GOVT. PROBE INTO ABORIGINAL DEAL
By ERWIN CHLANDA
The NT Office of Business Affairs is investigating the purchase of
Territory Business Suppliers (TBS) by Tangentyere Council, reportedly
using as collateral $600,000 in ATSIC funds deposited in the Westpac
bank in Alice Springs.
The News has learned that the money may have been "prescribed property" under the NT Associations and Incorporation Act, and may have been used improperly by Tangentyere. NT Attorney General Denis Burke says the probe into the TBS deal will be "a thorough investigation into all aspects", and will examine "whether an illegality has occurred".
Prescribed property - which can include cash, land and equipment - may be given to an association, such as Tangentyere, for specific purposes, either by the NT or the Commonwealth governments.
The Act says "except with the consent in writing of the Minister [usually the Attorney General] ... an incorporated association ... shall not dispose of, charge, or otherwise deal with prescribed property".
The News understands Tangentyere has not obtained consent from the Minister for using as collateral the $600,000, earmarked for works in Alice Springs "fringe camps" for which Tangentyere has a variety of responsibilities.
Coeburn Pty Ltd, the TBS parent company, was put into receivership late last year and has now closed its doors.
Remaining assets were sold off at an auction last week.
It is unclear how much money Tangentyere or the Westpac bank may have lost in the fiasco.
Tangentyere general manager Geoff Shaw has not responded to several requests for comment from the News .
A spokeswoman for Westpac says the bank "has not knowingly" acted improperly. Meanwhile, Alice Springs accountant Jack Wolstencroft says he and his wife, Sharon, are the target of damaging rumours, with the possible objective of discrediting them as key witnesses in a case the Australian Federal Police may bring against senior ATSIC figures.
The News has learned that Australian Federal Police investigations into allegations of fraud in the Tennant Creek based Anyngini Congress may be coming to a head. AFP Agent in Charge in Darwin, Anne Dellaca, confirmed a probe into ATSIC spending in Central Australia is "ongoing", but declined to give names of the people under investigation, and the amount of money involved.
Ms Dellaca confirmed that the APF has spoken to Alice Springs accountants Jack and Sharon Wolstencroft, saying they may be witnesses for the AFP, should the ATSIC probe result in a court case.
Ms Dellaca says there are no moves at present to lay charges.
The Wolstencrofts told the Alice News that they suspect a smear campaign is being waged against them in connection with the TBS collapse, in an effort to discredit evidence they may be presenting to the AFP's investigation into ATSIC.
"My wife and I are not shareholders in Coeburn, and have never been shareholders," says Mr Wolstencroft.
"We were advisors to Tangentyere.
"They asked us to give them an opinion on the TBS purchase and they got an opinion from us.
"Tangentyere also had advice from two other accounting firms, confirming that the business was a viable proposition," says Mr Wolstencroft.
"Why are we being singled out?
"We had nothing to do with setting up the security for the Westpac loan to purchase TBS.
"Alternate financing had been arranged, with another bank, and with Tangentyere real estate as collateral, provided the Minister gave his consent.
"I can't go into details because of client confidentiality." This proposal was clearly rejected by Tangentyere.
Mr Wolstencroft says he and his wife have interests in the company which owns the FAI building in Gregory Terrace, where TBS operated.
He says the building is on the market, and "a couple of people" had shown interest in buying it.
WINE CASK ROW: WHO SHOULD STOCK THEM?
By JOHN McBEATH
Tangentyere Council has lodged an objection with the Liquor
Commission against an application by Harry's Liquor Store, attached to
the Alice Rainbow Supermarket in the Alice Plaza shopping centre,
asking for permission to sell four and five litre wine casks, in
addition to the two litre varieties already stocked.
Tangentyere part-owns the Milner Road Supermarket, which has a liquor department stocking four and five litre casks.
Several dozen Coolabah Moselle four-litre casks - the notorious "green suitcases" preferred by river drinkers - are stacked in one corner of the liquor shop.
An Alice News reporter observed one woman buying two of these casks last Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile MLA for Greatorex Richard Lim has called on Tangentyere Council to disclose the source of the money used to buy the supermarket and liquor shop.
Dr Lim says now that the Territory Business Suppliers (TBS) matter has "blown up" (see story this page), Tangentyere "should be open" about where the money came from.
"I said last year that Tangentyere should be given a few months to prove itself in its new venture, but now they need to tell us where the money came from," says Dr Lim.
"We don't want another TBS debacle. There needs to be some public accountability if the money came from taxpayers' funds.
