ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
October 1, 1997
TOURISM HEAVIES CLASH WITH REGULATORS OVER PRICE
Report by ERWIN CHLANDA
High-level tourism industry figures appear to be supporting convicted
price fixer David Bennett who is serving on the boards of the NT
Tourist Commission (NTTC) and the Central Australian Tourism Industry
Rick Murray, president of the Tourism Council of Australia's NT branch,
says he has ñno problem with Mr Bennett continuing to be on the
Mr Murray says the action by the Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission (ACCC), which led to the convictions in the Federal Court of
Mr Bennett and several other NT car rental staff and companies, was a
civil action, not a criminal one.
Mr Murray says Mr Bennett wasn't guilty of any "major moral wrong".
His action wasn't simply price fixing but "agreeing not to discount".
Mr Murray says: "Discounting is not to be encouraged."
However, ACCC assistant director in the NT Chris Ward says "the removal
of a discount in the circumstances was held [by the court] to be
equivalent to price fixing".
He says the court found that Mr Bennett had breached the Act in "being
knowingly concerned with a contract, arrangement or understanding the
purpose or likely effect of which was to fix prices for car rental
agreements in the Alice Springs area during the low season of 1993-94".
Breaches of Part Four of the Trade Practices Act are civil offences but
are "viewed seriously by the Commonwealth," says Mr Ward.
"This is reflected in the penalties which apply ... including penalties
and pecuniary penalties of up to $10m per offence for corporations and
$500,000 for individuals."
CATIA chairman Wayne Tucker, due to retire soon, said after the court
decision was handed down that Mr Bennett would not be asked to leave.
The Federal Court in August imposed a total of almost $1.3m in
penalties, and $140,000 in costs, after handing down convictions for
price fixing in connection with Ayers Rock specials.
Mr Bennett was fined $80,000.
According to reliable sources, CATIA's accommodation sub-committee has
now asked the organisation's executive to explain why Mr Bennett is
still on the executive.
CATIA's new general manager, Merran Dobson, and Mr Tucker declined to
comment on the matter.
However, the Alice News has learned from inside sources that CATIA is
waiting to see what the NTTC will do about Mr Bennett.
NTTC chairman John Rowe has not responded to requests for comment, and
Tourism Minister Mike Reed, who appointed Mr Bennett to the 12 person
NTTC board, declined to comment.
The Alice News understands that there has been a conversation between
CATIA and Mr Rowe, who reportedly supported Mr Bennett.
Mr Reed reappointed Mr Bennett to the board for a two-year term in
October last year.
He had been chosen by Mr Reed from three CATIA nominees to represent
the interests of the Central Australian tourism industry.
Meanwhile, just released NTTC figures reveal that the industry in Alice
Springs has suffered dramatic reductions in visitor nights and income
during the 1996-97 financial year.
The commission says part of the reason for the decline was the late
start to the self-drive market and a "soft" June 1997 quarter.
Earnings by the commercial accommodation sector from interstate
visitors - the major target of NTTC advertising - were down nearly 40
per cent, although in the previous year, bed occupancy was already
below 50 per cent.
Earnings from overseas visitors were up 20 per cent, but they are
likely to have responded not to NTTC, but to Australian Tourist
The NTTC spends around $10m of its $15m marketing budget on seeking to
attract domestic tourists.
The commission's total budget is $26.5m. Overall, "direct expenditure"
by the accommodation industry in Alice Springs was down 16 per cent,
according to the NTTC figures, while the Territory overall has had a
drop of point three of a per cent.
There are now more international tourists (261,000) than interstate
ones (246,000) visiting The Centre, including The Rock and King's
Canyon, although those from interstate stay nearly twice as long (a
total of 1,172,000 compared to 673,000 nights).
NEW MANAGER OF TOURISM LOBBY LOOKS INTO THE FUTURE
Interview by ERWIN CHLANDA
"The world is our oyster. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we can
do something big."
Merran Dobson steps into the position of CATIA's general manager after
The Centre's prime tourism lobby had a brief and unhappy encounter with
her immediate predecessor, following the departure of the dynamic James
Corvan for Queensland.
