning the ratepayer's massive contribution to this unaccountable outfit, Townsville Enterprise. It seems incomprehensible that we fork over $800,000 annually, but have no right to know how the money is used (apart from David 'The Kipper' Kippen's $240,000 annual raid on the public purse). Is this because they know we are not getting our money's worth?

      It's not the money per se that is the concern, it's the accountability. Especially since there are some 'in the know' who suggest that TEL is in an unsustainable position financially - it is certain that should the TCC significantly reduce it's support, the organisation would be in the deepest of deep financial do-dos, and would almost certainly attract the attention of ASIC. That's gonna look good for our elected luvvies when it all comes tumbling down and questions are asked about who knew what.

      Witness what happened when the Newman Government didn't see any value in propping up this mob, and dropped its quarter of a mill support. What did David Kippen do? Like, take a pay cut to help out? No, he sacked someone who, according to him, was one of the actual earners in the orgnaisation - in charge of conventions and conferences - then had a cry-baby whinge about life being unfair and the sacking was all the government's fault. His email to members and local MPs had the stench of desperation and fear all over it.

      The Pie believes that TEL's secretive ways - 'we are a member-funded private corporation and therefore do not have to present our annual report in public' - is the greatest load of hot cock since MP Craig Thompson had a night on the town. And may even be legally challengeable.

      Be that as it may, this is a ludicrous situation which cannot be sustained in any decent society that likes to suggest it is democratic.

      The truth is that despite earlier noises to the contrary from several councillors when they were in election mode, it appears the principle of George Orwell's Animal Farm - 'you cannot tell the difference between the humans and the pigs' - is affecting some of Walker Street stalwards. Several, but not all, are starting to make excuses for the TEL contribution and claiming benefits from the organisation that cannot be verified or even quatified. Or if they can, how about letting us in on the secret?

      'Nullis in verba' - the Latin saying stands true today - 'Take nobody's word for it' or more prosacially according to other scholars 'Don't trust authority'.

      Truely sad.

    7. Magpie. It's not just the $800000. of rate payers money it's also the heavily rebated rent at Enterprise house on the Strand .The land is owned by the State Govt and the actual building by the Council who are responsible for maintainance to the building I can recall in my past life Being at a TEL meeting where they were making a submission of over $100000. to the Council to upgrade the air Conditioning

  8. "There’s no such thing{as a trained journo} nowadays, not in News Ltd anyway".
    I understood that Raggatt is a trained journalist. Have I been mislead in this?
    If not, you should withdraw that remark.

    1. Me dear old SPQR, your comment is like Venus Williams left tit - it's not right and it's not fair. Not fair because of your selective reading of the line, which ignores the pivotal word 'nowadays'.

      At the risk of starting a scramble for the Kath Skene Engraved Brass Spittoon (wherein The 'Pie gets slammed for saying something positive about someone) Tony Raggatt is indeed one of the few remaining at The Astonisher who can rightly claim the the title of trained journalist - he came up through the ranks in the days when journos learnt their craft (we used to be proud to repudiate the elistist-sounding term 'profession') under the tutelage of seasoned veterans. The 'Pie worked with several others at The Astonisher but he's not sure they'd appreciate positive comments from this quarter.
      (Hi, Ando, Di.)

      The 'Pie's point is, who at The Astonisher is going to be able to mentor and hose down the rampant egos of the freshly-minted products of cynical university 'journalism/public relations' courses like Simpleton and Lendl Ryan (to name but two)?

      Talk about the trible that lost its head!

    2. Let alone.. Atil and her psycho-ness.

  9. Every tennis player should wear a pair of white lace knickers when playing tennis.

    1. 'Every tennis player'? The blokes, too? There are those who still think Tomic is a big girl's blouse, but c'mon ....

    2. Ha, You're very funny!

      Too cool.


    3. Renee Richards eat your heart out! (Maybe boxer shorts with lace trimming)?

  10. This comment is being written at 2.27pm, Sunday Jan 20.

    The Crocs have played - AND WON - and as of the above time, all The Townsville Bulletin, that self-professed big booster for this sport and local team has on-line is an outdated preview story and a boring posed pic of some jock or other.

    Again, this is an example of how The Bulletin - and News Ltd generally - don't get the new world of 24/7 information provision. And it makes them look about as up with it as button-up boots. Happens with news stories, too

    If they think we're going to wait til tomorrow to buy the paper and find out, think again.

    Keep this in mind next time you see the iditor wittering on about the paper's cheer-leading committment to local teams blah blah blah. Can't even get it right with good news. Maybe mega-advertiser and Crocs man George Colbran could have a word with them, especially since the franchise is struggling a bit at the moment.

    Lazy twits.

    PS Townsville beat Wollongong 82/74.

  11. Yes but in these times of fiscal restraint (read falling circulation and rising costs)that's not to be unexpected. Not that I am standing up for the Astonisher, it is just the reality of the current situation and very much yesterday's news tomorrow - in the regions that is.

  12. Pie, I think you have put too much pressure on Shari to win the Skene spitoon. If she criticizes your "nice" comments, the staff will think she's bowing to management pressure. And if she thanks you for your comment, management will be upset. She could just ignore you (my suggestion)but that could upset both management and the staff; the former thinking she agrees with you, the latter thinking she's afraid to take you on. I read the entire column, and I agree with you. She writes well, and deserves acclaim and a pay rise. But is that likely to happen? I can hear you laughing all the way from Sydney. A good read, as always. Love your blog. Cheers, Gonzo

    1. Anyone should have their pay doubled when Atilof the Hun designs a brief to have only 'advertorial' from advertisers as the magzine's content.

  13. I loved the recent story from WA where a poor young lass discovered the head of a local small time crim washed up on the beach. The head was wrapped up in a plastic bag. It was solemnly reported that the police were treating the matter as "suspicious". Amazing powers of deduction, have the WA wallopers.

    It reminded me of a report in an English paper (I think that it was in the 50's). Bits of a young woman's dismembered body were discovered in various places over the Moors. The reporter hastened to assure readers that the woman had not been "interfered with".

    I also found the recent nothing article about council workers taking days off work rather perplexing. How could they tell?

  14. Simpo seems to be promoting violent crime with his latest beat up about cctv in the city. And he seems to think council workers aren't entitled to take sick leave. Hasn't he ever had a day off with the flu?

  15. I have just recieved my copy of the Townsville Sun (23 Jan) Front page "$1. million mistake " RSL Stadium not yet Fire-safe" To my knowledge the leading builder of this Stadium was Engineering Firm TCS Civil & building based in the Bohle.. The Founder and Owner of this company is non other than JOHN BEARNE While this little LNP and Council brown noser pursues his other appointed positions his daughter runs the company

  16. Must be welcome relief for two of the photographers allowed to escape to other towns to cover the heavy rain.

    Weather stories- so predictable in content(umbrella and a cute female) and at least they're getting an overnight fee. It seems to be a pattern as to who goes when it rains.


  17. Hi Pie, you should check out the very loud whisper that Tempo has been dumped as deputy chief of staff. Apparently he made a huge cock up which could cost them bucket loads in legal fees. I hear they are punting him off his round and looking to replace with Sam Healy or possibly Lydia Kellner after she has several times scooped the Bulletin lately.