"And if it's not public money, then Tangentyere should at least disclose that fact." NT Liquor Commission says Rainbow has given the following reasons for its application: "The present restriction on the sale of larger casks by Rainbow is making the outlet uncompetitive.
"Rainbow's is the only liquor store in town not licensed to sell four and five litre casks."
Mike Bowden, manager of Community Development at Tangentyere Council, says the matter came up at a recent executive meeting, where it was decided to lodge an objection to the Rainbow application.
Mr Bowden says: "This application, if granted, would increase the overall availability of four and five litre casks in the town.
"We see that as being inconsistent with a policy of constraint and limitation of the existing levels of alcohol sales.
"We would like ultimately to see retailers actually reduce the availability of wine casks, and we don't think there's any justification for an increase in wine cask availability."
Asked if he saw any conflict of interest between lodging an objection to another outlet stocking the same casks as those available at Tangentyere's own liquor mart, Mr Bowden says: "Tangentyere's purchase of Milner Road did nothing to increase or change total availability."
Individual sales figures by retail outlets are not released by the Liquor Commission, only total figures for the town are available.
Mr Bowden says: "This present application seeks to make one more outlet available, and we think that's against the interests of the community."
He says the reason Tangentyere bought into Milner Road was to get access to a point of sale for food where the council's food vouchers could be redeemed.
"Tangentyere took on the existing liquor licence at Milner Road as part of the purchase, recognising that alcohol is a problem, and believes that by operating as a responsible retailer it can assist in addressing the problem," Mr Bowden said.
He says that in addition to abiding by the legal requirements for alcohol sales, the Milner Road outlet has "Aboriginal employees around the supermarket who are able to identify people who may not be intoxicated enough to be legally excluded (from purchasing alcohol), but selling such people further alcohol supplies would be ill advised.
"Our general manager, Geoff Shaw, has directed our night patrol to attend the Milner Road premises periodically, and we also ask our wardens to call there during the day," he says.
"We're trying to add to the sense of sensible, legal and moderate consumption."
When asked if Tangentyere Council had any plans to scale down or dispense with four and five litre cask sales at Milner Road, Mr Bowden said: "That is not a matter that's been discussed.
"That would be a decision for the Tangentyere executive, and there's been no discussion at executive level about scaling down the sale of wine casks."
The Rainbow application hearing by the Liquor Commission is set down for April 29.
THE NATIVE TITLE FIGHT
An interview by ERWIN CHLANDA with CLP Parliamentarian, Dr Richard Lim.
News: Do you have a house on land to which you have legal title?
News: What would you do if someone attempted to diminish your legal rights to that land in any way?
Lim: I'd say they can't because I have legal title to it.
News: In what way is that different to having native title?
Lim: There is no legal title. Not yet. Tribunals and courts will have to decide whether someone has legal title under the Native Title Act. At the moment all we see are ambit claims, causing concerns to investors and developers, and these claims make them hold off on any projects they may be planning.
News: What's wrong with ambit claims?
Lim: They hold up development. We can't afford that. A [similar land] claim in Canada took 10 years to resolve, and in the end, the claim was unsuccessful. For 10 years nothing happened to that land. In the NT, economic growth is important, not the least because we need a bigger population and greater recognition from Canberra in our drive for statehood.
News: Aren't ambit claims a normal strategy in a market economy, to maximise commercial advantages?
Lim: I agree with that sentiment, but what the Central Land Council (CLC) has done with respect to the water claims in Alice Springs, has provoked such a backlash, causing them to lose credibility. They provoked anger. They've defeated their own purpose. That's not what I would call pursuing reconciliation.
News: The CLC says the public anger has been provoked by blatantly false reporting by the Centralian Advocate, which didn't even bother to check the facts. The CLC says there are no threats to the water supply of Alice Springs.
Lim: Their claim is over the water on the surface and under the ground, flowing or standing still. So when the Todd River flows across land included in the claim, that water is claimed, no matter where it stops, even if it is in a dam on freehold land.
News: What do you think they'll do with that water?
Lim: What can they do with it? Absolutely nothing.
Lim: So why do they claim it?
News: Because it's an ambit claim.
Lim: Millennia before the white people came to Australia, no Aboriginal person knew that there was water under the ground.
News: In view of that, how do you think they will be able to claim traditional affiliation with that water, under the terms of the Act?
Lim: If they can't prove affiliation with it, why lodge a claim?
News: It's clearly an ambit claim, a standard negotiating strategy.
Lim: I say that ambit claims are stupid, provocative and unnecessary. They should lift the claim.