Over four years Ms Dobson built up the CATIA equivalent on the Sunshine
Coast (population 250,000) from 170 members to 650.
She says her work contributed to a "much greater cohesion" between the
three towns of Caloundra, Noosa and Maroochydore - on the other side of
Brisbane from the Gold Coast.
Income from tourism shot up from $348m a year to $571m.
She managed to rope in private and public companies, ranging from
United Breweries to Telstra, to provide substantial material support,
and negotiated local government contributions from around $45,000 a
year up to $180,000.
The Sunshine Coast is not dominated by big hotels to the extent that
The Alice is.
It relies more on "bed and breakfasts" as well as "six packs" - six or
12 units, sold strata-titled, with a manager occupying one unit.
Ms Dobson spoke to Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
Dobson: I would like to have the whole community involved in tourism.
When somebody walks down the street and is looking at a map, somebody
should approach them and say, hi, you got a problem? Can I show you
where you're going? It's a matter of pride in our town, in our area.
In 1995-96 Alice Springs had an occupancy rate of under 50 per cent in
the commercial accommodation sector (CAS). From that poor base, income
from interstate tourists dropped during 1996-97 a further 43 per cent.
Earnings from international tourism is up 20 per cent, but overall,
income by the CAS last fiscal year decreased 20 per cent. That's what
you've walked in to. What are you going to do about it?
Dobson: Try and change the economics of Australia! I believe we have,
predominantly, a seniors and families market. The country's economic
condition is significantly affecting their "dollar spend". People in
their mid -fifties upwards used to invest their retiring money at 12 to
15 per cent interest. They're lucky now to be getting five. They're
just ahead of the baby boomers and they've been through very good times
when money has been very available. No longer is that the case.
News: Why do we have to rely on the seniors age group? Is it not true
that our world famous attractions should allow us to pick and choose
from the richest tourists in the richest countries of the world?
Dobson: You should never assume anything. We need to correct the
domestic factor, and we shouldn't put all eggs in one basket. Cairns,
for example is suffering badly because of the break down of the
The Japanese airlines pulled two or three flights out of there, and
Cairns is suffering. Our international market is very dependent on the
South East Asian and Pacific areas, especially for Queensland and NSW,
although not necessarily for us.
We need to look at smart packaging. No longer do people want a generic
campaign, aren't the Rock and Central Australia fantastic? The three Ps
are product, package and price.
For example, there seems to be a boom in Broome. So instead of flying
straight across the top, make it a 10 day package where they come into
the Centre for five days, and then on to Broome.
During Easter, a quiet time here, the airlines put all their marketing
along the eastern seaboard. So we talk to the railways and we look at
the self drive family market.
News: What do you think about the NT Tourist Commission's advertising?
Dobson: The Daryl Somers campaign? It was excellent, but had its time.
News: It hasn't done much for the bed occupancy in Alice Springs.
Dobson: We're not the only destination. Broome has come from nowhere to
be a significant destination.
News: How did they do that?
Dobson: They worked from a nothing base and they realised they had to
It's the psyche of the tourists. They know the Rock's there and always
will be. Broome is something different. The Pilbara is something
different. They know we're there. They don't know about Broome. How
many images of the Rock have you seen in your life? Innumerable!
News: Does that mean too much promotion puts people off?
Dobson: No. But, says Joe down the street, I'll go to the Rock and The
Alice one day. They always will be there. Yes, I'll go there, but while
I've got the opportunity of going to Bali, Jakarta and Hong Kong, I'll
go there first, because I want to go there while I'm younger. I can go
to the Rock and the Alice anytime.
News: There's our fuddy duddy image again.
Dobson: The younger, soft adventure tourists from abroad come here for
the same reason as ours go overseas. Everything is so appealing. You
get on an aeroplane and you go somewhere different. It's the appeal of
the duty free shops. "I'm actually, physically going over water! I need
News: So why don't we make Central Australia more exciting? The
Larapinta Trail is one of the world's greatest walking adventures. Yet
there's hardly anybody on it. Why?
Dobson: I don't know. The attraction is that you're in the centre of
Australia. And we Australians are blase about it.
