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Tag Archives: Brisbane

Co-incidence or Prophecy? And a Mystery.

By Bob Rafto

A chapter in the book Divine Inspirations Vol 1. – The Art of Bob Rafto

It was in late 2005 that I started playing around in a borrowed copy of Photoshop for no particular reason other than being bored.

High Noon at the OK Corral

High Noon at the OK Corral

Once I started mastering the tools over the months, semblances of art started to appear and the pic (left) which is a screenshot on my Flickr page, may as well came out of thin air.

The pic was created in August 2006, 3 months before my architect lodged plans for a development approval with Council. When this character emerged on my screen, my immediate thought was ‘this was the little guy’ and one who would always stand up for himself.

I was describing myself as I always stood up for myself throughout my journey in life. I posted this pic on completion to Flickr with the title ‘High Noon at the OK Corral’. In hindsight a more appropriate title would have been ‘High Noon at City Hall’.

It was about 2 years later in 2008 in the middle of my war with the establishment that I was reviewing my art and by that stage I had over 1,000 pieces on Flickr and this little character was completely forgotten and when I came to the pic, I discovered that a comment was posted and is shown in the screenshot.

The commentator’s name was tcejeR liacoS and it didn’t take me long to work out that this person’s name in reverse was Social Reject and his comment was: ‘title: Chief Castrator of the Crown’.

Was this pic a prophecy that I would be at war with the establishment? What is one to make of the title ‘Chief Castrator of the Crown’? Speculation abounds and is the term a metaphor? Or is it to be taken literally? If it is, it would be a bit hard to castrate female politicians even though some have been described as having balls.

I had never heard of the term ‘Chief Castrator of the Crown’ and I looked on the net for its origins and there’s nothing to be found. I couldn’t contact the commentator as he was deleted and this didn’t surprise me with the name of Social Reject.

And herein is the mystery of how this term came about and what relevance it has to do with my little character.

Bob 2 The next pic (left) I created was a depiction of someone being sent insane and was posted on Flickr two days after I created ‘my little guy’ and can be seen in a thumbnail in the screenshot above.

Little did I know then that this pic was also a self-portrait, 6 months later Council ensured it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On February 17, 2007, 6 months prior to getting the development approval with the written extortion demands included from Council, I posted my pic ‘Down the Gurgler’ to Flickr.

Down the gurgler

Down the gurgler

I was on a roll. I was predicting and illustrating my downfall and by the end of 2009, my whole world went down the gurgler, the house was sold and what was left was taken by my wife who also divorced me at about the same time and I found myself renting a room in a share house.

The share house was quite nice and located opposite a park with a creek running through it. I would go to the park in the mornings and afternoons to feed the ducks, water dragons and turtles and on one morning I experienced a fascinating visual experience.

While I was on the bank of the creek throwing small pieces of bread to mum and dad duck and their 2 ducklings a humongous eel a metre long and as thick as a man’s forearm came up, snatched one of the ducklings and pulled it under the water.

What happened next and it only lasted about 30 seconds or so was simply amazing, I think it was the mum duck as you can’t tell the Pacific Black duck apart, started to flap her wings furiously and at the same time was wading in super quick time in circles over the eel.



This action caused a whirlpool in the water which obviously put pressure on the eel to release the duckling and the duckling rose to the surface completely drenched and mum took it to the bank where it spent the next 3 days recovering.

This happened in August 2012 and thinking that this might be a unique observation I emailed my story to Australia Zoo who in turn informed me that they published the story in their magazine.

When I related my story to Australia Zoo, I had completely forgotten that in the previous year, November 2011, I posted my pic titled Whirlpool, to Flickr.

I am a sceptic on just about everything but something is going on here with my creations as abstract ducks are coming out of the whirlpool. Totally inexplicable that I could predict such an event, but maybe, just maybe, as a far out guess to be laughed at, I was channelled by the ducks.

It wasn’t till about after 3 months living in the share house that I discovered the name of the creek, and you can’t make this up, the name was Downfall Creek.

Bob 5 If it wasn’t bad enough losing over $2M, the wife, the kids and the house, fate should have it that I should reside opposite Downfall Creek as confirmation of my losses.

I spent 18 months living opposite Downfall Creek. This was the period that I was engaged in 4 courts that resulted in a knockout for the establishment and funnily enough I created the following pic in February 2007, 5 years earlier.

As a self-represented litigant, the paperwork, research, learning court procedures, printing and binding documents as well as having documents on DVD, the task was mammoth and a brain daze.