News: Whom do you blame for the delays caused by native title? After all, it's the result of a decision by an all-white High Court interpreting laws passed by an almost all-white Parliament.
Lim: As Tim Fisher said, the High Court Judges are not legislators, yet they are, in fact, rewriting the law. The Wik decision was carried by a one vote margin. The Judges themselves are divided.
News: That's how the High Court works. Are you saying that the High Court should not work the way it usually does when Aboriginal matters are involved?
Lim: The High Court Judges should not be rewriting legislation. This should be up to the Parliament. What they should be looking at is the spirit of the law. They have ignored the spirit of the [Native Title] Act.
News: But you can't blame the Aborigines for that decision, can you?
Lim: I am not speaking for the NT Government, but I think it is saying, Territorians are losing a lot of land, land is now locked up, nothing can happen. The Territory needs to continue to grow but [native title] is going to stop that growth.
News: Given that native title is Federal legislation, which the Territory government is powerless to change, how come that of late, Territory politicians have bombarded the public with native title horror stories, laying blame at the feet of local Aboriginal organisations? Is it simply a ploy to stir up racial hatred?
Lim: I can only speak for myself. That is a gross misinterpretation of Territory concerns. We have to protect the interest of Territorians. More than half of the NT is locked up. Whether native title rights are proven or not, the reality is that half of the NT is locked up. No developer is prepared to come here and do anything. That has to be drawn to Territorians' attention. We're facing exorbitant and unrealistic claims.
News: How do you know they're exorbitant and unrealistic when they haven't been tested in court?
Lim: Do they [the native title claimants] need all that land to live on? The answer is, no! They're claiming the land because they want money. That's what is comes down to.
News: Why do you think native title holders should give up their rights to land?
Lim: What I say to Aboriginal people is, you need land to live, just like I do. Be realistic. Don't claim every piece of land that has not got freehold title on it. What you're doing is unrealistic. It causes anger. No-one would have a problem with realistic claims.
News: What's realistic? If you think there's such a thing as a realistic claim, why don't you sit down with the claimants and negotiate?
Lim: Because the claims come on before we can even talk about them.
News: What would you consider realistic if someone made demands that you gave up rights to your own back yard, rights you enjoy under the same legal framework as benefits native title holders?
Lim: If it's a realistic claim, based on realistic needs, then I wouldn't have any problems. When it is blatantly just a grab, and when it's simply about how many dollars will go to the land councils, then it's got to stop.
News: What claim to your back yard, by someone else, would you consider realistic?
Lim: It is all very hypothetical in this instance. If somebody wants my back yard, what I would say to him is that I also need my back yard, for a variety of reasons, and we can talk about it.
News: You would entertain claims by other people over your back yard?
Lim: I have a title in my hand which says that these 800 square metres are legally paid for and I can do what I want to with those 800 square metres. If someone wants part of it, then we should talk about what that person wants it for.
News: Would you want money for it?
Lim: I don't know. If it's for the national good, then maybe I shouldn't.
News: Do you think many people in Alice Springs would give up rights to their land without compensation, as you're expecting native title holders to do?
Lim: I don't know. You'll have to ask them.
News: Which claim has the NT Government negotiated in Central Australia?
Lim: I'm aware the Government tried very hard to negotiate with the Mbantuarinya Arrernte group for a realistic claim. It was rejected. I have a map here which shows what the Mbantuarinya Arrernte group is now claiming. It is a much greater area than ever.
News: What were the offers and what were the counter offers?
Lim: I can't give you any details. You need to speak to the Minister for Lands.
News: What were the offers and counter offers concerning Greatorex, your electorate?
Lim: This is something that I should have no part in. I should not stick my nose into this because it confuses the issue even more.
NATIVE TITLE: THE CENTRAL LAND COUNCIL RESPONDS TO RICHARD LIM
The Central Land Council has offered to brief Greatorex MP Dr
Richard Lim on the Native Title Act, following public comments by the
MP which indicate that he either doesn't understand, or has not read
CLC Director Tracker Tilmouth said Dr Lim's comments are inaccurate, divisive, and damaging to the interests of all Territorians.
"Dr Lim is trying to out-Borbidge Borbidge", Mr Tilmouth said. "I'm disappointed he is continuing to peddle misinformation about Native Title because it doesn't help anyone.
We'd be happy to arrange a briefing for him so he understands Native Title is simply a matter of Aboriginal Territorians exercising their rights under the law, and it poses no threat to the future of the Northern territory."
Mr Tilmouth said any delays to development in Alice Springs were caused by the Northern Territory Government's refusal to negotiate over parts of the Mbantuarinya/ Arrernte Native Title Application.