News: Coming from the Sunshine Coast, do you believe primarily in
man-made, pampering kind of attractions?
Dobson: Not at all. There are specific markets, and that's where we'll
have to look.
The [Tourist Commission's] reservations centre now ask people what they
want to do - walking, bird watching, trail bike riding, bicycling, and
Australian tourism is very much into the niche markets, special
interest activities. Because of falling incomes, people want to look at
how to best spend their money and how to do their own thing, be it
reading a book, playing golf, going to the casino or bush walking, or
just sitting down with a glass of champagne and looking at the
MacDonnells at sunset, which are absolutely stunning.
News: What are we good at?
Dobson: There is a culture in Central Australia that's unique - white
and Aboriginal. But it's got to be a consistent product, and that's
very hard to obtain at times, I believe.
News: Where in the world do our attractions rank?
Dobson: Probably around tenth place, between 10 and 20.
News: Given that our industry is quite small - around 5000 beds - is it
not astonishing that we're unable to fill them?
Dobson: Not at all, when you consider that Australia is an island,
right down the other end of the world. Then there are the
misconceptions about Australia among many people, thinking that
kangaroos are still hopping down the main street of Sydney.
Distances are a very big problem. If you're marketing distances too
much people won't come.
[I know a travel agent from the US who] wanted to hire a car in Sydney
to quickly see Ayers Rock and Alice Springs because he had a flight to
New Zealand at three o'clock in the afternoon.
News: Should the Tourist Commission reopen the sales offices in the
capital cities, closed following the Kennedy report?
Dobson: Tourist Commissions can either spend money on promotion or on
taking bookings, which detracts from private businesses. I worked for
the South Australian Tourism Commission six years ago. They had selling
bureaux but these were franchised [to private firms]. Having just
arrived here I don't know how well the Territory Connections
[specialist staff in selected interstate travel businesses] are going.
READING TESTS AND CENTRAL AUSTRALIA: WHAT DO
CANBERRA'S NEW POLICIES HAVE IN STORE FOR US?
Report by KIERAN FINNANE
It is impossible to forecast the impact on Central Australian schools
of controversial reading skills policies foreshadowed recently by
Commonwealth Education Minister David Kemp, ccording to the Chairman of
the Northern Territory Board of Studies, Harry Payne.
Controversy has centred on Dr Kemp's suggestion that Commonwealth
funding will be tied to results.
"This is a general approach of the Commonwealth," comments Board of
Studies Chairman, Dr Payne.
"It is already in place for some programs such as the Indigenous
Education Strategic Initiatives Program [for which] we have reached
agreement with the Commonwealth on how progress will be measured."
However, no agreements have yet been reached on success indicators in
relation to literacy benchmarking.
Dr Payne says the National Schools English Literacy Survey (NSELS) -
carried out across the country earlier this year - has developed
"highly appropriate methods for assessing English literacy across five
strands - reading, writing, listening, speaking and viewing."
"The survey produced very valuable base data and was intended as an
initial survey against which results from future surveys could be
compared," says Dr Payne.
However, Dr Kemp, in comparing the NSELS results with draft benchmarks,
found that many students performed close to the benchmark line.
The comparison is seen by many as misleading for the following reasons,
according to Dr Payne: the benchmarks have been drafted for end of year
levels whereas the NSELS was carried out much earlier; the benchmarks
may include a target component for what is aspired to; in draft form
they are based on expert opinion only and are without good empirical
validation; and, they have a lot of questions about them which can only
be worked through in practice.
Literacy and numeracy benchmarks for Years Three, Five, Seven and Nine,
developed by a Task Force, made up of nominees from all education
systems, are due to be submitted for approval to a November meeting of
all Education Ministers.
When finalised, the literacy benchmarks will be "salient" in NT
students' outcomes profiles, says Dr Payne.
At present, schools in the NT are able to compare their own Multilevel
Assessment Program (MAP) results against Territory-wide results.
In future, they will also be able to compare MAP results against the NT
Outcomes Profile for English which will incorporate the
nationally-approved literacy benchmarks.
Territory-wide results are publicly available. However, individual
school results are released only to the school and its council.
The Board of Studies does not compile regional results.