Bob 6 The courts ordeal came to an end in September 2012 there was no reason to hang around Brisbane any longer, after 5 years I ran out of giving the establishment my ‘best shots’, it was time to retreat to sanity and to regroup the brain cells for a final assault on the establishment with the book that you are now reading. My final assault might come to nought, but the Acknowledgment page is my ultimate back-hander of naming and shaming Premier Newman and others.

My idea of sanity was to move to the Sunshine Coast, a one and a half hour drive north of Brisbane, a reasonably sedate place where only a few places along the coastline have high rise development, and was one of my favoured places for surfing in my teen years and my old surfing buddies all resided there.

As fate would have it, my friend Roy had a vacancy at his Red House situated in the hinterland on top of a mountain range at Cooloolabin backing onto a National Park and about a 25 minute drive to the surf.

I didn’t hesitate in accepting the rental as I would be living in the country in a nice house with every room having a view of the forest and the valley below and above all one felt a sense of peace and serenity which I really needed to get over a marathon nightmare.

Bob 7 December 2012 is the date I moved into the Red House, which is a misnomer as the colour is claret red and as I settled in and started to write, I recalled a hazy scene from an old movie about a writer living in a cool house in the country seated at a desk tapping away on his typewriter and of course there was a cigarette dangling from his lips, next to the typewriter was a packet of cigarettes, an overflowing ashtray and a opened bottle of scotch and a half empty glass and on the floor were scrunched up writing attempts and nearby there would always be a blonde or brunette.

It dawned on me that I was living a celluloid dream sans booze and babe.



Bob 9

My story

One of my earliest pics I created was the pic on the far left and posted to Flickr on January 2006, originally titled Nomad. The second pic was created for this story.

The stories on Chief Castrator of the Crown, Insane, Knocked Out Senseless and Down the Gurgler could be put down as co-incidence, but does the Whirlpool story, inexplicable as it is and a story that can’t be made up is confirmation that I’ve been predicting my future through my art?

What if the Nomad pic is also a self-portrait?

What if my art journey was pre-ordained, of going through 5 years of Hell with the establishment and ending up on a Mountain top to write my story?

When I started writing I had no idea of the format or the presentation and who would print and publish the book.

As it turned out after months of stops and starts, an A3 leather bound volume materialized not unlike a Tablet.

As gravity states, what goes up must come down and it is inevitable when the time is right that I will descend this Mount with my tablet to spread my Gospel.

What if this story is not about me?

Perhaps, I could be a messenger for the digital painting genre, a genre so new that it is not yet considered mainstream.

Like the Impressionists, a hundred years ago, who gained currency with their new genre of art, digital painting will evolve with the digital century and perhaps this is the message for astute collectors of art and art books.

Imagination is a wonderful thing!

Bob 10 PS:

Divine Inspirations Vol. 1 – The Art of Bob Rafto is an A3+ Leather bound limited edition of 100 books of which only 5 books have been published to date and are not for sale. Apart from the text there are 20 full page plates all signed and numbered as well as the case.

The A3+ leather 2 hand wanky job, conceived, designed, printed and assembled by Bob Rafto.

Bob 11 Another 4 volumes are planned being a 3-5 year project and maybe just maybe the whole 5 set volume maybe offered for sale if I’m still alive.

I wrote a comment a while ago in an article by John Lord that to get represented in a major gallery, one needs to have your hands welded on ‘it’ to get into the inner sanctums of the galleries.

Now I’m able to say that I’m represented in the Louvre, The Tate, MoMA, Saatchi Gallery, and the National Gallery of Australia. As well as the Queensland State Library and the National Library.

I produced A4 facsimiles of the A3 book and gifted them to the libraries of the above galleries with the message that it should be viewed as a future historical document on the fledging genre of digital painting and the good folks at the galleries accepted my gift.

If one can’t get in the front door, try the back one, it might be unlocked as is the case here.

If one is inclined my pics can be viewed here www.flickr.com/bobrafto


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Urban Futures: The challenge of the low tax state to sustainable urban and regional planning

Denis Bright considers the implications of Prime Minister Abbott’s proposed lower tax regime for the future of urban and regional planning within a broader commitment to environmental sustainability in Australian public policy.

Introducing the challenge posed by the low tax state to essential urban and regional planning

With the national population tracking towards 50 million by 2060, this article considers the negative implications of a lower and more regressive federal taxation regime for the future outreach of urban and regional planning as an essential part of a wider commitment to environmental sustainability in Australian public policy.

