October 10th 2012
How Nine makes "Crime Island" pay
On Monday night Channel 9’s A Current Affair program screened “Crime Island” a report with an intro reading: “Welcome to Australia’s crime island. Beautiful one day but a holiday hell the next”, and, “a nightmare of drugs and violence”. To the astonishment of many locals and past visitors, the segment was about Magnetic Island!
As a resident of over 20 years the description was wildly at odds with my experiences and, it seems, to many other locals who have been responding to the story on facebook.
A number of locals were interviewed who described anti-social behaviour centered around the former resort which is home to a wide range of people including owners, holiday makers and residents who are renting.
While ACA repeated footage of a man preparing marijuana on a table and cut to a number of people whose faces were also blurred speaking about punch-ups, heavy drinking and apparently lewd behaviour in front of school girls there was no attempt to tell us just how many people were thought to be involved.
And while nobody is condoning such behaviour it is hardly news that there are people on Magnetic Island who take illegal drugs, drink too much, suffer from mental health problems, have domestics and or may have been in prison. Cutting and pasting comments by anonymous witnesses and a scary, shaky hand held camera track past what, investigative journalist Chris Masters once described as, “guilty buildings”, made a strong impression that the old resort could be terror central.
See for yourself: (Click Here)
When one of the locals who were actually prepared to show their faces on screen, David “Crusty” Heron claimed, “There’s no rules for that place. None whatsoever”, we had to wonder whether there was a police force at all on Magnetic Island. The comment surely might have triggered an attempt by ACA to contact the police. But, no, nothing in the story at all except for a shot of a cop at a full moon party which was taken years ago and added into the mix in case the deviants at the International weren’t enough.
When Inspector Doyle from Townsville police told ABC radio yesterday, “They (MI Police) have had a couple of disturbances up there (former Magnetic International Resort) that they’ve attended recently but certainly nothing significant...” it seems clear that ACA never bothered with the cop’s view of “Crime Island” or, if they did, found that it didn’t fit the “nightmare” story they had planned, and edited it out.
Sadly, but not surprisingly the Townsville Bulletin (Click here) tried the same cop-free approach back in September when they first wrote about the former resort and resident’s fears, “their community is turning into a crime hub,” in a story that probably first attracted ACA’s attention.
So what could have been gained by this story? What could our politicians, for instance, actually do to prevent private owners renting units to people willing to live in them and pay rent? If people break the law then the police are there to deal with it. If the police are not up to the task then let’s hear about that. From all that has come to light, in spite of ACA and the Bully’s cop avoidance, the story rests entirely on here say that is directed towards one financially crippled old resort and some, perhaps just a few, of its residents.
And what has been lost since this story? Well, if a copybook answer is required in terms of the Island’s tourist economy, then read the following letter from a Magnetic Times reader, Nicole, received today:
I watched A Current Affair last night and was shocked and saddened to see how scary and unsafe Magnetic Island has become. I am only glad responsible reporting has let us know. The older gentleman interviewed is clearly petrified living in complete fear of what is happening. Having been there I am surprised to hear that the police can obviously not control it. We have holidayed there several times and were completely unaware how dangerous it obviously is. No responsible parent would risk taking their children to such a place! We wont any more, we will be cancelling our next planned family holiday and be warning everyone we know to stay away!
One might hope that Nicole can be convinced, perhaps by reader’s comments below, that the ACA message ain’t necessarily so.
Just remember folks that ACA make their money by exploiting conflict or pretending there is a brawl happening because we humans are suckers every time and want to watch. Go post on their facebook page if you want but be aware it also feeds their plan which is to attract attention to their work and sell adverts.
But perhaps it can work the other way too. Magnetic Times believes that a tipping point occurred in the last week when Alan (The Parrot) Jones had all of his advertisers cut after his ridiculous and awful comments about the Prime Minister’s father’s death. It’s cost 2GB a bomb and Jones has (incredibly) screamed of “cyber bullying” by ordinary people who had had enough of him and finally organised themselves through facebook and other social media. It’s a time when digital social networks are directly standing up to the old analogue heads who have thus-far considered themselves almighty.
We notice for instance, "which bank" is the main sponsor for the ACA web-based segment on “Crime Island”
But Magnetic Island definitely has some pieces to pick up and they are not just in tourist promos.
The challenge Magnetic faces as a community is that many residents of the International will now start to feel truly isolated and unfairly regarded for no other reason than their address. Fortunately we have a great community here with people who have already seen through the ACA games.
We note, with particular distinction, that last Saturday, expecting the social fall-out on the International residents with the ACA trailer already out, Lorna Hempstead A.M. and President of the Community Development Association, personally delivered invitations to the closing BBQ of the Magnetic Island Bay Dayz festival, to as many residents of the International as she could find around the complex. Some came and were made welcome.
This is the sort of Maggie Island behaviour that we’ve seen again and again when Islanders show their generosity of spirit. Think Australian records for Biggest Morning Tea cancer research fundraising, how so many of us got out and helped the old and disabled after Cyclone Yasi or the recent, amazing efforts to help one little kid’s big health problems with the Zac’s Back fundraiser.
Such gestures are a superb template for Magnetic to engage with friendship and understanding to the many terrific people who no doubt, reside at the International. Let's not forget that ghettoes start inside people’s heads when we think of the “others” instead of names and faces we start to recognise, know and befriend.
George Hirst, Editor