Education consumers, parents and their children, thus cannot make
comparisons within a town or region, or within the Territory as a
whole, on the basis of these kinds of performance indicators.
President of the NT Principals' Association, Ken Davies, comments that
a whole range of factors come into play when parents choose a school
for their children.
These can include religious instruction and
philosophy, and achievements in non-academic areas such as sport and
"I would be very wary in a town like Alice Springs of making school by
school comparisons. I would much rather see the whole community working
together on improving the range of choices we have," says Mr Davies.
He does not believe that there is a crisis in Australian standards of
"There are more people literate in this country now than there ever
"I personally do not know anybody who could be described as truly
"If on the other hand you ask the question, 'Are kids proud of
what they are able to read and write?', then you would find that there
are some students in every class who must improve and who need teacher
and parent support to do that."
Mr Davies says teachers are well aware that if students with literacy
problems are not picked up by Year Three, it is very difficult to do
post-teaching that enables them to catch up.
He welcomes as healthy and constructive any debate which leads to more
thinking and additional resources being directed into this area,
without disadvantage to other programs.
"I interpret the notion of tied
funding as meaning that where programs aren't achieving results,
funding will be realigned into programs that are," says Mr Davies.
would expect that schools with a high level of need, for example, those
with a lot of students with English as a second language, will benefit
He sees benchmarks as a valuable tool for assessing and upgrading
"There are a plethora of programs that are running, and some are
successful," he comments.
"The First Steps program, for instance,
allows us to focus succinctly on the needs of individual students,
rather than having a blanket approach, and students' progress along the
continuum of learning can be reported with great precision to parents."
Mr Davies says that literacy and numeracy teaching must henceforth take
into account information technology: "We have to make sure the basics
are there but tie them in with future opportunities."
He says it is important for the community not to put the whole
responsibility for literacy and education in general onto schools:
"Students are only in school for six hours each day.
There are another
18 hours that teachers can't really influence.
"There is no doubt that if students have the support of their family,
they have greater opportunities for learning."
He hopes that schools and school communities will work together to find
their way through the literacy debate: "The core business of education
is identified by the curriculum.
It is then up to the school community
to sort out their primary focus."
On the so-called "overcrowded curriculum" Mr Davies says: "Schools
quickly reflect what is happening in society at large and it seems to
me that our whole world is overcrowded.
"At the same time, if you take
a whole language approach to learning, then a lot of material can be
taught hand in hand with literacy and numeracy."
MOOTED GROG RESTRICTIONS ARE DIVISIVE, SAY
CAMPAIGNERS AGAINST ALCOHOL ABUSE
Next week's DASA annual general meeting will have a significant impact
on the debate about strategies to control alcohol abuse and its effects
on the town.
The organisation coordinates a discussion forum, and takes part in it,
seeking to find answers to the town's burning alcohol abuse problems.
At the moment DASA and the forum refuse to even discuss a proposal for
take-away bans on Thursdays and Sundays, similar to the ones in Tennant
These are being promoted vigorously by the People's Alcohol Action
DASA president Iain Morrison, who will be seeking re-election, says he
won't allow the "divisive" issue of restrictions to dominate the
debate. He says PAAC has "one single fixated obsessive agenda" and the
group has "enough power" to pursue the proposal elsewhere.
"I will not allow DASA to be used as a lobby group at the expense of
other issues," says Mr Morrison.
Since the DASA four person board, overseen by a nine person committee,
in effect controls who may or may not take part in the ongoing forum,
the people elected at next week's AGM will hold considerable sway.
There are several other alcohol committees active in Alice Springs, as
well as a push to get the town council involved in the decision making.
But the liquor industry lobby, as well as vocal but self-styled
anti-restrictions spokesman Shane Arnfield, are doing their best to
have DASA and the forum recognised as the sole authorities on the
Mr Morrison says there's nothing sinister about the omission of further
trading restrictions from the forum's current six-point agenda.
He says these were distilled from 45 topics - which did include
restrictions - at the first forum, on February 18 and 19 this year.
Mr Morrison says restrictions were excluded from the agenda by "the
forum as a whole, in a democratic process".