Prime Minister Abbott’s longer-term plans to cap the federal revenue take at 23.9 per cent of GDP, as foreshadowed in the Re:think Tax Discussion Paper, will impose enormous financial challenges to urban and regional planning.

This lower taxation regime will also rely more heavily on GST revenue.

As the burden of direct regressive taxation increases, normally progressive sections of the electorate will have a vested interest in joining with pro-development elites to contain commitment to planning and environmental sustainability in public policy.

In the current federal budget, Joe Hockey has eased up on last year’s austerity in a pre-election budget that has increased the size of the federal budget expenditure to 25.9 per cent of GDP.

Even this politically opportunistic increase in the size of the Australian public sector will be curtailed in the future should the LNP be re-elected.

The more detailed budget papers show negative real growth in most portfolio allocations for the triennium between 2015-16 and 2018-19.

Total real growth in portfolio allocations 2015-16 to 2018-19
Budget Paper 1: 2015

Budget Paper 1: 2015

The short-falls are greatest in overall federal commitments to transport and communication despite the hype associated with road funding for Northern Australia.

Financial support to assist the states and territories to improve overall commitments has certainly increased by 6.8 per cent in the current financial year. This merely compensates for last year’s austerity cut-backs and does not target specific urban and regional planning priorities.

Longer-term funding increases to the states and territories increases are dependent on negotiations between the federal government and the states and territories for the future implementation of the Re:think Tax Discussion Paper.

Assistance from the federal government to local governments is already permanently capped at $2.3 billion or 0.53 per cent of federal expenditure.

This makes improvisation in the vital areas of urban and regional planning a permanent agenda for future LNP federal governments.

Urban and regional planning requires more sustainable financial commitments

From the Coral Sea Coast in Queensland to South Australia, urban areas near scenic coastal, rural and mountain localities are facing renewed commercial pressures.

Reaching out to the rural hinterlands?
Image from skyscrapercity.com

Image from skyscrapercity.com

City and regional plans in every state and territory strive to hold the line against random urbanization.

Inadequate funding for future urban and regional planning is also reinforced by current negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Multinational corporations will be able to take action through Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) against government initiatives which are currently imposed in the public interest to maintain financial stability, community development, health and environmental commitments.

The effects of existing funding restraints

Federal funding cut-backs to the states and territories encourage local authorities back to self-funding of new essential infrastructure.

The current property boom offers some compensation in the form of increased rate revenues to local authorities to maintain planning commitments within city plans. With this additional revenue base, pro-development lobbies can indeed facilitate more intensive development in emergent mega-cities with a positive spin off for rate revenues of local authorities.

Brisbane on the move and more reliant on city plan controls

brisbane As the mining sector falters in a weaker global economy, the property boom is one of Australia’s key fall-back sectors.

The Market agenda: From mining boom to property bubble
Property Observer from Google Image

Property Observer from Google Image

The financial burdens of higher housing prices and rents are an immense social cost and contribute to a widening wealth divide in Australia.

This situation has been repeated in most societies which have followed the corporate development path.

The return of the wealth divide
Oxfam 2012. Left Behind by the G20?

Oxfam 2012. Left Behind by the G20?

Homelessness Australia estimates that 2.55 million people or 14 per cent of the entire population survives below the poverty line. Over 105,000 people also experience involuntary homelessness at some time each year.

Despite the federal LNP’s criticisms of so-called over-generous industrial awards for lower paid workers, housing prices and rent increases outstripped the growth in real wage growth to March 2015.

Corelogic in Google Image

Corelogic in Google Image

This situation is summarized in the recent Paradise Lost research brief from the Percapita Think Tank.

Synopsis of the new Australian income divide
Percapita research paper 2015 available at www.percapita.org.au

Percapita research paper 2015 available at www.percapita.org.au

Advocates of alternative approaches to the funding of essential infrastructure must challenge decades of commitment to the conventional political viewpoint that future urban dreams can be delivered without too much help from community and environmental planning.

Limitations to existing city plans

Even in better financially resourced cities like Brisbane, the market rather than sustainable planning drives the development agenda.

In Brisbane’s inner west, the gloss from a recent investment of $450 million in the Indooroopilly Shopping Centre contrasts with the drabness of adjacent streets which have not benefited so directly from the injection of new investment by the current property owner, the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation.

How far does the new welcome mat at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre extend into the wider local community?