"There are processes under the Native Title Act that allow development to occur over land that has been claimed, so any inability to develop land is caused by the NT Government refusing to use the process established under the Act.
"Irresponsible comments by politicians like Dr Lim may be scaring off developers, rather than Native Title claims."
Mr Tilmouth said the Mbantuarinya/Arrernte Native Title application has not changed since it was first lodged on August 31, 1994, and reiterated that the town's water supply was safe. "Dr Lim is wrong on the water issue too," he said.
"The Mbantuarinya/Arrernte are only claiming water on, or under, land within the claim area. The claim does not include water that flows off any claimed land, and it certainly does not include water on freehold land. I also emphasise that the application is based on co-existent rights, not exclusive rights.
Dr Lim should also know that many pastoralists relied on Aboriginal knowledge of underground water supplies when establishing their leases."
Mr Tilmouth added, regarding Dr Lim's claim that more than half the Territory is "locked up" by Native Title claims is nonsense.
In fact, less than five per cent of the Territory is subject to Native Title claim.
Mr Tilmouth said Dr Lim was right on one point - the NT Government has to protect the interests of Territorians.
"Any responsible government would realise that includes Aboriginal Territorians, who make up about 30 per cent of our population, and are simply exercising their rights under the law."
SPORT: 50 YEARS FEDERAL FOOTBALL CLUB
In the post war period, Alice Springs was bequeathed no less than
three ovals from the Military occupation, and so it was inevitable that
organised sport would develop among the citizens remaining in the area.
On August 3, 1947, the Central Australian Football League as we now know it, conducted its first fixture between Rovers and Federal.
Today both Clubs are still the cornerstones of sport in the town.
For Federal, the Golden Jubilee celebrations will be launched over the Easter break, with a "Back to Feds" weekend.
Past players, officials and supporters are welcome to the club at Undoolya Road, and highlight of the celebrations will be a match featuring prominent names from past and present.
Since the 1947 season Federal, Rovers and Pioneers have fielded sides in the CAFL competition each year.
For Feds, the red and white colours have experienced times of flood and famine. The 1958 to 1963 period were golden days for the Club when they won six consecutive premierships.
In addition they claimed the Flag in 1950,'55, and most recently in 1974.
After appearing in three consecutive grand finals into the early nineties, this decade has been something of a famine for the club.
However the signs are on the board that good times are about to return.
Along with the on ground wins and losses, there have been players who have served the club and CAFL with distinction.
Without a doubt Federal's most renowned player has been the CAFL's Mr Football, Reg Harris.
Reg was a tower of strength in the early days of Federal, holding virtually every position possible on committees, playing and coaching.
"Mophead", as he is nicknamed, dominated in those early years of football in the Centre, but always unfortunately, the coveted Minahan Medal eluded him.
The closest Reg got was in 1955, when he was beaten on a count back by fellow Federal star, Brian Napier.
Other stars of the era included Kevin Tilmouth who won the Medal in 1960 and again in 1961, and David Baldock the Minahan Medalist of 1962.
A decade later Federal again loomed as a power in the CAFL, with 1974 being a Premiership year. Coached by David Curtin, Feds boasted the ex West Torrens player Bruce Simmons in their ranks. Dynamic Greg Bee, Harvey Millard, John Bell,and Robby Postill all added to the flavour of Fed's success.
It was also in 1974 that the Federal Club opened its doors. In the years preceding the opening, the spirited efforts of Geoff Noden, John Maskill, and David Baldock saw a dream become a reality. Prior to having the club house, players had "warmed down" after the game at the infamous "slab" on the outskirts of town, where many a night was spent revelling without the comfort of a roof, let alone refrigerated beer and television replays.
Through enormous hours of voluntary labour, and many fund raisers of all descriptions, the club was however, erected.
George Hatzimihail had the honour of being the first manager, a position later occupied by a variety of characters including Ted Power, through to the present mine host Taffy Williams.
Still the spirit of Federals lives on at the club just as it did back in those halcyon days on the "slab".
The Reicha Room has become the domain of past generations, and in the Demon Room many of the immediate past players pass on advice to those wearing the colours today. Remarkably the older all members get the better they were!
Over the last twenty five years the Club has prospered, due to dedicated efforts by many footballers of the seventies.
Keith Jamieson, Roger Bennett, and Dave Gloede have stoically kept the Club alive through it's ups and downs.
Today the club thrives under the enthusiasm of young blood in Ian and Cliff Taylor, Darren Burnard, and newly appointed coach, Danny Measures.
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