However, PAAC's Barbara Curr, a forum participant, says despite DASA's
resistance to discussing "trial bans" of alcohol sales on two days each
week, they need to be discussed so that the forum remains relevant.
In contrast to the drastic but clear objective of the PAAC proposal to
shut down take-away outlets two days a week, including the infamous
pension day, the forum's agenda is wide-ranging and general.
There are "performance indicators" but they have a two year time limit,
after which it will be assessed how close the programs have come to
achieving an "ideal state" for each of the objectives, says Mr
The next forum is scheduled for February 1998.
The six points for discussion and initiatives are: The individual's
responsibility for alcohol misuse; alcohol education, especially for
the young; lack of recreation and employment opportunities for young
people; coordinated strategies; alcohol related disorders; and
underlying issues and the culture resulting in alcohol problems.
The forum will be looking for "proofs" of progress in these areas: they
will be found in the monitoring of increases in voluntary admission to
alcohol services, a shift in drinking patterns, a reduction in binge
drinking, a change from heavy beer to mid-strength or light beer,
reduction in overall consumption; reduction in alcohol related
offences, including drink driving.
Ms Curr says "all this has been defined years ago.
"Living with Alcohol looks at all of those issues with research and
She says the topic "underlying issues and the culture resulting in
alcohol problems" could and should include trading restrictions.
She also says the second and the third forums were attended by
substantially fewer participants than the first one, when 40 were
invited and 35 took part.
Only 18 people came to the most recent forum, on September 10,
including six DASA members and staff.
Mr Morrison says 24 people attended the September forum.
Mrs Curr says the forum could easily be discussing the six subjects it
has selected for many years to come.
"They've been discussed for 20 years," she says.
A major initiative by a forum participant, Employ Alice, less than a
month old, is to provide employment for 50 Aboriginal people most
likely to fall victim to alcohol.
Mr Morrison says he understands 22 people had already been employed
under the scheme by Thursday last week, and a further 24 are being
Other ideas include putting slogans on the side of cars, including
possibly government vehicles, exhorting drinkers to consume
There is also a slogan contest with prizes worth $4000 "so far" and
with more sponsorship expected.
Mr Morrison says the next forum could well decide to put sales bans on
the agenda and he passionately expresses his view that any debate on
restrictions is likely to be "divisive".
He says: "There will never be agreement on restrictions.
There would be
very few concessions from either side.
"If we want to get people to work together, we need to leave
DESERT TREASURES: BRILLIANCE AND VITALITY IN
ABORIGINAL PAINTINGS AND CRAFT WORKS
Review by KIERAN FINNANE
Two exhibitions currently showing at the Araluen Arts Centre bear
witness to the exceptional creative energy and talent of the Aboriginal
peoples of a 'remote' Australia.
The shows are a wonderful reminder, in times of preoccupation with
anti-social behaviour and economic rationalism, of the cultural
enrichment made available to us by indigenous Australians.
To walk into
the Desert Mob Art Show is like walking into an Aladdin's cave: batik
and painted silks suspended from the ceiling move gently with air
currents; every wall is covered with richly detailed and ever more
vibrant paintings and prints; nest of plinths taking most of the floor
space can scarcely contain their wealth of art and craft objects.
Formerly known as the Central Australian Art and Craft Exhibition, the
show is an annual event coordinated and managed by Araluen since 1991.
The aesthetic and technical dominance of the longer established art
centres, such as those of Ernabella and Utopia, is increasingly, as the
arts and crafts movement spreads, brought into balance by the sheer
diversity and freshness of new work .
This year's show assembles more
than 500 works from 23 communities.
They range from traditional punu or
carved wood items, acrylic paintings and batik silks, through work
using a variety of print techniques, to ceramics, glass, basketry,
animal and human figures made from spinifex grass, and toy figurines
fashioned from wire.
The work is presented community by community with a layout directed by
geographic location of the communities in order to reflect the
connections between them.
Thus work from Iwantja Arts and Crafts, situated at Indulkana in the
Pitjantjatjara Lands, hangs next to work from Ernabella Arts, whose
history goes back to the mission days of 1948.