Author’s Photo

Faced with a substantial cut-back of almost $520 million or 71 per cent in revenue from subsidies and grants in the projected estimates for the 2015-16 Brisbane City Council Budget (BCC), even this normally well resourced local authority is forced to rely on the revenue generated by fast-tracking new commercial development.

The gloss of new commercial shopping centre projects contrasts with the aesthetic standards of some adjacent streetscapes which have not benefitted from essential community development, infrastructure and environmental commitments.

The aesthetic divide in Indooroopilly, Brisbane

Author’s Photo

Just opposite in Westminster Road, historic Keating House is fenced off and deserted as funding is not available for its conversion into a heritage site and the market is not ready to provide some alternative commercial use with an embedded heritage component.

Fenced-off from the community: Keating House, Indooroopilly
Image from Department of Environment and Heritage 2013

Department of Environment and Heritage 2013


Across the railway tracks, the Commonwealth Government clings onto the largely disused Witton Army Barracks. It contains one of Brisbane’s cultural gems at Tighnabruaich mansion. This is now leased out as a family residence.

Although recommended for protection in the Indooroopilly Neighbourhood Plan, opening up a decommissioned Witton Barracks as a cultural centre carries a price tag which is beyond the financial resources of the Brisbane City Council.

Tighnabruaich mansion within Witton Barracks
National Trust of Queensland 1979

National Trust of Queensland 1979

With the amalgamation of over twenty small municipalities under the City of Brisbane Act 1924, it was assumed that an integrated local authority would always have the financial resources to maintain a balance between historic, cultural, environmental and economic development outcomes.

New councillors in the 1920s had no inkling of the need for a business first pro-development approach and proceeded to make provision for a range of new suburban amenities.

Postcard of the Indooroopilly Reach of the Brisbane River with an empathetic colour touch-up
Queenslandplaces.com.au for the Queensland Government

Queenslandplaces.com.au for the Queensland Government


The Great Depression brought on the need for a new round of financial improvisation.
During the recovery phase from the Great Depression in Australia, conservative leaders rejoiced in applying the user-pays principles to major infrastructure initiatives.

Self-congratulation at the opening of the Walter Taylor Toll Bridge, Brisbane in 1936
L-R Governor’s aide, Brisbane Mayor Jones, W.N. Green, Governor Sir Leslie Wilson and Bridge Architect Walter Taylor News Limited Archives in newscom.au

L-R Governor’s aide, Brisbane Mayor Jones, W.N. Green, Governor Sir Leslie Wilson and Bridge Architect Walter Taylor
News Limited Archives in newscom.au


The political ghosts of this financial improvisation have returned in the post-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) Era since 2007.

The Toll Ticket: a political metaphor for financial improvisation from the 1930s
Ozrevenues.com from Google Image

Ozrevenues.com from Google Image

Even within current funding arrangements, the public sector has limited capacity to fund longer-term but essential infrastructure.

Infrastructure projects such as rail transport links to Coolangatta Airport from both Brisbane and the Northern Rivers of NSW have price tags in the billions.

The Re:think Tax Discussion Paper makes such commitments permanently off-limits, at least within the government sector.

Major rail infrastructure links: Off-limits without federal government funding
Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads 2015

Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads 2015

Only sustained public opposition forced the former Queensland state government to break ranks with the Gold Coast City Council and a development consortium from proceeding with the construction of a cruise terminal and casino complex at the Southport Spit.

The discredited pro-development agenda: Transforming the Southport Spit
Image from ABC News

Image from ABC News

Further south in Northern NSW, the electorate also wanted alternatives to the suburbanization of the Ballina Electorate in the 2015 state election.

The Greens certainly won the seat of Ballina on a local protest vote but Premier Mike Baird still has effective control of both houses of the NSW parliament.

Comfortable Green victory in the Ballina Electorate
www.tamarasmith.com.au from Google Image

www.tamarasmith.com.au from Google Image

Small victories do not substantially change the wider pro-development agenda.

Best practice within existing city plans can still also achieve some splendid outcomes through carefully targeted commercial investment projects.

At Central Park on the Broadway in Sydney South, medium and high-rise apartments blend well with familiar supermarkets, specialty stores and commercial services.

Positive outcomes of integrated development at Central Park, Sydney

Author’s Photo from November 2014

Urban redevelopment projects like Central Park in Sydney are the product of a traditional social democratic planning model which strikes a good balance between commercial gain and improved surroundings.

In less well-resourced outer suburban and regional communities, substantial funding is required from both state and federal governments to achieve such quality outcomes.