The technical mastery and extreme refinement of Ernabella designs is as
noteworthy as ever, especially, in this exhibition, in the work of
Her Walka Wira (Many excellent designs) is well named.
However, the work of the Iwantja artists, in particular their
judiciously mounted collection of 31 lino prints, does not suffer in
this proximity - it declares itself simple and bold in its difference.
For sheer volume -126 items - as well as aesthetic brilliance in many
works of fine art and decorative art, Keringke Arts, located at Santa
Teresa (Ltentye Apurte), deserves its place at the heart of the show.
Senior woman Kathleen Wallace produced the screen-printed black and
white image of Women dancing that adorns the exhibition catalogue. Her
acrylic painting of the same image is an outstanding example of her
intricately detailed and exquisitely organised designs.
In this vein Mrs Wallace has worthy successors in Camilla Young and
Publicity material about Keringke Arts always emphasises their work on
silk, but, in my view, whatever their excellence in this medium, it is
way surpassed by their acrylic on paper paintings.
I might have suggested that their favoured high-toned palette for silk
work holds their designs at a relatively superficial level, if it
wasn't for similar colour values in the paintings of Ikuntji (Haasts
Bluff) Artists, hanging behind them in the gallery.
paints with a hot palette and, with the exception of the restrained and
unique vision of Long Tom Tjapanangka, high tones, strong colour
contrast and a lot of visual activity have been the hallmark of Ikuntji
artists since the reinvigoration of painting in that community from
The Ikuntji work, and in particular, Narputta Nangala's Karrurutinytja,
(pictured above) with its sky blue, white and pinkish brown contrasts,
is anything but superficial.
So palette alone doesn't explain my impression.
The silk dyes and gutta
technique could also have something to do with it, but Keringke artists
undoubtedly bring a different level of intent to the production of
paintings, on the one hand, and their silks on the other.
The question of palette leads to the work of Jukurrpa Artists who have
their cooperative workshop, gallery and sales outlet in Alice Springs.
No one will miss the vibrant purples and blues in the work of Bessie
Liddle and Samantha Napanangka Jones.
While the catalogue entry
suggests that their "full palette" reflects the "brilliant colours of
the desert plains and flowers", there are surely influences at play
here (as well as at, for example, Ikuntji) coming from outside
traditional culture and the natural environment.
The women's urban and
cross-cultural experiences must also count for something.
The Desert Mob Art Show brings under one umbrella works of fine art and
commercially-oriented work, with most works being for sale.
By contrast Printabout, hanging in the foyer, is a collection of
'master' works by prominent Aboriginal artists attending the
Northern Territory University's Print Workshop between 1993 and 1995.
The 30 prints on display are now part of NTU's permanent art
The exhibition is being toured by Artback, the National Exhibitions
Touring Service (NT) which this year has brought to Araluen a show by
four Darwin printmakers, the photographs of Frank Hurley, prints by
Tiwi Islands handicapped artists and now Printabout.
Artists from three areas are represented : Ernabella, Tiwi Islands and
the East Kimberley.
While all the prints are superlative, the East Kimberley artist Tommy
Bung Bung stands out for the intense drama of his depictions, with
Queenie McKenzie, Lily Karadada and Rover Thomas, also East Kimberley
artists, coming close behind for the forcefulness of their images.
Meanwhile, also at Araluen, Alice Springs textile and fibre artist
Philomena Hali is showing recent work in the In Transit space.
an unerring sense of elegance in her use of fine fabrics, silks in
particular, delicately coloured with natural pigments and dyes,
occasionally highlighted with a touch of gold paint or textured by
folding and tying techniques.
In yet another show, Fresh Eyes, Araluen celebrates the NT Youth
Young Central Australians have been invited to exhibit a work
of art responding to a work of their choice in the Araluen collection.
This is a chance to see, among other work, more of some photographs
from the recent Seeing Black training project and exhibition, in which
12 young Aboriginal people from Alice Springs presented their personal
visions of life in black and white.
More on Fresh Eyes next week.
At Watch This Space Jacqueline Coates is showing Under My Skin in which
luxuriantly drawn and painted body organs are superimposed on
architectural plans and drawings of Parisian landmarks. Until October
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