At Springfield in Ipswich, a corporate new town required full co-operation between commercial investors and a progressive local authority.

However, the consolidation of Springfield and the extension of sustainable urbanization into the Ripley Valley closer to the Ipswich CBD would not have been possible without the injection of public sector funding for roadway extensions, public transport and other community infrastructure that are essential for new town development products.

The Springfield corporate new town in Ipswich City
www.greaterspringfield.com.au from Google Image

www.greaterspringfield.com.au from Google Image

Cut-backs in federal grants to the states and territories as proposed in the Re:think Tax Discussion Paper will hinder an optimum continuation of this balanced style of development on the fringes of Australian metropolitan areas.

Projections for Ripley Central in Ipswich City
Queensland Times 16 March 2015

Queensland Times 16 March 2015

Such trends are well-established in the more market-oriented business culture of the United States.

The Potomac Mills Shopping Centre near Woodridge, Virginia is one of that state’s major tourist destinations near Interstate 95, south of Washington D.C.

The Potomac Mills Mall near Interstate 95 in Virginia, United States
Retail Property for Lease from Google Image 2015

Retail Property for Lease from Google Image 2015


Potomac Mills Mall offers almost 150 000 square metres of retail floor space in a semi-rural setting. Its sprawling car-park confronts every reasonable urban planning convention.

Owned by the Simon Property Group with retail assets across three continents, this style of urban sprawl might be protected by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with a capacity to override legislation which restricts market freedom.

In Australia, tighter city planning laws prevent a repeat of the worst excesses of this style of development. This situation may change after the TPP is finalized.

The Way Forward through political consensus

Alternative approaches should not be left to minority parties as it is in the interest of the mainstream to expose the links between the pro-development agenda and the LNP’s current Re:think Tax Discussion Agenda.

This case for an optimum level of regional planning can conclude on a positive note.

Commitment to a higher standard of planning is absolutely necessary for Australia’s emergent mega-cities and their adjacent regions.

Models of more effective local, regional and national planning do exist in the most successful economies of the Scandinavian countries.

With the federal LNP captured by a totally corporate development agenda, the next election can be won by a progressive generation of policy shakers.

Progressive leaders must take political risks to offer more daring policy agendas that address the financial barriers to proactive urban and regional planning. The best practice of Scandinavian countries must be applied to the particular environmental and planning needs of contemporary Australia.

Sustainable urban futures are not part of Prime Minister Abbott’s opportunistic political vision. The current focus on surviving the next election has no commitment to support for the states and territories to deliver urban and regional planning agendas.

Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). He has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations.


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Some lingering doubts about the make-up artist incident

The story of Kevin Rudd’s alleged rudeness to Lily Fontana, his make-up artist for his second debate with Tony Abbott has had its day of glory on the front pages of the Murdoch media and presumably run its course, but no doubt tucked away for any mud throwing if and when useful for such. Within minutes of preparing the make-up to both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott for the debate, Ms Fontana took to Facebook with the suggestion that Kevin Rudd was rude to her.

I say alleged rudeness because I don’t believe the full story, but I’ll return to that shortly.

Just how feral were the Murdoch media about this incident? You can see for yourself from this Media Watch episode from 26 August which provides an excellent summary.

Now for my doubts about the validity of the incident.

There are a number of obvious questions that no-one, it seems, thought of asking. I’ll ask them.

Why would a political journalist, after a debate between the two men who aspire to lead this country after the forthcoming election race to the Facebook page of the make-up artist to see what she had to say? What an odd thing for a political journalist to do. One would have thought that a political journalist would be more interested in politics, especially the just completed Abbott/Rudd debate.

Isn’t it odd, too, that journalists in one state know the names of television make-up artists in another state? How likely is it that a Sydney journalist has appeared on Sky News in their Brisbane studio? I’m not saying it’s never happened, but it does seem odd.

How did the journalist know which Lily Fontana to find on Facebook? There are a number of them. The two political leaders of this country had just finished a debate yet one of the leading political journalists found time to ignore all that in preference to searching through all the Lily Fontanas on Facebook. Don’t you find that odd?

Why is it, that stories from a witness who disputes the claim has now been removed from media sites?

Why did Ms Fontana remove her entry from Facebook? Apparently she is embarrassed. Might I suggest disgusted? Disgusted at being manipulated by the media.

Was Ms Fontana complicit with the media? This is mere speculation but is it possible that this might be the case.

Lily Fontana, in my opinion, was made a media stooge. The media, in my opinion, set this up.


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